We fell right through the glass and onto the dirt outside of the building as the window shattered into thousands of jagged little pieces all around us. I could feel bits of glass as they sliced down into my skin. I quickly stood back up and he came at me while I hopped around as much of the glass as I could. Some of it carved through my socks and into my feet. I looked behind my shoulder. Fuck. We were almost back at the street. It wasn’t far away now. Someone was going to see.
The little girl inside the building climbed through the hole, through razor-sharp pieces of broken glass that now occupied the space where the window had been. Either she wasn’t being cut or she didn’t mind the pain. Marcus threw a punch at me, aiming right for my skull, but this time I was ready. I dodged to the right and came back at him with one of my own. It smashed him in the jaw. He staggered backward, stunned for a moment. Maybe I was stronger than I thought.
“Alright, you piece of shit!” he blurted.
“Stupid shit!” It was the boy who ripped up the picture of Anna…why wouldn’t he go away?
Marcus took something out of his pocket, something small. I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I looked back at the window and there was Mother, the shadowy Mother from before, climbing over broken glass. I knew her intentions. The little girl stood only a few feet behind Marcus. She wasn’t safe. I wouldn’t be able to get to her with Marcus in the way.
Flink. A metallic sound filled the air. Out of the small thing in Marcus’ hand came a sharp steel blade. He had just pulled a knife. What was I going to do? My adrenaline level increased and Mother rushed at the little girl. Veia was finally coming through the window. I couldn’t run away. He was faster than me, and I didn’t want to think of what would happen to Veia if I was gone.
He lunged at me with the knife. I jumped out of the way and it missed me by merely inches. We were easily visible from the street, and one car had already stopped: a small blue Toyota. Fuck. I swung at Marcus again, this time hitting him in the left side of his ribcage. Crack. Hopefully something had broken. He doubled over and placed a hand over his ribs; I looked around for only a second. The girl had seen Mother and started running toward the street, to the right of us. It would only be a few more seconds before Mother would be upon her.
Veia had nearly reached us and was carrying a piece of broken glass in her hand. Blue and red lights abruptly lit up the entire scene. Shit. Shit. Shit. Two white police Chevy Impalas were slowing down, about to stop in the street only twenty or thirty yards away. Then it hit me. An explosion erupted in my chest. I looked down. Blood rushed out of my new wound like a red river splattering onto the ground. I could feel my heart heavily thumping inside of my chest. Bubump-bubump. I could hear it as loudly as I could hear the sirens, as loudly as if it had been beating from down in the depths of my ears. I guess this is how I’m going to die.
“That’s what you get!” Marcus screamed. The cops were running toward us but they were too late to save me. I fell to the ground. Everything grew fuzzier around me, yet I could still see…somewhat. Veia showed up behind Marcus. It was like a flash of lightning…she stabbed him in right in the back with the piece of broken glass she was carrying. Once. Twice. He fell to his knees beside me. She ran around to face him, then slammed one of her untied black converses down into his forehead.
“Alright, you piece of shit!” She screamed through her tears. She was on top of him now. She jammed the piece of glass right through his ribcage just before she was forcefully pulled off of him by the two men in green uniforms, the police. I was now frozen in total shock. My vision was going, everything was fading away. Out of the corner of my eye I could just barely see Mother drag the defenseless little girl away.
“You’ll learn your lesson yet, little bitch girl.” She said it just loud enough so that I could hear her.
“That’s what you get!” Veia was screaming while the police dragged her away. One of them had to pick her up off of the ground. Marcus ate his own words that day.
“Throw her in the back of the car!” The other officer shouted before he turned to look at me.
“That’s what you fucking get!” Her voice died away as she was taken from the scene. If the policeman was looking at me, I no longer could tell. He was just a dark green blob of swirling dimming color. A large blue blob hung above him…was it the sky? Now…now I’m going to die. It was hard to even form the thought in my mind. I couldn’t think clearly enough to be afraid. It was coming. I would finally be at peace. No one else would be able to hurt me. The blobs all melted into one another, creating sort of a whirlpool of nothingness with a color somewhere between brown and grey.
“Goodbye,” I heard. It sounded robotic, like an automated telephone message. Then everything went away in much the same way as it had appeared…unannounced, a horrible, wonderful, magical collection of such a wide variety of things. Lights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, situations, people, and all of the thoughts and feelings of humanity, so much that is unimaginable in oblivion.
“You think that this is your death? Quite the contrary, child,” Shadowshade was barely audible. “This is only the beginning of your creation, the beginning of your birth.” The microphone dropped. The credits finished scrolling. The orchestra ceased its playing. I boarded an invisible boat deep inside of myself, and peacefully sailed across the fog of consciousness and into the world of the null.
Everything was black. There was no light whatsoever, like the darkest night that one could imagine, the deepest depths of an underground cavern. But I was able to think. What had happened? Was I dead? Then suddenly I heard a noise, a gentle splash. Splash. It grew louder and louder. I could feel my head now. It was laying on something hard…then I felt my body, wet and cold. My eyes opened slowly.
I could see mahogany wood, a silhouette, a dark grey sky, then water. Rain poured down all around me. The small boat I was lying in was rocked and shaken by the unforgiving waves. It was no more than twenty feet in length. Who was here with me? I could feel another presence. I wasn’t sure who it was, but they were standing directly above me.
“That was certainly close, wasn’t it?” The person said. That voice…it was him, wasn’t it? It was Shadowshade. I tried to focus my eyes, but it was impossible. “Sad, isn’t it? How unfair life can be.” I wasn’t able to form any kind of a response. “And it gets worse from here. Now you’ll be cut off from the world again, just as you were before.” The silhouette glided over to the edge of the boat. He seemed to be facing in the perilous sea.
“But when you’ve had enough, when the sorrow finally becomes anger…and it will...then you will be born.” What did he mean? Had I not been born already? He let out a slow, deep, halfway amused chuckle. “Just wait, boy…” Could he read my mind?
“Everyone has a breaking point. You have come through more than your fair share of difficulty already, but there will be much more for you. It seems that the wheel of chance spun and you were unlucky. This thing you are now, this ‘Tristan’…he is weak and will die, but you will live on as something more: a demon born in the fire of circumstance, a phoenix rising from the ashes.
You will become a creation of desperation, shaped and molded by hate and a lack of consideration. They will bring you upon themselves, the revenant of destruction that they have brought into existence whether they choose to admit it or not.” Lightning struck the water behind him as he uttered the last words. Either it was an interesting coincidence or he was over-indulging his melodramaticism. I’m not entirely sure what you mean, spooky spook.
“Of course not, but soon…” he replied. I heard a strange noise far off in the distance. It wasn’t thunder and it certainly wasn’t the waves. It began a violent crescendo. It seemed to be some kind of siren or alarm, blaring from miles away. The waves grew fiercer, knocking the boat around like a defenseless ragdoll. The siren blared again and again at equal intervals, still growing louder at a steady pace.
“You must return,” he said. I didn’t want to. “You have much to do.” What exactly could it be? The siren was now so incredibly loud that my ears exploded each time it sounded. A giant wave appeared out of the ocean and headed straight for us. Lightning struck again just a few feet away. If I wasn’t dead already, I soon would be.
The wave rose up above the boat and enveloped it entirely. Water filled my ears, my nose, and then my mouth. The vessel was tossed onto its side and landed bottom-up as I sank down into the freezing cold water. I tried with all of my remaining energy to swim back to the surface, but the current was far too strong. The air inside of my lungs ran out. It was soon replaced with water. Once again, everything was pitch black. However, the sound of the siren remained. Somehow I was still alive, spinning around in a whirlpool of emptiness. Gradually the sound of the siren began to change into a quieter, softer noise. Beep…beep…beep…
My eyes flew open. I was lying in a bed. Anthony and Cindy were sitting on the right side of the room in nearby chairs. A heart monitor stood on the left, beeping along with my heartbeat. Beep…beep…beep…Cindy came over to the bed and laid her hand on my arm while my eyes adjusted to the light.
“He’s awake,” she said, sounding relieved. Anthony didn’t seem as happy to see me.
“There are about to be some major changes for you, kid.” He said no ‘hello’. No ‘how are you feeling?’ No ‘glad you aren’t fucking dead’. Thank you so very much Anthony…Jesus Christ, what a greeting. At least he had welcomed me back to reality. This was my reality. I wished that I could have stayed on the boat with Shadowshade.
“Please, let’s let him rest,” Cindy pleaded.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” he said to me before walking out of the room. Silent Cindy silently sat back down in the chair that she had been sitting in before.
“He’s right,” said Shadowshade. I felt incredibly nauseous, and was still very tired. I felt a sharp stinging in my chest. Then I remembered everything that had happened. I remembered being stabbed…Marcus…Veia…Mortimer…mother…the little girl…the weed…I remembered them all, one after the other, like a string of Christmas lights flickering on in my head.
“Get some rest,” Cindy advised. This suggestion was fine with me. I enjoyed sleeping more than I enjoyed being awake. If I were to be stabbed in a dream, I could wake up feeling no pain. I could wake up without a wound. In my dreams I could do whatever I wanted as long as I concentrated hard enough. I closed my eyes and began to imagine.
I was flying high up above the city, but not so high that I couldn’t see what was happening. It was five o’clock. The streets were flooded with thousands of cars, trucks, vans, all childishly trying to get back to their houses or apartments ten seconds earlier than their neighbors. Signs with symbols that the people could understand told them where to turn to get to where they wanted to be…or where they had to be. To me it seemed like a complicated, or maybe really not so complicated, contraption…some kind of mechanical toy.
Eight a.m. Beep. A magical button is pressed. The toy springs to life. Was I a piece of it too? The thought was sort of terrifying. I wanted something more, something entirely different. But so did so many of the people in those cars, trucks, and vans… mere desire had not been enough to make that wish come true for most of them.
I flew lower as darkness fell. The sky was black, but yellow-white light poured out of the windows of the houses. All of the houses shot up out of the ground and lined up vertically into rows and columns in front of me. I could see inside of all of them, all at once.
Some families ate quietly around their dinner tables, careful not to utter the ‘curse words’ of the ‘laypeople’. Others, in drunken stupors, threw pots and pans or maybe shot their televisions with their fathers’ revolvers. I saw these and all of the everythings in between. Then I saw myself, lying in the lonely hospital bed. It was eleven o’clock at night. Beep. I pressed the magical society button and drifted away.
When I awoke the next morning I discovered that, as Anthony and Shadowshade had both said, my life was not going to be the same as it was the day before…or however long it had been. I was informed that Veia was taken to a Juvenile Detention Center, she had gone to juvie. Apparently the society will punish those who stab a person three times and put them in critical condition, even if it is because that person just stabbed their friend.
I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted Marcus to die. If he did I would have the satisfaction of knowing he was dead, but then things would almost certainly be worse for Veia. So I made a compromise. I hoped that he lived, got out of the hospital, then got hit by an eighteen-wheeler. Squish. That was the best scenario I could think of that didn’t involve him being kidnapped and tortured by the mafia, but that was too unlikely.
I wondered if Veia and I would ever see each other again. What were Veia and I, anyway? It felt like we were more than just friends, but how much more was still uncertain. I soon learned that I would not be returning to Pinewood High. First of all, I had been ‘trespassing on government property’. They’re mad at me for walking around an old forgotten school that they haven’t checked up on in ages because they no longer have any use for it? This is bullshit.
Second, the weed had been found. It had somehow been left behind, probably because the two anonymous idiots were in another room having sex and were so scared when those blue lights started flashing that they forgot to bring it with them. Some of it had also been found in the back pocket of my jeans. Had it fallen there somehow? Had someone planted it? I thought the latter was probable.
Third, I had been fighting. The whole thing was completely ridiculous. I was totally baffled. I had been fighting in self-defense, the weed wasn’t even mine, and no one in the government even knew that the damn ‘government property’ was still there until now. But the school didn’t care. The situation had garnered some attention and had made it onto the local news station. It seemed that the school’s administration felt a need to prove to the public that they didn’t allow my kind into their beautiful school. They didn’t want any students who might tarnish their glorious reputation with unseemly revelry.
Anthony’s attitude toward me was permanently changed. He told me that I was on a ‘path headed straight for hell’. He even went as far as to remind me that I was not his son. That was okay though. I was quite proud that I wasn’t his son, and if the path he was on was the path to heaven then I was happy to fry for all of eternity.
‘Immature’, he called me once. He believed that those who were similar to him were more mature than those who were different, so my difference was labeled as immaturity…was that not immature of him? I was no longer allowed to leave the house unless it was to go to church with the family. He also set up an appointment for me to speak with the pastor about ‘saving my soul’.
“Son, Satan has taken control over your life,” Pastor James said during the meeting. His short greying brown hair sat atop his cream-colored head. His face seemed to be forever frozen in a ‘politely’ condescending expression, if an expression can be both polite and condescending. He seemed to manage it somehow. He looked down at his few-thousand dollar suit. It was one of at least four or five that he owned. I remembered them from attending his ‘holy’ monologues. Soon he took a break from admiring his prosperity and looked at me again.
He raised a bushy grey and menacing ‘eyebrow of doom’, as I called it. He reminded me of a baboon. He was trying to seem taller and stronger and scarier than me, the young and inferior monkey, as if it somehow added credibility to whatever point he was trying to make. It was really hilarious.
“Your parents have talked with me about some of your recent behaviors. Trespassing, fighting, smoking weed, these are all things that Satan tempts us to do.”
“No,” I replied. “Marcus, Veia, and I…we decided to do those things on our own, and we hardly even did them.”
“They also found a dead bird. I think you were making some sort of sacrifice to Satan, were you not? You must give yourself to the Lord so that your wretched, putrid, sorry excuse for a soul may be cleansed!” What the fuck is this guy talking about? I supposed it was best not to say that aloud. It felt like I had just been transported into the middle of a sci-fi flick.
“Sir, if you believe that your soul is what a ‘cleansed’ one looks like, I’d prefer to leave mine dirty.” And that is where our meeting ended. I’m almost certain that it was one of the shortest meetings Pastor James had ever had.
Wretched, putrid, sorry excuse for a soul? If that was to be my label then I might as well wear it with pride. However, I felt undeserving of such a description. What had I done to deserve it? If that was what I really was…a wretched, putrid, sorry excuse for a soul, then I would be sure to earn the title.