It's tough being an old man in his twilight years...or twilight days perhaps. It's not so much about the fear of imminent death...it's about the fear of dying all alone, with no one being by your side when you breathe your last. And my fears have been exacerbated by a strange sequence of events that have occurred over the past couple of weeks.
Old people like me often rely on family and friends for care and affection in their twilight years. I, however, do not have that luxury - because I never got married. Being a painter, I didn't think I would be able to devote time to myself, forget keeping a wife and dependent kids happy. There was no dearth of sex though, I've had encounters around army camps and within the town after I retired. Although I was usually careful to use protection, accidents do happen - I know of at least three accidents in my own town, all born to married women, and there could have been more. I obviously never got to know those three personally, but I did keep tabs on them - it is after all only human to want to know the well-being of your own flesh and blood.
The strange occurrences that I mentioned earlier started happening about 14 days ago. It was around 11 in the night, and I was sitting on my rocking chair. As always, I was staring out the window at the Church Bell Tower, a few hundred metres away from my house. Suddenly, I saw Isaac, a 20-something local retard, running up the tower's staircase. What he did next ran a chill down my spine. He looked in my direction, laughed like a maniac, grabbed the ropes to the Bell and tolled it once. Then he simply ran back down the staircase and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
It's true, behaviour such as this from a retard need not usually warrant any reaction. However, I cannot explain how it felt when he looked at me and laughed. The look in his eyes were sinister, and the laughter made me feel he had some really ugly plans for me. As an army man, I have stared death in the eye on innumerable occasions in the past; but this felt insidious.
My fears came true the following morning, when I got news of the untimely death of Wayne, the 15 year old son of Grace. Wayne and his mother lived four blocks away, along with her husband. Wayne was actually my son.
About five nights later, at exactly 11 pm, I once again witnessed the ghastly sight of Isaac running up the flight of stairs of the Tower. Once again, he looked in my direction, laughed out loud, and tolled the bell once, before running back down and into the darkness. The next morning, I got a call from Cindy telling me that 10 year old Martha had died in her sleep. Martha was my offspring too.
Since that day, I made it a point to ask about Isaac's whereabouts. Nobody kept tabs on him though. Not much was known about him anyway. Some people said he didn't even belong to our town, and that he came from a village nearby that had a bad name due to whores and their touts.
I called up my ex-girlfriend Suzy a couple of times to check on Jason. About 18 years ago, I had somehow managed to win her heart, inspite of being 20 years older at 48 at that time. We were serious about getting married, but she somehow found out that I had been bedding many other women and promptly called off the wedding, despite the fact that she was carrying my child. The guilt made me avoid staying in touch with her for all these years. She therefore, found it funny that I was suddenly concerned about Jason, after having stayed incognito for all these years. I didn't have the heart to tell her the truth though, and instead blamed it on age-related feelings of insecurity.
All signs of respite ended at 11 pm last night, when I saw Isaac once again.
This time, he didn't run, but slowly dragged himself up the staircase of the Tower. He looked in my direction, but with a look of dejection. He didn't laugh - instead he bawled.
And then, without warning, he leapt off the tower.