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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #1521031
Lifetime wish comes w/consequences. Winner of the Rising Stars North Star contest!
[Written for Circle of Sisters North Star Contest]

The Sound of Consequences

         Ricky Grant, stone deaf since birth, sat with his eyes closed on an underground bench on the D.C. Metro platform. It was like playing God, he mused, having the power to eliminate at will one of his senses. But, he thought with scorn, he was better than God because he could open his eyes when he wanted to restore his sight. He wasn’t sure he even believed in God, but there was one thing he was certain of: His world was silent and there was nothing he or any god could do about it.

         The tiniest vibration trembled through the seat of his jeans and the soles of his sneakers. Air moved across his face, the breath of a butterfly. Next to him, he felt Wendy grab his sleeve with the gentleness of a toddler. He opened his eyes.

         Mud brown eyes gleamed back at him. “It’s coming,” she signed and nodded toward the track. The row of floor lights that lined the platform’s edge blinked. The breeze from the tunnel picked up.

         Ricky's gaze was steady. “No shit,” he signed back.

         She cocked her head, rolled her eyes and went on. She signed quickly, fingers fluttering across the space between her face and her chest.

         “I can’t wait to see my brother! He’s been in Guatemala for three years; can you imagine? And he’s got news; I wonder what it is? Anyways, you’re going to love him!”

         Ricky only nodded. He wasn’t thrilled that Wendy’s brother was coming, and frankly seeing her spirited excitement annoyed him. She never showed that much enthusiasm for Ricky, no matter how much he wished she would. Sure, they were good friends, had been since he began at Gallaudet last year. She wasn’t deaf, but she'd taken a student teacher position, in training for a career as an interpreter for the hearing impaired. They'd become fast friends, which would have been great, if she'd felt the romance too. But she didn't. She would never say so, but he felt it. He wasn’t good enough, not whole enough. He wasn’t cut out for college, either. His grades were shit, and then his disability funding fell through. Thanks, Uncle Sam. Eventually, he'd had to move off campus. She'd let him move into her apartment, pitying him, probably. And it was up to him muzzle his indignation and accept her friendship in the same spirit he faced everything else he couldn’t change. Digging deep, he mustered a smile and signed, “I’m sure I’ll like him.”

         As the train slowed to a halt Wendy rose in its direction, scanning the windows as she moved toward the tracks. Ricky watched her slender figure disappear into the crowd. A human river flowed toward the escalators. The vibrations through his shoes were different now, what fever pitch feels like. Must have been why he never felt the man's approach who whipped between the bench and Ricky, clipping Ricky's shoulder as he cut past. The son-of-a-bitch neither looked down nor apologized. A dank stench from the man’s worn leather coat wafted in his wake. The odor beckoned an unpleasant memory.

         He’d stood shivering deep in the forest, a ten year old boy in too-big boots, frozen in the snow. His father brought a finger to his lips, (Quiet!), before leveling the rifle in a slow, fluid motion. Ricky turned his head; saw the deer browsing in a clearing unaware that it was in the hunter’s sight. The horror of killing gripped his heart. Frightened and cold, he shifted his weight. The deer started and leapt into the safety of the trees. A pungent, metallic smell hit him in the face when he spun and met the rifle’s smoking barrel, and his father’s anger. With furious signs his dad said, “You snapped a twig! It heard you! Damn IT!”

         Ricky pushed the painful memory down as Wendy came into view flanked by a robust man with disheveled hair and a deep suntan.

         “Ricky,” she signed and spoke, “this is Sebastian.” She turned and Ricky couldn’t read her lips, but a moment later Sebastian extended his hand and with slow, exaggerated lips he formed the words, “Nice to meet you.” With a firm grip, Ricky shook his hand, and cast a warning with icy eyes: Don’t patronize me.

         The escalator ride to street level was long, even by D.C. Metro standards. By the time the three emerged under twilight’s sky Ricky had stopped trying to follow the conversation between Wendy and Sebastian. The apartment was across the street from the Metro entrance and when the light turned green, Ricky stepped off the curb. A vibration echoed off the left side of his body sending his heart rate skipping. Wendy grabbed a fistful of sleeve and yanked as a car rocked to a halt inches from his leg. Ricky swallowed hard, forcing down the fear as his humiliation rose. Sebastian’s vein pulsed in his temple as he shouted at the driver who was leaning out his window with an animated face and his middle finger thrust in their direction. Once safely across the road, Sebastian turned to Ricky and his slow, deliberate mouth asked, “Are you all right?” Ricky pressed his lips into a line. His ears burned as he fought for control. People passing by gawked at him. Had they heard the horn blast and wondered why he didn’t jump back? Did they think he was daft? He looked at Sebastian and Wendy, at their worried expressions. They thought so, too!

         He nodded stiffly. “I’m fine,” he signed, and turned toward the apartment, shrugging Wendy’s hand off his arm.

         Later, over a couple of beers in the back den of the apartment, Wendy addressed Sebastian in sign language so Ricky could follow while she spoke.

         “Alright, I’m dying to know, Sebastian. What’s this big discovery you made in Guatemala?”

         Sebatian shifted to the edge of the couch. While he spoke, Wendy signed for Ricky. “I was working in Nakbe, in El Petén, Guatemala. The project is an off-shoot of the RAINPEG Project begun by UCLA in the ‘90s. Originally the project focused on studying Mayan tools made out of chert from the area’s limestone quarries. But we found something else, something fantastic.

         “We discovered a cave near the quarry, which led to a system of underground tunnels never excavated before now.” Sebastian’s eyes glistened in the lamp light. His chest expanded visibly before he went on. “I uncovered a sacred vestibule. In a chamber, I found this.” He reached into his coat pocket and produced a small, hand-hewn wooden box.

         Wendy asked, “What is it?”

         “In this box," Sebastian paused, "is a coin.” A slow smile spread across his face as he set the box on the coffee table in front of him. “A cursed coin, with mystical power.”

         Ricky snorted. “What’s he talking about?” he signed to Wendy.

         Ignoring him, Sebastian continued. “This coin eliminates the greatest weakness of the one holding it.”

         Wendy and Ricky looked at the box, and then at each other. Ricky narrowed his eyes. Wendy turned back to her brother and said, “What do you mean ‘eliminates it’?”

         “I mean, literally, it removes the person’s greatest weakness. Takes it away." His hands mimed poof in slow motion. But get this! It’s covered with hieroglyphs warning of danger. I don’t know why, or how it works, but it’s a priceless artifact. That’s why I’m hand delivering it tomorrow morning to Dr. Kingston, head of The National Archeological Resear---“

         Both Sebastian’s and Wendy’s heads snapped toward the doorway. Ricky tugged Wendy’s sleeve. “What is it?”

         Her hands trembled as she formed the signs. “We heard the front door. I think someone’s in the apartment!” Sebastian was on his feet; he leaned over and whispered in Wendy’s ear, then moved with light steps toward the doorway. Wendy signed quickly to Ricky, “He says don’t move.” Then she stood.

         “You stay, too!” Ricky signed with vehemence, an anxious scowl etching his forehead. She put a finger to her lips, and then moved toward the door. Ricky saw her outline framed by the living room doorway. Suddenly she broke into a run, her silhouette becoming a shadow on the hallway wall beyond. Abruptly her shadow halted, shuddered, and then collapsed out of sight. Ricky sprang to his feet; panic consumed him as a tall shadow crept across the wall where Wendy’s had just been.

         Ricky moved without thinking. He snatched a heavy glass vase from the console table behind the sofa and pressed his body into the folds of the floor-length drapes flanking the window. He needed more air than he dared breathe in. With his view obstructed he couldn’t know where the intruder was. Never in his life had he wished more than now that he could hear! Tension gripped his body lest he make a sound and give away his hiding place. The memory of the deer leaping away swam before his mind’s eye.

         As moments passed, the fear ebbed and boldness flowed; he gripped the vase tighter. Only a coward would stand here and do nothing. He had to chance a peek, know if the prowler was in the room with him. But what if he made a sound? He hesitated, then inched an eye to the edge of the drape. His breath caught in his throat.

         The man in the worn leather coat who had bumped his arm in the Metro stood with his back to the window, holding Sebastian’s little wooden box. Shocked recognition gave way to anger, and then the anger emboldened him. Son-of-a-bitch. Ricky twisted his torso with care and raised the vase over his head without disturbing the drapes. He stood rigid, frightened, determined. He inhaled, and leapt.

         The man turned as the vase shattered across his head. Ricky felt the heft of the glass reverberate against the man’s skull before he crumbled to the floor. Shaking and numb, Ricky’s attention went to a glint of light spinning across the floor. He looked down at the motionless man sprawled next to a taser gun and the wooden box lying open on its side.

         Ricky rushed forward and scooped the coin off the floor. He began to examine it when a moan from the entryway reached his ears. He froze. It came again. His heart raced, and zombie-like he shuffled toward the doorway. In the hall, Wendy and Sebastian lay near one another; a soft groan issued again from Wendy’s mouth. Ricky gasped, and he heard a strange, rumbling sound come from his own mouth. The coin! It really works? Thoughts collided in his mind. This was his chance to be normal, the gift to freedoms he’d been denied. But they’d want it back. He clenched his fist, decided. Bounding over Wendy, he sprang for the door.

         He flinched when the hinges squeaked. Elation gripped him as he tore down the steps to the ground floor, marveling at the pounding of his feet reverberating through the stairwell. He thrust the door open and the city’s noise, foreign and strange, brought him to a standstill. Waves of sound swelled and receded accompanying the cars on the street. Then, a group of passing women stole his attention. He reeled around; the sound of their laughter was more wondrous than he’d imagined. He stared as they entered the corner grocery. The tinkling bells on the door drew his eyes up. His senses were overwhelmed. Fascinated and confused, he struggled to take it all in. But alarm intruded on his rejoicing. He had to get away from here, plan his next move. He bolted for the Metro.

         A sudden, crazy, blaring racket surrounded him, mingled by a white, shrieking noise that stopped Ricky in his tracks. He had no frame of reference, no reaction. Like a deer caught in the headlights, he froze. When the car slammed into him, it hurtled his rigid, baffled body across the hood.

         The coin flew out of his limp hand, and Ricky’s world became again dark and silent.

{Word Count excluding title: 2000}

Plague I received for winning the Rising Stars 2008 North Star contest

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