Who Stole Know
Who Stole Know
By Lucus Anthony Ren
Lucus Anthony Ren
Who stole Know
© 2017, Lucus Anthony Ren
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher. Limit of Liability and Disclaimer of Warranty: The author / publisher has used its best efforts in preparing this book, and the information provided herein is provided “as is,” and makes no representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaims any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose and shall in no event be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damage, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.
Who Stole Know
‘If you were supposed to know it, you probably would.’
- Just about everyone –
For my beloved wife, who taught me what was real
I Don’t Know
Waking that morning not sure, now in the sun without a shadow, a darkness named Ping, was a very frightful thing indeed.
Certainly strange. Your mother acted strange when she came into your room that morning mumbling, ‘Get up…scho…but…don’t…. why.’ When she turned to leave you saw she was wearing her shirt backwards.
Your father reading the newspaper in front of you at the table, was not strange, but the voice lowly muttering something you couldn’t understand because your father never talked while reading. As you walked past him father with your orange juice you stopped and looked at the paper. Surprise at first, then you burst out with a great laugh. The paper, was upside down.
And that was your morning before going to school. Now, waiting for the school bus, the heat from the sun began to bother you. And where was Ping? And why had you no school books? And where was the lunch box your mother always had ready on the table filled with all the yummies for that day? You didn’t know. But you weren’t alone. Other children gathered at the bus stop just as always each morning. Today there was something wrong with them. Something very wrong indeed.
All either stood quietly or stumbled, wondering aimlessly about. Billy who lived two houses up from you, rocked himself slowly from to side looking directly into the sun. His head twisted round so strangely you would think it’d crack off and fall onto the dirt. Susan had on one foot her pretty pink dress shoe, while the other a hiking boot from her father which rose almost to her knee. Mark was a complete mess. Which he never was for Eric always wore the finest, newest, most expensive cloths, in fact you wondered why Eric was even here at all because Eric’s father always drove him to school. They had an enormous car but never took any of the other children with them. Eric said his father didn’t have time to take anyone but himself to school. It wasn’t that at all, but everyone knew the real reason.
Looking at them all you thought, what are they all doing here? Some where from other bus stops. They must have walked all the way to this stop. But why? Then you noticed a most horrid smell. A mixture of vomit and from your breakfast was fast approaching, at least this is what you thought, but then a firm hand grip your shoulder causing you to leap. Turing you looked into an unbuttoned shirt, holding its fat hairy stomach. Slowly your eyes followed the shirt upward and there Bruce Randen’s father stood. Now, Bruce’s father as everyone knew, was the principle of the high school, and a most respected person in the community. Looking at him now, one would think he’d just woken from sleeping is a trash heap smelling horrible. ‘Why aren’t you in school?’ he whispered with one eye closed and the other eye hidden behind a broken pair of dark sun glasses.
There your brain simply stopped. It had to. It tired understanding all of what it saw, and had seen from the time it woke up till now, looking, hearing, touching, and smelling this world. It tried to think what your father was doing with the newspaper. Where the lunch box was. What the hidden eye of Bruce’s father was looking at, and where Ping was, for that was the most upsetting factor in all this crazy uncertainty, which could not be the same place it went to bed last night in. Your brain was thinking, but couldn’t think. It knew, but couldn’t know. Because knowing, it seemed, was gone from everything.
Oh yes. That was the secret part. In all of this. You see. Your brain did know the answers to all the questions you were thinking, but like all the other children and grownups in this world your brain had forgotten something. And like all the other brains it was trying to remember what it was it had forgotten. In fact it was trying so hard to remember, it was not aware something all around was slowly changing. In fact, it was changing for some time, but no one really noticed it. Some thought they had noticed, but not really. In fact some did, but didn’t.
And that’s when you woke up with upside-down newspapers, and backward shirts. A world of children like yourself, mixed with scary, stinking grownups, all wandering without any idea, all brains thinking, and a few actually saying allowed….I don’t know.
See What You Think
Now, how could any of this really happen? Or better, Are you kidding me? You might say to yourself, or your friends, or even your family. You might also be thinking, just a thought. Which, in fact you were just having. But are you sure? Of anything. And if you are, what would it mean? Would you be right? Or wrong? A yes, or a no? What sound would it make? This thought you just had, or hadn’t? Could it be seen? Or not? Was it felt? Of what was going to happen next, could you know before it did happen? Would you want to know? Should it matter if you did?
But you are afraid. You remember what was under your bed? You remember if you looked there what would happen? In fact you wanted to look but were too afraid. There was something. Calling your name. Sometimes late at night you would hear it. Whispering. Softly. Over and over. And oh, you were soo afraid. Pulling the covers around your head thinking, If it doesn’t see me, then I’m ok. But it does see you. Yes. It sees everything. It knew even more. Right now, you are wondering what happened last night. But you cannot remember. Anything.
So, you find yourself standing in the middle of a room filled with a large number of people. All the people are interested in one thing. And they are all doing the same thing with, that one thing. All of them are not talking. At all. All of them are standing. All of them are dressed in different colors. All of them are different in the way they look. All of them take no notice of you. And, all of them want the same thing.
Well, what is the first thing you will do? Before you answer, have a look, at the day before yesterday. The day when everything, when everything, was normal. You might remember normal after having a peak. Wont you? Don’t be shy. Just a quick look. What could it harm? Yes, that’s right. Rest a little. You’ll feel much better. Not to worry any. Everything will come back. You will see. But, mind you there is one, very small ‘something’ you should understand before you have a look. You might think it is silly, you might say, ‘I don’t need…’ but, wait till you hear ‘what’ this ‘little something’ is first before having your look, because once you do look, you may not like what you see. And you may not understand what it is you are seeing. That is ‘the something.’ Well, those actually are two ‘things’; some and thing. Being small, you would probably not have notice much. Had you known of course. But how could you? It’s gone. Taken. So, have a look. See what you think.
If You Don’t Kiss Me
The speaker blared fully. Your head turned trying to catch what came after the sound ended. The sound started some time ago. And you weren’t sure exactly when it did start. In your thinking you cannot remember ever, being, without the sound. It was always there. Till a moment ago. Till its end.
You remember your mother explaining how all things come to this. All things. That nothing, ever escaped. Even time. Though, then, you had no idea what she was talking about, you knew it was serious. You thought your brain would stop working with all the thinking it was doing around this subject. So you decided it best to simply nod, agree with all being said. ‘Cherish the chance’ your mother would say, as she saw the light go out of your eyes meaning you weren’t paying attention, or had not a clue of what just happened or being spoken. You do remember the sting from her hand after those words, and the heat on your face from that sting your head whipping back. Growing up in a small desert town you knew what to watch out for when walking around, though not often did you come across a rattlesnake or worst, those sidewinders, you did recognize the similarity of your mothers hand with those snakes reaching out their poison bite trying to get at you. Remember… to cherish.
Older, you crossed the worlds oceans, learned languages other than yours from birth, now settled in that place you will never own, while on long walks in the very early morning, because sleep is something you find more and more useless, there, a quietness reaching out, wrapping around the noise, the noise which never really stops, that keeps you awake even in sleep. And there, the wonder begins. As the child never left, it grows stronger. A guide of sorts, yet itself always becoming lost, always questioning, ‘How does all this work?’
You would wish at times your mother had beaten you harder, and more often. That you had studied more. Achieved more. If you’d become that fireman you were destine for, how none, and all this, would never have begun. That you would not be standing here now wondering where the sound had gone. But the pain in your shoulder started again. It gripped you as before, and tighten while pushing down with a growing force. You felt the tears in your eyes from this pain rolling down your face. You yelled but could not hear the wailing. Your mouth opened and closed like a dying fish gasping for air, which of course a fish does not need but that was the picture you had in your mind of what you must have looked like. How funny it all seemed you thought, how the sound stopped and the pain started. How none of this day was like any other day you had ever known. That is before this day you had not really known anything at all. In all those days before this day, had not really meant anything. And you started to see this. You started to see how much you had not done, in all those days of your life. And you knew then it was not the pain in the arm causing your tears, but of thinking now what you had just thought about.
You tried to free yourself from the hand which held your shoulder by turning and thinking to run, but the more you moved the stronger the pain became. You felt the power of the hand pushing you down, the whole side of your body twisting under the weight of this power. Your knees bending, you were falling backwards and down, down toward the hot black road that always stank of gasoline on hot summer days, down onto its surface you knew would burn once touched no matter how brief, down nearing that melted pool of darkness taking you where all had gone who lost their way, holding dear in their eyes the profiting miserable means of simple madness, down where even shadows die. But not one. For it reached out from the road and stood quick as it did, with something very sharp and nasty in hand. With a dragging sound it came, hissing slowly, ‘Boy…’ it said. ‘Why aren’t you in school?’ It did not sound like that before, you thought. It did not hiss that way. Falling back your knees finally giving way, you saw a quick shadow raising with that horrid sharp tool held high, then swiftly thrusted it into the throat of Principal Randen over and over, again and again. What terrified you most, was not this sight, but that of the shadow’s widening, crooked, smile.
The grasp let you free, you struck the road with your right elbow, then the back of your head. You felt cold and heat together like hot fudge on vanilla ice cream, your favorite. How delicious. Eating hot melted, sweet chocolate fudge on cold ice cream in a plastic dish standing outside Foster Freeze the only place in town where you could get such delights for you, was better than staying the weekend at your oldest brothers apartment looking through Playboy magazines, which you didn’t understand very well anyway, but did it because your other brother, the brother you had to live with in the basement, who kicked the shit out of you any opportunity, which in later years, would grow into a group of his friends chasing you throughout your high school years, kicking the shit out of you there.
The cold and heat brought on through sweat from panic and the scorching of the road on your bare legs as no one wore long pants that time of year, was a welcome relief. Your arms fell after the rest of you, they too felt what mother nature intended of providing, that glimpse we often see throughout our lives but often miss, of final Hell’s resting place workshop for those deemed fit to attend. Knowing this at point in life much later, your thoughts now wondered into territories undiscovered. That being, what was that climbing out of the road, and what was it doing with Principal Randen causing him to screech such in a way as a cat skinned alive? True, it was doing awful things to the principal, causing him to thankfully release holding your shoulder. Also true, it moved terrifyingly quick from holding the principals’ throat and dance around, to beating at the air with both hands like a drunk bat. And true, it being the most horrific event ever experienced.
Then why was all this going unnoticed? You watched as Principal Randen stubbled, lurching into the middle of the street, a puppet whose master had forgotten which string pulled what, when taking your attention from all this came Maria straight up to you, then bent down inches from your face with her long beautiful black hair, for Maria was of Mexican decent and brown skin that seemed to glow when the sun struck it just right, but not on a today such as this. No not at all. Today she looked twisted and broken. Her hair a mess with pieces of what looked like dried spaghetti, fish, wet mud and mashed potatoes all mixed together. Her lips covered with huge swipes of purple and deep orange lipstick turning her mouth into a grotesque smile of a madden doll. She open her mouth to speak and out fell half eaten apple onto your face and down the front of your shirt, its juice dripping with long, thick strings shining in the sun. Then she yelled spraying you with chunks of whatever else she had stuffed in with the apple, of browns and greens, and something blue that looked like a crayon sticking onto your forehead.
‘If you don’t kiss me NOW I’ll scream!!’ Vomit splattered on your chest, its stink causing you to choke keeping your breakfast from flying out your own mouth. But the final act was not complete. Maria lifted her dress, leaned forward touching your forehead with hers, gave a heavy grown and released a huge bellowing fart of rancid, gaseous air. This immediately allowed in the release of your breakfast with a jet stream directly into Maria’s face, with such force it bounced back onto your own. For a moment nothing happened. Nothing move. All you could see inches away, Maria’s once beautiful brown face covered in technicolor puke. Her eyes were closed. A smile slowly formed on her insane face, reaching out, she patted your head, and whispered, ‘Good monkey. She straightened, stepped to the side, looking down the road she took another step and stopped. Principal Randen passed along side Maria shaking with spasms, his dark glasses gone reveling a rolled back eye showing only its white. Your wondering why Maria had stopped lasted only a moment, as blackness rose from the baking street and the sun went dark.
You’d had enough not interested any longer with suns disappearance or vomiting girls, tears starting their downward march mixing with spew; your sobbing made breathing sound like an old women. ‘Yea. Crazy day.’ A voice said not far from your left ear. You froze. This voice had not a sign of things which happened today. Made not a loud scream nor threat of any kind. You knew this voice bringing comforting peace. Looking up there stood Ping balancing this sickening tool on one finger.
Why couldn’t you just sleep? Watching your dog drop off in a few seconds you sat there envious of its ability of simply beginning within a moment, to loudly snore with its head always twisted on to one side. So how is it this animal at times while laying on its back, twitching with dreams of chasing rabbits and cats, produce a noise loud enough to wake a person in the other room, was able one-second in raising from such a unworried condition, to complete awareness should instincts be triggered, while we as humans top of the kingdom, lord of all things, capable of using thumbs, on average, take a full 20 seconds upon waking to understand, where and who we are. We need time to think. You live with yourself at the center all your life, yet still have trouble gathering thoughts, condensing the world into reason. For we need reason as a guide. If we don’t have reason, things seem to slide around causing unwanted discomfort. Trauma. Even death.
You woke, as far as you have known yourself, aware of surroundings and self, in a second, or perhaps two. The problem with this, is your inability of resuming sleep. And should you nap in the day, of only a couple of minutes, you awoke energized; others, they require a longer time refilling themselves. You fell asleep quickly within a few seconds, toward a deeply unknown place, and awoke refreshed, ready for tasks, a full head for new adventures. With Ping’s shadow upon you, you felt the minute of sleep pass instantly. Time wound down, everything froze. Principal Randen had tripped over a lunch box, broken open, its content spoiling on the now furnace-like road, and was inches away from slamming face first into the side door of a speeding car, which it too, was caught in time. Faces of driver and passenger showed both covered in red and purple paint which they must have poured throughout the inside of the car, each holding a thick brush in their mouths with a great smile smeared across each face.
Your eyes moved to the front of the car passing only a few feet from you where Billy Bob the class clown for the entire seventh grade was caught working a math problem God only knows how he had come by with a blackboard now directly in the path of the that car. You thought, how damn crazy it all is. Math being your favorite subject and you being top in the class, glanced over his calculations finding them to be correct, with the twist of it all being Billy Bob could barely read let alone construct any simple outcome of any simple mathematics problem proposed to him. Yet the fact stood aloud on the board, clear as the cloudless sky above for which your eyes gazed up at while you leaned back laying your head and shoulders on that hell temperature road, saying aloud, ‘Don’t sit when you can lie.’ But the heat and glare from the sun was blocked when Ping leaned over separating you from those two, with a slight laughter in that voice, as Ping always did when he knew something you didn’t and said, ‘Wait till tonight. That’s when it really happens.’
Laying there thinking, when it really happens was not a promising thought. It wasn’t anything really. How could it be? Does it make any sense? What’s real, that is going to happen, that isn’t already real?
‘That’s stupid talk Ping.’ You replied. ‘I told you about that kind of talk.’
‘True.’ Said Ping. ‘But birth will tell.’
‘Birth will tell? What the hell Ping. Look around. Birth will tell. God. What are you saying here?’ You spoke in a slightly angry voice as you could not really get angry at Ping. It was just his way of having fun. And Ping was always looking for fun especially, the mischievous kind. Yes. Naughty Ping the shadowy boy who lost his way till found on winters day. This was a song sang when Ping was especially wicked. Oh it wasn’t evil things Ping enjoyed, it was more in the field of ill-mannered joking. Ping would move around things especially at night. Children never slept over since Ping played the famous Hat Trick, which has gone down as the infamous Brainless Wonder Night.
It was the usual heat, smack in the middle of August. Hotter than most some say when recollecting the events of that night where six children from your sixth grade class were having a sleep-over at your house. With sleeping bags in hand they set up their beds for the night in the Quiet Garden behind the large house made from adobe clay your parents had moved into when he just turned eight months old. It was indeed a very quiet place with a large, old weeping willow tree shading the entire garden, cooling that side of the house during those long, dreadful summer months. Ping of course was having a grand time switching the beds, putting things into the beds, and removing things from the beds. For Ping, everything that night was about the beds those children had brought. As soon as he heard there was an event taking place involving children staying the night, his attention focused solely upon how to keep those poor visitors as long as possible in the garden throughout the night, while at the same time scaring them to near death. You knew this and was all in favor of anything Ping could produce. You also knew for Ping the Quiet Garden was his domain. And no one not even you were allowed to stay the night there unless invited. And Ping never invited anyone. Animals were allowed to come and go freely, but men, women and especially children, had to pay the price. Thus, admittance came in the form of the Hat Trick. But that night the trick had gone terribly wrong.
The children all brought their own form of night lights. From flashlights to the modern gas filled Colemen lanterns whose intensity you could adjust from a soft glow to a bright sun, who produced a hissing sound when lit along with their own peculiar odor from the gas. Marvels of that day for the outdoor campers. They brought their own snakes as well, consenting of anything from potato chips to ice-cream, liquorish sticks, bubblegum and Snickers bars to Cracker Jacks. A wide array of sugared goodies any dentist would love seeing a great deal more children eat, and drink for Cola, Fanta, 7up, and Dr Pepper where on course for that evening too. Before the electrical power went out.
At five minutes past nine all the lights in town twinkled like so many stars for a second, then with a thud nothing but darkness slapped down upon the small town. It as was if you’d been hit in the chest. You could actual feel a change in the air that very moment. The old adobe sat aways from the center of town about four miles and higher up into the mountains for the town sat in a small valley. You had a great view of it every evening, often siting on the low wall surrounding the property your parents invested in. The cats and dogs often sat along with you as things cooled from the days heat, sat there for hours, listening at creatures venturing out at night. Cats would hunt what ever moved. The coyotes would hunt the cats. The dogs would hunt them all. When the coyotes were on the chase, no one moved far from the house. The howling and yelping aroused a primal fear, intensifying throughout the chase till the final load, hard, pricing scream from the animal caught fell into the night. When very young after hearing such an event, nightmares crept into you dreams, of you being the hunted. Or worse. That which what lay under your bed finally rose from beneath, grabbed your hand, then began its slowly wayward descent, a grotesque smile formed, your silent screaming unnoticed, all those in the house are still sleeping, wrapped tightly in their own terror.
All were enjoying their youths and the moments holding them, when first a distant flash crossed the sky in a northwesterly direction. Then the thud. Then blackness. Afterward people spoke the thud sounded just as if you were hit in the chest. They all agreed, it felt like it too. As if someone had just knock you hard right in the middle of their chest with a closed fist. Some of the elderly had to be hospitalized suffering from shock. On the other hand, the youth sampled some of life’s secrets. And one very important: you never really know what will happen next.
Everyone siting on the wall including yourself were thrown back, tumbling over each as you sprawled on the ground. Comments and suggestions ran wild as to what the hell that was, one had the wind knocked out, but lucky no injuries and most important, no vomit. Ping mentioned later it was good, seeing it probably would have cause a reaction in everyone producing a spew party seeing all the candy everyone devoured. ‘But think of the colors!’ he added laughed shaking his head.
Rising from the ground, leaning against the wall all the children froze for they had never seen such a site. History recalls this being a first, as all the lights in town were out. Only those of a few passing cars could be see. At no time in the past ever occur. Sid Nerton lived here the longest, seventy-three years this fall. He said later ‘Once part of the town lost power, cus Jimmy Tindel got drunk and hit the power pole. Snapped right in half. Broke Jimmy too.’ Sid is ninety-six still active taking care of himself, his three dogs and numerous chickens. If anyone wished they could check the hospital records, indeed Jimmy’s neck was broke in three places along with most of his body. Out celebrating at The Round-Up Room his raise at work with several friends, Jimmy was buying drinks for all. The bartender closed and told Jimmy to call a taxi, but Jimmy was full of fire and wanted to drive in the cool spring early morning air. He was thrown through the windshield at sixty miles an hour when the car hit the main power station pole for the Northwestern side of town. He landed some fifty-five feet away. Dead at the scene they brought him to the hospital due to the early hour, having nearly eighty percent of bones broken, everyone agreed he’s better off this way. Recovery would have taken years, unable to walk as the spine being fractured in four places, doctors said that and the costs would have taken all his money. Asked if he felt anything when he hit the ground, doctors said no way telling. Another thing the doctors could not explain, even though Jimmy’s face was pretty broken-up why did it have a smile on it?
The desert town of just over 10,000 residents formed as homesteaders arrived in early 1860. Not much happened since. The center of downtown, known as The Corners by residents, crossroads to nowhere, being several hundred miles in any direction lay only desert. Wide. Burnt. The desert does not lie to you. It does not have favorites. It does not have compassion. It does not give. Only takes. With the lights out, gazing into the darkness of the town, you felt something pull. Something not friendly lay in there. Something that wanted. Hungered. You felt it growing. Your hands started to tremble. You pushed back the pressure and fearful feeling of having to urinate, right there and now.
g a voice said behind on your left. It was Ping.
He continued, What do you think is out there?
Ah, right. And what of it? Things wakeup all the time. Said Ping.
Ping laughed. You’re starting to scare me.
, you whispered your temper and hatred building.
Some of the children heard this glancing at you. You stood shifting your weight from one foot to the other. Nervous, and fearful written all over you.
Ping started in.
Yes, you did say that. But to no one in particular. No one that anyone saw anyway. For Ping being a shadow, during the night, couldn’t be seen.
You gave up all hope. No wonder. It was defiantly out of the question. Not only had the chance passed him, but it was taken. By your brother. Every time you showed any interest in girls your brother swooped like a vulture, grabed them, flying away to safety where he would take his time feasting. You pictured bones with half eaten flesh attached, rotting, spread across the desert from his doings. In fact your eldest brother was the same. There was a 13 and 14 year age difference between them, and you hardly saw your two eldest brothers. When the oldest did show up it was often with a different woman and different circumstances. Married three times, each from three different continents, you had talks with his mother about this. She confirmed time and time again saying, ‘Listen. It’s in the genes. Your father was like that. His father, your grandfather too. It’s only my side of the family controlling any sanity in any of you.’
High school became worse, your brother hunting anything. Drastic action was needed. You walked along the trail out back behind the house leading into the flash-flood gully where you’d made a simple fort of old boxes, dead tree branches, anything really wash down with the summer floods. It consisted of over 100 different items collected in the years since you were allowed to venture this far from the house on his own. A fort. Refuge against marauding indians, pirates, and brother. Luckily it sits high on the bank out of reach from summer rains that literally wipe everything out with their deluge and following floods, cleaning out the gully at least twice a year.
Thinking this dilemma over while watching one of the dogs sleeping with its eyes open, legs, ears, and paws twitching as they do when dreaming of a chase, either being or giving, when the thought popped in your head. ‘I’ll get someone to help me with this.’
And that was it. So simple. As most plans usually are. Plain, straightforward. Except one small item. Which was of course…Who. And …maybe The How. But Who is a fine place to start, without a Who, How really wouldn’t matter. Unless How was important in choosing the correct Who. If that were the case than How, ‘Oh will you PLEEEEEEASE shut up?’ yelled a voice behind your right hear, so loud you fell off the broken Kings Chair constructed yourself landing on the side striking your hip on a protruding stone. The dog yelped and barked at the same time looking continuously around for the dangerous animal attacking that must surely be attacking.
You froze on the ground a moment then jumped to his feet and turned to face where the voice had spoken. There was no one. The dog ran outside the fort and around smelling and barking at the air. You watched, following, knowing the dog was far better then you in finding and guarding. It circled the fort still barking and running back inside stood next to you sniffing the air again then bolted outside for another tour. You still watched the dog closely as it smelled around, this time keeping its nose close to the ground. Suddenly it stopped dead in its tracks. Frozen. You almost laughed seeing such a sight. One second the dog was wild with the hunt, then next it didn’t move. ‘Stupid dog’ the voice said next to your left ear. ‘JESUS’ you screamed stumbling back over the fallen chair. In trying to regain balance you grabbed an old branch but it cracked as your weight shifted. With the breaking of the branch spinning you around, in that final fall you saw a thick, darkness move quick as a light being turned on. It was the blackest of anything you’d ever seen. It reached out with a thin long shape, and grabbed your arm, stopping your further falling which surly would have broken bones.
In the afternoon heat the desert produces at least some sound, yet the moment your fall stopped, so did everything. A dead quietness took hold, as if life had run away. You looked directly at the darkness in the fort, looked at what prevented landing butt first in the dirt. You’ve seen movies, read stories about such things. Called dreams, you were having one. A rather disturbing one. One you wished to wake from. Better, one you’d wish never to have happened.
’ it spoke.
‘Ww…hat’ you stammered.
‘Correct’ it replied.
‘Waw….aw…a.’ all you could put together.
‘You were closer the first time.’ it said slowly pulling you closer together.
‘Even worse now’ it.
‘Stop that’ it said. And wet yourself. The darkness let go. You crashed into the chair crying out in pain and surprise. And the dog started barking. And the desert started its noises again. And you rolled onto your side trying to look up. And the darkness had gone.
There is nothing more misunderstood than death. More outdated (everyone goes when it’s their time). More corrupt (funerals are big business). More mistrusting (I am young, I will live forever). More manipulated (everyone dies, don’t waist time, or I love you till death do us part). You didn’t understand this much, till watching life as it passed through animals and trees, flowers, even the rocks. Many never see death first-hand. Right at the moment when life takes its leave. And we are always mystified by it so. Wondering when our turn will come preoccupies our life till no end. When we are near, we often regret not having done enough with the time we had. We seek acknowledgment we’ve achieved something, that we have left something behind of importance. That we wont be forgotten.
Is it the same for birth? Are we waiting on the other side wondering what this life will be like? How it will turn out for us? Will it be rich and rewarding, or pure hell? Can you separate the two? One’s anguish is bliss to another after all. And how much of any moment do we truly control? Thinking this through you paused. Could you move between the two, as you would say, going from one room into another? What then? Part of the time you are on the side of death, the other part with life. You could get the best from both. The possibilities.
In looking down into that blacked-out town you realized the joke was on all of us. That I have and probably, continue till I die, think I have the upper-hand. That my belief in something greater than myself will save me. That what I am doing with my life, is true and great. That no harm will come to me if I do good things. That I will be rewarded for my great deeds. That I did something with my life. But it was all a lie. Because of one thing which stopped all of this. Fear. Fear closed the door just as sure as I am born with nothing and die with the same, yet I continue holding on to rituals and materials I think will benefit myself and others, though thinking of others comes a distant second. Because I, firstly, no matter what I think, always look out for myself. And staring into the blackened town you knew, everything you thought was important, just slid down the hill.
The few headlights from cars whose drivers feelings were more complex thought. They sat in the middle of this darkness. Blanketed in it. They heard it scratching the metal of their cars trying to enter. They saw it in clouds too thick to drive as it ate the light from them. They felt it crawling upon their skin. Their headlights began to twinkle, like distant stars, then one by one go out. Gone. From the West came the police. Red and blue lights, siren whining. Its lights too flickered and died along with the siren sounding like and animal grasping for its last breath. But that wasn’t the strangest part. What you noticed next was to much to understand your brain simply couldn’t manage what it was seeing.
In watching all of this you noticed something wrong. You were focusing on the cars and the fact that everything was dark. Different. Scary. But when the police lights went out is when you noticed the difference. The stars. Something changed with them. The town was small with so few lights from business and traffic, any given night you clearly would see stars to the horizon. As the town sat in a valley whose mountain rose around it to a certain height you knew, was taken into account. But something else was different here. Normally the stars ended at the mountain line. Not now. Either the mountains are growing, or the sky is shrinking. In the night sky, stars were disappearing just as the dying headlights and police siren.
‘It is a fairy tale of dark things. That comes not at the night, but from the soul.’ The whispering said in your right ear. Snapping with a jerk, turning to see who the trickster was scaring blood from your face. There was no one. Looking to the left everyone silently stood, not a motion, watching the blackness. Quiet. Not a sound could be heard from them. Or anything. This is truly dead you thought. Nothing was moving. The droning from the TV inside had stopped. The dog up a ways from the house that barked at anything, and usually all the time, was still. The air seemed itself to hold its breath, waiting for what was to come. Turing to the darkness you saw along the state highway running just two miles away, a semi-truck full of the usual lights they drove with at night. Its lights followed along the body showing an 18 wheeler, with a heavy load from the sound of its large engine straining from the trip probably started out east and ending at the western coast. Those driving during the hours of darkness were the long-haulers and night gave them cover from high-way patrol units who themselves drove great distances searching out offenders. As the speed limit dropped traffic had to slow this near to the town, but not this truck. It kept on with the same intensity. All the lights on the truck made it stand out like a streaking square sun without a center, flying through nothing but desert night and stars. Then, sensing something, the driver dropped gear grinding them reducing speed, while blowing its massive air horn only used by the truckers in emergencies. The air breaks locked, tires screeched, the driver frantically doing everyone possible to back down in the shortest time and distance. Then it disappeared with only a dyeing echo of the horn leaving any sign of ever existed at all.
‘I wanna go home.’ It was Donny Willer. He was the fat kid with a rich dentist father. Could get anything, do anything. His voice off somewhere whispered, causing you to turn seeing the others, still frozen but now with the same look of disbelief you must have had. Your stomach began twisting. Gathering sweat you felt the dry wind on your forehead turn cool. You felt very tired suddenly and only wanted to sleep. Just to lay down on your sleeping bag, smelling its unmistakable cotton thickness which kept you warm on many campouts in the cold desert night with the scouts. How many hours laid looking at all those stars. Talking with your best friend. All the wonders. Dreams of yesteryears. How it all was so…
‘This ain’t rrrrright.’ Donny spoke shockingly, a higher crying out type of pitch this time. He came only because Lory was here and he was crazy for her. And he told everyone. But she hated him and told everyone. He invited himself, obviously not fitting in with any of the other children as they were from a more ‘simpler’ background Donny was always seen as one thing. Incompetent. He thought because his father had money anything was possible. With that, in later years he opened a mattress store, dealt in selling cocaine and was eventually arrested. Who would have know looking at him now fear written all over his already fattening face, he would at one time control all the coke that passed through the town, which was at its peak a serious amount. Then again, why would you pursue such activities if your future was pretty much set for you in finical terms. What possessed the thinking at times of people amazed you, causing you to wonder, how they could reproduce in the first place. Yet here they are.
The trucks air horn fell away. You thought, where it might be blowing now, and what the look on the drivers face must have been and continues to maintain. Was it shock? Horror? Contentment? What did he see making him pull the cable blasting the horn? Was there something on the road? If you can’t see ahead of you wouldn’t you slow down and come to a stop?
You felt something next to you. Something touched your arm making you jump, again. It was Sarah. She was a year younger than you, in a different class but smarter than most who already graduated. The aim of growing up in this town had one out come. Getting the hell out. Sarah was certainly on the way towards that. Smart, understood how the world works, it scared most people, especially boys. She came from a poor family like many, but her grades were always high giving the chance she needed. She was thin but had long blond hair always tied back. Not very pretty, her two front teeth were slightly larger then they should be giving her the nickname, ‘rabbit’ and as children can be horribly mean at times, in calling her this it carried all through her schooling. Later, with excellent grades she was about to graduate with high honors, became rebellious, hooked-up with a guy who abused her. This seemed to scare her even more. Nearing an end, she was found to have a friend no one knew anything about. It wasn’t till much later while returning from college one time, you mother told you, thus the mystery finally was explained.
Sarah never made it out of the town. After graduation she stayed, turning down several invitations from outstanding universities in joining the ranks of higher education. After graduation you left never looked at the background noise that youth produced. You had very little contact after the first few months entering college with those you’d gone through school with. Rightly so. ‘Moving on’ was your mantra.
‘Sit down there’s something I have to tell you about Sarah,’ your mother clipped at you as you came through the door. Now the interesting thing in all of this is one might believe there was something between you and Sarah, at least that is what your mother would have liked. True there were occasional dates, together with long talks and walks together. But nothing amounting to something called ‘relationship’. It just never happened.
In the moments before hearing what happened with Dona your mind turned in the direction, those places where, still, moments had not yet escaped. Or lost their influence. Were you found elegance in everything but didn’t know what it meant. Where everything was a surprise. Where everything still had a ‘wonder’ attached to it. Now, the onset of adult life began laying its footprints upon the path, where you’d have choices, not of ease, but rather necessity, all carrying the weight bending you towards that caverness pit of eternal sleep.
‘Are you listening?’ your mother.
‘Story’s been driving me crazy so I’m trying to get all the facts here.’
But you were thinking how good it felt to scratch the dogs ears while rubbing their eyes especially in the spring as the pollen caused such problems for them. They loved it, and so did you. How it was with animals so easy, and people so boring.
‘Last week I got a call from Marcella…’ You felt being in a 5th grade school room while talking with your mother, sitting in the dinning room you remember used only twice. You loved the large wooden table and all windows whose growth from the ivy and apple tree nearly covered light from entering. You begin to think how always cool in the summer, but freezing in the winter, that it was the adobe which seemed to grow from just simple water and plants. And there was the that part of the house. Built later, not from adobe, such a cancer drawing life from everything near it. Actually it was energy which diapered into that part. After the second war that part of the house was added using conventional building materials. But the adobe was hand made with stones constructed fifty years earlier, as a result, the house always fought with itself, two sides from different times and manners. Passing between the two you felt their argument. Over the years it overtook rage into something more.
Living there, you witnessed a final advanced war, having no hope of peace. The ground surged with waves in resistance, struggling to be free of this burden in having such a homestead upon itself to bear, which showed when northern winter winds prevailed, yet the adobe stood soundless. The other half moaned, vibrating loose any sense of hope in a restful sleep while your bedroom resided in the basement of this groaning half. You had moved there with your brother at the age of seven. Your mother wanted your bedroom in the adobe, away from your father. Their bedroom on the other side, was directly above the basement. But she had enough of him and told you both to move out. In less than ten-seconds, the length of her discussion with you, your life had changes forever. Not only to move out, but move out to there. You thought at first you’d misunderstood. Even your brother looked shaken, and he’d already been smoking marijuana for the past two years. You would later reflect upon that point in later years, knowing there was no difference if he smoked or not. It was just at the time of your mothers declaration, you though smokers were resilient to anything natural, or unnatural, and seeing the later as extremely profound concerning your new accommodations, there was a rare but definite connection with your brother that moment both your eyes met directly preceding your mother’s words, meaning, who is going to sleep closest to the stairs?
You would not go as far in saying the basement was haunted. But you would say, it had its own rules. It seemed from the closet, unnerving till the very last time you stepped foot in it, you were nearly thirty years of age, continued giving its presence at the top of those stairs. Its warning. Your mother was sensitive to these things, and told both you and your brother it was nothing and pay no attention. But she wasn’t sleeping there. In fact since you moved down there you recall her entering the basement extremely seldom. And only for the briefest time. Sort of like a quick inspection tour of the area making sure you hadn’t killed someone and stuck them there thinking no one would look. In high school your brother thought this a wonder and started growing pot replacing the sun with a light bulb. It grew to almost 15 inches and was called the Sunless Experiment he had to do for his science class.
Your father came down once over a period of several months thinking he should visit as you were all close neighbors now, noticed the plant, mentioned a quick ‘looks good’ then retreated back up the stairs to safety. And this is a man who fought the Japanese on Iwo Jima and survived, yet now clearly showing discomfort in voice and body expression. Had he ever stepped off the last step onto the cold cement floor, he probably would have shrieked and bolted the hell out of there, just as you felt doing every waking moment. Christ even the dogs wouldn’t go there unless you beat them into submission, and desert dogs are some of the toughest. Most people think city dogs are sturdy, rugged beasts, but a dog that survives in the desert are some of the most cunning around. Not only the similarities of city survival required for these dogs, but faced with a lack of adequate food and water plus snakes, spiders, scorpions, coyotes, lightning, flash flooding, it becomes very apparent these animals rein supreme. And if they didn’t venture down there, why should you, or so you thought would be case enough which you presented to your mother, who rightly took under council with a verdict in a matter of two-seconds without a word, but a look telling the entirety of her thoughts upon the subject, including should it every be mentioned again, then hell will be paid. And that kind of look you never want to find out what action will follow. Anything unnatural coming into contact with that look would find itself wishing never been formed, created, born, what so ever, and would certainly be on the retreat to wherever it came from crying a message with the highest urgency that it never go near that look again. Should that carry effectively into the area of the basement all would be well. But it didn’t. There you stayed.
Depending on the location of your bed meant everything. In the first place, you could see the stairs leading up and the door to the closet. Second, you were next to the wall of the closet itself. The first, if anything came out of the closet you would see it first and might have chance up the stairs, which did not have a solid wall between the two, so whatever did come out had a good chance grabbing you on your way up. The second, if something did come out of the closet it might not see you because its direct line of sight was of the first bed, which most likely, it would to go first, allowing you to slip behind it and get up the stairs safety. Now, if both were trapped you had an alternative, which was out one of the three small ventilation windows, but the angel you had to crawl threw was at best, slow then most likely it would grab you by the legs and pull you back in.
Looking at all possibilities you rehearsed these scenarios and a few others each and everyday. Then day your brother moved out. He studies during summer school, passed the exams and in graduating early, got a job and rented a one room apartment in town. You had the basement to yourself. You had your life to yourself. For the first time. No more ass humps where he’d grab you from behind by the shoulders, pull you down while the same time raising his knee into your butt. No more gang attacks from he and his friends during school where they’d pants you in front of your friends, or drop you head first into the trash can right after lunch which being the most opportune time, was full of left-over meals dumped straight in from the cafeteria. All this had passed. Without your brother the gang felt diminished and spent most of their time skipping school. Later you heard of the members two were sent to jail for drugs along with breaking and entering, one was killed when his motorbike ran into a car which had stopped at a red light, one disappeared, and one went on to a vocational school studying auto mechanics but was arrested for thief of school science equipment.
And now, you were alone, in the basement. Not exactly. You had a seven year old goldfish, and a two year old hamster. They would defend you from what was in the closet, and what lay under the bed, which was strange because what was under the bed had disappeared when you moved downstairs. It never bothered you. Till now, when it would return, which you knew for sure. You had both the closet and bed issues to deal with. The only thing remaining of your brother after moving out was his old bed.
‘…and the next time you here such a story you tell them the same thing. To mind their own damn business. Learn to defend your friends goddamn it, else you become no better. Small town white, trash good for nothin’ sons of bitches.’ Your mother’s voice broke in.
I will indeed, mumbled to yourself, not hearing anything she’d spoken concerning Sarah, but you already knew the story. Your thoughts lay back in the basement, that very moment looking at your brothers bed. Sitting there remembering you felt happy, the size of the room had doubled, nevertheless afraid because you were now, the only meal, for the closet. Then, from under your bed, a thin black arm reached out toward your leg.
Did it Even Happen?
It is often said, with the greatest misrepresentation and understanding, you will never see the silver lining every cloud possess unless you look for the open window when the door closes. It is often said, men still have one foot in the cave, while women have conquered half the world. It is often said, I am going to rip off your arm and beat you over the head with the bloody end. The last of these being directed primarily at you for actions done without thought and or reason. When nothing clear could be gauged, nor the wish to do so as it would cause further damage to the brain. You were about to make a call when reaching for the receiver you noticed a very, clearly placed message standing out against all others, directly above the faded, yellow rotary-dial telephone, stating
Your two eldest brothers, not the womanizer, the other, who quit college, moved to Columbia for three years teaching local farmers the benefits of coherent crop management through fertilization, who spoke fluent Spanish in a matter of months after arriving, who played piano as a concert pianist after only two years of once-a-week lessons, who was the leading actor in the high school plays, who didn’t look anything like your other brothers, nor father, and it was joked that he wasn’t, because your mother had something else going on which she always said was a story your eldest brother, the womanizer, invented, who got married after returning from South America only to become divorced a year later, who knew he was homosexual, who died of HIV Aids, who in his passing, took more with him then you would ever, truly realize, had placed the notice an hour before while returning home from the big city to visit, only once a year, even though the city was a two hour drive away.
The notice represented for you, a silent message. Naturally, intended for all, you thought, as it drilled inward, how true and simple some things are. Removing a trembling hand from the receiver, still watching the notice for any sings of life, for such things to you, must carry a special presence showing itself only with those chosen in viewing such articulated voodoo. It was, that sign, waited since birth. The friend you were about to phone had no idea you witness such a confession, and would wait for your call at the designated time you both agreed it would take place, for twelve years. Your knowing the events following, in not making the call, in not alerting your friend, her boyfriend was cheating on her, allowed her life till your telephoning twelve years later, to witness the necessities she’d learn, proving a path recognized by fellow colleagues, her ability in obtaining the position of CEO for a large, and very profitable company making her, eventually, one of the most successful women in the region, proved the point the notice above the telephone was that trigger, alerting remnant memories the gates were open, that you witness events in their opposite happenings, and of course that shadows can talk, because there was one standing just to your left reading along with you that notice your brother placed above the phone, whispered…’And you thought ‘I‘ was scary’ while drifting away in strange twists and jerks as smoke pulled back into a fire fighting a dreaded return.
True. It was frightful. Not so much now, as then. Teasing it was. A simple game you would play with any friend during an early youth. And it didn’t stop. The mocking was always a signpost. Stepping back from the telephone you recalled just as yesterday, it being so clear, the first token given you in crossing that bridge, a span so great in later years there was no vision possible of seeing the other side. You simply had to know the right way of looking at it. The shape of which came in pitch darkness, a sigh worn thin of having dealt with the stupidity of selfish longings and lost ideas, of random lust, of a time rich in its own making yet squandered, and finally died.
Once seen as wickedness, this dark shape entwined worlds left apart, defining a common refuge you both explored. And what this new friendship should be called, this birth between two lost decedents of entrance? With it appearance there was this slightest, audible ring, the same as a tap upon fine crystal glass. A ‘Ping’ as it were. And thus a brotherhood testifying ones self, supported through witnessing true existence, never wandering astray. There was of course the initial insanity in which to over come, and how possibilities of such a union could actually take place. And the eventual secrets they created, learned, imagined, held. The forms of guidance. An entire youth made and lost. Managed. Manipulated. Rejected. Imagined. Loved. Would it have been traded? What parts perceived? What innocents lost? What courage did it take? What fears turned you back, and had the outcome been known, could any of it been altered, and would you have wanted that? What parts of you grew while others withered? What friendships had you lost and others gained? What could any of them understand? What relatives knew this secret? What had things done to slip so, locking into place, or skidding toward oblivion? What importances changed? What alerts caused missed events worth exploring? What exploring never occurred from lost alerts? What standards lay in waste? What new directions would be taken? What anger showed a light? What darkness made you wiser? What fear created imaginations? What self-importance over-turned understanding? What passions formed lasting weaknesses of? What betrayed your morality? What forced a decision? What made you finally face under your bed? Did it even happen?
Maggi and Bobby fitted well. You asked once if she had a day left in life what would she do. Sex was her reply. All-out, full-on. It surprised you. She had some of the best grades in class, clever, somewhat attractive but not a real looker. Destined in her right attending prominent universities of her choice was certain. Above the rest in many qualities. Probably why she chose the last day doing what she wasn’t allowed from her ultra-conservative family. The class like many, were split. High-end users and desert rats. Those traditional, orthodox well-off, not too wealthy but educated with a means into the future, paraded heads above those matured in harsher environments of snakes and hot winds, dirt, leather skin. Theirs was of youth, against a destined dreariness of knowledge where escape from desert life, prominent on many a list, for most born there would be never reached.
Bobby, also from the same piece of cloth as Maggi though worked in the local pizza take-out cutting vegetables and rolling dough. He didn’t have to. Most in their backgrounds ordered, but he wanted to produce some area, work some time, see another side then those with little or no ambitions. Last he would be excepted into a higher education establishment, leave with honors, disappear into the wide-open. Not showing it, there was this air about him of success and he knew, great things await and responsibilities they hold, but for now it was Maggi, and having fun. Years before any of this, they stood in the Quiet Garden looking at the blackness growing around them. Not knowing their future affair they joined the Brainless Wonder Night, an allowed sleep-over under the stars because your father was a prominent man in the community, your mother a no non-sense whip, both not from the desert, but self-made, choose to live there which in many an eye not from that region, was viewed either as insanity or admiration, and therefore allowed well-to-do’s son’s and daughter’s to mingle with your home spun spirit, a side of you, you hadn’t any clue about till much later. Your eye caught Bobby and Maggi, standing slightly apart before the episode, joking, wandering into each others senses not understanding what that really meant, grabbed hands knowing just beyond that dark territory, were their homes and families. Was that also gone you thought?
Your right hand began to tremble. Were the others shaking too you wondered. You had the right. But couldn’t tell. Facing all this you thought, nothing. Not your ass of a brother. The dogs whimpering, sitting on the wall looking into the town. What was on the television tomorrow. When the next math test was. How your spelling had gotten worse. Where the Babe Ruth 3D card you left in your pants pocket had gotten to? Did it fall out or imagined it was in that particular pocket? All this you thought a moment before, now looking toward the town nothing entered your mind. At all. As if all you knowing went on a walk. Without you. Always believed the reason why you did so poorly at school was simply because your thoughts didn’t want to stay where they were any longer, and took a trip. To get away from you, not that you saw yourself in a light of stupidity, rather what was the point of them hanging around, and once they formed their idea, well, they just took off leaving for adventure and reasons of their own, never returning. Or if they had, with great reluctance. Always the challenge. Keeping them intact. Keeping a focus on things. You just could not. Maybe it’s a blessing. If you’d hold onto everything that entered, how would you manage? How to keep it all straight? And let it out in some form where others, including yourself could understand what it was you were doing and saying? A curse. Too quick of a mind. When things didn’t happen fast enough for you, when you saw, and knew a better way, but couldn’t act because those around you had control, would drive you utterly mad. You could spit blood for the love of it all, the foolishness in others and how clear, for you everything was at that particular moment. Then again, sometimes you completely missed the obvious, where others looked on wondering how stupidly inept you were. Has they known the cause grew from the detachment of surroundings, not a lack of intelligence. Contrary. It was their ignorance causing your reaction, allowing them to think what they needed to think. It was easier. Otherwise insanity would follow and there’d be no way out. So, you allowed them in having their ways.
‘It has a certain quality’ a voice from your right. You turned to look as did the dogs but there was no one. You looked at the dogs. They kept their gaze just next to you. They saw something. You looked again. But there was nothing. You turned and looked behind you. Nothing. You returned to the dogs. They had not moved. Again you followed their gaze. Just a void. You looked at Sarah. She was focused on the town. And the others? Indeed they too watched the darkness of the town. Turning back on your right you scanned the area. Again emptiness. But that’s it! It’s all empty you thought. Normally you would see at least some details, there was starlight after all, outlining your world. Now, not the finest of silhouettes could be detected. Then a movement. Very slowly. Very slowly indeed. With that the dogs whimpered. You looked at them, for reassurance in knowing you did in fact see something, and security, but actually they would probably bolt running as fast as possible away at any sign of danger in this kind, whatever it was. The dogs watched, waited, not moving the least. You looked again to the right, and waited, seemed forever. Nothing. A trick. All of it. Everything was playing games. The world was a joke, you at its center. Then it struck. How simple. Your brother. Of course. He and his gang were up to this. You had friends over and they wanted to play tricks scaring them. Proving you were in on it this would be their greatest laugh, in so far as no one would every come here again seeing you as a complete bastard and horrible practical joker. Yes. That’s it. Your thought gaining logic. Then something moved. Staring now deeply into the black area, you were sure of it. There was something.Out there. And very near. You could feel it growing. Swelling. It pulled at you. You could feel it in your chest, as if air began slipping outward from your very center. Your life being wrenched from you. Again! There! Another movement, a dark form the slightest….! Fear took you now in it’s friendly place where…
‘Stop it before you hurt yourself. What is the matter with you?’ a voice spoke from inside the darkness.
The fear in your heart ended. It stopped beating. You were dying. In a moment you would collapse to the ground, probably not feeling, you’ve had died in the fall. That version was to play often for years to come in your thinking; how the night changed not just the town, friends, everything.
Not sure whether voicing, or simply moving your mouth in crying out, ‘Christ Ping you bastard!’ caused Sarah to grab and squeeze your arm with a shudder. You felt her shaking, and in that split second before turning to look at her a thought jumped through your mind. Did she hear my screaming? And the others as well? You were terrified knowing the answer. If she knew what you knew or if she too saw Ping…or if they…!!! Wait a moment, you thought. If they saw Ping, I’ll just not see it. That’s it. Lie. Easy. But when you turned back Sarah was not looking in your direction allowing you to relax, a little. She hadn’t seen a thing, you thought. She also had’t heard you scream, which you were now not very certain of, and this frightened you even more.
I have to get a hold of myself you thought. I’ll go crazy from all of this. As you considered the thought movement a few feet to the left just behind Bobby, Maggi, and Sarah, caught your attention. They were looking in the direction of where the town once stood, now covered in a threatening gloom, which now you were positive monsters are born and come very soon stumbling their way, searching for food towards you. It was very clear now as soon as you had seen what became of your now dead town, you knew, just as everyone in the Quiet Garden, something in the darkness was going to advance, and it’s very hungry, with the attention of all invited guests directed there, no one except you, saw what was approaching, from behind.
‘Wait for it.’ Ping whispered. You could not do anything except wait. You could not understand what you saw. You could not react. You could not see clearly . You could not think. You could not dream had you chosen too. You could not feel. At all. You could not move. Blink your eyes. Wet yourself. Yell. Even, breath. Everything turned black, having consumed the town, it arrived in the garden, reaching, inside all of you. The last thing you remember is forgetting what you knew. That, simply left.
Just as This
Long walks in the desert were the best. Long hot, mid-day ones filled with blinding, waves of heat. Not a sound. Growing difficult, the silence caused pressure forming upon your inner ear. Like sinking to the bottom of a pool, the waters weight beginning to crush you, the ears, being most sensitive, feeling the force, start their high-ringing tone. Not a whistle, more of a hum.
Aimlessly walking your feet burning on the hot rocky sand, a vibration forms between the ears, accompanied by a losing scene of comprehension, a thought forms somewhere among all this wondering how, Mr Higgins, your wood shop teacher with over thirty years experience, Bataan death march survivor of the second war, had cut his thumb nearly off with the table saw, while you stood three feet away, not actually seeing this, you were busy with your model train project, having taken nearly a full school year to complete, growing from just a few cars to eight, a length over ten feet, a task of yours obviously out of control, while grasping this, understanding, its complexity, your thinking distracted with clear errors, calculating such an undertaking plainly beyond your ability, something more was at work here, when the piece of wood jumped causing the hand to slip, thrusting it into the saw blade, had happened.
Without a word Mr Higgins ran past you and out the door, the saw still running with its high, spinning whistle charging the room, leaving all sounds to die from busy activities and dreams of future great art works now failing, their eyes upon the leader in retreat, a man of honor held highest above all other educators. For Mr Higgins was indeed the eldest, coolest and only chain-smoking of non-filtered cigaret teacher to grace that rat crap school whose only inspiration where those from students destined for greater days, whose energy sustained the dyeing furnaces of chilled halls, their classes beyond recognition in any form of guidance, and expectations.
Your standing at school held slightly above others, due to your father, often tested through your brother. Not a promising future for either of you, less demonstrated a simple act on your part, which most don’t, yet would rather witness and later dreamt they had. That being nerve. Lacked in fundamental aspects through everyday life at school, students cowered behind their pretext of great adventurous and righteous causes, of vision and boldness, passion and power. All delivered with absolute understanding their lie was known, with no discretion in the least, as everyone bought and created their own illusions, fashioning a world, carting them along this life in their rotting buggy where inevitability took control in ones final moments, allowing clarity, having laid dormant its near entire existence, one final breath. Even then, some would refuse, flinch, recoil, run madly away truth scrambled after, lumbering, a beast having been trapped in some device, manacled in barbarous cruel fashion, never permitted the slightest liberty, was free chasing after its captor who itself now became the criminal of self-denial.
At great costs, having learned not everyone tells the truth, was still far from your reach. You did not understand how people could act in such a way. What was the problem in simply telling the truth? How it could be some, never able, haunted you, drove you to laughter, to screams, and eventual violence. And your school was full in just that type of disorder. A few students able in understanding the difference, were the first abandoning all hope in any form of honesty knowing it had been murdered. As you walked close to the windows gazing it at near empty classrooms where lost students stuck circling in corners, turned slowly one way then another, or swaying as if ready to fall, had the look of innocence staring at nothing in particular. It was the same look your mother and father had this morning. The same as Principal Randen and Maria. The same as everyone. A look of content, at being lost. For they all were. There was no direction, no want, nor understanding on any of their faces. Their actions proved the point, of having no motivation, they simply wandered showing no interest in anything or one. It was the simplest a person could become.
In walking toward the math class you saw your brothers herd, and stopped dead not from the usual fear associated in seeing them, rather what they were doing, which caused your muscles to cramp and stomach turn. You raised a hand to your mouth hoping it would help keep the vomit you felt rising from coming but it did not. The sticky foam ejected out in a dark yellow stream shooting with force straight through your fingers hitting part of the glass door, causing it to splatter back upon your face and neck. Standing there trying to breath holding your hand which now filled with spew began shacking, letting globs of barf fall, and land with a thick splattering echo in the hallway as mashed potatoes mixed with raw eggs, spaghetti and small chunks of assorted undigested vegetables sloped upon the floor. Your immediate thought in were eating was the same in viewing the hangings on the door of multicolored puke with its stench on the hallway floor.
They stooped, swaying lazily from side-to-side over a large pile of multi-colored thick slop, scooping handfuls into dislocated faces with yawning mouths. Their teeth were broken and eyes blackened, swollen wide. Their actioned reminded you that of flies on a pile of shit. They would suddenly quiver and shake violently moving rabidly around the pile, then settle again and continue with feed.
With movement catching your eye just passed them you saw another group of students undertaking similar actions. And a group over to your left. The more you focused the more other groups of students’ formed. It all slowly came into view with a single blast of hurricane wind. Just as your mind took hold of what it had seen they all lifted in one motion, one single thwacking sound erupted and with a heave they lifted from the ground, taking flight upon silvery-black laced wings, tipped with the deepest of blood red. Your eyes tighten from such a shock that of the dust blown from their repulsion on the ground, and fear as it took hold of your mind and drove some vision of places never imagined, nor ever would want.
Nothing had prepared you for anything as this. A story horribly written. And you had to listen. Just as this.
Don’t Hold Back
Playing football with your brother, while your eldest brother being quarterbacked at the town park lived his dream of command and star. The gladiator sport your mother hated, your father and eldest brother love, was filled with wonderment of how cool it was to be alive at that very moment. At that age seeing your eldest was rare and always exciting. He lived in the big city. You saw him seldom. It was always in a flush and a poof when he was around, talking his wild business life of deals with gangsters and beautiful women, all the while your fathe there gloating and you hadn’t any notion as to why he gloated the way he did, but you knew your mother hated his gloating because she always told them it’s a crock of shit they way they talk and gloat the way they gloat, and it was years later you finally learned the meaning when you mother would yell at them, had she’d know they’d turn out the way they did she’d have drowned them then and there at the start.
So in that way you knew that life was special because you weren’t drowned. And your eldest brother was special because he wasn’t drowned either. But your brother that beat the shit out of you for looking at him, well there is where the wheel ran back over the gooses neck, or so your father used to say, or was it an uncle? You can’t recall. So you start to think. Was it somewhere you read? Or just thought of right now? But you know if you begin with this you’ll never get on with this story. So stay the hell focused and move on.
Football. Yes. Football in the park. It was the smell of the grass. It was being out there in that park. It was being able to push your brother around because you played tackle football not that pussy touch or flag crap you played at school. No way. With your eldest brother it was full-on, man-ball. He loved to see you crack heads your eldest brother. Christ, he always insisted you beat the shit out of each other or you weren’t coming again. You could remember him yelling at you to push here, kick there, pock that eye. Jesus you were only a kid, but for him, hardly. This was do or die. Like he was the coach of the biggest damn game. And you two screwballs were the idiots lucky enough to be granted this great opportunity of suicide.
Faces were scratched. Teeth loosened. Arms bitten. Balls kicked. That was when you knew real pain. Getting those balls punched a couple of times. Hell, you knew it was tough but this was something you wondered why you did. And you loved it. Yes absolutely, the smell of the grass the way it burned when you slid upon it, especially with your faces. The ringing in your ears after a hard hit. The tears in your eyes building while being yelled at. The bruises already showing. Yes. This is what real ball is all about. What the professional go through everyday especial on Sunday during the big games, which of course you all had to watch without sound because your mother hated the game so. And, you’d sit there, your brother across the room your father somewhere behind you in his chair no doubt thinking, ‘Had I’d known that bitch was like this I’d have come in earlier and kill the stupid bastard that introduce us’ while saying aloud knocking over his plate of sandwiches and potato chips onto the floor, ‘Kill that son-of-a-bitch for christ sakes, you call that a penalty?’ And the camera would pan the crowd which you believed must have been saying those same exact words as they too where yelling and jumping in all directions throwing cups and food all over themselves, but you weren’t sure because the TV volume was so low it all sounded as a distant whisper, except that of your father, and of course your mother as she started just as he finished, stating clearly if it was going to be like this he’d better go right now outside and screw himself because she was damed if she’d listen to any more of that god forsaken crap of idiotic full-grown men carrying on every god dame weekend, week after week and subjecting her to this, giving her another of her fucking migraine headaches which would last well into the following week, how we could be all so selfish to put all that on her, she’d must have raised a bunch of dim-witted bastards who cared only for themselves.
‘And Mondays too.’
Wha..What?, said your mother.
‘Monday night football too.’
You turned slowly because you weren’t really positive as to what you just heard, but you think your brother spoke those words, and if so, well it was most likely the last two he’d speak for some time, because you knew your mother would be on him. Before your eyes caught where he was sitting there was a flash of as she grabbed his hair with one hand and started slapping his face with the other. It was her favorite. Grab-n-Slap. Clench that hair so they can’t move and let’m have it. Full-on. Don’t hold back. Something you think you father taught her after fighting the Japanese on Iwo Jima.
‘When in doubt’ he said, ‘kill. You can figure it all out afterwards. Don’t hold back.’
For Just a Day
Eric Johnson was voted ‘Best Dressed’. Most knew him simply as that. The guy best dressed. Was there something more, as in most? Sure. This they wouldn’t ever know. Hell, how would they. Unless they were there. But, likely weren’t. If they were, they’re either dead or insane.
Quiet, typical he moved along the rows of classes in that hot afternoon hallway with an air of fondness in the fact he was doing what was liked. Not enjoyed. Not that level. But liked. Not gay, nor facing it yet, he’d casual glance at the lockers with their owners chatting away thinking, ‘Christ if they only knew.’ Had they, well, it’d be safe to say voted best dressed wouldn’t turn out the same. It was his photo you chose standing together with Carol, his female counter-part, winning the prize that year, smiling, wire-framed glasses for both,she with braces, wide hopes and expectations, posted on the billboard in some lost thought.
This all happened before.
In front of the mirror after showering you thought how nice you’d look in your best cloths. White pants, with white shoes. Pale blue shirt. Leather black belt. Everyone would look and say, ‘Hey, lookin’ cool there.’ Toweling off you opened the bathroom door and walked into the room you shared with your brother, open the closet door, pulled the string turning on the bulb giving the faintest glow. There it was. The only nice thing you had in the sense of cloths, hanging where you had left them two years ago. They hadn’t seen the day of light since that early spring morning worn with great pride after getting them from the store. They were in fact the only cloths without a previous owner you ever had. Prior to this, all thing came from above. Hand-me-down from your brother. Except the underwear. Your mother drew the line with that.
Now, the odd thing about the closet was its size. Being very narrow, both your brother’s and your cloths hung together on a wooden broom handle horizontally wedged between the two walls, a length no longer then your arm. Things were tight. You knew these great articles of beauty would be so crushed and wrinkled they’d look like the back of your mothers hands when you last saw her some forty years ago. Without ironing them straight because you’d have to ask your mother and there was no way in hell she was going, you’d have to either cancel the whole idea, wear them as they where, or think of something.
Now, the odd thing about the closet behind the row of hanging packed cloths there were two shelves laying upon them clothes seldom worn, old shoes, small pieces of lost and broken plastic toys, probably treasure your brother stole and hide from you knowing you would never step foot back there for the simple reason you knew something lived there. Which only moved when you did. When you came close enough to it. And absolutely starved for your leg.
Now, the odd thing about the closet with the bulb allowing only shadows in dark areas behind the packed row of hanging cloths, was you could never really see what was clearly back there. And this always bothered you. Greatly bothered. Wouldn’t let you sleep type of bothered you. Kept you vacant at school, your mind not engaged with any activities or wanting for it was to occupied with what back behind the cloths stirred each and every night scratching at the thin, old, wooden door wanting desperately out. It was to concerned with the fact whether, by chance you might have forgotten to close that door, leaving it only, slightly unlatched, where with all that was required the gentlest push, and freedom would be final. It would come forward toward your bed. And find. But you were clever. Your plan was simple. Under the sheets you’d lay. And while not moving, you’d not be noticed. So for hours, these were your nights. And years they became.
Now, the odd thing about the closet was the coldness from the stone floor felt through rough callused soles, your feet always without shoes, climbing slowly up your calfs reaching the back of your knees. Your inner thighs chilled, till the urge of a scream would rip your chest apart, or, damn you either to push your hand out and take that prize you wanted so. With never your mind so twisted and broken as now, a withered blackish-yellowed hand came through the hanging cloths directly in front of your face. Your shrieking went unheard. You could only mouth something without sound. It reached quivering as broken wings from fallen prey, reached out for you, its prize. Only if it were possible in grasping the cloths, lifting them off the wooden bar, pushing yourself back, and slamming the door. But it wasn’t. You froze. The shock from the heat running down your icy thigh came from only one thing. The urine you’d released now puddled between your feet, slowly draining toward the back of the closet. But you hadn’t noticed it. The moment you thought of reaching for your cloths, there, in darkness below you a movement caught your eye. Blacker then the darkest. Your hand kept moving for your cloths while your eyes searched. And there. There you saw it clearly. Another blackened hand with a shrived thin arm came out from under the cloths, reached quickly and closed the door behind you, while the first closed upon your mouth.
It was all. Just to be like Eric. For just a day.
I Can’t Operate
And there was a time of it. No sooner had you left the house the yelling started. The further away the louder it became. Nowhere, not the dry-less colors everything possessed, escaped it. A constant reminder carved onto memory took even the slightest of joys, smashing and whipping them through your thoughts then vanished where all good moments retreat, and die.
The pool was drained for it needed cleaning. Desperately. Chlorine never added, all the urine you and your brother did while drowning each other on blistering heated afternoons and evenings, cause a stench even insects hovering above searching safe landing, fulfilling their natural desire of succession with others in furthering their species, dipped down veering swiftly off before gas overtook their senses causing those not strong enough, not clever enough, not fortunate enough, touch its surface, in doing so have no option but wait a true natures gift; a slow, passing death.
Having drawn so successfully, never the wiser toward inevitability your interests with the pool came always in the early mornings adventure often taken while most slept. Your mother often woke, was busy feeding animals by four each morning, five if she stayed up past ten watching or reading, didn’t mind as long as you stayed out of the way and didn’t wake up your father, for the mornings were her’s, and by God’s good hand if you screwed with them not even your best lie would save you. Probably assist in her slapping you for being stupid enough not having learned by now, justifiably so, you’d never reproduce, your offspring never the chance, your line of succession, your legacy squashed as unborn pigeons still in their eggs she’d made you throw out not allowing the flock kept as pets to over-populate with incest rampantly checked, you heaved those unborn high and far, not wishing but always heard, their crackling thump, splattered onto desert rocks in the vacant field you’d later find while walking dogs, those small gifts given from a greater source, spewed over blacked stones their bloodied small forms baked. Mangled. Rotting.
Worst, your brother kicking the mothers off, throwing eggs on the ground next to the nest screaming at them, ‘Here’s your baby!!! HERE’S YOUR BAAAABYYYY!!!’ as he hated their penned life. Understanding this when older, he was no different. Trapped himself, a life never free. The last time seeing him in a hospital bed, his skeleton wife hovering over, while home visiting your mother as you left the area long before, as she’d instead you come with her, and see how he was doing, clarified that. How he was doing. Christ. Several years prior he swindled your mother and father of their savings. You parted a simple, ‘We’ll not speak again.’ Not for thirty years. Now you HAD to see how he was doing. What you didn’t what to hear was his failed attempts becoming a sheriff, a correctional officer for the prison system, an endless list of want-to-be has-been acts. Seems he worked now in various grocery stores till that became too much, went on state welfare, inheriting six children from three different fathers, coming from one women he married. Jackpot.
Your mother and father both visibly white and shaking telling you this new-found love and their quick romantic venture to Vegas, a ring and a promise to love and vomit together. Witnessing that moment, that true light in their eyes wondering what they’d done wrong to have this, burned bright. Your father survived months fighting the Japanese on Iwo Jima. Your mother marrying him just to get away from her own family. Both having an adolescence worn away through a 1930’s Great American Depression, tried of a broken desert lifestyle occupied with contempt and hatred for each other, lingering lives without a better tomorrow. How they must have felt knowing the reality of it all tear wide open at the seam expectations, wants, passion, spilling upon thousand year old dead, dried, dirt.
Your father died soon after from a heart attack not before being committed to a facility, being too difficult for your mother. With health faded quickly, your brother and his new wife heard the cruelness through your mother, appeared as angels taking him unto their bosom, giving him room at their home, filled with a warming love so desperately deprived for all his married years, while asking nothing in turn for their kindness, except the pension check that was promptly cashed for cigarettes and booze seeing they were now, his legal guardians entitled to all rights thereof, including veteran benefits received from his military service. Clearly the point was the money, for your brother and his foul malevolent racketeering brood in particular, the new wife, an expert managing state welfare moneys, this was of great interest for one particular reason; veteran benefits were huge. If you could prove it, you could get it. And quick. ‘The veteran has a cold and needs medicine?’ No problem. Here’s the check. ‘Extra ‘home’ treatment?’ Sure. ‘’More pain relief prescriptions filled?’ Can’t let them suffer, oh how they gave so much for our country! ‘Need oxygen tanks refilled?’ Of course. This exploited often. Why not. They used more oxygen then your father as a high speed remedy against hangovers. It got to the point drugs and medical equipment came in the front door, leaving out the back at a profit. It was perfect. Too bad you only have one father.
And you had to see him. Your mother asked. Looking at it you thought, could they all have been in on it? How could you know for sure what really happened? You were far away, hardly in contact with any of them. Your mother arrange with your brother everything in advanced. Have the old man put away. Your brother comes along, picks it all up. Your mother washes her hands from the whole thing, and everybody goes home happy. Maybe your mother didn’t arrange anything with your brother but knew the cheap bastard would sneak in steeling it away all showing the golden side of greatness with his new ‘bag of bones’ bitch right in the middle. Mom washes hands, and there’s a party. Or maybe none of that happened. Only it happened just as you knew, and let everything go as it will, and be done with it. In the past forget it. Gone. Over. What is it anyway? Fragmented photos, clips of videos swirling around, all the while you try, spending so much effort and time trying to understand the what? History. It’s past. So what?
Entering the room one look at those two and it all flashed into and away, then returns slapping you square in the chest, again off it flew, a bizarre yoyo of what if’s. You walk up to your sister-in-law and give her a big hug then reach out for your brothers arm punctured with tubes. There are beeps and clacks from sensors alighted to his condition. He smiles at you. Tears well-up in your eyes. Your mother joins standing next to you, arm around your shoulder, smiles, leaning down toward you brother and softly whispers, ‘Drop dead.’
Now which do you think happened? Brother and new wife took everything. Or, brother and mother arranged everything. Or, none of it? Move up, about twenty years.
You return home, now upstate somewhere, in another state. Not the place you knew as home, but where it rains allot and things are much greener and cooler. So, after flying over twelve hours with a couple of transfers as you don’t live in the area anymore, you have to rent a car. And drive about three hours. Now, this is interesting because you have not driven here in many years, and are excited about this fact. Since you planed driving your near immobile mother around, everything runs smooth with the car rental, seeing you opted for a luxury model automobile. You wonder, along the drive, had you taken a cheaper model would they have been so nice? You wonder, how long it will take to get there, but seeing this is transportation with a deluxe eye seeing and having all the bells and whistles, knowing all, you simple have to gaze at the jet fighter cockpit-like controls to check all required information which you’d certainly never understand. You let loose. ‘Fuck it. I’m here deal with it.’ You said aloud. ‘*This beast is ready to move*’ and letting the carbon out in huge clouds you scream down that black road somewhere between the middle and dead of night. You wonder, there is nothing finer then right now. Right here. Where ever the hell it is. You wonder. Then, thin strands start filling, a malformed spider making its web somewhere behind your right eye took form. A sharp whack sounded. Was that under of the car? WHACK, WHACK, again, louder. Jesus Christ! Holy Mother!!!
WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, WHACK. Swerving along the road like a drunken bat your hands jerked the steering wheel. Never a strong point controlling your mind from screaming, you lost again shrieking as a ten your old girl would seeing her beloved hamster torn apart then devoured, by the pet cat. Right before dinner. ‘EEEEEIIIIIIITTTTTEEEE’ you squealed, a jittering giggle deep from inside. The thought of how they’d love you in prison blazed your mind with even greater fear then sounds from behind had caused. Curiously. ‘Uhm, I wonder…’ WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, WHACK, WHAAACK WHAAACK, WHAAACK, WHAAACK, WHAAACK, WHAAACK, WHAAACK. More of the same. But with urgency. A direness attached itself. The signal slowed. You floored the gas down hard wanting to push straight through the floor of this goddamn monster hurdling through that forsaken part of your brain, not ventured moments ago. Vibrating headlights danced. Flying reflective icons anchored on the roadway threw themselves heavenly filling the black night, streaking fire and sparks. A gusto of madness awaited on the road. And plummeted toward it. Gravity slid away sharply. Knowing piloting this animal altered nothing. A dead fall on your way down. Maps and bottles of water, the camera, and sunglasses, a toy plastic army man, a bottle cap – beer you think, used candy wrappers, multitudes of coin change from various countries, all hell-bent pitched onto the glass of the windshield, sticking there blocking all vision of the outside. Two pens shot past your head one striking your ear flinging the blood immediately onto all before it. As the thrust weighted you against the steering, breathing slowed. Air insufficient your mind dimmed, unable understanding fully, the situation.
*WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK, WHAAACK, WHAAACK, WHAAACK, WH*ACK, WHACK, WHAck, whack, whack, wha, wha, wha, wh, wh…
A boy and father are driving when the car is struck killing the father. Upon reaching the hospital the old doctor says, it’s my son. I can’t operate.
The stool always creaked. Any movement it’s moaning till death, took hold. Though you had only the broken handled BB gun, you felt certain it being sufficient putting this dying animal away. Having moved into the basement you inherited the creaking, paint worn, torn fabric wooden stool from your mother, which for years, took the load of her books. Why she’d given you this either stemmed from ‘I don’t need it and it’s in the way,’ or ‘I want you to learn the real meaning of insanity before you marry.’ Either thoughts scampered alone the walls like rats in the bush. Every time you moved they squired, clawing with echoing clicks, evaporating any form of concentration like spit on hot stone as you sat trying desperately keeping those still developing senses needed, the remainder of your life.
Your mother loved you that was true. She loved all her boys. She loved everything. Except of course her husband but did love giving him the brunt of anything possible. It was this love she had for you in giving such a device, knowing full well your problems focusing due to your constant monkey movements. You would fidget with anything. Most in your case would have drugs to quiet them, but in this house it was going to be something different then chemical medication keeping you still. Chores for one. Torture stool another.
It was a curse some said. Something went wrong during pregnancy some said. Bad karma some said. Bending to no one she cut her own cloth. If in the way, you’d loose some part held dear. Especial for males. Surrounded by them, except for the animals whom she preferred female seeing they didn’t heist their legs peeing everywhere with heat and sun creating a stench raising, choking, burning the eyes showing no remorse till watered down (being in the surroundings, water a commodity, was best used otherwise), she went for the balls. This may have come to light from your father being the lover he was. A type of man she’d say, being of poor excuse for romance as any, which do doubt the mainspring her sons turning out the way they did; two womanizers like their father. One gay. One bush monkey. Her loathing for balls was natural. She being a natural woman, in a harsh, true natural world the desert was, showed how far a twisted relation went between man and wife.
But there was peace a times. Rare though as rain. They even hugged and occasional kissed. Both sharing common threads having adolescence dominated with poverty, marooned under an inhospitable environment, from raising four boys from two generations, your two oldest brothers being fourteen years apart from you, from washing diapers in freezing water, from hanging laundry in the ice winds, from digging ditches, from laying pipe, from blistering heat with blistered faces, and blistered hand, from split fingers, from thirty-three cats, seven, dogs, ducks, pigeons, chickens, goats, horses, from gardens, from finical obligations, from lack of water, all the benchmark. It was as if harsh youth during the Great Depression where only their training days. The real, comes later.
Pointless sifting cheeks, the stool, whined regardless the movement. Siting still wasn’t an option. What remained, was letting go. So began the rocking. As babies you were all rocked. And it never left. With stress in hand, your motion matched that of the old wooden rocker used in comforting the broken mess you’d inevitably invite. Held and rocked, calmed, safe without worry the feeling transcended throughout your entire life. Used only while sitting at your desk to study the stool attached its persona from book supporter to soother. It’s creaking released your energy for the problem lay only in your powerlessness of managing your mind and body. Bored with studying your enthusiasm grew. In the eight grade your English teacher Mrs Hogelend wanted to keep you back a year. Your test scores were not passable, your classwork very poor. The parent-teacher meetings brought your mother in an area she hated. Having to deal with slow-witted people and arrogant ideas of education. ‘How in God’s name they became teachers were past understanding,’ she spoke anytime the subject of schooling arose. ‘Then again, look where we live.’
Walking out of Mrs Hogelend’s office a half hour later, looked down at you waiting in a chair across the school hallway, pointed towards the door leading out and started walking towards it. You sprang, ran to meet her, and walking swiftly as she never simply strolled. Always steps with purpose and feet pointed forward. ‘Don’t walk like a duck for Christ sake. Are you one?’ Not waiting for a reply, it was rhetorical, as most were. ‘Then shape the hell up damn it!’ Nearly all questions were of this nature. Not asking information. Giving it. If you didn’t understand this, then you were in for a lesson of sarcasm, black humor, and razor wit. She said it’s from her father. Hating his wife for her idiotic ways, he developed a course action dealing with her. Sharp tongue leaving no way of response. Jesus. Hearing this you wondered what future you’d have with women seeing your grandparents and parents all hating one another.
Not daring to ask, without speaking you both exited the hall into the bright light. Her large straw hat was in place a moment before the sun hit. In that same instance your hair grabbed in one hand, head twisted facing upward towards her’s, and it came. Three extreme, penetrating slaps. She released, your head fell, you staggered back grabbing the horrible stinging left side of your face. In all, this was the strongest she’d ever struck. The voice was quiet with firmness. Direct. ‘It’s the last time you’ll be saved.’ She walked away leaving you stranded tears rolling down. Shocked. Classmates, teachers, other parents watched with dumb horror the unfolding scene like bystanders adrift on lifeboats stunned, watching their sinking ship eclipse the surface never viewed again, heading towards crushing depths and darkness.
Breath shortened in gasps, eyes viewed her turned back as she walked away. In this, your lesson, knowing you’d have to move else forever cemented to the spot. With all watching, wasn’t the biggest challenge. It was knowing you weren’t a child anymore. That something had been motivated. That the stool finally stopped rocking.
Out the Door
Your homosexual brother was getting married. You and your brother were fitted for suits at Thomas and Sons clothing store. Mr. Thomas was always sure about his actions and words. Your mother enjoyed and appreciated the time for the fittings, it being a rare moments she could talk with someone of depth. Also he was respected. Not for his clothing a tailoring qualities, though they were good, rather the abilities as park and recreation basketball refereeing holding him high within the community. Though football was the mainstay, it was basketball which brought out the greatest participants along with supporting family members cheering. A splendid time in the scorched, small town. And Mr Thomas was right in the middle of this building frenzy. With self-tailored sharp, tight referee outfit, jet black hair and thick mustache, dark complexion, not overly muscular yet firm body tone, right for the task. His whistle, specially ordered from an outfit only supplying professional referees, he drew the crowds when having charge of the evening games. Out-going charisma, an exceptional eye for the game he naturally commanded respect from both public and players. The coaches knew he was firm, taking not a callous remark, they too gave him reverence knowing argument without just cause meant a chance of being thrown out of the game.
The crowds where larger then the high school games as park and recreation ball meant any and all could play. Each year age groups were divided, the season lasted 3 months. You only participated one of those seasons. You and your brother signed-up. Both being in the same age group though he was considered two years old, you were picked for the same team by the town drunk as its coach. The names of each player were called forming their teams you both wearing red, white and blue sweat bands on wrists and head caused an uproar as together you jogged across the court joining your new found teammates.
Your brother played well, and along with the others in that three months you were undefeated with the season closing at the state wide district title competition. Winning all three games that day, in the evening you played for the championship against a bigger and faster team. The pressure and exhaustion from the entire season, the games already played earlier that day took their toll as you entered the fourth quarter down eighteen points. The stands where filled with friends and family from both sides, press filling the sidelines, everyone waited; what the team from the small desert town would do. No one thought they’d arrive in the final, even participating at state level was never thought of. They being the only team to have accomplished such an effort caused great excitement throughout the town with many of its residence driving the distance to support, and take in the great opportunity. The twenty-thousand seat stadium sell-out was a mad house of balloons and streamers, flags and banners all representing participating teams. Never feeling tired, from the shear excitement of being in the final held all, and with three minutes to go, you were nine points behind.
You could feel the electricity flying in all directions as the clock closed down on those final moments. With twenty-three seconds four points separated you from the lead. The last timeout called, you huddled your coach taking a knee in the middle. His fat purple face from years of abuse shined with sweat as the temperature in the venue rose over eighty-five degrees and still climbed. Obviously with people thickly standing along the sidelines and exits, there were significantly more then twenty-thousand, contributing to the heat. The other team determine to hold off no matter the cost, rotated players frequently, prompting a general exhaustion from all,.The heat which played against them helped in slowing their fourth quarter advance. This produced with absolutely, no effect upon your team. You particularly thrived on the mounting heat and near deafening roar brought out from the stands.
So there it was. All coming towards an end in one moment. The drills during long practices, plans, play books, all the hopes, dreams to climax with children jumping after a ball. With a coach that shouldn’t have been, with a team that couldn’t have. Those last seconds went as they always do. With the crowd erupting in one united vast thunder, the ball passed through an iron loop. Those having traveled from the little town knew in the end, it was possible. They were there and saw it. That size isn’t everything.
Nodding the head slowly Mr Thomas stood up, moved back looking with pride. The colors matched well, the size perfect, with room for growth. ‘No sense buying such an item you can only use once seeing they grow so fast.’ He stated while your mother eyed you both closely. ‘Damn smart.’ She agreed. Looking in the mirror you almost didn’t recognize yourself or your brother. Both with new suits, custom tailored for the big day. Mr Thomas commented, ‘It will match the color of the bride perfect.’ ‘Yes, it will.’ Your mother commented for Barbara was a large woman wearing a dark wedding gown and her groom, a customaed black and white tux sporting a deep purple velveted bow tie, his gay attitude in full swing and none the wiser. Till a year later during the divorce.
With suits boxed, and nearing the door you stopped as Mr Thomas called from directly behind addressing your mother, ‘Fine ball they played. Indeed. Never mind this one’ placing a hand on your shoulder, ‘hadn’t a chance all season. They’ll be other games.’ Your brother, smirk on his face, brushed past whispering, ‘loser’ on his way out the door.
Lavina, friend of your mother lived across the highway. Friend, meaning someone talked with now and then, but gave no critical details to. She lived alone in a large house, holding a majestic view of the nearby mountains through a large single glass window, the entire size of her rear wall. Seeing this always amazed you; how glass could be manufactured into such a size. You’d only witness this twice. Having to cross the busy highway was forbidden, the dangers of traffic heading to the river left many animals dead, on the sides of its road. With the amount of animals your mother ‘collected’ they too joined those inescapable victims.
It was a rare treat to visit anyones house. Your mother wasn’t interested in having you go places filled with ‘ludicrous locals’. Bad influence they were, fearing you’d talk about what you shouldn’t. Such as the number in her collection. City law allowed two animals per household, either one each, to two the same. Had the truth been establish regarding what lay within your house, either she’d have to choose; voluntarily handing all but two over to the city, or the city arrive and depart leaving two, taking the rest. Picturing such an event, people and animals running in all directions, your mother screaming turned extremely uncomfortable, and best never happen. Often reaching the crowning point in such discussion there would be the infamies expression, ‘I’ll put the Campbell Curse on the all these sons-of bitches if they raise one hand on any of these animals.’ Sincerely you believed this. The Curse was the end. The last point before things fell away and life altered. Forever.
There were always the expressions, ‘I’m so angry I can pound sand.’ Or, ‘I’ll tear off your arm and beat you with the bloody end.’ One of the best being, ‘I’m so angry I can spit blood.’ What would you have to do to have the arm and blood preformed upon you? It would have to be awful, but most likely more stupid then awful. But the Curse, this wondering kept you wake most of the night. The first time you can remember she mentioning it, a worker in the water company your father managed, while putting in new water pipes, backed over a tree with his truck she’d planted after moving in. All right, it was understandable noting the issues here, but are you sure a curse was required? When asked what the curse enacted, ‘Can’t tell you. That would start the act,’ was replied.
After hearing of the tree, seeing her face summed it all. Warranting such a spell, your actions must have caused great harm. In placing the spell, the near opposite incorporated itself upon the one applying it.The balance. Therefore your mother never attempted anything toward the worker. Had city employees come for her animals, it was certain things would not have been the same with the worker who snapped the tree.
You were glad not venturing far from home, running the risk of inducing your mothers spells, or at least her hand across your face. During hours of boring school you’d hear limitless stories with great boasting effects. Later, the bullshit filtered, you knew either the person giving such details were themselves liars, or insane for giving away such delicate information. Those lying were destined to forever lie, in one form or another. Those releasing sensitive details for the sake of improving social standing, possessed a brain for self-destruction. Both having no idea the consequences of their dealings.
Lavina was not this type of person. Though your mother steered clear of her touching base seldom, and with care, but now she was forced. And had to ask a favor. Beholden to no one, being her general rule, but the four of you were going to the seaside for a week long vacation. Of something never before. Of a week without animals. Of the ocean you’d never seen. Of something cool and wet. Standing beside looking out the glass wall onto the basin and desert floor below, mountains tall in the distance, watching last of the sun pass below the horizon, soon stars would take its place, your mother making arrangements with Lavina in managing the animals and all tasks there of, you couldn’t imagine seeing such a place. Water as far as could be seen. Waves as tall as a house. Salt air. Beach. Cool breeze.
Left of Lavina’s stood another house. Further from the busy road, it had a strange, awkward leaning twist to it, as if trying to turn at the same instance, being pulled from the highway, toward the mountains. Gray in color with a strange designed second floor, a triangle with the top third cut off producing a flat roof. There was never any car parked in the driveway. Nor any animals. Every house in the small town had at least a dog. Not for company, rather protection. The natural alarm. Very few houses had fences. Mostly the area around a house was wide open. A dog laid in the shade for the day, roaming by night around their owners property, never moving far off it. Desert dogs had a sense about territory and stayed put. Dogs and cats were abandoned from the constant passing which traffic large cities produced on their way to the river, a cooling off play ground of drunken boaters and barbecues. Becoming a stray meant starvation and death. The locals would’t take them in knowing the line was endless. Lost from their pampered lives, these animals had very little or no natural sense of survival soon being food for buzzards and coyotes. Except for your mother, where refuge might be found if the animal was lucky enough, dogs already having owners wouldn’t want another near their territory for obvious reasons.
The strange gray treeless homestead became a ghost house in your imagination. An oddness. Being this close didn’t bother you. You felt calm. Your interest slowly being absorbed. Difficult moving your eyes away from its colorless walls. Your father said the place wasn’t connected with the water system. Where did the water come from? No windmill pumping ground water. There wasn’t any storage tanks either. Some hauled water, tanks mounted on the back of trailers were common around the area, stored in larger holdings usually at the back of a property. But here, nothing. If there wasn’t water from the town, it meant no natural gas. No phone connected either. Your father said it was owned by a woman who lived out of state, therefore electricity is turned off. The mystery grew. Who lived there? What did they do and how? There was a chill building in your lower chest with the reality coming. How then could a light be on in the upstairs?
You wouldn’t realize not knowing. Incapable understanding. A thing. The black rolled passed, bouncing over you in the Quiet Garden same as lost tumble weeds along a dry desert scape. Soft ripples pricked, traveling along your skin, conscious of warm winds circling, pulling cloths and hair. Turning you noticed Sarah was clearly the same. Nothing different. Looking past her at Bobby and Maggi, they too were exactly as before. Still gazing toward the direction. Where the darkness began.
‘All together now.’ A voice behind your right whispers. Startled, jerking around, there a small boy stood no more than two feet away, smiling with the most interesting eyes. Not dressed, nor naked he stepped back a couple of paces as if giving you an opportunity in better viewing. It was that wasn’t it? Examining. If you where to view him, you’d simply look, as say, taking in a landscape or passing art works in a museum with mild interest. But here, no. This was something better. Something needing your upmost attention. Your attention being only momentary at best, would not do. At all. Some ‘thing’ was far greater required. What though? Venture the following:
Look at the tiles on your kitchen, or bathroom floor, or wall. Whatever, but you need to find tiles. Tiles are the key. Random colors of various lights and darks. You have walked across or ignored them perhaps a thousand times. Played endless hours on hands and knees. Cleaned. Passed-out. Laid. Slept upon them. Now, close one eye and look at the tiles. Have a good long look. Use all the time you need. All right? Ready? Now, close the other eye. And do the same. Remember to go slow. Observe all there is. Make sure you examen well the entire area just as you did with your other eye.
Now, when you are finished what differences did you see between the first and second eye? What contrasts were noted? Were colors of tiles different between the two? Did the designs on the tiles alter any? If so how? Presuming you did everything described, there shouldn’t be any change. It’s about focusability. It’s not what you see, but how you see it. And the reasons why you’re looking. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to see the small boy. Because he knows the answers you’ve wanted to hear for a very long time. In opening your mouth, taking a deep breath readying the first question he suddenly stops you, raising a hand.
‘Three questions ask. Yes, or no answer one.’ He whispered. ‘Miss the chance, stay forever. Gone.’
Closing your mouth, his eyes watched you. They were the point captivating your interests. He was thin. Black hair. Perhaps nine or ten. Familiar and not. Who was h… Ping. Of course. Quickly the first question formed, and asked;
Can you remove this darkness?
Exhaling, you felt the ripples fleetingly retract over you. Sarah had not moved. Her being a vacant expression; accompanying a face stolen. Bobby and Maggi the same. The ruffling gave an only sense. No sound. Only the boy and you.
Ping. Only a shadow before, now with face and eyes. Turning back toward him he stood there. Quiet. Like the garden. There, the thought hung. The garden. Something in the garden. Why all this? Here? You knew him. Before tonight. Had you forgotten? Your thinking quickened. Racing through images. Searching for him. Was that important? Why look, what does it matter? Ask the second question. Hurry. It might all change. Keeping you here. May be a trick. A trickster. A game for him. That’s all. Quickly!! ASK THE QUESTION!!! No. If you get it wrong. Easy. Slow down. No rush. Does he look like he’s going anywhere? Yes, tricks and traps everywhere. So relax. Breath. Think. Very carefully.
What was the dark? Why people acted? As if without ideas. No ideas. No understanding. They’d forgot. Lost. Didn’t know. Didn’t know! Yes. They didn’t know. Anything. Gone. Everything taken. A thief. Came… Came and….stole. Of course. But who? Why? And the question. How to ask? Think. Come on. Come ON… Who. Why. How. How was it stolen. Stolen because…Because…Shit. Shit, shit. SHIT!! What’s the QUESTION? Damn it!! Breath. Breath. Ahhh damn it! I don’t know. Was the first question stupid? Why did I ask that? Should have asked something else. Sarah…? Sarah!!! Bobby…? Tra… What the… Where’s Donny? AHH!! Where’s Lory? Shit. Donny and Lory. Gone. Donny and Lory gone! Donny and Lory. Donny and Lory. Why? Gone. Why? Gone. Why? Why? WHY? Ok. They’re gone. Shut up….think… God! You’ve got to focus man. Focus. Focus. Hocus pocus filidocus!!! HAHAHAHA!!!! AHH Jez you’re loosing it. Easy….Easy. Feel . Huh? Feel!!! Yea…yea I feel. Ok easy. Good…goooood. Breath. Yea. Breath. Ok? Better. Yea better. Oh…what the….? You’re an idiot. Easy for you. Focus. Focus. Christ you’ll never get this. You’ll be stuck here forever. Oooh sure. You’re helping. You’re helping. Why should I? Listen…if you can’t figure it you deserve staying here. I feel for the others though. Are you sure you’re all friends? Did you just hear yourself? Donny and Lory … Donny and Lory…Gone…Gone. Christ. SHUT UP SHUT UP…. I DID’T ASK THIS!!! Are you sure? OK SMART ASS WHAT’S THE SECOND QUESTION? You want the second question? YEA!!!! I WANT THE SECOND GODDAMN QUESTIONNNNNN!!!!!! AHHARRRRAAHHH!!! I’m not going to tell you. I was, but you’re too far. You haven’t learned a thing. Stay here. NOO…no…wait…please…sorry….sorry…You’re…right…I…I’ve..I’m…I….don’t know…don’t…any.…I…
The second question formed. You spoke, slow. Deliberately.
I start at the beginning, finish at the end, fly through the middle. Can I return again?
‘Of course. Time.’ You whispered. ‘Time always starts and ends something. And it fly’s….Yes.’
It began clarifying. Your mind slowed. Breathing, lower, controlled. Thinking half aloud, murmuring. ‘He can’t stop this because he’s not here. Not here. How can he be here, and not?Because….Because he’s…he’s me.’
All him. Me. In the gully fort. Under the bed. The arm in the closet. With Principal Randen and Maria. Time slowed under his shadow. His shadow! Pings shadow. You forgot that. You forgot all of it. There were signs. Whispers. Glimpses in corners. And directly. Which you ignored. Now, Ping was hurt. And…angry. You’d forgotten. Forgotten HIM. That good-humored little boy…changed. And he brought his shadow out. The darkness. And what does his shadow affect most? Time. He can stop time!… And stoping time meant…? Meant…? THAT’S IT! Nothing. Nothing known….. Nothing known!! Ping….he stole KNOW!
Looking straight into Ping’s eyes, you slowly spoke the third question and stopped. Wait. It’s a trick. What was it he said, ‘Three questions ask. Yes, or no answer one. Miss the chance, stay forever. Gone.’[_?_] With a burst, the last question formed.
To make the one disappear, must I add the G?
Ping could put on a play. How it all started in the basement after your brother left, sitting alone, how Ping reached out from under the bed. How grabbing you, then let you fall in the gully fort after wetting yourself. How in the Quiet Garden the presence of this monstrous spook gave you the greatest fear, realizing it was your own shameful cowardliness you feared. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of being left out a group. Fear of having no friends. Fear of loosing the ones you had. Fear from your brother. Fear of scary movies. Fear of the dark. Fear of the basement. It was all about yourself. And Ping knew this. Always playing it against you. Always pushing you. Teased you. Anything imagined, Ping would do it. If you thought it, it would occur. If you dreamt it, it would become. If you saw it, it was happening toward you, as Ping would often say. ‘It’s coming toward you,’ that whispering you heard Ping always speak with. Never loud, but never soft. And always close. Beside you, as if intended only for you, was the message. A full room of people, a crowded class, you where the only one to hear. ‘A privilege’ Ping would say, ‘having another lesson, shall we?’ and then go off talking with a clear description of something which happened or was soon to.
A grand trickster Ping was, at any given moment, were infinite possibilities. As a result, certainly in seeing nothing wrong with you, so often you were told, your belief in such, grew, becoming the challenge. Eventually you arrived with a condition of mild panphobia, a fear of everything, in which one fears that unknown threats could, and most likely will, come from anyone, with distrust possibly leading to a loss of touch with reality.
- End -
50 © 2017, Lucus Anthony Ren
There your brain simply stopped. It had to. It tired understanding all of what it saw, and had seen from the time it woke up till now, looking, hearing, touching, and smelling this world. It tried to think what your father was doing with the newspaper. Where the lunch box was. What the hidden eye of Bruce’s father was looking at, and where Ping was, for that was the most upsetting factor in all this crazy uncertainty, which could not be the same place it went to bed last night in. Your brain was thinking, but couldn’t think. It knew, but couldn’t know. Because knowing, it seemed, was gone from everything.