by Alex Jenks
As it turned out, George Reynolds had chosen probably the best night of the year to end his life, at least weather-wise. The sky was clear and dark, stars sparkling in contrast to their backdrop and the moon sitting half-proud above the woods to the west. There wasn’t the slightest sigh of wind, even up on the old railway bridge where he stood, shaking, his big toe projecting a few centimetres over the red stone edge.
George had picked this spot because of its isolation, the almost zero chance of anyone stumbling across him and realising his intentions and, of course, because of the height of the bridge and the hard, rocky ground that lay beneath it. It had been years since any trains had crossed the bridge and the tracks were broken, rusted and twisted.
He had parked his car two miles away and walked the rest of the way, crossing fields and following tracks through the woods, using the flashlight he had brought with him to light the way, walking in a sturdy pair of boots that he had chosen for the purpose.
He was a practical man and he was terrified. Not terrified of dying but terrified of not doing the job properly and ending up spending the rest of his days either in a wheelchair or lying in a hospital bed being fed through a tube and having to endure the humiliation of everything that that outcome included.
As the seconds softly passed and the moon drifted quietly by, George took a small photograph from his pocket, looked at it for a few moments, inhaled deeply and then slowly leaned forward as the tears began to roll down his cheeks. The picture was of his daughter.
He stopped when he heard a noise to his left. He straightened up again and subconsciously began to move slowly away from the edge. The sound he heard was so out of place, so strange to this environment and this time of night that for a moment all thoughts of suicide left his mind. George jumped down from the edge of the bridge — the short jump, not the long one — and took a few steps into the middle of the tracks.
The singing, as he now recognised the sound to be, was coming from along the rusted tracks, from around the bend the old track had taken before it reached the bridge. It was impossible but it was true: the sound George heard was the voice of what sounded like a young girl or boy singing a nursery rhyme he knew well from his youth. The words were strong and clear even though he couldn’t yet see the source, sounding as if the singer was standing right beside him.
“Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.”
He strained to see who was singing, who had interrupted his final act.
“But when the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away.”
Then suddenly the song stopped and the night was dipped back into silence.
“Hello?” George called out. “Who’s there?”
“Hello? Who is that?” He heard the doubt forming in his voice even as he spoke the words. Again there was no answer.
Of course there’s no answer, George. You’re losing your bloody mind! Get a grip, man. Just get on with it. Do it before you change your mind again. Do it, George. Do it.
He turned around to go back to his selected departure point and there she was, sitting perched on the parapet where just a few moments ago he had stood.
She looked to be about eight or nine, blonde hair, blue eyes and skin so pale that it seemed almost parchment-like in the moonlight. She wore a white summer dress, white cotton socks and a pair of white sandals. In one hand she held the string to a large yellow balloon that tugged and danced above her head, despite the absence of a breeze.
As George stood with his mouth wide, taking in the details of what seemed to his mind to be an impossible vision, she sat perfectly still on the cold stone and looked him dead in the eye. She was smiling the sweetest, cutest smile George had ever seen and for some reason it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand to attention.
“Hello George,” she said. “Isn’t it a lovely night?”
It took George a few moments to reply, the confusion running through his mind blocking his capability to reply straight away.
“Y-yes it is. It is a lovely night.” He managed, and then his British ability to talk about the weather in any situation took over. “It’s supposed to be a lovely day tomorrow, I hear.”
“You silly sausage,” she giggled. “It won’t be a good day for you. You’ll be dead.”
“What?” George stammered. “How do you know that? Who are you? How do you know my name?”
“I know a lot about you, Mister George. I know a lot about a lot of people and I’m sorry, but I don’t really have a name.”
“What do you mean you don’t have a name? What do your parents call you?” George asked, his mind working furiously to make some sense of the bizarre situation.
For the first time she stopped smiling and a look as dark as a thousand night skies crossed her features. It was only there for the briefest of seconds but in that moment George finally realised that this wasn’t just a little girl he was talking to.
“I don’t have parents, George. I’m not as lucky as you, or Em-em.”
George thought he might faint when he heard this last word. Em-em was — had been — his pet name for his daughter, Emily. She was at least half the reason he had come up onto the bridge. He had loved her, as all fathers do, with all of his heart. She had been his everything and his life had been torn apart when she decided on a cold December day to throw herself in front of a train. The policeman who came to George’s house and told him and his wife what had happened had said that she had died instantly, that she wouldn’t have felt any pain. George wished that he could have said the same.
That day and all the horrible days and weeks that followed it were like footsteps; each tear, each argument between him and his wife, each night spent sleepless, each time he had to tell someone what had happened was another step towards where he now found himself. He could look back and join the dots of those terrible events right from the bridge to that godawful day.
“What do you know about my daughter?” George asked the girl.
“Only what she told me, Georgie Porgie,” she replied with a smile.
“What she told you? You spoke to her? When? How? Who the hell are you?”
The smile vanished from her face. Her eyes became cruel and ancient; George could see time pass in those black pupils.
“Do not say bad words, George. I don’t like it. I do not like it.” These last words were punctuated by her pointing her small, white finger at George. “I was with Em-em when she caught her train.” She laughed at her own joke, head flung back, teeth caught in the moonlight.
“You evil little b—”
“Careful, Georgie. Be very, very careful. Bad words make me angry.”
“I don’t give a damn what they make you, you nasty little bitch. I don’t give a damn. Damn damn damn damn damn da—”
The last curse was trapped in George’s throat. All of a sudden he couldn’t breathe, could feel his lungs being squashed together as if a hand had reached inside him and grabbed hold of them. He fell to his knees, gasping, trying to drag some air into his body. He looked up and saw her, eyes ablaze with fury, looking down on him.
“Are you sorry, George? Are you sorry for being bad?” she asked him, the stone in her voice obvious even through the white noise in his ears. “Silly me. You can’t speak, can you? Okay then, just nod, Georgie. Nod if you’re sorry for being naughty.”
George fell onto his side, black spots swimming and dipping in front of his eyes. With the last of his strength he managed to force a feeble nod. As quickly as it had come the pressure left him. His lungs opened and George gulped down the air, sucking it greedily into his starved body. His vision cleared and eventually, after a few more horrible seconds, he was finally able to sit himself up. All the while she sat there, balloon dipping in the invisible breeze, watching him.
“I tried to stop her, George,” she said. “I really did. I told her that she didn’t have to do it. She was so young. I told her that she had her entire life ahead of her. And do you know what she said, George?”
He shook his head, fear still refusing him the ability to speak.
“Just before that nasty old train came whizzing past, she looked at me with the saddest eyes and said that if the rest of her life was going to be anything like what had already happened to her then she wasn’t strong enough to live through it. She wasn’t strong enough George. What do you think she meant by that?”
“I don’t know,” George said, his voice still rough. “I don’t know what she meant.”
“Oh, but you do, Georgie boy! You know exactly what she meant. Don’t tell lies, George. They make me angry too.”
George felt a tiny pressure on his lungs. Panic rushed into his system but the tightness stopped as soon as it had started.
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” he cried, the tears rushing unbidden to his eyes.
“What did she mean, George?”
“I didn’t mean it. It was a mistake. I’m so sorry.”
“Stop snivelling, you little cry-baby. Sitting there babbling like a child. Stop it. It was your fault, George, wasn’t it?”
“No! It wasn’t my fault! I tried to say sorry.” George was shouting now, indignation finding a place in his voice. He got to his feet, walked over to the wall of the bridge, his back to the girl. Looking out into the night he began to climb up onto the wall. “I tried to make it up to her. I was drunk when it happened. So drunk. I didn’t know what I was doing. I tried to say sorry. I did!”
“Em-em told me what you did, George. She was your daughter, someone who should have been the most precious thing in the world to you and you broke her. Didn’t you? You broke her body and you broke her mind and you broke her spirit. You raped your own daughter, George.”
“No! No!” George screamed. “It wasn’t like that. She wanted it too. I saw how she was looking at me. She wanted it too! I tried to stop but she wouldn’t let me. I tried to say sorry. I tried.”
“You pathetic little man. You ugly, nasty little Georgie Porgie. You made her bleed. She told me how it happened. How you forced yourself on her. How you turned into an animal and made her do it.”
“Why are you here? Who the hell are you?”
“I used to have a name once, George, but it was taken from me. Some people call me Vengeance. Others call me Karma. But my favourite is Tipsy Tapsy — it’s so fun to say out loud! Don’t you worry about my name, Georgie, because in a few seconds you won’t know anything anymore.”
George looked down to where his body would soon lie. He leant forward and almost jumped at that exact point, but instead he paused.
“So, you’re some sort of avenging angel then? Bit wasted here, aren’t you? I was going to jump anyway. You aren’t needed here, bitch.”
He expected her fury again; expected his breath to disappear and for the pain to begin again. But it didn’t. Instead she just smiled at him. It was the first time he had noticed how long her teeth were.
“If that was true, George, then I wouldn’t be here. Sometimes I try to talk people, nice people, out of doing themselves harm. People like Em-em. I was there to try and stop her hurting herself, but her mind was too messed up. Other times I have to visit the nasties, people like you. People who should have the decency to do it themselves, but don’t. Cowards like you, Georgie.”
“I am going to do it! Why else do you think I’m here?”
“You are going to do it Georgie. Why else do you think I’m here? This is the third time you’ve come to end your miserable little life. This time it won’t end like the other two. Three’s a charm!”
She said this as she jumped down from the wall and began to walk towards where George now stood. He tried to move but found that his feet were now glued to the top of the bridge wall.
“What are you doing? Stay there. Stay there!” he screamed at her.
But Tipsy Tapsy kept on coming.
“To hell with you! You aren’t even real. You aren’t here!”
But Tipsy Tapsy kept on coming.
“Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry,” she sang, her soft voice a charm on the night air. She began to skip as she got closer to where George now stood, frozen with fear.
“But when the boys came out to play...”
She reached out to him. George felt her fingers on the small of his back, nails which seemed too sharp dug into his skin, even through his clothes. They began to walk up his spine, tipsy tapsy, inch by inch they climbed. Over his lower back.
The middle of his back was crossed by two cold, thin fingers. Tipsy tapsy those little fingers reached his shoulder.
They paused for the merest of moments before they began to push and George felt his body tilt forwards.
“Georgie Porgie ran away.”
The body of George Reynolds tumbled into the night, falling head over heels as it fell. There was no one there to hear the sound of bone hitting stone. No one there to see the small photograph float out of his pocket as he fell and defy gravity by lifting higher and higher into the air. It rose and danced and skipped on a breeze that didn’t exist, followed and shadowed by a large yellow balloon.
Copyright © 2012 by Alex Jenks