Should She Stay if Should She Go Now?
(continued from Let Her Stay (pt7/8))
“She was shocked and slightly irritated to see that the light came from a single, rather dirty bulb, swinging from the ceiling of what appeared to be an office decked out in a faux military style that -”
“Alright now, that’s quite enough of the storytelling. Excellent report, Sergeant. Very much in the style of The Boss. You may stand at ease.”
The sergeant stood at ease, coughed, and pulled out a cigarette case from the breast pocket of his uniform. He raised his eyebrows slightly towards the man behind the desk as he proffered the case.
“Not at the moment, Sergeant, but perhaps the young lady?” He glanced at the woman stood quietly in the middle of the room, facing the desk. She shook her head slightly, but otherwise was still. Frowning.
“Right, let’s get down to business, shall we! Obviously, this is rather a shock for you but -”
She became sound.
“Shock?! You call this a shock? I’ll give you shock!” She strode forward, fist swooping to his freshly shocked face.
Before the blow could land, the sergeant was there. Her fist thwacked into his palm and fingers closed over hers, the grip tightening until she began to wince.
“Ow! That hurts!”
“Good, ’cause it’s meant to.” He let go of her, flinging her arm down in the process and stepped back.
“Well, ahem. As I said, this is obviously,” emphasising the word “a shock, but don’t worry, it’s all above board. We’ve been given permission to recruit you for -”
“Recruit me? What for! Where’s my husband? Where’s my baby girl? What do -”
Dash it all, Sergeant, does she have to keep interrupting me, it’s bally annoying.”
“Well, she’s had a shock, ain’t she,” the sergeant rejoined, “I’m sure she’ll come around. Perhaps a cup of tea?”
Seven minutes later, all hands held a nice cup of tea, which eased the tension in the room considerably.
“So, to business – we’d like to recruit you,” said the man behind the desk. “Technically, because of what you did, you belong to Him Downstairs, but because of why you did it, we’ve been granted dispensation to have a little chat. You see – your bravery and commitment would make you rather an asset for us. And I also wonder if you’re amenable to a little … ahem … payback. You see, rather many of The Dark Lord’s latest recruits are Scots.” He finished with a flourish and looked as her expectantly.
“Her mind was thrown into a turmoil as the thoughts whirled thr -”
“Yes, thank you, Sergeant – that’ll do. What do you think, Miss?”
“My name’s Carole, not Miss.”
“Ah yes – of course. The name’s Cedrik. Jolly pleased to meet you.” He held out a hand.
She took it, then let it go.
“Tell you what, Carole, how about I give you a little bit of background? I had rather an odd start, as it happens. You see, I winked into existence back in, oh, 2016 I think. Some chappy called Robert thought it would be a wheeze to write a Silly Fantasy with me in a starring role. However, it turns out his tutor wasn’t so keen. Suggested that he ‘represent Cedric’s perspective in a way that would appeal to most adult readers’. Couldn’t even spell my name properly either. Imagine that!”
Carole raised one eyebrow.
“Anyhow, he, that is, Robert had a bit of a rethink and began to write something completely different, but then, as he approached the end of the story – he was having breakfast at the time – it came to him that perhaps he could save me from the old red pencil after all. And so – here I am. Tadaaa!”
After taking a sip of tea and a few moments of meditative silence, Carole spoke.
“So, why the epic struggle with this ‘Dark Lord’?”
“He stole my Teddy Bear.”
“Oh, I see you smiling, but at the time I wasn’t much older than your daughter when she …” He paused, aware of the pain flickering across her face, “These things are important to children.”
She nodded; serious again.
“And since then, it’s become …” Again he broke off as if becoming aware of how unconvincing he sounded. Several emotions – despair, anger, resolve.
“You see, it’s not really about Teddy at all. It’s just symbolic, really. It’s the whole struggle between good and evil – you know? And at the end of the day, it all comes down to doing what you can do. It all counts. Every little thing.”
His gaze slipped from her face and moved inside his mind. When he began to talk again, it was almost in a whisper.
“He’s out there now, listening.”
A crease appeared between her narrowed eyes. “The Dark Lord?”
“No. Robert. I reckon that I can hear him breathing. He’s on his way to work, but stopped now. Perched on the back of a bench. Tapping these words into his phone. He’s going to be rather late for work if he’s not careful.”
She tried to follow him, but her imagination failed her. If he was writing about her, then where was she? Just a figment of his imagination? Cedrik broke into her thoughts. His thoughts?
“Oh, of course I tell myself that I’m my own man. That I’m a person in my own right. It’s actually something he often says to himself – that his characters write themselves. That we just need to be told to go somewhere, but we get there ourselves. In fact, he’s even telling himself something like that now. That this little soliloquy is mine, not his.”
“But the truth is, I’m rather afraid. I’m scared that as soon as his mind turns elsewhere – to the next story, and the next character, then we here, we will just st-”
“Wait! Before you …” Carole’s eyes widened, heart pounding, “I need to know – did I get my revenge?”
He held off her desperation with ineffable sadness, then smiled, expression soft.
With a voice like a caress – “Yes, you did, my dear. You got your revenge.”