As he woke up in a different room, he saw the Monolith calling him beyond his feet.
|“Have you heard the story of Lux Axton; who disappeared from this very house?” Noah Miller asked.
“Is this one of your ‘true’ stories?” I asked.
“I don’t know what you mean. All my stories are true.”
We waited, in breathless silence, dreading the sound of footsteps on the stairs.
“I don’t think they heard,” Noah said quietly.
I lowered my voice to a whisper to match him. “Who is Lux?”
Noah spoke so softly that I had to lean in to hear him. “Lux and his parents lived in this house. They were the previous owners.”
“Why did they leave?”
“You sure you want to hear?” He said with a grin. “It may affect your sleep.”
“I doubt it.”
We sat on the floor dimly illuminated by the only light in the room: a flying saucer nightlight plugged into a wall outlet behind me. Its green light shone on his face. All he needed was larger eyes and less hair, and he would look like a movie alien. Up on the wall above his head, there was a poster with the words I want to believe on it and, under that, another flying saucer. The light cast pale shadows that distorted shapes making the walls look like windows into other worlds.
He continued, “After they disappeared, his parents despaired of ever finding him and sold the house to us. Now, as to how he disappeared: Lux slept in a bedroom at the top of the stairs. Not this one or the one next door, but the door at the end of the hallway where we never go.”
“I’ve seen your parents go in there.”
“Should I continue?”
“I guess so.”
“I’ll stop. You don’t sound interested.”
He smirked. “The night it happened: the house shook until it seemed like the whole world moved up and down. The air vibrated with a mechanical hum. His parents lay in bed paralyzed with fear. Suddenly, the room was illuminated like day. The ashy smell of burning grass filled the air. Then the brightness of the light increased until it was brighter than the sun.”
“That’s not possible?”
“It’s poetic license.”
“So, you’re making it up?”
“Stop being so skeptical. You know there are lots of things that we don’t understand in the world.”
“But I do understand this.”
“Just pretend it’s a sci-fi story if that helps.”
“Is it a true story or not?”
“Are you going to keep interrupting?”
“Humanoid shadows appeared on the walls with stick thin bodies rising up to the ceiling, necks at ninety-degree angles, and guitar pick heads looking down at them. They started moving across the wall as if the light was just from a passing car. The shadows stretched around a corner like a slinky being pulled apart then reformed, on the other side, like the slinky being pushed back together until they disappeared in the shadow of the next corner. As quickly as it started, it stopped. They were left in total darkness and a silence as loud as an explosion.”
“How can silence be as loud as an explosion?”
“It’s a simile. The silence is as noticeable as an explosion—it’s a contrasting thing.”
“I’m not sure it works like that.”
“Whatever! Do you want to hear the rest?”
He took a breath. “His parents launched themselves off the bed and ran for the stairs. They didn’t know why they were so afraid until they got to the top. Lux! He had to be safe. The door was open at the end of the hallway with the blackness of the yawning doorway revealing no secrets. The air was like molasses; they moved so slowly through it. They made it to the door after what seemed like an eternity.”
He slowly breathed in then breathed out but didn’t continue.
“What did they find?”
He waited for another moment. “Nothing—the room was empty. The curtains fluttered in the breeze from the open window. And Lux was never seen again in this world.”
“I don’t believe it. Space is big—I mean really big. It is unlikely that Aliens would visit us let alone abduct kids.”
“You aren’t willing to accept anything outside the science books you read!”
“You just accept anything without knowing anything!”
“If you talked to people more instead of reading so much, you might have more friends!”
I looked away hoping that the darkness hid how red my face must be.
“I’m sorry,” Noah said.
“It’s alright. You’re probably right.”
“No, I wasn’t.”
We realized, too late, we had been talking at a normal volume for some time. Creak—we heard the sound at the bottom of the stairs, and then quiet footsteps of someone coming up, and then the door opened, and a hand reached out and flicked the light switch. We squinted up through the light at Mr. Miller.
“Time for bed you two.”
“But dad, why?”
“Because I said so. Come on Owen.”
“Why can’t we just sleep in my room?”
“Because you won’t sleep.”
“But I can when I sleep over at Owens.”
“This isn’t his house,” he said with a note of finality, “I’m sorry Owen. We are painting the room next door, so you will have to sleep in the other bedroom.”
As I was being shepherded out, Noah couldn’t resist getting in the last word, “Be careful not to end up like Lux.”
I was shuffled off down the hallway, and, with each passing door, I prayed that that would be our destination. Anything but that door. As we got closer and closer, it grew larger until I could see nothing else. The light above it flickered. In that moment, I wished I could remember test material half as well as I remembered every horror story I had ever read. Finally, it was the only door remaining. Mr. Miller opened it and beckoned me to enter. There was a spartan like cot in the middle of the room.
He left saying, “Good Night."
As the door shut behind me like the closing of a lid on a box, I saw something in the corner of my eye. It looked like a dark figure. I turned quickly around and crouched down. But it was only a tripod and a circle of black fabric with a shiny surface lying next to it. No reason to jump at shadows. I lay down on the bed with the door on the left and a window at my feet. One long curtain fell over the window and almost touched the floor. It was hard to judge the height of the window behind it.
I jumped up, turned off the lights, and lay down again. The room was dark except for the outline of light that silhouetted the door. I waited for sleep to come. Don’t think about the story. I turned over away from the door. What if someone opens the door? I turned back over. None of it was real: aliens and alien abductions.
In the silence, it was easy to imagine that the house was empty. The occasional creak or clatter, that I heard, was just the pipes or the house shifting; I hoped. I lay in the middle of the queen bed with the sides stretching out beyond me, and in the middle of the room with the walls and ceiling lost in the darkness, and one room lost in a multitude of rooms. I hate how much nothing can weight on the mind. All those empty rooms untouched and unobserved in all that space almost anything could happen.
I lay on the border between sleep and waking, long into the night, until I wasn’t sure if I was awake the whole time or if I had fallen asleep at some undefinable point. I opened my eyes. It was dark and murky, and I couldn’t move. The pressure of tons of water pushed down on my chest as I lay at what must have been the bottom of a lake with the eerie glow of the wavering surface, seemingly, an eternity away. Before I could yell or struggle, I was rushing towards it. The water around me became light and warm. I could almost reach up and touch the surface. Then I opened my eyes.
It was only dark then. I tried to move my right arm, but I couldn’t feel it. I moved it up and down, and I could dimly see it flopping on the bed beside me. The arm was wrong as if aliens had, while I was sleeping, cut it off and sewn on a new one. I felt the sensations of thousands of pinpricks of pain that signaled it was coming back to life. It was like TV static if TV static was a feeling.
I looked around. Where am I? The realization came to me slowly; this was the room at the end of the hall, but something was wrong. I looked to the left but saw no door. Had I gotten turned around in my sleep? I looked to my right, but still no door. I looked left then right then left, but there was no door. It was as if, the aliens, not satisfied with their previous experiment had replaced the room with a new one with all the same dimensions, but no way out. The little comfort and familiarity were ripped out from under me like a rug, and I felt helplessly lost in the dark. Something beyond the end of the bed caught my eyes—something large and rectangular. It looked like a door.
There shouldn’t be any door there. It stood upright, beyond my feet, utterly unearthly and geometrically perfect. It seemed to have hidden depth, but I could only see the 2D front. It moved outward with unknown power like it expelling a breath of air. The air stirred around me and felt warm on my face. I could smell newly mown grass and the warm promise of summer before the long hot days that fill the air with dust. Then it started to hum like the sound that my Grandpa’s old TV made when he first turned it on.
It’s them! In that moment, I wasn’t afraid. The story and now this; it seemed like fate that they would come for me tonight with all my thoughts directed on them. And why not? Why not me? That is how the story always starts: the lonely boy, who can’t quite fit in, is shown that he is important and destined to save the world. I got up ready to accept my destiny.
The smooth wood floor was cold on my feet; it was vibrating. The whole room, if not the whole house, was affected. It vibrated to a crescendo, then stopped, before returning seconds later, but with a different rhythm. What is that thing? I felt awe: the awesomeness of it and its awfulness. I reached out and touched it. Was there anything on earth this smooth?
I pushed on it and it gave way slightly. There was something behind it. What would happen if I went through it? I pushed harder but was met with the same resistance: some barrier behind it was preventing me from going any further. I let go, and it sprang back and rippled like a pond.
I pushed on it again until I felt the resistance. Then closing my eyes, I put my whole-body weight into it. The substance of the thing formed around me. Almost there. Suddenly, with a jerk, it gave way and the thing grabbed me then let go. I was weightless. It was like the feeling that you get when you trip and the whole world slips out from under you, but you know that the ground will soon come crashing up to meet you.
I opened my eyes. It was warm, and the stars were small and far away. Nothing? Snap—I was illuminated in light. It’s them! I didn’t have time to feel anything before the ground came crashing up to meet me and any air in my lungs was left back in the room above. I was left with the immense pain all over my back that my hands, moving from one area to the next, ineffectually tried to stem.
When the pain had lessened, and I could breathe again, I looked up at where I came from and saw the open window and the curtain hanging out and flapping in the breeze. My eyes traveled down to the room below which turned out to be the living room. I could hear the rumble and hum of the TV from here. The glaring flood lights prevented my eyes from looking any lower.
How could you have fallen for this? I was glad that no one had been there to witness my foolishness. And then a shadow fell over me. Something was standing in front of the lights. Spindly legs led to a long torso and then a thin head that blocked out the light. The head disappeared behind me as the torso followed traveling through me. I put my hands on the damp grass and pushed myself shakily upright. I raised my hands up to the sky with grass clippings stuck to my palms.
“I want to believe!”
“Hey! Are you okay?” My eyes adjusted to the light as Mr. Miller’s face swam into view.