Word Count: 2,389
Dawn is in the tub.
The water is cold; touching my toes, spreading like a pool of blood on the floor from the basin. The washroom is light - colored by floral pinks and whites. My Mother designed the bathroom herself.
The floor is very cold under my feat. Dawn's hair looks black; floating just under the surface, her face pale to contrast the color, it looks like ink. Dawn's lips are blue and open slightly. Her green eyes are closed, lids almost translucent.
"Oh." My Father says from behind me. I turn so fast that I slip on the wet floor. My impact causes more water to dribble from the basin, splashing and spattering on my face.
My Father doesn’t look like himself any more. His eyes are dark and empty like keyholes. He's staring at the tub, and he's smiling.
"I thought you would take longer to chop the wood." My Father says.
"W-what happen to Dawn?"
There's dirt all over my Father's face - his clothes are covered in it. He smiles at me and takes a step forward.
I kick him in the knee as hard as I can. Father slips with a yell and collides head first into the side of the tub. There's a crack, and now the water of the floor is turning red. I'm up and running, down the hall and the stairs, as quick as I can.
I've seen this coming. I’ve seen in. Like a building storm, I’ve seen my Father change and plot and leave his own head - leaving this man, this thing, to keep us. To feed us. To bathe us. My Mother didn't notice, not when she was alive. Then again, my Father loved my Mother - he hated me. Hates me.
I didn't think He would take Dawn first. Wait, Charlotte. Where's Charlotte -
The dining room is empty, lights off, oak furniture dark in the night. I hit the switch, but nothing happens. Father yells something upstairs, but I ignore it. The kitchen is the next room over. Something smells rotten, a sickly stench that clings to the inside of my nose. The lights don't work here either. I run through something sticky on the floor - a putrid feeling runs up my legs and makes my chest hurt.
The flowers on the table - among other ingredients and herbs - are pink droopy belled flowers. I feel something in my breast hitch, rough - hitting against the front of my chest like a stone. I know the flowers. They grow around the house; Our Mother told all of us never to touch them. Never to taste them.
Heavy footfalls on the stairs, my Father yells something. I grab one of the knives off of the counter top and throw myself out the back door. The yard is open - pines and oaks tall around the clearing of our house, a fence holding the blackness of the woods away. I make my way toward the forest, around and into the patch of oaks next to the house - to wait for my Father to pass by.
I trip, knife flying, over a root. Only it isn't a root.
The charm bracelet that Mother bought for Charlotte - the one with little ladybugs and flowers - is wrapped around the root. The earth is soft under my hands. It smells like overturned dirt - the grass is misplaced, moved - loose.
Charlotte too. Damnit, Charlotte too....
Father stumbles out of the house, my name spit like fire from his lips in the night. He curses and spits, taking off around the other side of the house. I rip the bracelet from the stump of my sister’s wrist and wrap it quickly around mine. I find my knife, glittering silver in the night, and wipe my face of tears before I break from the oak grove grave toward the barred wall of the dark forest night.
Something strikes my shoulder, hard, before I make it all the way to the fens off blackness. I cry out - my Father screaming my name - but I don’t stop running. I can almost hear my Father’s footfalls, harsh pants, on the back of my neck. Breathed down on me.
The instant I hit the forest, I’m swallowed by darkness. I dive to the right, running low and close to the trees, sweeping around one - hiding. My house from the forest looks small. The bathroom light is still on - the only light in the house that I can see. I can hear my sisters crying, my ears ringing with the sound.
'Loss.' The Forest says in my ear. 'Run boy.'
I do. I take a turn and head for the clearing where we chop wood. It’s empty - hollowed by my Father's work over the years, like my chest - empty of life. I stay in the shadows a moment longer then I feel I should, watching the other hiding shadows for any movement for the man who made me.
I have always been a cautious boy, more eager to watch then to talk. My Mother loved it when I watched her pick flowers. She laughed when I hesitated to touch them, warnings of the poisoned ones hanging in the back of my head. I hesitate to touch danger.
It's my hesitation that destroys me.
He grabs me by the back of my neck, hard hands crushing. I yell and swing - wild - my arm arcing back with the knife, catching Him. He drops me with a strangled yell. I stumble forward into the clearing, turning with my knife to watch.
Father must have cracked His head badly on the tub. There’s a split on His forehead that has blood trickling like water down his face. One side of his face is a bloodied mess, the red from the wound on His head touché the corner of His eye and slips easily to the corner of His lip - giving him tears and smiles all the same. The other half of His face is impassive now, angry - flat and colorless. I had managed to nick his arm with my knife - deep. His hand over the wound does little to cover the blooming color of crimson on his shirt.
"Why are you doing this?" Father says, stepping closer. I take a step back, legs young but tired. Dawn's face floats to the surface of my mind and is too hard to push away completely.
"Why did you kill Charlotte?" I bite. The Forest recoils with the thought - back and away, a swift wind bringing the taste of new soil to my tongue.
Father growls, deep, and steps forward again. "Why can't you understand?"
“What about Dawn?!" I shout. The darkness quiets the noise, but still the shock my words sends ripples through it. “Why did you kill them!?”
Father steps forward and I stab out, nicking His arm again. But His arms are longer - His body older - and He grabs the wrist of my knife-hand and twists. I struggle for a moment, but He brings me to my knees easily. He wrenches my arm back; I feel something cracking in my joints, a shiver from my elbow to my collar. He forces a shout from my lips, loud, the knife falling from my hand like a leaf.
He grabs my throat next - skinny hand and long fingers. I'm forced to the ground; the thud of the earth against my back rushes the rest of the air from my lungs. I have nothing to scream with.
"I never wanted you." My Father says, hissing. Pressing down on my throat. "Only your Mother and her warmth. And my freedom."
My nails find His skin and peal it away, but the pressure of His hand is unrelenting. I kick out wildly, bucking – knocking Him loose enough to get air for a yell. My next strike is at His face, the wound already there. He roars, loud, and suddenly breathing is easily. I roll aside, sending woodchips and moss flying with my haste. Up on my feet, I see that the ax isn't where I left it.
Something cracks across my shoulders. Hard, pulling the air from my lungs. Pain explodes outward through my chest. I've fallen to my knees when He hits me again – crack! - across the back of my neck. My face meats the dirt, soft moss catching my fall. Pain makes my heart beat stutter in my chest.
Father grabs my hair and pulls, hard - then my wrist. He drags me, dropping the ax handle - from the clearing by my ankle, stopping once when I start struggling against Him to hit me in the face and chest a few times. My hair snags on roots, my blood smears on leaves, and the pain makes it so I can do nothing but watch the forest move by me.
'Poor boy.' The Darkness whispers. I can feel it frowning at me. 'Poor, destroyed boy.'
He has to stop dragging me when I start struggling again. I grab and His leg and rip - tearing cloth and skin. He kicks me hard in the face, but I can’t feel it any more. It doesn’t hurt. He drops my arm, but I find that the strength to get up and run is gone from me. I watch as Father piles more dirt on the stump of my sisters' arm in the Oak clearing. I watch him dig another hole next to Charlotte’s - watch him drop His shovel and go inside again.
He returns with Dawn in his arms, heavy and bloated with water. Her night dress is white and clings to her now instead of floating majestically like it had in the tub. Her hair is heavy and sticks to her face, black ringlets of ink from her head. He drops her in the hole and fills it in quickly.
There is blood in my mouth, in my chest and my eyes, and I can do nothing but watch. I wait for Him to start on the next grave - but He doesn’t. He drops the shove atop Dawn and moves toward me.
The surge of strength is rough and raw, but when He bends down to grab my arm again I manage to hit Him in the face. He reels backwards, and I roll roughly to my chest and push upward with my arms. His foot comes down squarely on the back of my head. My strength and sight leave me.
He drags me away from the oaks, around toward the back of the house. Then there's a moment where the cold brush of forest air touches my face before His hand does, harsh. The slap wakes my sight, bright.
The back of the house is faces south, the bathroom and my parent’s rooms on the second story of the house. The compost heap and furnace sit against the siding – I can smell brimstone and shit. I can smell Hell.
My Father is kneeling next to me, but any strength I have to fight comes out as a soft moan and little movements. Small struggling. His eyes are void, black, there is nothing of the man I remember from my childhood. No kind smiles toward my Mother, no careful hands on Her stomach. Father sometimes touched Charlotte’s head, but she was the youngest; the only sign of love I received from my Father was the smile He gave me after a fight. I had threatened to run away. He had told me to.
I should have listened.
The creek of a heavy iron door, the spitting of fire, snaps me to myself again. I didn't notice time passing, but my grip on reality keeps slipping. Father kneels down next to me again, metal forging gloves on.
"Why?" I ask, broken. It’s forced through the hitch of my tears, broken and shaking. My body is morning, I can feel it without me there, but all that I feel is anger.
He picks me up like a child, like He did with Dawn, like He never did when I was little. My head cradled against His shoulder, long legs dangling, arms gathered against my stomach. His arms are stronger than I ever imagined they would be
"My Freedom, Isaiah." Father says; only I can barely hear him. His voice and face are ragged - young still in face, but His mind is gone and left. Dawn said I looked the most like Father, she the most like Mother - but I never saw a resemblance. Heat licks at the back of my neck.
"You're my last shackle." He says. He turns so I can face the glow, spits of amber and orange against my legs. "My first burden. It was your fault."
"I was happy without any of you." Father says. He hitches me up and maneuvers my feet on to the lip of the opening. "I'll be happy when I’m free again."
And he pushes - drops his arm from under my legs and shoves. My arm gets caught on the door, my head against the lip - body writhing - but still he pushes.
The furnace is bigger than I thought it was - chimney small in the center, but wide inside. There isn't burning, only heat, and I can only faintly hear the scream of the door as it closes over mine.
The urn She finds is small, buried under a stump in the center of a clearing in her woods. The hold of trees have rushed back in to fill the gap, quick, but avoided the center. Blood smears the ceramic bowl - flowers and undergrowth refuse to touch it, avoiding its presence all together.
She breathes in the dust, the smell of anger - fear - resentment, and tastes the freedom that lingers in the ash. Can feel the bravery. Craves to protect that innocence.
She lets her hand slide into the ash and pulls the boy from it. Naked, born, and pure. She wraps him in the form a dear - a baby faun - and unlashes him into her Forest, her bosom, to live. To be free.
Hers now. She’ll protect him.
- Current Location:C-Space
- Current Mood:awake
- Current Music:Opera.....