The putrid egg smell mixed with unwashed body odour and sweat…
Heavy, brandy breath coming in nauseous waves…
Sliver rings digging into soft skin…
The threat delivered in a surprisingly soft, whiny yet deadly tone…
Daniel eased out of the car slowly, one eye on the red, brick building, the other on the swinging door. His face deadpan.
It was the same sensation each time. The moment the house came into the view, the gory memories of that night, three months ago, inevitably sprung into his mind and he’d roar past the house like a bat out of hell, unwilling to give his wayward thoughts physical ammunition to terrorize him with.
Today, he found the strength to slow to a halt and get out of the car.
Today, he’d face and conquer his demons.
‘You have to tell him, Danny,’ Drew, his older brother, said over and again. ‘He needs to know why, and what happened. That guy’s still out there. He has to be stopped.’
Drew was the only one Daniel had confided in, one week after the incident. The one he’d broken down in front of as it all came out. The one who had kept it from their parents, and taken him to the hospital, and made their family physician swear to secrecy as the older man assessed the damage to the young boy’s rear. The one who cuddled him after the nightmares began.
And covered up for him when their mum noticed his prolonged black moods. Teenage stuff, mum, you know nah,’ Drew dismissed airily.
No way could their parents know. They’d forbidden Daniel from leaving the house that night. He’d been grounded earlier on for a week for appalling behaviour. Even Drew had been unaware of his sneaking out that night. The brothers met at the gate at 5 am the following morning as Drew set out on his morning jog and Daniel was poised to creep back in.
Shaking his head, Drew plugged in earphones, handed over the front door key and trotted off into the quiet darkness. It would have been hypocritical to chew his brother out. He’d been a handful at 15, and had given his parents grief too. Later when Daniel opened up about the party, he was glad he hadn’t.
The grassy distance to the door must have taken 10 to 15 steps. Daniel’s reluctant limbs stretched it out by the characteristic onomatopoeic sound of hip hop flowing from the house, reminiscent of a roaringly wild party with drinks enough to drown a shoal of sharks, ear -splitting music to wake the dead and endless supply of half-clothed girls; all of which blurred out after he got paralytically drunk and managed to stumble upstairs to an unoccupied room, intending to sleep off his drunken stupor and cause no harm or shame to his name or his parents’.
Three months later and it still felt like last night…
Daniel stopped within arm’s length of the door.
This was Chuck’s house. His best buddy in the whole world. A second home to him. Many, many beautiful memories littered the rooms and the walls. Memories made since the boys were knee-high.
I can do this! He reached towards the familiar door.
I can’t do this! Suddenly dropping his hand, he swung around.
After that night, everything about this place had changed. And not for good. And enough to keep him for so long to the befuddlement of his friend. Why don’t you come around anymore? Chucks had asked repeatedly. What did I do?
Behind he heard the door crack open and the blast of boom bap hit the atmosphere like a tsunami.
‘Hey, hey, hey, hey,’ Chuck’s familiar cooing voice followed immediately. ‘Where are you going, Danny boy?’ Scuttling to catch up with him and draping a lanky arm around drooping shoulders, grinning widely. Chucks was as fair as his friend was dark, thus marking the only difference between them. Their shoulders met together at the same height, slender teen frames and crew haicuts nearly identical. ‘You just got here…finally! At least come in for a bit, let’s talk, meet my cousin.’ Chucks whirled both of them around to face the door again, where a man barred the way. ‘He’s a painter, always looking for models.’
Nothing about the stranger alerted Daniel’s senses. Probably early 20s. He looked harmless enough and more like a gigolo, thought Daniel, than an artist in his garish, multicoloured, long-sleeved shirt and pyjama-striped trousers hanging on a stick-thin body with equally scrawny, bitten facial features. Heavy, metallic necklaces hung from a neck he doubted could carry their weight.
Small, shifty eyes surveyed Daniel’s progress like a prey, and the murmurings of a leer hovered on thin, dry lips.
Merely yards away from the stranger and Daniel stiffened. The pungent smell of his nightmares and real-life ordeal drifted forward – rotten eggs, unwashed body.
His mind was messing with him. Being back here put his brain in automatic flight mode. A normal reaction. But when the stranger extended a hand festooned with silver rings on every finger, he jerked back involuntarily. ‘How you doing, Daniel?’ Soft, whiny tones asked him.
The same texture of voice with its deadly tone, threatening that night not too long ago: If you struggle, I’ll really hurt you, boy. It said as silver rings bruised his lips. One strong knee, firm on his back, pinned him face down on the bed while a practised hand yanked down his trousers before pain exploded in his brain as his assailant shafted into him with unparalled viciousness…
In one swift movement, Daniel shrugged off his friend’s arm and fled.