Their Eyes Were Flints
by Tim Jeffreys
The blow to David’s head resulted from the struggle. The struggle resulted from the fact that he’d woken up long before the other man in the room realised.
He had had time, therefore, to lie still and watch his host pacing back and forth in front of the window, and having had a moment of calm to mull things over — the strange man in the strange house; him on the floor with his hands tied in front of him, not certain of how he’d ended up there — he soon felt panic and fear welling up inside him. His sudden distress led to his doomed attempt to stand and run for the door. This led to the struggle, and the struggle led to the blow.
Dropping to the floor again with a thump, David saw stars flashing before his eyes. The strange man put the spade to one side and moved forward to lean over him. He spoke, but David could focus only on the man’s manic eyes.
David felt a thin trickle of blood run down from his hairline.
The man saw the blood and was alarmed. “Look what you made me do!” he cried, throwing his arms out wildly at his sides. He clutched his head. A look of dread came over him. He shrank back as though David was in a position to strike out in some way.
David looked beyond the man to the window. He could see the dark pressing up against the glass. Snowflakes fell silently outside, caught in the light from the room. The man began to pace about the room again, occasionally casting a look of distress at David. At last he appeared to come to a decision. He knelt by David and began to force him to his feet.
“What’s happening?” David asked.
The man could not look David in the face. He kept moving his eyes away. All he said was: “Time.”
“Time? Time for what?”
David was now on his feet. He and the man were moving toward the door. The man picked up the spade and said, “Don’t make me hit you again.”
David struggled to catch the man’s eyes and force the man to look him in the face. “What is going on here? What is this?”
As the man looked back at David, his eyes widened and became filled with a strange light. “They’re waiting.”
Before David could say anything to this, the door was opened and the cold air hit him like a blow. His coat was gone. He wore only his work shirt. The man wore a padded jacket, deerstalker hat, and heavy work boots on his feet.
“You kidnapped me!” David said, stating what had now become obvious. He could remember leaving his office, approaching his car, and then some hand across his face, a cloth over his mouth, an intake of breath and then waking up on the floor of this unfamiliar house.
“I have so much to show you.”
Once outside, David glanced around and was further panicked by his surroundings. The house he was being led from stood at the side of a moorland road. In the snow, this road was only decipherable from the moor by the pegs of a wire fence, which lined each edge. The man seemed intent on moving David across the road and toward the moor by pushing him roughly from behind. The spade he kept balanced over one shoulder. David glanced along the road but could see no other houses nearby.
The man said, “Hurry. They’re waiting.”
“They? Where are you taking me?”
They left the road. The snow crunched underfoot. Everything was sunk in darkness. Despite this, the man seemed to know where he was headed. In the dark he began to talk quietly.
“I chose you, you know. I’ve been watching you for weeks.”
David was shocked. “You have?”
A trace of anger appeared in the voice behind him: “Of course I have! Do you think it was random? Do you think I didn’t plan this? Why? Why would I do that? No! I selected you! I chose you! Do you think I would bring just anyone here?”
David was by now numb with cold. He sobbed as the man pushed at his back again. “I don’t understand! Please, we have to go back! I must ring my wife! She’ll be worried. My kids will be worried!”
After a short paused, the man muttered: “You have to forget them now. Forget everything. You have a new role now!”
“But I don’t understand!”
They walked blindly for a few minutes more, before the man said, “Here.” He took hold of David’s arm to make him still. David gasped at the cold. He could see nothing, though he could feel the snow touching down on his hair and face and the wind biting at him.
“We need you, David.”
“You’re a leader of men.”
“I’m an executive! I work for a bank!”
“I was impressed by you. So I watched you for a while. Then I chose you. You’ll understand soon enough.”
A light came on. It was a torch that the man must have carried with him from the house. When the light was directed forward, David was at first struck with fear. Then, when he realised what he was looking at, his fear turned to incomprehension, then again to fear as it became clear to him that the man who stood at his back was probably insane.
“They’ve been waiting for you, David.”
David could only stare. The things the man referred to stood in rows on the moor ahead of him. It was impossible to say how many of them there were. The light did not reach far enough to show where the rows ended. There might only have been ten, but to David it did not seem impossible that there were a hundred, two hundred, more! He had no way of knowing the extent of the man’s insanity.
“Will you lead us?”
“You’re a madman. You’re crazy.”
There was a resounding clunk! as the spade struck the back of David’s head again. David cried out in surprise and pain as he fell forward to his knees. Even though he was reeling from the blow, he staggered upright and began to run. He ran headlong into a darkness of swirling snow, but the man caught up easily and brought him down with another blow from the spade.
David dropped to his belly in the piled snow. He lay with his face to one side. He looked at the rows and rows of snowmen lining the moor. Though mawkish and hastily built, in the shifting half-dark they had the appearance of a sinister, silent army waiting for a call to arms.
Somewhere in the dark behind him came the man’s voice, low and filled with certainty. “They’re waiting to serve you, David. Speak to them, sir. Speak to your men.”
Copyright © 2010 by Tim Jeffreys