This is the opening chapter of a longer piece which I have published here as a standalone short-story.
Lucy had one of those kaleidoscopic viewfinders that put the world in a mass of cubic and triangular shaped colours spiralling atop one another.
She stood at the foot of the lake looking out upon the deep blue of Berners Hall Lake and I’d imagined she was seeing it turn into purple and amber and green and whatever other colours splashed out into her eye line.
I felt a stab of envy at that time because she could see the world in colours beyond the drab sepia with which I’d always been cursed to see the world.
I envied Lucy for having the Kaleidoscope because, especially at the torment of that time and age, I would have loved to have coloured the world.
But I envied the Kaleidoscope more than I envied Lucy.
What I wouldn’t have given to have had Lucy looking deep into me the way she looked into that Kaleidoscope.
She’d smudged her eyeliner against the viewer of the kaleidoscope, and I felt a twinge of longing to have Lucy’s makeup smudged against me. Her long, blonde hair flowed down to her arse and she had a grace and sensuality that was hitting prime at her then eighteen years young.
I had fancied Lucy for years and years. Never mustering the courage to ask her out or anything and then one day I managed to get an invite on the annual lake trip with Steven and Rhondra. And I knew Lucy was going to be going, so I jumped at the chance immediately. With beer and vodka and a group of us camped out, maybe I’d get my virginal monkey off my back with Lucy.
She laughed as she twisted the dial on the kaleidoscope and I could sense her amazement at the spiralling world she was immersed in.
It was actually Rhondra’s kaleidoscope - she had packed it with her on the trip, God knows why, and I dared not ask for a chance to peer into it.
But I felt an animosity towards both Lucy and the kaleidoscope because they were sharing something that I was not privy to. And envy was my most rampant sin.
When she was done looking at the lake and turning it into a Piccaso piece in her mind’s eye she wandered back to where the tent was and grabbed a beer from the ice cooler.
I stayed at the lake for a bit.
I remember sitting by the lake after she got the beer just dwelling on everything and I remember her grabbing a beer and moments like that I guess, I kind of took for granted. Little moments of solitude where we shared in each other’s company.
Because I was too full of pathetic little emotions like envy and being left out and all that crap.
Steven was laying atop of Rhondra and she was squeezing out a forced laugh. He was rubbing in between her legs. And then Richard came over and clinked beer cans with Lucy and they sat together just outside the tent.
I remember I spat into the lake and Rhondra looked up with an embellishment of disgust. I was the one that ought to be disgusted. Richard began stroking Lucy’s hair and Steve’s tongue was down Rhondra’s throat and there I was, the unloved one of the group sitting by the lake on my Jack Jones.
I looked at Richard. He had long hair and impressive facial hair sprouting for a seventeen year old. He was skinny and wore tight fitting button shirts and usually had the latest fashion, even back in school, where all I had was one set of school uniform and a trackie for the weekends - he managed to have Levis and Fred Perry and everything.
At that moment I felt a burning hatred for Richard. I hated his charm. I hated how spoiled he was and that his dad was rich and owned a glass producing business. I hated the fact he had those Ryan O’Neill good looks and I hated his hand going up the skirt of Lucy Baldwin. I hated how much he’d been given in life and that moment I would’ve given anything to have ended it.
But I didn’t end it. I promise you that I didn’t end it.
I awoke and heard a gurgling noise about forty yards away.
What you have to remember is that I didn’t sleep in the tent that night because I didn’t want to hear everybody screwing each other.
My sleeping bag was behind the tent. The lake was in front of the tent. And whatever happened happened within the tent and by the lake I was not privy to.
I was behind the tent sleeping alone and somehow that saved my life.
I quickly shot up when I awoke to that horrific noise and I instantly ran down to where the noise was coming from. The noise was down on the grassy verge by the side of the lake and I saw Steven Barry clutching his throat. I ran to face him. He was on his knees struggling to keep balance.
Steven was looking at me with mad dog eyes. I could see the fear and panic in them. His pupils were the size of two raisins glimmering and highlighting his panic against the moonlight.
The blood was running red through his fingertips and he was spitting little red drops out towards me from his mouth as he tried to speak but he couldn’t muster the fucking words. I felt frozen, on the spot frozen at that moment. I couldn’t do anything.
Now, this was 1973. So, we didn’t have mobile phones and instant access to the emergency services. And I was out there in the middle of nowhere pretty much on a fucking camping trip. People with hindsight look back and say I didn’t do fuck all and that’s not a fair accusation. But there was literally nothing I could do. I watched Steven Barry die in front of me. I watched it slow and painfully.
I ran into the tent to check on the others and I saw the bloodbath inside.
I saw Lucy’s insides decapitated and her hands clutching the remains of her small intestine. I saw Richard’s torso nearly cut in two and I saw Rhondra face down in what looked like her own soul.
They were all dead except for me. And my last thought at that time was that I’d be suspect number one. I remember falling to my knees. I remember feeling the blood smeared across my face. God knows how it got on there. I remember my tears and I remember wailing into the emptiness of the night.
Now, I can hazard a guess as to what happened.
Lucy took it in the stomach and had her innards ripped from within her. Richard got the axe through the midsection - cut him in two. Rhondra took multiple hits in the back of the head and Steven… Steven got to live to see it all and then he had his throat slit and wandered out to the side of the lake to die there.
And where was I throughout all this?
Behind the tent. Oblivious to the bloodbath inside.
And for forty-five years since, I’ve been anything but oblivious.
But I didn’t do it.