When his wife told him she loved a woman he tried to pretend that nothing would change.
He walked the dog. He made dinner and brought two plates into the dining room. He ate both dinners. He asked his wife to make him a cup of tea and made it himself. He hugged a pillow every night. Some nights he would kiss the pillow but the pillow would push him away.
It was Christmas when he finally accepted that his wife had left him.
She sent him a card.
Emma and Bronwen
It was cruel.
He started to drink in January when the snow began to fall and by the time the snow had stopped falling he began to remember things.
The first thing he remembered was a song.
Mr Jones by Counting Crows. At first he couldn’t understand why he kept remembering the song as if it was being played in another room. He closed his eyes and thought very hard about his childhood.
He began to clear away the lies.
He wasn’t an only child. He wasn’t an orphan. He didn’t have an unhappy childhood. He hadn’t been alone.
He had a brother and three sisters. He had parents. They all lived together in terraced house. It was so cramped, he could remember that clearly. He used to have to share a room with his brother but when his older sisters eventually moved out they got their own rooms. That was where the song came from, his brother’s room. His brother was older. His brother smoked pot and wore collarless shirts and wooden bead necklaces.
It was his brother who found the demons in the yard.
“Wake up Toby,” his brother said.
It was as dark as night can be. His brother stank of pot and lager.
“Come on, get up,” his brother said, pulling away the duvet.
“Get dressed, quickly,” his brother said.
He could barely keep his eyes open.
“What’s going on?” he asked. “What time is it?”
His brother didn’t answer. Instead he pulled him by his arm out of the bedroom and onto the landing. He saw their parents’ bedroom door open and their bed empty.
“Where’s mum and dad?” he asked but his brother shushed him.
He was pulled into the bathroom.
“Look,” his brother said, “in the yard.
He went to the window with his brother and peered out into the dark yard.
Two figures were kneeling on the paving beside the bins. Above them were four giants, taller than any of the houses on their street. The giants were covered in hair and there was blood dripping from their teeth. They had orange eyes. One of the giants reached down and picked up one of the figures.
“Mum,” he gasped when he realised who it was kneeling in the yard.
The giant bit down on to his mother. Another giant lifted his father and did the same. His parents didn’t even struggle.
He was crying. He would’ve screamed but his brother had clamped a hand over his mouth. He just sobbed and trembled.
Both of them stayed there in the bathroom watching the giants devour their parents. When it was done his brother whispered for him to go into the attic and hide there.
His brother pulled the ladder down from the attic hatch and pushed him up into the dark space.
“Can I turn a light on?” he asked but his brother shook his head.
“I’m going to shut the hatch and get help,” his brother said.
When the hatch was shut he began to forget he had a brother.
He felt a cold hand on his shoulder.
“Toby, are you feeling ill?” a voice asked.
He turned. He was scared but he turned. He wasn’t making himself turn; something was forcing him to turn, taking away his will.
He saw four white figures, short where the giants were impossibly tall. Their eyes were white. They had no mouths. They were completely hairless.
“Toby, what can we do to help?” one of the figures asked.
He didn’t ask them what they were. He knew what they had to be. They were Gods and the giants in the yard were demons. That’s how things worked. Bad things were demons. Good things were Gods.
The Gods were good.
They held him for all the days he hid in the attic and told him not to worry. They whispered away his memories. They told him he didn’t ever have to be scared again.
“You’re so alone,” they told him. “You don’t have a mother or father. You poor thing, you don’t have a brother or sisters. You’re so very alone.”
After Emma left him and the drinking got bad he went to a counsellor.
“Are you having trouble sleeping?” the counsellor asked him.
He didn’t know how to answer that. If he was honest he would have said that for many years he hadn’t slept. The last time he’d really slept was the night his brother woke him. He’d pretended to sleep, yes, but he’d never really slept. He’d lie beside Emma with his eyes closed and sometimes even he would believe he was sleeping. Since the drinking and the remembering he didn’t even pretend to sleep. There was no point pretending to sleep when there was no one beside you to believe that you were sleeping.