One Night in the Life of …
“We’re going out to the School after dark, again, so no, I can’t go with you guys to that party.” I don’t look at Margi and Chase, I look at my hands as they stuff my books and notes into my satchel. The sideways light of sunset comes in form the windows in Margi’s study and glints off the chemistry textbook. When I was in seventh grade I used to joke about wanting to burn my textbooks and say ‘to hell with it, it’s only busy work anyway.’ I used to think I was better than the other kids in my class because I was smarter and more mature and everyone wanted to be my friend. Now I know better, I couldn’t care less about what they think of me, and some days I couldn’t care less about schoolwork. The world is going to end soon, what does it matter?
“You and Ash? But you guys went over there yesterday, and the day before.” Chase said frowning. “You deserve a night off.”
“Besides I told Teri and Shilpz we’d all be there,” said Margi, then leaned in conspiratorially, “Leon’s going to be there,” she said as if she were promising cheesecake or illicit acts. She knows that I had a crush on Leon at the beginning of the year, before we knew about IT. Margi doesn’t know that I tried to explain what I am and what I do to Leon and he was wholly unable to grasp the concept. That dark haired poet thinks I’m an over enthusiastic New Age Gaia worshiper, or a delusional goth. His lines and lines of lover’s bliss and seaside suicide seem ever so much shallower now that I know he understands nothing at all.
“I don’t care about Leon,” I asserted quietly and hollowly, still looking down. He still cares about me, he still chases me, I’m dark, mysterious, out of reach, a perfect muse, a perfect obsession. I’m flattered even though I know he only wants to chase. I mostly am just annoyed by him now, he’s too young and innocent, and there isn’t time. “Ash says we have to, there’s lots of people depending on us.” They accept my refusals easier if they think they came from Ash, he has authority, seniority. I looked up at them with a little apologetic smile, “I mean we all have to go to school there and learn important things, right? I can’t just let it go all evil and spooky at night, or it’ll still be that way I the morning. I have a responsibility.” But of course they’d all heard that speech many times before.
“Okay, if your sure,” said Margi.
“Yeah. I guess I’ll be going then.” I clipped my satchel closed and put the strap on my shoulder. “See you tomorrow, guys.” I could have offered Chase a ride home, but I didn’t. It would be dark in just about ten minutes or at least dark enough for things to waken, he should have a ride, it’s safer, but I was feeling antsy.
Last night I didn’t sleep, I just kept trying to picture IT. IT doesn’t even have a name, and no one can agree what it looks like. When first I heard flustered stirrings from the toads and nymphs they talked of IT as a dark blight, a nightmare wraith, a shadow that blotted out the sun and sucked away warmth. Conversations with nymphs, especially when frightened, rarely make any semblance of sense. They like riddles, and they tend to overreact. All the same I mentioned it to Ash. The undines quivered and whispered of suffocation, sharp teeth, and inky blackness. I’ve had dreams of a giant serpent who froze me with it’s gaze, a liquid ominous jaguar watching me, ready spring on me from above, and silence me before I can scream, of crazed men or women with guns, or bare hands and the same look in their eyes of black vacant hatred and hunger, I’ve dreamt of dead bodies in water, icy water that I must struggle through, disgusting, terrifying, and anguishing shapes pressing down on me. Once we captured one IT’s soldiers, though it was more mist than solid by the time we made it speak, hardly anything there to capture. The soldier spoke of a terrible, wonderful, beast with horns and spikes and teeth and spines, solid and sharp and wrathful and unpredictable. All these images, interpretations mean the same thing, parts of the whole, little fragments of IT. IT with it’s slow seeping anger, and hunger and power and malintent.
I drove from Margi’s large house in town to my smaller one out in the woods in the county. By the time I got there it was truly night, the sun gone and the colours fading. I imagined the school and all the other things too close to the spring twisting, distorting, moaning as darkness and evil pushed and molded them into their nighttime visage. These days, if I don’t go every night to straighten it back out, it’s permanent by morning. The woods must be twisted now, knobby, clingy. There was little old cabin in the woods that I used to visit with Eva during our early days in grammar school ‘til part the way through middle school. We roamed free like little pixie hellions then, pretending to be savage and primitive as we romped through tame woods filled with faeries that both of us could see, then falling into fits of giggles in the ferns. I tried to imagine what that cabin must look like now. It was old, weathered, spiders lurked close by and they had terrified me when I still only knew of spiders to be terrified of. Did it now look like a twisted and angry old man? Or had it collapsed entirely. In Junior high I had endless fantasies of going for a walk with Danny and sneaking into the little cabin, that was really more like a shed, now that I think of it, and holding his hand, or kissing him gently, or letting him put his arm around me, because of course I had never imagined further, less innocent intimacies. Danny was tall and lean and had curly blond hair that was always too long and green eyes like the devilish little sprite that lived outside my window. If that sprite had been had been a human I might have imagine kissing him instead, but I’ll never know, because sprites aren’t humans, and he went away eventually as sprites are apt to do. Sprites have a wander lust you see, and ceaseless energy.
I walked in through the garage and left my satchel on the Kitchen table next to the newspaper. Dad was in the den watching the news, and Mom was sitting on the living room couch doing the bills, the papers and envelopes and receipts spread out around here like an artificial and carefully organized snowstorm. She looked up when I walked by, and smiled at me warmly. I’m busy so much with things she doesn’t know about, that she always seems overly happy to see me, and at the same time suspicious. She looks at me carefully, trying to see evidence on my person of where I’ve been. Does she think I’ve been with a boyfriend, does she suspect drugs?
“Hi, sweetie,” she said, raising her pen from a bank statement, keeping her place with her finger pressed to the page. “How was school? Did you learn anything?” She always wants to know if I’ve learned anything. I have learned many things, but very few of them come from the teachers at school.
“School was fine,” I say with a shrug.
“That’s nice.” She never seems to know what to say to me anymore, and the feeling is mutual. We used to talk all the time, I’d share secrets, and when she had time she’d play with me.
“There’s a party at Shilpa’s house. I was planning to go with Margi and Chase, if that’s okay?” I pulled up the party as a plausible excuse, the best I had at the moment. ‘Mom, I’m going with a twenty-five-year-old unmarried man, who’s actually a trans-dimentional being, to banish evil in the dark,’ was not the sort of statement likely to go over well with either of my parents. They’d met Ash once, but they thought that he was the Americore worker from my school, coming by to tutor me in geometry.
“What about homework?” asked Mom skeptically.
“I finished it all at Margi’s,” I told her truthfully.
“You have to take a shower tonight, and I think it’s your turn to do the dishes,” Mom continues, not anxious for me to disappear off somewhere another night in a row.
“I’ll have time for a shower before going over. And I’ll do the dishes tomorrow, and the day after, if you like,” I’ve learned how to navigate negotiations by now, without giving away my true intentions or getting caught somewhere along the line. It’s not like I’m doing ill deeds, I’m trying to protect the ignorant masses from a danger that they don’t even know exists. It’s my destiny, I’ve been told, my heritage, my craft. Ash says I’m more powerful than he is. That’s saying something.
Mom nodded. “Will there be adults there? Parents? Older siblings don’t count if they’re still in college.”
“Shilpa’s parents, and her aunt and uncle. Or at least that’s what she calls them, but I think they’re family friends.” I tell her confidently, as I know all this to be true. It would actually be nice to go to Shilpa’s party and see old friends, but I’ve got more necessary things to do.
“Which one’s Shilpa? I can never keep your friends straight anymore.” Mom asks, but it sounds like she’s going to say yes. She used to know all my friends’ names, and what they looked like, and even what kind of food they liked so that she always knew what to serve if they stayed over. But I got older and met new people and she got a promotion, and neither of us talk anymore.
“She’s the Indian one.” I said, even though I don’t like defining people by their race, it’s just the easiest thing to say.
“Oh, her,” she says with a smile, “She seems very nice. Okay, you can go. Will you need a ride?”
I shook my head. “I already made arrangements with Margi for transportation. Thanks though.” Ash knew to wait outside in the car and honk once or twice. Nobody would know the difference. Again I had to remind myself that I wasn’t really doing anything wrong, that I was lying to my own mother because IT was coming, and my magical world had been shadowed and poisoned, like drops of black dye taking over the image. She was better off not knowing, not having that fear and certainty sitting inside of her and eating the colours away and crawling into her bones.
“Are you alright, honey?” Mom asked, sounding concerned, her eyebrows drawn together lightly. I was still standing in there while I thought those dangerous thoughts. I pressed back the cold inside me and decided it was time for a hot shower.
“I’m fine,” I said calmly, with a little smile. “I’m going up-stairs now,” I said, already edging away. Mom turned back to her bills and receipts. It used to amaze me that I hadn’t gotten caught, that no one read my mind, why no one noticed that I’d stopped mentioning magic and Fae all together, simply because was all too close to the crisis.
After my shower, wearing the purple velour robe even tough it was already into June, I stared at myself in the mirror. I stared into my own eyes until they weren’t my own, until I couldn’t recognize my face. To be honest though, my own face has seemed increasingly unfamiliar recently, it wasn’t so hard to forget that it was mine. The scar on my lip was fading. That injury had been nearly impossible to explain, and definitely impossible to hide. I’d gotten that fairly good-sized gash by getting involved in a fistfight with a troll wearing a ring. Three common misconceptions about trolls: 1- they are small. 2- they are slow. 3-they are slowwitted. I wasn’t quick enough with the spell, or with my words and Ash had to save me from being concussed or expelled to another dimension, something he says I’m definitely not suited for. It wouldn’t have done, he said, to have me powerless and surrounded by purple dragons on the G’merneth plains. The best excuse I’d been able to come up with was that I’d gone for a walk in the woods in the evening, tripped, and cut my lip on a branch.
I closed my eyes and turned away from the mirror. I still had to get dressed. My room is a mess of life remnants. The cat poster that I don’t have the heart take down, Arthur Rackum Fairy posters, and the dozens and dozens of drawings and paintings of every creature and being that I’ve see in the Other World clutter all my walls. The Ceiling over my bed is dominated by a large computer generated image of infinite pentagrams nested inside each other. My bed is hardly suitable for sleeping, it’s more of a storage space for clothes and stuffed animals. I pulled out storage box from under my bed, the one filled with the supplies for mysticism, books, stones, herbs and such. I traced the symbols for privacy and protection in the air with two fingers. No one will even think to come to my door until I wipe the charm away.
Some times I wonder if this is what it feels like to have leukemia, or something else that you know you probably won’t recover from. To have death breathing down your back and you don’t know when, but you know it most likely will strike you down. I wonder if this is what it means to be dying, tricks, procedures, hunting trips, duty, you do it all to push away death. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself, but in the end, maybe they’re just distractions so that you don’t have to think about the end. Sometimes I think that I think too much, there’s no use in thinking about it anyway.
I dumped the contents of my purse out on my bed and started filling instead with the things I would need for tonight.
*please tell me what you thought of it. this was spawnwed by a couple dreams I had. needs a new title, an suggestions?