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Author's note: I was inspire by many people I have met in my life, although I have not been many places I have seen much and learned how bad things can truly feel. I wanted to express myself in a way through this and also try to show people how hard things can be but how we can do something
he glass shattered in the dining room as Teddy opened the door, bumping into me.
“Watch where you’re going, dude!” I yelled, looking down at the floor. When I say shattered, it’s no joke. Our mother’s Tiffany vase was in a million pieces. I knelt down beside it being careful to not touch the glass.
“What the heck is that?” The glass was coated in a thin layer of black dust, and on closer inspection, I saw a pile of something that seemed to be ash, but I couldn’t be sure. What was in that vase? I shuddered not wanting to think about what it could be.
“You are so busted,” Teddy said. He is eight younger than me.
My name is Mark, I’m 14 years old, and my mom hates me. Whenever something happens she always finds a way to tie it to me.
“Mom’s going to flip - she was going to use that vase for something at the Halloween party tonight.”
“I know Teddy, what do you think I was doing with it? Help me clean up this mess, will you?”
He ran into the kitchen and came back with a mop. I stared at him and he looked up at me.
“What?” He said with an innocent look on his face.
“That’s a mop, how will that help?” I almost yelled at him.
“No need to be mean,” he said with a hurt look. It was something Teddy had perfected and used with grace on my mother every time she was mad at him. I shrugged, looking at the beautiful white rug which was now ruined. Who has a white rug anyway? I thought. The shards of glass were sparkling, mixed with the black glow of . . . what was that? I was transfixed; the shards seemed to be moving, to be reassembling themselves.
I heard the front door slam, but I wasn’t going to run after Teddy. My troubles were escalating anyway. Bad grades, broken vase, a pouting little brother wasn’t my top priority right now. I bent to pick up a piece and yelped in surprise as it burnt my fingers. I looked closer, peering at the edge on which I burnt myself, and was surprised to see that the shard had stuck to the one next to it. I could see a slight movement along the naps in the rug, slowly twitching and moving the shard into a general direction, me.
I jumped up - it was coming fast, like a demon on wings and lunged at my throat.
I caught it as it took a bite, but it only seemed to get bigger.
Diving away, it stuck on the edge of my shoulder, slicing through the skin like wet cement. I scrambled up knocking into a chair and turning it over. I flew out of the room and into the hallway. Looking back over my shoulder, the good one, I noticed the thing had stopped right at the edge of the carpet. It was just sitting there watching me like a puppy watches food.
I grabbed a wooden spoon that was next to a pot in the kitchen and went back to the hall to see the “thing”. It had turned more or less back into a pile of shards. I felt a strange sensation on my shoulder where the “thing” had cut through. I brushed my hand lightly over the wound, careful to keeps my eyes on it. As my hand came back I looked at it and was shocked, instead of coming back bloody like I thought it would, it was completely clean. I looked under my shirt and saw only a faint black mark swirling around where the gash had been.
I felt a little light-headed and sat down to rest.
The door opened and Mom and Teddy entered, Mom already looked mad, probably because Teddy was out in the streets again. Her gaze swept over me and then to the vase, smashed into pieces. She gasped and I looked over expecting to see “thing”, but it was gone.
I muttered: “Oh it’s only that.” That was a mistake.
Mom’s glare flew back to me. “Mark!” her eyes blazing with fire. “I don’t even know what to say, first the office, then Teddy and now the vase!”
I was silent, which was unusual - I was never someone to let a fight go. I hated being blamed for things, but today I didn’t have it in me. I needed to think.
I started to walk to my room cutting off my mother’s rant. The last thing I heard before I slammed the door was my mother crying.
I headed to my mirror in the back of his room. I took off my shirt.
All over my body, there were strange black markings swirling around. They seemed to sparkle as they flowed and changed. Like life itself, it went here and there until it had me mesmerized. It spoke to me and played in my mind, a true being of its own.
The glass shattered and Delilah scrambled away, eyes squeezed tight, getting her a few yards from the mess before opening them.
Delilah went back to the mess fully realizing her job was on the line. Her boss stood up from the conference table and angrily shook the wine off his blazer. Delilah started picking up glass, profusely using the word “sorry”. She was the secretary for this pig of a boss. She hated her job, but after Teddy and Mark’s dad passed away, she had to support the family, and was determined to do so.
“Why did you do that!?” he snorted at her.
She couldn’t explain it herself. The wine was in a bottle shaped like a vase she had at home. A vase her husband had given right before he died, a vase containing secrets. She had to leave.
Her boss stood, hatred emanating out of his cold blank eyes. He slapped her across her across the face and told her to go home, she was fired.
She knew she should beg him for her job, that was what he expected but she couldn’t. She turned and left, making sure she pulled the fire alarm on the way out, one last effort to stand up for herself, hoping she would soak him and his guests.
Tearing down the street, desperate to get home, she saw a bus pulling up around the corner. Tears of relief filled her eyes as she sat down and rested her head on the window. When the bus pulled up to her stop, she finally lifted her head and saw her youngest son waiting for her.
“Mommy,” Teddy cried out and he ran to her and hugged her. “Why are you home so early?” He asked.
“Me? What about you? I thought Mark was watching you,” her tone was reprimanding but it was lined with care and worry. “You know you can’t be out on the streets.” She picked Teddy up and began to walk back, her anger building from before.
An hour later she was cooking dinner, her entire day becoming more like a bad dream. The vase had been broken, its contents gone, and was she deluded in thinking that it might not have claimed Mark? Why do I keep getting into these fights with Mark? She wondered, her thoughts spiraling like the steam rising from the soup.
Her first thoughts had been what was wrong with him, but slowly they rose to the issue of her. She had never been the same since her husband had died, bottling her sadness and turning it into the fire that lit her and kept her going.
She still heard him, her husband, he would speak to her as her conscience, or maybe she was just going crazy. It didn’t matter. He would guide her and tell her she was alright, that they would make it through.
She picked up the spoon, and disrupting the perfect circles of steam, called Mark and Teddy for dinner. She had to tell them.
“Mark! Teddy! Dinner!” I heard mom yell.
I couldn’t deal with this now; I wanted to figure this thing out, not fight with Mom and waste time. I had to get out of the house. I threw on my t-shirt as I made my way down the stairs. The golden light seeping through the crack in the front door seemed to mock me; to say you don’t have the guts to leave.
I was scared, and this thing knew it, taunting me even more. Even with this new strength coursing through my body, I knew I was truly powerless.
I glanced at the window to the left of the door in the other room. This was a mistake - the black thing stared back at me in the reflection of the window, its piercing eyes ripping through me and pulling on the tattoos. It had me hooked, speared through the middle, and I was just a puppet for it to use.
“Mark!” Mom screamed. “I heard you walk down those stairs, get in here!” I frowned, apparently I wasn’t as quiet as I thought, but there was something else bothering me besides that.
“Mark!” there it was, I hadn’t caught it at first but now could hear it in her voice now. I always thought that she only had one emotion: anger which would turn into a flat affect. This time she had raised her voice but it didn’t hold its usual aggression. Her voice was wrapped tightly with fear.
Teddy appeared in the door before I could move. He must have been hiding out in the fort our father built when we were young; he went there whenever Mom and I fought.
“C’mon little brother, dinner’s waiting for us. Better hope it doesn’t get lonely and walk away,” Teddy was a little old for these things but he gave a small laugh for my sake. Again I looked toward the door to leave, but Teddy gave me a strange look and pulled at my hand. “Don’t leave her waiting,” he said, his voice sounding a little off.
We made our way to the kitchen but Teddy kept giving me those weird looks, his eyes a familiar green that brought back memories of Dad. As I pulled up a hazy image in my mind of Dad, a different one came too, with the same eyes. It was a crystal clear image of Its face. Startled, I stopped walking for a second but Teddy pulled me along and into the brightly lit kitchen. Time to face mom, I thought.
The soup was ready and Delilah took time ladling it into bowls and making sure they were even. This mattered greatly to her, as once again she checked the levels to ease her anxiety.
She jumped as the door to the kitchen pushed open, surprising her, but it was only Teddy. She crossed over and bent down to pick him up, but before she could, he looked over his shoulder and she noticed that Mark was in the shadows. Quickly, she kissed him on the cheek and stood back up facing Mark.
“Why don’t you sit down honey,” she whispered to Teddy, walking back over to the stove. Mark followed her.
The light cascaded down over Mark’s face and he greatly resembled his father.
She picked up a bowl and handed it to him along with Teddy’s. His fingers slipped a little on the surface, a shock spreading from his fingers to Delilah’s, but the bowls stayed in his hands. They were content sitting there.
She thought about sending Teddy out of the room, but he gave her a funny look as if he heard her thoughts. He needs to hear it too, they deserve the truth. She shivered; the truth. It had a different feel to it; she had kept too many lies.
She walked over to the table with the hot soup; her footsteps echoed her beating heart. How will I begin? What if they can’t believe it?
She blocked out her thoughts and focused on eating, not on the stares burning through her. Putting this off would be too hard, especially now that the vase had broken, and their lives would depend on the outcome.
“It is time I told you about everything,” Her voice a mere echo. “Your father, he, he isn’t dead.” She tried to pull her gaze from Mark’s but she was trapped, any sense of the power she once had over her son was gone.
“How?” Teddy’s small voice came from her side, she could see he was scared and she wanted to go comfort him but that would just be delaying what had to be said, and she knew Mark didn’t want that.
“That vase you broke - there was black ash in it, right?”
Mark stared at her, the color draining from his face. He mouthed the words, black ash, and confirmed Delilah’s worst fear. She turned away.
“The black ash from the vase killed your father,” Delilah continued saying. “It took him over until he was crazy inside his own mind and then it consumed his soul until there was nothing left of his body but a shell.” Her children stared at her. She took a deep breath and she started again. It was so hard for her to explain this to them,
“Your father isn’t dead, but something much worse.”
“What could be worse than death?” Mark demanded, hands twitching.
Delilah was silent for a moment, “He is in a military hospital in Virginia where he has been under observation for several months. He is in some kind of coma, but it is different, the doctors say that it is unusual.”
“What’s a coma?” Teddy spoke again.
Mark replied impatiently, “Dad is like sleeping, but can’t wake up.”
“The doctors think that whatever did this to him still needs him. It feeds off of his body, slowly taking control. He is basically in hell.”
Mark grabbed Delilah’s shoulders. “Is that what’s happening to me? Look at me, look at me!” Delilah felt his fear and his rage, but she knew that if she looked, she wouldn’t be able to look away. He let go, muttering, “I’ll fight it. It won’t happen to me.”
Teddy now spoke up, his voice quivering like a toddler, “Why is he in hell mommy?”
“The activities coming from his mind are waves identical to ones of memories, but slightly different, like they don’t fully fit into his normal ones. They think this thing has become so independent it is feeding him his own fears, like a nightmare, but he feels it all.”
Mark gasped, his face turning a white she didn’t think possible, and he fell off his chair, shattering a glass on the ground. Delilah rushed over and Teddy began to cry. As she leaned over his face, it was glistening with sweat, and she finally stared into his eyes. As they turned a writhing black, his cheeks contorted and shifted, black markings appearing on his face and burning through his clothes to reveal themselves everywhere else.
And then she cried, her frail figure leaned over his, but there was nothing she could do, Mark was gone.
It started out a normal day, Mom and Mark had fought for most of the night so they were too tired in the morning to get into anything heated. Mom slipped out the door before Mark awoke, kissing me in the forehead as she went. From my makeshift bed in the hallway I saw her walk all the way until the large tree that blocked my view, a few blocks from her destination: A small cozy coffee shop with a bus stop right across the street. Many people were already about in the streets and you could see busses pulling around corners into pockets of the world Teddy couldn’t be sure existed, because he never saw them, but Mark said they were there and so he believed him, mostly. But mom didn’t leave so early to reach a bus, hers came a whole half our later, she left so she could be alone.
Ever since dad had died, Mom had acted different, she would eat a lot less even though she now worked much more, and for a few hours every few weeks she would disappear somewhere and leave Mark and Teddy with nothing but each other. She always came back but it scared Teddy each time, what if she never did?
Teddy pushed the thought away; he didn’t need to think about any more scary things. He closed his eyes and focused hard on the tiny red dots he saw, he imaged them being very small people, each who had a bigger person in the real world, or thing. Things were something Teddy firmly believed in, but he had never met one so he couldn’t place exactly what they did. But Teddy was smart, once when he was with his dad he told Teddy things were real, that they were people’s inner souls and Dad had never lied to Teddy, except once, but that wasn’t his fault right?
Again his thoughts pushed through but he ignored them, or some of them. The things left a trail though, even though they were careful about it. It was the little people, when Teddy found a weird one he would study it and learn more about the Things. His favorite one was Dad’s, he would stare at it all day sometimes in preschool, well until dad died.
Teddy always felt funny about Dad’s death, he didn’t know about the little people too much, but once, when his Grandma Rose died hers turned different. Teddy loved Grandma Rose, she was so beautiful, and so was her little person, even though Dad and Grandma Rose weren’t really related, theirs were similar, he loved them. When she died it turned a bright light blue, the most beautiful light he had ever seen. It was like Grandma Rose had become a goddess.
When Dad died Teddy looked all night for him, Teddy looked through all the little people for his Dad’s unique thing, but it was gone, like it was always just outside his view. Teddy searched for a week before he finally gave up. That was the night. Dad had broken his promise and left Teddy and Mark and Mom alone.
Teddy cried, Dad’s death had affected them all differently, but one thing was for sure, they weren’t a family anymore. Teddy looked to Grandma Rose’s star for comfort but none came. The tears came willingly now, Teddy wanted everything gone. The stair creaked and Teddy squeezed his eyes tighter and tighter until all the stars were choked out and gone, and them he fell into the deep abyss of darkness Teddy had once had good dreams.
Waking up later Teddy saw his older brother Mark watching him from the stairway. Mark had an odd look in his eye but Teddy was growing used to this.
“Good, you’re up,” He growled and moved off to another section of the room. Teddy knew his mom asked Mark to watch Teddy while he slept since Teddy had been getting very sick lately and their mom couldn’t pay for a doctor, but he still felt good that his brother had done so, Mark was becoming more unpredictable lately.
Taking a moment to wake Teddy blinked a lot because the sun was in his eyes. His insides squirmed some and he smiled with untouched joy when he realized the date. Tonight was mom’s Halloween party. Dad always made a big deal of Halloween and mom threw a big party for us and some of our few friends from around the block. Most kids in the area didn’t get to go to school for the entire year since they couldn’t pay so that eliminated the issue of school friends. Mark and Teddy were somewhat lucky, although they too never got a whole year of school, they didn’t have to work like some of their friends, and mom wouldn’t let them. Mark wanted to get a job, so he could help he said, but Mom thought different though she never told me why.
Teddy reached for his knight, a small black chess piece his dad gave to him when he was little, or littler, but came back empty. He looked at his bedside and saw just his clean white sheets; reminding him of how poor they were and how much trouble he put his Mom through. Slowly easing back he remembered where the little knight was…
The silence was eerie, creeping through the house like a snake, wrapping them in it. The door creaked open and Teddy ran towards the door to his mother for comfort. Mark was sealed in his room and Teddy was scared, his mother was late and father wasn’t there when he came home from school. He approached the door but stopped dead when he saw his mom’s face, the terror and pain on it were unimaginable to Teddy. She was sitting in a chair in the corner of the hallway near the front door where my bed is now, Teddy thought, and the tears down her face showed Teddy he had to be strong. He ran to get Mark and by the time the two made it back her tears were gone but her eyes were red and big.
Mark seemed to understand something in this and picked Teddy up and brought him to his bed. Tucking teddy in he could see the pain in Mark’s face as thought after thought went through Mark’s face. I cried and asked him what was happening, he looked away as he spoke but I couldn’t miss the venom spewing from his mouth.
“He’s dead Teddy,” Mark choked out, “Dad is gone.”
Mark left Teddy to sleep and went back down to help mom. Teddy never knew how Mark learned this but he didn’t want to. He knew his brother would lie about that, but then he never thought his father would either.
Crying Teddy ran outside despite Mark calling him back. He climbed up the tree house where he last saw his dad only hours before, but to Teddy it was already years.
"Keep this safe my son, one day, in your greatest time of need it will guide you. Remember, you will not be the king or his royalty, but you will serve a more important cause, you will be the knight…”
The rest escaped Teddy, he didn’t want to think of Dad anymore, and the pain hurt Teddy too much. Gathering together all the strength the small boy had, he threw the knight hard aiming for the neighbor’s chimney but missing and hitting the asphalt street with a clunk.
Then he just sat there, he just sat and cried until morning where he awoke sick and frail from the night.
Teddy shuddered at the memory, his eyelids flickering as he held it for as long as it could go. A tear escaped his eye but caught on his cheek leaving a trail of memories. He tried to shake off the feeling he had but he couldn’t. Mark was back at his post; Teddy hadn’t seen him come back, most likely from the scene he had experienced. He calmed some because his big brother was there but the knot in his stomach just grew. Fear has nothing to do with it. Teddy agreed with the stray thought but tried not to dwell on its meaning.
Mark grabbed his phone and a small smile played across his face as the screen lit it up. Teddy guessed at the cause of this anomaly but the answer bubbled out of Mark,
“It’s Halloween,” The words floated in the air, the silence holding them more from admiration of the words than awkwardness.
Halloween was Teddy’s favorite time of year, when they all got together. He knew that there would be no party this year, Mark had told him because they couldn’t pay without dad’s help. But Teddy still got excited, people or not, mom had let Teddy decorate for it and so Teddy and Mark set to it.
A few groans escaped Mark’s lips but never fully reached Teddy and so he was oblivious to the reason Mark was upset, or mostly. Teddy didn’t have such a creative spark in designing, and so he just brought stuff to Mark like the cumbersome, (a new word he learned from his daily “school lessons” with Mark) large letters that spelled Halloween. H-A-L-L-O-W-E- He didn’t get to finish though because as he brought the E in through the door he hit Mark and tripped him.
“Watch where you’re going, dude!” He blasted at me as he threw the glass vase at the ground. I was shocked, mom loves that glass.
Teddy was so confused he did not hear the next thing Mark said but he did blurt out something himself, “You are so busted!”
The silence that occurred after this lasted a very short time but Teddy could’ve sworn it was minutes, and then, like the calm before a storm, Mark exploded.
Teddy ran out of the room trying to find a broom but before he fully left he didn’t miss the weird look that played across his brother’s face as Mark bent down to the vase. Although Teddy left with the intention of a broom in his mind he somehow came back with a mop, although he didn’t realize this until Mark yelled at him yet again for his stupid-ness.
Teddy grew sullen and ran out of the house to find their mom, after shoving on his shoes and jacket of course. Mom didn’t like Teddy running on the streets, but he couldn’t understand why, so he walked fast hoping she wouldn’t count that as running. It was always Mark who got in trouble though when he was out, running or not.
Teddy tripped over a foot roots sticking out of the gravely broken sidewalk that snaked around his town like a rugged monster river. Teddy fell again at this thought and as he got himself up he dusted off the bad thought and hung a bright picture of his once happy family in his mind.
The grass still tugged with the roots as he ran but they didn’t bother him as much, they were more an old friend saying they were there, not a monster and he welcomed his friend’s touch. He walked/ran for a long time before coming up to the corner where one of the only two busses in town stopped.
Teddy paced for some time because he had seen people do this in a movie when they were bored, but he grew tired quickly and finally sat down on the bench a few yards from the stop, but then moved straight to the spot on the ground because it was closer to the bus and also concealed slightly by a bush so joggers wouldn’t see him.
Teddy counted cars: 1, 2, 3, 4
Time stretched on around him and the cars became blurs as Teddy became still in space. Green blob, blue blob, tree blob, bus blob, yellow – wait bus?
Teddy got up and ran the opposite way for a moment, then gained a better sense of direction, and headed back towards the bus. He was prepared to get on but his mom blocked the path, and Teddy ran right into her. She picked him up although she looked very tired and carried him back.
Her face was gaunt and he went through the motions of explaining why he was out as she grew quieter and quieter.
Oh no! He came to the realization, Mom had seen him running to her, that’s she was mad. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t Mark’s fault but he grew scared when he looked up at her and his tongue stayed in his mouth with the secrets.
Mom went left and right, curving though the path and cutting through the river so fast the ripples behind her didn’t have enough time to form before they too disappeared. Teddy was nervous but he tried not to let it on, He had come to get her right?
But he couldn’t remember why he got her, and now seeing her Teddy felt maybe this wasn’t the smartest decision. He was losing his mom, just like he lost his dad. The silence accompanying them cut through Teddy and left him numb. It was a realization that shook through Teddy’s clothes and crawled under his skin until it reached the open wound in his heart and in attacked taking the only bit of happiness with it.
Teddy knew things would never be the same after dad died but he could never imagine such a thing as his mother leaving them too, but yet as he stared in his frozen position in his mother’s dark stormy eyes he saw the truth in them, she was as gone as dad.
The trip back went by with agonizing time but the clock on his hand tried to lie to him about it. The sun was slowly inching into the mountains, more than eager to leave the sight of their dreadful family. The moon slowly crept up from its hiding place as the sun was gone but it face was turned away, but Teddy imagined the look on its face and shivered.
Into the house and the blanket of warmth that suffocated it. A path of cold crept through here and there but it held up well enough. Teddy spied his makeshift bed in the corner but didn’t have the strength to get to it; he thought he was dying as he watched on the ground Mark and mom fight. It was a one sided fight and unlike their usual epic ones Mark left her screaming into the thick cloth.
Teddy couldn’t take it and finally got himself up on his feet and out of the door. The fresh air welcomed him and helped him back to his feet. Going to the back, a tall tree stood above the rest, it’s branches so thick Teddy thought God himself had made it, sowing smaller trees into the sides for arms. A thin line, illuminated by the glow of the moon’s back, hung from an arm and welcomed teddy. Climbing up to the house in the top he admired the view, but then crawled into the slight warmth of the house. A small notch in the corner signified the book but Teddy took his time getting used to the palace that was once his and fathers.
It was once a magical place, you could see a dragon on the top, and the breeze flowed through in such a way Teddy knew that if he had jumped it would catch him and he would fly. The spark now though held very small magic; a faint rustle of wind and a warm touch that might’ve been fire, but very old.
The nook held something very special to Teddy, the only thing he had kept from dad. It was a book that was magic beyond the tree house, it described different people, and worlds and gods. Teddy loved to sit there all day and just hug it close when he was little, and then hope at night father would read some.
It was written in a special language that only father knew and he said he would teach Mark or Teddy, but he never did and so the book too lost some appeal. But even so Teddy lifted the latch and cradled the book in his arms as he admired the cover, the markings etched in that no matter what light seemed to glow. And as he lay there Teddy breathed in the book and the breeze and could’ve sworn he saw his dragon, skip, before he fell into a deep dreamful sleep.