Saturday, 29 June 2013

The Karate Squid



1.

Daniel Loligo was sad about the move; for he was a Loligo Vulgaris or a common European squid, The Mediterranean Sea was his home and now his mother had moved them right across the Atlantic Ocean where the common species of squid is the Illex illecebrosus, bunch of short fin suckers thought Daniel. They may be called Shortfin Squids but they are considerably larger than the European squid. Daniel himself was only 40 centimetres long and at age 18 months out of a maximum 3 year lifespan Daniel would grow no more than another two centimetres, the Illex’s grew to over 60cm despite having a shorter lifespan and so poor Daniel felt afraid of his new classmates. 

Until he noticed a beautiful female and she gave him the eye, by that I mean she changed the position of her lens to meet his (human’s change the shape of their lens to focus on an object.) He walked over to her, she was wearing a cheerleader’s uniform and in all eight arms she held her water resistant pom-poms, “Hi,” said Daniel, hoping that she wasn’t a Semelparous organism like some species of squid (meaning they only bonk once in their entire life and normally right at the end of their lifespan, what a sad bunch of frigid organisms,) “What’s your name?”

 “Ali Gills,” she shyly beamed back at him, “are you new around here?”

“Yeah my mum and I just moved from the Mediterranean,” replied Daniel.

Just then a large Illex shouted from the other end of the water polo park, “ALI!”

She jumped, “oh, I’ve got to go, sorry,” she spoke so softly and nervously, got up and whirled off to the young male squid. Daniel turned away but just as he did so he saw the male give an evil stare.

As he moved away the squid swam up to him, “Hey small prawn, what do you think you’re doing talking to my girl?”

“Johnny!” yelled the Ali, “please don’t hurt him!”

“Sorry mate, I didn’t kno…..” Daniel started but before he had time to finish what he said Johnny had raised his arms, and began to beat his fins. Suddenly he lunges forwards and wrestles Daniel to the ground in a Kung-Fu-come-squid type manner. Squid’s cannot throw a punch but they certainly know how to fight. Daniel suspected that Johnny had brushed over some eggs because he doubted that Ali’s reproductive glands were ready to produce a chemical known as Beta MSP yet.  Female squids coat their eggs with this chemical produced from their sexual organs and if a bloke brushes past they become very hostile and a bit edgy. It just so happens that male squids tend to be attracted to the eggs, it’s the squid equivalent of a good night down the pub.

“You on the Beta MSP’s or what?” shouted Daniel, raising himself on six of his legs and raising another two in the air.

Johnny laughed and swam off, “leave the girl alone prawn!” Kicking him back down before he left. Poor Daniel could see starfish hovering around his head.


2.

Daniel was both hurt and embarrassed and reeled back to his rock where his mum was hanging some washing out on the line, she noticed his stress, he could clearly be seen whereas normally his chromatophores (pigment and light reflecting organelles) enable Daniel to change colour to suit his surroundings. “What is wrong?” she asked.

“I hate it here! That is what, I hate it here, why did we have to move from the Mediterranean?” he bawled as he swam under the rock and hid his shame.

“The fishermen were hunting us so much, we were virtually becoming extinct,” explained his mum. This wasn’t true; the European Squids are in ample supply. However the people of the Mediterranean had a taste for squid so the chances of them landing on a plate somewhere in Andaluc√≠a were very likely.

“That’s a chance I’m willing to take!” yelled Daniel and stormed off.

Suddenly his mother noticed an old Japanese Flying squid standing quietly in the doorway; he had many ringed markings around the back of his head which told them he was old. He was very small and lightweight, “Hi,” said Daniel’s mum.

He spoke with a quiet Oriental accent, “I am the janitor; my name is Mr Todarodes I have come to fix the air flow system in your rock.”

“Oh yes, err do come in, we’ve been having a lot of bubbles coming through,” she noted that he was watching the bad behaviour of her son and sighed, “Don’t worry about him, he’s 18 months old, you know, typical teenagers,” she sighed.

He came in, he looked upset, she guessed he was too low in the ocean, the Todarodes Pacificus, or Japanese Flying Squid favoured the upper layers of the water and although favoured more cooler waters than the surface of the Pacific here it must have seemed freezing for him. Daniel finally came out from under the sand he buried his face into but was still angry with his mum, noting Mr Todarodes he held off arguing with her and swam off, she called after him, “Daniel!” but it was no use.

The next day he spotted Ali Gill again and she came over to apologise, “that’s ok, yeah I’m alright,” he told her.

“Johnny is not my boyfriend anymore, I mean he was, but I left him…..” she quirked up. Daniel seemed happy with this but when Johnny noticed them talking he came over. Some squid-like karate moves put Daniel down to the sand again; Johnny shouted down to him, “if I find you talking to my girl again I’ll make calamari out of you!” Little did any of them realise but the janitor Mr Todarodes was hiding behind some seaweed, watching them through the school fence.

Daniel decided he needed to learn karate, so he went to visit a school of martial arts, he swam in through the door and looked around, lots of young squids were chanting “We are the Illex illecebrosus; toughest Ommastrephidae in the Atlantic, no retreat no surrender!” while doing punches in unison. Daniel was unsure about joining but when one young squid turned and looked at him with an evil smile he left quickly, it was Johnny and his whole gang were there. Daniel knew he could not join there and so he swam home depressed.

Johnny and his gang followed him and cornered him off just near his home and they addressed him, “Oi, prawn, what do you think you’re doing, think you can do karate do you?” quipped Johnny causing his gang to laugh.

Daniel told them to go away but they began to take turns bullying him, kicking him and wrestling him to the sandy seabed. Daniel knew he was in a bad way, they would finish him off when suddenly Mr Todarodes appeared, “Stop!” he ordered and they all looked at the frail old flying squid and laughed, “Or what?” one asked. Mr Todarodes flew over to the little illecebrosus, taking him out with a single tentacle, wrapping his tentacle around him he used him to propel himself over to the others, in seconds each of his arms had panelled the other gang members, smashing them to the seabed. Shocked and afraid they all got up and swam for their lives.

Mr Todarodes held out one of his eight arms and helped Daniel up, “thanks Mr Todarodes,” said Daniel, just as shocked as the others but pleased to see him.

“That is fine Daniel-son, are you okay?” he replied, as he said this he waved his tentacle over Daniel’s hurt arm and the pain magically went away.

“Yeah I think so, thanks but I could have taken them if you hadn’t come along,” he uselessly pointed out to which Mr Todarodes grinned at and began to walk back to his shell. “Hey, don’t laugh,” Said Daniel and swam after him, thinking about it he continued, “Oh, ok, probably not. Say, how did you do that, I mean, wow, like that was amazing…hey, could you teach me karate?”

“No,” said Mr Todarodes and went into his shell.

“Please,” pleaded Daniel and repeated it, as annoying teenagers have a tendency to do, until he had no choice but to agree. “Be here tomorrow and we will see,” said Mr Todarodes. Jumping for joy Daniel thanked him and whisked away home, he was the happiest cephalopod this side of the North Atlantic Drift.


3.

 

Mr Todarodes lived in an upturned conch at the end of the apartment block of stones, Daniel swam up to the shell and looked about but he could not see him. He was anxious to get training, hoping by the end of the day he would be pulling off deadly karate chops and round houses. “Mr Todarodes!” he called to no effect and so he repeated himself more than once.

He looked inside the shell, Mr Todarodes hushed him; he was sitting on the sand holding a pair of chopsticks in the air with one hand, some minnows swam about him and he was trying to catch one in the chopsticks, he missed and growled. The concentration on his face told Daniel to be quiet as he tried again to catch one but failed. “Blast it!” he said, giving up.

“Have you ever caught one before?” asked an intrigued Daniel.

“Yes Daniel-son……” He replied to which Daniel looked impressed until he continued, “…but only with a net.”

“I’ve come for the training, you know, the training Mr Todarodes?”

“Yes,” he simply said and swam over to the corner where his car was parked. I say car but it was more like a submarine convertible covered in barnacles and whelks. “You; clean this car,” he said.

Daniel looked upset, “what?”

“Clean the whelks off the car,” he ordered. Whelks is the common name applied to various kinds of sea-snail, many sea molluscs species are merely mistaken for whelks, the true whelk is known as a Buccinidae. However the whelks surrounding Mr Todarode’s car was the variety Nucella lapillus, more commonly known as the Dog Whelk or Atlantic Dogwinkle, although Mr Todarodes often described them as “blasted dogs!” These whelks had a modified toothed chitinous structure called a radula which acts like a drill to bore holes in the shells of barnacles and suck out their pulp insides, faster than a kid with an ice-pop. Seeing as the car was made out of barnacles Mr Todarodes considered the things a pest and threat to the very surface of his vehicle. Daniel looked upset but never-the-less got to work by trying to pull the whelks off the barnacles but did not get very far.

“NO!” shouted Mr Todarodes, sweeping a tentacle over the car, “like this; whelk on, whelk off….see?”

“Ok Mr Todarodes, whelk on, whelk off,” he said and went about using the method shown to get all the whelks off his car. When he had finished Mr Todarodes did not even thank him and Daniel went back home in what can only be described as, a teenage strop.

The next day he came back, hoping this time he would be shown some karate moves, however Mr Todarodes only directed him to the fence surrounding the conch, it was old and beginning to get tatty. “This fence needs to be varnished,” instructed Mr Todarodes. Daniel sighed and picked up a paintbrush. “No!” yelled Mr Todarodes and held his own belly towards the fence, not from the front mind, oh no, you are thinking of humans again, no, Mr Todarodes holds his belly from the back and opens up his anus. “Ewe, easy mate!” suggests Daniel.

“Like this!” says Mr Todarodes and Daniel can hardly watch as he sprays his ink-sac from his hind gut, almost pure melanin it can be squirted with its proximity as accurate as Leonardo Da Vinci with a paint brush. Daniel takes a quick peek hoping his master is not displaying his anus any longer and sees that he is not; he is pointing at the fence with his fourth arm, “Now,” he orders, “ink the fence!”

Daniel half-heartedly does his chore, he inks the fence from top to bottom then he goes home. The next day though Daniel is sure that he has done enough chores to begin his training but Mr Todarodes orders him to “Ink the fence!”

“But I have done that!” yelled Daniel.

 Mr Todarodes points to the other side of the fence, “not this side Daniel-son,” he informs.

Poor Daniel sees red and shouts at the top of his voice, “Are you having a laugh mate, I’ve cleaned the whelks off your car, I’ve inked your fence, I was supposed to be learning karate Mr Todarodes but you have just been using me as your skivvy, this isn’t bob-a-fucking-job week y’know!” And with that he goes to storm off.

Mr Todarodes yells him back in the sternest of voices yet, “Daniel-Son, come back!”

“What?” asked Daniel, turning to face him.

“Whelk on, whelk off,” he said, and Daniel sighed, swimming over to the car.

“Not there, here!” he said, pointing to where they were standing, Daniel sighed again and did the action like he was pretending to take the whelk off.

“HEY-YA!” shouted Mr Todarodes, kicking an arm at him. Daniel was amazed; he had blocked it with his move.

“Now, ink the fence!” ordered Mr Todarodes and yet again Daniel blocked the kick coming at him harder and faster. Ripples in the water went in all directions as his master sent a barrage of blows towards Daniel and he blocked them all with faster reactions. Being that the squid’s arms are attached to its head as opposed to its body, just like Mr Tickle, this lightning hand-to-eye coordination is actually normal behaviour but Daniel is a teenager and normal behaviour in any species in that period of their lives is beyond hope really.

“Wow!” said Daniel, he was amazed.

“Your training begins tomorrow,” Mr Todarodes told him.

Daniel went to leave. Unlike many Cephalopods squids do not have external shells; they have a gladius, or a chitinized internal shell however Daniel, like many of his friends supported wearing one on their head as a fashion statement (it’s all a bit silly really but you try telling these kids, they never listen) and so he picked up his hat and suddenly thought of something he had to tell his master. “Hey Mr Todarodes, I’ve had an idea, we could do one where I hang my shell on a hook, you know, shell on, shell off kind of thing, what about that?”

“No,” replied Mr Todarodes, “I think that’s enough, we’ll leave that to Jackie Clam for the parody of the remake.”


4.

 

Daniel was feeling better about himself, so much more confident as he trained everyday with Mr Todarodes he plucked up the courage to ask Ali out on a date. She was delighted and so Mr Todarodes allowed Daniel-son the use of his car. Mr Todarodes thought it would be good for Daniel to ease the worry of the karate tournament that he had accidently signed his apprentice up for when he paid a visit to the evil karate school that Johnny and his mates attended, he thought he was just signing him up for a free prize draw to win an automatic barnacle removal kit.

Daniel was nervous of the date; she seemed to really like him. Man, he was glad he wasn’t a shallow water species of squid that had a hectocotylus, in which instead of his manhood he has one of his arms specialized to store spermatophores and transfer them to the female. Structurally, hectocotyli are muscular hydrostats. Depending on the species, the male may use it merely to store and transfer sperm to the female, or he may wrench it off and present it to the female. Daniel didn’t relish the idea of this wrenching an arm off malarkey and the rumour that went around the school playground back in the Med put him off the idea of any hanky-panky up till the point he was old enough to realise that he wasn’t a shallow-water squid at all. Even dirty magazines for the shallow water species had to have “beware when wrenching,” warnings on them.

No matter how much he told himself he wasn’t a shallow-water squid rather a deep sea type of Cephalopod he couldn’t shake the notion of the wrench. “Are you okay?” she softly asked him as they embraced each other squashed in the backseats of Mr Todarodes car, man there was no room to swing a catfish in there.

“Yeah, I guess so,” he replied.

“You know you don’t have to do this tournament if you don’t want to, Johnny is tough.”

This made him all the more certain that he had to fight, to prove himself to her but he did not say this, just continued to kiss her her under the gills, then across her mantle. She had a beautiful mantle. Then he felt her caress his underside, he had no reason to be concerned, I mean he was no Onykia ingens (otherwise known as a Greater Hooked Squid for reasons that will become clear before the close of this lengthy parentheses section for this Subantarctic species are rather well endowed. When erect, the penis may be as long as the mantle, head and arms combined, they are undeniably “hung like a sea-donkey, if indisputably such an animal exists.) Mind you, all deep water squid have the greatest known penis length relative to body size of all mobile animals, second in the entire animal kingdom only to certain sessile barnacles, another good reason for Mr Todarodes to hate those barnacle fuckers. To add to his confidence that she would be impressed by his manhood we must remember that the actor playing the part of Daniel, Ralph Minno was of Italian descent. Ali Gill shrieked with delight (despite the scene being edited from the final cut, but hey this is the book, EL James watch out mollusc sex is the new bondage.)

From thence forward they were in love, but Mr Todarodes was now keen to make him put his lustful thoughts to one side and continue his training, copying a sideways move and pinch from a neighbourly crab. However one day when Daniel went to his training session he found an empty bottle of fish oil lying on the seabed and heard the destructive noise of bashing shells inside. He swam in cautiously to see Mr Todarodes smashing his car to pieces, little bits of barnacle were flying off, “take that you big cocked bastards!” he was yelling.

Daniel reeled up to him and Mr Todarodes shows him a photo of a beautiful young female Japanese flying squid, “wow, is that your wife?” Daniel asks.

“Yes,” he whimpered “today, it should have been our anniversary, wha wha wha!”

“What happened to her?”

“One day we went for a romantic swim, too close to shore, a fisherman’s net caught her, whisked he away from me. I swam for my life to the quayside where there was a restaurant that backed right up to the sea, from there I could see the people eating, I jumped up and that is when I saw her, she was lying on a bed of noodles……dressed in spring onion and oyster sauce! Wha, wha, wha!”

“Oh my, I am sorry,” Daniel looked again at the photo, “hey, she does look tasty though….”

“WHA, WHA, WHA, WHA, WHA, WHA, WHA!”
“Huh? Oh, sorry, sorry, I meant she looks beautiful, in the photo like.” He tried to patch his statement up but knew it was too late, he swam out and Mr Todarodes told him there would be no training today. Daniel thought cool, I can go home and study my new issue of “shallow water babes,” complete with warning messages.




5.

 

It was the day of the tournament, that morning Ali was riding her seahorse but she came to watch later on. Daniel strode inside not knowing what to expect, he hoped Mr Todarodes would be up on the routine but he confessed he knew no more than Daniel, “but this is my first time at a karate tournament,” pleaded Daniel.

“Me too Daniel-son,” replied Mr Todarodes, it did not give him much reassurance.

The hall was packed, lots of squid celebrities in attendance, Squid Rock was performing a warm-up set with his heavily plagiarised tune, “All Summer Long,” (kettle, black Mr Author??)

The most talked about appearance was from the famous actor Squidward Tentacles from the US hit soap opera, “SpongeBob SquarePants.” He paraded about draped in expensive seashells with an entourage of sexy mermaids and puffing on a joint of top quality seaweed, keen to point out to everyone that the creator of the show is in fact a marine biologist and didn’t just copy facts from Wikipedia.

Someone gave Daniel the low down on the rules and a Cuttlefish called him over for the first match, he shouted “Squids in!” (a joke that will be wasted on those not from the UK, that is why I left in the rather poor quality Kid Rock gag, you got to keep those Americans happy.)

The cuttlefish was a master of martial arts, a monk of the shoalin temple that would bravely lay down his life for the honour of his beliefs, the fact that after his death his bone would be shoved into the bars of a cage and used as a calcium-rich dietary supplement for a budgerigar while an old lady peered into the cage pointlessly chanting “who’s a pretty boy then?” did not register in his mind.

Daniel and his first opponent squared up. Daniel took on his first fight and won, feeding on the glory of that moment he went onto triumph all other matches and made it to the semi-finals; so did Johnny.

The semi-finals came, Johnny won his and Daniel’s opponent was Johnny’s friend from the same karate school, conveniently. His sensei instructed him to break his knee with an illegal move, “but sensei,” the boy protested.

“Don’t argue,” ordered the master.

“But sensei, squids are invertebrate, we don’t have knees!” he explained.

“Just do it!” he demanded and the boy went back to the fight, he flew a punch directly into Daniel’s arm and the crowd gasped as the crack could be heard and not believed. Daniel cowed over in pain and was escorted off to see the doctor.  The boy was automatically disqualified. Daniel was through to the final but the doctor told him he could not continue.

“Do that magic shit,” asked Daniel to Mr Todarodes, desperate to continue.

“I cannot, it would against the rules….” concluded Mr Todarodes.

“Please!” Daniel pleaded, knowing his pride was in shatters, his revenge had not been completed but mostly because his newfound girlfriend was watching and he really wanted to get her in the ink-sack. In turn Mr Todarodes had learned about friendship and also, to bend the rules slightly, after all he contemplated; they were breaking the rules, so cod knows we should too. So he rubbed the arm of Daniel and he came back out in true Hollywood fashion to a blaze of cheers from the crowd. But slightly annoyed looks from Johnny and the sensei.

The Cuttlefish asked quietly if he could continue and Daniel bravely nodded. He then announced that the fight would continue and both Johnny and Daniel stepped into the ring. A few moves into the round and it’s now clear that Johnny has the advantage, Daniel is protecting the leg. Johnny is pulled up by his naughty instructor, “sweep the leg,” he orders.

“But Sensei….”

“Are you deaf?”

“But….”

“No buts get on and do it!”

“But Sensei, you really need to study the anatomy of a squid…..”

“I said no arguing….” His master was now pushing him back into the ring, “Sweep the leg!”

Squids doesn’t have legs, they have eight limbs that are commonly referred to as arms, and two longer ones which are tentacles, thought Johnny, my Sensei is a doughnut, he’s not following this story at all; I mean it’s factual and that….So, what limb do I sweep, and I haven’t even got a broom?

 Whilst Johnny was thinking this Daniel had moved into his crab pose, on the side with all his arms in the air. Johnny thought no more of it and knew he had no choice but to do as his master asks. He haphazardly flew at Daniel and with the perfect timing Daniel launched out and pinched the bully right on the mantle, sending him spinning over and crash landing into the rocks, unconscious. The crowd went wild and screamed Daniel’s name, Ali was flushed with admiration and attraction, Mr Todarodes was impressed and proud of his student, Daniel was overjoyed to have his revenge served and the readers of this story were overwhelmed with relief that this story is coming to a close and they can go back and check some gossip and look at their mates baby photos on Facebook.

Daniel stood admiring the crowd and much to his Sensei’s disgrace Johnny took the trophy off the master of ceremonies and presented it to Daniel, “You’re alright Loligo, good match!” he said, all was forgiven and the ocean was still once again. Until a big net suddenly swooped over the whole tournament hall and it was pulled out of the sea by two white bearded men in blue uniforms and silly blue hats, “Arrgh, there be good calamari tonight skipper!” one yelled and the other laughed.
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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Naughty Step.



1.

 

“So Martin, how do you feel today?”

I wasn’t going to say “fine,” like I always did, fold my arms and say nothing more, no, this time it would be different. Justin, a new boy on the ward had called it “clamming up,” you know, only answering the questions quickly. Justin told me to make them believe I was in control, that I was better. I wasn’t.

“I feel much better now Dr Thorn,” I answered, it sounded convincing.

“And you don’t think that the stair got your mum and dad anymore?”

“Of course not, it was all in my imagination sir.” I was doing well, or at least I thought I was.

“Can you tell me what you really think happened to them?” he asked, looking like he feared to ask me the question.

“I don’t know…..” I really did though, it was still in my mind, always, it never left; how could he think that something like that would? I liked Dr Thorn, when he walked around the ward he made jokes, he made us laugh and he was a nice man. Except when we had these little meetings, as he called them, then he was very serious, scary almost.

I have been here for seven long years, you think I would have gotten used to it, but I never have. I am 10 now and remember little about when I was three; it was a long time ago. Perhaps my memory of the events back then have been shrouded by time and sitting here in this hospital, imagining the worst. I knew what I thought had happened in my mind was the product of my bizarre imagination but I could figure out no other explanation.

I was a naughty boy; that was the basic outcome. My father would send me to the naughty step whenever I was bad. It was the third step up from the bottom. The first step was too low, the second means that I could slip my bum back down to the first and gradually leave the stairs altogether. So he placed me on that third step, it became the standard, when I was old enough to move there myself without him picking me up and putting me on it I naturally went to it. Besides at first I did not fear it, it was a funny step, it kept me amused while I sat their seemingly for eons.

The first and second step were just normal steps, the fourth and fifth too. The rest of the way up to the bedrooms and bathroom the steps were all normal. However one day as I sat on that step, it began to talk to me. Yes, that is weird, that is why I am here. It said funny things to me, kept me amused, it became my only friend, and I trusted it, not at first though.

I could not see where it was talking to me from, it had no mouth, and it just looked like a normal step. I was scared at first, when it said a simple “Hello!” in a deep voice. I knew this was unusual even at three years old. I jumped up off the step, shouted out “who is that?”

It did not speak again; I left the step and was on the floor, looking around me, that much I remember. Then I was spotted by my dad, he pointed his finger back at that third step and bellowed out “get back on that naughty step until I tell you to get off!” I did as I was told. The voice started up again as soon as he had left to go into the kitchen. It told me it was the step, told me that it was my friend, said it had come to keep me company, and then it laughed.

At three years old you begin to believe this was possible, you don’t doubt the impossible because you don’t know exactly what is possible and what is impossible, and so I began to talk back to it, it was friendly, funny and after a few times we began to get along well. It seemed sad when I was allowed to get down and so it told me so, it said we should be together more often, it wanted to play with me more and more. That is why, when I was rude to my mum and she sent me to the naughty step for just one minute the stair seemed furious with me, I had never heard it angry before, “Stay!” it said.

“I have to go now,” I told the stair, “sorry.”

“I tell you what Martin, you could stay here if you wanted; you just have to be naughty.” It sounded like an idea, it suggested I took the milk from the fridge and pour it all over the floor, “Go on, it will be funny!” it said.

So I did, I walked into the kitchen, dragged a chair across the floor and positioned it next to the fridge. Standing on the chair I opened the fridge door, the light hit me and dazzled me, I pulled the heavy carton of milk out then bent down and placed it on the base of the chair. I got down and the fridge door slammed shut. I took the carton of milk and walked to the centre of the kitchen. I poured it all on the floor. Mum came in just as the last droplet hit the lino, she screamed at me “Martin! What are you doing?” I shrugged. “Go to the stair you naughty boy!” she demanded and I did.

“Hey!” said the stair, “We are back together again, well done kid!” I sat there; I knew I had done wrong. “What’s with the sad face?” it asked.

“Mummy was cross!” I told it.

“Do not worry about her, she’ll be fine,” it told me and then went on to make some silly noises and I laughed. The stair was right, I liked the stair.

Going to get Dad’s tools from his toolbox and throwing one at my older brother when he shouted at me was taking it too far, even at three years old I knew this. However the stair told me it was okay, so long as we could play together. So I sat there again, listening to his jokes and silly noises. I told him though that it was wrong, it was naughty and that dad would shout at me. That is when it became annoyed I guess, it said that it didn’t care, “You like playing with me don’t you Martin?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Then, just keep being naughty, it is nothing really bad after all.”

“But Daddy will shout!” I told it.

“Oh, so Daddy is more important than us having some fun is he?”

“No!” I shouted, and I believed it.

My Dad began to listen in on our conversations and one day he passed me when I sat there and said, “Who you talking to Martin?”

I didn’t want to tell him, I remember that much but I did, I guess you do at that age, you don’t think there is anything wrong with it, “The naughty step!” I said.

My dad looked at me and laughed, “Oh, talk back to you does it?”

“Yes, not laugh daddy, my friend!”

“Oh, I see, the naughty step is your friend!” He laughed even louder. However after many months of this he began to look worried. I recall him talking to mum about it. He was saying it was getting beyond a joke, that I should see whatever it was that he called a shrink. Mum told him that it was not unusual for kids this age to have imaginary friends. I was outraged, it was not imaginary; it was real.

I ran around the house, pulling over the coffee table and everything on it went smashing to the floor. They sent me to the step. My dad said to my mum that maybe they should find a new naughty space. My mum told him not to be so silly, I would talk to my imaginary friend anywhere I was put.

My big brother pushed his way past me on the step, watching me talking to my stair. He laughed and asked me who I was talking to, “not your stupid stair again!” he laughed.

“He not stupid, he friend!” I told him angry.

He stamped his foot on the step, shouting “Silly Step, Silly Step!”

I cried but no one came to help me. The stair was the only thing that did help, it told me not to worry, and that we could get him back.

 
 
2.
I know it seems crazy looking at it through the eyes of a ten year old, I know it is crazy now and I have to live with that. Sometimes though I doubt myself, I think I’m just pretending it was all in my head just to please the doctors. When Justin came on the ward he was the only kid to ever listen to what I had to say, I mean really listen and he said it may be true but that I should not tell them I think like that, he said I should tell them that it was in my imagination and that I am better now. This is what I tried to do today but I’m not sure if the doctor believes me. Justin says to say whatever they want to hear just to get out of here, but I have spent so long here I don’t know if I want to get out, I only really want to get out of here to find my mum and dad.

I don’t understand what happened to them or my brother and when I was three I understood even less, I blamed it on the naughty step; what other explanation is there? Now, I simply don’t know; of course it wasn’t the step, I know that now but inside, deep inside, it still makes me scared. So scared I cannot sleep, my dreams merge with reality they say, I am unable to remember which is which; of course they use a lot of long words that I don’t understand, but I know the basics of it.

It all seems so real, the first time that I knew the step could take someone away was after it told me it would get my brother and the next morning I got up and saw some police cars outside. A policeman was inside our house, talking to my mum and dad. I crept down the stairs, my mum was crying and my dad was furious, arguing with the policeman. He was telling him how he must do something to find him; the policeman was asking him to go over what had happened. That is when I heard them saying that my brother was missing, they woke up and he was not in his bed.

I screamed, I knew what had taken him, “It was the step, the naughty step did it!” I shouted, tugging my mum’s dress and repeating it over and over again. The policeman looked down at me but did not say a word. My Dad grabbed me, said to the policeman that I did this sometimes, an overactive imagination he called it, or something like that. Then Dad addressed me, looking down he said, “Now is not the time for this Martin, please go and play.”

“I don’t want to play, listen, it was the step!”

Dad got angry and told me to if I did not stop he would put me in a naughty place. He pointed to the backdoor step and pushed me over to it, “sit there! That is the new naughty space!”

I cried when I realised that he had changed the naughty space to the backdoor step. However while they were talking to the policemen and women I found I could creep over to the step, I wanted to ask it why it took my brother.

“Why are you on the doorstep?” asked the step in his harsh and deep tone.

“Daddy sent me there, it is new naughty space,” I told it.

“They are trying to break us up, they do not want us to play together, you want us to play together don’t you Martin, we have fun playing together don’t we?”

“Yes,” I said, I was not sure if I wanted to play with it but I was scared of it so I had to say yes.

“Very well, I make sure that your Mum and Dad do not get in the way of that again!” it bellowed.

My Mum and Dad spent the whole day talking to police; they searched my brother’s room and went to the police station. I was taken to my Aunts to play, I like playing there. When night time came my Mum and Dad came to collect me. They told me it would be alright, that my brother had to go away, but looking at their eyes I could see they were very tired and unhappy, you cannot fool a three year old that easy.

When I woke up the next morning the house was quiet, I crept down the stairs after looking in my mummy and daddy’s bedroom to see that they were not there. I thought they would be downstairs in the kitchen making some breakfast but when I got down there I could not find them, I searched the house, they were gone, the house was empty and quiet. The fear flushed through my body and I was frozen on the spot looking at that naughty step.

After a few minutes I spoke up, “What done with my Mummy?” I asked.

“They will not bother us again, we can play now, what would you like to play?” the voice thundered and I began to cry. I cannot remember what happened next, I was so overcome with unhappy feelings. I think I ran outside and a neighbour came to help, I think that is what happened. I was uncontrollable, shouting and screaming. The next thing I know is that I was here, in this hospital and I have been here ever since. They told me my mum and dad had to go away to find my brother and of course I did not believe them. At three I could not understand why they did not believe my story but as I grew up I understood of course that steps are not alive and do not talk.

Still they said I was crazy, I have to prove that I am not but by offering them the only story I know of what happened to my mum and dad means they keep me here, they think I am still crazy, perhaps I am. I mean I must be.

 

 
3.

 Dr Thorn leaned in towards me and lowered his tone, “you know Martin I am trying to help you don’t you?”

I nodded.

“Well,” he said, “I think you are old enough for the truth, we do not know what happened to your parents, we have never found them. I am sorry.”

I did not cry, I did not even react, “I know, I guessed that.”

“You don’t think it is the stairs anymore do you?”

“No,” I quivered when I said it and he looked at me then wrote something down.

“Listen, I have an idea. The house that you used to live in Martin is still there, no one lives there. The hospital pays to keep it so that when you are better and all grown up you have somewhere to live. We could visit the house, just you and me, we could have a look at this step, if you wanted and you feel well enough to do it. Then we could make sure that it is not alive….” He paused, “what do you think?”

I was not sure what I thought and so Doctor Thorn gave me some time to think about it. After about a week I wanted to do it, just, if nothing more, to get out of here for a while. So I told him I would go with him.

One morning he woke me up and we went outside, not in the garden like we used to do but really outside, out of the hospital and we got into a green car that the doctor told me was his. He reassured me that everything would be alright and then he began to drive. It had been so long since I was out of the hospital let alone in a car going somewhere and so I was too excited to be scared, until we turned down a driveway and I recognised it from when I was little.

Lots of memoires came back to me as we walked to the front door. They were nice ones at first; I remember playing football on the front garden with my big brother. I remember my mum leaning out of the kitchen window and telling us that our tea was ready. We ran into the house, shouting “hooray!” Happy days, I had some but I was so little. Since then my life has been a confused, horrible one and no one understood why.

The bad memoires overtook the good ones, I recall crying at the door, wondering why the step had taken my mum and dad, I remember fearing the step so much that when the Doctor opened the door with the key it all came flooding back, and I stood still as a post. So scared I could not move, I would not enter the house. The Doctor looked back, kicked the piles of letters that swamped the mat and sighing, “the neighbour is supposed to clear these up for us, seems like he hasn’t done it for some time…. Come on in.”

I did not say anything, I just stood there. It was not the piles of letters that I was worried about it was the fact that behind the doctor I could see it, the stairs, climbing up to the rooms on the first floor. “It’s ok,” reassured the doctor and he held out his hand to beckon me inside. After a few moments I came one step closer, but still did not enter the house.

“Come on, it is fine, you are with me,” he said. I like the Doctor, I trust him and so I stepped inside the house very nervously.

The Doctor closed the door and I was locked in fear, moving to the side wall of the hallway furthest away from the stairs, so that my back touched it. “You see,” said the Doctor, stamping his foot on the step, “It is just a step, same as the others.” He looked down a bit concerned, the tufts of carpet on the step seemed to be swarming up the soul of his shoe. He took another look in disbelief and quickly snatched his foot back from the step. Thinking his eyes were playing tricks on him he put his foot slowly back onto the step, again he observed the tufts of carpet creeping up his shoe. He gave it a little longer, trying to focus on what he was witnessing as they began to envelope the soul of his shoe. When he was certain that something very strange was happening and he should move his foot from the step he tried to but failed. His foot was stuck, he could not budge it.

He pulled harder, getting more frightened as the tufts locked in on his shoe and began to drag him closer to the step. I stood in fright, watching him, too scared to move. He yelped out and began to pull with all his might as his leg was sinking into the stair carpet. Like quicksand the more he resisted the more it pulled him in. Caught off balance he fell, his other knee given way he was now helpless and he gave a cry of horror.  

He held out a hand to me and desperation in his eyes told me I should do something but I could not move, still frozen by fear. His lower body was completely sucked into the stair and it had managed to take an arm with it too when he held onto his torso. Now he could do no more, I saw him become quiet and start to pray. I cried out loud as the full horror of what was happening came to light, his jaw began to disappear, his screams muffled by the approaching carpet and then his whole head disappeared.

All fell deadly silent and then I heard that voice, the one I had only heard in my nightmares for the past seven years, it bellowed out, “Hi kiddo, boy am I glad you’re back!” It all came flooding back to me, my tears erupting from my eyes as it continued on unabated, “so, who does that bloke think he is, trying to separate us? That will not do Martin; that will simply not do.” 

 
 
4.

 
“Nice place you have here,” she slurred her words, seductively and also intoxicated.

“Thanks,” I replied, I was pretty drunk myself. I handed her a glass, the sparkles fizzed in the light yellow liquid.

“No thank you,” she purred, moving closer towards me and flinging her arm loosely around my waist and pulling me even closer still, “for a lovely evening……”

“The pleasure was all mine,” I complimented, she was charmed I could tell and she planted her lips on mine, moving them slowly I felt her tongue wisp around the front of my mouth and I took my own and danced it around hers.

A few moments of fondling and she started to baby kiss my neck, “let’s go to bed,” she slyly suggested, I was on heat, virtually at boiling point. Something suddenly struck me though; I did not want her to go up the stairs. I pulled her over playfully and we landed with a giggle on the sofa, “let’s do it here!” I suggested.

“Ah, kinky!” she joked and rested her head back on the armrest of the sofa.

“Hold that thought,” I said as I raised myself off her, moving up.

“Hey where you off to in such a hurry?” she asked.

“Just to the loo,” I replied and off I stumbled. I never wanted her to go upstairs because it must be filthy up there. I guess anyway, I never go up there. I have some irrational fear of going up the stairs, I’m fine anywhere else but here, in my home I simply don’t like too. Strange I know but I guess it harks back to my childhood, I had some pretty crazy ideas as a kid but that is about all I remember of it. I blanked most of it from my mind; life in the hospital did that to the children there.

Yeah, I was in a mental home, hardly surprising really, you see my mum and dad left me, took my brother and just left. I was pretty hard to handle, a naughty boy you could say. One day, when I was just three they just left and I have never heard from them again. So I made up some crazy story, a bit weird looking back on it.

Then some nutcase of a doctor tried to trick me, he took me back to the house when I was ten and performed some nasty trick on me. The police found he had some pretty big debts and was down for tax fraud so he faked his death and left the country, he must have done. Although before he went he made sure that I would get the blame, pulling off some illusion which involved him melting into my staircase. You will believe anything told to you by an adult when you are that young and he sent me spinning back to a mental state for many years.

Now however it was all so long ago, I’m 25 now. I got out just six years ago and started to get my life back on track. I have my mother and father’s house, the least they could do for me under the circumstances. I mean the whole putrid affair really affected my mental health, I’m over it now, got a fair job and now I have found a nice girl, one I really like. It is a bit late to start learning the old game of love but provided she is willing to listen I will tell her all about it. I’m a good man, I believe I should tell her about any skeletons in my closet and I will, all in good time.

Now though is not the time, we’ve both had a bit to drink and she is definitely up for it. All I need to do is convince her to stay downstairs, irrational I know, but it is just a fear that I hold that would ruin my confidence and that would fail when it came the time for us to make love. I sat on the toilet, trying to convince myself not to worry, she seemed happy to relax on the sofa.

Suddenly I heard her voice call, she wrapped her finger on the toilet door, “hurry up,” she purred, “that sofa is too lumpy, I’m going upstairs; I’ll meet you in your bed sexy, so hurry, before I lose all my clothes and I think you might want to help me!”

Suddenly all hell broke loose, “no,” I shouted don’t go upstairs!”

“I’m used to a bit of mess, don’t worry,” she joked and I could hear her ascending the first step. I jumped up, I don’t know why I was in such a panic but I was flushed with fear, struggling through the drunken stagger to pull my jeans on and straighten myself up.

By the time I went to open the toilet door she was screaming with a horrific whine, I bust open the door and ran to the bottom of the stairs. Her legs and up to her waist was sunken into the stairs, like quicksand she was sinking deeper. I grabbed her arms and pulled but I was so horrified, the whole childhood nightmare that I had spent so many years trying to forget, trying to convince myself was just the product of a deranged immature imagination was fast becoming real. The fear struck me down, I tried to pull but it was useless, slowly I cried as I saw the little clumps of carpet swarming her up to her neck.

I saw her horrified and confused expression slowly fade into the stair, the carpet swallowed her and once it was done I was alone, totally, she was gone and all was quiet. Standing in total shock I heard a voice, a voice I recognised, a voice I feared more than anything, “I wanted to play with you,” it said, “I wanted to play and she wouldn’t let me, she wanted to play with you; that’s not fair is it Martin, we can’t have that.”

In a rage it all came back to me, my brother, my mum and dad, Doctor Thorn. It was true, the naughty step, it took them all. I ran to the shed, fury in my eyes, unaware of my own actions I picked up an axe and ran back into the house, up to the step and I hacked it away. Bits of carpet and wood sprayed up everywhere as my fury knew no bounds, I cursed it and smashed it with all my might. The bannister came crashing down and dust blew up in my face, littering my eyes so that I could not see.

I ran off, dropping the axe and found my way into the front room. She was there, my wonderful date, standing with a glass in her hand, “what’s up darling?” she asked.

The dust had gone from my eyes, from my clothes too. I looked at her, she was safe, whatever just happened was obviously just a hallucination, I’m having a psychotic episode but I was pleased that was and my thoughts that it was true was but a fleeting moment.

“Errm….. Fine, I’m fine,” I said, hardly believing it myself, “just give me a minute,” and I stepped outside into the hallway, it was dark. I held up my hand to turn on the light, it was not there. Strange I thought, and I moved my hand up the wall to find it. It was much further up, like someone had moved it up, am I hallucinating again?

I switched it on and shock hit me like a tsunami, there was wallpaper all over the hallway walls, the same wallpaper that my father put up decades ago and the same wallpaper that I stripped off when I took over the house. Not only this but the knuckles on my hand was gone, the veins too, my hand looked chubby and immature, like that hand was ten years old again. I put it to my face, it felt different, no stubble, and my skin so soft. I looked down to see that I was wearing the hospital issue clothes I came to house with that fateful day.

I had to question what happened to the girl, what girl? I seem to have forgotten her name, like a dream that floats in the memory seconds after you wake but slowly slips away from you and leaves you in state of confusion. Confused I was; it seems that the past decade or so had deteriorated from my memory and for all intents and purposes I was now, nothing but a ten year old boy. What was I talking about? I did not understand my own thoughts, I looked around for help and there he was, Doctor Thorn, standing at the bottom of the steps.

“See,” he said, stamping his foot on the third step, “nothing to worry about, it’s just a step.” The fear gripped me, he was in danger; I could feel it though I knew not why. I had to leave, turn away; I backed off and turned through the open kitchen door.

As I entered the kitchen I felt smaller again, my concern for the Doctor melted away into confusion and just as the last decade of my life and more had vanished I started to ask myself who the doctor was, the hospital where I had spent seven long years was fading fast from my memory. Immediately discovering that simple mental tasks were beyond me, modest mathematics, words of over two syllables, just what mathematics and syllables were became more clouded as the seconds past. I looked down; I was wearing my favourite Scooby-Doo pyjamas.

My mum was in the kitchen, I thought nothing of it, why should I? I was three years old; mum was often in the kitchen doing what she was doing, preparing my dinner. My Dad was fixing something on the table; I don’t know what it was. He looked up at me, “Did I tell you that you could leave the naughty step?”

I shook my head. Something about what he said bought certain things back to me; that step, it had something to do with it all, it wasn’t me that was naughty; it was the step. I don’t know why, I don’t how, but I knew going back to that step was bad and so I realised that if I wasn’t naughty then Daddy would not send me there. “I won’t be naughty again Daddy,” I said with my face down and lip curled.

He looked at me, quiet for a while then he gave me a hug, “that would be good,” he whispered in my ear. I felt strange in my tummy, not sick, just happy; happy to see my mummy and daddy, but I saw them only a few minutes ago….didn’t I?
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