This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 737 words.
My first memories are far from happy ones. They are mainly of feeling constantly hungry. Then the faces of babysitters and child-minders, names unknown, or since forgotten.
And from the time I could understand a sentence coherently, I knew I was bad.
I was a killer. I had killed my mother. I knew that because my father told me. He told me at least once a day, sometimes twice. Killing mother wasn’t intentional, you understand. It was just that I was such a big baby, and she was such a tiny woman. After a long and weary labour, I was finally released from her body by means of surgery. That operation should have been routine of course, but she didn’t survive it, despite their best attempts to save her.
Father told me that my weight at birth was record-breaking in the county, at almost twelve pounds. As their colleagues fought in vain to save my mother’s life, the maternity ward nurses crowded around the scales to marvel at my size.
I would never be overweight again, father would see to that.
Under his strict observation, I was fed just enough to keep me alive and growing, not one ounce more. I had killed the only woman he had ever loved, and he would forever hate me for that. I suspected the only reason he didn’t murder me in retaliation for my unintentional crime was in memory of her. Because he did seem to truly love her.
Although I never met Paula, I came to know her well. The house was adorned with photos of her, in every room save the lavatory. Her things still hung in the wardrobe of her dressing room, and her dressing table was as she left it the day she went into hospital to give birth. And I was named Paul, after her. The guilt was all-encompassing, and overwhelmed my childish brain.
My father married late in life, having met Paula on a short-haul flight to Brussels to do a business deal. She was an air hostess, he a wealthy passenger in Business Class. And she was a full twenty years younger than him, a prize catch indeed. She wanted children, he didn’t. He was used to getting his way, but not that time. So I came along, and killed the mother who had loved me for nine months before I appeared. She didn’t even get to see me, as she was still sedated when I was grappled from her womb.
Father would talk about that night in the hospital over dinner, usually as I watched him eat after I had finished the tiny portion of food I was allowed. He talked about it to make me understand why I had killed her, and why I could never be allowed to become fat again.
When he finished the story, no matter how many times he told it, he would point his fork at me, and ask the same question. “Now do you understand, boy?” I would nod that I did, but truthfully had no idea what he was talking about. How could I have known how big I was? What possible reason could an intelligent man have to blame his only child for a medical emergency surrounding a birth? But he did his job well, as no amount of rational explanation could assuage the overwhelming guilt I felt, looking at the photos of Paula as I walked upstairs to bed.
My family was rich. Grandfather, who had died long before I killed my mother, had invented something that revolutionised the car industry. I was never too sure what it was, but it was tiny, and had made him wealthy. Father continued the family tradition of inventing, in his case a computerised machine that operated a bench drill, and did away with the need for a person working that drill. I had no interest in the thing, and only knew what he liked to boast about.
Part of the land backing onto our subtsantial house had been used to build a complex of workshops, and that was where father spent most of his time. He only appeared in the house for meals, prepared by the timid housekeeper, Mrs Foyle. She always seemed terrified, and eager to get out and go home as soon as we had finished eating.
I sensed her fear, that fear of my father.
And I wondered about that fear.