I dreamed. I dreamed I was lying on my back, floating on a raft, in the middle of a vast, black ocean. I know it’s over, and still I cling, I don’t know where else I can go…I could hear the fat man, somewhere, mumbling and muttering, jangling his cashing up bags. But I couldn’t see him…only darkness. Darkness, and The Smiths singing I Know It’s Over. I was trying to get to sleep, but it felt like someone was trying to cut off my hands. I brought them up to my face and peered through them, looking for stars in the sky, but there was nothing. Just the black. The ocean rocked beneath me, shushing and whispering, and the sky bore heavily down upon me. There was pain. Biting into my hands, my face, my head. I tried to call out, to call to Terry, if he was there, but I couldn’t hear him now, he had faded away, and there was nothing, just darkness and an endless ocean and I was all alone. I know it’s over, and it never really began…but in my heart it was so real…There was nothing. Just the lapping waves, and the eerie dark, and The Smiths. I wondered if I was dead.
I woke up to the sound of my own coughing. My throat was itchy and dry, coated with dust and stuffed tight with hot air. There was a massive pain in my head, right at the front, and I screwed my eyes up against it, battling with the weight of it, wondering what it was. It throbbed relentlessly around my temples, and my forehead, and there was another pain, a bitter stinging around my mouth and nose. I swallowed, and tasted blood, tangy and metallic. I remembered, and the horror flooded me. I blinked faster and faster, trying to clear a space in the darkness that surrounded me. My eyes searched through it desperately, trying to work out where I was. Was I dead? If I were dead, how would I know? It struck me then, that maybe this was what death felt like. Just darkness, and pain, and confusion, forever. I fought against the panic that was threatening to strangle me. I realised that I was in a small, tight space. My knees were right up next to my chin. When I moved my head back, I found a soft, yet unyielding surface right behind it. My face felt wet, but when I tried to wipe at it with my hands, I discovered they were tied together. I lifted them up slowly, gasping in pure terror, my mouth falling open, my heart thundering away under my t-shirt. I started to breathe faster and faster as panic set in. I looked up again. My eyes had adjusted enough to the darkness to make out a window, up and to the right of me. A car window.
Fuck. I was in the car. Howard’s car. I looked to the left, saw the other window. Straight ahead, the passenger seat. I was squashed down in the foot well. I didn’t understand. I stared hard at the luxurious leather interior, at the green lighter laying on the drivers seat, and his pack of cigarettes resting in the space behind the gear stick. The engine was off, and the car was cold. Howard’s fucking car. It was dark outside. How long had I been out? What had happened? I clawed my way back through distorted memories to try to work it out. I could remember the phone ringing, and Michael leaving, and Kurt scraping at the door to get out. I stared around, gulping and swallowing air, following the light that reflected from the leather seats. The light was coming from outside. It took me a few more moments to work out that the light was coming from the moon, and when I stared harder at the passenger window, I could make him out, Howard. He was stood there, leaning against the door. I could even make out the grey swirls of smoke as they circled and rose into the air before him. I tried to lean forward, straining my ears to try to pick up any sounds that might tell me where the hell we were. I wondered if I could hear water running, or falling, but I wasn’t sure.
Hearing a clock begin to tick inside my head, I looked back down at my hands. They were tied with some sort of wire. I lifted my wrists to my eyes to get a better look. I moved my palms against each other, back and forth, trying to loosen it, but it was wound too tight. When I moved my hands, the wire bit deep into my skin and I guessed that was the idea. I felt a huge sob lurching up from my chest and swallowed it back down. This was deep shit. This was worse than I had ever imagined. This could not be real. Maybe this wasn’t real? Maybe I was still dreaming? I listened to my breathing getting faster again. Panic was knocking, knocking really fucking hard. I stared back up at the window, at the outline of the man, still leaning and smoking casually against the car. He was just a man, I told myself. I would be able to get through to him. He was just trying to scare me. He would see sense and let me go, I knew he would. I’d do anything. I’d do whatever he wanted. I jerked my head to the left, but I was unable to tell if the door was locked or not. I couldn’t make out if the knob was up, or down. I tried to shift, I tried to move around in the tiny space, but my body was taking up all of the room. As I stared at the door I knew it was my only chance of escape. If I could get out of the foot well, if I could get that door open, I could run, I could run and scream for someone to help me.
Just then, Howard moved from the door beside me. I saw him throw his cigarette butt down. I waited, fear gnawing at my guts, and then I saw my only escape route destroyed in a second, as he yanked open the drivers door and slid smoothly into the car. He slammed the door shut, and our eyes met in the darkness, and I saw him smile, and I wondered how fucked I was. The moonlight snagged on his teeth, lighting them up in their small, neat rows. He rested one broad arm across the steering wheel, and shifted his weight to face me. I recognised the gloating, euphoric glint in his eyes, the look that reminded me of a junkie getting his fix. “What the fuck are you doing?” I asked him, my voice a trembling disbelieving croak, as terrified tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Thought you’d fancy a drive,” came the smooth, controlled reply. He grinned at me as if we were sharing an inside joke. I wanted to rip his face off. I swallowed.
“At the beach,” he said with a small and casual shrug. “Well the cliff top. You know the bit that’s all roped off? They had a bit of erosion up here last week apparently. Big chunk of it fell off. Yeah. Fell right in. Splash.” His grin was bright and gleaming, his small eyes laughing in his calm face. “Pretty deserted up here this time of night,” he added, with a slight nod. “No one about for miles, and miles.”
“Why?” My voice had crept higher, and quivered in terror. “Why? What are you doing? What the fuck are you doing?”
He shifted a bit closer, leaning towards me as if to share a great secret with me. He pressed his finger against his thin lips. “Shh,” he smiled. “Keep it down little man. No need to shout. It’s just you and me.”
“You’re crazy,” I whispered, shaking so bad now I could barely think straight. I looked back at my hands and started trying to twist them free again. I could feel the wire eating into my skin, opening it up, and a warm sticky wetness spreading, but I did not care. “You’re completely insane,” I said, not looking at him. “You can’t do this, you have to let me go!”
“You’re gonna’ cut your own hands off if you keep doing that.”
“Let me fucking go!” I looked up and screamed at him then. There was an explosion inside of me. I felt it, and it was telling me to get up, to get out, to get far away, to not let this happen, to fight back. I struggled to get up, launching my body forwards and trying to use my elbows to hook into the seat for leverage. Howard just sat and watched me, with this sleepy and slanty-eyed look of amusement on his face. Finally, he reached for me, grabbed my arm and hauled me out of the foot well.
“Been watching you for some time,” he announced brashly. I landed sideways on the seat, and immediately tried the door handle with my hands, but it was locked. I brought my feet up instead and kicked the door, and then the window. I drummed my feet against them, while terrified tears squeezed free of my eyes. “Okay, that’s enough of that now, that’s enough of that,” he said, pulling me back with my t-shirt and holding me in place, with a hand to my chest. I squirmed and strained under it. I was in a state. Panicked, and out of control. I lurched against the hand, tried to knock it away, brought up my knees, tried to twist away from him. “Calm down,” he told me, “that’s enough of that! I’m talking and you should be fucking listening!”
I stopped struggling. I wasn’t going anywhere. I stared at the windscreen, breathlessly, with the weight of his hand on my chest making my guts wring out, and forcing vomit up my windpipe. “You’re fucking insane,” I panted. “You’ve lost it. You can’t do this. You can’t do this to me.”
He pushed his hand into my chest. “You better pipe down,” he said indignantly. “You might have been gone for a while, but you should remember the rules. Shut the fuck up when I’m talking, or I’ll break your fucking nose.” He stared at me. I stared at the windscreen. I saw him nod. “Okay. I had to bide my time you see. Could have rushed in and taught you a lesson at any fucking time. But you had all your homo friends swarming round you like fucking flies on shit. Had to be patient and wait for the right time.”
“They’ll be worried about me by now,” I told him through my gritted teeth. “They’ll have called the cops.”
“They’ll probably think you’re with your mum,” he said cooly, and our eyes met again. He nodded at me. “Oh yeah, I know you’ve been sneaking around to see her for a while now. And I know what the bitch is planning too, thanks to you. Been putting ideas in her head, haven’t you eh? Been trying to fuck things up between me and her, yet again, haven’t you eh?”
“Yeah, so what?” I shot back at him, pushing with my feet and shuffling my backside further back on the seat. “She wants to leave you! She hates you, you stupid bastard! And that’s nothing to do with me, it’s ‘cause of how you treat her! She contacted me, she begged me to come and see her, not the other way around!”
“Oh is that so?”
“Yes!” I screamed at him, shifting to face him, easing my back up against the car door. He kept his hand on my chest. I couldn’t get away from it. “It’s your fault! It’s over!”
“Well,” he said, with a little tip of his head. “You are right about that, anyway. It’s over alright. Come on then.”
I shook my head at him, not understanding. “What?”
“Come on! Look lively!” He sniggered, turned the key in the ignition and unlocked all the doors. He reached over me and opened the door I was leant on. He used the flat of his hand to shove it open, and I nearly went with it, but moved forward just in time. “Come on, out you get!” he laughed into my face. “Can you hear that?” he asked, cocking his head to one side. I looked out of the door. I could hear the stark and lonely sound of the waves crashing violently against the cliffs. It was raining steadily. I looked back at him. His face had changed. There was no humour now. Only cold, dark malice. “I knew you’d try to ruin things between me and her,” he growled, and shoved me out of the car. I landed on my back, winded, but quick enough to roll over and get up onto my knees. He appeared behind me, grunting, like a living nightmare, wrapping his bear like arms around my middle and tearing me to my feet.
“What are you doing?” I screamed, thrashing wildly, kicking out with my legs, drumming my heels into his shins.
“Tried to ruin things from the start, didn’t you?” he was growling, as he heaved me away from the car, and towards the red and white tape I could see had been strung up along the footpath just ahead. He half carried, half dragged me, and I did all I could, bucked and strained and kicked and screamed, but there was no way out, no release from the massive arms that held me. “They ought to put a proper fence up, eh?” he hissed into my ear as he hauled me along. “Anyone could just drive up here and dump rubbish over the edge eh? Thorn in my fucking side, that’s what you’ve been since day fucking one!”
“What the fuck are you doing? You can’t do this!” I tried to force my feet down into the ground, tried to plant them there and use the earth to hold me down, but he moved me on, dragging me closer and closer to the edge.
“Come on, come on, nearly there now, nearly there!” he was panting into my head. “Then it will all be over Danny! You’ll see!”
I didn’t want to see. I twisted violently within his grasp. I made it as hard as I could for him to move me, scuffing my feet into the sand, turning and jabbing my elbows back into his body, but it made no difference. Finally I opened up my lungs and screamed; “Help! Someone help me! Help me!” I could see the black waves down below, I could see them swelling and rising.
“No one can hear you,” he told me. “We’re miles from anyone. No one comes up here. No one will hear you. I’d stop struggling if I were you, this is where the ground gave way, we might both go down together!” He held me there. We were at the edge. His arms were tight around my chest, squeezing the air from me. My feet dangled, just above the ground, my toes scraping uselessly at the wet sand. I had no choice but to face the ocean. I could see the white froth down below, gleaming in the moonlight as it thrashed and hurled itself at the rocks. “Time to pluck that thorn out,” he whispered into my neck. I heard him inhaling deeply, and I knew what he was doing, breathing in my terror, sucking it into his rancid lungs. I tried to press my body back into his, tried to turn my head away from the blackness below.
“Don’t do this, please don’t do this,” I began to babble in a high pitched sobbing voice. I couldn’t understand, couldn’t believe it had come to this…I stared at the sea and suddenly felt myself going, and a scream echoed from me, he had let me go, let me go, and was falling forward, the big arms were gone, and he was laughing, and laughing and laughing behind me. My t-shirt snagged up under my arm pits. I held. He knotted his hand in the material at the small of my back and that was all there was. That was all there was between me and falling. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, please, please, oh my god please don’t let go, please, please, please, whatta’ya doin’ whatta’ ya’ doin…”
“Do you want to die today Danny?”
“No! No! Please, please don’t let go, don’t let go…”
“It’s about time you said please….”
“Please!” I screamed into the darkness. “Please Lee! Oh my god!” I could not tear my eyes away from the angry black waves that rolled and crashed below us. The rain was falling heavier, plastering my hair to my skull, running in cold rivers down my back. My feet scraped pathetically against the fragile ground. My t-shirt was pulled tight around my neck. I could feel his fist there, warm and solid in my lower back, holding me. Oh god, oh god don’t let me go, don’t do it, don’t really do it…If my t-shirt tore, or if he let it go, there would be no stopping me. There would just be falling, and the cold whoosh of air and rain as I plummeted into the sea. “Please,” I said it again, my teeth chattering together violently. “I’m begging you, I’m begging you please, please…” There was a horrible, and terrible pause, while I was forced to wait, and he didn’t say anything, he just breathed heavily behind me, as if he was thinking it over. “Please,” I whispered again, shaking so hard I could barely see straight. “Please Lee…”
“You better let me hear some more of that,” he grunted finally, and stepped back, yanking me with him. I closed my eyes, relief wracking my body with an explosion of noisy sobs, as I felt myself tugged down to the ground. It shook through me, the disbelief, the horror, the fear..I felt like my mind was going to cave in, give up…I was on my stomach, my hands trapped beneath me, my face still just inches from the terrible edge, so I kept my eyes closed, not wanting to see the awful, hungry blackness any more. He was on top of me, his bulk pressing me into the sand. The wet and the cold was soaking quickly through my clothes. All I could do was sob, and moan, and tremble, my eyes squeezed shut, my face against the sand, just desperate to block out the sound of the angry waves, just desperate to block everything out. Howard took me by the hair and pulled my head up. “Look at that!” he snarled. “Look at that there! You don’t want to go down there, do you? Do you?”
“No,” I shook my head in his grasp. “No, no, no, please no…”
“No one would ever find you down there, would they? You’d be lost forever down there, wouldn’t you? You don’t want to be lost forever down there, do you eh?”
I shook my head again. “No, please, don’t…”
“Well you have to be a good boy, don’t you then?” He gripped my hair tighter, pulling my head up so hard and fast I thought my neck would snap. “For once in your miserable little shit stained life, you have to be a good boy, don’t you?”
I sniffed up my tears and snot. “I will, I will, I will…”
“You’ve never been very good at it, have you?” he continued to rage on. “Never been any good at doing what you’re told, have you, you little bastard?”
“You better be fucking sorry,” he pulled my head back even further, until all I could see then was the dense black sky. I closed my eyes before they filled with rain. “You better be sorry, and you better start being a good boy, because this is your last fucking chance, or you’re going down there, do you understand?”
“You be a good boy or that’s where I’ll put you! You say sorry for trying to wreck things! For trying to get her away from me!”
“Sorry!” I screamed and sobbed. “I’m sorry!”
He pushed his lips against my ear. “She wants to leave me because of you, she’s lying and cheating behind my back, because of you! She’ll stop all that if you be a good boy! If you do what I say! If you do as you’re told and be a good boy, she’ll be alright again, won’t she? We’ll be a family, won’t we? Are you gonna’ do as I tell you and be a good boy?”
I swallowed. I opened my eyes and blinked in the rain, and in my minds eyes I saw the little bed-sit, with the bean bags, and the walls covered in posters, and the sagging bed, and the little tatty sofa that Anthony curled up on, and I nodded for him, I nodded. I felt my ribs groaning under the weight of him and I just wanted it to be over, whatever it was. “Will you let me go?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I might. If you’re lucky. If you promise to be a good boy, and if I believe you.”
“I will, I promise, I will.”
“Fucking say it!”
“I’ll be good! I’ll do whatever you fucking want!”
“Yeah, that’s right, you will, you’ll be good and you’ll take the fucking job I offered. You’ll come and work for me and make amends. Last chance Danny!”
“I will, I will, okay…”
He finally let go of my hair. He sniggered into my ear. “Jack thought you were a good boy didn’t he? He really did.” I felt the cold sand against my cheek again, and closed my eyes against it all. If he didn’t get off me soon, I would be dead anyway, and nothing would matter anymore. “He really liked you a lot,” he went on, slurring his words into my brain. “If you’re not careful, maybe I’ll give him a call and get him to pay you a visit eh? You have no idea how much he’d like to get his hands on you.” He chuckled, and shifted his body against mine, as if to drum in the humiliation in, and he was laughing so softly, and I knew he would be licking his lips too, relishing every moment of the power he owned. “I told you, didn’t I? I told you not to leave. I told you I would find you, if you did. You should have listened to me, shouldn’t you? You shouldn’t have run off with your scuzzy friends. When you’re part of a family, you don’t do that sort of thing. You stick together and you’re loyal. You were a bad boy, doing that, weren’t you? Naughty, naughty boy running off like that, weren’t you eh?”
“Yes,” I replied quietly. “I was.”
He laughed out loud, and finally eased himself off of me, and stood up. I could breathe again, but I was not entirely sure that I wanted to, now that I could. I lay there, not moving, just breathing slowly in and out and questioning whether it was even worth it. He grabbed the back of my t-shirt and hauled me to my feet. I was soaked through. I just hung there, head down and eyes glazed and mind fogged with terror, and then he marched me back to the car with his hand around my neck. I had a feeling I knew what was coming, and I was right. I didn’t put up a fight, and I didn’t say a word. He opened the passenger door, pushed me down onto the seat and lifted my t-shirt up to my neck. “Need to get you back in line,” he was grunting, and unbuckling his belt. I turned my face to the side, my eyes dull and beyond caring. He chortled to himself up above. “I’m gonna’ fucking enjoy this,” he decided to tell me before the first strike came.
I closed my eyes, I braced myself for it, I arched my back and hissed the pain through my teeth each time I heard the belt cutting through the air behind me. Wow, I thought numbly, you fucking motherfucker, pulling out all the stops, all this, wow, what a show. I tried not to cry, but in the end it was too much to keep down, and the sound of my tears seemed to slow him down. I counted ten, and then he stopped, turned me over and unwound the wire from my wrists. I just shook and tried to contain it all, I kept my eyes closed, and when he slammed the car door on me, I curled into the door, and brought my knees up to my chin, and wrapped my arms around myself, and refused to look. I didn’t want to look, I didn’t want to see, and I thought maybe if I stayed in a calm darkness, then none of this would be real, maybe it was all just a nasty fucking dream.
The car rocked when he climbed in the other side. I wondered what his agenda was. I wondered what was next. I wondered if it was over, or if it had just begun. I screwed my face up, burying myself in my arms, and the pain was getting worse, growing and swelling with every passing second, layers of hot, electric pain smothering my existence. He turned the engine on and pulled across his seat belt. “Let’s go,” he said. I kept myself turned to the window, my knees up, and my head down. I recognised his voice. Calm now. All the anger had gone. He was like a junkie getting his fix, and now he was as high as a fucking kite on it all, until it started to run out again. We drove along in silence.