Regressed, by John Jones


Arrogant, cocky, over-confident were a few of the labels that could, and were, levelled at Greg Curtis, a 38 year-old fork-lift truck driver at a Chinese wholesale food retailer. He had enough friends however, but secretly nobody really liked him. People like and in various ways are attracted to those who emit charisma, charm, and confidence. Some people however, have this in abundance and it can simply become too much, because no-one really likes arrogance, except for maybe a few, bizarre individuals, but they are the exceptions to the rule, as there is with everything.

He had his close-knit circle of friends, or followers, people who laughed at his jokes, who agreed with his political opinions, who never disagreed with him on anything, and this in turn, only fed his ego, reinforcing his own delusions of importance. He had never married, and had only had three girlfriends who couldn’t take anymore of mannerisms and promptly left. He claimed he didn’t want a partner, because according to him his freedoms would be stifled. Going for a pint and watching the match with the lads would probably be jeopardised, and he didn’t want that. He would always claim that he could easily chat a woman up if he wanted. He could have a one-night stand with practically anyone he chose was his bold claim, believed by his friends as usual. It was just that, he never actually wanted to chat any women up, he would usually say, such was the paranoia he had of commitment, of losing his freedom.

Always sporting a shaven soccer hooligan look, with a stud in the top of each ear, and wearing casual attire wherever he went, he was one of those people most would try and avoid, and if you were to enter a conversation with him, you would hear his opinion, no matter what.

Of course, he used to be the school bully, had spent several months in jail for glassing a friend over an unpaid £1 bet, and even his work colleagues, indigenous Chinese pretended not to understand him, yet he was always, however, under the constant delusion that everybody liked him, that he was popular.

Usually at least twice a year, he and his so-called friends, Robbie, Davey and Jimbo would holiday in Ibiza, or Majorca, or any of the other home from homes, little pieces of England only with more nightclubs and takeaways. His friends would always try and enjoy themselves as best as they could, putting up with him, but sometimes he would simply be in a bad mood, and whatever was on his mind you would not hear the last of, over and over again, the same arguments, the same opinions, until he’d settled down and forgotten about it.

It was a sojourn to Malaga from where they were now returning. They had arrived in Bristol airport, caught an extortionately priced taxi that drove them to Avonmouth which put him in a sour mood for a few minutes. They had all decided that before they went their separate ways home, they would all go to a fast food outlet, and as they walked along a row of shops by a canal, one in particular caught his attention. ‘Who you were’ it was called, and upon closer inspection on a curtained window, several notices were up proclaiming what it was.

‘Revert to your past life. Who were you? Were you a knight in shining armour, or were you the princess he rescued? Come in and find out for free’

“Free!” he said, and pointed at the notice, looking around at the others.

“It’s free” he continued, “How’s this place supposed to make money?” He didn’t expect an answer.

“Dunno, are we going for scran, I’m starving.” said Jimbo

“This’ll be a laugh,” Greg said, “It shouldn’t take too long. I’m gonna say I used to be a king or something like that”. They all followed him as he entered.

Inside, they found it to be no bigger than a normal sized living room in a semi-detached, with what was basically a dentist’s chair in the middle that looked like it had been passed around a few times and was finally sent to the dump, only to be found and rescued.

Besides that there was a high stool, akin to those found in pubs, and nothing else. The others all stood near the laced curtained front windows just standing around as though waiting for a bus. The walls were bare, as was the floor. Across the entrance leading into the back room Greg saw there was a curtain, which was pulled back, and a man who must have been no more than a few years older than him with dark black glasses and a cheap black suit walked in. He smiled at Greg and his friends without any humour, without any meaning, as though he was the last customer of the day and wanted to shut the place and go home.

“Hi, my name is Seymour. Take a seat, lie back, and just relax” he said, gesturing to the chair.

Greg did so, and winked at his friends before resting his head back.

“Okay,” said the man, “Clear your mind”.

“That shouldn’t be too hard for him,” said Davey, and instantly regretted his sudden act of bravery because even though Greg smiled, he knew that behind it he was genuinely insulted. The man continued.

“Close your eyes, and tell me what comes into mind”. Greg grinned at the man.

“I’m not sure I should tell you, it involves me and two women,” They all burst into laughter, except Seymour who simply stared at the floor. Soon Greg was back with his eyes closed, and was thinking of himself sitting on a throne with a golden crown.

“I think…. I think…. I was some sort of king…” In a quick movement, he lifted his head, winked at his friends, and returned back to thinking of being on the throne.

“Tell me what else you see,” said the man, “Tell me your surroundings”.

“I see…I see….” As he saw himself as the king, he watched as the throne faded away, along with his attire, only to be replaced with a filthy sheet. Greg suddenly found he could not move at all, or even open his eyes. He could only watch his mind’s eye as it showed him with greater and more clarity the person he used to be.

The image became like a dream, only with more distinction, based more in the real world, the real world for 1241, and his present day conciousness became that of his older self, in his new reality, his new world. The sky was clear blue, it was a nice day, and he found himself on the floor against the wall of a castle. He was a beggar. Some other people passed by, none of them looking in his direction. His skin was muddied and grimy, and he was sprawled on the ground holding out a small tin cup for any trinkets or money.

With his new mind, and his new knowledge of some distant future world, he knew that this is who he was now, and who he used to be. He also thought that he perhaps would not be returning to that small room back in Avonmouth by the canal so he flung his cup aside, one coin falling out, and dragged him self along the bridge and looked down into a moat, its waters dark and murky. He pushed himself over the edge and plummeted down in some effort to kill himself and return to the room, to wake up, but his reality was simply that. He hit the water, found he had no strength to swim, and sank away into the gloom.

His friends back in the room simply watched as their friend seemed simply to be asleep, and wondered if they were not seeing things as he slowly faded away.

The man turned and simply looked at them.

“What’s happened?” said Robbie, “What have you done with Greg?” The man looked at him like a defiant schoolboy not answering the headmaster’s questions. Rob knew he wouldn’t get an answer, and he also knew it was time to get out of there, they would have to find out another way. However the fact remained. Greg was gone.

“Come on lads,” he said, turning and walking to the door. The others hurried out

“Tell me one thing,” the man suddenly said. Robbie turned.

“If I could bring your friend back, would you really want me to? You see, I know that you don’t really like him do you? He stifles you, he influences you in ways you’re not comfortable with. Obviously you pretend to like him. You pretend and even convince yourselves that he’s a good mate, but you can never convince your conscience, can you? The voice that always tell you what you really think. So tell me, would you like me to bring him back?”. Robbie did not hesitate, and simply shook his head.

“No,” he said quietly, then turned and left. The man got off his stool, and walked back through the entrance at the back.

Outside, Rob rejoined the others who suddenly had a barrage of questions. He looked back at the place, and found that it was simply a derelict, boarded up newsagents. They all stared at it, then hurried away.

“Is Greg coming back?” asked Davey.

“No,” said Robbie, and all of them remained quiet for a few moments, not showing any emotion, but inside, they were smiling.

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Anonymous call

#dark #horror #literary #shortstories

Everybody has a price. I learned that recently. A price in which anybody will do anything for money. The premise is simple. If I said I would pay you one hundred pounds to walk into a supermarket and steal one item, it being of no concern what it was you stole, would you do it? Of course you would. What if I gave you 200 or 400 pounds? The more money I give you, the more likely you are to do it, to break the law. If I gave you one thousand pounds to smash somebody’s window, well, I know the answer to that.

Being a poor student, I was given these incentives by a person I’ve never met. He rang me up and offered me money to perform tasks that have no real relevance to anybody. Thing is, though, he paid up. He knew my bank details, and paid the cash he said he’d give me when the tasks had been performed. How he knew I’d done them I do not know. I assume that he’d been watching me. I suppose it was a lesson in greed. The more money a person has, the more they want, and their only pleasure gained from it is in its attainment. They never spend it. It’s the same with me. I’m rich, but I cannot earn any more.

The phone calls have stopped, and I cannot access my bank account. I came to understand the true power of money, and the stranglehold it has over society. Imagine suddenly waking up in a field, and you have absolutely no idea as to where you are. You discover you have no money whatsoever, or the means to attain it. What do you do? What about when you get pangs of hunger? Do you beg? Or do you steal? Do you break the law in order to eat? Would you, if you had to? Of course you would. The structure of towns and cities is geared to the pound, the dollar, the rouble, and if you haven’t got it, you suffer.

Everything must be paid for. A ride on a bus, a ride on a rollercoaster, a place to park your expensive car, in which you put your expensive petrol. The privilege to watch a new film on a big screen, and the food that goes with it. The staff that help out in your entertainment are not doing it for the fun of it, because they want to help you enjoy yourself. Their incentive for their painted smiles is money, is pay day, so they can go spending. How many people do you know who work a mundane job would do it for nothing? would work a forty hour week for no pay? I don’t think there’s anybody.

The incentive is the wage, the oil that keeps the vast economic machine running, society’s lifeblood, and it can turn friend against friend. Friends who have known each other for many years can fall out over money. It can destroy marriages, cause deaths, and generally create vast amounts of misery.

Yet, by turn, it can cause vast amount of happiness. I thought it would make me happy. It did, I suppose in its attainment. I would receive a call on my mobile. It would always say: ‘Anonymous call’, and whoever it was, was making me rich. Burn down a derelict house for six thousand pounds he had asked. An empty house, just burn it down. Of course I did, and the next day, I checked my account, and found I was considerably richer.

Find somebody who owns a cat, kill it, then break into their house and hang it from the light in the living room. For that, I was to receive half a million pounds. Half a million. I found the task rather easy.

The next assignment I didn’t think twice about. Such was my desire for money that I was entranced by its lure, and was hooked like a shark scenting blood in the water. Sever your bonds, said the voice, sever everything you know. Leave home, leave your friends, don’t even say goodbye. Move down south to this address. He gave an address, and it’s from there where I speak now.

On the journey to a London suburb, he rang again, and told me that before I was to reach the address, I was to bring the head of a tramp. For that, he would give me one million pounds. Would you kill a tramp for a million pounds? I would, and did. It took a while. I bought an axe, and searched the back streets. A tired old man was half asleep in a back doorway to a restaurant, presumably hoping for scraps. I thought this doesn’t happen very often, does it? Me, a rich student, standing before one of the poorest members of society. I axed him without hestitation, taking care not to harm the head, which took four strikes to come free. I put it in a new bag I had bought, and headed for the house, which, to my disappointment, wasn’t a lavish affair, but a derelict abode along a side street with a ‘for sale’ sign outside, attached to which was a ‘sold’ notice.

Well, it didn’t matter, it wasn’t my place, and I could buy whatever house I liked. The door was open and I stepped inside. It was then that the phone rang again, and I saw that it was a text message. ‘Go up into the attic’ it said. So up the creaking stairs I went, and saw that there was a step ladder leading up. I clambered up and found that the light had been switched on.

I also discovered that the money I was to earn this time would not be going in the bank, as it was here, scattered around. The place was literally carpeted in money, and I could roll in it. As I did that, another text message disappointingly informed me that the money was not mine, yet. It could be if I did one more thing. There was a million pounds exactly in ten pound notes. The man rang me. I think he couldn’t be bothered to text again. He told me to close the hatch.

In doing that, I knew I would be locking myself in, as there was a mortice lock on the entrance that could only be unlocked from outside. I had to shut myself in what was effectively a prison cell. I had to trust the stranger, have confidence in him to come and unlock it.

What I want you to do, said the voice, is read one more text message I will send after I finish speaking to you. Once you’ve read it, understood it, I want you to smash the phone, make it useless. I’m sure you can afford a new one. Perform what it says, and if you do that, the money’s yours. Sayonara my friend, I won’t see you again. That was it, he clicked off, and about a minute later, the text message came through:

Escape, it said, nothing else.

Alright, I thought. All I’ve got to do is get out of here. Easy, probably. I smashed the phone against a wooden beam. I made it useless. So I tried to escape, but couldn’t. The floor was made of polished hardboard. I couldn’t penetrate outside onto the roof, and after a while, sat down in the money to think about how I was going to do this.

I saw the bag, and emptied out the severed head. Wonder what that’s for, I asked myself, not really thinking about it. I thought perhaps that if I couldn’t escape, the stranger would come and rescue me, but I was wrong.

Another scout of the attic revealed that I really was trapped. There was absolutely no escape, so exasperated, I sat down again in front of the head, and then I realized what it was for. It was to give me time. It was my sustenance until I figured out how to get out of here, to keep me going if it took a while. I suppose it catered for all my nutritional requirements, being both solid and liquid. As I lie here, staring up at an abandoned cobweb, I understand now what the stranger had taught me.

So full of greed was I that all I saw was the money, and now it’s useless. I can’t eat it. In here, now, with me, it has no meaning, and it can’t help stave off the pangs of hunger that I knew would come. After I’d eaten the head, every bit of it, the hunger stayed away for around a full day, and there was nothing else for it, but to start on myself. It hurt, but I managed most of my left forearm. Thing is, though, although I’m staving off hunger, I can’t really think straight with regards to escaping, as I think I’m going mad. I ate the broken mobile phone, and my watch, and very reluctantly, some ten pounds notes, but still the hunger comes, and I know I’m not getting out of here. My lesson has been learned. Money isn’t everything.

See, the thing is, as the stranger has access to my account, he can easily take out of it, so effectively, that money is his now his, and when I die here, he can come and take all this money away, and I realize that he is no better than I. Money can warp a sane person’s mind. He gets most of his money back, as being greedy meant I didn’t spend much of it, and now as I lay here bleeding waiting for the inevitable, my sense of greed does not let up its grip on me as I find myself jealous of the stranger, because he is after all, rich.

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State of Mind, by John Jones

When he awoke, pain rushed immediately to greet him, and he cried out, putting his hands to his head as the headache tore its way through his brain. He kicked out instinctively, knocking over an empty bottle of whisky. There were also empty bottles of vodka and cans of beer strewn around him. He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, his vision slightly clarifying, but the pain remained.

It was an effort to move, and eventually, with aching bones and tender muscles, he turned over and kneeled up, hands still clasped to his head. He was in his living room, which looked like it had hosted the wildest of parties. Empty pizza boxes and foam trays containing cold chips covered in curry were on the sofa, as well as half smoked cigarettes stubbed out and strewn around the place. The television had been knocked skewif, and dvds had been thrown around, the discs no doubt used a Frisbees. He even saw a golf club lying amongst a smashed pint glass. The carpet, which was a light green, was stained brown with beer and tomato sauce.

Through his migraine, through his pain, he could not remember anything about the merrymaking. Nothing, except when he was leaving a night-club. There was shouting, arguments. He remembered somebody approaching him with the angriest face he had ever seen, and he saw that that person was clutching a jagged bottle-neck, and that was it. No more memories. He thought after that incident, he must have come back here to his house with his friends, and maybe their friends as well, and maybe some new friends they had made at the night-club, but something just did not click into place. He’d had many hangovers before, and within them he could always remember something about the previous night, and why wasn’t he feeling sick? he wondered.

A usual component of having a hangover is being bent over the toilet bowl coughing and spluttering up everything the stomach contains and usually more, but that feeling was not present. It was probably made up for by a more intense headache. Something wasn’t right, he thought. Between the mental image of the bottleneck in the man’s hand, and now, waking up, he guessed that obviously something had happened to him, something unpleasant, besides the hangover. Had he been stabbed? Is that why I can’t remember? he thought. Surely I would remember that.

He looked down at himself to see if there were any wounds, or blood. He was in normal, casual clothes, clothes that he would wear to a night-club. Yet, they seemed as though they had been put on for the first time, rather like he had been trying them on in a shop cubicle and left them on. That was when he noticed the backs of his hands. They were not scarred, or damaged. They seemed different. They were white, virtually bloodless. He tried to make fists of them, and after a second or so, they did. Alcohol, he knew suppressed the central nervous system, so reaction time was considerably slower. He now remembered three years ago when he had been caught and fined for drink-driving, but even so, in this case, two plus two seemed to make five. He had to find a mirror, and knew there was one in the hallway. He remembered that as well. He could remember, through his hangover, memories of things before his emergence from a night-club. Just everything but the previous night.

He tried to stand, and did so like a newly born lamb, his balance certainly off kilter. He didn’t fall, and eventually stabilised in the middle of the living room, his head in his hands, breathing slowly and evenly, the pain subsiding only slightly. Again, as with his hand, the command for his legs to move forward took a second or two to comply, and he did so, falteringly, as a drunken lamb would, towards the open doorway. He fell against the wall beside the door, composed himself again, and staggered out into the hallway. He saw the mirror, and the table beneath it, upon which was a telephone. Eventually making it to the mirror, and using the table like a zimmer frame, he stared at the reflection in the mirror. He could not comprehend at first what he was seeing.

His understanding took longer to comprehend than his actions.
“That’s not me,” he said to himself. “That’s not me. I don’t look like that”. His face was white, bloodless, like his hands, his hair sparse, in strands, unkempt. He noticed a dark red line about an inch above his eyes, and fresh stitches along it, as well as beads of blood. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed someone coming quickly down the stairs. Before he knew what was happening, a syringe had been sent into his neck, and before his vision hazed and unconsciousness met him, he saw reflected in the mirror, in the corner of the hall, a cctv camera.

The balding, rotund man who stood over him, watched as another man came down the stairs, slowly, with a satisfied grin on his face. He wore a cheap suit that looked as though it had been plucked from a bin bag outside of a charity shop. He was tall and elegant, suave, sophisticated. At least he thought he was. He acted that way, believing himself to be among the upper class in society, and indeed, he did have the credentials in order to apply for it, but like going for a job that required three GCSEs, he only had two. He aspired to something just out of his grasp, and he craved it. He craved attention, and most of all, he craved fame, and notoriety, and the look on his face confirmed that now he had achieved what he wanted. This will do it. This will bring him everything he ever wanted, and probably more.
“What shall I do with him, boss?” the man said.
“Shake his hand, he’s made us rich. Oh, and that was a good job you made of the living room, making it look as if there’d been a party”. Doctor Felton walked in there, amongst the empty cans. He stood in front of the sofa, looking through the net curtains out into the morning. He’d done it, he thought, and he had the proof. The other man came in.
“Turn the cameras off,” said Felton. “I have everything I need. Rewind it to just before you come barging down the stairs and erase the rest”. The man did as he was told.

Felton just stood where he was for now, for he wanted to do nothing else but bask in the knowledge of his impending fame. This was definitely a nobel prize winning occasion. It had been a long road to this destination, but it was worth it, to see for himself his creation, his masterpiece. It made the pain of rejection easier to take.

Doctor Felton had been a surgeon, literally on the cutting edge of pioneering new techniques. He had assisted in prolonging the lives of people who had had heart transplants, keeping the organ from being rejected by the body for much longer than is usual. Of course, in the end, the patient always died of heart failure, but he had received distinguished awards for his efforts. However, when he had tried to restore the sight of a convicted armed robber who had been in a skirmish in prison kitchens, with the eyes of a coma victim, who had had a 15% chance of waking, he had incurred the wrath of his superiors, who struck him off their registers, and took back some of his awards. His name was rarely mentioned in the echelons of the surgical world. The man woke, and the prisoner’s new eyes had failed.

Yet, Felton still craved notoriety, still desired that breakthrough that would mean his name would live forever. He would go down in history as the pioneer of the first brain transplant. The brain was of a man who had been leaving a night-club. He was no stranger to trouble. Often he was the cause. Inside the club, he had got into an argument that escalated toward violence. It was a case of: ‘I’ll see you outside’. When outside, his opponent had sent a jagged bottle neck into his throat. He had bled to death before he reached the hospital, so his brain was still intact, still fresh, easily obtainable from the morgue. The other man was another coma victim, and ironically, he was in an argument with his wife before he got so heated and angry that he swerved off the road, down a slope, into a wall at the side of a field. The woman survived, and had gone to recuperate in her mother’s up in Scotland, giving Felton the man’s house to use in his experiment. The operation itself had taken eight hours, through the night in the nearby hospital.

Felton still had his uniform, so could wander through the place without being stopped, especially not by porters and cleaners who did not question why a doctor was operating on his own in a basement theatre at night. It was one of those things that surgeons did, and that was that. Felton soon came to realise that in order to pull this off properly. In order to clear his path to notoriety, he was going to need help. He was quite amazed when help came to him. Felton guessed it was somebody who had wanted to walk along in his shadow regarding his failed experiment with sight restoration.
“If you want to try anything else like that, maybe I can help. I’m not a surgeon, but anything else you might need doing that I could help with I would be most grateful to be of assistance. You don’t have to pay me”. Cue a grin by Felton, followed by a handshake.

Felton knew that history wasn’t made by following rules. If you did as you were told throughout your life, kept your head down and didn’t cause any fuss, then soon after your death you were soon forgotten, simply becoming a smiling face on a fading photograph in the loft of your future grand children. Well not me, Doctor Felton had thought. My legacy has now been written in the history books. The pioneer of the first successful brain transplant. Doctor Felton, take your prize, he would be told. What would he say? he wondered.
‘I’d like to thank, er, nobody, because nobody helped me at all. No-one’s going to share my glory’. He knew who he wouldn’t be thanking. The people who had struck him off. He could see their faces now as he walked up to collect the nobel prize. Quiet, red-faced with envy. Maybe he would give them a wave as he passed their table. A screw you, look at me now wave.

He heard his assistant walk in and stand still, as though waiting for further orders.
“Nice view,” he said. Felton nodded.
“It certainly is”.
“It’s a pity my brother will never see a view like that, or see at all. That’s down to you”. Felton frowned and turned to look at the man. He was stood there with the golf club swung back, ready to strike.
“I was just waiting for the right time. I’m not deprecative of your success. It’s great that it worked, but your other one failed. You didn’t care that he might wake up, and you stole his eyes, experimenting on him to give them to a goddamned convict. A lot of people become famous after they die. Go and join them”. Felton held out his hands in a futile gesture, and the five-iron was sent smashing into Felton’s temple, cracking his skull, and lodging in his brain. He fell forward where his experiment had woken.

Out in the hallway, Felton’s assistant wiped the handle of the golf club with a handkerchief as best he could. With the experiment subject still unconscious, he pressed it into his hand, and pulled from his pocket a mobile phone. He wiped that as well and carefully put that in his other hand. He lit up a cigarette, left the house, closing the front door behind him. He walked away almost as satisfied as Felton had been. Almost.

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