Runy’s earliest memories date back to his 4th birthday where a table stacked with plastic figurines of knights in shining armour and dragons was laid out for him under the warm June sunlight of suburbia. There were warriors in red tunics, blue tunics, gold tunics and black tunics. The small horsemen wielded vicious weapons ranging from double-edged swords to spiked flails, passing by battle-axes and sharp spears. The dragons breathed flames and had claws the size of footballs. Runy was so excited to see his new toys, his mind rushed with intricate battle plans and war cries. But before he was allowed to play with his gifts, Runy had to finish his cake, wash his hands and thank his guests for coming. Once all of these chores were done, Runy rushed through his house, down the corridor and out of the backdoor to his garden where the toys were waiting for him. Unfortunately, some older kids from a few gardens down had crept through the hole in Runy’s fence and stolen each and every one of miniature toys. Staring in shock at the bare table, Runy’s eyes re-drew the lines of each of the scaly monsters and brave knights. He could see the pile of presents in his mind’s eye, but in reality they were gone. Forever.
Inconsolable, Runy ran away for the rest of the sunny afternoon and hid in the basement. The sudden shift from blazing sunlight to sudden darkness, hot air to a cool breeze, sent a shockwave through Runy’s sensory system. He stopped and shivered at the bottom of the stairs and fought against the shadows to make out his surroundings. As his irises grew and things began to get clearer he noticed a huge form moving towards him. A wall of white foam was creeping slowly but surely towards him, ready to swallow his 4-year-old frame in one gulp. One of the communal washing machines had been filled with too much soap and had subsequently exploded spreading a sea of bubbles through the inner trails of the building’s basement. Escape through to the garden was blocked and Runy curled into a protective ball as the suds engulfed him in a wet crackling noise as the bubbles burst upon contact with skin.
Runy couldn’t remember how long he was eaten alive for, but he did remember a stiff yank pulling him up off the steps and into the open air. His father was angry and scolded him for running away. His mother looked on and shook her head as she tried in vain to dry Runy’s birthday suit with a kitchen towel. Runy promised to never run away again (even though he would a few years later after arguing with his little sister and whipping her with the tail of his favourite Iguana toy model) and headed back into the house.
Ever since that fateful summer’s day, Runy hated birthdays and basements. If people asked him when his special day was, he answered the 29th February. That way he only had to eat cake once every four years. He hired maids, found helpful flatmates and scoured the local directories for people willing to take his clothes to the cleaners rather than risk a journey to the laundrette. It was whilst searching through the phonebook that he came across a job ad to be a visual aid. Runy had never heard of such a job so he applied at once. It had to be better than his current occupation, which was cleaning up html code up for an incompetent IT firm. A glitch in their software meant that every time an employee submitted code for an animated web page, the html was infected with a random sprinkle of open tags. Normally, software existed that could do Runy’s job at the click of a mouse, but his incompetent boss thought that such a problem needed to be treated with a human eye. He worked in IT but didn’t trust computers.
When Runy rang the number at the bottom of the job ad a quiet voice answered. It was that of a man with a slight lisp and very British accent. Runy instantly conjured up the image of a gentleman in his sixties, dressed in a pinstripe suit and bowler hat, perched upon a wooden chair with a small terrier dog at his feet. The person looking for a visual aid had a subdued tone as he asked Runy when he was available. It was almost like a telephone operator who connects calls all day and informs the people at the end of the line that they would soon be charged an extra shilling for extra time. Runy told the old man that he was free right away and took note of his future employer’s address so that they could meet.
Sure enough, the man seeking a visual aid was British (from St. Albans), in his sixties, wearing a pinstripe suit and bowler hat and owned a small terrier dog. He was sitting in a grand leather armchair though. Runy had no idea how he could have thought he could tell the man was sitting on a wooden chair just from speaking to him on the phone. But anyway, he was here and eager to learn about his new role as visual aid. The old man held up a camera to Runy and told him to look through the viewfinder. Runy did what he was told then handed the man back his camera. Next to the armchair stood a table covered in photographs. The photos were of everything and anything. Sometimes they were of people, other times of places and sometimes just of things. The old man explained in a soft but incredibly eloquent English, that he was alone. His wife and daughter had died in a freak accident when removal men dropped a grand piano from the fourth floor of his apartment building and sadly squashed them both. It was a quick and painless death, but the old man said that he could never listen to the piano again or walks outside without looking up.
His task for Runy was to help him see the beauty in life again. The old man took photos in search of something special, but when he developed the film, he never found it. Runy knew exactly how the old man felt after losing his best birthday present ever that fateful sunny afternoon many years ago. Staring at the pile of photos gathering dust on the table, Runy could see the stacks of plastic knights and dragons staring right back at him. The old mad took a small marker pen from the breast picket of his pinstriped suit and told Runy to draw what was missing from each picture. Runy went straight to work and hasn’t stopped since.