Match Eighteen: Hauntings:
Despite the happy moments going on with Florence in his life, Alfred felt left out about what’s going on around him. He tried calling Arthur several times, but he wouldn’t pick up. Everyone else looked uneasy. Even his jokes were dead in the water to cheer up his ally friends.
“Come on, guys!” he said. “Cheer up!” The three men looked up at him with no emotion in their eyes. Yao’s mind was elsewhere with a calendar in his phone. Ivan had been writing down something when the American man spoke up. Francis looked like a worried mother. The glow from Alfred’s face instantly died.
“Okay, what’s the matter?” he asked. “Where is Britain?” The three men didn’t want to speak. Francis looked away.
“He’s sick today,” he lied. Alfred tilted his head.
“He’s been doing that a lot lately,” he said. The American man wasn’t born around the time the Woman in Red roamed the earth. Arthur pleaded with the allies to keep it that way.
“He can’t know the truth behind this mess,” he said before Hecate trapped him. “I want to end this before he finds out.” The other allies agreed.
“Yeah,” Francis said. “It’s been really bad.”
“Well… We should go and visit him,” the American man said.
“No!” the Frenchman was quick to say. Alfred gave him a strange look.
“Why not?” he asked. Francis nervously looked at his hands.
“He won’t let anyone see him,” he said in a low voice.
“What?” the American man asked.
“Leave it alone,” Ivan said. Everyone looked up at the Russian man.
“We can’t do anything for Arthur at this time,” he said. “He’s not going to answer the phone if we tried to call him and he won’t let us in.”
“What am you saying?” Alfred asked. “We just can’t leave him. He needs our help!”
“And what can we do for him?” the Russian man asked. The American man’s mouth hung open for a moment. He tried to speak, but no words came out.
“My thoughts exactly,” Ivan said. He sat back down in his chair and returned to his notes.
“I’m afraid I will have to agree,” Francis said. Yao nodded his head. Alfred looked around, but said nothing. The rest of the meeting felt isolating.
Alfred just couldn’t leave it alone. Arthur was part of the team. Sure he was condescending, a bad cook, weird with his talking to himself, and pompous as hell, but he was like family to the American man. And he needed serious help.
He stopped by Arthur’s flat. Alfred pounded on the door.
“Arthur!” he shouted. “Dude! Come on, it’s me! Open up! I want to see how you are doing!” The American man happened to look and see a face peeking out from the curtains. Alfred ran over when the face disappeared.
“Hey!” he shouted. The American man tapped on the window.
“Come on!” Alfred said. “I know you’re in there! Come out! I just want to talk to you!” When he touched the glass again, a cold shock ran through his body. His vision clouded up as he began breathing heavily. When he stepped back, he began to see strange things.
New York in the 1990′s.
There was a high school gym. He could see a ball game in progress, most likely basketball. Many high schooler clichés were there. The cheerleaders looked like Barbie dolls. The basketball players could put elks to shame with their swift and graceful movements on the court. A blonde boy about fifteen years old stood off to one corner in the gym. He looked like he hadn’t eaten in days. His clothes hung off of his body.
What is this?
A gnawing feeling clawed at his stomach. Alfred could feel himself starting to throw up. He covered his mouth and turned and ran away.
He wasn’t the only one.
England in the 1980′s.
He would do anything for a score. He sold himself for drugs. His addict started out with disillusionment with his mother country. England was changing in ways he didn’t like. Maggie Thatcher made life worse for the middle class. The youth became unruly and dissatisfied with their lives. Some turned to dangerous ways to cope.
At the time, he was a lonely youth. Parents wrapped up in their own drama neglected his emotional needs. He had to keep calm and keep on just like his fellow Britons did. But deep down inside, he wanted to scream. He needed a way to get out his frustrations. By the summer of 1985, he started down a dark path.
There was a girl he liked. Her parents were hippies that forgot the sixties were over. It felt like a dream the way she paid attention to him. What would she want with a lonely punk like him? Part of him believed that it was a prank at his expensive. Not a prank, a foul temptress.
She invited him out to a party one night. No adults were going to be there. Just her, a few friends from Manchester, and him. He was excited to go. So, he snuck out of the house and met up with the hippie girl in downtown London. They made it to her house. At the time, he felt numb and wanted something to feel whole. She gave him that feeling, but soon it wasn’t enough. His girlfriend showed up a more dangerous way to feel complete.
Her friends were playing a game at the time. One that involved needles and spoons. He had heard of drugs before and was told never to do them. But, his teachers were never clear on that sort of thing on what to do in a real situation. One man with long brown hair looked up at him.
“Want a hit?” he asked. The younger man looked around. This was wrong, but he wanted to impress his girlfriend.
“Yes,” he said. The friends invited them into their circle. They had to help get ready for the first hit. The first shot led to a bad to trip. The room began to spin. He could feel the bile traveling up his throat. His eyes began to burn. The young man ran out of the room, thinking he was going to die. He couldn’t remember what happened to him for the rest of that night.
France in the 1960′s.
Paris was renowned for its beauty. But, he didn’t see it that way. He stood out on the streets again. Violation forced him to live this way. He did not ask for this. He was innocent, in fact. Up until he was fifteen, he lived with a poor family in the countryside. They were so poor that they could barely eat. Still, the family all loved each other.
That’s when that perfumed man in black came along.
This man promised to give the boy’s mother a better life for her and her sons. She was drawn into his lies. In reality, the perfumed man in black only wanted her beautiful son. The boy could tell just by the hidden hungry look in the man’s eyes.
I don’ like this man.
One night, that perfumed man in black crept into that boy’s room. He covered his mouth and made him not to promise not to tell a soul. The boy only obeyed out of fear. That night, his “training” began.
Today, he was on the streets looking for another client to entertain for the long, soul-killing night.
Canada in the 1990′s.
He peeked out of the cracks of the closet door. What time of day was it? It looked like it could be morning. But it could be night too. How long had he been here? The house had been quiet for so long that it scared him. That was the only time that he knew he was alone. When was she coming back? Would this be the time that she never came back? It would surprise him if she did. His mother disappeared for days at a time. When she did come home, she would in the company of a new man. Both of them practically ignored him.
The house itself was in desperate need of repair. The wallpaper all but fell off. The rest of the walls needed new paint. Cigarette burns covered the old worn out carpets. It was always had to walk over the wooden floors without stepping on beer cans or broken glass. There always was almost no food. No children’s toys. He couldn’t remember the last time he had a bath. But, the house itself smelt worse than he did. On top of that, his mother had stop paying the bills a long time ago. He couldn’t remember what indoor night looked like.
He froze when he heard footsteps. Was she coming home at last? Her laughter in the room told him yes. He pulled his knees to his chest. She wasn’t alone today.
Russia in the 1950′s.
He heard voices. They yelled at him to hurt himself and others around him. But, he didn’t want to any hurt anybody. He didn’t know how he turned out like this. He used to be so normal. But he had seen so much that it broke him down? Or was it inside of all along and it didn’t choose to surface until now?
The voices in his head wouldn’t shut up. He tried everything to make them stop. He had the bruises, burns, and scratches on his body to prove it. The police found him wandering around in the streets with no shoes, dirty clothes, and carrying a metal bat. They decided that he was too dangerous to be out in the Russian public. So, they put him in a place far, far away from the rest of society.
Now, he sits on a bed surrounded by white walls. His mind is miles away with his eyes so vacant. He barely eats or sleeps. The voices didn’t leave him, but he became used to them while was staying here. Still, he’s not alone.
He looked up when the door opened. She’s back again.
China in the 1930′s.
His family was so poor that they sent him to the city to work. But he was only ten years old. It didn’t matter to the chef that he worked for. The child had to wish the dishes, clean the floors and kitchen tools, and go pick out the ingredients for the meals. He slept in the kitchen because he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He wasn’t the only working however. Ten other little boys and girls worked in this restaurant with him. Sometimes the chef was kind, but other times he had quite a temper.
There was something shady about this restaurant. Everyone in the city knew it, but they didn’t say anything. The police were more likely than not to be corrupt and besides, what was the proof. The children were either too desperate or scared to speak up. He couldn’t say anything because his family needed the money. His little sister was sick back in their village and his mother was dying. But would it be all worth his short little life?
What he didn’t know at the time was the restaurant was drowning and couldn’t keep up anymore. The chef himself had cooked up a scheme to cut his losses and get some of his money back that he owned from his gamble debts.
Alfred had just come home when he noticed the little girl with the Hello Kitty backpack sitting on his front steps.
“It’s you,” he said. The little girl broke into a huge smile.
“I get to go home today!” she said.