The New Suit A chilling short story by Simon Pocklington

The New Suit

Creative Writing, Short Stories

A chilling short story by Simon Pocklington

“Jonathan Mills is boring.” The strange thing about this statement is that it was uttered by Jonathan Mills himself as he peered groggily into the bathroom mirror, his face ringed by a Father Christmas beard of shaving foam.

His mind had come to the decision to vocalise this sometime between his feet hitting the rough carpet of the bedroom floor as he searched for his soft woolly slippers and the moment he had squirted the shaving foam onto his face without dripping it onto the pale grey stripes of his pyjamas. Not that dripping shaving foam would have made him any more exciting he mused as he reached for his razor, but it may have indicated a slightly more ‘devil may care attitude’.

Although he had finally voiced this fact this was not a conclusion he had come to in the short walk from the bedroom to the bathroom; that could almost have been interesting. A sudden revelation that, instead of being the dynamic and engaging person he had thought he was, he was actually boring, might have been a life-changing event, but this was not. He had known this all of his life or at least he had grown to know this over the last thirty-two years of his existence.

It all started when he was a baby as most things do with most people. He had not been a crying, wailing, screaming baby that everybody commented to his poor mother on. He had been quiet, placid even, but with overtones of sulky, even sullen so that no one really noticed him. He had not been beautiful, but then he was not so ugly that he frightened little old ladies that peered into his pram or curdled the milk.

As he grew up no one found him fascinating. The girls he fancied at school had all said that he was nice, they would love to have him as a friend, and that was all. In his adult life, no one had desired him and asked him to take them to bed or even ravish them. To date, his three sexual experiences could be described as fumbling, a non-event and embarrassing in that order.

No one had ever looked at him admiringly but now eyes were watching Jonathan Mills very closely, and they found him fascinating. Their owner studied his every move, his every grimace, mannerism and gesture. Jonathan Mills was exactly what they had been looking for.

Jonathan finished his shave, went downstairs, ate two Weetabix, drank one cup of tea and left his house at precisely 8:17am. He put on his coat as dark clouds were gathering over the city and a few splats of rain had already appeared on the windowpane of his mother’s house.

He still thought of the red brick terrace as his mother’s house despite the fact that she had quietly died eight years ago and as her only son he had inherited the property and a small amount of savings that she had accumulated for a rainy day that never came.

One of the slightly more interesting things in Jonathan’s life was that his Father had left before he was born abandoning his mother for a more engaging woman who apparently lived in Sussex. How his father had managed to meet a woman who lived in Sussex Jonathan had never managed to ascertain as his mother was tight-lipped on the subject.

He had sometimes pondered whether these events actually counted as something of interest in his life since they had happened before he was born.

His mother’s funeral had been a depressing affair although he had to admit, despite the tales of wild Irish wakes, he had never been to a funeral that was not. He had spent what he considered to be an extravagant amount of money on a new suit which, since it was black, now languished, hidden behind the cheap, sensible clothes in his wardrobe. He occasionally took it out, tried it on, shaking out the creases before returning it to the hanger.

In the days following the funeral he had considered spending his mother’s savings on something spectacular but, despite hours spent browsing, he could not think what. After a week he had decided to only blow some of the money and after a month, that it was best kept for the rainy day that his mother always talked about.

This decision was also motivated by his one and only attempt to do something exciting which had led to him handing a small wad of cash to a local prostitute called Alice, who he had discovered online. This facilitated his third sexual experience, the one that was classed as embarrassing.

The number 42 bus was only six minutes late and the Nottingham traffic was only moderately snarled up so he arrived at his office twelve minutes early. He had calculated his morning routine so that, allowing for the vagaries of public transport he would arrive between 8:45 and 9:00am sharp, which was rather immaterial as his office worked flexitime anyway.

Jonathan hung up his coat and smiled at his co-worker Sophie. “Good morning,” he said in what he thought was a bright and breezy tone.
“Good morning,” Sophie smiled back.
Jonathan often wondered if she secretly fancied him and sometimes indulged in idle fantasies that involved a secret office romance and after-hours trysts.

He was unaware that the slightly plump Sophie indulged in almost nightly romps with her boyfriend, a bricklayer, who was aptly named Roger. This accounted for her good mood which meant she smiled at most people including the slightly grey figure of Jonathan and the fact that she yawned quite a lot by mid-morning.

Jonathan’s office consisted of a desk surrounded by a waist-level partition in the corner of a room that contained seven other similar workstations. A computer hummed almost inaudibly under the desk and the monitor displayed his login screen. There were two neat stacks of paper in his filing trays and an assortment of pens in a cheap plastic desk tidy.

Where some of his co-workers’ partitions were garlanded with pictures of families, children and holidays abroad – there was a large picture of Roger pinned to the wall of Sophie’s directly in front of Jonathan, which accounted for the frequency of the times she seemed to smile at him – Jonathan’s was blank save for the list of telephone extensions and the fire evacuation procedure both of which he hardly ever used.

Jonathan left work at precisely 5:30 and pulling the collar of his coat tight around his neck stepped into the rain. The reflections of the city streetlights glistened on the wet pavement and left deep shadows in unlit doorways. Neither Jonathan nor any of the people scurrying past him noticed a dark shadow following him, drifting from doorway to doorway as if avoiding the light.

Jonathan stopped obediently at the red light of a pedestrian crossing. His shadow stopped abruptly behind him; caught in the light for a moment. Cars sped past in an almost solid stream of metal. Anyone who stepped out, or who was pushed, would surely be mown down.

People swarmed around them but no one looked at the figure in the soot-black cape that hid its shape and flowed around it like smoke, its face was hidden by a black, monk’s hood. A close observer would have seen the figure hesitate, its body seemed to stiffen in indecision.

The lights changed, Jonathan crossed the road and arrived at the bus stop at the same time as the bus. The figure seemed to fade away. The bus ground through the traffic as Jonathan idly wondered if he could have walked faster.

At his stop, he stepped down and headed through a cut toward his mother’s house. The path between the high garden walls was dark. Most people would have imagined ghosts or monsters or at the very least the odd mugger lurking in the gloom when there were none but Jonathan was oblivious to the shadow that had appeared behind him. It was closer now, but made no sound.

Jonathan stopped and turned as if he finally sensed something behind him. The shadow was close, no more than three feet from him but he did not shout or run. Now that is interesting, he thought as he looked into the hood. The figure’s face seemed to form and reform into a series of grotesque masks that seemed to drip slime. Something protruded from the cloak that looked like the end of a snaking scorpion’s tail.

There was no pain as sting lanced into his stomach, it surged through his body until it latched onto his spinal cord. The strange figure began to dissolve, it swirled like soot black smoke that sucked into the Jonathan’s wound like the film of a slow motion explosion running in reverse.

As he looked at the beast and felt its strange appendage push into him it occurred to Jonathan Mills that this really was something that was not boring. A picture of this on Facebook would go viral and suddenly he would have thousands, if not millions, of followers.

Unfortunately by the time he had concluded this he was dead in the sense that the original Jonathan Mills had ceased to exist but his body was very much alive. It jiggled a bit as the new owner shook himself rather like someone trying on a new suit and shaking out the creases.

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