Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just Visiting #fridayflash

Terrance wanted to go out to play, but it was raining outside. Here it was, bright and colorful outside, when the trees looked like their leaves were on fire, and Mother said that he had to stay in. It was raining she said. Too cold, she said. He had a coat. He had rainboots. He could put them on and be fine. Water and cold couldn't get to him. That's why he had those clothes.

There wasn't much to here, either. This house was stupid. They had come here to clean up after Grandpa went away. All this old junk, dusty and boring and not-to-be-touched. There weren't any of his friends here. There wasn't any TV, either. Just the rain on the window and this old house with its funny smells and his parents coming in and out taking care of things.

The few toys that Terrance had with him didn't hold his interest for long, and he began to explore the house. There wasn't much here. Well, there was a lot of stuff. But nothing he found very interesting. The first few rooms his parents had gone through already. They were cleaned out, empty shells with a fresh smell of cleaner and the windows thrown open. Then there was the room where they were working. There was the faint sound of people rummaging and talking to each other. He passed them by, he didn't want to talk to his parents right now.

Instead, he headed further down the hall, to the other rooms they hadn't had a chance to look at yet. Each door he peeked into was another room packed full of shelves of books. It made him feel like he was in some sort of library, with the old worn titles fuzzy and indistinct in the dim grey light of the day outside. He wasn't sure what he Grandpa did, but he obviously needed a lot of stuff.

Terrance slowly climbed the stairs to the second floor. Here there was no air moving and his parents voices faded into nothing. It was warmer up here and felt dustier and older. Terrance looked around uneasily. All the rooms on this floor were closed and he wasn't sure what to expect in any of them. His parents had told him not to play around up here. Maybe they were just full of valuables.

He opened the first door he came across to find another room full of books. Unlike the other rooms, though, these books were big and thick and didn't have any titles. They were unlike any books he had ever seen. Carefully, he crept into the room, looking around at the shelves. There weren't nearly as many here, and they all seemed pretty old.

In the middle of the room was a small, low table, with a few books on it. That must have been what his Grandpa was reading before he went away. Terrance wondered whether it was anything interesting. He was still learning how to read in school, but he enjoyed books with pictures. He knew the small serious looking books downstairs wouldn't be any help, but the big books up here reminded him of the photography books his father had at home.

The books on the table, though, were filled with tight lines of cursive. Terrance couldn't read that, for sure. It wasn't even a proper book. It was something his Grandpa must have been writing it. He flipped through it really quick to make sure, but there was nothing but pages and pages of writing and some sketches of things he didn't understand. He put the book down on the table where he found it and left the room.

The next two doors were locked. He tried fiddling with them, but no matter what they wouldn't open and the doorknobs were big and heavy and metal and alien. Whatever was behind them, he wasn't supposed to be able to get at them. He sighed and went to the next door. This one opened easily.

Inside this room was a bunch of junk. He wasn't sure what it all was, but it was everywhere. There were figurines and statues and knickknacks of every kind. The shelves were jammed full of it. There were larger displays of vases and paintings and weird devices that looked like spyglasses or hourglasses, but he was sure they were neither. They looked valuable, though, so he didn't touch them.

Instead, on one of the shelves he spotted what appeared to be a toy car. He grabbed it and looked at it. It was metal, big and heavy and oblong-shaped. He wasn't sure what kind of car looked like that, but it was pretty cool otherwise. He set the car on the top of one of the dressers and rolled it along. One of the wheels squeaked but it rolled just fine. He picked it up and walked out of the room before his parents could catch him.

As he left the room he noticed one of the other rooms at the end of the hall had yellow tape over the front of it. He wasn't sure why, but he walked towards it and tried to read what the tape said. He could read the letters just fine, a C and an A and a U and a T and an I and an O and an N, but he didn't know the word they made. He tried to sound it out, but it didn't sound familiar.

He turned the knob behind the tape and pushed the door open. There wasn't anything special behind the tape, though, just an old bathroom like the one downstairs. This one, though, was stark white without any of the rugs or mats or shower curtains. It was just tile and a white bathtub and a toilet. Even the mirror above the sink seemed to be gone, though Terrence noticed bits of the mirror left in the frame.

He closed that door and was about to go downstairs to play with his new car when he noticed that the door at the end of the hall was cracked open. He walked over to it and pushed it open. The room it opened onto, though, seemed to be empty. It was just a room, narrow and long and going to the big window on the front of the house.

He walked inside the room, curious about it. It didn't look as if his parents had touched it. There were cobwebs in one of the corners and a layer of dust on the floor. But it was completely empty otherwise. The ceiling was tilted funny, one side coming in at an angle. He wasn't sure if his parents would be able to even stand up straight in this room. The light from the big window made everything feel grey and dreamy, even if the room was the same boring wood and beige as the rest of the house.

Terrance sat down in the middle of the room and began to play with his car. This was a big open space, perfect for the car to roll around. But as he was doing it, he noticed that the car didn't seem to go straight very well. If he put it on the side of the room with the slanted ceiling, it kept rolling to the edge of the room, as if the floor were slanted. He crawled over to where the car kept going off its path and looked at the floor. It looked normal at first, but when he brushed the dust off of the floorboards he noticed one of them had a small hole where someone could maybe put a finger in and pull it up.

He looked around, worried that his parents were going to burst in. But there was nobody and the entire upstairs remained silent. He reached into the hole with his finger and curled it around the floorboard. It was a tight fit, but it was enough to get a grip. When he pulled, at first nothing happened but then the board came up, a cloud of dust kicking up. Terrance coughed and dropped the board, rubbing his eyes with the front of his shirt.

Inside the board was a small, slender box. Terrance picked it up and set it on the floor. It was only about an inch or two high, but wide on each side. He looked at the front where there was a small lock. It was one of the turning numbers locks, like his father's briefcase.

The top of the box was glass and he peered inside. At first it seemed to be just black inside, probably empty, but as he looked at it he noticed that the black inside seemed to be swimming. Whatever was inside was moving around like smoke or ink. He paused for a second, unsure what he should do with the box. Then he turned the numbers a few times, trying combinations. Nothing seemed to work.

Frustrated, he hit the top of the box with his fist. "Open, you stupid box," he said aloud.

At the top of the box, the black swirls seemed to slow, then stop. The top of the box was still, but suddenly letters appeared out of the swirl. They were white and wispy, like they were made out of smoke too, but they were clear enough for Terrance to read.

WHO ARE YOU?

"Whoa," Terrance said to himself. This was just like the Magic 8 Balls he saw at the store. Though way cooler looking. Especially since he could read what it said. "Um ... my name is Terrance. Who're you?"

MY NAME IS ALASTOR

Terrance tried to sound that out. "Al ... alas ... Alastor... that's a funny name."

I KNOW

Terrance sat the box in his lap and looked down at it. This was easily the coolest thing he had seen since coming here. Maybe even cooler than the TV Blake down the street got the other week. "So ... what were you doing in the floor?"

I WAS PUT THERE

"Who would do a thing like that?"

OSWALD PATTERSON

Terrance was surprised to recognize the name. "My Grandpa? Did you know my Grandpa?"

YES

"He's gone now," Terrance said. "Mom says he went away. Dad says we have to get rid of all his stuff. I get the week off of school, at least. But this place is boring. Or was, until I found you."

GONE AWAY? CAN YOU LET ME OUT?

Terrance shook his head without realizing it. "I don't know the combination. Besides, it looks like you'd spill out everywhere."

There was a long moment where the black churned under the lid before the words floated to the top.

I WON'T SPILL OUT EVERYWHERE, I PROMISE. WE CAN BE VERY GOOD FRIENDS, YOU AND I. VERY GOOD.

Terrance didn't understand all of that. But he did read GOOD and FRIENDS. Still, there was the problem of the lock. "I still don't know the code."

THE COMBINATION IS 616

Terrance turned the numbers to 6 and 1 and 6 and popped the lock. The clasp flipped up and the letters instantly disappeared from the blackness underneath the lid. Terrance hesitated for a moment, then slowly pried up the lid. There was nothing inside.

Just blackness. Nothingness.

It was oblivion in there.

------

Melody Patterson walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water. She pulled one down from the cupboard and filled it and was drinking it, staring out the window and trying to figure out how they'd get everything taken care of in a week. She barely noticed Terrance at the table until she turned around. He was being unusually quiet, sitting at the table looked down at the newspaper.

"Wha'cha doin', honey?"

"Looking at the paper," Terrance said quickly. "How long are we going to be here?"

"Not too long," Melody said. "A few more days."

"I don't like this place very much."

"I know, sweetie, but you won't be here for much longer."

"It feels like I've been here forever," Terrance said, not looking up at her. She would have scolded him for whining, but they did drag him out here away from everything he knew. If he was a bit petulant, what would it hurt to let him be for now?

"Don't worry, we'll find something for you to do tomorrow. Maybe we'll hook up a TV and go to the video store. Just be patient." She put the cup in the sink and walked back to the room where she and John were cleaning. He looked over at her as she came in and smiled. "How's Terry holding up?"

"About as well as you might expect, considering," she said. "He was reading the paper, probably bored out of his mind."

"Reading the paper? I don't remember him ever doing that before. Besides, he can't really read all that well."

Melody thought back to what he was doing in the kitchen, but the memory was fuzzy. Was he reading the paper? Surely not. John was right. Terrance had enough trouble with books for kids his age. "Yeah, he must have been looking at comics or something. What else is there for him to do in a house like this? We've kept him away from everything else."

"For good reason. Who knows what kind of scary crap Dad had in here. You know how he was. I don't want to have to drag my kid to therapy until he's an adult."

Melody rolled her eyes and filled another box with dozens of books, from the ridiculous to the classic, and other titles in languages she couldn't even read. Terrance was quickly forgotten, in favor of the herculean task at hand. There was simply too much to do and things like that tended to fall through the cracks.

4 comments:

Dan said...

Well played, sir.

I can't tell you how many times my mom told me never to talk to strange wispy clouds named Alastor I find locked in small glass-top boxes.

Truer words have never been spoken.

elizabethditty said...

Well, as Mrs. Weasley would say, "Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain." And now I've made a Harry Potter reference, and you will be annoyed. But you should know coming from me it's complimentary. So deal. And write more of this. And nice job. :-)

elizabethditty said...

(Make that, "as Mr. Weasley would say.")

The Writer said...

So clear. So detailed. I could navigate that house without a light if I memorized your story. The language was appropriate for the child. You're so good. So damn good at this.