Daniel’s mind woke, groggy, his brain banging against the side of his skull as he allowed the light into his eyes. He blinked a few times, not quite knowing why, or how, his skull had managed to find the pain currently pounding away. He lowered his head, wincing slightly, as his thoughts finally realised that he was strapped to a wooden chair. He tried to move his arms, then legs, as the situation became all too real.
Adrenaline started to move through his body, as his mind tried to convince itself that this was still a dream, one of those fantastical films, whilst actually understanding that the situation was happening. He stopped moving, for a few seconds, just to listen and think. He could hear the wind chimes, across from him, gently create their own rhythm as he looked left, then right, taking in the surrounding area. He was trapped inside an old shed, the area seemingly familiar to him, but not remembered as much as he’d have liked.
He moved his arms again, testing the bonds, which consisted of four old leather belts. With one around each arm, securing him to the chair’s arm rests, the other two secured his legs to the lower parts of the chair. He’d scream, shout for help but, somehow, he didn’t think that it would do him any good. Whomever took him hostage didn’t see fit to bond his mouth which, to Daniel, could mean only one thing. A remote location. No chance of a casual passer by hearing him.
His head, still pounding and made worse by the adrenaline coursing through his body, made his heart race. He wanted to do something, to shout, with his body tensing as much as possible in an effort to escape his bonds. The chair, although seemingly old to his eyes, was made of stern craftsmanship, unlike the modern chairs of the current day. He shook himself, the frustration rising within, the incarceration becoming all too real. He stopped moving, his breathing fast, heart still racing, as he heard a door open behind him.
He looked left, then right, as much as he could, the high-backed chair ensuring that his view remain limited. A few seconds blinked in front of his eyes, as he glanced over the roughly thrown tools and various mechanical items upon the wall mounted bench. He had seen this place before, once, or maybe twice, but he couldn’t quite recall.
From his side a figure appeared, as Daniel’s eyes immediately glued themselves to the person stepping into view. His mouth fell open as he recognised the person.
“Don’t be shocked boy, this day had to come!” said the figure.
Daniel tried to find words, any words, to express his confusion but instead found a silence that confused him. His breathing calmed a little, as all attention moved to his thoughts. He hadn’t seen this man, her Father, for over four years and now he was here in front of Daniel.
“Wha…” Daniel started to speak but, as the word fell from his mouth, the man spun around and struck Daniel with a large twenty-four-inch spanner. His head violently flew to the side, the pain flaring within his mind, as his neck fell limp. Blood, slowly, started to trickle from within his mouth as he held his eyes closed. The pain stabbed him, crushed him, as he remained completely silent. He waited, holding the pain away from him as much as possible, as tears appeared from his eyes. He’d only felt pain such as this a few times in his life.
The moment, eventually, eased a little and Daniel looked up towards the man. Daniel was the type of person that wanted answers, for an action or intention, but right at this moment all he had was pain and anger within his eyes. He looked at the man, her Father, taking in all of the detail of his face. He looked like hell, a haunted man, with dark shades around his eyes and lines upon his face from the lack of sleep. Then, everything clicked, as he realised why he was sat in the chair. He knew exactly why this was happening and there was, more than likely, nothing he could say or do to change the situation.
Daniel closed his mouth, the defiance rising within him, partly accepting the thoughts within his mind. If he were to be tortured, to be brutally beaten, he’d try his utmost best not to provide this man, the man in front of him, any satisfaction. What had happened was not his fault. None of it or, maybe, all of it.
The man turned away, to place his hands upon the bench, as he sighed and shook his head. All Daniel could do was watch, as the Father picked-up a small claw hammer. He braced himself and, all at once, allowed his mind to drift away from this place. He just wanted to see her smile once again.
He’d sworn to let her go, to abandon her, despite her name appearing somewhere within his thoughts each day of the week. She was, to him, everything. She was the light within his life, that person that seemingly filled a void within him. He’d spent years of his time searching, waiting, wondering if he’d ever find someone that would truly understand him. Top to bottom. Inside as well as the obvious outside. Her smile, whenever she appeared next to him, warmed his heart like no other had done in all of his years of life but, as with many moments, places and people, there were imperfections and cracks under the surface.
He accepted her for who she was, what she was, as his own imperfections were rare broken trophies to give, to lend, to exclaim and present to someone he loved more than life. As a smile appeared upon his face, the hammer struck his small toe. He let go of the pretence, the bravado and screamed at the top of his lungs. The pain embraced him as his body shook and tried to escape. He held her image within his mind, her beautiful face giving him hope that he’d escape this place.
A minute, two minutes, moved away from him as his foot throbbed with pain. His tears, still streaking down his face, as his fear, anger, confusion and any other emotion mixed themselves together. Finally, he spoke again, knowing the very answer to his question,
“Why are you doing this?”
The man spun round, placing his hands onto Daniel’s arms and, with his face directly in front of his, spat his words, “You know damn well why I’m doing this, you took her away from me!”
Daniel wanted to defend himself, but a part of him wondered if he could have done more, said more, or been more. She was his partner, but she was also this man’s daughter. He lowered his head again, as the man walked behind the chair. The pain, still encompassing every single part of him, started to ease ever so slightly.
Daniel watched as the man returned, the shock of the events finally overcoming his confused mind. He watched as the man placed a shot gun in front of Daniel, sat upon a crudely created stand. After a few more seconds, the man placed a small amount of cord around Daniel’s left hand.
“You know what to do!” said the man, as he moved away from the chair as well as Daniels view. He heard the door open, then slam shut, leaving him alone. He looked down the barrel of the shotgun, the grief once again returning to his mind. He’d done his crying, his penance and shame and doubt being all too obvious, until the day he’d finally come to terms with the events of his past. What was done, was done. He clenched his left hand, wondering if he should slowly wrap the cord around his fingers and gently pull the trigger. The hammer would be his final judgement, his release from the world.
Joe walked away from the garage, walking up the ever so slightly slanted green grassed field. He, seemingly, had no regrets over what had just taken place and, as he turned to sit by the old tree, he glanced back to the garage. What was done, was just that. He would not regret the moment. He was, overall, a man that did what he did with emotion being something that he simply did not have time for. His Father before him, teaching him many a lesson with the end of a solid boot.
He wanted his daughter back, his baby, his most precious achievement in his vacant, solitary and lonely world. Daniel had taken her from him. From the small distance, he heard the shotgun go off, a single bang followed by silence. Joe lowered his head, his task finally done. Over with. He searched within him, trying to feel, to hold onto anything he could find within him. Instead, her image presented itself as it had done a million times. His baby girl. Gone. No more. He recalled holding her hand, as a child, which was the closest he’d ever managed to feel anything in his god forsaken life.
He witnessed her beautiful smile the last time he hugged her, wishing and begging for whatever deity would listen, to bring her back. Instead, he heard the garage door bang shut and, as he raised his head, saw Daniel walk slowly from the garage. He had parts of the chair still strapped to his legs and arm. Joe knew that his actions would have consequences and, like his Father had said, he’d stand tall and take whatever waited for him like a man.
Daniel focused, seeing Joe off in the distance. He turned slightly, starting to weakly walk towards the man. That man. The person that had made his life a living hell for many, many months, despite the situation already being the most crushing emotional time of his life. He’d tried reason, he’d judged himself in front of everyone but nothing, absolutely nothing could or would change Joe’s outlook on events. Joe blamed Daniel for everything and, despite the events being re-lived millions of times within Daniel’s mind, there would be no escape from Joe’s judgement.
To Daniel, Joe was a stern man, a straight-talking man, the white being white and the dark being ever so dark. Joe was a man that would never forgive someone, anyone, once crossed. At first, Daniel had to jump through hoops to gain the man’s trust in order to date his Daughter but, finally upon a sunlit day, her Father had agreed. It was the happiest he’d ever see her, his Joanne. Their Joanne.
Joe watched Daniel inch ever closer, recalling the day that he agreed to his Daughter’s wishes. He knew that she had issues, most likely caused by his own actions, but he had a glimmer of hope that Daniel would help in his own special way. He knew that Daniel was a good young man, a gentle and kind man, yet his own protective, stagnant nature simply wished to protect his little girl. ‘All girls grew up’, his then wife would say, but that still didn’t mean that he’d let go. He’d be her Father until the end. Protecting, helping, holding her hand in any way he could until he himself left this place. None of what happened was supposed to happen.
Daniel inched ever forward, each step sending a striking pain into his leg and mind. He wouldn’t stop. He wouldn’t give in as this time, finally, would be his moment to say what he should have said many, many years previous. A few more steps, a few more moments and, finally, he reached Joe. Daniel threw the shotgun to the ground, his breathing thanking him for finally stopping. His body shook, the events threatening to break his body with pure exhaustion, but before then he would say what was needed to be said.
He braced himself, pausing for a second, before he started to speak, “Look at me!” he commanded. Joe kept his head down. “Look at me!” he asked again, pleading with Joe. Slowly, Joe looked up, staring at Daniel. A small gasp escaped from Daniel’s breath as he watched a small tear fall from Joe’s eye. He’d never seen such a thing, even at the funeral. Joe was not a man to feel emotion. Either way, no matter the moment, Daniel had to speak the truth. He steadied himself, holding Joe’s gaze.
“Don’t you dare blame me for what happened! You knew how she felt before I even arrived. I tried to help but nothing I said changed anything. Through the darkness I held her hand each day. Every single day when she cried, or just stared out of the window,” Daniel stopped, feeling the pain inside rise within him, the tears finding his eyes, “Do you know how it feels to be helpless? Of course you do. You can change your own life but when it comes to someone you love, feeling that they’re trapped within their own head, there’s nothing you can say or do!”
Daniel stumbled backwards slightly, as his body tried to find the energy to remain upright, “She saw no purpose in her life. You and me, we can overlook that and get on with things. She couldn’t. I said to Joanne, on that last day before I left to get food, that so many people find a reason to die, yet all we ever needed was one reason to live! I asked her. I held her hand. I asked her, ‘do you have anything worth living for?’ and she replied, ‘no’. No emotion. None.”
Daniel felt his heart break again, remembering the words and seeing her broken eyes within his mind, “Do you know how much that hurt me, knowing that the way I felt meant nothing to her? That nothing I could do would change anything? I felt destroyed. But that didn’t matter. As love finds a way. Doesn’t it, Joe! Love finds a way!”
Daniel cried, his heart falling to pieces within him as he continued. Joe, still staring straight at Daniel, listened.
“Then I went out. I did what was needed. I came back and I found her, Joe, I found her on the floor. Cut. Dead. Gone. No more. Every part of me died with her on that day. Every part. I’ve never been the same. Neither have you. So how dare you ask me to take my own life for your guilt. Neither of us are trained to deal with how she felt. We were to blame and at the same time, it’s not our fault. No black. No white. It’s grey Joe, all just grey.”
Daniel turned from Joe, walking away slowly. No more words. He wouldn’t waste any further time on guilt, loss or pain. Since that day he’d tried to help as many people he could, he’d trained, understood, descended to the depths of depression and learnt so very, very much about himself and others. He’d risen, creating a new person from whatever was left inside him. He didn’t wish to blame Joe for his actions as, he knew, Joe would judge himself in his own black and white way.
As Daniel walked, stumbling a few times and wincing from the missing toe, he heard a loud bang from behind. The second cartridge. Daniel stopped, for a few seconds, eyes closed, before continuing forward. He could hear Joe, sobbing, behind him, knowing that he’d eventually, hopefully, find some sort of peace. He wished that Joe would his find his Daughter’s memory again, within the grey area of life. He wished it could have been another way, he’d wished that he could have actually helped Joe, but the years of bitterness and constrained emotion, had finally found its way into the Black, the White, as well as the grey world, they all lived within.