He'd been a tragic boy. Never had the chance to become a man; not since what they did to him that night eight years ago. And yet where the curse of blindness could have been a blessing in disguise ever since, he still lived three blocks down from where it all happened. And in his mind, in the darkness inflicted upon him and in the choking black mess of his nightmares, it still haunted him and he still saw everything just as it had always been!
He'd had nowhere else to go, nowhere else to stay, his parents had kept him held down for fear of his safety regardless of the fact that they had now divorced and his mother had left. Now he was as aimless as he was sightless and had remained prey to his own demons over the years.
Damian Singer lived on one of the roughest estates in the borough, far out of society's way. The boy had always tried his best to stay out of trouble and succeeded relatively for most of his childhood and teenage years. He tried hard at school, got on with everybody, loved his sports - was a talented football player. That was until he'd got with Carla Johnson and her crowd. The girl was nothing more than a sociopath, using men for whatever purpose drove her.
This put Damian in the sights of the O'Keefe gang, one of the area's worst. Karl O'Keefe had been one of Damian's "schoolmates" until he'd been expelled for headbutting their maths teacher. Out of education and uselessly roaming the streets by age 14, O'Keefe had learned nearly every despicable trick in the book in getting his own way. The first of those was selling dope to the local burnouts.
It didn't take for Damian's parents to bring him to his senses when trouble started coming looking for him. Carla Johnson had wanted rid of him suddenly and without reason. That suited him fine. He knew there was something wrong near the beginning. He knew there was something not right about her especially and the company she kept. And he certainly didn't want the attention that came with associating himself with her or her friends. They were dangerous, Karl especially; dangeous and unhinged, most often so high off their kites that they no longer lived in this reality, nor valued the lives of people living in it.
Damian had reached the age of eighteen when he got with Nicola Hill, a respectable young college girl that, just like Damian, only wanted to get into a job and get out of that side of town as soon as possible. She became a target when the trouble started and O'Keefe started to confront Damian, claiming that he had gotten Carla pregnant. It had to be lies, but regardless, Damian would only speak to Carla about it, who in turn had no intention of speaking to him. This lead to the threats and made Nicola a target too. Bravely, she stood by Damian and they continued to see each other.
So it had been on a cold, quiet Saturday night when Damian walked Nicola home from a house party on Fern Hill. The community park locked up, the houses dark and still, a chilling wind had swept constant across the grass on the other side of the gates and a cold wraith moaned occasionally from within the bell tower of the red-brick church as litter and dead leaves were whipped up in little whirlwinds across the street. Damian had been holding Nicola close and warm on the walk back when the gang appeared and they knew immediately that trouble was abound.
Karl O'Keefe was with his crew, always including Billy King, Jack "Fez" Ferris and Thomas Caine and when they were together, it was just known that trouble was either waiting to happen or it had already. And in no time at all, a war of words began as Damian tried to avoid the situation, just to get Nicola out of harms way. It wasn't going to happen like that, not on O'Keefe's terms and he compromised nothing for nobody.
So when O'Keefe's attempts to come between the couple were outwitted by none other than Nicola, who refused to be belittled and to see her boyfriend ashamed in front of her, he broke her nose!
To begin with, as Damian knocked him to the ground repeatedly, Billy, Jack and Thomas didn't involve themselves beyond their screaming insults and pushing and shoving. Damian had tried to get Nicola away and got her as far as the church, about fifty metres further, before the gang attacked Damian, knocked him to the pavement and began ramming his head into the concrete.
Slipping in and out of consciousness, Damian could still remember Nicola fighting for him, even taking on two of the boys at one time. But that was the last of her. She was beaten down by the boys and the last thing Damian remembered seeing, before the stanley blade came out of Thomas' pocket, was Nicola's crying eyes as she tried to get him to move. A few kicks to the face had shut her up while somebody had proceeded to hold Damian down...
The last thing he had seen with his own eyes. Not the last thing he had heard once his own screams faded to chokes. That last memory had been reserved for his worst nightmares only. But Nicola didn't live beyond that night and the horrifying event had gone without justice. For that, Damian Singer would always be haunted and the hideous patchwork of scar tissue where his eyes once were would never hide it. And so he lived behind sunglasses that would hide the loss as best as they could. Beyond that, Damian had hid himself from the outside world for much of the eight years after.
What could he do? Left so badly scarred, yet more mentally and emotionally disabled than anything? Life was not worth living anymore and this wasn't even living; this existing in darkness without joy, without hope and knowing that he would forever be like this... It was hardly even existing. His life had become a repetition of nightmares and phantom pains, always knowing that his neighbours had stood by and watched and that they still did when they thought he couldn't hear the awkwardness in their silences.
Damian lived in his room a lot, where the madness of his own haunting held him suspended and where no voices spoke, yet the screams still rang true and then the other sounds... the freak visions... he kept them to himself and he dreamed in darkness even as he sat awake, listening to the outside world as his father drank himself to sleep.
Out there in yet another winter, the wraiths in the wind still howled and moaned from the bell-tower, yet something else had come to nest nearby and with it came something he couldn't help but notice spoke for his ears only.
They called him Billy One Eye these days, those that still associated themselves with him. When his gang had joined larger ranks, a dream come true for Karl O'Keefe who was now one of the city's most feared and respected, things didn't go quite as well for Billy King, who had never quite learned the rules of the respect game so successfully.
He was still associated with O'Keefe, ran his drugs on the same turf as he'd grown up on, but now he lived in a dingy apartment block on the docks where he also housed and pimped prostitutes. Never one to frown on brutalising women, they were just about all he could brave and even then, it was a scorned and desperate woman that had clawed out his left eye. Call it karma. But then karma came with interest when you took a life for an eye.
OKeefe didn't keep One Eye close anymore, not since he started to abuse his own coke and heroin and even then, his days were surely numbered, counting down to the day when someone found out he was abusing minors. It had started with the teenage daughters of the hookers he was minding. That particularly had led to the new nickname as well. But Billy One Eye was a spectre of his former self now. Wasting, nervous, sweaty and smelling of rot; you couldn't have associated him with his former self, as corrupted as he had always been.
Now O'Keefe was living in highrise luxury in the city, with the Carla Johnson bitch and that daughter she once had to the local football star. That pathetic fucking ghost they should have exorcised years ago. He had offered!
This windy night the building creaked and moaned as if it were ready to collapse. That and the coughing of the women in their bedrooms, sick to death of the freezing nights, the crying of the baby downstairs which only meant that sixteen year old mother Leanne Craig had dropped the baby to pick up a hypodermic syringe.
When the wind was strong, some of the windows rattled. Some of them had been potted, replaced with the old plastic shatter-proof panes. Just in the rooms nobody had business being in. Sometimes they'd fall right out and the building would freeze - bedrooms and corridors. But the ambience of this place, of this reject's home and probably for the rest of his rapidly shortening life, was like something out of a nightmare. Lost souls lived here and some had surely died here and there was no real hope for those that had been taught to know their place.
Billy stalked the halls, sickening for his drugs amongst other things. He'd taken in a load of heroin just this afternoon and sampled it himself. When he came back around two hours later, he'd felt sick all over. He'd come to the conclusion that he'd been poisoned, like he wasn't aware of the shit they put in this stuff. But he felt worse than ever before and he wasn't going back for another dose if he could help it. He'd gotten a stange case of vertigo with the usual sweats and cramps and had fought desperately to stay awake.
Now he was staking the corridors as the sensation burned slowly out of him, his thoughts turning to slush. He was feverish and becoming delirious already, not that he knew the meaning. Once you've had every chemical high known to man, you grew colour blind and indifferent, especially to the colour of death's door. it was funny, he told himself. He'd walk it off, smoke it off, piss it out, sweat it out, eventually.
In one room, as he passed the door, he could hear one of his regulars getting his fill, his good little whore making use of all she was good for. The corridor seemed to sway, his equilibrium still way off. The moaning, the hilarious pillow talk, the grunting; it all came out like a queer dream of when he was back home with his mother and her numerous boyfriends and one night stands. Suddenly, Billy's footsteps faltered and his legs turned to jelly. He nearly fell, then held onto the wall for support. He had to get back upstairs to his own floor, get his head over the toilet, sleep it off.
He clambered the stairs drunkenly, something beginning to boil and bubble from within his stomach. He was about to throw up, collapse on the stairs maybe, when...
The sound had come loud and close, like the flapping wing of a bird passing overhead, but not a bird, something bigger, much bigger. Then the gust of a freezing wind chilled him to the bone instantly before a door slammed somewhere upstairs. His instant thought had been that one of the windows had fallen out again and a cross-wind had forced a door shut, but it had spooked him partially back to reality despite the sickness now dragging him through a cold sweat.
He hadn't even been armed. He'd long ago learned not to be when the police turned up unexpectantly and he got away narrowly with having hid the handgun. But he would have felt better for having it now, all of a sudden. Climbing to the top of the stairs, Billy One Eye opened the door to the corridor and stepped in, where the lights began to flicker and fail.
He stood frozen to the spot. Eight doors on either side of the corridor, all shut, but the rooms not necessarily vacant. He'd stand by the door to the stairwell for a few minutes, compose himself and give himself the time to run if something seemed wrong. He would have been more cocky had he not felt so sick, he was pretty sure of that.
But he suddenly lost control of his confidence when with another loud whooshing sound, the corridor completely blacked out and a loud bang shook the wooden floor. Scared stiff, he fumbled for the door handle behind him quickly but felt his bladder empty when a whisper so close that a cold breath blew into his ear, calling his name, before he felt himself lifted off his feet and thrown through the air.
Billy screamed as he left the floor, screamed again as he met the wall head first and then fell to the ground. He hadn't even felt a hand on him but now the warm urine chilled immediately and dribbled down his legs.
'WHO ARE YOU?' Billy screamed.
Heavy yet hollow footsteps, deliberately slow, clunked and echoed along the corridor towards him in the blinding dark.
'Who do I look like, Billy,' the voice whispered and the lights flickered back on again only for nobody to be there at all. Billy freaked, clambering to his feet, his legs trembling uselessly and without thought, ran into his apartment room, crying.
The light had been on when he'd left and he had been the only person on this floor. He was the only one allowed on this floor. But the hallway was now in pitch black darkness. Frantically, Billy flipped at the lightswitch, at least when his hand could find it, shaking and flapping like a fish out of water. The sound of his own sobs got to him, sunk into him and reminded him of how small and insignificant he really was...
'Brave Billy,' he heard the voice say and immediately recognised that it had come from the hallway. With all the force he could muster, the drug addled creep slammed the door shut and turned the lock, before the voice began to laugh, mocking him for the stick insect that he was.
Billy ran for the living room. Hitting the wall and bouncing off and into the wall on the opposite side, screaming as he did. He literally fell into the living room then, taking up a mouthful of damp old carpet between his rotting teeth, before getting up and slamming the door shut behind him. he flipped the lightswitch, this time more successfully.
The relief was massive. He had half expected the light to not come on again, or for this grinning psychopath to be waiting for the right time to let himself be seen; when the door was locked and there was no escape. He looked around to see the room empty, his sick heart leaping in his chest, threatening to screw up and die on him.
Last he remembered, Billy had left the .22 snubnose behind the curtain on the windowledge just behind the door. At arms length, he scrambled for it and suddenly felt better for having the cold instrument in his grip, yet oddly, the coldness seemed to readiate through his whole body then, from head to toe. He reached for the handle of the living room door, hand shaking madly, refusing the message to calm the hell down. The dark was impenetrable black contrasted against the dim light of the living room. Billy poked his head through the door again, silently, his ears pricked and suddenly hypersensitive.
'Look into my eyes, Billy!' the voice suddenly spoke, again seemingly right into his ear.
Billy screamed, pointing the snubnose into the dark and fired off three shots, the report in the confined space deafening him. His legs folding, he fell back onto the musty carpet as the door flung open. But then Billy's one working eye darted up to the corner of the ceiling, right above where he had been stood.
It horrified him, petrified him where he lay. The ghostly black figure grinning at him, impossibly spread out along the ceiling, arms outstretched from head to toe in black, hands outstretched and ready to grab. His eyes... it's eyes... were nothing more than hollow pockets of flesh, yet seemingly alive. He shrieked, firing off the last of the bullets and they went dead square into the thing's chest.
It came down, landing on top of him, yet far from dead. Pinning his wrists back against the floor, it snarled. Billy had seen this face before. Knew it all too well. The ghost he never killed, or did he?! He continued to scream before the ghost, or whatever it was, floated to its feet and yanked him up like a plastic doll before throwing him across the room effortlessly and into the television stand. Slowly and deliberately, what had to be Damian Singer crept towards the mumbling drug addicted wreck and said one last thing as a crude black oily substance began to pour from its eyes.
'Open my eyes, Billy. I deserve to watch you die...'