Little bastard. Stupid, pointless little bastard!
Hate that burned; a fever in his cheeks, his belly, making him want to scream and puke blood, to punch him and punch him until there was nothing left of his stupid, grinning face.
Across the way; barely a few strides. All he'd have to do; take a sharpened pencil, his pillow; stab out those blue, blue eyes, press the pillow down until he stopped breathing, grew still.
They'd never hear; not find him until tomorrow, until it was too late. His Grandparents...too deeply asleep, snores echoing through the thin walls, ragged and rasping.
But they'd know...know the minute they found the little shit...what he'd done, and why.
And they'd blame him, like always: the first they turned to, whenever The Little Shit grazed his knee or bruised his head; always the first they shrieked and hissed at, as though he could control what The Little Shit did.
Today, a familiar ritual, whenever they visited Nanna and Grandad: a new toy to keep them occupied. He'd picked one of his favourites: Arachnos, from The Drivers of Delirium; a comic he'd collected every issue of in the last four years; the stacks of them high enough to hold his bed up at home.
A fusion of man and spider, black-skinned, many-armed, a bulbous abdomen dragged behind, filled with tiny, rubber spiderlings that could be “birthed” by squeezing the toy's midriff.
The Little Shit had its own to play with and ruin; broken almost the instant he got it out of the package, as always.
“...can I have a go?”
“No! You've got your own!”
“But it's broke...”
“That's your fault, not mine.”
Knowing, knowing that, if he touched it, it would fall apart instantly.
Mom watching, frowning.
“Oh, stop being so selfish! Just let him have five minutes with it!”
“That's not the point, Mom! He breaks everything. I can't have anything without him...”
The woman sighing, wrenching the figure from his hands, placing it in the Little Shit's pudgey, awkward fingers.
“Now, you be careful, okay? That doesn't belong to you.”
The Shit not paying the slightest attention, any more than it ever had. Knowing, the instant it got up and waddled away; the way it looked at him, the way it smiled:
Arachnos's abdomen ripped open, the spiderlings scattered across the carpet.
“You little shit!”
Screaming it, bringing Mom and Grandmother running.
“What did I hear you just say?”
“Look what he's done!”
The Little Shit hovering behind them, protected by the screen they made of their bodies. How it would always be, forever and ever.
“I don't care about that: what did I hear you just say?”
Waggling the toy in front of her, trying to make her see.
“Don't throw that thing in my face! If I hear you swear at him like that again...”
Not even crying, knowing it would mean nothing.
He couldn't do it. They'd know. But maybe...someone else? Something else?
Rejecting the thought out of hand, knowing how stupid it was. How could he even ask? How could he make them listen?
Unable to sleep for it; the idea a thorn, burrowing deeper and deeper into his thoughts, growing sceptic, fevered.
They wouldn't come, not here, no matter how fervently he called: the room proof against them, insulated against their intrusion by years of prayer and accrued ritual.
No, if he wanted their help, he'd have to find them.
An idiot notion, a baby's dream: of course he couldn't go to them! They wouldn't listen, even if he could find them! Most likely, he'd be the one devoured, just as he always was, no matter what monsters he faced.
The night not leaving him be, not letting him dream and wake to a new round. Seeming to linger, hours dragging on for eternity, the moon rising outside his window, the barks of youths and drunks returning home from the local pub up the road filtering through.
Not daring to open his eyes, afraid of finding them, splayed out across the walls, seething from beneath the bed, silhouetted against the curtains.
Nothing, the room empty, cold and quiet.
Sitting up in bed, daring them to descend on him, swinging his legs out over the edge, the old-fashioned springs squealing, the metal frame shifting as though about to fall apart.
No hands reaching from beneath, curling cold fingers around his ankles, no whispers from the shadows.
Shuffling into his slippers and dressing gown, going to the door.
Something inside screaming as he twisted the knob, as he eased it open, peering out onto the landing.
A small space, light filtering through the window, hazey and chemical orange, his Grandparents snoring in the room next door.
No sign of the ones he came to find; no red, smear-headed phantasm before the window, no centipede-thing unfurling from the airing cupboard, no shining spider's legs creeping from around the corner, pawing at the wall.
Creeping out, shivering, though it wasn't so cold, remembering, remembering why:
Arachnos, his Mother's dull and hateful eyes, the Little Shit's smile.
Maybe he'd keep it; have them twist off his head, curl his lips up and pin them in place, have him smiling forever.
The airing cupboard. Strange gurgles and clatters from inside; pipes and the boiler, they always insisted, ever since the nightmares that gave birth to what he knew nested inside.
Maybe true, but not always; what they couldn't see or understand: of course it was nothing but pipes and boilers, in the day time, but after dark..?
Jerking away as he heard it moving, the thing knowing, sensing him; happy that he came to feed himself to it.
Holding himself fast, ignoring the sudden urgency in his bladder, the pain that had him dancing from foot to foot in the strange, itchy carpet.
“H...h...hey. Hey? Are you...in there?”
No answer, save for more gurgles and hisses, more bangs and clatters. Then...
Scratching against the wood, almost imperceptible, but not to him.
Almost bolting, hurtling back through his bedroom door, under the covers, safe in the darkness behind his eyes, where they could never follow.
Only the promise of days that might be holding him fast; days without broken toys, without disruption; without being blamed for everything The Little Shit did...when they'd forgotten, when it went back to how it once was.
“...I...I have something for you...”
The scritch-scritch-scratching growing louder, accompanied by a low hiss that almost made him pee his pyjamas.
Seeing it; coiled, wet and segmented, pale young clutched in a living ball between its many legs, its antennae waving in the steam-dank air.
Another sound; one that made him screw his eyes tight shut. Something on the ceiling above, its tread feather light, but not quite enough to disguise its presence.
Feeling it reach down, its legs disturbing the air around his ears, at the back of his neck.
Somehow smiling, though it didn't have mouth or lips with which to do so, delighted that the fly it had hunted for nights on end had decided to surrender itself.
“...N...not me, not me...take him! I...I'll give him to you!”
Soft footsteps in the carpet at his back, a chill breath making him shudder. Sighs, a voice filtering into his thoughts:
“Suppose we'd rather have you?”
A whisper, only; the voice of a dying woman, little breath left to waste.
The scratches and chitters from within the airing cupboard growing more agitated, seeming to almost laugh.
Closer, closer; the soft footsteps, the rustling skirts, the pawing legs from above.
“Look! I'll...I'll open the way...”
Opening his eyes, but keeping them firmly upon the wall as he edged around, turning the corner to the Little Shit's room.
“You'll...you'll like him better, anyway. He's younger.”
The feet following, the steps on the ceiling, the airing cupboard door clicking open...
Reaching out, as gently as he could, twisting the old, rattling doorknob. Letting the door ease open, the Little Shit muttering and murmuring inside, as it always did in its sleep.
Sighs of anticipation, the footsteps ceasing, the cold against his back enough to raise goosepimples.
The brush of a cold, cold hand against his cheek, a gentle caress at his shoulder.
Flying, clamping hands to his mouth, wrenching his eyes away from the opening airing cupboard door, refusing to see, catching only a glimpse of something shimmering inside, something moving...
Stumbling, something around his ankles, wet bursts and crunches beneath his feet.
On his knees on the threadbare carpet of his little room; the backroom, with its cold and steel bed and horrible, horrible paintings.
Wheeling around, slamming the door behind him.
Tears coming, then, as he slumped against it, as whatever followed scratched and hissed and sighed outside.
Pressing his palms flat to the wood, his forehead likewise.
“...take him, take him...”
Laughter, a cruel girl, a cackling witch. Shadows skittering in the dim, orange light filtering beneath the door.
They couldn't. They couldn't get him. Not here.
“I...I don't have anything else. Please...”
“Oh, such sweet lies! You have everything, child; you have yourself.”
Weeping openly, now, cursing himself for his stupidity.
“...just take him and go away...”
A muffled protest from the room next door, Grandad stirring in his sleep, cursing ripely as he shuffled out of bed.
“....bloody fucking thunder...”
The sounds from outside stilling, as though their makers froze at the sound of his voice.
The click of a light.
“What is it now?”
“...need to bloody piss again. Only the third time tonight.”
“It's them bleedin' pills what he gave yer. I told yer...”
“Give over, will yer? Go back to sleep.”
His Grandfather's heavy, slumping footsteps driving him away from the door as fast as those he held it against. Diving beneath the covers, drawing them tight around himself, screwing his eyes tight shut, momentarily so lost in the illusion of dreaming, he believed it.
“...what the bloody 'ell is this? Aye, Edith? What's all this on the landing..?”
A mumbled, slumbering response.
“Bugger ye, then.”
The man muttering and murmuring, creaking and cracking, all the way to the bathroom, pissing loudly with the door open.
Not seeing, never seeing; the night things invisible to them.
The flushing toilet, gurgling pipes.
“'Ere, Edith! Our Joseph's door's wide open!”
“Well, just shut it then, will yer?”
“All right, all right! Don't snap me 'ead off! Bloody Hell...”
A door clicking shut, more slumping steps, the crick and crack of old joints, muttered protests. A weary body dragging itself beneath covers, settling down to sleep.
Smiling, truly smiling, for the first time since The Little Shit was born, terror and anticipation slowly seeping from him, as he drifted into dreams that already echoed with the screams that morning would bring.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.