Displaying items by tag: short story
Sound filters into my hallucinatory, anesthesia-induced dreams. Like a swimmer coming up for air, my mind presses upward against the weight until I rise into life again. Dreams give way to memories.
My brother, age 10. Me, age 5. Even his favorite cookies, freshly baked, can’t erase the whine in his voice. “Mom, why do I have to stay home?”
“Your sister is sick.”
“Callie’s always sick.” He glares at me and chomps and tears the chocolate chip cookie like a lion ripping into a gazelle.
Mark sat in his bedroom, head full of the raucous beat of The National, staring through the half-open blinds at a squirrel doing a kamikaze leap from tree-branch to shed roof. It’d been over an hour since the blow-up with Mum. He pulled out an earpiece. Yes, he could still hear her in the kitchen, rattling crockery, banging cupboards, and there, the distinctive sound of a metal spoon scraping round a metal pan.
‘Wooden spoon,’ he said under his breath. ‘Use a wooden spoon.’
She was doing it on purpose, breaking the rule. Dad’s rule: Never use a metal spoon in a non-stick pan. All the pans were non-stick. At least she’d stopped slamming doors. Mark switched tracks on his iPhone, needing something louder, wanting the beat to encase him, to wrap him up and block out the world. He pushed the earpiece back in.
In my family we don’t talk. We eat. Whenever there is an issue that festers in our hearts, my mother cooks an elaborate dinner and we sit next to each other in silence chewing away our worries, washing them down with respectable amounts of beer or wine.
The more things we eat, the bigger the problem. The better the cake, the greater my mother’s effort to hide what was on her mind. Year after year, I learned how to read what was for dinner, like others read Tarot cards or palms. I became ‘The food whisperer’.
This night’s special was my brother’s disappearance. A usual occurrence in our household but never one that made my mother roast an entire turkey for three people. As soon as I saw the lifeless bird on our table, I knew it had something to do with Alex not calling to let mum know he was okay.
Dennis stood on the doorstep and rang the bell. He idly looked across the wide expanse of the front lawn to the country laneway. Suddenly he heard the telltale clicks of the lock being opened and the handle turned. The door swung opened and Wilson waved him in. "Come on in, Dennis. I'm just finishing up. Mom and Dad are away this weekend so this would be an excellent time for a test."
Dennis stepped in and shut the door as Wilson disappeared down the corridor. Dennis could hear the whirring of a machine in a back room. As he walked down the hall, he made note of the folded pieces of cardboard stacked against a wall along with several large pieces of Styrofoam. The noise got louder as he came to what constituted a workshop.
His friend Wilson was hunched over a grey machine, the source of the noise, set up on a sturdy metal table.
I bet you’re wondering how I came to be here, crammed into a mental hospital with the crazies. You’ll notice I didn’t say other crazies because I’m not crazy at all; I’m as sane as you are. And I’m going to tell you how I ended up here so you don’t suffer the same fate. Not only am I sane, I’m a nice guy. Didn’t expect to find that in the loony bin did you?
It all started a month ago, when I first heard the voice. I was in the library looking for a book on some guy called Shakespeare. Okay, okay I know he’s not just some guy, he’s the guy. I hadn’t read any of his stuff though. Why would I? Comics were more my scene. Our English teacher, Mrs. Pleasant, loved this Shakespeare fella though and our major term paper was to write an alternative ending to Romeo & Juliet. Have you read that stuff? I hadn’t but Mrs. Pleasant had quoted plenty of it during class; all those thees, thous and verilys made my head spin, I knew I needed help.
It had started with a year of fighting. Mom and Dad had just gotten divorced, and my sister was starting college in the city. Dad had decided that his new partner at the law firm was the greatest miracle life had to offer, and had moved in with him.
Cassidy lived at home, though, and she had declared a hatred of men. She was taller than me, and skinnier; she’d go out babysitting to earn some spending money or wait tables between classes. She worked at the mall, serving people in the food court. The work made her snippy and snappy, like a pair of kitchen scissors.
The divorce had changed Mom as well; there were mean lines around her lips that hadn’t been there before. Dad used to take care of the bills, but now she had to handle the pile of receipts and envelopes that came in the mail. She worked late into the evenings, often coming home to microwave some dinner and shove it onto several plates. On bad days, Cassidy brought takeout to the table and argued with my mother about the cost, as if she was wasting her babysitting money.
Sometimes a question can be more powerful than any answer. For example, take this question – where are you from? Two months ago my answer would have been simple. I’m Del, an orphan, from Mount Rose, Minnesota. Ask me today and I would have a difficult time answering you. I don’t know where I’m from any more than I know what I am or why I do what I do. And it all started with a twitch of a finger.
So the simple answer, I grew up in Mount Rose, Minnesota, in an orphanage, seems average enough. It was only after I left that I realized that it wasn’t a normal orphanage. As toddlers, we did a lot of meditating and listening to nature. Listening for the words to come to us. We weren’t to make connections with anyone, or favor anyone over another. We were encouraged and rewarded for remaining emotionless. Now that I think about it, it was pretty freaky and cult-like, but when that’s all you know, you don’t question it.
On my seventeenth birthday, I was booted out of the orphanage and given my clothes and a leather band with my initials on it. D.C. It also had an inscription on the inside, Children of Chronos. I wouldn’t research Chronos until later on, when things started go wrong, but on my seventeenth birthday, I was preoccupied with graduating to adulthood and saving my first soul.
Zandra clenched and unclenched her fists. Her breath came in quick bunches. “Just breathe normal,” she told herself quietly.
Zandra suffered from panic attacks. Her heart raced. She broke out in a sweat and she couldn’t think clearly. Usually it made sense in her harried, crazy life to have these attacks, but not now, not during Treaty Days.
Treaty Days were peaceful, congenial and quiet. It was ironic that Zandra had her panic attacks more on Treaty Days than on any other days of the year. She guessed it was because she couldn’t afford them at other times. Now when she could rest and relax, there really wasn’t any peaceful co-existence for her.
Her breathing slowed as she looked around at the smiling faces. There was no threat here, and yet, what lurked behind the exterior? They were more sinister than what they seemed at the surface. They were all analyzing, picking at each other’s brains, spying and counter-plotting. It was forbidden, of course, to exhibit overt warfare but strategizing in secret was performed by everyone. So Zandra’s attacks were really symbolic of attacks she knew would be thrust on her if only they could.
They say you have only one chance a year to start things off right, and I believe it.
This is going to be my year.
“Geez man,” Adam said, watching me fiddle with my tie. “It’s just a party. We’ll dance, we’ll drink, we’ll do the countdown, and then we’ll pass out.”
“It’s not just a party,” I said. “It’s a New Year’s Eve party. The most important party of the year.”
“Well, there’s no reason to look so tense about it. At least put on a smile. Just like… See? It’s easy.” It was for Adam at least. I suspected that he had been swapped at birth from his real parents–spitfire dragons that lived and breathed enthusiasm, because that’s exactly how he was. Unchained, living fire. “Anyway,” Adam continued. “All you have to do is stop trying so hard, and go with the flow.”
Jack stood on the front porch shivering as snow fell around him. With a deep breath, he rang the doorbell. A second later, the door flew open.
“Rah!” yelled a boy dressed in a pair of Superman pajamas with a red cape trailing behind him.
“Hi, you must be Walter,” Jack said.
“Amanda, your boyfriend’s here,” said Walter as he ran away with the cape flying.
After a few awkward moments alone on the porch, Jack walked into the house. It smelled like gingerbread and hot apple cider. He heard Christmas carols playing in the background. The outside of the two-story house was outlined in white lights, and inside he noticed more festive decorations. So different from his parents' house where they didn’t even have a tree. He usually cringed at commercialism. But he had to admit, it was cozy inside.