TEN YEARS AGO THE BOY had been born to a drug addicted mother, the father unknown. They would have lived together on one of the lower levels of the old ruined brick housing estates that still haunt the west side, but the mother discarded the boy after four days in a bid to escape the crying and the burden of responsibility which she could not bare. She died not long after, presumably from an overdose – it is unknown whether this was intentional or happened by chance. The boy was found clinging to life after over two days on the cold wet streets by a tramp, who took him to the local hospital with a knife to the child’s throat demanding cash in return for this innocent life. Police were called eventually and nurses and bystanders alike looked on indifferently. The vagrant could barely stand, yet was rather impressively managing to drink a foul smelling spirit out a dirty bottle whilst clutching the baby and a pocketknife against his soft fleshy skin. The juggling act lasted no longer than thirty minutes and he was shot dead on the hospital steps by police, who had grown impatient and tiresome in the cold. The knife had caught the boy’s windpipe and was bleeding profusely, and so he spent the next twelve months in an incubator within the very hospital he had been brought to.
He eventually recovered, but due to his grave injuries there had been little hope for survival and thus the nurses had not given him a name. There was serious damage done to his neck and vocal chords, and despite numerous attempts it was damaged beyond repair. Along with some scarring that ran across his chin and lower neck, he would never be able to speak.
Nor could he cry like a normal baby would cry, or make any noises that were vaguely human. Instead, when upset he would let out a high pitched screech. It was piercing and unnatural and the nurses despised it. Otherwise he was silent. Child therapists who interacted with him were unsure of his mental state; as he developed to one and two years old they could see intelligence with no sign of disability but the boy remained distant from anybody. A social disorder, or perhaps a latent memory of his early attack caused him to keep himself isolated and hidden. Even if he had the full use of his vocal chords there was some doubt whether they would have been used much at all.
SOME TIME PRIOR to turning the three, the boy was given to a children’s care home. Little is know of the conditions he faced at the orphanage but he spent several years there until he was adopted at the age of seven. A wealthy, middle aged couple with marital troubles who could not conceive naturally. The woman was captivated by the boy’s deep blue eyes and the fact he couldn’t talk made him a strange prize. They lived in a minimal high rise flat in the centre of the city, with sparse furniture and drab colours. A box consisting of three white walls and a panoramic window, spreading from the floor to the ceiling and overlooking the city.Here the boy lacked nothing but love and attention. A foreign nanny spent more time with him than his foster parents, and their idea of education was her harsh thick accent and daytime television. But the boy did not watch. There were always people on the screen, and he preferred to be alone. He took to spending day after day at the window.
Out of that vast glass barrier, that spanned wall to wall and from his feet to far above his small head, the programme was the same yet it never got boring. He saw thousands of lights flick on and off in adjacent towers, birds gliding freely upon waves of wind and the clouds form and precipitate onto the city below. The people were as small as ants, and ants didn’t scare the boy. Sometimes they couldn’t be seen at all. When the smog was bad enough, he couldn’t even see the city streets under that protective grey blanket. This was peace, he liked this. He liked to pretend he was in a bubble, high above everyone else where nobody could see or hear him. And even when the smog did dissolve away and the streets and those ants reappeared, he was too far away for anybody to notice him and he could just smile and continue watching them for hours.
This was his first memory.
This is a short extract following on from a post I made a few weeks ago called The Shark. The homeless boy I am writing about here was the same boy who witnessed the violence documented in that short story, and I felt like a larger tale could be told involving these two characters.