Despite The Roots

By: Matt Shaw

A Psychological Horror




Unexpected

and unprepared





Cliff screamed, bent over with his hands clenched to his chest, tears streaming from his eyes. His face bright red and the veins on the side of his head bulging underneath his skin. He screamed again for a second time, and then a third until his voice finally cracked under the harsh strain. He took a few deep breaths and shut his eyes to the cruel news and the judgemental looks he was getting from his colleagues. He wished he were somewhere else, anywhere else. How could it have come to this?

His mobile phone started ringing in his pocket. Cliff ignored it and continued to do so when it stopped and started ringing again. He didn’t need to check who it was. He knew - on instinct - that it was his wife Jessica. She must have seen the programme too.

‘It was on earlier too,’ one of the other staff members said. ‘A less in-depth story just that… Well…’ He nodded back towards the screen, ‘Looks like they have more facts now.’

How many other people had seen it? Not just people that knew Cliff and Jessica but… How many people in the world had seen? What made it worse was that over the coming days - that number would continue to rise.

Overwhelmed he dropped to his knees. His hands were shaking uncontrollably. He screamed yet again; a lot of effort for a minimum croak and yet no one came to him. No one reassured him. No one told him that everything was going to be okay. And - worse yet - no one told him that it wasn’t his fault.





Was it his fault?

‘Turn it off!’ Cliff looked up at the television set at the far end of the school’s staff-room. Some of his colleagues were watching the news unfold. Shocked expressions on their faces. Others were watching Cliff instead - more interested in his reaction, unsure of what to say to him yet knowing something needed to be said. Something. Anything. ‘Fucking turn it off!’ he screamed again, his voice straining under the pressure once more. He got up and charged the television - pushing it over with a heavy shove. The electrics popped and fizzed with a puff of smoke as soon as the set hit the floor, killing the power immediately as the screen cracked from one corner to the other.

He stood up straight with the sudden realisation that all eyes were on him. And, over the coming days, he knew that was where their attention would remain; watching him, waiting for him to say something, waiting for him to acknowledge what had happened. Without a word, he turned and hurried from the room, slamming the door behind him. No one chased after him, offering support, and nor did anyone block his path as he ran down the long corridor toward the school’s exit.

By the time Cliff got back to his car, and locked himself away from the outside world, his phone was ringing again. A glance at the screen; eighteen missed calls since the broadcast. Eighteen. All numbers were the same and - just as he suspected - it was his Jessica. He didn’t want to answer it but he knew he had to. They needed to talk.

Reaching for his phone, he pressed it against his ear and answered the call, ‘Hi.’ What else was there to say? How else do you start the conversation that was coming.

‘I saw the news,’ Jessica’s voice was shaking. ‘Did you see it?’ she asked. Cliff sighed, ‘I did.’

‘What…’

Cliff interrupted her, ‘I’m on my way home.’

‘Please hurry,’ she started crying. ‘There’s people outside.’

Cliff sighed again. He knew that was coming too. It was only a matter of (short) time. They were like vultures to a fresh corpse. ‘I’m leaving now.’

Without any further words he hung the call up - tossing the phone over to the passenger seat - and started the engine before pulling away from his usual parking spot. Hopefully the roads will be clear and the traffic lights will be on side. Hopefully the road where they live won’t be entirely blocked by the vultures and he’ll be able to park on their drive without having to navigate a path through incessant questions.

Hopefully.

The drive home was filled with countless thoughts going through his mind. Of them all, the loudest one was obvious; how had it come to this?





VULTURES

At the door





Cliff turned into the cul-de-sac and saw that it was bedlam, just as he had feared. Parked up on all sides of the road were various reporters’ vans. Reporters of both genders were standing next to their respective vehicles with microphones in hands, doing pieces to the cameras.

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