Malice Aforethought

by: Bfboy | Complete Story | Last updated Jul 27, 2014

Chapter 8
The Great Escape?

“The end,” the librarian declared, followed by a loud round of whooping and applause encouraged by the parents. Story time had finished and playtime was under way again.

I looked around for mummy, but there was still no sign of her. Moments earlier that had made me feel frightened, almost panicked. Now I felt relief. A finger poked my arm and I looked over to find the little blonde boy holding up a Batman action figure. “Wanna play? I got Batman,” he asked eagerly.

And suddenly I desperately wanted to say yes, absolutely. It would be so easy to just push aside those worrying adult thoughts again, forget them, and focus on playing with my new friend. We could go to his house and play all sorts of imaginary games and his mummy would bring us juice and snacks. It would be so relaxing, so perfect.

But it rapidly dawned on me just how small this boy was. How on Earth had I been thinking of him as an equal, as a potential friend? I didn’t want to upset him, but there was no way I could just stick around playing with dolls until mummy came back and collected me.

“Sorry buddy, not right now. I gotta go,” I told him.

He looked disappointed but there was nothing I could do about it. Too much time had been wasted already. With a final scan of the adults around us I assured myself that mummy was not there. Then I crept to the edge of the story-time area before standing and hurrying out of sight. I darted down a narrow aisle and made my way to the far wall. Then I began to edge my way through the stacks, my bare feet thankfully silent on the carpet.

I made it out of the children’s section, thankfully leaving behind the saccharine colours and picture books. The sounds of children playing also faded away and the normal silence of a library prevailed here. I wasn’t really sure where I was ultimately going, just that I needed to be out of the library and away from mummy.

I moved along an empty aisle, following the wall on the right side of the general reading area. I was halfway to the end, to the actual lobby, when something caught my eye. A book had been left lying on the floor and as I passed it, I felt the need to pick it up and put it away. I grabbed the book up and was about to stuff it in the nearest shelf when I realised something much more concerning. The title was announced in bold lettering across the front, but I couldn’t decipher it at all. Was it in a foreign language? Perhaps this was the Afrikaans part of the library. I looked at it more closely and tried to recall how the letters went together, how to pronounce them even if it was in another language. I drew a blank. I tried not to panic, but there was no doubt that I’d lost my reading ability now too.

“Are you okay darling?”

The female voice snapped me out of my reverie instantly. It wasn’t a familiar voice thankfully, but it shocked me nonetheless. I turned around to find a short brown-haired woman looking at me with some concern on her face.

“Sorry?” I managed to reply, trying to sound normal, grown-up.

“Are you okay dear?” she repeated. “What are you doing all the way out here by yourself?”

She knew. I glanced down at my feet, at my bare toes scrunching against the carpet. They’d given me away of course. That was why mummy insisted I be barefoot, so any adult could spot the overgrown little boy from across the library.

“Just reading,” I told her hopefully, hoping I sounded big. I’d thought I was just pretending to be little before. But now it felt like I was just pretending to be big. It was like the little side had become the reality and I hadn’t even felt it happening.

This new librarian gave me a knowing smile, like she could see right through my lie. “What are you reading then?” she asked, definitely unconvinced.

I held up the book to show her. She nodded, but her expression was unchanged. “What’s the title dear?” she followed up, in a tone clearly reserved for young children.

“It’s… um…” I stammered, trying to fathom a way to talk myself out of this, but drawing a blank.

“That’s okay honey. You don’t read yet, do you?”

I shook my head, she didn’t understand. “No, I could read before, but now I forgetted it!” I told her.

Her expression grew more sympathetic. “You lost your reading? Oh, I’m sorry sweetie.”

“Didn’ lose it. Got taken away,” I tried to explain.

“I’m sure that was hard sweetie. But you can’t be wandering off here on your own,” she warned, extending her hand, as though I needed to be led back like a lost little boy. She still didn’t understand, didn’t see that I meant someone had done this to me. Her lack of understanding was making me so frustrated!

“Not a dumb little boy!” I snapped, angered by the inference. “I is big,” I told her, refusing to take her hand.

“I know honey, but you still need to stay with the other children for now. They have some lovely games and toys that I just know you’d enjoy more than these long, boring books.”

I shook my head and crossed my arms, but that only made me feel even more like a naughty little boy. I had to make her understand. “Mummy did this. She made me come to silly storytime. Made me go barefooted.”

“I’m sure it’s tough for you, being little again,” the woman said. “I don’t know what happened to you that caused this, but I know that it’s tough to have to give up so much independence. But your mummy knows what’s best for you now. I’m sure she just wants you to have fun and be happy. Most of our little ones go barefoot and she probably just wants you to fit in.”

She didn’t understand of course. How could she? I needed to explain it more clearly, try to sound less like a petulant toddler. But I was out of time. Over the woman’s shoulder I caught sight of mummy’s face as she rounded the corner from the children’s area. She made a bee-line for us.

“Thank goodness you found him,” she called out.

The librarian waved and said, “No problem, I’m always on the lookout for children who wander off from the group. Even the bigger ones.”

“Well thank you for being so observant,” Mummy told her before looking crossly at me. “Aiden what were you thinking, wandering off on your own like that. Mummy didn’t know where you were. It gave me quite a fright.”

She was acting like I was ‘special’ again but I knew this wasn’t really just pretend and I wasn’t play along this time. “No, I’m big and I don’ gotta stay with the silly little kids. I’m not pretendin’ anymore!”

She shook her head and sighed theatrically for the librarian’s benefit. “I’m sorry he’s caused such trouble. It isn’t always easy for him, being this way. Sometimes he gets in moods like this, but it always passes,” she explained, ignoring my protests completely.

Part of me thought I should just shove the mean ladies aside and walk off anyway, but something kept me from doing that. I didn’t want to make a scene, throw a tantrum. I had to keep my emotions under control but show this library lady that Mummy was bad and I wasn’t a ‘special’ boy. “I’m not in a mood,” I interjected. “I just wan’ my grown-up clothes again. I wan’ my shoes. I don’ wanna go play with dumb little kids. I don’ wanna pretend to be little no more cuz I’m not.”

The librarian gave me a more sympathetic look now but Mummy was already brushing my protests aside. “You know boys. He wants his cool new light-up takkies now but when I put them on him I soon find he’s taken them off and lost them somewhere. Easier just to let him start the day shoeless since he inevitably ends up that way.”

“I understand completely. I’ve had more than a few mums tell me the same thing.”

“Well, thank you again for your help, but I’ll handle him from here,” Mummy told her.

The librarian nodded and said to me, “Okay, you be good for your mummy now dear. I know you’ll feel better soon.” Then she turned on the spot and disappeared down another aisle.

I was fuming now. I turned back to Mummy with my angriest look. “You tricked me,” I snapped. “This isn’t pretend at all and I don’ wanna play this game no more.”

“You think this is a game Aiden?” she asked quietly, smirking. “Honey this is far more real than some silly game. Did you notice the librarian didn’t believe a word you said?”

I nodded warily. What was she getting at? “Cuz I don’t got no shoes on. Cuz you took ‘em,” I told her.

She chuckled at my answer, like it was ridiculous. “Oh honey, you think that’s why she ignored you? It may be why she spotted you in the first place, but why didn’t she listen to your explanations?”

I was at a loss.

“It’s because you sound like a little boy too darling. You’re right that this isn’t just pretend. You’re becoming a little boy up here,” she explained, tapping my forehead, “Just as surely as my other little ones did.”

I shook my head but knew that she was right. The loss of my numbers and reading ability, the difficulty putting my words together, in forming a plan, in expressing myself, all added up to a significant drop in my intellectual abilities. She could see the concern on my face even as I tried to deny it.

“That’s right honey, you know it’s the truth. Where were you planning to go? What did you plan to do if you got out the front doors? You haven’t got a wallet on you. You have no money, no ID, not even a phone to contact someone. If you’d got outside you’d just have been a scared little boy all alone in a big confusing world.”

She was right of course. I didn’t have any plan, couldn’t put one together in my fuzzy head. I hadn’t even thought about my lack of a wallet. I didn’t even have pockets to put one in. The feelings of defeat were overwhelming and before I knew it I felt tears beginning to sting my eyes and drip down my cheeks.

Mummy took out some tissue and wiped the tears away. “No more crocodile tears Aiden. If you want to be big again so badly I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give you my phone and you can call whoever you want if you can remember their number. That will prove you still have enough grown-up thoughts to take care of yourself.”

I watched her pull out her smartphone and swipe the screen to unlock it before handing it to me. It felt powerful in my hands. This was my chance. I just had to call one of my friends and tell them I was in trouble and everything would be okay. I tapped the phone icon and a keypad appeared. Now who to call? Luckily the numbers were all below ten so I recognised them. But now I needed a phone number, any number. My anxiety increased as I continued to draw a blank. I couldn’t recall anyone’s number. Was it because of my fuzziness or just because I didn’t regularly dial my friends’ numbers but just used my contacts list? In fact there was just one number in my mind and I hoped it wasn’t cheating to dial it.

I plugged in the digits and hit the call button, hoping Mummy would accept it. Sure enough the phone began ringing and I smiled up at Mummy and told her, “It’s ringing!”

She just smiled benignly back. Then the sound of ringing became audible from with Mummy’s handbag. She rifled through it for a second before emerging with another phone in her hand. It was my phone of course, and now she knew I had dialled my own number. I felt stupid and embarrassed, and even more so when she announced, “Looks like someone is calling you.”

But she seemed genuine. Did she know it was a trick, or did she really think it was a coincidence that someone was calling my phone at the same time? She held out the phone to me and said, “You better answer it. Might be important.”

Maybe she didn’t know. I had to keep up the act just in case she was falling for it. I took the phone from her hand and swiped across the lock screen. But what appeared wasn’t my normal home screen. It was a swirl of fast moving bright colours filling the entire screen. I had the instant sensation of déjà vu, but that lasted but a second before I felt all my muscles relaxing and the world around me fading into the background. There was nothing but the colours, a sea of warm, inviting swirls drawing me in.



End Chapter 8

Malice Aforethought

by: Bfboy | Complete Story | Last updated Jul 27, 2014


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MartyMan69420 · Jun 29, 2024

Why didn’t he just call 911? Or whatever the South African equivalent is

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