A son asks his mother some questions on his birthday, and the answers shock him.
|She was humming ‘happy birthday’ quietly to herself as she pushed the cart through the vacant isle at the twenty-four hour grocery. Red or blue? She pondered to herself, as she narrowed her selection down to the birthday candles in the form of numbers. Red. She snatched the packet, and quickly paid with cash from her back pocket.
She walked through the dark streets, with only the occasional off screen bark of a dog, and the yowling of a stray cat as it arched its back atop of a dumpster and hissed as she passed.
Positioning one bag between the wall and her hip, she fished in her jacket pocket for her keys. Then with a quick bump of her hip, the door swung open into a small kitchen. The light from the street making the shadows of the bars on the window stretch across the peeling linoleum floor to the fridge that shivered every hour or so.
“Drac?” She set the groceries down on the counter next to the sink. “Drac?” She walked into the living room with its outdated orange dull shag carpet, textbooks with library bar codes and VHS tapes strewn over the floor. Touching her fingertips to the tube television encased in wood paneling, it was still warm, by anything would still be warm through the night if it were on all day. But it didn't suppress the sudden flip in her stomach.
“Drac?” she called out again, this time down the dark hallway, walls lined with faux wood paneling. She called out with an edge of panic. He couldn’t have found us. He is still here. Still here. Just open the door. She paused at the open door across from her bedroom. A few dozen models hanging from the ceiling, from a duplicate of the Wright Brothers' first, to iconic spacecrafts, if not hanging from the ceiling, teetering on the edge of the window covered in tin foil, or stranded on the floor. The floor was a troubled runway of stacks of books, and puzzles in various states of construction. The smell of modeling glue perpetually hung in the air. In the bed, a boy, appearing to be not much older than twelve or thirteen, propped his feet up on a stack of more textbooks, the top of his head facing the door. He bobbed his head slightly in time to the music being fed to him through the headphones enclosing his ears. He was absorbed in thick worn book of Sudoku puzzles, half way through, his pen quickly marking each square without a pause. Three other books of those type lay spent on the floor next to the half disintegrated ‘Starry Night’ on the floor.
“Drac?” she raised her voice. She pulled at his headphones to get his attention.
Suddenly aware of her presence, he craned his neck backwards and sheepishly grinned. “Sorry.”
“I have a surprise for you,” she said. “Come in the kitchen.”
By the time, trailed her to the kitchen, the lights were off and her back was turned to him.
She then turned around, with something in one of her hands she moved her hand over the air above it and suddenly, the candles were alight. “Happy Birthday,” she sing-song-ed above the glowing ‘50’ candles. She grinned wide enough to reveal a hint of fang, and she made a flourish of setting it down on the table.
He grinned and set at the table. “Un-made meatloaf, my favorite.” With his face closer to the little candles, it was easier to see that his teeth didn’t have the twin points that his mother had, but each tool had a slight point. He immediately motioned to pick a piece of raw meat, when his mother slapped, at his hand.
She tsked him, “You need to blow out the candles first.” She sat adjacent to him, backwards on the chair leaning on her elbows on the table watching him was soft look on her face.
He smiled and blew at the candles. Just as he was about to pick it out of the meat, they lit again. He blew, and then they immediately reignited without any sparking of the wick.
“Stop it Mom,” he cajoled. “Please.”
“OK,” she chuckled and let him blow out his candles.
“Don't tell me you forgot your own birthday,” she stood up collected the candles and deposited them in the trash bin.
“No, no, it just did seem that big to me anymore. I guess it gets more redundant the older I get huh.”
She shrugged her shoulders, “Typically. It doesn't help when you don't know exactly when you were born. Or that the currently used Gregorian calendar was not yet devised.”
She walked him again to take her seat, but she smelled something. She inhaled deeply above his head, and he froze. She ruffled his hair. “You’ve been outside,” she said numbly. His hair was slightly damp, it had rained earlier.
“Sorry,” he craned his neck to give her sympathetic eyes. “It such a quiet night. I got back before you came home, and nothing bad happened.”
“Where did you go?” She grabbed his shoulders suddenly.
He squirmed in his seat unintentional. “The library.”
“Why? This late?” she interrogated as she squeezed a bit tighter.
“To return some library books. Its my birthday, and I just wanted a walk alone. I just needed to clear my head.”
She softened her grip, and leaned over to hug him from behind. She placed a tender kiss on the top of his head. “I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you. Please, please tell me next time.”
“Yeah,” he nodded.
With the tension released she took her seat, and watched him toss a piece of meat into his mouth.
“So have you thought of a present for yourself? I was thinking of going to the caves and you could blow of some steam.” She reached for the bottle of wine on the table and pour herself some of the thick dark red liquid in a Dixie cup. She gestured the bottle to him, and he responded by shaking his head, still chewing with a contemplative look on his face.
“I've been thinking,” he spoke with a one cheek full of meat. “and the caves sound good, but if I can have anything, I would like to save the caves for another time, if you don't mind.”
She straightened in her seat, “So what did you want?”
“I apologize again, for leaving tonight. I thought that I could get back before you, I was wrong, but I need to get out. I just needed to think.” His tone had grown solemn.
“Think about what?”
“I can hear you at in the mornings. Especially around this time, my birthday. Your always more on edge, paranoid. I can hear you cry out. You have nightmares. You are always afraid of Him.”
She couldn't meet his gaze, she remained silent.
“I understand and live with why I can't leave the house during the day. Why the neighbors can't know about me, but not why not even your kind can't know about me. Why we can't just settle where people don't think it’s odd that we don't age normally? I know there are places out there. I'm not stupid. You can't blame me for ignorance.”
She suddenly stood up from the table, ignoring his statements. She grabbed at the half eaten meat, and dropped the rest of it into a Tupperware container.
“Don’t be mad, just because I haven't asked earlier, doesn't mean that I didn't want to know. I was always thinking about you, how you felt, you don’t realize how much I have been looking after you. I figured you would tell me when you were ready. But I am sick of waiting, I am asking now: someone is after us isn't there?”
She suddenly decided to scrub the sink, running the tap dusting Comet inside and scrubbing with the a ball of steel wool.
“I've always know that I am not what you are,” he continued. “I don't need blood, but you do.” he paused “I’ve fifty and I look twelve. Sometimes I feel--”
“You are still so young,” she half turned to him. “You will grow into it.”
“You are so confident.”
“I when was young, I didn't grow all that normally, but I grew into everything, just like you will.”
“But we aren't the same! How do you know? What aren’t you telling me?”
She turned and looked into his pained eyes, his hands out palms up as if pleading. “You'll be surprised,” she whispered. “I wouldn't have been able to have you if we weren't.” She resumed scrubbing, with sleeves rolled up to her elbows.
“My father,” the words finally spoken, once spoken made the whole appear to stop a moment. He continued, “Do you even know what he was?”
“Yes,” she said simply.
She continued, “All I will tell you now, is that not many know that his kind, your kind still exist. They thought them all dead, exterminated. But They, didn't count on certain things.” She said they, as if it were a proper noun, an identifiable prominent entity that best left unnamed, harking back to times when a simple utterance was a summons.
When he finally spoke, he said, “But it is him, isn't it? The one you are most afraid of. Why we keep moving, why no one can know about me?”
Her stiff back and silence was all the confirmation he needed.
“Did he hurt you?” he fished, “Am I? Did he?”
In a blur, suddenly she softly cupped his face in her hands, and tilted it so he could look into her eyes. “No, no, no, baby, don't think like that. Never think of yourself like that.” A pink tear began to roll down her cheek. She leaned in and kissed his forehead tenderly. “I loved your father very much. And he,” she paused staring off eyes unfocused as if watching a memory from afar. She started again, “and he, he loved me too. We both loved each other very much.”
“And I loved you so much before I even knew you. I didn't think it was possible, but suddenly there you were, when I thought I would never have the joy. I thought he would be so happy. I thought-- I didn't know how much I loved you until...”, she trailed off. Her face fell, and she withdraw. She silently went to the sink again and cleaned off the detergent of her hands and the rest of soap off of the newly polished sink bottom. She dried it with a rag.
“Why does he want to kill us?” he finally asked.
“He doesn't,” she replied, as a lithe silhouette against the window with the streetlight exaggerating her height. “want to kill us.”
“He doesn't want to kill me, but he wants to kill you.”
“Why?” he was suddenly aghast. “What did I do?”
“Revenge,” she said. “for killing me.”
“And, baby?” she turned to see his face, an ocean of tremulous emotions, not yet deciding on what to feel, but lost at sea in his emotions with this new enlightenment. “What you father is, they tend to be a bit... obsessive.”