Modern Day Slaves

Entry by: writerSVTMLJBMPU

17th May 2017


Foley returned from Mass determined, this time. The weather certainly helped. It was as if the whole world was in tears. Elephantine plumes scudded across the skies driven by a strengthening south-westerly that seemed to be increasing hourly. It was a fitting end, the old man thought.
He removed the blue suit and laid it reverently on the coverlet; he didn't want to give them any bother. The waistcoat he kept on. Now all that was required was the bottle, the blaster - and the certainty of solitude.
As he made his way into the kitchen his five strides measured the decades of his occupation. He had moved in here with Marie and the empty jam jars when he was twenty. The kids had been born in the bedroom he had just vacated, but everything was gone now. Marie four years ago, and Brian and Niamh had skedaddled as soon as they could; twenty years, or more, ago now - one to Boston and the other to Canberra.
Sure - he had been invited out to visit; sure - they had made a couple of return trips with newly acquired spouses and vaguely recognisable children, but that was it. Nothing since Marie had died. Nobody cared about him.
In a way, it made the whole thing easier.
Foley scrabbled underneath the sink and withdrew a biscuit tin and a green bottle, and pulled one of the heavy oak chairs out to begin the vigil. Seventy years was enough, he thought. His eyes misted slightly behind the thick lenses of the cheap glasses as he counted out the seven crimped cartridges and selected one which he pushed back into the Nagant's loading gate. He snapped the weapon shut and pushed it away from him in disgust.
No matter how you are prepared, you are never prepared. Like now. No glass and the fire needed more turf.
Wearily he made his way over to the corner and dragged the heavy wicker basket over to the hearth. Sod upon sod he piled it on and soon a conflagration was born that had seldom seen an equal. The wind tore at the gables of the little cottage and backdraughts of fragrant smoke blossomed in the cold emptiness of the room as he fetched a glass from the drainer. Now he could begin, or end - it was the same.
He had kept this bottle because it was the last one. Over the years his Father must have made well over a thousand gallons up here in the middle of the mountain. It had been a lucrative trade. It had been widely acknowledged that his father's stuff was the best one could buy, and Foley knew it was a sure-fire passport to oblivion. His Father, however, had never allowed a drop to pass his lips; he had been a wise and contemplative man.
Foley remembered the day that he had been given the magnificent Hunter that reposed in the fob pocket of his waistcoat. Solid gold it was. His dad had called him into the little room where he lay dying and said,

" It's yours now boy, I don't need it anymore."

He sighed, poured a good wallop into the glass, and downed it. His Father had called him a boy, but he had been over fifty. The rain was ladies fingernails against the panes, and with the heat and the moans of the breeze, a torpor began to swaddle him.

It was the noise that woke him; the noise in the chimney.

Blearily he regarded the bottle but could not see a damn thing in the darkness that was
now illuminated only by flickering light from the dying fire. Foley stared at the whiteness of his long-johns and slowly reached for the revolver. The thing in the chimneybreast dropped onto the embers and rolled out onto the flags covered in sparks.

" Blast you Foley". It said.

"No." Slurred the old man. "Blast you." And he cocked the weapon and levelled it at the intruder.

Foley stood up and knocked his chair over as he made his unsteady way over to the light switch beside the front door.

"Don't you move now you little hoor." He said to the fireplace.

Despite flicking the switch a dozen or more times nothing happened. In his befuddled mind he thought that it must be the storm that had caused the power to fail. Marie always kept candles in the cupboard next to the sink, so he retraced his steps - never once facing away from the shadowy figure.

"Stand in front of the fire there and put your hands above your head now boy."

With his back against the kitchen sink he reached behind and slid the drawer open. It wasn't easy - but he managed. His fumbling fingers caterpillared over a rolling mass and he was just about able to grab two when the intruder sneezed loudly.

"God bless you." He said.

At that the burglar roared in anger.

"Shut your stupid gob Foley and light your bastard candle."

The old man felt the hairs stand to attention all over his body. He reached into the pocket of his waistcoat and extracted a box of matches one-handed. Transferring it to his teeth he scraped the match across the striker and applied it to the wick. Slowly a terrible sight swam into view.

The figure was filthy but quite unmistakable; Foley knew what it was alright. The brass buckles on its grotesquely elongated shoes gleamed dully in the combined light of the fire and the candle.

"What brings ye here?" He said.

"That little trinket in your pocket". The creature replied.

"By Jesus you'll never have it."

Said Foley, almost drowned out by the screams from the thing at the mention of the Lord's name.

"But I have you now boy, eh? What'll ye give to me if I unbolt that door and let ye go?"

The little creature pirouetted, bowed sarcastically, and began an obscene little jig.

"I'll give you quarter, Amadan, quarter to finish what you started. What about a drink now Foley?"

Weapon still levelled, the old man crossed to the table and with a quivering hand poured a shot into the glass.

"I'll not have it said that I'm lacking in hospitality. There's your drink, but no tricks - or what I started'll end with you and we'll see who the fool is then."

The old man looked on incredulously as the creature took obvious pleasure in downing the volatile spirits.

"Ah, your Father always made a good drop. I'll tell you what, for the drink, I'll tell ye the truth. That's what I'll do if ye unlock the door there and let me out. I'll tell ye that your father is a boy of nineteen now living in a suburb of Buenos Aires. I'll tell you that you're currently about 40,000 years of age and that if ye manage to shoot yourself you'll be born as a hermaphrodite baby in a shanty town outside Lagos. You're on a prison rock, and your soul is a slave. Time has no meaning for us Foley. 'Tis all a lie."

The creature's gnarled claw bunched into a fist before his eyes and
the old man's heart lurched in his chest as he sank slowly to his knees. Dimly he watched the horrid little figure reach for the bottle and tilt it to its lips.

As the fingers of a death tightened around his heart Foley managed to gasp,

"Theivin' little bollox..."

"Ah, sure don't take it so bad Foley, doesn't your own name mean nuthin' only a feckin' plunderer in the old tongue. Y'see I'm a slave too; to vice and larceny and fate. The truth always comes at a price man. That's why you're on the floor."

The creature threw the empty bottle down and it fragmented into a kaleidoscope of glittering shards. With a long black talon it hooked out the pocket watch and gazed into the old man's rapidly glazing eyes. With amazing strength it picked up the oak chair and hurled it through the kitchen window, and in the howling wind that screamed through the opening, hopped - sniggering - into the night.

"I hope ye like Cassava Foley." It screeched in jubilation.

And Foley's candle, Marie's candle - whatever; the light vanished in a barely discernible puff of smoke to reignite in a different clime, under a different yoke.