A FREE short story by Colin Devonshire

Did You Hear?

“Listen…” Tom tilted his scared and misformed head until his ear rested on his shoulder. He smiled, a crooked grin, he was happy.

“Listen to what? All I can hear is the distant rumble of thunder and the occasional crack of lightning.”

“No, it’s nearer. Listen.”

Tom’s changed ears and shoulders.

Brian hated it when his brother did that. “You look madder than normal,” he whined.

“I may be mad, but at least I can hear.”

Brian smiled down sadly and moved behind Tom, he started pushing the wheelchair towards their home. It started to rain. A few drops at first, in Bangkok at this time of year it meant a storm was coming. Brian hurried across the grass to the path which led them out of the park.

“Can you hear it now?” asked Tom.

“No, just the thunder above and thunder of traffic in front,” Brian said as he judged a gap in the traffic.

“Stop!” shouted Tom.

“What, why? We’ll get splatted by a lorry if we stop here.”

“Back to the park, now!” Tom pointed behind. Pointing behind was difficult, it was easier to aim his nose. Brian knew what he meant.

“It will pour down any minute.”

“I don’t care.”

“At least the rain is not cold here,” said Brian, shaking his head, as he retraced his steps.

“Now, listen,” Tom’s ear eased its way to the welcoming collar bone.

“I still can’t hear anything odd.”

“It’s a whisper, someone is trying to tell me something.”

Brian tutted and shook his head. “Come on, mum will worry.”

Tom leant further and further back with each turn of his wheels. Desperate to hear the whispers clearer.

Brian, one arm raised and waving madly, ducked between the traffic. Thunder broke above them, within seconds, they were soaked; they splashed to the other side.

“I want to go back. I can’t hear the whispers,” said Tom.

“Don’t be daft, you’ll catch your death of cold.”

“I’d rather die.”

They were in moody silence on the ride up in the lift. Tom fidgeted. 

The condo door closed behind them. Tom rocked his chair and wept.

“What happened, what’s the matter with your brother?” said their mum.

Brian looked at her and shrugged his shoulders. He told her, what little there was to tell.

“Tea, coffee, hot chocolate?” she asked after drying Tom and Brian returned from his hot shower.

Brian gratefully accepted a coffee, Tom ignored his mother. She placed a hot drink in his favourite mug on the table in front of him. He swept it to the floor.

“Tom?” she wailed, looking at Brian.

Once more, Brian shrugged.

The storm eased, boding farewell with a tremendous rumble.

“If it has stopped raining, pop to the store and pick up a few things, can you?”

He stuffed some cash and a shopping list into his pocket. He was pleased to leave his brother and his mood to their mum.

“Do you want to watch Netflix while I shower?” She turned on the movie channel, finding a Super Hero picture for Tom.

Tom smiled the first time for hours. He listened to the bathroom door click and let himself out. The lift was no problem to go down, coming up was impossible for him as he couldn’t reach the number ’32’ button. That didn’t worry him. Their condo block had a ramp at the rear entrance, he went that way. He wheeled to the Convent Road, crossing proved difficult, there was no break in the slow-moving traffic. Eventually, there was a gap, he edged out, horns blasted. His middle finger flashed at drivers. He would not stop. On reaching the other side, he had a new problem. Not only was sweat stinging his eyes, but the kerb was too high, he was stuck. Brakes screeched and horns blasted. A taxi driver jumped out swearing at him, but aided him up, quickly jumping back in his cab.

A huge smile spread across Tom’s face as he rolled to the park.

He cupped his ear and followed the sound.

“Whissss, whissp, wis.”

It got louder.

At the condo, Brian dumped his shopping on the kitchen counter.

“Did you get everything? All fresh I hope?”

“Yes, mum.”

The tv was blasting a Marvel character as she flew across the screen.

“What are you watching, Tom?” he called.

“He’s still in a foul temper,” called his mum, as she straightened her skirt.

“Where is Tom?” asked Brian.

They ran from room to room.

“I bet I know where he’s going. Do you want to come with me, or had you better stay here?” asked Brian.

“I’m coming, if he comes back, he can wait outside,” she grabbed her phone and followed Brian to the main road.

They danced between queues of traffic nearly colliding with a food delivery motorbike.

“There he is,” pointed Brian. They ran to Tom.

“Thank God, he’s safe,” his mum panted.

Brian slowed, holding her back.

“Who is he talking to?” he asked.

Tom’s arms were waving, pointing, and flapping up and down. He was holding a one-way conversation.

“No, mum wait, we don’t want to shock him. What is he saying?”

They crept closer, ears alert.

“That’s terrible, I am so sorry,” Tom said. “Who would do that?” He carried on.

Once more, Brian stopped his mum from grabbing his brother. He showed her he had opened Google on his mobile. He plotted in their position and looked for news.

The one-way chat continued. Tom was talking to a young Scottish lad. He had a new and beautiful girlfriend. Tom was now talking in Thai.

“He only knows, yes and no, good morning and goodbye. Where did he learn that lot?” asked his mum.

“Shh, he is talking to the girl, her name is Noo.”

Brian’s Thai was slightly better. “She was here with the British tourist. At least I think that’s what she told Tom.”

He started playing with Google. 

His face suddenly changed, no longer interested in his brother’s daydream. Fear crushed the smile from his face.

“What’s wrong?”

“Look,” he showed the small screen, then read aloud.

“A UK tourist was murdered with a female friend, in Bangkok’s largest park.”

“Did Tom read the paper, or maybe he saw it on the tv?” asked his mum.

“I doubt it. The gruesome murder happened ten years ago,” Brian said.

The traffic was crawling past, squeals, and toots were heard in the distance. Tom fell silent, his arms dropped to the sides of his wheelchair. Frozen for a second.

 Suddenly, Tom stood, he shoved his chair backwards with all his might. Brian and his mum dodged the flying wheels.

“Where is she?” Tom screamed.

“Who darling? Please calm down,” said his mum.

“My lassie, ma hen,” the Glaswegian accent was unmissable. Tom stormed off towards the red-light district.

“A club owner was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Khun Noo, and her Scottish friend,” read Brian.