By Casey Douglass
as part of #fridayflash
A dog barks somewhere in the distance; it’s noise muffled by the dark trees that pressed in on the old house. Ted Smith stood on his porch step, taking the air and watching the evening deepen. A slight breeze molested a stray leaf as it bounced across his narrow garden path, the only other noise in the stagnant grounds.
Ted rubbed cracked fingers over his white stubble and nodded to himself. He pushed a hand into his shirt pocket, retrieved the headphones, slid them over his head and pressed play on the small MP3 player. A nasal male voice began to talk down to him.
You are in a safe place. You feel calm and relaxed.
Ted thumps down the steps and strides along the gravel path.
You are listening to this because you want to forget. You have suffered and you would like to erase that pain.
Reaching the waist-height wooden gate, he gropes behind him and pulls a pair of thick gloves from his trouser waistband.
Together, we will improve your life, removing the pain and adding so much more joy and fulfilment.
Gloves on, he squints into the failing light and frisks a nearby rose bush.
In a moment, I am going to count backwards from ten to one.
His gloves close on a spool of barbed wire. With a grunt, he lifts it, snagging one end on the shiny gate bolt. He twists and weaves and drags until the whole gate is a jumble of twisted metal spikes.
Try not to resist the process, we are all friends here.
A firework bangs in the east, its fizzing trajectory sputtering out somewhere over the high street.
He back-steps a few paces and picks up a plastic bucket. It clinks and chinks as he gives it a small shake.
He tips it slightly and continues his backward pacing, shards of glass cascading onto the uneven surface at his feet.
The street light dazzles as it caches in the tumbling daggers, Ted’s eyes twitching as they try to follow the movement.
His heels bump against the porch step. He takes off the gloves and chucks them and the bucket to one side, turns to face the house and climbs the steps.
Another firework goes off as he edges the screen door open, his hand resting lightly on a lever. Once his feet are clear of the welcome mat, he pushes the lever down hard. Heavy spikes puncture the mat from beneath, lifting it a few inches from the floor. He lifts the lever and twists it, a metal ping sounds below. The spikes barely show over the “Welcome” now, but the mat seems to quiver slightly.
He closes the door and looks up at the slab of concrete perched on a folding metal shelf. He takes hold of the gossamer wire that is linked to the triggering mechanism and delicately loops it around the door handle.
With a burst of pace he trudges through the house, picks up a handful of cloth and a carrier bag.
He rushes out the side door and jogs along his driveway, passes the hunched metal bulk of his car.
He reaches the other side of his garden gate and rummages inside the bag. He pulls out a long black cape and a rubber Frankenstein mask. He puts them on and then lifts a small plastic bucket from the bag. It’s orange and shaped like a pumpkin with small stickers plastered all over it. A lone candy rattles in the bottom. He throws the bag away and kicks off his shoes.
His hand clamps down hard on the waist-height, wooden and now very sharp gate.
Your pain can be overcome...