The Bell Ringer

thebellringer-smlIt was whilst ringing the bells at her local church of St Bede’s that Farrah first suspected that she had lost something important to her. It came to her as she pulled the rope on Will, the treble in a ring of six – her bell, she thought of it. For a moment, as the rope soared between her fingers up towards the tower, she she suffered the feeling that the bell had spun a part of her out of the tower and across the English countryside. She had no idea what it was – maybe just a bird flying past her ear, nothing to do with her at all. It wasn’t till she calmly strangled one of her daughter’s kittens in an idle moment that she realised something remarkable had happened.

Her daughter was due back from school any minute. She stuffed the slight body into the freezer for now and made a cake. That would deflect the brat from her wailing. She mixed the batter and wondered what had happened to her, what she had lost – what she had gained; and what the benefits might possibly be.

Over the next few days a number of unusual events occurred.

1 – She became more than usually irritated by her children.

2 – She began to covet things more, and desire people less.

3 – She began to plan ways of removing the obstacles in her life.

Farrah had always been a quiet and thoughtful person, but these departures from her usual ways didn’t strike her as odd for several days.

It wasn’t until her daughter discovered the frozen body of the kitten in the freezer while looking for the peas that she realised how very different she had become.

Her daughter’s screams – upsetting noise! – could be heard right down the street.

“Don’t make such a fuss,” Farrah told her. “It could be you next time.”

Her husband looked at her so oddly, so she followed up with a bright, jokey laugh.  They were fooled, but she wasn’t.

She had meant every word.

Something was different all right.She seemed ot have rung away her moral sense – what people liked to call right and wrong. Still. Could the change rightly be described as wrong as such? The fact was, she felt better than ever. Her usual worries, angst, head aches and heartaches had left her, to be replaced by a heady sense of self discovery.

She was, she realised, on a journey of immense self discovery.

Over the next few days, Farrah carried out a few cautious experiments.

She began gently, by stealing a few small items from the local shops.

In the past, she had made a rubbish thief. Even at school, when her friends had been light fingered in the sweet shops, she had been frozen into a rigid, helpless honesty. It had been so humiliating. She had pretended to her friends that she was  too moral, too fair? about that sort of thing. But the truth was, she now realised, that she was just afraid of being caught.

No longer so. Now, it was no trouble at all. Stealing, if you had no sense of right or wrong, was easy to do – barely a skill at all. You just had to make sure no one was watching you. Piece of piss. She had no idea why everyone didn’t do it all the time, really.

She moved up the scale a little and began to steal larger and more desirable things;  but it was just so easy, it was hardly worth the bother. She moved on to the slightly more tricky area of gratuitous cruelty.

She began by hurting children, still too young to talk, when their parents weren’t looking. Once again, it was gratifyingly simple.

The world, she was beginning to realise, was her oyster.

After about  a week of stolen sweets, pinched cheeks and slapped legs, she decided to try actual harm. She went to a pet shop and bought a piebald mouse and pulled the skin off its tail. She suffered not a twinge. Case proven! – but just to be sure she felt had to try something on a fellow person. Farrah had already observed that despite the huge numbers of children at large, people were hysterically attached to individual items. A child it was, then. She wandered the streets for an hour or so looking for one, but realised suddenly – why bother?  She had her own at home.

She chose her youngest, Cicely, who came home a while before her sister, leaving just the two of them in the house for an hour or two after school on Wednesdays.  “Come in here a moment, Cicely,” she called. Ces lounged a few minutes later into the kitchen.  Her mother told her hide behind the door and put her hand through the gap. Ces, thinking it was a game (it was) did as she was requested, and her ? mother slammed the door violently on her arm.

The noise was unbelievable. It made Farah wonder if it was possible that guilt was a simple human response to loud noises. Howling and shrieking like a demon, the girl accused her of breaking her arm and threatened to tell. Even tho she hadn’t meant to go so far, so quickly, Farah had to clap her hand over the child’s airways and things through.

Now what? She went into the sitting room and had a cigarette.


Idly she began to plan in her head a toilet with a u-bend so big, you could flush whole bodies away, but that wasn’t going to help her now. She remembered the experiment she was embarked on and searched her soul for regrets and guilt. Bingo – success! She was, she realised, appalled. The thing that appalled her was the sheer waste. She’d spent all that time bringing the thing up and for what?

Still.  Look on the bright side. At least she didn’t have to waste any more time.

She put the body in a hold all and rang the school, asking them if they had seen her daughter, who had been due back an hour ago. Then she stripped the body, molested it, chopped into pieces and hid it in a bin liner in some woods down the road.

Ha! No one would ever suspect her of doing that to her own daughter.

Then she went back home, studied online resources about how to react when your daughter has disappeared, and rang the police.

Having learned what “appalled” was, it was now time for her learn all about regret. The next few days showed her what a tiresome business murder was.  She hardly had a moment to herself. The act itself was innocuous, if messy – but the aftermath!  Police, relatives, friends, wailing children. For goodness sake! One child out of so many.  Where was people’s sense of proportion? Well, one thing was clear; if she was going to make use of her new-found gifts, theft seemed like the best option.

After the fuss about her daughter had died down, she set about systematically filching everything she could get her hands on. It was a fascinating hobby, but time consuming. Her husband, Bob, who had turned into the most irritating little squeak lately, would not join in.

He kept talking about grief and counsellors and neurotic-obsessive behaviour. He got so upset about her new hobby, she had to pretend to give it up, and rented a lock-up to keep her new possessions in.She was having the time of her life. She loved it! The higher her new possessions piled, the happier she became. Soon the lock up was too small, and anyway, why should she rent a space of her own when she already had one: her home. She was the one who’d paid for it in the first place, when Bob was still a student. Enough was enough. She ordered him out and, after a few days of denial and recriminations, he kindly, if gracelessly, obliged.

The day he walked out the door with the remaining child in tow was a red letter day for Farrah. She made herself a cup of tea and celebrating by stealing a pram, a cat, a collection of first world war medals and a baby from a neighbour. Hurrah! On her own, she’d never been happier. Gradually the house filled up. Wealth! Things!  She had never been happier.

Things were great; people on the other hand irritated her.  The only social engagement she kept up was the bell ringing. The welling voices of the bells soothed and calmed her. The rhythm of their swing fascinated. She never missed a session.

Once again, it was during Saturday ringing practice.  Something that had swung out, swung back across the hills beyond the church tower.

She could feel its approach so clearly, she was able to follow it over the roofs of the nearby houses and into her ear. She staggered and watched curiously in her mind’s eye the effects of that which was lost returning to her. Oddly, it was the cat that struck her first.  She moaned aloud, thinking – “What will I tell Ces?”

Then the full catastrophe hit her.  She howled like a dog and sank to her knees. The other ringers gathered about her, wondering how it was that the grief, so long delayed, should strike her so violently now.