Horror and Thriller Fiction posted August 28, 2016


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brothers face off

His Waterloo

by mfowler


Gideon runs the tips of fingers over his figurines. By tracing the outline of each toy soldier he knows the battlefield is set. Wellington and the redcoats ready to charge; Napoleon and the loyal blue Grande Armée behind heavy artillery.
 
Each time he resets the field the strategies and outcomes change--a different winner each time. It may not be real history, but within this dark world Gideon feels justified in tinkering with fate. After all it is his Waterloo.
 
From outside comes the soft thud of distant thunder as waves of bombers cross the coastline and deliver their revenge. In the countryside, villages have remained safe so far, but the explosions and rattling of the blackened window panes shake his confidence.
 
'Mama, where are you? You're very late.'
 
Marie Bettino is never late. Her shift at the pharmacy always finishes at 5:00pm sharp. But, tonight, Gideon is alone with his soldiers and the dark.
 
'Mama, I'm hungry. Come home soon ... please!'
 
Pudgy, the canary, whistles from her cage by the door. Mama called him Pretty Boy  when she bought him to keep Gideon company after the terrible  incident. But, Gideon prefers to use the nickname he'd given his younger brother long ago. 'Reminds me of him,' he tells his mother constantly. It's a strange name for a tiny yellow bird, but Gideon persists. 

'What's to be happy about, Pudgy?' he says. But saying the name out loud riles him. 'Just shut-up you annoying, little monster or the bombers might come and drop one right on us.'
 
Pudgy, or Milos to his mother, had been his only playmate. He was a maddening little kid, always taunting his blind brother mercilessly.
 
'It's just there, Gideon, you blind bat,' he'd say. Gideon always fell for his ploys and the food would be knocked from the table.

Once when he was seven and his brother five, Milos led Gideon into the broom cupboard telling him it was the toilet. Now, any time he touches the door to that closet, he relives the fear and humiliation felt that day, locked away in a tiny space--trousers damp with piss, and slippery with acrid smelling shit inside his underpants. He'd screamed for help, but Mama was working late. Pudgy said he didn't hear Gideon's cries.
 
Mama would always believe Gideon's blindness caused the accidents. 'It's alright, Gideon. It's just your little problem, see. Bound to happen. Just ask your little brother to show you next time.'
 
'I'll look after him, Mama,' would be Milos's reply, and Mama would say something kind in response.
In his imagination, Gideon hears Pudgy's annoying prattle and feels the plump cheeks on his brother's fat little face.
 
His mind shifts to three years earlier.

Oh, Pudgy, I'm sorry, little brother, he thinks. I wasn't trying to hurt you; just scare you a little.
 
Somewhere by water, a small, slow flowing creek near their house, their game had been spoiled by Pudgy's mockery.
 
'You can't do anything right, Gideon. The boat's floated away. You only had to hold it while I made the dam. Who needs a blind bat for a brother? ... Useless.'
 
Gideon thinks of all the taunts Pudgy had slung his way. Bat-Man, Eye Gimp, Retard.  He scatters the soldiers with a wild sweep of his right arm. 'Damn you, Pudgy!'
 
The painted figurines lie dead across the battle field. Only Napoleon remains standing.
 
He remembers grabbing Pudgy as he worked by the creek's side. He felt the warm back of his neck, the brush of hair against his palm, and the struggle of the small boy as he pushed his plump face into the water.
 
'It was easy, Pudgy. You had a big mouth ... but a little body. I heard you gurgle, so  I gripped harder as you fought. Don't worry little brother, you didn't suffer too long. Mama found me crying by the creek, screaming out your name. I called you by your real name so she'd think I cared.'
 
Gideon smiles. Life without his tormentor has been lonely, but peaceful. With Papa dead at war, he has Mama all to himself.
 
The sound of planes is suddenly closer. He hears explosions across the fields. 'Mama, be careful. Come home quickly.'
 
His mind drifts back to Milos. He didn't see what he had done; only remembers the sound and feel of things. 'It was good, you dying so quickly. Less pain, I guess.'
 
A bomb hits a nearby building, the blast and consequent fallout shaking the room. Dead soldiers fall from the table and Pudgy whistles like a falling shell. Plaster pieces and dust rain down on Gideon who covers his head.
 
Bright flashing lights assail Gideon's senses. He's not seen the sun or any illumination since the car accident when he was three. He spreads his palms across his eyes and falls back into his chair.
 
The searing light softens gradually and he can vaguely make out features of the room. A face appears inches before him. It's gaunt and grey like a nightmare.

'Hello, Bat-man,' shrieks the spectre. 'Miss me, big brother? I haven't forgotten what you did to me.'
 
Gideon slips to the floor but the face follows him. 'Go away, go away. You're not real. I'm blind, Pudgy ... Leave me alone!'
 
'Not until you suffer, you retard.' Two hands reach out from the light. Milos's eyes glow red and orange amid his pallid pupils. Gideon feels the hands gripping his throat and squeezing, squeezing till his head spins and his protests wane.
 
Outside a bomber drops from the night sky, its fuselage gutted by enemy fire. Its impact reduces the country laneway's housing to piles of blazing rubble.
 
Amid the concrete and twisted wire, rescuers extract the body of Gideon Bettino. His torso is crushed, his face mottled with bloodied wounds.
 
Marie Bettino kneels by her son's body. She traces each wound with her hand. She stifles tears. She knows what it's like to lose a son. About Gideon's neck she finds a ring of deep bruising. It seems strange but she carries on.
 
In his hand, Marie finds the figurine of Napoleon. A quiet voice whispers in her ear, 'Don't worry Mama, he didn't suffer for too long. It was his Waterloo.'
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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