An owl hooted outside the bedroom window as the incessant rain beat hard against the glass. Like nails, hammering into his head. Over and over.
‘Twoo, Twoo, Smith................Smith. We’re watching, we’re watching. You You You...............Smith. We’re watching. Yoooouuu.’
On and on it went throughout the night. He had wrapped a moth-eaten blanket around himself at one point, like some protective shroud; failing to protect. The travel clock ticked loudly. To him it had a proper face, with eyes, nose, and a mouth that opened to let out a loud chime on the hour. Its’ vibration floating across the room, in through his ears as he counted.
And so on. And on and on.
He cut each piece of paper with precision. Holding one up to the lamplight with an old rusty tweezers he’d found in the bathroom cabinet. He stared fascinated, as the little square glowed around an inky black letter. He rubbed some Pritt Stick onto the back. Then checked his small dictionary, for the umpteenth time. A pile of envelopes lay on the floor beside him. He’d hand painted each one in an assortment of colours - a painstakingly slow process. The colour needed to be evenly distributed on each side and given time to dry. He smiled, looking at them, feeling very proud of his work. As dawn broke, all was complete. The rain had stopped, bringing with it a quiet that unsettled him. He lay down on the bed exhausted, falling into a deep sleep. But his mind refused to dream.
On waking, he heard a loud tapping at the window.
‘Your fawwwlt. Your fawwlt. Your fawwlt.. Smith. Your fawwlt.’
A large black crow stared in at him, unblinking as Smith stared back. Then flew onto a nearby branch, continuing to caw while observing him steadily. Then shrieking again.
‘Your faaawwwlt. Your faaawwlt. Your faaawwlt.’
‘Go away, what do you know about any of it anyway? What do you care?’ Smith asked the crow. Clambering out of bed towards his desk to examine his work. How did it look? Perfect, absolutely.
He ran a bath of ice cold water and padded into the kitchen, opening the freezer. And there they were, looking exceptionally beautiful. Two small homemade icebergs twinkled out at him. But they hadn’t been born of a glacier. He had created them, in his grotty kitchen. He and he alone had created two miniature icebergs. Smiling, he remembered his first experiment years earlier in chemistry class. It had been so simple, mixing salt with water then freezing it and pouring extremely cold water onto the end result. The majestic iceberg, a wonder of nature, floating serenely out in the North Atlantic over hundreds and hundreds of miles, in a cold, unforgiving sea. He had a lot in common with icebergs. Like them, he had patience. It took them a long time to reach their point of destiny, before melting away into the Gulf Stream. Yes, destiny. Destiny was all important.
Closing his eyes, he visualised himself floating out there. Breaking away from the Greenland Glacier, finally free. Then moving slowly around Baffin Bay, onto the coast of Newfoundland before heading south, out into the North Atlantic. Watching their fellow icebergs move through a metallic ocean, aware and yet oblivious to each other. Sparkling in the sun, simultaneously reflecting a sea and sky. What a simple life it would be out there, he thought, 2000 miles away. The bath was nearly full as he placed his icebergs in gently.
He got in alongside them, gasping at the coldness, shivering. It really was so very cold. Closing his eyes, he became completely submerged and reached out his hands to touch them. Yes, they were floating mostly beneath the surface, like him. They understood in a way no-one else did. The waves lapped against him, but they could not melt an ounce of his being. He floated calmly along, drifting, drifting into the Labrador Current, knowing full well that soon, he would reach the Grand Banks. Lap lap lap, lap lap lapping, for the longest time. The sea vanished around him; he was in a black void. From somewhere came a familiar sound which for a moment, he could not identify. Then slowly, he remembered the drip drip drip dripping of the tap bringing him back to a stark shivering. He jumped out of the bath and dried himself quickly.
‘N n now, time to go back to s s s sleep you two,’ he said. As he carried his over to the freezer. ‘S s s orry you couldn’t stay longer. Things won’t always b be this way. S s see you soon.’ He rested his head against the freezer door, shutting it tightly.
The bitter coldness of the water stuck to his skin, penetrating his veins. It took a while for the shaking to stop, so that he could get dressed. It was worth it though. Looking around the bathroom, he felt a familiar sense of unease. The house was always quiet, but there was always a strange foreboding silence surrounding it. An echo started to come through; like that of a slow steam engine far away, out in the distance.
’O? O? Low? Low? Hello? Hello? Are you there?
Are you there Smith? Have we found you?’
More voices, always more. He pressed his fingers into the sides of his head.
‘I can’t hear anything. I can’t. I can’t hear the voices now.’
‘O Low? O Low? Hello? Hello Smith? Are you there? Have we found you?’
‘I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you anymore. Get out of my house. Get out.’
Quite unexpectedly, there was a knock at the front door. Who was it? He never had any visitors. Locking the bathroom door behind him, he put the key firmly into his pocket and tiptoed downstairs. When he opened the door, there was no-one there. He didn’t want to go back upstairs to the voices. The cold water and the icebergs normally helped them go away. He was puzzled.
At four o’clock he began the task of filling the coloured envelopes with his personal creations. Humming a tune as he worked, he couldn’t believe he’d spent the whole day in his room again. Yet he was safe there. It was the only place he felt at ease. Once he stepped outside into the world there were terrors at every turn. People didn’t seem to notice the danger. But he could see it, all around. The breaking waves, the rise in temperature and the lull of the Gulf Stream. Pulling him in. Breaking off little pieces of him with its liquid pick axe. He determined to stay in the Grand Banks of Labrador Bay, let the other icebergs float away to the end. He would cling on relentlessly through bitterly cold waters. The world around him was full of chaos and menacing creatures, following him down lonely cobbled streets. One eighth of him lay just above the surface. The rest was below sea level; in the safety net of an icy abyss.
The town slept silently as letterboxes were quietly opened. Some envelopes fell to the floor. Others were placed in postboxes, as the inhabitants turned over in their sleep. But someone saw the night-time figure, stealing steadfastly through the streets. The shadows of lamplights conveyed to one dreamer the identity of the sender of the anonymous letters. Sopping wet envelopes left streaks of paint smeared, onto plush and threadbare carpets.
Some days later, when the voices were quiet, he took a walk into the town square. He sat at the old fountain, taking out pebbles and throwing them back in again. A little boy was sitting there too, eyeing him curiously. After a time, the boy strode boldly up and sat down next to him.
‘Are you the Basket Case?’ he said.
‘I’m sorry?’ said Smith.
’My Dad said you’re the Basket Case. Why are you
called that?’ he asked. Peering steadily at Smith as he continued.
’Does it mean you’re crazy? I asked my Granny and she said maybe you’re
crazy; like a fox. Do you own a fox? I’d like to see one. I saw you putting the letters in the letter boxes the other night. I don’t miss a trick me,’ he said fearlessly. Wiping his thick brown fringe back from his forehead. ‘I could tell the Police on you, you know. What would you do then?’
Smith took a deep breath.
‘You won’t tell anyone will you? About the letters, I mean.’
’My Mam was shouting at my Dad over it. All the paint is stuck to the carpet.
You’ll be in big trouble with her if she finds out it was you.’
Smith noticed how confident the boy was. He couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven. He was tall for his age too and had lots of freckles on his nose.
‘Oh’ Smith sighed. ’I wonder what went wrong? It was meant to be a
great trick. Because I love icebergs.’
‘Oh, icebergs, now I get it! I love icebergs too; I mean they’re really delicious!’
That made Smith smile.
‘Delicious. Yes, I suppose they are really. But isn’t a pity you can’t eat them,’ he said. Tapping his fingers lightly on his left cheek.
’Aw come on, you mean you’ve never tasted an ‘Iceberg’? You’re missing out there. I know exactly where to find them too!’
‘You do? How could you possibly know?’
‘I don’t think you’re crazy like a fox, I think you’re as thick as two planks,’ the boy said. Folding his arms tightly.
‘Alright. I give up. Where can I find icebergs?’
‘Over there, in the shop. Got any money?’
Within two minutes the little boy was back, handing Smith one triumphantly.
’Now, here is your ‘Iceberg’. My best advice is to eat the chocolate on the
outside first, then the ice-cream. Bet it’ll melt all over your hands before you finish!’
‘It’s pretty cold today, I think I’ll be alright,’ Smith said.
Ice-cream. Well well well. It had been a long long time since he’d eaten an ice-cream. It really was delicious.
‘What’s your name, young man?’
’Well, I’m not going to tell you my real name, because it’s stupid. But I have a
‘You do? What is it?’
He was surprised at how easily the words flowed out of his mouth. And how relaxed he felt in the little boy’s company. Most people put him on edge.
’Well ok, I’ll tell you. But you’re to promise not to steal it. My best friend
tried to take it on me and I was out with him for a week.’
‘OK. I promise I won’t steal it. What is it?’
‘It’s Baffin’ He said, bowing his head.
Smith was intrigued.
‘Now where did you get a nickname like that?’
’I heard it on the telly. It was on some stupid programme my dad was watching.
Can’t remember the name of it. Just kinda liked the sound. All my friends
have silly nicknames like after their own names. Ryano or Smelly, or Stingy. I
think mine is the best!’
‘Well I do like it. Do you know there is a place called Baffin Bay?’
’Baffin Bay? Wow. Where is it? Is it ‘round here?’
’No, No I’m afraid not. It’s off the coast of Greenland. About
two thousand miles away.’
’Wow, do you have any pictures? I’d like to see it, this place that’s called
’I have loads of pictures of Baffin Bay. There’s lots of icebergs there, and
they’re really the most beautiful things in the world.’
The boy looked at him doubtfully.
‘Sounds a bit too cold for me, but I’d like to see the pics.’
After they’d finished the ‘Icebergs’, they played a game. Making the stones flip
across the fountain. Baffin said he’d better go home for his tea, but promised to
meet Smith again the following week at the fountain. Smith on the other hand, was not so sure he would make it.
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