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Chapter One

 

 

 

For so long, my past self had dreams of a perfect life.  Dreaming of worlds that couldn’t possibly exist, people that were indescribably perfect, living in a place that had no flaws.  But I am no fool.  I know that this world is nothing like my fantasies.  

I stare at my reflection in the mirror and try not to critique my appearance.  I watch my mother clean a nearby room, her delicate hands wiping against the wood counter that’s somehow always been with me since birth.  It holds my past, my wishes, my belongings, and perhaps my future.  

It is not the same without my father.  He has been gone, dead for thirteen years.  But the sting lives on.  He died of a severe case of tuberculosis on my third birthday.  Soon after my dad’s death, my younger brother, Simon, grew ill and caught the whooping cough.  He passed only a year after Father’s death.  Without them, mother and I live in a dreadful world where things are grey and there is no more color to our eyes.  

The alarm, our substitute for a door bell,  rings with a hopeless energy.  It is too dull in my mind for the noise to reach.  I am a sulking corpse that can only mourn for the loss of my dad and my brother.  

My mom walks slowly down our ancient wooden hall, descending downstairs to greet the visitor.  She is quiet, somber as usual.  For only a short time in the beginning of my life she was bright, happy.  Now, because of two deaths, she has changed.  Every night I can hear her crying in her sleep.  In the mornings, her eyes are puffy and her face is painted red with sadness.  I can’t say that I blame her, though.  Most of our lives have been bitter and stained with a streak of darkness and sadness.  It is a horrible way of life, but when you have two sudden tragedies that occur in your young life, perhaps you would be this way, too.  

Even after thirteen years of this pain, people mourn for our lives.  They bring flowers, write poems of woe in attempt to ease our suffering.  But what can change these tragedies in our lives?  In mine?  Mom sniffles and I feel a twang of pain strangle my heart as it is hers.  It is sometimes unbearable to hear her mourn.  It almost feels like my fault that she goes through this suffering with me.  It is a thought that I usually must keep away in the deep crevices of my mind.  Never to be heard again.    

I can only hear faint murmurs that echo upstairs to where I remain motionless in front of the mirror, glancing at each imperfection of my body.  My nose that curls upwards at the very tip, my too-thick dark pink lips that are dry and cracked, my long, thin hair that is wiry and frizzy.  My pale gray eyes that used to be a lively blue.  My large chest that I desperately wish would magically shrink. I study my dark red hair and my eyes and notice that they both have lost their sheen.  Perhaps this is what is to happen to me.

“Riff, can you come down here?” Mother asks.  I study my face for one last second and step away, hoping that by some odd phenomenon, the mirror will break sooner or later.  Preferably sooner.  

Down the hall, I notice gray hair I know too well sticking up above the short stairwell.  After the first step on the stairs, it is too obvious to attempt to be oblivious.  The bags under her eyes protrude in a swollen fashion, Her dark eyes are squinted in a criticizing stare, her hooked nose similar to that of a parrot beak.  The straight line of her lips gives me a nervous jitter.

“Good morning, Aunt Jasmine,” I say calmly.  She is an emotion reader -- her best talent is reading emotions of others.  Her father taught her this skill so that she may be a successful and intelligent woman.  

He taught her well.

“Riff, my how you’ve grown,” Aunt Jasmine states with a quirk of a frown.  The corner of her lips twitch in a highly grotesque fashion.  My mom stands beside her, looking just as anxious as I inwardly feel.  Aunt Jasmine is a regular visitor, always arriving three to four times a week in order to receive any extra items we have no use for.  

“Not much, actually,” I say.  “I thinks it’s the floor.  It’s kind of off-level by the door.”  Aunt Jasmine’s eyebrows crease together at my response.  She does not approve of the answer.  

Aunt Jasmine is a strange woman.  She always believes she is right, even when the odds are completely against her.  Her mother — recently deceased — apparently rubbed off on her.  I do not like Aunt Jasmine.

“So, Caroline,” says Jasmine, “anything... new for me this week?  I do hope you have some new china sets you’re willing to give…”

“I’m afraid all we have are some bouquets, Jasmine,” mom replies.  “Do you like lilies?  We have a white set and a pink set.”

“Oh, no, I have no interest in flora decor, Caroline.  I am not a sissy.”  Aunt Jasmine steps backwards over the door step.  Her hand reaches up to fix back a stray baby hair, and she attempts a smile.  She is horrible at it.  

“I think I’ll take my leave, then,” Aunt Jasmine utters.  “I’ll be back on Thursday.  Please try to get me one of those sets, would you?”  My mother flinches only the slightest at Aunt Jasmine’s sharp tone, but nods quickly after to hide it.  Aunt Jasmine walks down our small cement walkway to our rusty gate.  She pauses and turns her head over her shoulder.  

“Oh, and Riff,” she speaks, “do take care of those eyebrows.  They’re hideously... hairy.”

 

X  X  X  X

 

Later that day, the neighbor across the street arrives at our door.  It is Mr. Joel, an elderly man who helps take me to Academic Days, our quote-in-quote school, occasionally.  His gray beard and jade green eyes are the most contrasting thing about him, how he can be old yet have so much life still burning in his eyes.  

He sits at our old kitchen table, rubbing a ragged wooden edge of it with his weathered finger.  It is unusual to see him alone here.  He usually brings his grandson who is only seven or eight.  

My mom discusses unimportant matters with him.  She brings up the weather, the town parade that took place three months ago.  Mr. Joel merely nods, glancing at our calendar at the west wall every now and then.  It is a sign that he has something on his mind.  

I lean on the wall, watching them talk, but also tracing the trail of spider feet along our dusty floor.  We haven’t cleaned the floor in about a month or so.  

“Caroline, how do you plan to keep up with this place?  I think you may need to take a vacation,” Mr. Joel says.  “I know just the place, too.  You’ll love it.  It would be perfect for you and Riff.”

“Oh, Joel, I don’t know,” my mom responds, “we have so many things to do as it is.”

“I can call a house cleaner.  In fact, I can ask my cleaner Fernanda to come over for a week and she can clean for you.”  Mom considers this.  I can tell by the way she twitches her upper lip and glances at the left for a moment.  She looks at me, right into my soul.  I know she has already agreed to Mr. Joel’s proposition.  

“What do you think, Riff?” she asks me.  “Doesn’t a break from this pitiful home sound nice?”  I cross my arms and allow one long strand of hair to fall in front of my face.  It would be nice, I think, to get away and try to forget.  Forget all that’s happened, even though it’s been years.  I cross my arms tighter.  And...  And maybe it would be really enjoyable.  Wherever this place is and what it’s like.  But if Mr. Joel says it’s okay, then it must be.  

“I think we should go, Mom,” I say.  I tug my purple V-neck tee down.  It has always been too short on me.  “I mean...,” I continue.  “If you say we’ll love it, Mr. Joel, then I believe I can trust you.”  I smile at our neighbor.  He smiles in a grateful response and stands.  

“Then I’ll take my leave.  The boats and planes leave tomorrow at noon.”  Mr. Joel walks past me, pats my shoulder, and quietly shuts the door behind him.  I turn to Mom.  She seems to have less weight on her shoulders.  On the table next to her are two tickets for the destination.  

I step toward the tickets and pick one up.  

 

UTOPIAN ISLAND

BE THERE FOR THE BETTER GOOD!

 

What a strange name, I think to myself.  “It’s called Utopian Island.  Sounds kind of...weird,” I say to Mom.  She blinks and smiles.  

“I’m sure it’s alright, Riff,” she says.  “People are just creative these days.  You know how much our dear earth has suffered.  So many cities have faced turmoil.  Maybe this kind of place is what our people need.  Maybe it was built to inspire us to try and fix the world.

“I mean, yes, it does sound like something someone came up with on the spot, but even the simplest names can’t foretell what the location is like.”  And with that, she migrates upstairs into her room and shuts the door behind her.

 

X  X  X  X

 

 

It is pitch black in my room.  The  street light outside is my only source of guidance.  I leave my blinds up and stare out the window.  Directly across from our home is Mr. Joel’s.  Next to his on the right is a home owned by a couple who are expecting a baby girl.  On Mr. Joel’s left, it is a home I’ve never seen anyone in.  But sometimes, I wake up and see that the lights are on.

Mr. Joel’s top floor lights are on.  If I squint, I make out Mr. Joel’s sitting form at his office desk.  He stares out the window from his table to the empty home.  My eyes travel to the front door of the three story home next to his home.  No lights have been flipped on.  What is he looking at? I wonder.  

I sit up from the side of my bed and lean on the window sill.  There is nothing.  Nothing until a very faint sound slowly builds.  Bumm...buummmm...bummm...  It is the slow beat of drums in a melodic symphony. 

I open my window and peek my head outside.  The chilly night air gives me chill-bumps.  I turn my head and listen.  Soon, there is a sound of a piano that is playing along with the drums.  An eery tune that gives me a feeling of fear, yet also a sense of mental healing.  

The music grows louder, as if it was right in our front yard.  Their is a whispering chant that flows with the music.  They are words I do not know.  They do not sound like any language that a person would know.  

Both the chanting and music increase in volume.  I put a hand over my ear, but try to find the source.  It grows louder.  Louder.  So loud until even with both hands over my ears that I can hear it clearly.  

“Stop playing music!” I shout into the street.  The song continues, just as deafening as before.  “Stop it!” I say.  Even my voice sounds muffled compared to the ballad.  It’s as if no one else in the neighborhood can hear it.  What is going on?! I think to myself.  

And then, it all stops.  The chanting, the beating drums, the piano.  All of it comes to a complete halt.  I remove my hands from my ears slowly.  Has it really stopped? I ask quietly in my mind.  I inspect the street carefully, looking for a source for music to come from and a person singing.  

An older voice, that of a young man or older teenage boy then speaks.

Through wind and kinesis, may the voice begone!

May evil begone!  

 

A bright green light glows in front of the empty home’s front door.  I squint and cover my eyes partially.  I am too curious to hide from it.  The green  orb of light floats upward, near Mr. Joel’s office window. 

Through wind and kinesis, I command my magic!

Steal the voice of evil chanting!

The orb goes giant for a split second, and quickly vanishes into the dark air with a pop!  The male voice is gone, but it’s words are stuck in my mind.  What was that?  I rattle my head and rub my forehead.  What is going on?

I step away from the window sill, shut the window tightly, pull down the blinds, and rush into bed.  I feel a sense of worry, and merely pray that what I just experienced was a dream.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: March 04, 2014

© Copyright 2023 R Anonymous. All rights reserved.

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