Jon has crossed the line.
Even though to him 'the line' is no more than some metaphysical construct created by those too eager to judge. Invisible and practically non-existent in nature and certainly not scratched in any sand, Jon has nonetheless crossed it. Now, even his sister, Sandy, hates him. She even said so, loudly and publicly right there this morning on TV. Still, Jon can’t understand why. In his mind, he has done no more than any natural man would have under the circumstances. Besides, hate is such a strong and alien feeling to him. He has confronted it so many times in his life yet has never truly understood it, especially when it is directed at him as it has been so often. Why would anyone hate him? So, instead of understanding, he ignores it, storing it away like an incomplete project. Compartmentalised alphabetically alongside anger, compassion, empathy, happiness, grief, love and every other emotion he has ever faked to endear an impression of normalcy in others.
Of course, he has tried to feel things. God, he's tried; from his earliest nursery school memories through the funerals of relatives and friends where he learned to shed tears so convincingly that he can do so almost at will now, right up to this last week's events. But nothing has ever truly registered. His psyche remains an endless, calm ocean of unencumbered thought, easy to navigate yet demanding in its doldrums. Need. Desire. These are concepts he understands. Drive? Check. Ambition? Check. Avarice? Occasionally. Compulsion? in spades, obsessively.
Such concepts have pushed him lifelong to strive to do his absolute best for himself and his family. To make them happy, give them security, protection, and to hope that they might eventually appreciate his sacrifices, made ultimately for them. Always just for them. His greatest ambition for as long as he can remember was to build something lasting for them. Something far removed from the dreary existence they had suffered together in the dismal crescents during his childhood. Something to cherish. A true monument to family.
The house that Jon built.
Despite early issues socialising, Jon had gone out and learned life’s ropes; suffering through college, booze and drugs. There were failed attempts at what he considered 'normal' relationships through the numerous dorm and back alley fumblings followed by the drunken ignominy of apprenticeships. After that, he endured eleven years of solid, single-minded graft building the dreams of others, before he was qualified and able enough to strike out alone to make his own future. Success was surprisingly swift. Contracts came, money flowed and as his nascent business flourished, Jon saved everything for his singular underlying ambition. To build them a home.
When he had saved enough, he had bought the freehold to a patch of land just north of Jericho, as close to open country as he could get while remaining within easy distance of the city. Though he craved the city, he liked the trees, the open fields and the view out over the lake to the moors. But especially, he liked the quiet and was sure they would too. Permissions were obtained, services and foundations laid and then he'd built the entire place with his own hands. Every brick, joist and conduit, every timber and sheet of plaster, every room above, below, beneath and between. Three floors of glorious palatial excess.
When it was finally finished, he moved the family in. His parents were installed in the top floor split level master bedroom with en suite, its bay window offering an endless vista of lush countryside. His teenage twin brothers Dave and Simo had their own rooms with a shared adjoining lounge and games area should their friends ever visit. By then, Sandy was married and somewhat estranged having emigrated down under and so he felt no need to ask her. It was her loss.
For himself, Jon took the upper basement, the single largest space of the house and the only one without windows. Kitting it out with a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and lounge it was fully self-contained, secure and it afforded him more than enough space to manage his business on the nights that required him to be home. Everything came together perfectly.
Yet now Sandy hates him. Since the shit landed squarely in the fan just over a week ago, she has taken to the media regularly proclaiming her hatred of him, speaking directly to the cameras and reporters that somehow located her over ten-thousand miles away. Lenses broadcast her scraped-back dirty blonde hair, naked face red and streaked as she stares at him through the TV, microphones cruelly relaying their dirty laundry in a media whirlwind without compassion for the utter public humiliation Jon now faces at home. Still, he can't understand why things have come to this. He has done nothing wrong.
Jon’s TV flickers silently in the corner providing his only light. The last few days were so difficult and exhausting that he's taken to sleeping in his camper that doubles as his mobile office. In fact, things have gotten so busy recently that he has found it necessary to just stay on the road full time, moving from job to job just to keep ahead of the game. Now, he is camped up in forest land just north of Arbroath, curtains drawn against the rain battering the vehicle.
He has the sound down and his phone’s tinny speaker is blaring the Man who sold the World shutting out Sandy's incessant roll and repeat screaming on News 24. Now, he only pays attention when she isn't on screen, letting the subtitles talk for him when she is. Taking a sip from the flat bud he has nursed for nearly twelve hours straight, he watches as an impotent looking grey-haired chief constable silently mouths lines at the camera from behind a crooked podium, his words crawling the ticker along the bottom of the screen;
‘...house in Jericho, Bury, have today recovered the bodies of an unidentified adult male and female from a concealed void beneath the bay window of the master bedroom. This along with the recovery of several other sets of remains from beneath the basement and surrounding grounds of the property over the past few days now brings the count to fifteen. Forensic searches of the property and surrounding countryside will continue as will the search for the owner, Mr Jonarch Pendleton, a local businessman now wanted for questioning. Pendleton is a white male, early thirties, six foot one with dark short hair, balding and of strong build. Once more, we advise you that Pendleton may be armed and dangerous. We strongly urge the public not to approach Pendleton, if seen, but instead inform the police immediately.....’
Bastards! Jon thinks, staring at his out of date selfie especially pulled from his Facebook account for the broadcast as shots of a destroyed bedroom wall and forensics officers hammering holes through his plasterwork play out beside it. Look what they've done to the house. Mum and Dad’s room! At least Dave and Simo are still safe.
So deep in his thoughts, Jon barely notices the thump of metal and veneer that rattles the interior security bar against the quarter-inch sheet steel of the door’s interior or the muffled voices shouting from outside. When the van wobbles, its rubber shocks squeaking beneath as they resist the exterior efforts of those trying to force entry, Jon’s only reaction is to grab his bottle to prevent it from falling, ignoring them as he takes another flat sip and watches the televised constable step down.
Some people have no patience. Well, they can just wait until I'm damned well ready!
Mike Farrell-Deveau is a Newport based fiction writer. Working as a legal adviser by day, he writes mostly for pleasure and enjoys smashing genres together like atoms, usually with a contemporary twist. He has drafted two cross-genre science fiction - historical drama - contemporary thriller novels and a growing pile of short stories and collections that might eventually see the light of day. His work has been previously published in the ASP Literary Journal.