Liam Sharp is a British comic book artist, writer and publisher working mostly in the US marketplace.
Never one to question things, Paul Thorpe liked big tits, fast cars an’ ‘isself - but that’s not to say ‘e weren’t a good fella. Owned the first casino in Deadby, an’ liked to shoot a few rounds of snooker upstairs in ‘is private members club. The girls he dated ‘e could never fully trust, on account of ‘is money. Raised in a children’s ‘ome, family was an illusive goal, and ‘e wanted his future wife to love ‘im for whoever the bloody ‘ell ‘e was, not what ‘e represented, like. As I said, nice bloke really. But deep into ‘is forties the prospect weren’t too sharp, so ‘e’d hook up wi’ any owd dollybird chasin’ glitter - and in ‘is way ‘e were quite ‘appy wi’ that.
Two people had an Aston Martin in Deadby in those days, and Paul were one of th’m. Fancied hisself as a bit of a James Bond type ‘e did, all trussed up in ‘is Saville Row drapes - for which he maintained a wardrobe big enough to ‘ouse a cornershop. It were fat, low, silver and powerful that bloody car. You’d feel every bump and struggle to talk over t’ noise when t’ roof were off it – not that there were ever much cause for such in t’ Midland Deadby drizzle ‘n smog. Paul loved the bloody thing, though ‘e al’a’s said it were just a box wi’ wheels on each corner. Said if it ‘ad legs it ‘d moo. Used take it out in t’ t’ dales where the air were better, skimmin’ it across the single-lane ‘illtops and near ditching the unwieldy bleedin’ thing in chicanes. Plenty o’ good waterin’ holes in t’ peaks, and ‘e’d ‘ave ‘isself a skin-full, off’n as not, before weavin’ a hazardous super-powered dash back ‘ome to Grailsford.
And that’s ‘ow ‘e managed t’ hit a bloody deer one night.
Stag it were, and a great bloody beast too. Head came through t’ windscreen, it’s antlers stoppin’ it goin’ any further an’ stickin’ out either side o’ t’ car like enormous squashed ‘ands. The body burst on t’ bonnet – innards everywhere – and t’ neck twisted, legs all rigid like. “E were bloody motorin’, must ‘ave bin, to make such a bloody mess o’ the thing. Right bloody mess o’ the car too!
So I gets this call see, ‘e’s wandered back down t’ t’ village and managed find a phone, and next thing I know I’m drivin’ out to go an’ sort ‘im out, gi’ ‘im a lift back or whatever. Think ‘e thought ‘e’d get a garage to go an pick up the pieces the next day but ‘e wanted to get ‘ome in case the police ‘appened pass by.
I met ‘im outside ‘The Bull I’ Th’ Thorn’, blood – ‘is an’ t’ deers – turning big patches of ‘is grey suit black. His toupé were missin’ too, but I di’n’t say owt. Must o’ bin a good ‘n like cos I di’n’t even know ‘e ‘ad one before then!
So anyway I was gi’in’ ‘im some jip about it, y’ know? “Bloody drink too much you, drive too bloody fast an’ all” - all that stuff see? An’ I don’t think ‘e were takin’ a blind bit o’ notice, but I let ‘im ‘ave it anyway, benefit o’ my wisdom an’ that. That’s why ‘e al’a’s liked me anyroad. Money, you can bloody well ‘ave it for all I bloody care. Never made a man, as my owd man al’a’s used say. Paul knew that, and I think that’s why ‘e al’a’s said I were ‘is best mate – though, an’ I feel bad sayin’ it like, but ‘e weren’t mine, though ‘e were probly one of ‘em.
It were late when we got back. Drove back most o’ t’ way wi’ out sayin’ a word, after my little rant like. Said cheerio on t’ drive and that were the last I ever saw o’ the fella.
About two years later I got a letter. ‘E’d only gone an’ topped ‘isself ‘adn’t ‘e? Strangest bloody thing I ever read. Poor chap.
No idea why I’m sharing this with you. Not sure who else to. No family, no kids. Olive left a year or so back, couldn’t handle things. Can’t blame her really. So there we are, and sorry I’ve been hiding away. It’s been difficult since that night, you know, when you very kindly drove out to pick me up after I hit that thing.
I’m not a writer, so putting this into words won’t be easy. And where to begin?
About a week, ten days after that night it started. In the garden, along side the garage. It was like a smear on the glass at first, I was standing in the kitchen at dusk with a glass of wine, and it was just there on the window. I peered at it and realised whatever it was, it was outside not in, and when I cupped a hand over my eyes and pressed my nose to the glass I could see a bit better. And still, it was a smear, like a bloody thumb had smudged a bit of reality, you know? Just kind of reached out, a great big bloody thumb, and smudged a bit of my garden, the sky, a corner of the garage.
Look, I know it sounds crazy. It probably was, well, some sort of delusion – that’s what the doctor said. Olive too, at first. But I went outside, Ron. I rubbed my eyes, went outside, and there it was, this bloody smudge just hanging in the air.
Now look, I like a drink, it’s no secret. I’m a drinker, that’s that. I make no apologies for it. But I was sober, it was early. I’d been at work, was going back out to work too. So I was scared. Couldn’t quite get it into my bloody thick skull what the hell I was looking at. And when I kind of nervously reached out to that smudge my hand was absorbed by it, becoming a smudge too – and the noise Ron! Oh Christ, the noise!
But anyway, I pulled my hand back and nothing, it was just there, a still blur of air and matter and garden and shed and whatever else was behind it, or a part of it. Just bloody hanging there.
I tried to get a photo of it, which seemed quite sensible. Prove myself mistaken. You’ll maybe see it, I don’t know. But it’s right there in the photo too, except, well, it just looks out of focus. It could be anything.
By the time I went out, maybe an hour later, it was gone.
A few days later, though, it was back again, and now it had more form – it looked almost like a three dimensional nebula, if you can imagine that, scaled down to something like the size of a cow, or a hanging pig carcass. Near the top of it were splayed what looked like two huge blury hands – I didn’t immediately make the connection though, I was scared. Really, really scared. Didn’t last long that time. Half an hour and it was gone. Olive thought she saw something, she said she did at the time, but in the next few months there was nothing, so she sort of forgot it, or chalked it up to a kind of mad once made claim that she had evidently decided to just forget about. Don’t blame her really. We didn’t talk about it more than a couple of times, drinking a little wine in the kitchen and nervously watching the window. But it had gone - for a good while. Gone. So things were sort of back to normal.
But then the car came back - the Aston Martin.
I loved that bloody car. Good as new it was, and cost me a bloody arm and a leg to put right. And with the car that bloody apparition too. And you know what it was don’t you? Over the next few months it grew more and more solid, that deer. That bloody great big bloody stag was hanging in my garden like it was on a butcher’s hook. It’s eyes, Ron. That was the worst thing. They were alive, and terrified. It stared at me, followed me as I walked around it. It was scared of me but it was paralysed, stuck between life and death, perpetually dying. And it panted, the breath. The breath. Sorry, Ron, sorry mate. It was warm, that breath.
I reached out - found some kind of strength, of reserve - and my hand, it just vanished inside it! And my head filled with that noise – the rush of wind in an open-top car, the scream of a stag, of a man, glass smashing, tearing, and the bloody wind, the wind...
And Olive screaming.
She saw it. I was covered in blood she said. The last time we spoke. She didn’t understand, didn’t want to, but she wasn’t coming back, and who can blame her eh? Who can bloody blame her? Not me son. Not bloody me.
(C) Liam Sharp 2010
© Paul Kane 2003-2017. All rights reserved. Materials (including images) may not be reproduced without express permission from the author.