Ghost Lights II

I had a lot of fun writing the last piece that I decided to continue on from where it left of. 
Gary was a quiet child with dark eyes inherited from his South Asian father and an unruly mane of curly light brown hair from his deceased Irish mother. He was, as described in report cards, a well mannered boy, but had recently developed a ‘bit of an attitude’ since his fathers remarriage a few year prior. He learned quickly that his new mother was a very selfish woman, and once he had discovered her dislike for him, he grew increasingly quiet at home and acted out a little more at school.
On this particular occasion Gary had lashed out at a boy for calling him a half breed. During a math lesson it had come up that Gary was from a dual heritage. When Robyn Westall heard this he called out that he was a half breed product of spoiled milk. To the table groups surprise, and particularly Robyns’, Gary punched square in the face. Being on the rather small side with gawky arms, the last thing anyone would pin Gary as would be a fighter. He had not intended to do anything but swear, but seeing the smug look on Robyn’s face had made him see red. The headmistress had not even bothered to hear his side of the story, and called his father immediately, disregarding the fact that his weak punch had done very little harm to Robyn, and merely brought a few tears to his eyes.

“He’s not like this at home.” His bewildered father would say to the teacher down the phone. “I mean, he has been having some restless nights, but otherwise the same old Gary.”
His year 7 teacher, his father and the Deputy Headmistress had sat him down and tried their hardest to ask him questions about his feelings and let him talk about his problems, but Gary’s replies were often vague and confusing, because inside he felt vacant and lost. After school , Gary would walk to the park next to his house and throw pieces of his uneaten lunch to the ducks. He would be there, sitting, watching the world go by. He often liked to escape to the park, because it was here that he felt truly at home. He wasn’t sure whether it was the smell of the pine trees or the water of the duck pond but he always felt at peace.
He would be waiting there, often until sunset, just until he had to drag himself home for supper. He could always rely on his step mother to shame him on the door step in front of her gaggle of friends.
The plump, stout form of Anastasia De Silva opened the front door. Her large face, which had a smile on it, vanished when she saw the sight of him.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the baby boy home from school. Your little walk about kept me awake last night, you know.” There was an acidity to her voice, that Gary knew to well. He chose to ignore it.
“Hurry up.” She snapped and ushered him quickly through the door.
“Where’s my dad?” Gary asked as he walked in through the door. He removed his shoes and placed them on the rack, noticing that though it was a tradition in the house, Anastasia still kept her ballerina pumps on. They walked through the hallway into the kitchen, where there was no distinct smell of food. He heard laughter from the other room.
“Germany I think.” Anastasia pouted and sat down with her friends at the dining room table. Her large friend, Gabriella, put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, though Gary was quite sure the pout was a facade. His step mother relished the thought of her husband being away so she could have the house to herself and invite all her friends. They were helping themselves to biscuits, cheeses and wine which they ate ravenously. His step mother did not bother to look up from the table, or offer any food, instead they continued to talk nastily about Alina Vesper a woman they were all once friend with.
“Did you hear she broke up with Greg.” Carolina spoke with a mouthful of brie.
“Noooo!” Anastasia said in shock.
“That’s not all,” Gabriella smirked as she spread soft cheese onto a biscuit. “She has gone up 2 dress sizes since the break up. I saw her at a party last week. She looked like a whale in that black dress.”
They burst into fits of giggles. It was an unattractive scene as bits of biscuit, cheese and wine were being projected from their rolling mouths. Gary was used to this scene. It was also not uncommon for him to come home and not find his father. In fact it happened so often that he didn’t really remember a time before Anastasia. Daniel De Silva worked as a property developed and spent more time abroad than he did in the UK. On the rare occasion that he was home he made Gary the most fabulous South Indian dishes, filled with warmth and spice. Today, Gary had no hope of a cooked meal. Anastasia made it very clear that she was not a maid, and refused to cook for him. Taking an apple and a string cheese from the fridge he made his way upstairs without so much as a second glance at the women. He took long strides up the steps, 2 at a time, stopping in front of the room which was being renovated. It was a garish pink colour. The room which had once been his bedroom, but after her marriage Anastasia has insisted on having Gary moved to the attic room. Soon after it became a spare room for distant relatives, and was now going to be converted into a salon for Anastasia. She had studied as a beautician and insisted that she had always wanted to start her own business. He shuddered at the thought, imagining a line of women leaving his house, all with the same poofy poodle-like hair as Anastasia.
Making his way up to his room he closed the door behind him making the laughter from downstairs barely audible. Gary looked around the tiny attic bedroom. There was a single bed which was pushed against the wall, a desk facing the window and a small white chest of drawers next to the door. He went up to the wooden chair that he used as a desk chair, and collapsed on it. Taking slow thought filled chews of his apple he stared out of the window for a long while, before deciding it was best to make a start on his homework.
He finished the maths problems of quickly. He was good at maths. He liked maths. Next, he used his computer to research 2 different species of animal that lived in the Amazon rain-forest. The worksheet asked that he draw a sketch and write 3 interesting facts about the animal. As his eyes scanned over pictures of curious looking creatures he seemed most interested in the pygmy marmoset and the blue and yellow macaw. Using the side of his pencil he replicated the tufts of hair and drew large circles for the eyes of the marmoset. He was not much of an artist, but Gary felt it was a good likeliness. He sat back for a while, peeling off chunks of his string cheese. He pulled strands of it from top to the middle, and worked his way around to make a cheese shaped tree. Once he had completed that, he took the stands and made them into small branch like strands so that it resembled an odd, misshapen willow tree. Stuffing the whole thing in his mouth, he ate it in 3 quick bites, savoring the creamy taste. It tantalized his taste buds, particularly after the crisp sharp apple he had just eaten. Feeling some what relaxed he relished the taste and leaned back peacefully against his chair, smiling at the picture of the marmoset on the screen; whose eyes seemed to be staring back at his own.
The view of the trees from the window swayed peacefully in the light breeze, as though they were greeting him. It was a mild evening. He looked down admiring his garden. From here he could see that the fox had made its way into the bins again the previous night. There was rubbing strewed all across the grass.  He thought that his father must have left early for work, as usually he was the one to take the rubbish bins out front for collection. Knowing he would most likely be asked by Anastasia he got up to throw away his own trash and take the bins out.
Downstairs Anastasia and he friend were putting on coats and heading for the door.
“We’re heading out.” She said briskly without even looking at him. “I want you to sort out the dishes in the sink and make sure you throw out the trash. That pesky fox has been rummaging around in them again.”
In a line one by one, her and her friend exited the house and noisily shut the door behind them. Gary groaned. He made his way slowly to the kitchen to see a mountain of plates in the sink. It took longer than usual, partly because Gary was tired, and partly because he was enjoying the warm soapy water splashing over his hands. Once he had washed, dried and stacked the plates away he tied up the bin bags and threw them outside. It did not take as long as he thought to collect up all of the rubbish on the floor, but it was disgusting work, especially when his foot touched something squidgy and slippery. He danced around the grass wiping away a masticated slug.
Unbolting the back fence and wheeling the bins towards the front took a great effort as he was only a half foot taller than the container, but he managed to line them up in the front driveway, leaving enough space for Anastasia to get her large SUV back into the front.
“You’re up late, Gary.” Gary looked up, a little startled, to see old Mr. and Mrs. Soo from number 11 walking towards him with their tiny dog, Simba. Gary nodded and muttered something about doing homework.
“Your dad away on business again?” Mrs. Soo asked kindly. Gary nodded. He held up a timid hand and waved goodbye, retreating back into his house. He had always liked his neighbors very much, but had received a walloping from Anastasia for telling them when she had once left him alone. She had since forbade him to talk to any neighbors when she was not around, and Gary thought it would be best not to argue.
He turned back to see a hurt Mr. and Mrs. Soo walk past his house, and continue on their way. He felt guilt bubble up in him as he made his way back up the stairs into his room. He slammed the door very hard behind him, which made a spider drop down from the ceiling. He ignored it, turned off his lights and sat down on his bed, breathing very hard. It took him a long while to get a settle rhythm. He looked up at the dark ceiling feeling lost.
Perhaps it was due to his unsettle mind or simply because something inside called for him to get up, Gary felt himself get up off his bed and look towards the window. There was a nostalgic smell, reminiscent of barbecues, that tugged at a memory. He was quite sure he had smelt the burning scent before, though he couldn’t be sure where. The kitchen extension ran under his window, and past it he could see the grass and trees behind it. He peered over the window ledge. The garden was empty. That same something from inside had Gary climb out of his window.
A cold dread filled his body as he peered out of the attic window upon the red tiled roof below. His hands furled around the white frames and he looked morbidly out towards the modestly large garden below. Elizabeth, his friendly neighbor was out watering her flowers, and even from this distance, he could hear her muttering to herself, as she always did. Gary liked Elizabath very much, and it wasn’t only because she would hand him chocolate bars over the fence, but it was also because she had a beautiful black Labrador, that she would let him pet. He watched her for a moment, wondering why she was watering her plants so late at night. He pondered if she too could smell the burning scent. He hoisted his scrawny figure up climbing onto the frames edge like a cat; dragging himself onto the roof. His heart was twittering excitedly as he felt his feet touch the tiles, which gave a  hollow, musical echo as he stepped on them. Using his hands as counters he balanced himself as he made his way to the roofs edge, very afraid that the wet sleet might just sending him tumbling over the edge. He imagined himself hurtling to the ground below, wondering how long it would take, and questioning if the fall would kill him or simply leave him severely injured. 
As Elizabeth retreated back into her house, Gary once again looked around the garden. Only this time there were tiny bright lights dotted over the garden. Now, do not imagine these ghostly lights as little candle or innate objects, for they go by many names, and are most definitely alive. Gary stood for an immeasurable amount of time, staring at the coloured lights. The burning smell grew more intense, and as they floated closer to him his will to jump off the edge grew more prominent. 
The fox looked up from under the bushes, where it hid for the second night. The lights had returned, as Grandma Magpie had said they would. He stared at them, snapping his teeth at a particularly large one that hovered by the roots of the bush.
The previous night, he had been a little frightened and apprehensive about the lights, but now he felt less so. After yesterdays chaotic, he had made his way straight to Grandama Magpies tree. As she was an old bird she had to rest her wings, and rarely left her home anymore. Before he reached the base of the tree he had made a quick stop at badgers to drop off the peelings and see if he had any shiny gifts to present to the magpie. He happened to have a shiny, slightly bent. spoon among his possessions. He thanked badger profusely and said he would return the favor.
“What’s the matter Foxy? You look worried.” Badger yawned and propped his head against the side of his hole.
“It’s been a strange night, Old boy. I will have to tell you about it another night.” He scampered off quickly and made his way to the base of a very old Alder tree, at the end of number 19 Mears Lane. He bowed when he reached the tree and called loudly for Grandma Magpie. He left the silver trinket on a protruding root, where it caught the moonlight, gleaming brilliantly.
“Good evening, Grandma Magpie. How is your family today?” He looked up at the swaying branches, but saw nothing. The fox waited patiently, his heart tittering rather fast. He had yelped when he heard a rustle in the bushes behind him, but turned back with annoyance to realize that he, a fox, had been startled by a restless pigeon.
Just as he started to feel a little intrusive, and considered coming back later the next day he saw a rush of feathers above, and down glided an old bird, with malted black and white feathers. She was accompanied by two young birds who still had a gloss on their coats and a gleam in their eyes. The fox noticed that one of the old birds eyes was slightly cloudy. He tried very hard not to look directly at it. He sank low to the ground in a bow as she perched at the base of the tree.
“Well if it isn’t the voice of Master Fox I hear.” Her croaking speech had sounded happy as she had looked in his direction. “I thank you for the gift, and the greeting. My family are indeed very well.”
“I am glad to hear this,” The fox said bowing once more. He saw the younger of the two birds scoop the spoon into the beaks, tap it once against the tree, and then fly up with it. One remained behind, shadowing over her. The fox was sure his name was Zenas, but he had met him too few times to recall.
“I have not seen you since the night your family passed on.” She outstretched a wing and brushed it against his snout.
“It has been … difficult.”
“I’m sure, we magpies know the importance of family. But remember young one, you are never alone.”
“Oh I know Ma’am.” Fox nodded, and carried on to talk about badger and robin who had looked out for him since the passing. “Your grandson, Dante. He has stopped by many times.”
“Dante is a good child.” She said happily, spreading her wings. The fox heard tiny bones creak and crack from the stiffness. It must have been a long while since she had last stretched her wings. “Now tell me, Master Fox, for I take that you have not come  on a social calling. How can I help you?”
When he began explaining the events the old Magpie said nothing. She had waited patiently and listened. A few times the fox saw the one he thought called Zenas, shift uncomfortably. Once he finished the story, he waited, expecting an immediate reaction, but she simply looked at him without uttering a word.
“What you saw were foolish fires, or Aleya lights.” The fox, remembering how they had hovered had thought they didn’t look quite normal.
“Why do they gather around my home?”
“The lights are harmless. They will sometimes lead strangers off the beaten road but more often they warn human folk of danger. Though they have not been seen around these towns for a long long while.”
“Are they harmful to animals?”
“No, but their appearance troubles me. For a long while now I have felt a change in the winds. Something has been amiss. Master Fox…” She said gravely looking at him with her one good eye. “You must follow the lights if they appear again. We must learn of their intentions.”
The fox had bowed, and vowed to return with news. He had slept restlessly the following morning, but woken up fresh and ready for anything that happened this night. As he looked at the lights that seemed to dance towards the house, he heard them once again whisper to one another.
He remained in the shadows as they crept closer to the side of the house. It was then that the fox first noticed the young human from the house standing on the roof, also looking at them. He stared so intently that he seemed lost in a trance, his tiny feet dangling just off the edge. The fox, alarmed, jumped out of the bushes and yelped several times. While he had no connection to the human, and though he bitterly despised the female of the house who had run over his parents, he could not stand by now and watch a child jump, unknowingly.
Yet, for all his calls, and for all his protests the fires continued to burn bright, and the boy continued to lean over the edge. He did not seem to hear anything, or see anything but the glow of the lights. The fox snapped his jaws around a pinkish flame, hoping to scare them off. Hadn’t Grandma Magpie said they were harmless, he thought desperately to himself. Knowing there was nothing he could do, but watch, he froze in horror as the boy bent his knees and jumped to the ground.
He had expected to hear the crash of bones breaking, or at least a scream. He heard nothing. The boy had dove to the ground, rolled over and stood up, unscathed. His blank eyes had looked at the fox, momentarily, but turned away and followed the trail of lights, that was now leading out of the back garden. His movements were strange, thought the fox, like he was not in control of his own body. Sulking in the shadows, the fox followed the boy and the lights all the way tot he park. at the end of the road. While he hid behind a bush, he saw the boy sit down on a bench opposite the pond. The lights around him disappeared, but he was not alone.

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