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This ornament lives up to the term: 'Cheap and nasty'

There was not much of interest in the market. It seemed to be simply people trying to get rid of their unwanted attic junk. Yet buyers picked up and examined rusted cutlery, books that had been soaked in water, videos and cassettes so ingrained with filth that it would be rather brainless to put them anywhere near a machine. General tat and junk that belonged on a waste tip, not still with a price on. So when Gerard Lawson saw the only thing that caught his eye, he debated whether or not he wanted it.

It was a figurine, or ornament that was simply of an elderly man, with a pipe, standing as though he was waiting in a queue, or at his local football ground watching his side being defeated. It was pure white, and rather statuesque at about six inches high. He bought it for a pound, even though he was expecting to pay at the most fifty pence. If he’d of known it was going to be a pound then he would have left it, but the fact that he drew the attention of the seller meant that he had felt obliged to purchase it.

Upon returning home, he felt regret at having bought it, simply because he knew he could have saved his pound for a loaf of bread or milk. Instead, he had to find somewhere to put it, and thought that on the end of the mantle-piece in the back room should do. It was a room he hardly used much. At 62, widowed for fourteen years, in a house he had occupied for 34 years, Gerard wondered if he had felt any affinity with the figure, whether that had influenced his decision to enquire about it. Did he look at it, and somehow see himself? It didn’t matter, it was his property now, and on the mantle-piece would be fine, as it would be hardly seen, and perhaps even forgotten about.

That night, at 2:30am, he was awoken by a distant house alarm that often sounded unexpectedly because of a fault. One day he had told himself he would walk around there and tell them to get it fixed. One day, he thought. A glass of milk for the moment was required though, he decided, and got up and pulled on his dressing gown.

A few moments later the last of the milk sank down his throat in the dark and cold kitchen, and the alarm stopped. Making his way back to the stairs, he heard a clinking sound as he passed by the back room. He stopped and frowned. What was that? he thought, opening the door to check. He put the light on, and saw that the figurine was on the floor. How did that happen? he thought, replacing it. Thinking nothing of it, he turned off the light and went back to bed, and was two hours into sleep when he was awoken again, by his radio in the bathroom. After he had roused, and had switched it off, deciding that it was faulty, he had only stepped out of the bathroom when he heard another clink from downstairs. He switched on the landing light, shielding his eyes from the glare, taking a few moments to adjust.

He looked down at the stairs, and saw that the figurine was on the bottom step. He knew it wasn’t him, that he was not at fault, but, he thought, it must be something. When it came to things supernatural, Gerard was a sceptic, so there must be some logical explanation as to why it was there. Perhaps it was me, he guessed. Was it old age? Where the brain cells disappearing at increasing rate?

Deciding to move it in the morning, he switched off the light and made his way back into the bed. Outside, wind and rain swept across the town, but Gerard could not hear it, could not hear the spattering droplets against the window, as he was an hour into sleep. He was slowly roused awake by a movement, a movement on his pillow. All he had to do was reach out with his hand to put the bedside lamp on, which he did, and when his vision cleared, he saw the figurine inches away, lying horizontal. He watched as it slowly put itself into an upright position, and leisurely lifted itself from the pillow and glided over him. It stopped and waited. Gerard could not fathom what he was seeing.

Was this some strange, lucid dream, or was this very real? He laid on his back and propped himself up on his elbows to look at it. It seemed that that was what it was waiting for, as it then sank down onto the duvet across Gerard’s chest.

It, however, didn’t stop there, as it seemed to burn through the material, and then his chest. It was as though his chest was being branded, but it burned through. Gerard tried to scream, but his lungs were scalded through, and the figure then began to liquify, as though the heat was melting it. It dissolved into him, and Gerard’s terrified eyes could only stare as the last of the figure sank into him. He could feel it burning and scalding his insides, but still he could not scream as he felt it sinking into his very bones. He clutched his chest in a vain attempt to somehow stop it, and he saw that his hand was becoming white, and hard. It was becoming porcelain. As his heart dissolved, the last words he thought were: "I’m shrinking. I’m shrinking". Soon, he shrank to around six inches, and stayed like that for a long time.

There was nobody to raise a concern about Gerard’s whereabouts, so for three years he lay beneath the scorched duvet until a drug addicted youth decided to break in. He did not find much of interest. He didn’t even find the figurine, but as he had found it easy to enter, and had never seen anybody coming or going, the place became a squat for him and his friends. The local neighbourhood watch knew of this, did not like their community interfered with by criminals, so kicked up enough of a fuss with the authorities to have them moved. So after the house had been cleared, it became boarded up, and the figure lay at the bottom of somebody’s cardboard box, full of useless equipment that could barely be given away, in a garage occupied by furniture and general fourth and fifth hand goods.

The person responsible for the garage and everything inside it was a car boot sale veteran. Every week he would sell his junk at a few markets, and earn quite a substantial profit. The day came when the box was lifted into the back of a van and driven, at 5:30am to the market. Even though he’d been doing it for years, he still had to arrive early to stop his place being claimed for that week. This week, he took with him his ex-wife’s son, whom she had had before she met him. At sixteen years old, he seemed to enjoy it, and would perhaps one day take over the mantle.

Arriving at the market, they were setting up when the boy lifted out the box containing the figure, and accidentally spilled everything into the back of the van. He gathered them back, but missed the ornament, and walked across to their pitch.

Hours later, when the market was in full swing, customers crowding around stalls to see what was on sale, the man decided that a deckchair that he had left in the garage might sell, so he left responsibility with the boy, and crossed to the van. He saw that the back door was open, and was about to close it when he saw the figurine lying next to an old tyre. He reached in and took it, then closed the door. He turned and called across to the boy and showed him the ornament, making a throwing gesture for him to catch it. He threw it underarm, and the boy reached out to catch it. It hit the back of his left hand, and spun to the floor, smashing apart. Everybody in the market stopped and looked around when they heard an ear-splitting scream.

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