As the months and years passed, he watched the boy’s progress with increasing satisfaction - noting in his journal each unsuspecting footfall taken down the path that he had marked out, all those years ago. The quill scraping on the pages measured in ink the devotion and effort that he had poured into his design; its movement mirrored the inexorable force of his will that drove the plan forward.
The boy belonged to him, now – worshipped him and obeyed him without question, as if he had been a stray dog found on the street and offered food and shelter. He smiled when he reflected how elementary – how surprisingly effortless - it had been to take someone else’s creation and make it his own. How simple to twist and bend the product of another’s art into a shape and form that mocked its author – and to do so with little more than the promise of justice and the suggestion of affection. Would the creator have wept bitter tears at the ease of it? Probably, but that thought only brought with it further satisfaction.
The first time he had met the boy – no, not the first time, he corrected himself - the second time, when they had actually spoken, he had been apprehensive. If he had encountered resistance, then, his plan would have been doomed before it had begun. Only a willing surrender was acceptable if he was to achieve his ends.
It had been a whimsy, that first possessive hand on the boy’s shoulder – a momentary weakness on his part - an instinctive response to the first time they had met, when the boy had left a mark on him that would never heal. He’d almost regretted it at the time until he saw the effect it had. The pathetic eagerness for approval and affection that had flickered across the boy’s face for just that single moment had told him everything; illuminated his means and his method in one, bright instant of revelation.
It had all been so laughably simple in the end. The aunt had been only too eager – grateful, even - for his apparent benevolence. And the boy … he had been ridiculously easy to seduce.
The fault lay at the door of the father, of course. The boy should have been warned, guarded against the deceit and the lies of the world around him. But the father was a gullible fool who believed in the goodness in men’s hearts, in trust and honesty. That had been the father’s own undoing and would now be that of his son’s. It was a legacy of sentimental foolishness that had unwittingly provided him with the perfect tool for revenge against two generations of his enemy.
At the beginning of the journal he had recorded his concerns that the stain of a foreign, state school system would be forever present – that after a poor start the boy would stagnate and fail to reach his promise. That had been the only potential pitfall that had given him cause for unease. But his fears had been groundless, and the academic progress had been startling – even he could grudgingly admit that the boy did have a brain in his head, despite the unfortunate accident of his parentage.
The boy would never be as perfect as his own children, naturally – that was never in question. But they had not suffered the handicap of a weak father frittering away the first nine years of their lives in a fog of romantic idealism. And after all, the boy only had to be perfect enough to secure his own downfall – no more, no less. His daughter would be the one to carry on the family legacy, the family name – not this cuckoo in the nest that he tolerated and nurtured in the name of charity.
Hours of his time had been devoted to rigorous tutelage in the law and inculcation of the values that befitted a prosecuting attorney working in his law office. His own career had become secondary to ensuring that the boy’s dedication remained constant. Failings had been punished, naturally, but it had been a simple matter to ensure continued devotion by offering carefully calculated and meticulously recorded signs of approbation. His lip curled in disgust as he recalled the contemptible gratitude with which those deliberately rare gestures had been received, and how hard the boy had pushed himself to earn each one.
The nightmares had been an unforeseen and worrying circumstance to begin with, of course. The boy never spoke of them, but he had heard enough while working into the early hours to be aware of their content and their form. It was the only period in which he had felt any apprehension of discovery - a slight unease each morning when he rose that the boy would look at him with different eyes, with fear or recognition. He had been ready, then, to take the necessary action should the situation arise – it was a contingency he had been prepared for from the start. But his concerns had been unfounded and over time had dispersed. Fortuitously, the dreams had only spurred the boy on to greater effort and keener dedication; hardening his resolve and making him retreat further into his own world.
If he had been the kind of man who could derive pleasure from simple victories, he would have had many to celebrate as his journal had progressed. The suffocation of those moral values taught by the father that had still flickered in the boy’s eyes when he first arrived. The childhood desire for knowledge that he had curbed and redirected into the only field that was of use to his future plans. The shy reserve that he had observed gradually freezing into a guarded and wary aloofness. The teenage desires that he had guided into a fulfilment of physical needs at the expense of emotional attachments. All these had been carefully observed and recorded, but they were merely way markers that led to a greater end, not reasons for celebration in themselves.
He did allow himself to derive some satisfaction from his creation, as he reviewed his work almost a decade since it had begun. The beauty of it, and the simplicity – the way he had shaped it into the realisation of his vision. All those years of hard work and sacrifice that he had devoted to his task were vindicated more each day as the boy reached adulthood. Now he could see every lesson and every value reflected back at him with a degree of trust and deference that a lesser man might have found … touching.
Soon, it would be time for the endgame. He would return the boy to the place of his birth, show the world what he had wrought, and exact his final revenge. His quill stilled for a moment as he imagined that moment – how it would feel, how he might savour it. But complacency was not something he allowed, in himself or others, so he set aside those thoughts and returned to his work - to the careful and meticulous documentation of ten years of perfection.