The children dashed, laughing and screaming across the garden, stopping to trample the primroses and leaping over the wall. One lifted a rock and with excellent aim launched it through an upstairs window. Sarah stood still by the ivy covered wall, her face expressionless. Watching. Monkeys.
The old man pushing a shopping basket moved slowly towards his house, watching the children warily.
“Hullo there” one called cheekily. The others grinned, joining in the jape. “Having a good day?” The eldest asked with mock seriousness. The others suppressed giggles, smirking at each other.
The old man ignored them and proceeded slowly to his door, fumbling with his key, then clumsily manoeuvred his shopping trolley into the hall. He turned. A scene of devastation met his eyes. His grandfathers clock was strewn across the hall in pieces. Trembling his hand reached to steady himself against the wall as he went into his small living room. His television was in pieces on the floor but he ignored that and moved over to the small shelf where the picture of his wife had remained since her death several years before. It wasn’t there. He looked around then spotted the broken frame half under the armchair. Stooping and grunting with difficulty he pulled the frame out. The picture was still in the frame but now his wife sported a moustache and devils horns. Rage almost brought him to his feet in one move. Grabbing his stick he staggered towards the door. The children were messing about in the road, scratching the paint on the parked cars. “Why” he croaked, “Why?”
The children all stopped and looked at the frail figure leaning against the doorway, grins of triumph spreading across their faces. “C’mon, we’re done here”. The leader swaggered off followed by his minions gaily swiping the heads off tulips in neighbouring gardens as they went.
Behind them, unnoticed, the old man sagged in the doorway. As the leader passed Sarah standing by the ivy wall he suddenly noticed her. An evil glint shone in his eye. “You’re next” he gloated. Sarah returned his gaze her face a frozen mask. “What’s wrong with her?” one of the kids whispered. “She’s an otty. Autistic you berk, com’n. We’ll do her later”.
Monkeys. Sarah watched them go then noticed the old man fallen in the doorway. She went over to have a look. Frightened eyes looked up at her. “Help me”.
Sarah was troubled. No-one had told her what to do in these circumstances. She turned home and on the way forgot about the old man and the children.
Her mother smiled as she came in . She put her arms around Sarah and kissed her hair . Sarah was trying to remember that she had something important to tell her mother. But her mother holding her meant she had to concentrate on not moving, not shaking her off. When her mother let her go a sadness flitting across her face, Sarah turned to go to her room .
“I have some shopping to do. Will you be all right?”
Sarah nodded. Her mother left, leaving the door open so she could get back in. In the past she had had to get a neighbour to help her get back in when Sarah had refused to open the door.
Sarah went to her room. It was austere, uncluttered. Her Mum had tried to make the room more cheerful with brightly coloured cushions and teddy bears. But gave up when she had to recover them from the garden the next morning. Sarah did not like anything in her room which had a purpose she did not understand.
She was sitting there when a face appeared at the window. Two other faces joined it. They started pulling faces at her and laughing. Then the ringleader pushed the window open and climbed in. Sarah turned to him, her face absent of fear.
“Don’t bother me” she said clearly. The other two followed and looked round the room curiously.
“There’s nothing here” one said. “This is boring” said the other.
They looked at the door into the house but decided not to explore. All eyes turned back to Sarah. She wasn’t even looking at them now. She was staring at a smudge on the wall. The children looked at what she was staring at. The eldest went over to look at it more closely. The others surrounded the smudge.
“Looks like a cat” said one. The others nodded.
The leader was about to say – this isn’t what we came for – when they heard someone coming in the back door. All three turned to the window, but the window wasn’t there anymore. They turned to Sarah but she wasn’t there either. They turned to the door into the house, but there were only four walls. They looked at each other. Then they started hammering on the walls and calling for help. But nobody came.
Sarah’s mother unpacked the shopping then went to check on Sarah. Sarah was in her room opening and shutting the window. But what made her mother’s heart lift was there was a real smile on her face and she was saying something over and over.
“What’s that, love? What are you saying?
“Thought is reality. Thought is reality. Thought is reality”.
Copyright – Prayerwarriorpsychicnot – 8 April 2004
The idea for this story came from two sources. The haunting seventies song “Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy, and a colleague at work who told me a lot about his son, who suffers from autism.