A Short Story by Mark Towse: Hugh’s Friend

36074580 - child abuse composition of a frightened young boy sitting on the wooden floor in a light of a flashlight circle

When I speak to my friends we often joke and reminisce about the imaginary friends we used to have as kids, sometimes we would play or discuss things with them and even argue with them, perhaps it was just an instinctive way of preparing ourselves for growing up.

The general rule of thumb is they would come out on request, when you needed them, when you wanted to play or just not be alone. My imaginary friend was called Hugh. He was two years older than me and an exception to the rule, and I thought he was a prick.

Sitting at the dinner table one day, and as my Mum was reaching for the veggies, he slipped under and came back up holding his nose and gagging, he told me my Mum wasn’t wearing any knickers. He also said he caught my Dad playing with himself in the shower earlier and he wasn’t goddamn surprised. I intentionally dropped my fork to prove he was just telling tales, I promised myself I would invent a time machine to take me back and grip that fork with everything I had. I didn’t eat much that afternoon.

Some things he told me were truths; others were just outright lies designed to ruin self-confidence and to push anxiety levels through the roof, and he thought this was hilarious. For example, on my seventh birthday, he told me I was adopted and the papers were in the third drawer down of my Mum’s dresser. All I found was a bunch of knickers and bras, and what looked to be a torch that vibrated. Hugh told me that my Mum used to shove the torch so far up her fanny  you could see her tonsils. Obviously, I didn’t believe him. He lied about the adoption and the torch, and he was full of shit.

At this point he had also told me that my Mum was sleeping with the postman and that my Dad was a serial killer, so you can see what I was dealing with. 

When Hugh told me there was someone else living at the house, another child, I dismissed it immediately.  Hugh said he could prove it but I’d had enough, to be honest; I actually tried to unimagine him from my mind for a good couple of weeks before I realized the stubborn little prick wasn’t going anywhere.  

The first day at school, already a hard enough time for a seven-year-old to get his head around, was something I will never forget. The teacher placed me next to some kid called Robert. He seemed nice enough, but Hugh seemed jealous that I had even said hello to the kid. 

In my ear all day, “you’re a homo, you’re a homo,” and slightly more inventive “Jack and Bobby sitting in a tree, Jack blows Bobby, one-two-three.” 

That carried on all day. “You’re a homo, you’re a homo,” until I lost the plot and screamed at the top of my lungs in front of the entire classroom. “I’m not a fucking homo!” Some of the kids laughed, some went white, the teacher did neither but did escort me from the class.

Mum picked me up early that day. She was very disappointed indeed, not that I wasn’t a homosexual, but my behavior let her down considerably. Hugh was still unbelievably pleased with himself and asked me to follow him; he had something to show me.

“Where are we going?” I called out to him in pursuit as he sprinted ahead down the hallway and towards the back end of the house.

“You’ll see soon enough,” is all he replied as he finally made it to the cellar door.

My Dad always said the cellar was a work in progress and too dangerous for us to go in, I always wondered why it didn’t apply to him though.

 “Hugh, I am not allowed in there, even Mum isn’t.”

“Do you ever think to yourself why not?” he asked as he pointed to a jar on top of the cupboard. I grabbed the key from it, pushed it into the hole and turned the handle, the air conditioner was already on and it was pretty cool in that space, I remember. I flicked the light switch on but nothing happened. “Oh yes, in the cupboard next to the door,” Hugh said, so I went back and grabbed the torch. I saw the vast array of jars and bottles of wine spread across various tables and felt my way along the walls.

“What are we doing here, Hugh?” I asked impatiently.

“Keep going, nearly there,” he replied.

I kept edging along the wall and finally came to the end of the room; I flashed the torch around and could see nothing else worth noting.

“Push that last panel, Jack,” he said.

I did and it moved inwards, not just a little bit, and I soon realized it was a makeshift door.

“How do you know all this, Hugh?” I asked inquisitively.

‘Go inside, Jack,”

As I stepped inside and swept the torch around, I shrieked and dropped it, I scrambled on the floor in a mix of fear and panic and finally felt the handle and pointed it forwards again. The little boy there covered his eyes and I moved the torch to the left out of his direct line of sight.  He cowered in the corner and I noticed the chain attached to the bolt in the floor, and a plate and glass on the mattress next to him.

“This is Peter,” Hugh replied very casually.

“Why are you in our house, Peter?” I asked very naively.

Peter didn’t say anything, he just sat shaking.

“You need to ask your Dad that,” Hugh replied. 

As I turned around to shine the torch towards Hugh I saw the etchings on the wooden interior of the room.

“Hugh was here.”

[Editor note: This story appeared in the August 2018 issue of Books ‘N Pieces Magazine.]

About the author:

Mark is 44 years of age, married with two children and lives in Melbourne Australia. He has only just rediscovered his passion for writing and his pen is smoking.

Mark is currently working in sales and marketing but would sell his soul to the devil for a full time career as a writer. Some of his other stories will be published shortly. Follow him twitter.com/marktowsey12

Story Photo credit: Aleksandr Belugin | 123RF.com

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