My mother is a singer -- she likes
to sing opera style. Click on the image to
hear her greeting (39K)
Cautiously you step up to my parents' front door in Diamond Creek, at the house that used to be known as "Olde Orchard Edge". Knock, knock, knock. It's not really on the edge of an orchard, but presumably it used to be, back in the early days. This house is almost a hundred years old. It stands separated from the township of Diamond Creek -- this is a semi rural area. And this is the house I grew up in, after the age of six. I lived here for twelve years.
My mother answers the door. She says, "Yes?"
You say, "Hello -- uh -- you don't know me, but I'm a friend of Stephen's and, well, I've kinda got no place to stay tonight, and I'm sorry to bother you like this, but would it be O.K. if I stay here tonight? It's just for one night, I promise."
My mother opens the door wide. She says, "A friend of Stephen's? Well come on in! Any friend of Stephen's is a friend of us. Hey Bernie, look! Stephen's friend is here!"
You walk inside, into the kitchen area, and see my father, Bernard. He says, "What? Stephen's friend? Really? Well, nice to meet you. Hey, take a seat, you look exhausted."
My mother says, "Have you eaten yet? We were just about to sit down and have dinner. You can join us if you like. We're having some Jambalaya." She points at the kitchen table which is set for dinner. "Have a seat. I'll just get a plate for you."
YOU MUST NOT EAT THE FOOD.
You say, "I'm not really hungry."
My mother replies, "Oh, nonsense, just look at you! You look like you're starving!"
"You're wasting away", adds my father.
Mum starts piling Jambalaya onto your plate. Meanwhile she asks, "So how do you know Stephen? Do you know him from the TAFE college?"
You'd better say yes to that.
"What was the name of that course again? It's got a long name -- I keep forgetting it."
Electronic Design and Interactive Media.
"It's called Electronic Design -- and -- Interactive Media, and it's a very good course."
"Where has Stephen BEEN lately? Has he been coming to classes?"
Say yes. "Oh, yes, he always turns up to classes. Very reliable. Very punctual."
My mother doesn't look convinced. Between mouthfuls of Jambalaya she says, "Well that's strange."
You say, "What's strange?"
She answers, "Well, we haven't been able to find Stephen for the past few weeks. He hasn't been returning our phone calls. And when we went around to his place to go check on him, he wasn't there. We're getting a little worried about him."
Just tell them I must have been working back late that day.
"I expect he was working back late that day", you say. "He often does that. Very hardworking."
Dad says, "But that doesn't explain why he doesn't return our phone-calls."
"I don't know. I heard he has a fear of phones..."
"Yes, but that's never stopped him in the past," says Mum. "Hey, eat up! You haven't even touched your Jambalaya."
You pick up your fork and prod a piece of mince sluggishly as if you're about to eat it.
"Anyway," says Mum, "After this I'll fix up the bed in the spare bedroom so that you can sleep on it."|
"What? Oh, no, you don't need to do that -- I can just sleep on the floor -- I'll be O.K."
My parents give you a strange look. Mum says, "It's really no trouble. Sleep on the floor? Ridiculous. How come you don't have any other place to sleep tonight, anyway? Did your parents kick you out?"
Say yes. That's as good an excuse as any. "Yes."
"And you decided to come here? Was this the first place you thought of?"
"Well, I tried the psychiatric hospital, but that was closed."
This comment causes an involutary spasm in my mother's mouth, and she almost loses a mouthful of mince. Then she's making some sort of signal to my Dad -- you can't make out what the signal is but my Dad seems to understand it. He gets up.
"Excuse me -- I have to -- " He leaves the room.
"So, Stephen's friend," says Mum, a bit more tense and forced now, "It looks like you're not eating your dinner. You really look like you're starving. How long has it been since you ate? Two days? Three days?"
You reply, "Something like that."
DON'T TELL HER THAT! TAKE IT BACK! TAKE IT BACK!
You hurriedly add, "Oh, no, I was only joking. I ate at lunch, of course. Nothing weird about that."
Mum looks up nervously at the doorway, then at you, then she starts to inch her chair away from the table.
"Are you all right, Mrs Clark?"
Her name is Mrs O'Shea, not Mrs Clark.
Dad re-enters the room. He seems to have one hand behind his back.
"Mrs O'Shea, I mean."
Just then Mum yells out, "NOW, BERNIE! NOW!"
Dad pulls out something from behind his back. It looks like a strange kind of gun. He fires it. There is a slight "twik!" sound and something has pierced the skin of your arm. It's a tranquilizer dart.
You fall unconsious.
When you wake up you are strapped to a bed. Ropes secure your hands and feet -- you cannot move. My
parents are standing on each side of you, frowning at you.|
"So, you're waking up," says my mother, with a little more English accent than she had before. "Now we can get the truth out of you. Don't even think of lying, now. Where is Stephen? What have you done with him?"
"What?", you mumble. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't play dumb with me! He's in there, isn't he? Inside your head!"
"Inside my head? Are you crazy? That's a crazy idea."
"Oh, it all adds up now", she says. "The starvation -- the lying on the floor -- we know Stephen better than anyone. We know he doesn't like to eat our food or sleep in our beds, and he'd rather go to a psychiatric hospital than here. And we know he doesn't have any friends. So what ARE you, really? Have you trapped Stephen inside that head of yours? Is he in there? Or are you Stephen in a different body? ANSWER ME!"
You say, "Look, I haven't done anything wrong here -- I didn't ask for any of this -- all I did was turn up to the website, and suddenly I've got this thing speaking to me from inside my head --"
"It's NOT a THING! It's my SON, for God's sake."
"Well, I'm sorry, Mrs O'Shea, I don't know what you expect me to do about this. I'm not trying to hurt your son in any way -- I don't even have any choice in this --"
Mum is losing control. "THEN WHY ARE YOU STARVING YOURSELF LIKE THIS? WHY ARE YOU --"
"Wait a minute, Judith", says Dad. "Let me talk to this person. Look, we have high hopes for our son. He's only twenty-three -- he has a bright future ahead of him. And we think he's pretty special. Now I don't know who you are, but it's clear that Stephen is trapped inside your head somewhere -- maybe we can find a way to get him out. But it's also clear that you are not taking care of yourself. I mean look at you -- you're dirty, you're homeless, you're bruised, and you refuse to eat any food -- if we let you go now then you're going to die in just a few days. And if you die, Stephen dies. This is what we must prevent."
Mum adds breathlessly, "We won't let you kill our baby with your careless living! We'll cut your head open to free him if we have to!" She comes forward and lays a clammy hand on your forehead. "Are you in there, Steve? We'll get you out -- I swear we will --"
"Steady on, Judith", says Dad.
You say, "Look you've got to get me off this bed! I need a hard surface to sleep on -- otherwise my life is in grave danger."
"Oh no, we're not falling for any of your tricks!", says Mum. "You just want us to untie you!"
"No, no, you don't understand --"
Dad comes over with a bowl of Jambalaya. Mum grabs a spoon.
You start trembling with fear. "What are you doing?"
Mum is speaking with an English accent now -- she sounds like the queen. "Oh, so you don't like my Jambalaya, hmmmm? I had difficulty getting Stephen to eat it, too. Well you'll eat it all right -- we'll force it into you if we have to!!"
"No! No! You don't understand! I can't eat it! That stuff is poison! It'll kill me!"
"I'm sorry, Stephen's friend", says Dad. "You're delusional. We have to feed you. It's essential to keep you alive at all costs."
You try to keep your mouth closed but Mum is forcing it open and stuffing Jambalaya into it. You scream, "MMMmFMMFMf! ARfmfmgmfmmf!" My parents grab your jaw and start moving it up and down to chew the food up.
Dad sticks his finger into your mouth, pushing the food down the back. You try not to swallow it, but it's impossible to avoid. As soon as the food hits the back of your throat, it turns to burning hot acid and burns a hole right through your neck. You can feel it eating through your windpipe and your cervical vertebrae. Finally it reaches the back of your neck and falls out onto the bed underneath, followed by an outpouring of blood and mucus.