Friday, 28 November 2008

Fish heads and wolverines

When they caught him, Francis said he’d been chasing fish heads and wolverines. He said he’d followed them until they returned to the river. Then they told him to take off all his clothes and swim with them.
Later the wolverine called him from the water on the other side and took him on a stroll through the park. He told the police this after they’d found him, naked and dripping in the cold afternoon.
They took Francis back to the station and took this strange statement from him. Later, he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Francis was a minor celebrity. He had appeared on Big Brother, series three. Everyone in the house had quite liked him. He was funny and he cooked most of the time for them. He was open about himself and did not bitch about the others. He always said he prided himself on keeping his mouth shut, when needed.
He made it to the last four housemates and people cheered when he was released. Later that year, he hosted a cookery show on Channel Five. He was happy for that year and people would greet him in the street; complete strangers shaking his hand.
He even got ‘papped’ a few times. That is, the paparazzi would sometimes cross the street in front of him and take his picture for OK magazine or maybe even The News of the World.
And then it all went downhill for Francis (or Fat Frank, as he came to be known). His fall from grace has been well documented so we don’t need to go into that here. Suffice to say, he got well and he went back to trying to live his life.
He’d been out of the flashlight glare for some six months, when he noticed a man was following him. When he went into town, when he walked his dog, when he went to the shops of a morning, so many times he’d see this man out of the corner of his eye. He knew it was the same man, because he always wore the same clothes: blue t-shirt, blue jeans, white trainers. He always wore a t-shirt and showed his arms, even though it was cold, and he never wore a coat.
Francis was perturbed by this and noted that it was happening increasingly frequently. Still, he didn’t mention it to his wife, for fear that she’d think he was losing his mind again. Instead he planned to question this blue shirted man when next he spotted him and ask him to come clean about the reasons for this apparent stalking.
It was on a Saturday in early November of this year when he next saw the man. Francis was in town and had decided to explore some of the historic sites of the place that he had always just walked straight past. It was while he was up at the top of the cathedral, as part of a guided tour of the seldom opened north tower, that he spied his stalker once more. Francis looked with horror at the man, who was down in the street below, looking up. Despite the distance between them, the unmistakeable shape of a quite wicked smile then crossed the lips of the man as he pulled to his eye a small black camera fitted with a zoom lens, and began to snap, snap, snap away at the defenceless Francis.
Poor Francis; trapped between two old women on the thin walkway of the tower’s rampart, no room to squeeze by, nothing to do but stand and shout, howl and scream in utter frustration at this devil who was following him; tormenting him at every turn. The look of horror on the face of the old woman to his right was the last thing Francis remembered before he passed out on top of her.
He came to in the vestry below. Evidently someone had carried him there. They gave him warm tea and kept him warm until his wife came. He said nothing to them about the photographer, even though they asked. He knew well enough not to talk now.
And even after he was feeling better; and even after he was safe in his wife’s car; and even after he’d seen the man standing at every bus stop between the town centre and his home, Francis knew to say nothing.

1 comment:

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Paranoia and abnormal psychology fascinates and suffocates me...I am currently reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, which also deals with the porous liminalities of sanity and insanity, the private and the perceived.