A/N: This is going to be a two-parter, and this first part is very angsty, with more to follow. I actually quite like it, and I hope it reads okay. Of course, the best way of me knowing that is if you leave me a little review! Thanks!
Disclaimer: The Mighty Boosh belongs to Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. I just play with it.
The sun tries to battle its way through the curtains, dust particles shimmering in the streaks that manage to break through the material. The kitchen tap drips, thumping against the steel of the sink, the only noise piercing the heavy silence in the gloomy flat.
A young man sits at the table, papers strewn out in front of him. On closer inspection it is clear that they are leaflets. Leaflets with a photo of a different man on them. Leaflets with big, bold, urgent print.
Leaflets with details of a missing person.
They're all the same. Hundreds of them, but they're all the same.
The man at the table briefly wonders whether he should have had some made up with different photos, to catch other angles of the missing man, in case a person only recognised one side of him or...
He shakes his head. He knows he's only hurting himself by thinking he's made mistakes; that he didn't try hard enough. He did try. He's still trying. But the others have started to give up, and as if what had happened hadn't already made him feel all alone, now he felt completely isolated. It's a year to the day, and there's been nothing. All along – nothing. Like he just vanished off the face of the earth, like he was abducted by aliens, like...
Like he never existed.
Even though all his stuff is still here, untouched, it's like he never existed – to the outside world, anyway.
The young man takes a deep breath, trying to stop the choke he can feel rising up his throat, the burning of hot tears in his eyes. He can't cry again, because how does it help? He should know by now that it doesn't, and he can't. He can't. He can't, he can't, he can't.
But he can.
And he does.
Wretched sobs wrack his body, and in a fit of frustrated anger his hand hits the table and swipes at the sheets of paper, sending them flying to the ground, some of them floating lazily in the air as they separate from one of the many piles. He tugs at his dark hair, breathing heavily, fingers moving round to dig into his eyes. He has to calm down – he has too. Otherwise, what use is he?
A million thoughts flood his mind.
He's still alive.
Is he still alive?
Is he scared?
It hurts that he might be scared. It makes the young man feel sick. As does the fact that he might be in pain, even after all this time.
What if he's dead?
What if he's dead?
What if... what if he's been cruelly dumped in the middle of nowhere. All alone. Undignified. Hidden under mud and leaves. Alone.
No one to visit his makeshift grave.
No one to lay flowers and talk to him.
No one to mourn him.
Apart from him, his friend. But even he can't mourn, not for a death, anyway, because he doesn't know. Doesn't know if it's true or not.
But the inconceivable idea that his friend might be dead continues to consume him, and he starts to hyperventilate, shaking and panicking, and he stands and runs to the bedroom, ripping open a wardrobe door and pulling out a jumper.
His missing friend's jumper.
He sits on his bed and holds it close, inhaling the weak scent, the only tangible thing he has left of him. But even that has nearly faded, and he finds that he can't really smell him anymore at all.
It's the not knowing that frightens him the most, and he can't even comfort himself with the knowledge that, maybe one day, he'll have his friend back and he won't need the jumper anymore.
He jolts awake.
He looks over at the door to make sure it's shut, then squeezes his eyes closed again, hoping and praying that the lisping voice will go away.
Go away. Go away, go away, go away.
A moment, a heartbeat.
Then he hears retreating footsteps and eventually they fade away, the slam of a door putting a stop to them once and for all.
Vince sighs with relief and pushes himself into a sitting position, the jumper still tangled round him.
That night. That last night.
He remembers so clearly still what they'd been doing...
The fairground. Bright colours and jaunty music, children laughing and running around with balloons and sticks of candy-floss. Vince smiles. He's never been to an old-fashioned fun fair before, and he looks over at Howard, who's grinning insanely at him.
"Told you you'd enjoy it," he says, satisfied that for once, he was right. "See, not everything old is boring – and you thought it would all be made of wood."
Vince shoves his friend playfully and Howard laughs.
"I'm going to get something to eat. Want anything?"
Vince chews his lip in thought, thinking about all the tasty treats he's seen in the hands of eager children.
"Toffee apple, please."
Howard shakes his head, still smiling, and walks off towards the stall with the stripy awning. Vince wanders over to a bench and sits down, digging his heels into the grass and ripping it apart. He breaths deeply, the air smelling of sugar and oil and burning wood. He decides there and then that he loves that smell, will do forever.
He looks up towards the stall to see how far Howard has moved in the queue, and then frowns when he can't see him. He scans the other ones, twisting round on the bench to get a better look. When that throws up nothing, Vince pulls out his mobile phone and hits the speed-dial number for his friend. It rings.
And it rings.
And it rings.
'You've reached Howard Moon – please leave a message.'
Vince searched for hours that night, and for months afterwards he would ring Howard's phone and listen to that pre-recorded message over and over again, just to hear his voice.
He was devastated when the phone company finally disconnected it.
He knew there was a reason why he always hated 'old.'
He hated that smell now, too.
"I need to report a missing person."
"Right. Child or adult, sir?"
"Adult. I've looked everywhere for him, but..."
"How long has he been missing?"
"About five hours."
The policeman looks at Vince incredulously. "It's usually best to wait twenty-four hours before reporting an adult as 'missing'. Are you sure he's not just out for the night?"
Vince eyes him desperately. "But he doesn't... I mean, we were out together, at that old fair that's in town. He only went to get something to eat, and he never came back and he won't answer his phone and -"
"Sir," the policeman said, holding up a hand. "Please, try not to worry. Is he on any medication at all? Any pre-existing medical conditions that might put him in danger?"
Vince shakes his head. "No."
The policeman sighs and picks up a pen, poising it over a pad in front of him. "Okay, I'll just take a few details and get an eye kept out for him, but that's the best I can do for the moment. What's his name?"
"And what was he wearing? Any distinguishing features?"
"Um, sort of beige coloured trousers, patterned shirt, navy-blue duffle coat. He's northern and he's got a moustache."
'Eye and hair colour?"
"Brown and brown. His hair's sort of..." Vince waves a hand around his head. "...untamed looking – floppy."
"And your name and phone number, sir?"
"Vince Noir, zero, eight, double seven, four, nine, double eight, seven, double two."
"And you're his..."
The policeman puts his pen down. "Have you spoken to his parents, at all? Or any of his other friends?"
"Not his parents, and they're in Leeds, anyway. No one else has seen him." Vince pauses. "It's not like him, you know? He doesn't just wander off."
"All right. I'll put a call out. If he comes back, let us know. If he's still not back this time tomorrow, come in again, okay?"
Vince had gone away that night feeling let down and dejected, and he did go back. He went back over and over again, and soon he'd been on first name terms with everyone at the station, and even though they did try, nothing had come up – no sightings, no possible leads. Nothing.
He lets out a sigh and picks up a pile of the leaflets he'd pushed to the floor that morning. He's going to spend the rest of the afternoon replacing the old ones – most of them have been torn down and blown away by the elements anyway. He thinks about Naboo, and briefly feels hurt by him, but he knows that Naboo has been doing his best, even if he does seem to have given up. If a shaman can't find a missing person, what hope in hell does Vince have? He shoves the leaflets into his bag and slings it over his shoulder, grabs his coat and stomps down towards the front door.
Outside, it's freezing, and he pulls his coat closer around him. It's nearly Christmas, and the trees and fairy lights in peoples windows are twinkling, bright and colourful and cheery, a stark contrast to the dullness of the outdoors and Vince's feelings. Grey clouds roll by up above, and he looks at them, all fat and fluffy, and he knows it's going to snow.
Last Christmas had been awful. Howard had disappeared the week before, and Vince had struggled just to make it through the day. He'd refused to eat, despite Naboo and Bollo's best intentions to get him to do so. Even his presents, which were wrapped in red, shiny paper had failed to raise a smile; not that he'd opened them. His one from Howard had sat under the tree, pushed right to the back, because Vince couldn't bare to look at it. Bollo thought opening it might help, but Vince wanted Howard to give it to him himself, so instead he'd stayed curled up on the sofa in an old blanket, staring blankly at the TV, pyjamas still on, skin pale and hair lifeless.
"Vince... Come on, please, eat something. You'll make yourself ill if you don't."
"I already told you – I'm not hungry."
"Look, how about I dish a little bit out for you, and you can just pick at it."
Vince glares at Naboo dangerously. "I'm. Not. Hungry."
Naboo tries a different tactic. "Howard wouldn't want you to be like this."
Vince feels himself start to come apart at the seams, threatening to explode. "Well, that's just too bad then, isn't it?! Stop acting like everything's normal. It's not normal, and it's not the same and I HATE Christmas!"
It was true; nothing was the same. Nothing was the same without Howard. Everything felt... wrong. Jumbled up and broken, a jigsaw with pieces missing.
Vince crosses the road, hardly bothering to look right and left as he does so. The fair is back in town, and as much as he doesn't want to go there, he has to, just in case the posters jog the memory of someone who was there the year before. Vince did think for a while that Howard had been kidnapped by Carnies, but the fair's owners and employees had been thoroughly questioned and investigated, and the police were certain they were not involved.
As he gets closer, he can here the familiar sounds, and he begins to tremble slightly, and he knows it's not just because he's cold. The fairground seems creepy to him now, all fake happiness, colours disguising the hollow darkness underneath.
The sight of it makes him feel sick.
Vince runs from the fairground as fast as possible. He feels useless, like he's let Howard down. But he couldn't do it. He couldn't stay longer than it took to thrust a thick wad of posters at the man stood by the entrance to the fair, who was beckoning people in from the streets, the man who'd gotten a spark of recognition in his eyes as Vince had begged him to put them up. The man who'd said, sympathetically, "You've still not found him?"
He runs all the way back to the flat, cursing himself for his weakness as he goes, trying not to slip on the icy pavement, Chelsea boots offering little in the way of grip. When he reaches home, he flings himself inside and up the stairs, coming to an abrupt halt at the top, gripping the banister and gasping for air, his lungs burning and threatening to burst. He eventually pulls himself over to the sofa and collapses onto it, hating himself for not being out there doing what he'd promised.
A few weeks after Howard first disappeared, several of Vince's friends had tried to get him to go out for the evening, and when he'd said no, they didn't understand. They didn't understand why Vince was so upset about Howard. Vince supposed it was because many times before he and Howard had announced they were leaving for one reason or another to pursue some wild dream, seemingly without a second thought for the one left behind. On the outside it seemed selfish, but they did it because deep down, they knew it wouldn't be forever. They always came back. And that was why it was different this time – one of them hadn't come back.
Vince hasn't seen his friends at all since Howard went, because, really, they weren't his friends in the first place. They were just shallow hangers on. Howard was – is - his real friend, his true friend.
His best friend.
He wants his best friend back.
Vince hasn't completely shut down though. A while ago now, he'd decided to do something that he thought would make Howard proud of him – he learnt to drive; passed his test three months ago and bought himself a car – nothing flashy, just a four-year-old Mini Cooper in electric blue, some stars stuck on the side to jazz it up a bit.
Howard's favourite music.
He can't seem to do anything now without it reminding him of the clumsy maverick.
Vince stands and wanders over to the mirror. He notices how drawn he looks, how thin. He was sure he never used to be that thin. He's not as flamboyant with his clothes now either. Gone are the sparkly jump-suits, over-the-top hair styles, high-heeled platform boots and feather boas. Now his uniform is quite simple; skinny jeans, clingy t-shirt, Chelsea or cowboy boots, maybe a glittery or printed scarf depending on his mood, a smudge of eyeliner. He runs a hand through his raven hair, raven hair that is still glossy, but now just mussed in a cute way rather than overly fussed with.
It's dark outside now, and the heavens have finally opened, snow falling heavily and landing softly on the frozen ground. Despite this display telling him otherwise, to Vince, the sky seems empty. Nothing seems to have a point to it anymore, including the expanse of deepest, darkest space - the stars fading into the blackness and the moon turning its back, planets pulled out of orbit and sucked into a black hole.
Vince jumps as the doorbell rings. Peering out the window to the street below, he see two police officers, and his stomach flips, because, somehow, he just knows.
Knows everything is about to change.