By P.S. Gifford
It was Christmas 1976-I can remember it with more resounding clarity than even the events of yesterday the proceedings having been etched so profoundly within my memory bank. I still find myself shivering to my very core as I recollect the unfolding of that day. What experience you may enquire would command such an acute reaction?
Well, as every story should, allow me to start from the beginning…
As I awoke within my well worn bed in Birmingham, England-In the house I was born and raised in-I would have lay there for a moment. My excitement would have starting to pump through my young veins. The coldness in the room would have made me able to watch my breath as I exhaled. Jack Frost would have decorated not only the outside, but even the inside of my bedroom window with ice; the endless shapes and configurations were endlessly fascinating to my inventive eleven year old mind. Bringing the faded well worn blanket around me tighter, I would have considered the day ahead; Christmas.
Pulling myself reluctantly from my warm sanctuary, I would have been invigorated by the aroma of the bacon sizzling and dancing in the skillet downstairs in the kitchen. The joyous scent motivating me to hurriedly jump and skip down the old wooden stairs…
My father would have greeted me enthusiastically with a steaming mug of strong tea.
At this point in my life it was just my father and I, being the youngest by a considerable amount of years. My brother and sister had long since ventured into the vast world and my mother having opted out of “marital bliss” several years previous; so just the two of us were left alone on this the most festive of days.
I can remember with resounding clarity looking about the house as I munched upon my bacon sandwich, searching for some evidence of a Christmas gift. My dad’s blue-grey eyes methodically following me about, their twinkle and glimmering revealing the truth…There was indeed a present-somewhere!
I peeked out of the kitchen window; it was one of those cold hazy wintry mornings. The garden although barren of blooms maintained enchanting beauty and that is when I would have spotted it leaning nonchalantly against the tattered fence that separated us from our neighbors, a new Raleigh chopper bike with a single green bow placed awkwardly upon the saddle! I enthusiastically thanked my father as I put on a sweater-It was a navy blue sweater, I can distinctly remember; I then placed on my old raincoat. In a matter of moments I would have been venturing energetically into the crisp early Christmas morning.
As I fervently sped along the main road that I lived, my nose was welcomed with the lively aromas of Christmas; Turkeys basting in ovens, spicy fruit puddings, and mince pies and I smiled as I turned into a small trail road away from the homes and traffic
We were fortunate to life by a wood encompassing many acres. Local officials had converted it into a nature sanctuary, agreeing to it to be left alone in its natural state. This allowed a protected home to a wide variety of creatures: hedgehogs, squirrels, rabbits and an endless variety of birds all co-inhabiting within their safe haven.
I had explored the trails in this woodland a hundred times before and my new shiny red bike traversed the obstacle filled paths with ease. Regardless of the chilling temperature I started to sweat as I navigated deeper into the dense woods. Something unexpectedly caught my attention; a campfire in a gap within the foliage just ahead, I was infuriated. Despite it being open to the public these less traveled regions gave me a feeling of ownership. Indeed I deemed that I had a responsibility. I gently and quietly got off my bike, and crawled in the bush and growth towards the fire. I remember getting tangled in a nettle bush….The nettles rubbing against my ankle. Despite the agonizing tingling I managed to maintain my silence. Crawling even closer still until spotted the culprit sitting about his poorly contained bonfire. It was an older gray haired gentleman and I examined his clothes with much interest. He wore a dirty pair of tattered black trousers which I suspect that they were not always black. On his slight frame he wore a ragged green sweater, ill fitting boots adorned his feet and he sat there wrapped in a flannel blanket. I noted a tied pot dangling perilously from a clumsily made tripod above the fire. Merrily humming to himself he was, as he watched over the makings of his stew. I could just make out the melody that gaily came from the homeless mans lips; “Hark the herald angels sing…” I started to smile and was about the leave the poor tramp to his peace when I spied it, tied and wriggling in a desperate attempt at escape, contained with rope by his feet hanging from a tree; A gray rabbit.
I sensed my anger starting to stir within me. As I mentioned I felt a responsibly to the wildlife that resided in this wood. Now here was a rabbit in his joyous prime, about to become this man’s Christmas dinner. I leaped out with strength that belied my tender age. The frail man was evidently startled by the sudden appearance of a young boy charging towards him with a rock in his hand….He was barely able to get to his feet as the stone hit down on his temple, with a resonant clunk. In an instance his dirty clothes became vibrant again, as the warm blood gushed freely over them. The man fell to the ground moaning and my undeterred anger was still at boiling point. Once more taking the stone I again brought it down with considerable force onto this unfortunate’s man skull, I continued this till finally the moaning stopped…
I dashed towards the rabbit, and tenderly released it from its makeshift prison and I could sense his appreciation as he raced back into the thicket.. His tale bobbed enthusiastically, as he went as if waving me a cheery farewell. It was only then that the full realization of my actions became evident, as then that I examined the man dead at my feet.
What on earth was I going to do?
I examined the bloodied lifeless body and I realized that I needed to conceal or dispose of it in some manner. I considered the possibility of dismembering the corpse; chopping it up into neat little bite sized portions. But then I considered how long and tedious a process that would be; remembering the turkey and potatoes roasting away to perfection at home…I needed a simpler plan.
Burial. That’s was it I concluded-A simple and well tried plan. The ground was frozen, but he had had a fire and I knew that the ground below that should have been sufficiently softened.
I set dutifully about my task. The deceased man had left behind a rucksack and in it I discovered with delight a pick axe and a broken shovel. Perfect.
Within a couple of hours my macabre undertaking was finally accomplished. I admired with pride the slight mound protruding from the patch of overgrown grass. People rarely ventured this far into the woods as it is, and even if they did they would surely be unaware. I discreetly hid his measly personal items including the pot a short distance away.
I got back onto my bike and rode purposefully straight back to my house and as I walked in my fathers face was filled with horror…
“I know what you have been doing!” He had proclaimed angrily.
I remember freezing to the spot, my breath momentarily being thrust from my lungs and my heart actually stopping.
I stared back at him awkwardly at his scowl as he continued his scolding.
“You have been digging in that bloody wood again. You are flippin’ filthy-go take a bath now!”
My upbeat demeanor returned as I lay within my sudsy bath, relishing as the warm cleansing water trickled over my body.
Yet, somewhere in the deep recess of my mind, however, a seed had been planted; Guilt.
The police officer switched off the tape recorder that lay next to the deceased. The body submerged in an overflowing bath tub….Wrists ripped to shreds…..The blood drained from the limp carcass.
The officer sighed at the sight.
“Nearly thirty years he lived with that guilt, gradually eating at him. The poor sod he never knew?”
The second officer looked up at him intrigued.
“Knew what sir?”
“I remember them finding the body in the woods, aye I remember it all too well, and we had been looking for that madman for months. He had managed to escape from the Asylum he did. The monster had been the most brutal serial killer I ever did hear off. He did the world a bloody favor by killing him-A bloody favor I tell the.”