Deep in the hills of Scotland, far from Edinburgh’s best, down from the ruined castle, sat the town of Dunblane. Out of the crossroads, the people there, they had a way to themselves. Marrying their cousins, third generation removed. Raising their children and their children’s children within the walls, out of reach of strangers. Telling themselves tales of lost Crusades and a harmony best not breached.
At the Primary and over at the schoolyard surrounding it, they thought the man in the parka, with the chiseled face and the innocent eyes, was nothing more than a nuisance. He did not, after all, like to be touched. And yet he did. His hands were clean, almost immaculate, as he handled the camera. A few clicks that would not be heard brought the innocence of the boys and girls to his eyes, and made him glad. A cheery, toothy smile would cast a light that would make the little ones happy too. And who was to say what was the matter?
Gwenne, however, had her suspicions. Watching the man from her window, she saw him rub those delicate hands together, talk in a wee voice on bended knee, to Lynn, 5, and Thomas, 6. It did not seem right, no matter how clean his hands, or that he did not like to be touched. Rubbing her wild Scot hair and cheek, with the blush reaching to her ear, she decided to make the call.
The townfathers did not believe her. Scratching gray heads worn thin by the age and the times, they said it did not seem possible. One of their own with a family and a pedigree that reached past England’s own Conqueror? That he would commit such a heinous act? No, that was not possible. No, they would not make the call. But, yes, they would get the word out.
The man, Hamilton, was not happy. He saw the town gathering against him. The angry stares cast down from those whose lineage was still young. The whisperings in the courtyard and the town market. It could not be denied. He wiped his hands on the towel, and for a moment-- nothing more --his eyes grew old.
The door to the schoolyard was closed, its iron gate rattling in the air. Hamilton’s eyes lit with fire, his hands rubbed raw. The little ones spoke in his head, as well as all around. But there was little he could do. Save, bite the nails, and clean the gun that was shining in need of a bath. He listened to the voices and thought it through.
Gwenne had gathered her children, her little ones, in the hall. Well lit and expansive, with windows high above, with the sun shining just right. Here, she would make her speech about that which should not have to be told. Except perhaps when childhood had grown past its innocence, into that darker world where few dared to dwell. And strangers were not to be feared, so much as taken in hand. Still, it would have to be said while they were young.
Hamilton listened outside the door, his eyes lit with that crystal light, his hands rubbing through his now-mousy hair. There were leprechauns in his brain that much he knew. He merely had to follow. Turning the knob, he entered the hall.
Gwenne was just beginning her speech when she saw him. Him, the man. No longer dressed in a parka and smart pants, but in a suit of a country gentleman from the last century. She cleared her throat again, spoke the one word she had said earlier --”Strangers”-- and stopped. Their eyes met, hers, green; his, hazel with that strange light. He walked forward.
There was a silence before the screams. A silence borne of shock more than of anger or fear. Then, Hamilton fired his first shot. It went into the belly of Thomas, 6, who then bled heavily. Not knowing that the young boy he had just killed bore a startling resemblance to himself at that age, Hamilton fired again. He did not want to be touched. Not now, not ever. There were screams, and there was laughter -- a loud, riotous laughter that had its birth in something understood at last, of the ultimate touch.
Gwenne was the last one to feel the pain. Her screams spent, her dress torn and bloody among the bodies, she crouched in a corner of the hall. She whispered one word: “Why?” Then she died.
Hamilton saved the last bullet for himself. His country suit spilt with blood, he was unclean, and he knew it. He had tasted a touch most men would not savor. Now, he would never be touched again. And he would dance in the grave with the leprechauns of his ancestors, who had defeated another Queen across the shores of another time. He opened his mouth.
When the dust, the smoke, and the mist cleared, the town buried its own amid the devils of a lost innocence. While another myth would be torn from the heart of a once forgotten man, scion himself to the battle of another era. It would take time, they knew, to turn blood into stone. They could only try.
Written by Will Mayo