They avoided him....
Tony Mckderel-they avoided him, the skinny pale kid.
The stick figurine's favourite hangout was reportedly the creek across the broken unpreserved wooden bridge. Solitary afternoons will often have him as a guest by the melancholy bank. Its tall itchy grass, rowdy growth of shrubs, and phantom-like lifeless withering trees. Nobody will suspect a live human boy playing in the midst of all that loneliness. For goodness, he was barely visible. But Ashfard Brook was the first to spy on him.
‘That orphanage kid...What’s his name again?’
‘Greg? Oh that boy’s a marvel...’
‘No no. The skinny one...The MUCH skinnier one. Boy, you can’t even tell if he's got any blood in him....’
The shopkeeper froze to realization. He quietly handed him the purchase and managed a timid smile of courtesy.
Loistent lane was not the only place where he encountered the walking eccentricity. On a windy Sunday afternoon, the town man stopped his bicycle at the rear of an old abandoned factory building. It was the ‘Loistent mill’-the tragedy of the town. Months before, a humid summer night witnessed it get engulfed in flame and thick smoke. Most people just watched the demonic flame put up a show of the proud and thriving factory; its frames gleaming in tempting red and its pillars burnt to the corpse. The screaming of the real corpses became a popular theme in the people’s nightmares. The deceased bodies were never fully retrieved and since then, one thing was more gruesome than the fire-the remaining charcoal bodies of the tortured souls.
But it was odd. Tony Mckderel, however, found more peace in that very condemned vicinity. He lurked like a floating spirit, not really focused on anything but the emptiness of the eerie air inside. Ashfard’s first instinct was to warn the boy from venturing too far. Devoid of the name, he called him anyway. ‘Boy! What on earth are you doing there! It's dangerous! Do you listen?’
He left his bicycle and moved a few steps forward. ‘It’s a burnt mill for goodness sake! One bad step and the whole structure gonna collapse! Hey you! Do you hear?’
His amplifying voice didn’t veer the child. The next series of beckoning stopped abruptly. In the stillness of the hanging air, Tony Mckderel was being consumed away by the gothic shadows. And by the next parting moments, the boy was no longer there. ‘My eyes.’ Ashfard lamented, ‘my eyes are getting worse...’
But the absurdity of the incident prompted him to turn in for police reporting.
The round policeman flapped open a diary and swiveled a pen into his grip. ‘Now what did you say?’
‘I say...I saw a tiny boy loitering in the ruins of the Loistent Mill.’ He began hurriedly.
‘That’s odd. Is he lost?’ the policeman’s words were fast and rapid.
‘I cannot tell. I called him many times but no response. He’s one of those orphanage kids. He’s the skinny one. And pale. And he’s always by himself. I don’t know if the other kids are mean to him or...’
The policeman stopped writing. He returned the pen back to its case and closed the diary. ‘You don’t have to worry about him.’
‘What? His dwelling there alone!’
‘Sir please.’ The policeman’s voice was formal yet it contained the substance of a plea. ‘You don’t have to worry about him’
Mr. Brook was at a loss for words. It took him a few moments to decipher the statement. ‘I don’t....’
The policeman got up and gently walked him out of the door. ‘It’s really nothing. Just don’t worry. Go home and take rest, sir.’ Mr. Brook gave the policeman one last look, he saw that his face was tense.
Despite that, Ashfard Brook came to reprimand society. With the increasing number of child kidnappings he heard, he couldn’t let it slide. So he decided the right move would be to take his kind concerns to the very authority that houses the poor thing- the orphanage itself.
The lady in the orphanage maintains a plastic benevolence. Her frowns were replicas and her worried look was a mask she can take on and off. And so she chose to wear it in honour of Mr. Brook who continued to share his views on Tony Mckderel’s safety and his obvious loneliness. ‘I say it’s your orphanage kids. They probably don’t treat him right. You should have been more aware of their personal problems.’
‘It is certainly a worrying matter.’ She replied in grief. ‘We will see to it.’
‘Please do.’ He reiterated. ‘That kids gonna be taken away by the hawks someday if you don’t.’ He prayed it never comes true.
And disappointingly enough, he heard of the skeleton boy’s companion-less adventures. And in one such adventure, he himself took part.
Ashford stopped paddling and forced his bicycle to a halt. He gazed up at the roof of a building-the building closed down and marked for demolition. As far as Ashfard knew, every opening to the building was sealed which included the roof doors as well. Yet the silent figure was pacified by the view of the town under him, his blink less eyes were so dazed that Ashfard worried the boy was asleep with his eyes open.
‘Are you crazy?!’ he yelled. The boy happened to be sitting on the very edge of the roof. One casual wind blow and it was very much possible, the boy could’ve dived to his death. ‘Get down!’ Ashfard voice was commanding. ‘You stupid little kid!’ he looked around for a door to get in but there were only the barricaded ones. ‘Hey!’ he shouted back. ‘At least get off the edge!’
He decided such a moment of seriousness demanded more minds. ‘That insane boy!’ he cursed. But when a team of common folks came to his call, the child was walking away from the building. ‘your down?’ Mr brook asked. ‘when did you get down?’ the people who came to aid soon started to part ways, quietly and sincerely. Nobody asked nobody spoke.
‘What were you doing there?’ his question was not answered. Tony Mckderel walked away-his grave aura wrapped around his preoccupied self.
Soon he had to visit his doctor. He narrated how delusions and oblivion become your common company at the old age and challenged his good wishing doctor to cure such adversary. His doctor always waves away his pessimistic views and says that good health comes with steady maintenance. The doctor looked into his mouth with a small torchlight.
‘Anyway’, the doctor finally found the interest to talk. ‘To resonate with your opinion... It is a bad age to be running around wild.’
‘Yeah? Well what am I supposed to do if I see danger?’
‘Danger?’ the doctor placed his stethoscope on his chest. ‘What kind of heroic activities were you in this time?’
‘That boy...What’s his name? Anyway...That boy keeps doing crazy things. He disappears in the loistent mill; he sits on the edge of a roof...’
‘Who?’ the doctor was focusing for heartbeats.
‘That orphanage kid. The SKINNY one! The one whose always by himself...’
The doctors focus was ceased. He looked back at the old grey eyes of Ashfard Brook and for a moment pitied the kindness in them. Then he dropped his voice low. ‘With all due respect sir, please avoid that boy. For your own good.’
Mr. Brooks face was mixed in confusion. Before he could question back, the doctor spoke first. ‘Stay away from him. Worry about your health instead.’
The next morning Ashfard Brook spotted the lone figure hunting the plain open field for directionless destinies. He continued with his paddling and within seconds he was distant away from the stick figure.
He was Tony Mckderel- they avoided him, the skinny pale kid.