By Angela P Nobody really knew who Mr. Fanshawe was. One minute the house at the end of the street was empty: the next Mr. Fanshawe lived there. No one could really describe him. Some said he was short; others that he was tall. Some said he was old; others that he was young or was he middle aged? Some said he had grey hair, others that he had no hair at all. But what they all said was that he kept himself to himself. No one saw him about much, despite the fact that he was often seen in the park. He was a regular visitor to the local shops, despite none of the shopkeepers being able to give a description of what he actually looked like. To everyone he was like a distant memory that no matter how hard they tried to recall, somehow escaped them. Mr. Fanshawe liked it this way. Freddie Felix Fanshawe had decided long ago to keep himself to himself. To cause as little fuss as possible and to be as chameleon-like as he could be to blend into the background and be hardly noticed by anyone. This suited his purposes down to the ground. As no one recalled seeing him in the park; no one associated him with the withered flowers around where he had been sitting. No one noticed the icy chill they felt as they passed him in the street, until later in the evening when they felt a sudden shudder whilst sitting around the dining table enjoying their evening meal, and as they shuddered a vague memory of something that had happened earlier in the day flittered across their mind, then disappeared; as hard to grasp as a wisp of smoke. Maurice Cameron, the grocer, threw away the rotten fruit and vegetables that he found in his shop after Mr. Fanshawe had paid him a visit, with a slight yet dismissive memory that they had been perfectly fresh earlier that morning. Thadeus Tunstall, the butcher sighed with regret each evening he gave his dog the semi-rotten meat he cleared out of his shop on the days after Mr. Fanshawe called in. When Mr. Fanshawe entered the newsagents, he left the magazines he touched scorched around the edges. Margery Green, the owner, blamed the local children with whom she was convinced had been playing with matches in her shop. In contrast the roses in his neighbour’s garden froze at his touch with the brittle petals and leaves instantly dropping to the ground and smashing into a million pieces. But Mr. Fanshawe liked it like this. He sat in his room, for he only used one room in his house. The upstairs rooms he left to whosoever chose to reside in there: mice, rats, spiders…

He cooked his meals on his little stove, and slept in the corner of his room on an old shabby mattress. His worn Mac he kept hung on a nail on the back of the door, with his battered hat on top of it. Beside the door were the boots that he always wore when he left his home. Sizzling away on the stove was a saucepan full of Mr. Fanshawe’s favourite food. He cooked it up once a week, and there it sat as he nibbled at it throughout the day till the pot was empty and he made some more. He didn’t need much to eat. In the corner of the room was a pile of well thumbed books. Chalked on the wall behind them were names and numbers. Many people, had they seen them, would have thought them to be calculations; others to be some kind of puzzle. Only Mr. Fanshawe knew their true meaning. For the books, the numbers and the letters on the wall gave him his name. A name he quite liked. Freddie Felix Fanshawe. But before the name became a name it was just letters. And before the letters became letters they were numbers. And the numbers were given to him not by his father but by men: men who wrote a book. Men who knew nothing of him and men who still know nothing of him, but he exists in their world and is very happy in the world he lives in. Every 20 months, or so, someone mysteriously disappears in Mr. Fanshawe’s town. No one suspects Mr. Fanshawe, but Mr. Fanshawe feeds well for the next 20 months, or so; cooking his meals once a day on his little stove. Every 88 weeks, or so, a child wakes up from a terrible nightmare in Mr. Fanshawe’s town and runs to his parents afraid forever more of the bad dreams that scare him out of his sleep each night. No one suspects Mr. Fanshawe, as no one recalls the child passing by him in the park. Every 10 hours, or so, a crime is committed in Mr. Fanshawe’s town, but no one suspects Mr. Fanshawe, as the culprit is always caught but with no recollection of why he committed the crime which he carried out after unconsciously passing Mr. Fanshawe in the street. Every 10 minutes, or so, Mr. Fanshawe gets a warm glow inside as someone dies. Mr. Fanshawe shuffled over to his pot on the stove and picked up his bowl lying next to it. With his solitary spoon he scoops out spoonfuls of his meal into the bowl then returns to his mattress and gazes up at his wall; the wall full of letters, and numbers that gave him his name. Freddie Felix Fanshawe. F F F. For every letter, a corresponding number.

F F F, 6 6 6. The number of The Beast. The Beast was happy in his life, in his home, in his town. Hell was out there; in the town and amongst the people with whom he mixed with, yet who hardly saw him. Meek, mild mannered Mr. Fanshawe was alone in his happiness, knowing that all around him were miserable, blaming their misfortunes on someone else. The one who his father despises. The one who creates more misery than Mr. Fanshawe has ever done. Working out the events, the months, the hours, the minutes, everything to his given number. Weeks to the months. Days to the weeks. Minutes to the hours and seconds to the minutes. To Mr. Fanshawe it was all a game. The Beast was very happy indeed.

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