Brian finds himself falling through the cracks of reality and into Fuar;a pocket universe.
"What do you mean, grandma?" He asked, standing up and walking towards her quickly wanting to catch a peek at the city that she saw. She smiled as she set her warm cup down and grabbed him up into her arms. He leaned against her feeling comfortable but when he peered outside there wasn't a city. Instead there was a simple garden with a pasture that had been turned into a corn maze past that.
"It's a beautiful city full of light and impossible things Brian- you just can't see it yet. Someday it'll be apart of you like it is for me." She said with a small smile.
"Are there wizards and magic?" He asked excitedly
"Only one. He's called the Speaker." She said, happy that her grandchild seemed as excited about the invisible city as she had been when her mother had told her the same thing.
"Is he old and got a funny hat on?" Brian asked quizzically
"Oh no, he's a young man who dresses very nicely and does all sorts of amazing things."
"Like what, grandma?"
"Well- he keeps the city alive." She said with a smile, that answer didn't seem to satisfy the young boy.
"That's boring!" He pouted a bit and crossed his arms, causing the grandma to laugh as she set him back on the floor. Brian went back to his cereal as his grandmother looked back outside and sighed softly to herself. There was still a small smile on her lips as she thought about the city she had loved hearing about but had never truly seen. It was a fairytale her own grandmother had made up that sounded as lovely as it did impossible.
When Brian left the house to play, he imagined himself as the Speaker, though a cooler version of the Speaker! An old man with a big white beard and a funny wizard hat with a long stick that had lasers come out of it when there was danger. He imagined a group called the Hounds or the Dogs were after him, trying to catch him and make him give up his powers. He ran through the maze giggling excitedly until he halted when he saw a tall young man standing in the middle of the field looking at the imprint in the ground at his feet.
"We don't open til 10." Brian said matter of fact, his grandmother was always telling this to people who tried to sneak into the corn maze before her farm opened. He was still at an age where parroting was normal and he was pretty proud of himself for sounding like an adult.
The young man turned around and Brian was taken aback at his face. The top half of the young man's face had burns on it that were bright red and almost looked new. His bright blue eyes didn't look human, but robotic as they bore into him curiously. Brian turned to run but felt a gentle hand grab his wrist as the young man looked him over. A small smile crept on his face and he chuckled, finally letting him go.
"You'll do wonders someday Brian Trenton."
"Grandma said I should never talk to strangers!" Brian said as he puffed out his chest, this only made the young man laugh softly. It sounded gentle and sweet and almost made Brian feel safe around the other man. But he knew that his mother and grandmother had both told him talking to strangers was bad unless you were talking business.
"Oh! In that case, I'm Keith." The young man said softly, his blue eyes looking through Brian a moment before snapping his fingers and a card appeared with the same symbol that had been on the ground where Keith had been standing, "Everyone calls me the Speaker."
Brian's eyes widened at the name, he certainly didn't look like the Speaker he had imagined! There was also no city anywhere near the farm so maybe this was someone that his grandmother had hired, he seemed like he knew magic so maybe he was a magician for the pumpkin patch. Brian giggled happily and took the card from Keith before trotting off a few steps when he turned around, he was surprised to find that Keith was gone.
"Grandma, grandma!" Brian yelled as he ran into the house causing his grandmother to run into the kitchen worriedly. From the sound of his voice it had sounded urgent but he seemed completely unharmed, so she found herself relaxing a bit once she made sure there were no scratches or scrapes on him.
"You about grave me a heart attack dear." She said, petting her hand through Brian's hair gently.
"I saw him!"
"Who, exactly?" She asked curiously
"The Speaker! He was scary at first, his face was all red and weird looking, but he was magic!" Brian said excitedly, he expected his grandmother to be excited or maybe brush it off as a fairytale that went a little over his head, sometimes she said that his imagination sometimes spilled over into real life and that's why things appeared real when they really weren't. This time her smile disappeared, and she paled slightly.
"Can you show grandma?"
Brian stood up and grabbed a couple of her fingers and scurried off back into the corn maze. His grandmother jogged along side him, looking around wildly like a young girl; her eyes full of wonder and excitement. When they got to the spot that Brian had first seen the Speaker and was surprised to see that the symbol was still burned into the ground. It had been real. His grandmother slowly walked to it and knelt on the ground, her fingers gently traced the symbol a moment before she looked up in alarm when she heard someone yelling for her.
"Mom!" came the rough voice of her daughter, she quickly stood up again and picked Brian up in her arms. She had a new spirit about her as she walked back towards the house. Her daughter was sitting on the porch looking exasperated, when she saw her mother come out of the maze she stood up quickly and walked over to the two.
"I was worried!" She said, "You didn't answer the door I thought you were hurt."
"Honey, I'm 60, not 100." She said with a laugh, before feeling Brian's weight shift towards his mother. His grandmother moved closer so Brian's mother could take him. Once in his mother's arms Brian told her all about what happened in the corn field and seeing the Speaker but instead of being happy her face twisted into that of an annoyed and irritated expression towards her mother.
"Honey, how about you grab your stuff and I'll meet you in the car ok?"
"Ok, mommy." Brian said happily, as he walked away, he heard his mother lower her voice.
"I told you not to fill his head with those city stories." She grumbled, her mother put a hand to her heart a moment and whispered something back that Brian couldn't hear. He didn't like hearing his family argue so he scurried into the house to grab his things and get ready to go home.
As he left Brian stopped and hugged his grandmother goodbye. As he got into the card, he saw his grandmother dig in her pocket before finding the card that Brian had deliberately put in there. She put a hand to her mouth silently and turned her back to the car. His mother started the car and Brian watched his grandmother get smaller as they drove down the road.
20 years later Brian still recalled that story and he often remembered it as one of the best memories he had. He knew now that it had been his over reactive imagination and the first sign of his grandmother's dementia starting. But he still loved that memory more than anything, even though his mother told him not to share it during the wake. He assumed she had a point, if that was when the first signs of her illness appeared no one would want to remember her that way. Other people would probably consider it more of a sad story, of one that wasn't sweet but of an old woman who's suffering only began.
"Mom- do we really have to sell the farm?" He asked after a moment, "I mean it's been in the family forever."
"I'm not moving from New York to Alabama, Brian." His mother retorted after a second, she sounded tired and emotional which was understandable. While he had lost a grandmother, she had lost her mom. Even though the last few years were difficult the death of the loved one was the worst thing to happen. Brian bit his lip and nodded, he supposed she had a point.
"Are you sure you want to stay a week here and pack all her things?" She asked after a moment
"Yeah, I'm sure."
"Most of it needs to go to donations but if there's something you want to keep do it."
Brian found himself nodding again, he hadn't really talked to his mother in a couple years and it was showing considering how awkward it was. He had moved out with her to New York when he was 10 and had moved out with a few boyfriends once he hit 18. Now he found himself back at her home after a particularly nasty breakup.
"I certainly don't miss the humidity here." She muttered under her breath and checked her hair in the mirror before looking back at the road. His mother had always been negative about this place. He assumed that it was just who she was. He always did think positivity would look better on her though.
Brian stared out the window and further down the country road that he used to drive during the weekends to take care of his grandmother. It was that time in October where the leaves were beginning to change and people were expecting the Delosant farm to be open for the year, surely, he would be turning people away left and right at the entrance of his grandmother's farm. It truly was a shame, even now Brian felt the knot in the pit of his stomach having to tell people about there being a death in the family.
The car slowly started to ascend a hill towards the church that his grandmother often attended. It was an awfully small church, Brian remembered when he would go and only 5 or 6 families attended normally. He wondered now how many of those people he had seen every day were gone now. It was a tragic thought for a tragic day he supposed. As the car halted, he saw one of his aunts standing at the side of the church smoking a cigarette as her free hand fidgeted with the hem of her black dress. She noticed Brian's mother and narrowed her eyes a moment as a scowl appeared on her face before she dropped the cigarette onto the ground and stepped on it to snuff it out.
His mother sighed under her breath and muttered something that Brian couldn't make out as she grabbed the keys from the ignition and dropped them into her handbag. Brian looked from his mother to his aunt before quickly leaving the car before the possible sparks flared. The last thing he wanted was to be anywhere close to his mother if she said something that his aunt didn't like. His eyes looked around for any familiar faces and was relieved to see Shaun, his uncle just inside the church doors staring at the blue doors that definitely needed a new coat of paint.
Brian smiled slightly as he walked into the doorway and purposely bumped into his uncle. The smaller man looked Brian up and down before seeming to recognize him and smile brightly. While his aunt was cold and only cared for her image his uncle appeared the opposite. He was an incredibly fun man to be around and Brian had to admit that he had surely missed him. He didn't know what his uncle saw in his aunt, but he was grateful all the same.
"Brian, you've grown so much since I last saw you!" He said as his smile faded as if he remembered where they were and the occasion at hand. He moved closer and wrapped his arms around Brian gently before giving a few gentle slaps on the back, "I'm sorry it had to be over something so sad though, how long are you in town for?"
"A week, I'm taking care of all of grandma's stuff." He replied softly, trying to be courteous to the other people in the church. So far he could see Mrs.Trum and her husband sitting at the pews; Mrs Trum was gently dabbing her eyes with a worn handkerchief that was most likely the same one that Brian remembered as a child. The Trum's children all sat beside them; their youngest was 9 and was deep in thought over which Barbie she should play with quietly.
Brian's attention went back to his uncle. Of course he did, Brian was sure that his aunt had been talking about it the past couple days. No one seemed pleased that he was the one that his grandmother wanted to split items among the family. It put salt in the wound that the house had also been given to him and his mother. Certainly the aunt wasn't going to be happy about that and Brian honestly couldn't blame her for that.
He was about to say something more when his aunt passed him and walked into the church muttering something. His uncle gave him an apologetic smile before following after her. His mother walked in soon after, rolling her eyes a bit dramatically before sitting at a pew and beckoning Brian to follow her.
An older woman that Brian didn't recognized slowly got up off of the pew and up the small steps towards the middle of the stage. Her gray hair was put into a tight bun and her face appeared youthful even at her older age. She took in a deep breath, held it, before exhaling slowly.
"Dear family and friends, we are gathered here to say farewell to Cathliene Delosant and to commit her into the hands of the Lord."
Everyone remained silent except for a lone cough from one of the O'Neil men who were sitting far apart from everyone else. Mrs. O'Neil had died a month before, to be here at another funeral so soon must have been a sorry sight. Brian's eyes flickered back to the woman.
"If anyone would like to say any last words, you may do so now."
A few people got up and walked to the front to speak. Some had stories that made Brian chuckle while others received nothing but heads bowing in solom recognition that their time on earth was just as fleeting as his grandmothers.
"My mom was a strong woman." His aunt began as she stood at the alter. Her hands were clasped together, fingers tightly intertwined as she looked at the small group below her, "Even when my father walked out on us when my sister and I were kids she kept smiling. I only ever saw her cry on two occasions; when I got married and when my sister miscarried."
Brian's eyes looked to his mother and was surprised to see her squinting her eyes at her sister, her jaw set tightly. Brian knew that look all to well; when she was trying not to shout something stupid in anger she often made that face. Just because her jaw was set didn't mean she wouldn't speak of it later- she would remember and the blow up would make grown men want to run as far away from her as possible.
"I loved my mother very much, I'll always remember her as the one who kissed my scrapes when I fell down or took us on trips when we were kids. I'll forever miss her-" The aunt dabbed at her eyes even though, even from here, Brian could tell she wasn't crying. "Thank you."
His mother rolled her eyes a moment before standing and going to the front of the church. The silence was deafening at first as she took in a shallow breath and closed her eyes.
"This funeral isn't about my experiences, but my mothers. Like my sister said, my mother was a strong person. She worked three jobs just to keep food on our plates and I've never known a stronger woman. She was full of imagination. I remember that she was a great storyteller. She found most people believed the magical worlds she made in that brilliant head of hers. " She began, looking towards the casket a moment, putting a hand to her heart a moment, before looking back at the group, "It hurts knowing that no one will ever hear those wonderful stories again or ever get to feel those hugs that made you feel safer than anything in the world. I'll miss you mommy."
She left the stage and walked back to the pew. As she sat she glanced at her sister before looking back at the priest. Brian cleared his throat, wanting more than anything to go up there and speak but he felt that he had lost the opportunity. Instead he leaned back in the pew and sighed as the funeral was wrapped up and his grandmother was put to rest.
"Do you want to go to the party of just to the house?" His mother asked curiously as they both got into the car.
"To the house." Brian replied, "I don't know how much more of auntie I can take."
"She is a wild one." His mother responded before rolling her eyes, "To the house. Just remember Vincent is picking you up to take you to the airport in a week."
"I know mom." He said after a second, looking out the window and below to all the vast fields below them. The car sputtered to life and the two were on their way.