Apart from the toilet, it was just an ordinary tired looking terraced house. Grey pebble-dashed and square. Set in the middle of a row of other such houses. An abode whose designer must have heard of the word aesthetics, thought it meant a drug to knock a patient to sleep, and then abandoned his designs to banality. Because inside the terraced houses, connected to an equally unappealing estate, were also minds deadened to beauty.
No. 68, despite its number, was in the middle of the dullness. A boy of eight, and a family of aliens who struggled with the concept of empathy, occupied it at the time of this story.
The boy, on the other hand, understood other people’s feelings too well. Brittle fear and anger of a desperate world sometimes bent his spine to snapping. The confusing concepts of dark thoughts caused a certain constant ready stiffness in his legs to bolt, even when asleep.
Many, and that included teachers and the family of aliens he lived with, assumed he suffered a malady of the mind. He allowed them to lead him along the shadowy path of insanity for so long he believed it must true.
Until the toilet told him the opposite.
Before their conversation, one balmy night in August, he feared the toilet as much as he did the rest of the world. A noise screaming forth every time he pulled the chain to flush filled the boy with freezing dread. The shriek felt like his heart was being squeezed by gnarled and scabby talons.
The boy, whose names was equal to the sum of his anxieties, knew how much of a crime leaving the toilet unflushed was to the older aliens. So, he pulled the chain at arms-length before fleeing back to the safety of his rickety bed as the toilet howled and gurgled in utter pain.
His alien brother, whose name battered through doors and broke tables, scoffed and ridiculed the boy. His alien sister, much younger, and deaf to hearts of humans, thought it was a silly game.
This carried on for all the years of Buck Rogers and most of the boy’s Happy Days.
It carried on through to a day when stewed whole onion and the death of the King added to the bubbling in his tummy.
He awoke that sticky summer’s night and ran in panic along the short corridor to the cold blue bathroom. The choices offered were bath, sink, or dreaded toilet.
The boy was aware the alien mother, whose name equalled that of a queen’s sister, did not enjoy cleaning chunks. So down into the throat of the beast went his dread and in went his spinning head.
Out came noises and root vegetables.
‘Bless,’ his bleary alien mother called from the doorway. ‘Don’t forget to flush when finished. Sick leaves such a persistent stain.’
He watched through the blur of forced retching tears as she skipped back to bed.
The boy was alone once more.
Or so he thought.
Too rung out for fear, the child pulled the chain and then sank back to the scuffed and stinky linoleum.
A new wave of vomit threatened to tear his throat apart. His breathing, ragged, bounced off the floor in bass gusts.
‘There, there, my friend,’ a kind voice announced.
The boy had little strength to run. So, with careful movements and internal cajoles to placate his tummy, he sat up and looked around the tiny room.
‘I’m down here. In the toilet,’ said the voice.
The boy, with all the tentative care of a mouse nearing cheese in a trap, peered over the rim of the bowl.
Yet, he only saw his own face reflected in the little puddle of water at the bottom.
Relief flooded his already cramped stomach before he retched a small amount of green bile into the faint mirror.
‘You are an odd one, compared to those I gorge on,’ said the voice when the retching passed and the boy had flushed once more.
‘Why?’ The boy asked, curiosity overcoming his fear. ‘And what does gorge mean?’
‘Gorge means to eat everything they send me,’ said the voice.
The boy played the idea in his grated mind before retching at the thought.
‘That’s disgusting,’ the boy said, his voice hoarse from the sickness and the shock. ‘You eat pooh?!’
‘And you’re sick. And their fluid. It’s how I survive. And in return I send out payments to those who accept them. You, my lad don’t stick around long enough to receive them. Naughty, naughty, little Morty.’
‘My name’s not Morty. And what payments?’
‘My most super horrendous thoughts.’
The boy was sure he knew what “horrendous” meant. Because, only a month previous, his teacher had remarked on him having a reading age of twelve, during parents’ evening, and it had filled him with pride. He wasn’t too sure he wanted the unseen voice’s most super horrendous thoughts.
Though it would explain everything horrific that had happened around the house: the scary world in which he lived; the vicious arguments he heard; the many times his alien mother ran out for days and weeks; and the painful backhands his alien stepfather gave him and his alien brother for the smallest misdemeanour.
The voice inside the toilet had manufactured every single woe!
The boy shot away from the toilet, staggered along the corridor and threw himself into his alien parents’ bedroom, determined to warn them.
‘M-mum!’ He stammered, unsure whether he might retch again. ‘We need to leave this house! All the troubles we’ve had aren’t because you are aliens! It’s because there’s a voice in the toilet who eats your pooh, drinks your wee and fills you with super horrendous thoughts when you pull the chain!’
His alien stepfather slipped his long, hairy legs out of their bed, with a slow fluidity, as if mulling over the problem. And then he swiped the boy across the head with his bucket hands, causing stars to dance behind the child’s already beating head.
‘Go back to bed, you idiot,’ his alien stepfather growled before slipping back under his bed blankets.
The boy then knew his alien family were too far gone for help. So, he threw up on their nice carpet and staggered back to bed, content never to listen to the toilet again.