See the body of the story for the prompt.
|The Yellow House on the Corner of Lee Street
Word count: Approx. 2,000
Notes/Warnings: Mentions of serious bodily injury.
Summary: Written for the prompt(s): I’ve lived in this small town all my life, but I never saw the (woman/man) who lived in the run down yellow house on Lee Street.
I’ve lived in this small town all my life, but I never saw the person who lived in the run-down yellow house on Lee Street.
That is, I never saw him—or I should say them—until the day I nearly died under the wheels of a blue pick-up truck.
I was eleven and on my way home from the bus stop one rainy afternoon, backpack slung jauntily over one shoulder as I walked and tried to teach myself to whistle. Despite the failed attempts at whistling, I stopped, looked, and listened before I crossed the street—used my eyes and used my ears before I used my feet—there was no other traffic but for the aforementioned blue pick-up truck, lumbering its way down Bleecker Avenue and toward Lee Street. But it was far away and I had the light.
Adjusting my glasses and still trying to whistle, I stepped into the crosswalk.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the pick-up began gathering speed as I stepped into the intersection. By the time I was halfway across Bleecker Avenue, I could hear the now not-so-distant engine revving hard, and when I looked up, the truck was bearing down on me, with no signs of stopping.
I remember clearly my mouth dropping open and my eyes widening as I froze.
One moment I was staring into bright headlights, unable to so much as blink . . . the next I was literally flying—somersaulting through the air, glasses gone, never to be seen again—then I was falling. I heard a crunch as my spine glanced off what must have been the back of the truck . . . and another crunch-thud as my body hit the wet macadam.
I was still conscious—in fact, in my head, I was simultaneously laying on the ground and yet still that same boy who’d been caught in a truck’s headlights and rooted by fear and shock while crossing Bleecker Avenue . . . and some part of me always would be—but I was in no pain whatsoever. I couldn’t feel anything at all except for the soft, meaningless patter of the cool rain on my hot face.
I couldn’t see anything but the overcast sky above.
I couldn’t hear anything but my own heartbeat in my ears, and the brakes of a truck stopping some yards distant . . . then the smooth chunk as that truck switched gears.
He’s gonna back up and finish me, I thought without fear or sadness, just a calm certainty that this moment, in the wet crosswalk, so near yet so far from my mother, was my last.
I closed my eyes and waited.
And waited some more.
Eventually, the truck shifted gears once more then shut off, and all the sound that was left was my heartbeat and the idiot patter of rain on the ground.
Confused, I opened my eyes, blinking up at the sky. Between one blink and the next, a young black man was leaning over me, his dark, handsome, face both fierce and grim, curtained but not softened by long, coppery dreadlocks.
“Can you move at all?” he asked in a voice as deep and ringing as that of a choir, the vowels of his words round with an English accent. His hand, callused but gentle, cupped my cheek, thumb brushing my wet skin. A tear rolled out of my left eye, as scalding as a hot bath.
If I could have, I would’ve asked for my mother.
In fact, I tried to, but what came out was a whimper as agony assaulted me when feeling chose that moment to return to my shattered body.
The man sighed and looked up toward the truck. “Raphael, stop poking and prodding that murdering meat-sack and come help the person we’re actually here for!”
“Coming! I’m coming—keep your feathers on, Michael,” a calm, softly resonant voice called from somewhere beyond me, in the direction of the truck. “I just wanna be able to make a full and detailed report to His Majesty when he comes to ream us out for letting this happen.”
“Gabriel will be . . . displeased, to say the least,” the man—Michael—murmured, looking down at me once more. His fierce, dark eyes flickered with concern and his mouth pursed. “We basically fell asleep on the job.”
“Gabriel would be displeased even if we brought him the Light-Bearer’s head on a silver platter with a red bow in his mouth. Having-a-cow is, like, his default setting, dude.” That soft resonant tenor grew closer and in seconds a pale man with grown-out, messy golden curls, and light hazel eyes hove into view. His face was angular and fine-featured, but so innately kind that it took the breath from my broken, agonized body.
The pale man knelt next to me and placed his hand upon my forehead. It was dry and smelled strongly of herbs.
“Hmm,” he said, and frowned a little, his eyes fluttering shut as he leaned over me. “Close your eyes, kiddo.”
“Mm—ommmy. . . .” I forced out, and blood bubbled out from my lips as I did.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you home to your mom soon enough, but first we have to get you fixed up, okay? Now, close your eyes—just for a moment. And when you open them, I promise you’ll feel acres better,” he whispered, a line forming between his brows.
Now, I felt fear—not of either man, but fear that if I closed my eyes, I might not open them again. The pain was beyond excruciating and I half-wished it’d kill me quickly just so I wouldn’t have to feel it anymore.
But suddenly, I couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open, anymore. It felt as if some outside force was closing them for me—like two hours past bedtime multiplied by a million.
When there was nothing but red-tinged darkness and agony, I felt heat rush through my body, almost as if I was getting the world’s fastest fever. Quicker than I could even think to try and scream, the fever was more than a fever. It was as if I was being baked from the inside out. I could feel boiling steam emanating from my body and clothes, and the rain must’ve been evaporating before it touched my face.
Then in one brilliant flash of pain so intense, if it’d lasted any longer than a split second, my heart would have stopped from it, my eyes flew open and I screamed, flailing around on the ground.
But even as I started to scream, the pain was already gone, and within seconds I realized that I was flailing around on the ground.
I was . . . whole.
The pain was gone, and I was whole.
I stopped screaming and flailing and bolted up so fast, I grew dizzy. Raphael caught me before I could slump back to the miraculously dry ground. He held me still, patting my back and murmuring: Easy, there, kiddo. Easy.
“Moooooommmmmm! I wailed instantly, sobbing, scared and confused and looking all around me. Still no other traffic, just the big blue pick-up sitting in the middle of the road. Laying on the ground next to it was the body of a large man. It was very still. “Oh! Oh! Mooooommmmm!”
I kept sobbing and calling for my mom like a five year old, till snot ran down my face and my head ached.
Michael and Raphael looked at each other uneasily then Raphael pasted on a smile and looked back at me.
“Hey, now, hey,” he said, and reached out to put a hand on my shoulder. I flinched away and tried to jump up, meaning to run home. But the world lurched dizzyingly and I didn’t even make it to my feet before I was throwing up.
“Shit, he’s puking,” Michael noted dourly.
“Well—yeah. He just got hit by a truck and touched by an angel. Kinda par for the course. So, whadda we do, now?” Raphael demanded, sounding almost panicked. “We can’t take him home like this—just knock on his front door and say: “Hi, Ms. Keating, here’s your son. There was a leeeetle accident, but he’s fine, now. And never mind that he’s covered in dried blood and puke. He’s fine.”
“What else can we do but take him home?” Michael asked, watching me puke up the last of my lunch. When I looked up at him and Raphael, they seemed about a thousand feet tall each. Then Michael was sighing again and bending over me. I cowered from him, but he simply scooped me up like I weighed nothing and despite my useless flailing. “C’mon,” he said over his shoulder to Raphael and turned with me in his arms.
“Where’re we going?” Raphael caught up to us a moment later, glancing behind him as we passed the truck and the body. I clutched at Michael, and closed my eyes and didn’t open them again until we were past both.
“Back to the house, of course,” Michael said gruffly as we turned the corner of Bleecker, and onto Lee Street. In the distance, from far down Bleecker, I could hear the plaintive wail of police sirens.
“Th-that’s the c-cops,” I stuttered, looking from Raphael’s kind face to Michael’s fierce one and wiping my snotty, puke-y face with my sleeve. They didn’t seem like bad guys. Not really. But who could even tell, after all that’d happened? Maybe the dead guy lying next to his truck had seemed like a good guy when he wasn’t running over kids. “M-maybe if you don’t hurt me they w-won’t put you in the ch-chair for . . . k-killing that guy.”
Michael frowned. “That guy, as you say, was already dead when he ran you over. The demon possessing him, however, was very much animate, as evidenced by your injuries.”
“Hell, rigor was already starting to set in,” Raphael said, his pointy nose wrinkling in distaste. “It’s amazing that the demon was able to control the body well enough to drive without getting stopped.”
I hadn’t understood the half of what they’d said, but what little I did understand, I latched onto. “There’s no such thing as demons,” I told them from the depths of my hard-won, eleven year-old wisdom.
“Of course there’s no such thing! Mike was just kidding, ha-ha!” Raphael said nervously, elbowing Michael, who merely frowned even deeper and kept walking. The police sirens were getting louder. Closer.
“The child was going to find out sooner or later,” Michael said in those dour tones. “Better that happen sooner, rather than later. At least once we’ve explained things to him, he’ll be able to take a hand in protecting himself. That demon wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. Despite what Gabriel thinks, the child needs to be prepared . . . as much as one can be, anyway.”
“You’re right. Of course, you’re right, Michael. But this isn’t the ideal way to find out one is the future savior of the world, is it? Shit! What a clusterfuck! Gabriel’s gonna flip,” Raphael added in a rueful mutter, heaving a sigh of his own as he looked at me. Then he smiled limply, but still kindly, and reached out to touch my cheek before I could shy away.
“Sleep,” was all he said, and before my lights went out, Michael turned us up the drive of the run-down yellow house on the corner of Lee Street.
So that’s who lives there, I thought before all was the soft, sweet, welcoming darkness that came to claim me.