The Death of Timothy James Thomson III

Posted: July 23, 2015 in Featured Scribe
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robdavis

Rob Davies

James had been such a promising young boy. Tim Tom they had called him at school, or sometimes Tim Jim, but the rest of the time at home Timothy James Thomson III was merely called James, to make it easier to tell between him and his father, Timothy James Thomson II.

Timothy and his wife Catherine had always made sure that their home was for James a warm and exciting place, because they had always seen him as something of a miracle. Timothy always remembered the dark day not long after their wedding when he was solemnly told that he would never have children, and despite years of trying, they had both begun to resign themselves to growing old together childless.

They were dark days, but then there came a sudden and bright spring morning, a day that took the winter by surprise, when Catherine walked radiantly through the shafts of sunlight lighting up the wooden floors, and hugged him. “I’m pregnant,” she had been barely able to whisper.
“You’re…” began Timothy as he hugged her close. “You mean…”
“Yes,” she smiled as she let go of him just long enough to kiss his lips, her own now damp with ecstatic tears. “We’re going to have a baby!”
“We’re going to have a baby…” he repeated in disbelief, and he hugged her harder than he had ever hugged her before.

It was a haze of happiness for the next nine months, and when the baby came he was flawless. All those years of hopelessness had suddenly, unexpectedly, yielded this perfect young child. He grew up to be a bright, good-looking and obedient little boy, and they felt as if God must have smiled on them just for that one beautiful spring day and blessed Catherine with more than either of them could have hoped for.

Ever since their wedding they had lived in a large house inherited from Timothy’s family, an old house that was surrounded by several acres of grounds, not far from the town but far enough to rest in the silence that came with the countryside without retreating into wilderness. The one side of their house bordered an old wood that was now protected land, thick with the roots and branches of ancient trees, untouched by human hands for over a century.

James used to like looking out of his bedroom window at the swaying tops of those trees in the summertime, and in his mind he dreamed of flying, smiling down at his parents, both of them waving at him so far below. He had always been such an imaginative little boy.

It was at the tender age of ten, when it was winter and all the trees sat gnarled, twisted and squat, that James succumbed to a terrible fever, a strange disease which would not release its clutches on him. Timothy and Catherine watched in anguish as it spread through his body and gripped him cell by cell, sapping him of strength and soul until he began to appear just as withered and decayed as the trees outside whose spindly fingers reached up toward his window. His limbs gnarled and twisted to match those dead branches, while his breathing became laboured and he sprayed spittle upon each exhalation, and what little words he spoke emerged in a sharp nasal whine. Worst of all, though, was the way his eyes slowly changed. The soft light began to fade as the James they knew was driven helplessly inwards, weakened until his body lay wasting away in bed.

The doctor came and went, shaking his head in a wordless apology, completely unable to explain or help. So Timothy and Catherine watched as James succumbed, as his warmth cooled and he began to regard them with a contempt they never thought could exist in such a once-gentle boy.

The doctor returned as this alarming transformation took firmer hold, but James would not let himself be examined, a bony and withered hand slapping the doctor’s face as a horrible voice rasped. “Waah!” he barked. “Get me dinner!”

The doctor leaped back, nursing a stinging cheek as James’ parents both hurried over to him. “James!” his mother snapped. “What are you doing?”

James’ beady eyes rolled in their sockets to glare at her. “I’m not James!” he spat.
“What?” she asked, her frown concealing a confused panic. “What do you…”
“I’m not James!” he repeated impatiently. “I’m Mister Waah!”
“You’re… you’re Mister… Mister Waah?”

Timothy stepped toward the bed and kneeled down beside it. “What do you mean?” he asked softly. James slapped his cheek. “I’m Mister Waah!” he roared in his pinching nasal rasp. “Get me dinner!”
“But you’re…”
“I said get me dinner!”

There was another stinging slap across his face and with a sinking heart Timothy’s fears settled deeper into his stomach. Somewhere in those depths he knew that the James he loved so much was dying, Tim Tom and Tim Jim were fading gently into a helpless nothing, and Mister Waah was becoming the master of what was left of his frail body.

After almost three years of this suffering, James regained enough strength to get out of bed and shuffle about the house, but he was not the boy he used to be. He constantly slapped his parents, barking “Waah!” in contempt. He always demanded his dinner at all hours of the day and looked down on them and everyone else as “mere mortals.” Convinced of his superiority above even God himself, James now demanded to be addressed as Mr Waah, angrily insisting that there never was a James, and he began ordering his parents to do everything for him. He would often command them to do the most menial and surreal things just for his own amusement, watching them with his cold, sharp eyes as his breath rasped and flung droplets of his spittle from his malformed lips. “Get me dinner!” he would yell. “Now eat it! Eat me dinner! Do as I say or I’ll kill you all!”

Hope was all that kept Timothy and Catherine patiently looking after him, grovelling and enduring his twisted whim; the distant, almost invisible hope that James might some day return. This was the only thing lifting the mist of loss just enough for them to carry on. Timothy especially doted on his unreasonable, demanding son, hoping beyond all hope that gentleness and kindness would soften Mr Waah into giving up the James within.

One grey winter morning, the sun rose and, although distant, its cold light bathed the frost that lay on the grass and branches and caused it all to sparkle like diamonds. The trees threw shadows across the ground to shelter the glistening ground from the melting heat, their patterns intricate and beautiful. Timothy sighed as he stood in the frame of the back door, letting in the crisp air and breathing it, feeling it cool everything inside him, until he even felt a glimmer inside him like one of the tiny sparkles on one of those blades of frozen grass.

“Shut the door!” a harsh voice snapped behind him. “Stupid! You’re stupid and I hate ya! Shut the door or I’ll kill ya! I’ll kill you and ya stupid wife!”

Timothy sighed and closed the door as Mister Waah continued his vicious and meaningless tirade, but although that glimmer had been smothered it still lay dormant, and when Catherine walked into the room he smiled broadly at them. “Let’s go out,” he said. “We’ll go to the park.”

Privately he explained to Catherine that the air was so fresh and the morning was so stunning that maybe, just maybe, it would startle something inside Mister Waah, stoke the sleeping Inner James back into waking, just as it had stoked that distant glimmer within Timothy.

He dressed warmly and put his tweed jacket on over his jumper, then went outside to fetch the car from the garage. He felt it again as he crunched across the frost-bitten ground, the magic he had thought lost, gently reminding him it was still there, just buried away. He smiled and opened the garage, climbing into his car and starting the cold engine before driving it out. As he got out to close the garage he saw Catherine approaching slowly with Mister Waah leaning on her arm, shuffling alongside her, and for a moment Timothy felt only shock at how disgusting his son had become in the bright winter daylight. He looked out of place outside, as if nature itself would reject him, as if there were no place on earth for one so hideous and spiteful.

He felt tears well up in his eyes as a knot gripped his stomach, and he felt himself collapsing inside, falling away, praying for his beautiful son to come back, but all he saw were the cold eyes of Mister Waah, the interminable glare of a person so completely dependant on them in his pitiful state and yet so violently ungrateful and filled with hate. If only James would come back, even if he had to live in that withered body, even if it were just for one day… If only…

Timothy wiped his tears away as they got closer, hoping they wouldn’t notice, although as Catherine helped Mister Waah into the car Timothy swore he saw a sneer on his contorted features.

They soon set off, driving down country lanes, speeding through flickering patterns of sunlight that shone onto the road from between the bare branches of trees. Timothy opened his window just a crack, letting some of the fresh air. He heard some low mumbling from the back seat but refused to listen at first, until soon it became too loud to ignore.

“Waah!” barked Mister Waah. “Close the window! It stinks!”
“Now James…” Timothy began.
I’m not James!” he roared, louder than Timothy thought possible.

“I’m sorry,” he patiently went on. “Mister Waah. The fresh air will be good for you.”
“No!” he snapped. “It stinks an’ I hate it!”
“Okay, if you insist I’ll just…”
“It stinks an’ I hate it!” he repeated. “Like you! You stink an’ I hate you!
Timothy felt himself begin to tremble. “Look, there’s no need to…”
“Shut up! You ungrateful little nobody!”
“What do you mean I’m an…”
“I said shut up! You’re nuffink! Nuffink!

Timothy drew in a deep breath, suddenly aware of how fast he was driving, and met Catherine’s concerned look with a smile. “It’s okay,” he said quietly to her. “We have to let him be.”

But it did not stop.

“Stupid!” yelled Mister Waah from the back. “Stupid little nuffink! Both of ya!”
“Stop it,” Timothy said quietly, using most of his energy to restrain himself. “Please, just stop it.”
“Why?” he barked. “Are ya gonna cry again?” With this he laughed a horrible scathing laugh.

A fog seemed to gradually descend as the sun was eclipsed by huge thunderous black clouds, and Timothy gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles straining white beneath his leather driving gloves, but Mister Waah’s vicious attack continued without letup.

“Oh God will you shut up!” Timothy finally roared, whipping his head around to stare at the disgusting mockery of what was once his son. In a terrible pin-point moment of fear and realisation Timothy then felt the car lurch to one side, and before he could turn back to see where he was going, the sudden leering trunk of a huge old tree parted the fog and then there was only impact and noise, lurching screams and wild, violent movement, a cacophony of chaos and shattered glass and then nothing at all.

Timothy awoke under a glare of unbearable fluorescent lights, his head hazy with a distant throb. Although he didn’t know it, the morphine was confusing him even further than his lack of memory, and he soon gave up his grip on wakefulness.

For days he woke for minutes at a time, feeling the pain in his head, until there came a day that felt like it must have been months after he first woke, and things finally seemed clearer again. He looked around him, knowing he was in a hospital bed, but unable to recall anything before. Suddenly his eyes met those of a concerned-looking nurse, hers widening and into peering his, and after a blinding white flash from a small torch she held like a pen in her hand, he heard her call out to someone before she smiled reassuringly. “Hello, Mister Thomson,” she said patronisingly. “How are you feeling? Better?”
He frowned at her. “I can’t remember,” he told her with a hint of impatience. “Why am I here?”
“You were just in a little accident,” she said in that voice which surely was normally reserved for children. “You had a little bump on the head, but you’re getting better now.”

Timothy closed his eyes and wished he was back in a coma. Soon after he heard a male voice and footsteps all around him, but he ignored them as was soon drifting back to sleep.

The next time he awoke was with a start, and everything was dark. A panicked bolt of urgency tightened his stomach and seemed to stay there as he sat up with the sudden strength of adrenaline, and he looked around him, climbing out of bed onto weak and trembling legs, restrained by tubes and wires that detached with harsh mechanical beeps as he stood by his bed. “My wife,” he called out. “Where’s Catherine? Where’s my son?”

Two nurses seemed to appear out of the darkness, as if they had been shadows animated into sudden life, and they rushed over to him, all too obvious in their overly-calm efforts to reassure him back into his bed. The only reason he complied was because his legs were too weak to hold him up any longer, and he collapsed in frustration back onto his bed. Before he knew it one of the nurses swung his aching legs back onto the bed and covered him with a blanket, and he was once more trapped. He heard their conspiring whispers of morphine, and barely had time to cry “No!” before he felt himself overwhelmed by sleep.

Not too long afterwards, Timothy sat up in his bed wondering how long he had been there. He felt much better now but was bothered by the haze of confusion from however long it had been since his last memory of driving his car. It was on that day, the day he was strong enough to sit up and stay awake, that the doctor and the two nurses stood by his bed and told him that Catherine was dead. His son James was slipping away, his brittle body smashed, but was being kept alive by a radical new piece of technology which they

sincerely wanted Timothy’s permission to develop… and Timothy heard no more as the weight of realisation surrounded and overwhelmed every part of him like a flood.

He had no idea what he agreed to, but somewhere in the devastation of loss, the desolate scenery that life had suddenly become upon hearing those few words, there was the clinging hope that he wouldn’t lose his whole family after all.

Every day after that they came to tell him what was happening with James and the new technology that would save him, but he rarely understood. He didn’t want to eat or drink, or even breathe ever again, but for the sake of that glimmer, that tiny spark like the glistening frost, he grasped life no matter how bitter it had become. He hoped, even became convinced, that the violence of an impact strong enough to shatter Mister Waah’s body would be strong enough to shatter Mister Waah, to break through the calcified shell where the real James still lived dormant.

He was almost shaking when they finally told him with barely-stifled pride that their work on James was finished, and with a racing heart he stood up from the chair where he had been sitting by his bed, and followed them. “This way, Mister Thomson,” they would say with each turn and set of doors, until they were soon down below the ground in brightly-lit corridors he had never seen before. They led him into a large room where computers lined the walls and cables snaked and looped their way across the ceiling, where a group of white-coated men stood talking excitedly.

As Timothy approached, the row of hopeful faces parted to let him see. He stopped dead, a feeling of nausea in his stomach. In the middle of the room stood what looked like a large fish tank, filled with a thick and semi-transparent green goo. Floating in the middle of this goo was a small brain – that, he knew, of his son – electrodes fitted and connected spider-like to wires which plugged into a speaker, a small camera and a microphone, all mounted on the top of the tank. The tank was on wheels and there was even a handle to allow Timothy to wheel his son around like some gruesome shopping trolley.

He felt sick, that this was all that was left of his son, but there was the relief of hope in his heart. The travesty that confronted him and the former horror of having looked after Mister Waah melted into tears of gratitude for still having a piece of his family left. “Thank you,” he said, walking over to the tank. “Thank you all.”

There was a whirring noise as the camera slowly rotated to bear upon Timothy. The speaker crackled into life. “Waah!” barked a tinny voice. “Get me dinner!” After his days, weeks, however long he had been in that hospital bed thinking about his shattered family, he actually felt a small joy at the harsh familiarity of that voice.

Paramedics from the hospital took Timothy and Mister Waah back home in the back of a special ambulance, with a ramp for them to wheel the tank up and down, and when they arrived at the house Timothy felt a mixture of relief and the pain of loss. This was his first time returning to a home without Catherine since they had married.

As the ambulance crew worked to get Mister Waah out from the back, Timothy went on ahead across the gravelly driveway to open up the house and stand in its rooms for a while. Next to the vastness of the big old house Catherine had been so small, but suddenly now every empty room and every moment of silence seemed to scream of her absence.

Unfortunately the moments of silence were not to last long however, as the instant Mister Waah was wheeled into the house he began shouting at his father. “Waah!” he yelled. “Where are ya? I want me dinner!” With that Timothy’s peace was shattered, his time for mourning was cut off, and with a sigh he went to thank the ambulance men for their help before they left.

In order to feed Mister Waah, Timothy was now to put all of his dinners into a blender and pour the resulting liquid through a special hatch on the top of the tank, where it would mingle with the thick goo and slowly be absorbed by Mister Waah’s brain as it floated in the middle. Every day, he would have to use a special filter to remove the leftover dregs that settled at the bottom, and every day Mister Waah barked and yelled at him, as if absolutely nothing had changed.

“Stupid!” he roared, his speaker distorting with the intense volume of spite in his voice. “Stupid! Waah! Get me dinner!”

Of an evening, as Timothy relaxed in front of the television, Mister Waah would demand to be placed directly in front of the screen so that he could see better, and even if Timothy dared to leave the house for some

fresh air Mister Waah demanded to be taken along and wheeled around. When he did so, all Mister Waah would do is pan from side to side with his camera, scanning for anything and anyone to scream at and mock. “Get me dinner!” he would roar at complete strangers, calling them stupid and weak, demanding they do as he say. “I’ll kill ya!” he would scream. “I hate ya!”

On and on it went, the harsh rasp of the speaker tearing callously through the fragile veil of Timothy’s loss, until even the sound of the whirring motors filled him with dread. He could no longer sleep or think properly, but still he continued, enduring the abuse and humiliation, loyally wheeling his son around, feeding him and cleaning his tank, all with the one hope and prayer that James would somehow return.

The longer it went on the deeper down that hope sank, the more distant the dream became, while the whole time he was telling himself that he’d do anything to see James again, even if he’d never see his eyes or his smile. Just to hear that voice, the real voice of his real son, would be worth anything in the world.

He kept this firmly in mind as he took Mister Waah out yet again for another walk. The voice was too harsh and nasal to tune out, but somehow Timothy found himself almost used to it, until the realisation hit him that he had got so used to Mister Waah being his son, he barely remembered how he used to be. He stopped and thought, straining to remember, pleading with himself not to have forgotten his beloved James, but the more he tried to remember, the more he saw the twisted gnarled face of Mister Waah.

It sank inside him like a stone, and in that moment all hope was gone. James was just as dead now as his beautiful wife Catherine. Timothy collapsed in tears, feeling them welling from somewhere deep inside like a burst dam, filling him, pouring from his eyes and falling in tiny rivers from his cheeks. “Are you in there?” he begged, his voice choking. “Tim Tom? Tim Jim?” He sobbed, feeling his body seize up with each wave. “James!” he cried out, but all he heard above his own throbbing headache of misery was the whirring of electric motors as the camera turned and focused in on him. “Stupid!” came the familiar harsh and nasal outburst from the speaker. “Stupid and weak and pathetic!” Then came the sharp and demeaning crow-call that passed for laughter, a sound filled with such unbearable scorn, such utter contempt.

Timothy could no longer bear it, and he rose, grabbing the handle and turning the tank around, wheeling it back. “I can’t take this anymore,” he said, his words no longer directed at anyone in particular. “I can’t take this…” He pushed Mister Waah faster and faster, but still his torrents of abuse did not cease. “What on earf do ya fink ya doin’?” he barked. “Who do ya fink you are? Stupid!”

Timothy put his hands over his ears, but it was no match for the speaker, now blaring so loud there was a scream of deafening feedback with every word that Mister Waah spat at his father. He pressed his hands as hard as he could, pushing Mister Waah along with his body, feeling a roar building in volume from his own lungs as he tried anything to counter his son’s endless vitriol. “Stop it!” he yelled “Please just stop it!

But it did not stop, and Timothy ran along, still pushing Mister Waah’s tank, screwing his eyes shut and squeezing out a torrent of tears, hands pressed against his ears and his throat raw from sobbing, until he heard a sound which sent a shock of terror through his very core, and he stopped. The last time he had heard such a cacophony of crashing metal and broken glass…

Opening his eyes, Timothy stood still and unmoving by the side of the main road, his stomach churning in turmoil at the sight before him, the sight of shattered pieces of Mister Waah’s glass tank and smashed electronics lying in an ocean of green goo that was spread across the tarmac and trickling into the drains. Some of the parts were crackling and fizzing as they lay, but there was nothing left intact.

“What have I done?” whispered Timothy, stumbling forward. He fell to his knees, shaking. “What have I done?” he muttered, again and again, the strobing of passing headlights flashing across his eyes and lighting a spark just for an instant in each of his tears. “My son!” he cried. “My son! What have I done? I’m so sorry….” He crawled over to a shapeless lump that looked like a small and helpless sponge, and he knew it to be the brain of his son, a pathetic reminder of who it once was. The pain of guilt racked his body for all the times he had been impatient with Mister Waah. “My son!” he choked.

Nearby, the smashed and broken speaker crackled into life for just a few seconds, its voice distant. “Daddy!” James’ voice called. “Daddy!” then crackled out into silence forever

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