September 25, 2013 by jorthusbooks
Now, I will admit that I have not had the time or inspiration to fill in the blanks of this story, and for that I apologize to anyone that is trying to follow it with any coherence. But, I can sum up what is missing!
Okay, Roxi and Cat dug up a block of ice from the old well behind the Haunted House. They and their friends dumped the ice, with the help of a bulldozer borrowed from Dale’s construction site, into Cat’s pool and covered it with the pool tarp.
While Roxi met and followed a strange young man she ran into at Eckerds’ Drug store, Cat was getting ready for bed when she heard a ruckus in her backyard. Thinking that it was some troublemakers trying to mess with the ice block, she went outside to discover the tarp dragged halfway across the lawn and a strange man hiding under her porch. He seemed more lost than dangerous, and after struggling with the absurdity of what she was doing, Cat invited him in to dry off. This was Oliver. The man from the ice. And she found him to be intriguing company.
Cat watched him, fascinated at his composure and grace. What was this creature that could so imitate a human in speech and movement, and yet be so strange to behold. His skin so flawless, sleek. The light struck it oddly at times. Making it appear a light silver. The paleness lending a sheen to it. His face was strong, handsome in almost a ruthless way. Animalistic in moments of fierce emotion, and his eyes – black. The deepest, emptiest black. Staring into them, she felt as if she were spinning and collapsing into the recesses of space. No stars, no light, only her and the darkness. Floating, forever. Time had no meaning in those eyes, in that cold emptiness. She would become nothing.
It was so easy to become lost in his eyes that she had to shake herself out of the vertigo. She would think of them as soulless if it were not for his gentle, sad expression. The expression filled his entire form and lent an air of compassion and restraint to an otherwise frightening figure. His mouth held kindness quicker than fury; and the silky russet mane that fell languidly from his head to spill across his back was glittered with silver, like a nebula pocked with so many stars.
Long, muscular limbs flowing off his sinewy body. Broad shoulders and a smooth, agile neck. His movements seemed refined, liquid. Hypnotic in their own way. It was easy to imagine the crowds of interested persons that Oliver must have attracted at gatherings in the past. It could be said that he was magnificent.
A creature that seemed to be formed out of the night itself and here it sat, reclining in her house as if no other place existed in the world. He had accepted his situation, with only the most fundamental confusion and fear at first, and was adapting to the new era and surroundings with an ease that was scary.
Curiosity about him had filled her faster than fear. And her interrogations had been met with the most courteous, open replies. He volunteered information about himself and the events he had witnessed without a moment’s hesitation. Though, he apologized for the uncertainty of some of his memory. There seemed to be gaps in his life history that were predominantly during the years before he was in The Family. Before he had become what he was now.
Yet, his language suggested that he doubted ever being human. He constantly spoke of people as if they were other beings set apart from himself and always had been. He admitted to feeling little empathy with humans, if any at all. To his credit, he insisted that he had always loved learning from them and being in their company.
The only memory that caused him confusion, and suggested to him that there had been any existence before The Family, was one that stood out in his mind as if branded on it.
He had been small. The room, his room, around him was a collection of large, looming objects. Furniture. Wooden, carved and dark. Heavy drapes hung down the sides of a bed. Burgundy cloth, thick and warm.
The floor was hard, cold, wooden. There was a small rug in the middle of the floor, and it was guarded by a large, dark chair. He remembered not liking that chair. Some sort of pain was associated with it. He was not sure what. The wall in front of the rug had a small opening that was bright, a fireplace. It was warm and comforting there except that the chair was so close.
The walls everywhere else were lusterless panels echoing each other all around the room. The door even blended in and appeared as a panel. But, there was a window. Opposite the door, near the little table that stood beside his bed. It had a criss-cross design on it, that tall window did. The little diamonds of glass were frosted lightly and the long drapes in front of it were half way open.
He remembered feeling relieved because some strange man had just left him. A doctor, the nursemaid had said. Oliver had been sick, very sick. The household was busy with many things and a sick child was only another worry. People had been rushing around outside his room all evening. Jabbering about a queen dying and another queen that they did not trust coming. Politics. He was unconcerned about all that. He was even unconcerned about his health.
The only concern he had was a little toy knight that he had been missing. It was lost and he was determined to find it. He had climbed out of his thick, soft bed. Knowing that he was doing something that he should not. And was kneeling on the hard, cold floor to search for his missing toy.
The fire’s light made everything jump and dance around. It was difficult to hunt for the small, carved soldier in the unstable light. He crawled on hands and knees, his long night gown tucked beneath his legs for warmth. He was beside his bed, the window behind him. Wind pelted the panes with a hollow roar. With an ear pressed to the floor, he lifted the blankets that hung down the sides of his bed frame and gazed intently into the darkness below it.
A clicking noise.
Behind him. He knew that it had come from behind him, which meant that it was at the window. He froze. Another click and a chilling gust of air filled the room. The fire sputtered its angry light and grew again. The wind was gone then. Oliver found the resolve to drop the blankets and sit up. He turned with the courage that only children know, and his eyes fell on the dark form of a tall, thin creature.
It was standing in front of the fire, the shadow bouncing and shifting in the close confines of the dark room. It moved and circled the chair. It reminded him of a snake’s movements when it shifted from place to place. Long arms bracing its thin frame behind the chair. Its hands, curling over the back, were long, slender … bony. He remembered seeing shiny needle nails on the fingers that were utterly white. The skin was pale and shimmering. There was little or no hair. It was smooth. Just smooth.
The creature approached him without the slightest noise, crouched with limbs bobbing like a giant, slow locust. The fire lit the face as it drew near him. Black eyes. They were large, black holes in pools of white. And its face was tight. It had a large mouth. Large fangs.
Deep in his mind, a warning alarm was set off, but he could not seem to move. He was frozen with a languid terror and a horrid curiosity. Part of his young mind had recognized the fear and demanded that he run screaming from the room that instant. Yet, a more willful side of him wanted to face the invader and stand his ground, like the tiny knight he had been searching for would have done.
His small, infected body was too slow to make a firm choice and the decision was then taken from him as the creature’s hands caught him up, and raised him to his feet. The steely hands held him, ready to encircle him if he attempted to escape. He did not move. He did not scream. He was transfixed by the dark, deepening stare of the creature’s eyes. Black orbs held him. Wide, staring voids. Staring. He stared back. Defiant. The creature had seemed to smile.
The strange being crouched directly in front of him, blocking the fire. Their faces level, its elbows touched the floor. The head and face were a shadow rimmed in flame. Its hands twitched, moved slowly to the floor.
He felt its hard, cold fingers touch his bare calves and recoiled inside with revulsion. Yet, he did not move. He remembered the soft skin, ice on his legs, creeping up his small body. The creature ‘s touch sent warm sensations through him. Feelings of comfort, of affection, of safety. They calmed, and frightened him. It communicated without words. Speaking directly to his heart.
The talons spread across his back, talking to him. Reassuring him. A gentle pull. The face was taut and wide, coming close. The hard lips pressed to his neck. His heart raced. He was certain that this was Death come for him. The doctor had been right.
He felt a quick pinch on his neck at the same moment as two slicing pains on his back. He pushed against the great beast, only to feel the arms clamp down hard on him. Pinning his body to it. Something tingling and wet touched his neck where the teeth had been. Then the hold was gone.
Oliver had kept his eyes tight shut, and only opened them when he felt the presence of the creature retreat. The empty air was around him again. Thin and somehow different.
He had opened his eyes to see the thing at the window sill. The fire light seemed to engulf the room. A smile slid across its wide jaw. The window flew open and the dark form was outside, disappearing beneath the ledge in an instant. Stunned, he watched as a long finger reached up and silently closed the window pane. Then it was gone.
Oliver was left trembling beside his bed. The lost toy knight forgotten. After a moment, the pain in his neck had vanished, but the ache in his little back had remained. A throbbing sensation was just below each shoulder blade. They felt warm and stinging. The wet feel of blood sat on top of his skin there.
The wetness on his neck reminded him of that strange kiss. Or was it a bite?
He broke his shell of fear and ran to his little mirror. Standing at his dressing table, he held a big silver mirror that someone had given him up to his neck. There were no marks to show any kind of bite. Nothing. Placing the mirror down, he pulled up his night shirt and bending down, he held the mirror behind him to see his back. There were two, long, red cuts that followed the lower curve of his shoulder blades from the spine to the sides. He let the gown drop back down and replaced the looking glass. His young mind was clouded with a new fear. Fear of the creature coming back. He determined that it most certainly was Master Death. It was waiting for him. More solid and literal than the kind his parents were speaking of, this Death would get him.
He began to cry. No one would believe him if he told them that he had been visited by Death and It had promised to come back for him. It had told him it would. He ran to his bed and cried into his pillow. He had not understood what the physician had explained about infections, but he knew that this was worse. This personal acquaintance with Master Death. Much worse. He cried all that night.
In Cat’s olive drab living room, Oliver had fallen silent, then stopped his narrative altogether. His face faltered, and he told Cat that the Death of that memory did not come again. But, his next clearest glimpse of a previous life had been a wife. She had brought him to meet The Family. A new family that was to be his only family. She was acquainted with Master Death, and as a grown man it had kept its promise.
–Ruth Davis Hays