I left the library and went home. I knew all this was just a bad dream. And if I got back into bed and took a nap, all of it would go away. The library, the books, Grampa, Nellie, the dog, and maybe even Darksville would all go away to dreamland. Then I would be left to live a normal life somewhere far from here.
I did take that nap and I did feel a little better. At least I did until we had dinner with Nellie.
Dad stood in front of the mirror. He shaved and played with his tie. His tie was a shiny green one, one he wore for special things like interviews and nice dinners. He was in an ironed green-striped shirt (a shirt he rarely wore because he hated ironing it). He had a bright look on his face as he flattened a few hairs on his head. His eyebrows twitched happily on his forehead. He looked at me in the mirror.
“You’re not wearing THAT are you?” I had on jeans and a green t-shirt that said “Barf City” with a picture of a guy barfing all over the place.
“But this is my going out to dinner shirt.”
Dad scowled. His eyebrows grew together. “Go change. Now.” I sighed. He wasn’t in the mood to argue.
“I don’t know what the big deal is.” I went back to my room and found another t-shirt with a howling wolf on it. It said, “Let them run free.”
I stared at it a while feeling a new closeness to this slightly faded figure, head raised, howling. I could almost hear it.
The sun dipped behind my curtains, falling in the valley. My neck hair began to rise. My back began to itch.
I felt tingly all over.
I slipped on my t-shirt and went into the next room. Dad waited looking at his watch. “We’re late.” He now wore a jacket that matched his pants. He looked at my shirt. “That’s a little better.” Then he stopped. Concern grew in his eyes. “Are you feeling okay?”
I nodded, “Just tired.”
“You need a haircut too.” Dad opened the front door. He motioned me out with a sweeping hand like I was some important person and he was my servant. “This way, sir.” I rolled my eyes. Dad could be so weird sometimes.
Downstairs Nellie answered the door and smiled when she saw us. I felt better when I saw her. She was in jeans and a sweater. It was a nice oversized multicolored sweater but nothing fancy.
“Boy, I feel underdressed,” Nellie said looking at Dad with her odd half smile. “Maybe I should change.”
“No, you look nice.” Dad said and then they just stared at each other. Maybe into each other’s eyes, but who knows. Nellie still wore those stupid sunglasses.
“Dinner’s almost ready. You can sit down in the living room for a minute if you want. I’ll be right back.”
The room was dark but I could see fine. Dad ran into an end table. He knocked some books on the floor.
“She likes scary books,” Dad said looking at the titles as he put them back.
On the wall were strangely dark paintings of people. Huge things that took up half the wall. Must be family.
“I wonder who they are,” Dad said, reading my mind.
“Look at their eyes,” I said. They looked a little red in the room’s lights.
“I can hardly see a thing in here,” Dad said squinting his eyes. Candles lit the room from the dinner table, but that was the only light. Shadows flickered across the room.
Nellie came out in a denim skirt. “I had to change. You look so nice.”
Dad smiled. He looked goofy. Nellie looked goofy back. Things were getting a bit too PG-13 for me around me.
“Go and sit at the table. Dinner is served.” She disappeared into the kitchen. Dad and I sat.
“Check out the cool hardware.” I held up a knife and fork. The handles had silver vines twisted around a dagger. Castles jutted out from the ends. “These must be worth a lot.”
“Hush,” Dad said quickly, giving me the evil eye. Nellie came in with a covered silver platter. She set it down and pulled off the lid.
“TA DA!” Hamburgers appeared. Greasy, cheesy, heavenly things. Dad winked at Nellie. My mouth watered big time. I held onto the seat of my chair to keep from grabbing one. Nellie smiled and pointed the one for me, “Dig in.”
I quickly snatched one up and took a huge bite. It tasted heavenly. Juice ran down my chin and neck. The warm mush of burger ran down my throat. My insides grew warm and happy as it went down. Then I looked at the burger. I froze. Inside the burger was raw. But it tasted so good.
“You look like you’ve never eaten before,” Dad joked. Nellie laughed. They ate happily. I kept eating. I couldn’t stop. In a flash, it was gone.
“There’s more in the kitchen,” Nellie said. I jumped up.
“I’ll get it.” I was on my way. I had to have more.
“Don’t eat too much,” Dad said as I went into the kitchen. The door closed behind me. I didn’t see any more burgers though. I looked all over. Nothing. Nothing but raw meat. I stepped closer to the meat. It did smell good. I wonder what a little bit would be like. The burger was almost raw... why not... I stole a bite. It’s smoothness rolled down. It’s taste stained my lips. I took another bite and another. I stopped. Maybe it would make me sick. But it was so good. And so little was left now. Before I knew it, it was gone.
Nellie and Dad were happily talking when I came back in. I think they were touching hands. Yuck.
“Can I go for a walk?” I was feeling restless. I needed to get outside.
“Sure,” Dad said. He was very agreeable. “Don’t go very far.”
Nellie turned to me, “And be careful. The library was broken into today and they never found the person who did it. They say he really messed up the place. He may be dangerous...” She gave me one of her weird looks, “So watch out.” I grew rigid. Dad looked worried.
“Maybe we could walk with you?” he offered.
“No, I’ll be okay.” I had to be alone. I almost ran out of the house. I closed the door behind me and fell against it. I was breathing hard. I felt strange. Really strange.
I heard Dad through the window. “He’s going through some hard times. He’s at that age where a lot of changes start happening.” Dad didn’t have any idea how much change I was going through.
I stumbled out into the alley. I hid by a corner, crouched in shadow. The town was coming to life. Shop doors said open. People came out, sweeping walks, driving cars. Night of the Living Dead.
At least no one was flying, hovering, or turning invisible (not yet anyway).
It all looked normal enough. Except for one thing. It was the middle of the night.
That funny feeling came again. I had to get away. Far away. The hills weren’t too far off. Maybe I could be alone there. And when the traffic cleared a moment I ran. I ran faster than I ever thought I could run and I left the busy little Darksville behind.