It Was A Dark And Stormy Night...
The clouds roiled and the water boiled as the veil between worlds was rent.
“Ms. Ridinger, Tommy did it again.”
Susan Ridinger stepped from the building to see what her student was talking about. It was quickly apparent what the issue was. Young Tom was sitting in front of a wall, hands covering his bleeding nose.
“Thomas Nathaniel Ridinger, what happened?” She asked.
Tommy looked up at her, blood and tears streaming down his face. “I’m sorry mom. I didn’t see the wall.”
“Didn’t see the... Oh, for heavens sake. Tommy, you have got to get your head out of the clouds and pay attention to what is going on around you.” She admonished him.
Tommy smiled weakly. “I was following one mom. Oh, was she beautiful. She had pearly green scales with purple edges..
“That’s nice dear. You can draw Dr. Montrose a picture when you see him today.”
Tommy looked at his mother in alarm. “That’s today? Aww, mom, do I have to see him? He always makes me feel like I’m abnormal.”
“I hate to mention this, but normal twelve year old boys do not walk into walls because they couldn’t see them.” She explained.
Pulling a handkerchief out of her pocket, Susan bent down to help her son. Gently pinching his nose, she helped him to his feet. “Come on, let’s go get you cleaned up.”
Tommy allowed her to lead him into the classroom. His eyes went wide as the crossed the threshold into the building. The object of his search was running directly at him, being chased by a large black beast with long leathery wings. The young man watched in horror as the larger creature snatched his beautiful dragon from the ground and disappeared into nothingness before his eyes.
“Mom, did you see that? She’s in trouble!” Tommy asked, wild eyed.
“What are you talking about?” His mother asked. “School is over. There isn’t anyone here but us.”
“The dragon, mom, she’s in trouble. The big black one took her too. We’ve gotta do something.” His pleas were earnest, but his mother just rolled her eyes.
“There are no such things as dragons Tom. “ She said, a note of finality in her voice that suggested to her son that it would be best for him to drop the subject.
They traversed the short expanse of hallway to her classroom. She was the science teacher, so she should have everything that she needed to attend to her son’s wounds. She sat him next to the sink, very gently dabbing the blood from his lips with a cloth. He winced as her hand came in contact with his nose.
“I think you may have actually broken it this time.” She said. “We will stop and have Terryl look at it on the way home.” She quickly finished washing his face. “I have to finish grading these papers. You just sit there, I won’t be much longer.”
He just nodded in agreement and turned to look out the window. He watched in wonder as he saw scenes unfolding outside the window that he knew nobody else could see. Flocks of exotic birds flew past. A large flight of dragons landed on the top of the mountain in the distance. The one that he knew was not actually there.
He shook his head. He had been having the visions for as long as he could remember. At first his parents had thought his stories were cute, but all of that changed when his dad died a couple of years a go. Suddenly, his mom didn’t have time to listen to the fanciful tales. In fact they seemed to annoy her. She had him start seeing a psychologist in an attempt to cure him of his vivid imagination. She seemed rather upset that it didn’t appear to be working.
He sat watching the scened unfold before him for ten minutes, when his mother’s hand on his shoulder caused him to jump.
“Tom, its time to go. We have just enough time to stop at the clinic before your appointment.” His mother explained.
Tommy nodded and followed her from the classroom.
It didn’t take long for them to reach the clinic where his uncle Terryl worked. It was a small urgent care clinic. The shiny windows and the stark white interior walls were somewhat out of place in this part of the city, where grungy and dim were the norm.
Uncle Terryl’s face lit up when he saw his sister walk in. When he saw Tommy he allowed a little bit of mirth to creep into his expression.
“Looking up and not forward, again?” He guessed.
“He walked into a wall chasing a dream.” Susan answered, not bothering to hide the exasperation in her voice.
“Come on, sis. You have to admit that this is kind of funny.”
Susan glared at her brother. “I have papers to grade, before tomorrow. Tom has homework to do, before tomorrow. Neither of us have time for this. Not to mention, my son is hurt. How can you find this funny?”
Terryl shook his head. “This way, please.”
Tommy and Susan followed Terryl into one of the small exam rooms.
“Climb up on the bed, sport,” Uncle Terryl directed. “Let’s see what you have done to yourself this time.”
Tommy’s nose was swollen, and dried blood rimmed the edges of his nostrils. Both of his eyes had deep purple circles forming under them.
“I think you actually did it this time, Tommy. I think you may have actually broken your nose.” Terryl tried very hard to hide the mirth that he felt.
This was not the first time that Tommy had graced his uncle Terryl’s clinic. It was not uncommon that some vivid daydream caused the boy to lose focus on reality.
Susan noticed the mirth in her brother’s countenance. “This isn’t funny, Terryl.”
Terryl couldn’t keep from smiling. “Well, Sis, you have to admit that it kind of is.”
Susan glared at her brother. “Hurry up and fix him, he has an appointment.”
Terryl cocked an eyebrow, but didn’t comment. Wordlessly, he set about treating his nephews injuries. When he was finished he turned to his sister.
“You need to seriously lighten up, sis.”
She just shook her head. Taking Tommy by the hand, she led him out of the clinic. “I can’t believe him.” She blurted as she closed the car door. “I swear, if I hadn’t changed his diapers, I would not believe we were related.”
Tommy shook his head. Uncle Terryl and his mom had been best friends for their whole lives. He was sure it wasn’t Uncle Terryl that had changed. His mother became a different person, almost over night, when... He shook his head to clear the thoughts. He didn’t need to follow that destructive path, especially on the day he would be seeing Dr. Headcase.
Dr. Montrose was an older gentleman who tried to help by getting into Tommy’s head. Trying to understand where these imaginary images were coming from. He was sure that they were a result of losing a parent at such a young age. He wouldn’t listen to either Tommy or his mother when they tried to explain that he had been this way before Paul had died.
“I hate him!” Tommy exclaimed.
“Tommy, he’s just trying to help.”
“Mom, I don’t need help. Especially not his kind of help. He’s a crack pot.”
Tommy folded his arms. He knew that continued discussion would only lead to an argument, and his mom was already cranky. He didn’t want to sabotage the rest of his night.
He sulked for the rest of the trip.
He shook his had as they pulled up to the shabby three story brick building that housed the office of doom. He counted the windows to to find the dreaded room where the maniacal mad scientist sat, waiting to thrust his madness at the young boy. Third from the right, first from the top. Tommy laughed, in spite of himself, as he saw the cracked glass of the window he would soon be looking out of.
He pointed up to the top floor of the building. “See mom, even his window’s cracked.”
Susan rolled her eyes at here son. “Go up, I’ll park and be up soon.”
His face wore a deep frown as he climbed from the old station wagon. The sound of his feet dragging echoed from the brick facades of the buildings, he eerie effect causing his focus to be pulled around the street. He froze as he saw the enormous black dragon stalking toward him. The reflection in the slitted green eyes showing a smaller dragon somewhere behind him. Tommy suddenly found himself too terrified to move. Smoke rose from obsidian nostrils as the large creature stalked ever closer to its prey.
The shiver running through Tommy’s body grew more violent as he realized he could hear the approach of the massive creature. He could smell the fetid breath as tooth filled jaws opened, emitting an ear shattering roar as it lunged for its prey.
Throwing his arms over his head, Tommy dropped to the ground. He shook his head as the sound of blood raining on the ground and walls around him caused him to look from the corner of his eye.
The large black dragon stared at him, bewilderment filling his deeply intelligent green eyes. It seemed as though it could sense Tommy’s presence, but couldn’t see him. The boy scrambled to his feet as a claw filled paw swiped through the space where he stood.
Tommy screamed as he fled into the safety of the brick building.
On the third story, a dark figure turned away from the cracked window.
“Mrs. Ridinger, we’ve been through this. We have tried everything in my power to help Thomas. Alas, nothing seems to be working.”
Doctor Montrose was an older gentleman, probably in his late fifties, dressed in khaki pants, a white shirt with a brown tie, and a white lab coat. He was blessed with a full head of silver hair, which he kept cut in a short, professional manner. A short, pointed, goatee adorned his chin.
He might be handsome, if he were younger. Susan shook her had at the thought. He was her son’s psychiatrist. Talk about a conflict of interest.
“He’s been getting better.” She objected.
His left eyebrow arched sharply. “The boy just curled up in a ball in the middle of the street before running, screaming, into the building. That is not my definition of ‘getting better’” He tried to keep the derision from his voice. He was unsure at his success.
He cut her off with a raise of his hand. “He is obviously a danger to himself.” He gestured to where Tommy was sitting on the couch, his arms around his knees, rocking back and forth. “People don’t usually break their noses by walking into a wall. I believe it is time to explore other options at this point. I would suggest medication. If you are not amenable to that option, I will have to suggest incarceration in a mental asylum.”
All color drained from Susan’s face at the mention of sending her twelve year old son to a mental hospital. “I.. I don’t think that will be necessary. Let’s try the medication.”
The doctor nodded. “That is a wise choice.” Pulling a pen from his desk drawer, he scribbled something unintelligible on a sheet of paper. Pushing the paper across the table he continued. “When he starts on the medication, you will need to watch him. Should any thoughts of hurting himself arise, call me immediately so we can adjust the dosage.”
A single tear slid down Susan’s cheek as she accepted the paper. She didn’t trust herself to speak, so she just nodded. She passed the doctor a twenty dollar bill, and rose to leave.
“I know you may not think so now, but this really is for the best.”
She nodded again, and escorted her son from the room.
The ride home was silent. Tommy was still lost in his own world and Susan was hesitant to pull him out of his reverie. She knew he was going to be angry about how the appointment had gone. She was surprised that he wasn’t already voicing his opinion. It kind of worried her.
A light rain began to fall as she pulled into her driveway.
“Tommy, we’re home.” He jumped as she placed her hand on his shoulder. Without a word, he opened the door and climbed to his feet. He was already in the house by the time Susan was out of the car. Her worry began to deepen. She’d never seen him like this before. Something had really spooked him.
She didn’t bother looking for him as she entered the house She knew where he’d be. After warming a microwave dinner, she grabbed a soda and headed toward Tommy’s sanctuary. The one place he’d always felt safe, The Cave.
She padded softly to the door of the closet under the stairs. Tommy had called it the cave since he was old enough to understand what a cave was. It was his favorite place in the house. He said it was the only place where he could be by himself. He didn’t see anything while he was in there. Susan didn’t know what that meant, but he always seemed calmer when he was in there.
Knocking softly, she opened the door. Dim light from the hall seeped into the darkness under the stairs, illuminating a dark form. He sat as he had for most of the afternoon, his arms around his knees with his head hung between them. The only movement was his slight rocking from side to side.
She offered the food to him. “Tommy, I made you something to eat.”
He stopped rocking and looked up at her. He said nothing as accepted the food and began to eat.
“Do you want talk about it?”
The fork in Tom’s hand stopped midway yo his mouth. “No, you’ll just think I’m crazier than you already do.”
“Come on, Tom, I’m trying to help you here. Something is bothering you, I can tell.”
He stared at his fork, without seeing it, as he spoke. “It was him, the big black, but it was different this time.” Susan rolled her eyes, but didn’t speak. “I didn’t see who it was, but he killed someone. There was so much blood. It was everywhere. He knew I was there. He could sense me, or maybe even see me, but he tried to get me.”
Susan sighed deeply. “Tom, did you hear a word that Dr Montrose said this afternoon?”
Tommy shook his head.
“He thinks it’s time for us to try something new to help you. He prescribed a medicine for you to try.”
Tommy’s eyes grew focused as his mother’s meaning sunk in. “You want to drug me? What about dad? You promised him.”
She shook her head sadly. “What happened today, with your nose and then you collapsing in the middle of the street. Dr. Montrose thinks you are a danger to yourself, and possibly others around you.” She paused for a few moments. “I agree with him.”
Tommy’s eyes blazed in anger. “I am not crazy, Mother. Dad understood this, You used to understand this as well, but that part of you seems to have died along with him.” He stood, his head almost reaching the bottom of the stairs. “I will not take the medication.”
“I thought you might say that. Dr. Montrose says that he will recommend incarceration in a mental asylum if you don’t.”
Tommy stood defiantly before her, fists balled. His whole body shook as he fought to contain the rage he could feel building inside. Without warning he forced his way past his mother, knocking her over as he pushed by.
The sound of the slamming door was the only indication that he left the house.
Climbing to her feet, Susan grabbed her phone to call her brother. “Terryl, Tommy left.” She blurted as soon as she heard his voice.”
“Whoah, sis, slow down and tell me what’s going on.”
Tears streamed from her eyes as she launched into an explanation of the events of the day.
He hadn’t noticed the rain when he ran from the car to the house, but he sure noticed it now. The light rain from a little while ago had given way to a deluge. Lightning flashed across the sky, followed by the deafening peal of thunder racing across the city. The last rays of the sun spread across the valley, over the eastern mountains, barely visible through the thick storm clouds blackening the sky.
Wishing he’d thought to grab a jacket, he lowered his head against the driving rain and headed toward the only safe place he knew of, his uncle Terryl’s house. Uncle Terryl had always understood him, or at least he never tried to put him down as Tom spun one of his fanciful tales. He had always felt safe with his uncle, even when he didn’t feel so at home.
He figured he’d been walking for about half an hour when he first heard the noise. It started as a low rumble, quickly growing to a roar directly ahead. Up to that point, he’d kept his gaze primarily on the ground, so he was unprepared for the sight that met his eyes.
A large purple cyclone spun quickly, tearing up trees and dirt as it moved on it’s path toward him. He stared in awe, barely registering that the homes surrounding him seemed to be unaffected by the high speed winds. Terror took hold of his limbs, keeping him rooted to the spot as the funnel cloud raced toward him. A chill ran up his spine as the tornado engulfed him. He’d never felt anything like this before. He could still feel the rain falling, but the high-speed winds seemed to be moving something inside of him. He felt as if his insides were churning with the force of the winds.
His stomach lurched. Just as he was about to vomit something hit him hard, sending him sprawling. Clutching his side, and gasping for breath, he climbed to his feet. He paused for moment before searching out the source of his breathlessness. Spots still danced before his eyes, and his insides felt like they’d been through a blender. His breaths came in gasps. A loud gasp escaped his lips as he straightened, rolling to his back in the middle of the street.
It took a few moments for him to recover enough to rise to a sitting position. His clothes were dripping, but there was no other sign that the storm had just blown through the area.
“What in the world?”
He gingerly climbed to his feet, trying to brush the water out of his clothes.
Miss Perkins voice floated through the still night air. “Tommy, is that you?. What happened to you? You’re all wet. Were you running through the sprinklers again?”
Tommy glanced up and down the street. No lawns were being watered as far as the eye could see. None of the grass appeared to have been watered recently. Stars twinkled in the night sky. The streets were dry.
Tommy put on his best, most genuine smile. “Oh, you know. It’s a hot night I thought I would try and cool off.”
Miss Perkins stepped into the circle of light. Her blond hair was up in loose curlers. She was wearing a long pink night gown. Her face was covered in a light green substance. Her blue eyes were filled with genuine concern. She didn’t look any thing like the pretty young math teacher all the boys were crushing over.
“Please don’t mention this to my mom.”
“Is everything okay?”
His eyes dropped to the ground and his voice was low when he spoke. “We had a fight. I’m trying to get to Uncle Terryl’s”
Miss Perkins nodded knowingly. “Your mom’s had a tough time since Paul died. Please don’t give her to hard a time.”
Tommy just shrugged.
“What’s that?” Miss Perkins pointed to an object lying on the ground not far from where Tommy stood.
Tommy moved over to examine the object. It was approximately the size of a cat, reptilian in nature. Its scales were a deep ruby colored with black edges. Small red wings were folded tight to its side. Its eyes were closed. Small tendrils of smoke drifted from its nostrils. Vicious looking claws extended from each of its four feet.
“You can see this?”
“Of course I can. What is it, exactly?”
Tommy shook his head. “It’s a dragon. Other people can’t usually see them. Which is why my mom thinks I’m crazy.”
“Your mother doesn’t think you crazy.”
Tommy squared off to look at his math teacher. “She’s talking about either drugging me or putting me in an insane asylum.” He pointed to the small dragon. “This changes everything. Please don’t tell anyone.”
Without waiting for her answer. He scooped the small creature into his arms and headed back the way he had come.
The sound of the gate banging against the fence echoed through the night as Tommy sped into his backyard. The little dragon had barely moved, so Tommy though that it might be injured. He was pretty sure that this is what had hit him and caused him to get hurt. He hurried to the old dog house, gently placing the reptile inside. Dashing into the house, he grabbed the old dog bowl and filled it with water. Ignoring his mother’s questions, he took the bowl of water and placed it next to the dog house. Climbing into the spacious pet home, he set next to the dragon, stroking the shiny red scales.
“I’m sorry your hurt. Please be okay.”
His mother’s voice sounded from outside. “Tommy, can I come in?”
He shook his head. “No, I want to be alone.” He didn’t know why, but letting his mother see his new pet terrified him.
The concern in her voice was palpable. “Tommy, please?”
He climbed out, into the back yard. “What do you need, Mother?” Seeing his mother wince at his tone gave him a strange sense of satisfaction, ending in a feeling of deep regret.
“What happened to you? Why are your clothes wet?”
In his excitement, he had forgotten the discomfort of his soaked clothing. He shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“What makes you say that?”
The venom was back in his soul. “Because, you never do.”
His mother took a step back, not expecting the hatred she saw in her son’s face. Without another word, she fled into the house, covering her face to hide the tears that flowed down her cheeks.
The anger he felt quickly subsided, leaving him feeling hollow. He’d never spoken to his mother that way before. Shaking his head, he climbed back into the dragon house. He’d have to apologize to her later.
The dragon shuddered as Tommy’s hand gently slid over its dry, scaly, hide. Small puffs of thick smoke rose from its nostrils with each convulsion.
Tommy shook his head as he wrapped the pet blanket around the dragon. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”