Out of the Darkness

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: House of Ghosts


A question of the ages...

Submitted: January 31, 2018

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Submitted: January 31, 2018

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Out of the Darkness

Quinton B. McKinney

 

 

“She must have fainted, poor dear.”

“She was trying to help him, but he backed right into traffic.”

“I was driving along and then BOOM! Out of nowhere this guy walks in front of my rig.”

“That’s the guy with the guitar…or what’s left of him.”

 

 

“Wh..what happened…” the young girl stammered, blinking lethargically and gazing around at the gathering masses. In the distance, emergency vehicle sirens were blaring; announcing their rapid approach while shooing pedestrian and vehicular traffic from its path. Passersby and lookey-loos were gawking at the tragic scene, some offering assistance as crowd control; still others taking photos and video to upload on social media. Touching her forehead sent a jolt of pain through her brain, letting her know not to touch that area again. Wincing and attempting to stand, the young girl teetered and collapsed to the sidewalk in a heap.

An elderly gentleman that was watching the street performance earlier was returning from his daily errands and witnessed the aftermath of the events, stopped to offer assistance to the young child. He knelt and assessed the injuries, perceiving that nothing appeared to be broken, then he lifted the girl from the crumpled position to a more comfortable one and away from the foot traffic gathering like moths to a flame. A few moments passed and the young girl began to regain consciousness.

“Well, there you are…welcome back” the old man said. “I was beginning to think that you had bid adieu to our level of reality.”

As if rehearsed, the child repeated her motions beginning with the questions of ‘what happened’ to the gazing listlessly, and reaching for the noticeable lump that formed on her forehead; before the old man gently caught her hand and guided it away from the affected area. “You might not want to do that just yet, little missy. There’s a goose egg, and it looks to be about hard boiled to boot. My name is Marcus, what’s yours?”

The old man couldn’t tell if her forehead was wrinkled in pain or if she was thinking intently, but when she blurted out “Charity” like a game show contestant; he opted for the latter assessment. “Okay, well Miss Charity; do you know the whereabouts of your parents?” This questioning served a twofold purpose for Marcus: one, to see how much trauma was done to her cranium and two, to find the parents of the youth and ensure her return to safety. More furrowing of the brow, and pouty lower lip from the child, then a single tear trickled down her cheek.

“I don’t have any parents…” she began, looking at the old man with doe like innocence, lips trembling. She shuddered as if a cold breeze had blown, but the ambient temperature was quite balmy. “They died when I was a baby, or that’s what I’ve been told by the care givers I was placed with. Each time they put me with a family, I run away. Been doing it ever since I was able to tie my own shoes.” Her expression of boldness and turgidity was in stark contrast to her outward presence; that of being a frightened child whom have been forced to grow up far too quickly. The old man sat on the ground beside her to ease the tension on his knees and to lessen the appearance of a threat. All around them, the people buzzed like flies on a bloated, rotting corpse; flitting here and there to get a better view of the accident scene. The local media had set up shop and now the area was electrified with on lookers vying for their derisory seconds of fame.

“Let me get this straight, you’ve been living out here on your own and you’re how old? Seven, eight…?”

“Eleven!” Charity snapped, as if to say that she was self-sufficient.

“Okay, I stand corrected” Marcus said, holding his hands up in a feigned defensive gesture. “So you’re eleven and living out here on the street alone. How do you survive?  I mean what do you do for shelter, and food?” There was a gentleness and a genuine look of concern in the old man’s eyes, which made Charity feel compassion for the old geezer. Geez, he must be ancient she thought while slowly standing up. This motion made her vision grow dark in her periphery and she teetered a bit before steadying herself on the wall of a nearby building. Marcus watched and readied himself in case she took a tumble again, but relaxed when she regained her composure. After a few deep breaths to clear her head fully, she looked at him with a childish grin and said “Come on, I’ll show you.”

Marcus arose with a little more effort than Charity, being her senior by at least five decades. He also teetered, but not from head trauma. His was a lack of blood circulating in his lower extremities due to sitting and kneeling for an extended amount of time. “Okay, lead the way” he said, limping and shaking each leg trying to get the rush of pins and needles to subside.

“That rhymes” Charity said and giggled. “Okay, lead the way” she sang as the two of them walked for a couple of blocks, her with youthful energy and interest, checking every refuse container in the area for tidbits of salvageable materials and food stuffs. Marcus was also peaked with inquisitiveness as he followed along silently, noting how Charity gracefully floated from receptacle to receptacle gleaning discarded treasures along the way. One of the last waste cans she combed caused her to stop in her tracks, all joviality cast aside as when a cloud momentarily covers the sun. The young lass lay down her collected booty and carefully removed a mangled mass of wood and wires. She held it up in the dim light of the nearby street corner, inspecting it as if it was the cherished Holy Grail. When Marcus arrived beside her, he noticed her cheeks were tear stained and she was clutching the broken guitar as if it was a favorite teddy bear.

“Oh, my. What do we have here?” the old man asked, extending his hands to acquire the twisted mess of metal and wood. Charity pulled away, first reluctant to part with the object, then seeing the tenderness in the old mans’ face, slowly and gently handing it to him; as if a sudden movement would cause any more damage than was already done to it. Marcus recognized the instrument immediately, it was one of his own creations from the luthier shop in his small apartment. Each hand crafted instrument was ‘birthed’ with zealous love, and each was born for a specific musician. This particular gift was for a deaf lad that Marcus had taken under his wing several years earlier, first teaching him the art of playing guitar and later the craft of building the instrument. Seeing his creation in a state of shambles caused a knot in his stomach and knowing who it belonged to cause his knees to unhinge, sending him to the ground in with an audible thud. Deep sobs emitted from the lowest part of his soul, and he wailed with grief that reverberated off the adjacent buildings. “Why…why…would anyone? Who would do such a thing?” He felt a soft, warm touch on his arm that initially startled him.

“Two mean boys beat up the deaf guy that plays guitar in the plaza…” Charity explained in a low, trembling voice. “I watched the whole thing.”

Marcus sat visualizing the last time he shared coffee with his friend. How the young artist seemed so happy, peaceful; living to please those who stopped and took a moment to be enraptured by the angelic vibrations emanating from this wonderful instrument. This now destroyed instrument.  The old man just wanted to lay down in this spot and not move, it felt as if every part of his body was being weighted down; and a crushing tension was encircling his chest making it difficult to breathe. He saw a silhouette of a small person move into his field of vision, blinking the tears away he was able to discern his new travelling companion standing in front of him.  She began telling the story of how the young musician was entertaining everyone until two raucous individuals came along and harassed the audience until the crowd dispersed and ending with how, despite her attempt to help him; he met his demise in front of a freight truck. Marcus was so grief stricken that his body felt numb, and his grip on the battered instrument lessened and it tumbled from his lap. He had lost his will to live, laying down beside the guitar in a heap of flesh wrapped in clothing.

 

“Mister Marcus, are you alright? This isn’t a safe place to take a nap” the young girl said, placing a small hand on his forehead and watching the tears pool on the ground beneath his cheek.

“What has happened to humanity?” Marcus pondered aloud, not expecting an answer from anyone. Then he heard the sweetest sound he had ever hearkened, a melancholy verse intermingled with angelic timbre and vibrato: 

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountain side
the summer's gone and all the roses dying
Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bye

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
And I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy I love you so

But if he come and all the roses dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
He'll come here and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an ava there for me

And I shall feel, oh soft you tread above me
and then my grave will richer, sweeter be
for you will bend and tell me that you love me
and I shall rest in peace until you come to me

“That was the most beautiful rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ I have ever heard, young lady” Marcus confided; sitting up and drying his eyes. “Where did you learn to sing like that?”

Charity shrugged, a hint of redness coloring her cheeks and neck “I hang around the cathedral on Archer and Pine Avenue when they practice. I sometimes pretend I’m in the choir.”

“Well little lady, guess what? I just happen to be good friends with the choir director at St. Vincent’s. Would you like me to introduce her to you?”

“I..I would love to, but…” Charity hesitated

“But, you’re a little embarrassed by your appearance. I understand,” Marcus said reading her apprehension. Struggling to get back on his feet, he grunted “I think we can remedy that.”

“You can? How?” Charity asked, assisting the old man to his feet.

“How would you like to come live with me, strictly a trial basis, as you may leave whenever you like. I assure you I’m harmless.”

“That would be awesome!” the youth exclaimed with elation. “But I would like to get some of my things. They’re in an old building just around the corner. Come on, I’ll show you.”

With a renewed sense of purpose, the old man followed Charity to an abandoned building, where she turned to him and said, “I just have a few things I would like to take with me, a picture of my family, a couple of books, you know stuff like that. You wanna see inside?”

Marcus being curious as to how an eleven year old survives alone, quickly accepted the offer. “Sure, lead the way.”

Charity took him by the hand and led him through the collapsing doorway, “watch your step here” was the last thing Marcus heard her say. There was a bone crunching blow to the back of his head, and he collapsed forward in a heap. Blood was beginning to trickle from the opening in his skull, and he let out a moan before rooster boy one brought the iron pipe down with enough force to collapse the back of his skull. Marcus’ fingers twitched momentarily, and one of his pupils completely dilated, the other was unseen due to it lolling back into his head as if trying to stare at the injury.

“Wooohooo! Home run, Chuck!” Rooster boy two bellowed, strutting around the felled victim. “You’re getting good at this” he said before rifling through the dead mans’ pockets like a scavenger.

“Charity here is the good one,” Rooster boy one replied, kissing the young girl on the mouth. “She reels ‘em in with the ‘innocent child’ con, and we finish ‘em off. How much did you take off that deaf guy before he splattered himself all over the front of that truck?”

“Oh, he only had a couple of bucks and a little change. Today wasn’t one of his better days” she replied, lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply. “I wish you guys hadn’t busted up the instrument. We could have pawned it for a few dollars.”

“Yeah, well if the stupid fuck hadn’t put up such a fight; we would have just taken it and been done” rooster boy two chimed in. “And this old geezer had a little more than pocket change” he added counting the bills with a flurry. “Seven hundred dollars…this should last us for a few weeks.”

“Yeah, this was a good mark. Great job Charity. Let’s get outta here and grab some chow, huh?” rooster boy one conclude.

“Just a second,” Charity said kneeling near the old man. She leaned over close to his ear and whispered “to answer your question from earlier…’Humanity’ is just doing what it has done since the beginning of our time, we just haven’t learned from our past.” She kissed him on the forehead and hopped up, trotting to catch up with the other two miscreants.

 


© Copyright 2018 Q.B. McKinney. All rights reserved.

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