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The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 2 – Billy In The Bowl

Billy in the bowl, by Fergal FitzpatrickIMAGE CREDIT: Billy in the bowl, by Fergal Fitzpatrick.

“It’s a bit unbelievable in fairness” James began.  “I mean he’s meant to be a superhero and he’s blind, how can he have super powers when he’s feckin disabled? Daredevil the film is nonsense”. “That’s the bit you struggle with?  At least there is such a thing as people with blindness. That’s a hell of a lot more likely than superman or batman” Aoife snapped back.  The couple were walking back from the cinema on Parnell Street and were nearly at their home in Stoneybatter.  It was a warm summer night, no wind, perfectly still, a little heavy.

They turned onto Arbour Hill, the street was empty, shrouded in darkness with the exception of the prison, which had its own generator. The street lights had not come on, the pair thought there must be some form of blackout. “It’s a bit freaky around here at night, James” Aoife confided nervously.  “Why don’t you get your blind hero to save you, sure the darkness wouldn’t bother him” James teased. “Why do you have to be so cruel J…” Aoife was cut off mid sentence. Somewhere in the dark ahead of them a sharp scrapping noise could be heard, SCREEEK! “What was that?!” a startled Aoife grabbed James’s arm, SCREEEK!  There it was again, the scraping noise seemed to jump wildly about in the darkness, never located to one space, SCREEEEK!  One thing could be none about the piercing tone, it was heading towards them, slowly, clawing its way forward, whatever it was it would be with them soon.

Related Stories:
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 6 – The Acre’s Resurrection
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 5 – Lord Norbury (The Hanging Judge & The Cabra Hound)
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 4 – Narcissus Marsh
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 3 – Darkey Kelly
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 1 – A Pig Faced Woman

A small faint outline of a figure came into view. It was broad but its height inhuman, it seemed to be dragging its way towards them.  Eyes could be seen, like a cat, unnaturally green.  Two large arms turning like windmills in constant momentum, a cycle was completed when that awful SCREEEK could be heard once more.  The monster was propelling now at full speed, its movements were so fast, it would not be long before it was on top of them.  The couple were frozen in fear at this ungodly apparition, they just couldn’t move.  Suddenly, a man came forward from behind the couple, he was broad and fat wearing a cap. He lifted a bright candle in front of both James and Aoife and the noise ceased, and the figure vanished in the haze of the lit wick. “Who are you?!” a bumbling James blurted out, the fat man ignored James’s question “we must leave”.  The trio hurried down to Montpelier Hill, where Aoife and James lived in an old artisan cottage.  They invited the stranger in, partly out of curiosity at what they witnessed, partly out of fear of being alone.  He sat down on an old sofa. It heaved as if gasping for air under his immense frame.  James produced some whiskey to settle everyone’s nerves.  Aoife could contain herself no longer “what the hell was that?!”.

“That was Billy” the fat man leaned back into the couch with the whiskey held firmly in his hand, the light of the room danced off his sharp blue eyes. “Who or what is Billy?  That thing didn’t look human” interjected James.  “I never said Billy was human, at least not now, my lad, I overheard your disparaging conversation about the disabled, perhaps if you knew Billy’s story you might think differently.  The disabled are not people who should be looked down on. Frankly, I always felt that it was the world that disabled them and most learn to adapt to their situation. In fact, in this world, they have to… I am the Glimmer man, a lamplighter. I travel the streets of Dublin banishing the ancient horrors of the dark with the light on my candlestick. I witness the eerie moments after day and before night, when Dublin’s ghosts wander. I have seen more years than any here has seen days.”

The two hosts looked puzzled at each other wondering about what fresh danger they had just invited into their house, but his kindly features suggested the man might be just an eccentric, so they allowed him to continue with his story.

“Two hundred years ago, there lived a man called “Billy”. An unfortunate son of the city, he was born into poverty without legs. He transported himself by means of a large bowl, which he sat in, his strong broad upper arms allowed him to drag himself from place to place, making an awful Screeking sound as he did.  The people of this area felt great pity for poor Billy, unable to work and already born poor, he survived on their kindness, begging from those who already had little.  It was easy for the working poor of Dublin to like Billy, though born with a malformed body, he had black curly hair and an attractive face, his manner was charming and green eyes appealed to the lady passing by.  I would often go by him at the market, he would always have a compliment to say to me and a friendly joke, but I could see through him, I’ve travelled too long not to know the emptiness of words.

I read much in his eyes of his true feeling. There was anger, bitterness and a ruthlessness. I could see a man who was willing to do anything to achieve his ends.  The smile could not hide the nature that was present in those green orbs.  As Billy sat there begging, utilising a charisma that could appeal to both gentry and cap wearer, the machinations of his mind were turning, hatching an evil plan that would earn the bowl more profit. My own distrust was ignored, as Billy became more and more popular over time. He used his gift of the gab to charm young servant girls, already attracted to his handsome features into giving him food from the big houses, they lamented the lost opportunity of so pretty a man with so restricting a disability.  Every day, sooner or later you would hear that familiar screech as Billy scraped his way around the area.

One night, before the lamplighters had arrived, a young lady was walking down an unlit and dark Grangegorman, she had planned on meeting friends on North King Street, she was foolhardy as it was already quite late. She passed an alleyway, where even the ground was covered in a rich black. The girl could see two green eyes captured by the moonlight then they vanished.  She called out to see who was there and heard a faint groan, as if someone lay injured and was not long for this world.  She rushed into the darkness hoping to find and aid the poor soul. However, once she had entered the complete seclusion of the alleyway, two strong, unwavering arms formed in the night and clasped, like metal forged in fire, around her neck.  All that could be heard from the alley was anguished sighs as the woman struggled to breath and the gentle scraping of the bowl in the struggle. It was over, Billy in the Bowl had taken his first life, he took her belongings and made his way out of there and into the night.

Hard times they were, and Death frequently enjoyed the hospitality of the residents of the poorer areas of Dublin, but this murder did not go unnoticed.  People were outraged at the sheer brutality that someone so young and innocent had been finished so brutally, her windpipe crushed her swan like neck flattened.  Aware of the commotion that surrounded the murder Billy kept out of the public view, only to comment that it was terrible to a passersby and lament her loss as she was a regular contributor to his cause.  Though cute enough, Billy felt safe in the knowledge that no one would suspect him, after all he was just a disabled man” the Glimmer man paused and then grinned at James. “His strategy was formed, his taste for murder hardened, he did it first for the money but now, now he enjoyed inflicting his vengeance on the sweet, the vulnerable and the innocent.  More fell victim to the bowl, always women, the same story, Billy would howl out in pain, and their compassion would lead them directly to St Peter’s Gate.

The creature, has he had now become, was insatiable for the taste of life.  His senses were becoming dulled as a man who indulges in taking life will, he was not human, he was not animal, neither would kill for pure pleasure alone. His soul left the candle’s light and he became one with the darkness.  One night, his blood lust had enveloped him, his once keen mind had left him, and he would make a foolish risk. Two women were turning on to Arbour Hill, as the population of the area had taken to travelling in pairs due to the murders.  As with before, Billy screeched into position and let out a groan, the two women ventured cautiously to his assistance. As soon as they were in range, Billy pushed himself forward wrapping his mighty arms around both their necks, dragging them to the ground and began to suffocate them like a snake.  This time however, the story would be different, one of the women, slid her neck free, stumbled back and kicked Billy clean in the forehead.  The man was stunned and released the other girl, the two women gathered themselves together and ran from the scene, the alarm was raised, Billy was now a fugitive!

Bloodied and enraged, Billy scraped his way out of Arbour Hill, he clamoured into an abandoned ruin, where he spent several nights in the cold and dark, as a mob searched Stoneybatter for the bowl. Hunger ate away at his empty stomach, and eventually, he endeavoured out to find something to eat, but for a man who made such a distinct screech as he travelled, he was caught quickly, stuffing a cabbage down his throat. He was carried to the court, the judge defied convention, a man known for his compassionate nature, and spared Billy his life, to the outrage of the gallery. From that day on till the day he was found slumped over in his bowl, Billy performed hard labour for the land.

A man who gives up his soul in life cannot expect it returned to him in death and now he is trapped in the darkness SCREEEECHing his bowl along Arbour Hill where he was undone.”

Aoife had become a believer after listening to the Glimmer Man speak, “what would have happened to us if he caught us?”, “I don’t know sweetheart, I have not let him catch one yet” Glimmer Man answered, with a distant grimace on his face.

“There is a lesson, as with every tale, never assume that someone with disability is not as capable as the rest of us, even of evil, the human spirit is stronger than the body and mind, it will adapt. You were very lucky tonight, now I must go, I am seldom allowed time to rest, thank you for your hospitality” the Glimmer Man rose and lumbered to the door where he courtesied them both before leaving into the dark.

“You didn’t believe that, c’mon, that story would make him nearly 300 years old, we probably just saw a dog. He was a nice guy but I think there may be brain issues with that chap” James sensing the nights events had removed him from a chance of a romantic ending tried to inject humour into the situation. The lights in the small cottage flickered then left leaving the two in darkness, Aoife panicked as James attempted to calm her “relax it’s just the blackout, I’ll find a torch”.  Sharply now, came into hearing, as the two stopped and listened, a faint screeching sound in the distance…

Related Stories:
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 6 – The Acre’s Resurrection
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 5 – Lord Norbury (The Hanging Judge & The Cabra Hound)
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 4 – Narcissus Marsh
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 3 – Darkey Kelly
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 1 – A Pig Faced Woman

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