Daniel Nathan Gordon relaxed in his leather-bound chair with a chilled beer in his hand, his eyes sleepily tracking the progress of the black clouds hanging heavily in the evening sky. The weather had been extraordinarily hot for the time of year and the prospect of a cleansing storm was unusually welcome tonight. He leaned forward in the chair tipping the beer can back and gulping down the last few dregs of warm beer from the fifth can of the evening. After what he had seen during his little mosey into the forest, he needed something to quell his nerves, to bolster his courage until he could think what to do.
Daniel was emotionally and mentally rather weak, what many throughout his life had referred to as retarded, and he found that the only way he could cope with anything out of the ordinary, to say nothing of damn right weird, was to immerse himself into a state of utter inebriation, pissed as a rat in Daniel speak. Today had most definitely been weird. Most of him wished that there had been somebody there with him when he found it, but a small part deep inside his mind was glad they had not.
It didn’t look all that strange at first glance, a simple globe, golden in colour with blue circles around its equator. It was about the size of a football and although it looked as though it were made of gold, it was considerably lighter than one might have expected, almost too light for its size. It must be hollow, Daniel managed to figure out, and he had spent almost half an hour trying to prise it apart with a chisel in the woodshed. During that time, something happened, something weird that Daniel’s limited intellect struggled to comprehend. The globe began to shake in his hands, throb, and pulse as though it were alive. A network of purple and blue sparks flashed across the globe’s surface and through the chisel into Daniel, jolting him backwards across the earthen floor and knocking him hard against the shelves opposite. He collapsed in a heap, a bolt of pain spreading from the small of his back like cracks in a broken windscreen. The pain was immense and tears filled his eyes as he sat with his head in his hands, waiting for the agony to subside.
He did not know what to do or who to turn to. Sheena would know what to do he thought, she was his carer, but he was afraid to call her. She was his only real friend, the only person who didn’t treat him as though he were an idiot, but even she might do after this little episode and he wasn’t sure he wanted to risk that.
Daniel awoke the next morning a little after ten with the biggest skull-shattering headache he’d had in a long time. For a while, he searched his mind for the reason behind this latest binge until slowly it began to come back to him. Fear accompanied the hazy memories and then curiosity, as the images began to form; soon he found himself drawn to the woodshed like an iron filing to a magnet. The golden globe was where it had fallen after his shock, on the floor half-buried beneath some oily rags. He was afraid to touch it, afraid that it might hurt him again like it had the previous night, and yet it drew him irresistibly towards it.
He could see it pulsing even before he touched it, as though its hard metallic exterior was really a soft leathery skin, and when he picked it up in his hands it felt like a small animal shaking nervously beneath the touch of his fingers. He carried the globe gently into the kitchen, setting it down on the breakfast bar as though it were as fragile as an egg or as valuable as the crown jewels. Daniel bent down and took a duster and a tin of furniture wax - the best he had, ‘contains real bee’s wax’ – from the cupboard beneath the sink. He sat down on a bar stool and set about cleaning off the oil and dust that had dirtied the surface. He wondered whether he had broken anything inside when he had dropped it, whether there was anything inside. The thought sent a shiver of fear up his spine, like the sparks from the globe had done. Whomever the globe belonged to might come looking for it and he would be in trouble for sure if they found out, he had broken it.
Why was he so stupid? It was not fair; nothing was fair. All Daniel ever wanted was to be like everybody else. To live and grow old, love and have children, but instead he was an outcast. He was a little slow, he knew that but, by some curious tangential connection people assumed that because of this he was too stupid to feel hurt or pain, too stupid for the jokes and teasing to matter. But, it did matter, and he knew that he wasn’t half as different from his tormentors as they liked to presume. That was the most tortuous part of it all.
Daniel leaned over the counter his head buried in his hands, and began to sob.
‘Oh God! Why am I so fucking stupid?’ he cried. Oxygen starvation during birth was the answer a cold scientific God might have proffered, if a god had been listening.
Then something happened. A loud high-pitched sound began to escape from the globe like the screams of a thousand frightened children. Daniel watched, paralysed with fear, as blue and purple sparks danced rapidly over the shining golden surface, and where two sparks collided a brilliant blue-white star formed that seemed to drift through the air with the grace of the finest fairy-tale nymphs. Then more and more stars appeared until the air was a dazzling galaxy before his eyes.
The air in the kitchen was as still as that in a crypt and there was no noise save for a curious humming noise coming from the globe’s inside’s. Event the birds in the garden had ceased their almost incessant chirping; it was as if the whole world was holding its breath, Father Time taking a break and putting his feet up. The air was heavy with the acrid smell of ozone. Then all of a sudden, the tiny stars headed towards each other with lightening speed to form one fantastically bright star whose brilliance seemed to fill the entire kitchen. Daniel watched in awe for as long as he could bear then closed his eyes and let out a blood-curdling scream from deep inside. The star headed straight for him, it was too fast to avoid, way too fast.
He must have blacked out again for it was gone four when he awoke on the steps of the woodshed. His head pulsed but he knew he had not been drinking this time. He tried his hardest to recall what had happened earlier, but only got as far as knowing that it had something to do with the globe. The globe, which after ten minutes of intensive searching he was unable to find. Somebody must have stolen it he thought, trying hard to control his rage. He staggered into the kitchen and grabbed himself a beer from the fridge, cracked it open and staggered into the bathroom with the ill coordinated gate of a newborn deer. Turning to answer the call of nature, he caught sight of himself in the shaving mirror hanging over the washbasin. ‘What the f. . .’ A fine black soot-like powder covered his face and seemed to sparkle in the dying sunlight like a thousand faceted diamond. He wiped the dust away with the back of his hand as dull recollections of what had transpired earlier began to coalesce in his mind.
The next morning, Daniel decided to take a trip into town to grab some groceries from Hillary’s, the local corner shop. An old couple who had grown up and grown old in the village owned it; they had barely ventured more than twenty miles outside of its borders in over sixty years, an inconceivably small world by today’s measure. They knew everyone and everyone knew them, even Daniel. Sometimes the old lady would stick something extra into his basket, a little gift, ‘every little helps my dear,’ she would whisper. Daniel was sure that she was simply being kind and considerate, not poking fun at him like the others did, thinking he was so damned stupid that he could not take care of himself. Whatever, today he had a surprise for them all; things had changed and people were going to find it rather more risky hitting on Daniel Nathan Gordon.
He walked into the village along the canal towpath, sharing pleasantries with the ducks and humming his favourite tunes as he sauntered along. The people he passed along the way – albeit mercifully few – sniggered behind their hands and feigned an all right Daniel? However, today it did not bother him as much as usual, for today he was laughing at them. He smiled, muttering arseholes under his breath, but they either didn’t hear or, perhaps the shear unexpected nature of his reply shocked them into silence.
In the shop, Daniel gathered together all the ingredients he decided were necessary to afford a healthy balanced diet, no biscuits with pink icing, sherbet shoelaces, or other sweet things his childish mind usually hankered after. Jean Hillary, the kind old lady who owned the shop, picked his items out of the basket with her gnarled arthritic fingers and tapped the price of each one into the antiquated till with the speed and elegance of a drunken sloth. Daniel shuffled from foot to foot impatiently. She made small talk to him as though he were a child and looked confused by the items she was dropping clumsily into the carrier bag. She sensed something was different, and there was no little gift today. Thankfully, she never commented and Daniel departed the store before his mouth got the better of him.
Outside the store two young boys passed by him on roller skates.
‘Look where you’re going, dipshit!’ the older of the two boys shouted back at him.
Unfortunately, for them, they were to bear the brunt of Daniel’s growing frustration. He extended his arm and grabbed ten-year-old Luke Palmer, the eldest son of Harry C. Palmer the local fishmonger. With his fist full of fluffy blue sweatshirt, he yanked the boy clean off his feet and threw him down hard on the pavement.
‘I’m sorry?’ he snarled at the terrified boy.
Luke burst into tears. He scrambled to his feet and half skated – half stumbled toward his younger brother who had been watching, his mouth wide open, and his thin frame shaking nervously. They cocked him a finger as they scurried off down the street.
‘Cheeky little bastards,’ Daniel muttered under his breath as he turned in the opposite direction and headed for home.
Two days later, a blue Ford Escort rolled gently to a standstill on the gravel drive in front of Daniel’s house. A small, middle-aged woman climbed out and waddled to the front door, walking with a bounce that seemed to ooze with an exuberant zest for life. She stabbed the doorbell once and stood back, balancing on the porch step waiting for Daniel to let her in.
‘Sheena! How nice to see you. Please come in,’ Daniel remarked upon opening the door.
They sat at the kitchen table talking and sipping tea from two oversized mugs with large idiot-proof handles. Sheena seemed to notice a change in Daniel immediately. He spoke in a calm and premeditated manner and used advanced and complex words and phrases, not at all the excited muddle of words that usually flowed from his mouth.
‘What’s with you today swallowed a dictionary?’ she joked.
‘Not at all, Sheena,’ Daniel replied. There was a menacing, boyish glint in his eyes, which made Sheena feel a little uncomfortable. ‘I’m just smarter than your average bear now, that’s all.’
‘Oh. And how so?’ she asked.
‘I can’t tell you that, Sheena. It is a secret. My secret, and if I told you then you would tell others, and pretty soon they would all be traipsing up here trying to take it away from me.’ Daniel’s face creased with a stern and slightly aggressive glare.
‘Well now, that’s no way to talk to your friend Daniel, is it?’ She shuffled in her chair, crossing her legs and arms in a defensive posture. ‘I’m surprised at you.’
Daniel thought for a moment. ‘All right then, I will show you. But only you and you must promise to tell nobody else.’
Sheena nodded quickly.
‘Promise!’ Daniel spat like a spoilt child.
‘Okay, I promise.’
Daniel led the way upstairs to the top of the house and stopped before a heavy oak door. He removed a bundle of jangling keys from his pocket like a jail warden and began to search through them. Sheena knew about Daniel’s private room and that he kept things in there that used to belong to his mother. A morose shrine, but she had never actually stepped foot inside. Daniel was very protective about this room and seldom mentioned it. He never allowed anyone across the threshold so, it came as quite a surprise when at last he pushed open the door and beckoned Sheena to follow him.
The room was musty and stale but she found herself gazing in awe at the enormous array of items on display dresses and jewellery, photographs and paintings, a multitude of ornaments and furniture. In the far corner stood two full-sized mirrors that made the room appear to stretch on for miles, and along the far wall were stacks of boxes stuffed full of yet more treasures. It took some moments before she even noticed the cats. They were sitting in a circle surrounding a strange looking object at the far end of the room, half obscured in the murky gloom of the room. There must have been fifteen or twenty cats in all, of various colours and sizes, all sitting deathly still with their glowing eyes fixed accusingly on Sheena. Cold tendrils of fear skittered down her spine.
‘Don’t you like my friends?’ Daniel asked
‘I had no idea you kept any animals,’ Sheena managed to spit out through chattering teeth.
‘I didn’t, until yesterday. I wasn’t allowed remember? Too stupid to look after them properly; but I’m smarter now so it’ll be okay.’
‘Where did you get them all from?’ Sheena asked, panning around the group. She thought now that there might be as many as thirty cats in all.
‘Oh, they just turned up all day yesterday. They’re no trouble and they seem to like me. Besides, they are here to look after the globe. Who knows who might try to steal it, especially from a dolt like me? Only the other day I thought it had been taken, but it turned up here. I guess I must have put it up here before I had my turn.’
‘What turn?’ she quizzed, growing increasingly concerned.
‘Oh nothing for you to worry your pretty self about. I felt a little dizzy, that’s all,’ he lied.
Sheena began to feel distinctly uncomfortable; Daniel had never behaved so strangely towards her before. Very slowly, she tried to back out of the room.
‘What is wrong, Sheena? You look troubled. Don’t you like me having other friends? You can still be my friend too you know, people are allowed to have more than one – even stupid people.’
‘Oh, Daniel it’s not that. I am just concerned for you. The cats and everything, are you sure it’s not too much for you to handle?’ She tried to choose her words carefully for fear of offending him.
‘Thank you, for worrying about me I mean. But it’s all right, I have Carl to lend a hand and the cats look out for me.’
‘What? Carl, who is Carl?’ Sheena asked, looking straight at him in bemusement.
‘My son of course. I’m sorry; I should have introduced you earlier. He’s out back playing. I’ll go and get him.’ Daniel edged past her towards the door.
‘I think you’ll like him, he’s a real angel. Smart too.’
Sheena followed him out onto the veranda. She was astonished and terrified by what she saw. There at the bottom of the garden was a boy, a small boy of perhaps six years old throwing a stick for the dog to fetch. A small boy who had not been there a week ago throwing a stick for a dog that had not been there a week ago either.
‘Daniel, what the hell is going on here. Tell me Daniel?’ she pleaded.
‘What’s going on!’ he barked. ‘Didn’t I tell you just a moment ago? Are you stupid?’ Sheena recoiled in terror as Daniel lurched towards her, his hands pressed against his temples as though struck by a sudden and terrible migraine. ‘I’ve got myself a family. Can’t you just be happy for me?’
‘I am happy for you Daniel; I just don’t understand how you suddenly got these things. You can’t do that.’ Sheena backed away as she was talking to him.
‘I told you. It’s all thanks to the globe. I can have whatever I want now and nobody is going to take that away from me. Not even you Sheena.’
She stared at him, at the morose grin beaming across his strangely contorted face, a face that had once reflected fragility and naivety now full of menace and hatred. Hurling herself over the veranda’s balustrade, she sprinted across the lawn towards her car.
The doorbell rang. Daniel turned off the kitchen tap and shuffled into the hallway. He opened the door nervously.
‘Good afternoon, Daniel.’
‘Good afternoon, PC Webb. Is something the matter?’ Daniel asked, wiping his hands on the seat of his trousers before offering his hand.
‘Well that depends. You see I’m trying to find out the whereabouts of Miss Sheena Gibbons. She’s a good friend of yours I understand. A carer.’
‘Yes, she was a very dear friend of mine. As a matter of fact, I’ve been expecting a visit from her; she’s late this week. I do hope she’s not in any trouble.’
‘So she didn’t drop by a couple of days ago?’ the policeman asked searchingly.
‘No. I was a little disappointed when she didn’t. What makes you think that she did?’
PC Webb cleared his throat. ‘It’s just that Yvonne told me she was heading out this way. Yvonne is her flatmate.’
‘I know,’ Daniel added curtly.
‘Well, I’ll take up no more of your time. Thank you Daniel. You take care of yourself lad. If you do see her, get her to call me,’ he added as he turned to leave.
Daniel felt uneasy. He stood in the doorway watching as the car disappeared, only going inside when the final particles had settled in its wake.
Less than three miles down the road P.C. Webb brought his car to a halt. Something was troubling him, gnawing away incessantly like an itch beneath a plaster-strapped leg. When his thoughts found clarity, he radioed back to headquarters to request backup, then turned his car around and headed back to Daniel’s house. He had seen a blue car parked at the back of Daniel’s house when he had pulled up earlier but had thought no more of it. He forgave his tardiness for cars were a common enough sight, but he knew well enough that Daniel could not drive and had never owned a car. Then there was Daniel’s curious slip of the tongue, it had not registered at the time, but now he recalled clearly, what he had said – she was a very dear friend. Was.
When he arrived back at the house, there was no answer at the door. P.C. Webb scurried round the back and tried the rear door, but that was locked too. From somewhere deep inside the house a dog barked. Shielding his eyes from the sun’s reflection on the glass, he peered inside. Daniel was squatting in the corner of the lounge between the wall and sofa, a small boy clutched in his arms as he sobbed and rocked back and forth.
When the police came and used their ‘big key’ to enter the house, they found missing seven-year old Jamie Foreman. He was unharmed and, under the circumstances relatively happy. He had been enticed away from a park in the neighbouring town a week ago. Daniel treated him well and he was in good health. Cats and a huge Alsatian dog - all strays or family pets he had picked up during his visits into town - overran the house. Daniel himself had regressed back to a confused child in an almost catatonic state, a mental prison from which he would never emerge again.
Daniel Nathan Gordon would spend the rest of his life in a high security mental institution for the murder of Sheena Gibbons. They found her body in the woodshed; she had been battered around the head with a blunt instrument. She was partially burnt and covered in a curious black soot-like substance.
The gavel made a hollow cracking sound as it struck the counter. Cynthia and Charles Slater smiled at each other, delighted with their latest acquisition for their new home. It would contrast beautifully with the marbled blue wallpaper and Victorian mahogany furniture. What exactly the item was did not really matter; it looked like an enormous golden Faberge egg and was sure to provide a topic of conversation at the house warming party. The globe had cost less than they anticipated, so they sat through the rest of the auction buying a selection of other knickknacks.
Having paid up and stashed all their spoils in the boot of their Volvo estate, they headed home, talking excitedly about their plans for the future. When they arrived at their new house, they relaxed with a bottle of wine and made love on the lounge floor.
Sometime later, they opened the boot of the car. Charles reached in a picked up the heaviest of the boxes. He turned and planted a kiss on Cynthia’s cheek then scurried back inside, smiling to himself. Today he was very happy with his lot in life. Cynthia reached for the next box, it was open slightly, and she could see the glorious golden lustre of the globe inside. She tore the flap back to get a better look. How beautifully it shone in the shimmering red and orange of the setting sun. With the gentle caress of an experienced lover, she slid her fingers over the globe’s shiny surface.
Charles heard the scream. He dropped the box on the dining room table and hurried outside. ‘Cynthia!’
She was standing by the boot of the car looking pale and shocked, but otherwise unharmed.
‘What’s wrong my love?’ he asked.
‘I just got a shock from this globe. A big electric shock,’ she said, her wide watery eyes glistening. A thin coating of black soot dirtied her beautiful face.
‘Well I’ll be damned.’