by Damien Quade
A supernatural 'short' story concerning the irony of interactions between races.
|I was awakened by the sound of crunching glass outside my window. Minutes later, my door opened to a coughing, sickly old woman. It was my mother. Ever since she’d gone to see the doctor a couple months ago, her skin had become progressively more frail and her hair ever so thin.
“What’s the matter now, mother,” I said in a harsh tone. I was still tired.
“The noise, dear; did you not here the noise just now? It came from over there,” she pointed her boney finger at my window, “just outside your window.” I rolled sluggishly out of bed and meandered about in my dimly lit room, made so by the light pouring in through the cracked door where my mother stood, in search of warm clothes.
I looked at my mom after dressing and, seeing her lean heavily upon the door-knob, was again reminded of her illness. After returning from her diagnosis, she kept on about some sort of cancer she was told she had that was said to kill in a matter of years. This terrified my father and me, but it gave her renewed meaning. Then, out of the blue, she began trying to show me how wonderful life can be if you are friendly to others and accept those around you. Before, she was as normal a mother as any these days. But I suppose the illness made her think of her family now more than ever, considering how little time she had left with us.
When I arrived in the kitchen, I noticed through the window that a large, frozen tree branch had fallen on and crushed our neighbor’s car.
“It’s the Lawson’s car,” I said with a smirk, quite to my mother’s dismay. “You know,” I began, “I don’t think investigating is going to do much good; and besides…”
“Go see what’s going on” she interjected. “There has to be something we can do” she implored, ignoring my gripes. She gave me a weak push: “be on your way boy, I know you’ve got the energy.”
“This is ridiculous!” I rebelled. “I don’t want anything to do with the Lawson family!” I returned to my room. A few moments later, I heard the front door open. I knew it couldn’t be dad - he was at work. So I curiously poked my head out to see who it was. “Mother!” I gasped. She had thrown on a large winter-jacket and a pair of slippers - God forbid - and was walking outside! I hurried after and managed to stop her before she made it clearly out into the open, but not before the bitter cold had taken its toll: she was coughing harshly. I immediately requested that she return indoors, but she was hesitant:
“Son,” she began, her voice as low as a shy child’s. “I’m not doing this… because I want to. I do it because it makes others hap – cgh, cgh.” A small fit of coughing cut off her statement.
I tried to ignore the frail being in front of me: “That’s all well and good, but the Lawson’s are… different.” I said shrugging. She looked at me questioningly. “Well… they’re evil!” I defended with a smile.
“Now who’s being ridiculous?” she sighed, slowly turning her frail body back towards the apartment. “Just try your best to be nice,” she managed to say, before going into another fit of coughing. I started to walk away when, standing by the door: “and remember, son. Always be kind to others.” She paused for a second to catch her breath, then: “even if they’re different from you.”
“Ok!” I said, rather cross. “I know.”
“You have your phone dear?”
“Of course,” I said, pulling it from my coat pocket. She smiled:
“I’ll call you to make sure everything’s ok later,” she assured me, shutting the door behind her. I rolled my eyes and turned around to face what I thought would be the Lawson family, standing down the street and staring bloody holes in my bleeding head with their big blue eyes, but was instead greeted by a large wall of snow. Perplexed, I glanced back to see the damage. Thankfully, my apartment was still there, and a few slaps to the face ensured I was still sane. Curiosity held me fast, however, as did my desire not to fail my mother again. I fixed my resolve and approached what appeared to be a door in the snow.
I stood before a door magically hinged in the wintery wall, icicles forming the handle in curious ways, and the sheen of it all, the reflection of the glassy door, the sparkle of the white rain, and the haze of mid-day, created a peculiar yet mesmerizing sensation. It couldn’t be real; yet my senses were sharp. The chill of the breeze stung like frozen-bees in my nostrils, and my hair was on edge. I was cold and I knew it and there was no denying that, at an instant, I might retreat from my charge, for as I glanced back, the apartment was still there. But I stood my course, for I knew not of an excuse to liberate myself of the guilt of failure. My mother was counting on me because she didn’t have the strength to see it through herself. I didn’t really care, but it was the least I could do for her before she died. Then again, would it really even matter in the end?
I proceeded through the door, under the impression of ground, and fell through frigid air and for quite a distance, until finally, and thankfully, I plummeted into a chilly fog forming what seemed to be the ground. It was soft and didn’t make a sound, when I landed that is. Looking up, I concluded the door was too high to reach at this point, and so I rose and walked over to what appeared to be the only physically tangible thing in this new realm: a white block. As I stepped up onto this block, I felt it with my feet and noted that it was made of some kind of liquid marble. It absorbed my weight, yet didn’t move, and looked as if it were removed from the walls of Parthenon. My eyes were then dazzled, for at that moment a rope extended from the edge of the block and away from where I came. It faded into the distance not too far off, for the fog was thick and sight beyond but three yards was difficult. Despite this, I began to walk. Treading the rope, I was once again under the impression of ground and immediately halted, jumping back and reaching out with my foot to check for security. The fog seemed firm, and so I resumed my advance.
I was remarkably lithe, confirming the whole as peculiar, for I knew I was not so. How could it be that, now, I was capable of balancing upon a firm, yet thin rope, versus some time before, when walking the edges of, say, a highway, on curbs and ill-managed guard-rails, was the extent of my acrobatic prowess. It baffled me at the same time that it excited me, for it seemed I’d acquired a new power. And so, I began in confident strides, then moved to a brisk jog, and finally progressed to an all-out sprint. The chill of the breeze didn’t phase me as my heart raced rapidly and heated my skin. I felt invincible and sprinted and sprinted, until my heart crumbled under fatigue, at which point I slowed to a halt and kneeled onto the rope in perfect balance. As I heaved oxygen into my lunges, for I was not accustomed to such fits of activity:
“We’ve been watching you,” a voice, sinister and airy spoke.
My heart skipped a beat. I looked up and peered into a pair of large, blue eyes hovering but inches from my face. They were attached to what might have been a head, now wrapped in white gauze. I couldn’t move or speak, breath or think of anything. My heart was throbbing uncontrollably.
“You’re afraid, flessshling,” another, red-eyed head began, floating just a few feet away from me and on the other side.
“Why are you so afraid, fleshling?” Blue-Eyes continued, “we’re here to help you” he said, no doubt smiling behind his mask of cloth. I could see it in his eyes - those sinister, piercing eyes – and feel it in his tone. Suddenly, their bodies were liberated of the shroud of cloth that held tight there visage, revealing partially-transparent and human-like bodies of a bright, blue hue. Then, as they slowly twisted their levitating bodies to face the way from which I came, their muscles began to glow, ceasing once they’d completed their turn, and glowing again in their arms as they pointed at the door. It was still opened…
“Look, fleshling,” Blue implored. “The door, it is opened!”
“Why isss the door opened?” Red-Eyes pleaded. “If they get in, we will… you will never esssscape!” he hissed.
“What are you talking about?” I inquired rather shaken. I managed to my feet, still nimble upon the rope, and shook off the fatigue like some drench-coat. “Who’s 'they'? Actually, who are you?! And where is -
“You foolish boy!” Blue-Eyes interrupted, suddenly appearing in front of me, hand grasping for my neck. I ducked and dodged his hand, only to lose my balance on the rope at last.
“You mussstn’t resssissst, boy!“ The other caught me as I fell, its arms grasping firmly my weakened shoulders. “You are one of ussss!” He continued, lifting me up and holding me in levitation a few feet above the rope. The first followed closely, his large blue eyes glaring at my neck in some sort of impulsive fetish. It infuriated me almost as much as it was strange, and I began to thrash a little for comfort; though, I didn’t really feel the need to break free. I wanted to hear them out…
“You can’t posssssibly change now!” Red-Eyes whispered in my ear. “Alwaysss the introvert, you were; and sssoooo… sssself-fissssh!” He shook me laughing. The other still stared at me, his eyes growing more intense and widening as he closed in on my neck. His hands were ethereal, but they were as firm as the grip of a shaved and callous grizzly paw. His grip was lax, at first, as if to relish in my fear.
“Yes, boy!” he breathed, freakishly. “You are one with us now!” The light from his arm blinded me as he tightened his grip, effectively throttling my pupils as much as my neck, for his muscles glowed as brightly as the headlights of an incoming car in the dead of night. I felt I was suffocating, physically and mentally. I couldn’t possibly fight off this monster, I thought, but my natural instincts inspired a frantic flailing of my arms, which, from what I could tell… were turning as blue as the skin of my assailants! I was horrified!
Red-Eyes, his grip still firm on my shoulders, began to hiss uncontrollably in my ear, laughing: “Yesss! One of usss now!” Then, just as the light from the white room dimmed with my approaching lapse into oblivion, my phone began to ring. Then it hit me:
“Mother,” I struggled to say under the crushing pressure of Blue’s hand.
“What wasss that, boy?!” Red-Eyes said in my other ear, as if he’d worn out the first one.
I struggled even to remember what I said, then it came to me as clear as the light from the arm gripping my neck:
“MOTHER!” I bellowed! In a fit of hissing and grunting, they suddenly retracted, dropping me back down to the rope. Remarkably, considering the state of exhaustion I was in and the limits of human abilities, I landed on the rope below without a hitch, gasping for air and in astonishment. It took everything not to look back at what sounded like banshees in an oven, but there wasn’t any time to lose. I immediately began to sprint with everything I had, which, to my surprise, was enough to make my eyes water in the passing wind. As I looked down at my legs to observe the incredible pace at which they moved, my heart sank and my blue eyes widened. What I saw were not my legs, but the ethereal appendages of my assailants! They’d transformed me into one of them!
Hissing laughter came from behind me, and I knew I couldn’t linger for much longer. I glanced back and shouted:
“I may be a freak, but I will never be like either of you!” Turning back without a second thought, I took off as quickly as I stopped. I ran for what seemed like several minutes; I ran with thoughts of my mother and her condition; and I ran with a renewed meaning and purpose. I wanted to help my mother, but I didn’t know why. All that mattered now was accomplishing what my mother intended. Before, I didn’t even care; but now it seemed nothing in world was as important to me as she was. At this, a door appeared in the distance that looked not unlike the one from before.
It was opened…
The door before me, encased in ice, was opened, and I could see what appeared to be a glimmer of snow just beyond the crystalline threshold. The hustle was over, and the cool breeze assured me of a brief respite; and, oddly enough, it warmed me to see these imaginary flakes of frozen water. Usually the slightest touch of chill plunged me into miserable pessimism; but not this time. I proceeded through the door with renewed hope, my heart set to escape the torment of the white room and the burning gaze of those eyes. The snow fell as if carved in layers from the clouds above, falling in a serene lament. It caressed a world dead silent in awe of its splendor, and created a sudden and stark contrast to the hell of the room. I stepped into the snow and shut the door behind me.
The cold dissolved as it fell upon my emblazoned, glowing cheeks. My body began to contract in response to the drastic change in temperature, for the strange, white room had been like a well-heated nursery. Before I could look back, I was filled with hints of the doubts from before my excursion as I stood before the neighbor’s car, decimated beneath the weight of a massive tree branch:
“Do I even care?” I wondered. My heart shrank at the notion, and I was assured.
I could hear the sounds of muffled voices a few paces away and noted that a couple had come to investigate the loud crash just as I had. I couldn’t hear everything they were saying, but I knew it wasn’t virtuous. The only bit of surprise I heard was directed towards the tree, followed by the lady’s remark:
“Aw, poor tree.” I could almost sympathize with her, but something within me prevented it. I felt anger welling from within: I wanted to correct their judgment, so they’d feel miserable for ignoring the car. That wrecked hunk-of-metal was more important than the tree, since it involved people. But they didn’t seem to care.
Then, thoughts of my mother and how saddened she would’ve been to hear them provoked me, and as they continued their chronic topic on environmental degradation, I walked up to them, a piece of glass from the wreckage held firm in my glowing blue hand, and demanded they keep their thoughts to themselves, using the shard to point at the “poor car.” They just stared at me, looking in disgust at what appeared to be an alien. Then, as suddenly as it had come, my anger gave way to realization as I said to myself:
“My mom must think we’re all aliens.”
With the wave of a hand, the couple proceeded as if nothing had happened. I disregarded the whole affair, curious to know what a glowing, blue boy meant to them, and walked over to the Lawsons’ door, pondering my reaction and thinking of how, had things gone as intended, I might have originally reacted.
Flipping the shard through my fingers, I stood waiting: it was the least I could do, for my mother’s sake. Then, my fingers began to bleed. Glowing blue ooze emerged, yet I didn’t find it odd:
“I should wait for the Lawsons’ to come out so that I can explain things to someone who can understand me.”