Foster Father

Writing Prompt: You are woken up by a voice saying “Honey, it’s time to drive little Jimmy to school!” Here’s the problem: You’re not married, you don’t have any kids, and this isn’t your house.

Transfer complete.

To Quentin it felt like falling, a sudden rushing sensation in his stomach that rose up through his throat. A thick, hot spew ready to relieve itself from his mouth.

“Are you okay, honey?” a woman wearing a uniform grey, patched pants suit, complete with cherry red tie, was standing over Quentin with a paper under one arm and a bright blue leash beneath the other.

“I’m…” Quentin gazed about the room, the lacquered kitchen cabinets, the coffee brewing in its pot, the patio doors presenting out to a garden with grass about as green as any he’d ever seen, “I’m fine. I think it was something I ate.”

“Don’t be silly.” the woman smiled and her muscles made all the right motions, but still that smile was void of any feeling, “You’ve only just woken up, you haven’t even started on your breakfast yet.”

Then came the sound of a microwave chiming, followed by the popping of fresh toast from a toaster. Quentin’s stomach settled into a growl. He was ferociously hungry.

The woman – Who in the hell is she? Christ, what’s her name? – was staring at the digital watch strapped neatly round her wrist. She let out a hollow sigh, rushing Quentin up from his seat at the table, “You’re too late, food will have to wait.”

Quentin was being led out of the kitchen come diner and into the vacant hall. There was a painting hung at the perfect angle above a table littered with keys and a tidy stack of mail. He was in that painting holding this woman in his arms, and stood before them both…

“Jimmy?” the woman shouted up the curving stairwell, straightening her jacket as she turned back to Quentin, “He’s your problem now.” she smiled, still void of emotion, and then her eyes fell flat in their sockets, “Honey?”

“He’s my problem now?” Quentin muttered, staring at the painting and then down at the backs of his hands.

“Honey?” the woman took a step closer, coming within an inch of Quentin’s face, her hands balling into fists, her smile fading to a grimace full of teeth, “Honey.” her voice had flat-lined, her staring eyes full of heat, full of hatred, “It’s time to drive little Jimmy to school.” she reached out for Quentin’s arms, biting her lip just hard enough to draw blood.

Quentin looked up, and in an instant the hate faded, the voice softened, the emotionless smile returned.

“Yes, Jimmy.” Quentin was watching the stairs, the woman wiped the blood from her lips with the cuff of her shirt.

“Coming!” a shrill voice called from somewhere up above.

The woman kissed Quentin once on each cheek, and then disappeared out the door, leaving Quentin with the child that came collapsing down the stairwell.

Jimmy was thin, frail looking boy that dragged behind him a tattered rucksack. He was shrouded in patches of shadow, his face gaunt and freckled, his eyes a perfect black. He was laughing as he came, his feet meeting each stair with a heavy thud, every step taken looking as if it might serve to topple the boy and send him flailing to the hall down below.

Quentin stood there, watching, waiting, thinking only this;

I have no wife. I have no child. This is not my home. 

He ran his fingers through his thick blonde hair, sweat dripping from his forehead. 

Where the f*ck am I?

**

The car was a sedan, four seats and a deep navy colour. There were spots of rust on the bonnet, the roof had been coated in a white residue gifted from the blackbirds that nested in those treetops leaning over the driveway, and mottled in the grill at the forefront of the vehicle was a rabbit, its cheeks puffed out with blood, teeth smashed through the front of its skull.

Jesus Christ.

Quentin led Jimmy by the hand, instinctively unlocking the sedan with the keys he’d picked at random from the hallway table. He opened the rear passenger side door.

“No.” Jimmy licked his little lips, his attention stolen by the rabbit; such a pretty rabbit, perhaps it might want to be my friend?

Jimmy pulled for Quentin to take him to the front of the car, and growled when Quentin refused.

“I won’t sit in the back.” Jimmy spat his words out in defiance, “You can’t make me.” his face drew into a convulsing sort of snarl, “You’re not my dad.”

“Listen, kid.” Quentin sighed, his ears were ringing, the sky seemed to fuzz in and out of focus, “Shotgun?”

Jimmy grinned, tongue wagging, “Where?” then his excitement died a fraction as Quentin popped open instead the front passenger door.

“Upfront?” Quentin nodded.

Jimmy tilted his head, considering the choice before him. What choice? A choice that only he could figure. His eyes swam with a sickness, tiny maggots of darkest black crawling down the lines of his face. “Shotgun.” he smiled, bobbing his head down as he slipped into the car.

Quentin took one last look at the house, a house he didn’t recognise at all, a house that wasn’t his, and could have sworn it fizzled out for just a moment, like pixels fading from a screen.

I have to get out. He told himself, all too sure of where he was. How in Gods name do I get out?

**

Jimmy was kicking the glove box, clawing at the welded plastic that read: air bag. He was screaming, for his mummy, to go home, that he wished Quentin would die, would leave him alone.

Quentin kept his eyes on the road, his thoughts focused on his breathing. He ignored the child, and hoped Jimmy might return to him the favour.

He didn’t.

Jimmy turned to the man driving the car, a silent tear strolling down his cheek, and with its falling the heavens did open. Rain battered at the window, rapidly tip-tapping on the roof, blurring the road from vision.

Then all world went dark.

There were no street lights, it was the middle of the day. But where had the sun gone? And for that matter, where the hell had the sky gotten to?

Quentin squinted, flicking on the cars headlights, a beam shot out through the dark, revealing a vast expanse of nothingness. The radio emitted only static, the wipers buzzed and whirred in a fruitless effort to clear the ceaseless rain.

Jimmy looked at Quentin, eyes as black as midnight, skin as white as snow, and asked him, “Daddy, do you love me?”

Quentin cracked, the layers of his sanity peeling back. He threw the steering wheel round from hard right to far left, the car skidded, wheels screeching, and then the chassis was in the air.

As they spun, floating in the darkness, Jimmy frowned, his face a ball of loveless hate, a hate so similar to his mother’s, to this nameless woman who Quentin had humoured that morning.

I’m sorry. It was all that Quentin could think to mouth. His own tears streaking down his pale cheeks. He threw up, his stomach finally given over to natural instinct.

Then Jimmy vanished.

And so too did the car.

And the voice from that morning returned;

Transfer terminated.

**

Quentin opened his eyes to a room made of steel, the walls cold and uninviting, a lone spotlight focused on his being. He saw a figure in heels, a shape like the woman of his dreaming, and then he heard her speak;

“Quentin Gerritt.” the woman mused, the click-clack of her heels joined by the gentle tapping of a pen upon a clipboard, “I am sorry, Mr Gerritt, but your application has been denied.”

Quentin let out a sigh, perhaps of regret, more likely of relief.

“Our screening process is quite thorough, for as I’m sure you’ll appreciate we cannot simply hand these children over to any that might have them. These children are… unique, each in their own way. Again, I am sorry, Mr Gerritt.”

Quentin stared at the silhouetted woman, shielded by the blinding spotlight. He watched her hand come up, he heard the dull whip-crack of a silenced shot, he felt the aching thud of a bullet as it buried itself within his chest.

Then came relief.

Sudden.

Welcome.

Mr Quentin Gerritt, you see, was never meant to be a foster father.

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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