All the places you think are real, are real. Events and people are pure invention.
“Pardon?” I said.
“That wasn’t me,” Dylan said. I stepped closer to him, thinking the warmth of us together would create some kind of barrier. A shield.
I couldn’t see the ghosts, but I felt that pressure — in my eardrums, against my eyes.
Don’t listen to them, I heard. They’re trying to fool you. I’m not mean. I just want to know he’s safe. I had to take him.
My eardrums ached from the pressure, the urgency of the voice. I had to take him. Margaret is not a good woman, and I thought about how she seemed to me; kind, supportive and caring.
“You’re wrong,” I said. “She would have made a good mother.”
Too weak! I heard. Weakness will be the end of us. A boy has to be tough. Toughened. It was like he was hearing the words I always told myself and speaking them aloud. Toughen up, you little bitch. You weak, unlovable piece of shit.
“I guess you’re proud, then. That he beat you in the end. Got away from you.”
I miss him. If I can find him I’ll never let him go. I just want to know he’s okay. Why do you think I necked myself? Once I find him I can look after him forever.
“I need a piss,” Dylan said.
“You’re going back inside?”
He gave me that look men do sometimes, and pointed behind one of the buildings. As he walked away, I heard I heard, He’s worthless, that one. Look at him. He’s weak. Get rid of him or he’ll kill you. Look at his hands. Ask him what happened to his ex-girlfriend. He’s a thief, the ghost said. He’s told you as much. If that’s what he’s willing to confess, what else must there be? Think on it. Every choice you make is leading to something. Look at that lot, those weak shits you’ve shaken off. Every one of them made a choice that led to their deaths.
On and on and on.
Bram Stoker, twice-World Fantasy Award Nominee and Shirley Jackson Award winner Kaaron Warren has lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Fiji. She’s sold more than 200 short stories, three novels (the multi-award-winning Slights, Walking the Tree and Mistification) and six short story collections including the multi-award-winning Through Splintered Walls. Her latest short story collection is Cemetery Dance Select: Kaaron Warren. You can find her at kaaronwarren.wordpress.com and she Tweets @KaaronWarren
Part six of The Public Menace of Blight will be published on the site tomorrow.
The title comes from Pritchett, Wendell E. 2003. The “Public Menace” of Blight: Urban Renewal and the Private Uses of Eminent Domain. Yale Law & Policy Review 21, 1-52.