family

Distortion (A Short)

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As I walked through the threshold, of my once childhood home, you could tell that it had been condemned.  It was left behind by the world to fester in its own putrid filth. Blood was still every where. Splattered among the living room walls like an art project. The foul smell of death still permeated throughout the house which caused bile to rise within my throat with every breathe I took. I could hear the rats scampering within the remnants of garbage that was spewed on the floors as I attempted to walk further in. Every little step made me want to turn and run. Every breathe made me want to die.        

When I agreed to revisit my past, I had no idea I’d be physically walking back into it. I guess after the sins committed within the walls of this home, no one would wish to live here again. Why bother removing the damage? They could have at least demolished the house to rid the world of such a disgraced scene. It would have kept me from walking through here now.

But no. Here it stood and here I walked. Reliving every vile memory each time I laid my eyes upon something of familiarity. That may have been the purpose for my visit but it didn’t mean I had to like it.

If my father wasn’t facing a fate worse than death, I would not be here now. He deserved every chance that could be provided to him to avoid his treatment. Especially since he didn’t deserve it. The justice system felt otherwise due to accumulated ‘evidence’ and therefore 15 years later, on April 26, 2042, Ronin Lescalete, was labeled a murderer. 

If they knew my father, even an ounce of him, they would have known he wasn’t capable of the kind of darkness it took to pull off such a feat. They were blind though. Blind with the fury of an unsolved case. My father disappeared that dreaded night, thought to have been disposed of. The more time that passed without finding a culprit or any evidence leading to anyone outside of the house, they began to believe the acts were committed by my father and he fled to avoid capture.

I told them otherwise. I was there. I saw everything. My father and I were cuffed together at the bottom of our stairwell, forced to watch as my sister hung from the ceiling upside down, screaming. Blood dripping off of her body with each tiny slice that monster created. Sprays of blood with each artery he slashed. My brother was next, put out of his misery with a swift jab to the carotid artery and then thrown to the side. Then my mother. Her head nearly taken off with a machete. A clean slice across her neck and then tossed like a rag-doll. My father and I were in shock and clinging onto one another for support. I was only 7 at the time, but I knew what was happening and I knew that I was next. I could tell by the look on my fathers face that he knew it too.

I watched that monster come towards us, preparing to grab his next victim. My dad whispered for me to be brave and held onto me tightly. The second the cuffs were off of me, my dad fought hard. He was still cuffed to the stairs but he did everything he could to give me the time to run. I remember hearing muffled sounds coming from my father as he was being brutally beaten. I tried to drown the world out and focus on the only task that mattered. Getting away.

I accomplished my task, but for what? To spend the rest of my days in fear? In sadness? I went for 15 years believing I was a sole survivor of a horrific event, only to find out that the man who gave his life for me, was still alive. Well, now I have purpose again.

My father emerged on the 15th anniversary of what was eventually dubbed as the “Red Wall Massacre”, bloody, bruised, and unconscious. That same day, another family had fallen victim to the same fates as mine. Obviously the law didn’t take into account coincidences. If they knew my father they would have known better. If they would have listened to me, this wouldn’t be happening. To them, I was a confused, scared, child and they couldn’t take my eyewitness account as creditable evidence.

So, Here I am, standing in the very spot that my sister lost all of her blood. Trying to remember every single little detail. Trying to trigger any little bit in my head that had once been blocked out of that monster. Anything that can help me find this bastard who took my family and my life. Anything to save my father, the man who saved me, from a fate worse than death. To remove the murderer label before time runs out. In previous days that would have gotten you a stint in the local penitentiary for a few years to life. Maybe even the death penalty. Now though, that title will procreate a different outcome. “Distortion”.The new treatment government officials hailed to be the newest miracle cure for the criminally insane. 

At first, the idea of ‘Distortion’ seemed like a breathe of fresh air. A simple injection to take away a persons dark intentions. An injection that would allow jails to be a safer place for rehabilitation instead of a place filled with chaos. It allowed people to be released on probation much quicker which led to less and less over-crowded jails.  When ‘Distortion’ became a natural implement of society, the government became greedy and lazy. Instead of just trying to protect the safety of the citizens from repeat offenders they started to use ‘Distortion’ in attempts to stop the crime before it happened. The idea was a noble one but very unstable. 

It started with lesser offenses and then progressed to simple traffic stops. If you did anything that broke the law in any way, you were subjected to some sort of dose of ‘Distortion’.It may not seem like a bad thing but the treatment did more than take away the bad intentions. It took away all intentions. Depending on the dosage, the outcome varied between feeling overly happy all of the time, to becoming a nullified zombie. It took away the crime but it also took away the purity of the human race. The true happiness, the anger, the fear, the sadness. It took away everything that made us who we were. 

The government has even been in talks about administering the treatment to family members of offenders as well. A new way of stopping the activity before it happens. Apparently criminal activity is now being linked to DNA and treated as a disease. In my opinion, the only true disease of this society is stupidity and power. 

Some how, with this asinine justice system, I needed to find the true murderer before my father fell victim to their new world advances; so that not only would he be safe from ‘Distortion’, but so would I. Maybe in proving their mislead actions of the treatments use, it would help provoke just enough steam for the right people to take action in a proper, long time coming, uprising. 

“Rosalyn!” My fathers lawyer, Cain, yelled my name to pull me away from my thoughts, it was always so easy to get lost there. 

I was surprised Cain was even here helping, but I think he just felt obligated, once being a friend of the family. It wasn’t very often nowadays that lawyers even existed. Since the treatment, the system was finding their way around trials and therefore no longer needed legal representation. With my fathers case being 15 years old, Cain made a scene declaring that since society was not as “advanced” then “Ronin Lescalete deserved the proper trial of his time but if found guilty would be administered the current punishments.” I still don’t know how Cain pulled that one off because in my opinion he was just spouting off nonsense. It’s not like “Distortion” wasn’t in the regiment 15 years ago and already phasing out the system. Some how, Cain must have had some sort of clout with the big guys in the government. I didn’t bother to ask questions.

I shook my head slightly and turned towards Cain, who was still standing at the front door. I doubt he wanted to risk getting anything on his fancy shoes. He was always one for fashion, even during the days when it was frowned upon. He practically lived in a 3 piece suit. I wasn’t one to complain though. He may have been twice my age but I couldn’t deny the appeal oozing off of him. “Yeah?”

“We really shouldn’t be here. Just look at this place. If I would have known, I wouldn’t have allowed this.”
I walked over towards Cain with ferocity gleaming in my eyes and crunching noises beneath my feet “You wouldn’t have allowed this? I hate to tell you this Cain but you have no control over me. I greatly appreciate your assistance with my father but unless you have any other better ideas, I suggest you just keep your mouth shut. I’m going to do anything I possibly can to help find this person. I really don’t care what you have to say about it or even what the government says about it. I am breaking no laws here so you all are free to go to hell.” I turned back around and started walking throughout the house. Scanning every possible inch that could possibly provoke a reaction to my thoughts.

I started to hear movement behind me and I could tell that Cain finally choked up the nerve to dirty his image a bit. “You’re right. Lets do this then.” He put his hand on the small of back and started to ease me forward slightly. He wanted to show me that I had him for support. I was just happy he didn’t keep arguing with me. “You know Ros, just because we are here, doesn’t mean something is going to happen. There is no guarantee that anything will trigger a lost memory. This could all be a waste of time”

I shivered slightly at being called “Ros” but I ignored it for it was not the time to complain of unwanted nicknames. I just looked up at Cain’s 6’1” body towering over my 5’4” and tried to find his dark blue eyes that I remembered he had. He was too focused on what was ahead of him, so I returned to the same. “Thank you Mr. Negativity. I appreciate your words of wisdom” I rolled my eyes and continued my study.

If I were to be completely honest with myself, I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in what I was trying to accomplish either. It was a long shot but it may have been my only shot.

Thirty minutes later and I had felt defeated. I was standing at the stairwell and just collapsed onto the bottom step. I didn’t even care about the filth I was putting myself in. Nothing happened and nothing was going to. It was useless. “You were right. We shouldn’t have came. This was just a waste of time.”

I looked up in the direction of where I had seen Cain standing, out of the corner of my eye, but he was gone.

I wasn’t unlocking memories but I was obviously going insane. Just a short time back in this house and I was already losing my mind. I guess it was inevitable really.

“Cain!” I tried to yell loud enough for him to hear me from any part of the house. When I received silence as my response, I figured he wasn’t actually in any part of the house. He must have gone outside. I didn’t blame him one bit.

I started to join him when I heard a creaking noise coming from up the stairs. I hadn’t thought once about going up there since my missing memories were all linked to this level of the house. Now, my curiosity was going to get the best of me and detour my thoughts into a direction that would snuff out any chance of remembering what I had lost.

I slowly crepe up the stairs and continued to listen for any other sounds. When I reached the top step I could hear something coming from my parents old bedroom. I made my way towards the room half expecting a giant rat to come running towards me. Instead of a rat, I found Cain walking out carrying a box.
“What are you doing up here?”

“Just looking around for some old memories of my own. I actually found an unopened package sitting on your fathers old desk. Here.” Cain handed me the box and I began to tear off the tape to see what was inside.

“Cufflinks. Huh. I wonder why he never opened them.” I flipped them around in my hand to view them better and then began to hand them over to Cain. “Here. You should take these. You were his friend and you also have more of a use for them then I would.” I dropped them in his hand and turned to walk back down the stairs.

“Ros, wait. Are you sure?”

There it was again. I cracked my neck and ignored it the best I could. “Yeah, of course Cain.”
I continued my trek back down the stairs, thinking it was time to head out. As I reached the bottom, I decided to wait for Cain to join me. As I waited, I glanced around my old home, one last time. I would never allow myself to walk back into these walls once I walked out of them, I knew that. I also knew that my chances of helping my father were now non existent. Another painful acknowledgment I had to continue to live with.

As Cain reached the bottom steps, I headed towards the exit with a huge sigh escaping my lips.

“Its alright Ros, at least you tried. That’s what counts.”

I stopped at the door and glanced back at his face. “Ya know, I never really liked that.”

“Liked what?”

“Ros. I don’t like being called that. Ever since…” But I couldn’t remember. There was a reason why I hated that, I knew it, but I couldn’t make it come forward. I cocked my head to the side while still looking at Cain, trying to rattle something lose. He started to narrow his eyes in my direction and then placed his hands in his pockets while tilting his head back to me. “Since, I don’t know.” I couldn’t fight the feeling that it was time to leave the house now. I turned quickly and started to take that last step away from my past.

Within seconds, instead of fresh air on my face, my back was to a wall and a knife was to my throat as he gripped me tightly so I couldn’t escape. I never saw it coming but maybe I should have. Ros, that was it. That was the trigger, and now, with his eyes staring into mine and the feel of cold steel on my throat, I saw it all.

“It was you.” I furrowed my brows and glared back into his deceiving eyes. Even with a knife to my throat and arms around my waist I still wouldn’t stop looking for answers.

“Why kill them?”

“I was bored?” He shrugged his shoulders and chuckled. “Why would I tell you anything? Why give you the satisfaction of knowing? No. I’d rather keep you wondering until the day you die.”

“In like a minute? That sounds like pure torture.”

“Such a smart mouth Rosalyn. Even at a time like this, your sarcasm seeps through. I actually have something far better than death for you my dear. Since I have lost access to my previous test subject, you will now be as so kind to take his place. With a murder under your belt, that will be easy to accomplish. All will be well once again within the Faction. Close your eyes dear it’ll be over soon.”

“You’re full of shit Cain. I’ve never killed anyone and I will not be reduced to becoming a test subject.”

“Whatever darling. You have and you will. You just don’t know it yet. I have many powers and persuasion is probably the best.”

I tried to turn my head to the side so I no longer had to look in his eyes. The second I moved though, I could feel the blade begin to slice upon my throat. I knew I had no way out. “Please just tell me what happened then.”

“So I’m supposed to give you my big confession now? Give you every ounce of ammunition that I have to be used against me? Why the hell not, right? You won’t be getting out of this anyway.” He gently cleared his throat and continued his egotistical ramblings. “Your father and I were close friends until Distortion came into the picture. When things started to really take off for it, they offered your father and I jobs in the research department for Distortion. They thought that lawyers who already had first hand experience with criminals would come in hand. We both accepted the jobs and within doing so, started the creation of the Faction. When we learned more about the advancements they had planned to make in the coming years, Ronin wanted to back out. Those a part of the Faction agreed that we obviously couldn’t have that. He knew too much of what was planned.”

“So your plan was to kill us all? The Faction? The ones who we have been told are supposed to be so against any and all crime?”
“Well no, the plan was to threaten the deaths of your family to get your father to comply. I thought he would listen to me. His long time friend, but no. So the torture began. I had intended to make it stop but it seemed like something inside of me awoke and not only couldn’t I stop it, I didn’t want to. I enjoyed every bit of it. The slicing, the screaming, and most of all, the blood dripping.

I cringed and felt my stomach gurgle. I wanted to vomit but I also wanted to keep him talking. If this was the end of the line, it would be nice to at least have some closure.

“And my father? Why not kill him like the rest?”

“That’s the fun part. I made an executive decision to keep him alive to run diagnostics on. It was brilliant really. I mean how else were we going to make advancements without test subjects? Over the past 15 years I have accomplished a lot. I have turned the Faction into a completely separate unit of the government. It has turned into something no one ever expected but everything the world needs. A new face for the world and I am in control of that. Your father almost ruined it all for me.”

“Why’d you let him go then?”

“Ronin? I didn’t. He escaped. You would have thought after so many years he would have given up on that. He was always strong willed though. I should have known really. However, the Distortion was too strong in his system to make it very far. It was the Factions responsibility to get to him first since we let him escape but for some reason, that didn’t happen.”

“The other murders then?”

“That was me. I had taken a small dose of Distortion after I killed your family so I could rid myself of those nasty little thoughts. I mean, I couldn’t very well build greatness if I was constantly thinking about taking peoples lives, now could I? Things were obviously going great but the thoughts and feelings, well, they started to return. I decided to make use of a bad situation. I figured if we were going to lose our test subject then we’d better make sure there was no doubt in anyone’s mind. He had to be put away and kept on Distortion.”

“If you knew that he was going to be locked up indefinitely then why did you even interfere with his case? Why stand up in defense of his name?”

“You started snooping. I Couldn’t take any chances. It was bad enough we had to worry about Ronin spouting off nonsense. I mean, no one would believe him but why risk everything we had been working towards? It seemed like you weren’t going to accomplish much but you surprised me. Its my fault really. How stupid of me to continually use a name I once called you whilst destroying your family. I was worried that you being here alone would have sealed my fate, but in the end, I sealed my own. Its okay. I really do need a new test subject anyway.”

He let go of my waist and in a matter of seconds I felt a pinch in my neck and then all there was, was darkness.
…..

I slowly opened up my eyes feeling as if I had been sleeping for days. I couldn’t even move because my body was strapped down to a bed. I tried to lift my head up slightly to get a glimpse of my surroundings but I was quickly pulled back down by a nest of wires connected to my head and body.

“Oh good. You are finally awake. Guards, its time to arrest her now and get her prepared for her treatment.”

“What!” I frantically tried to get up again but i was restrained by two men wearing all black uniforms.

“Please calm down Ms., you are just making this harder on yourself.” The woman was speaking from somewhere within the room but I couldn’t tell from where.

I didn’t understand what was going on. Why were these guys being told to arrest me. What had Cain done?

The men started tearing off the wires and lifting me off of the bed and carrying me across the room. I started kicking and screaming with ferocity. There was no way I was just going to give up now. “Someone tell me what the hell is going on! Why are you doing this?”

“Because of the induced simulation. We implanted memories in your head to produce possible reactions. Don’t you remember Ms. Lescalete? You did sign the papers after all. You knew this as a possible outcome.”

There was a brunette woman standing up from the desk across the room. She just stood there, staring at me. I was so confused and an explanation of an induced simulation just made everything even worse. The last thing I remembered was Cain holding me. How did that, become this. “What are you telling me?”

In that second, in walks Cain. Still in his three piece suit. “Ms. Lescalete, its so wonderful for you to have finally woken up. We thought maybe we lost you to your other reality.”

“Cain, you bastard. Get me out of here!.” I started screaming violently and glanced towards the brunette “He killed my family! Please.”

Everyone just started laughing at me. They either didn’t believe me or they were all under Cain’s thumb. I would have moved more towards the latter.

“Rosalyn dear, my name is not Cain.” I stared at him blankly not sure what he was trying to pull. “My name is Adam.”

“No.” I shook my head vigorously “You’re lying. All of this is a lie! There was no simulation. Everything that I know in my head, is real! Where is my father?”

Cain shook his head as if he were feeling sad for me “You really remember nothing, do you? Rosalyn, you don’t have a family my dear. They died during a house fire when you were a child. You were at school when it had happened. When you lost your family you were taken in by the Evangeline Church where the sisters took care of you and raised you. It saddens me to see this now. After being raised the way you were and still simulating crime. Oh Rosalyn.”

Cain looked toward the men still holding my arms. “Go ahead and take her away.”

“Wait, no, please. What is going on?” I was pleading at this point. Had I really lost my mind? Is this the truth?

Cain held his hand up for them to hold off and then walked over to the desk to pull out a piece of paper. “This is the signed form you’ve given to allow us to perform said simulation on you. The simulation was to tell rather or not you would be capable to commit a crime in the future.”

“What?”

“Its something we are beginning to implement into the society as a new standardized test. You volunteered to help test the injection based simulation.”

“I would have never of done that!”

Cain then shoved the paper he pulled from the desk, into my face. “This signature says otherwise.”

“No! There is no way.”

Cain walked away again to sit the paper back down. “You really are too far gone for explanations. The bottom line here is, because you agreed to these terms, you will now be put on our highest dose of Distortion and put in a facility.” He walked towards me once again. “You committed murder during your simulation. It shows that you are capable of such and now we are obliged to put a stop to that. Don’t you want to put a stop to that? To protect other people from yourself? I mean, isn’t that why you signed the paper in the first place?”

“No. This isn’t happening. There is no way I would have agreed to something like that.”

“Adam, what would you like us to do?” One of the guards asked while tightening his grip on my arm.

Cain,(or perhaps, really Adam) waived his hand in the air. “Take her away for good this time gentlemen”

I couldn’t help but wonder just how I was able to forget all of this. There was my signature though, right on that paper. I signed it. This is all really happening. Who was I?

As they dragged me past Adam, he smirked towards me and then tilted his head down to my ear.

“Cain really is a better fitting name though, isn’t it my dear? By the way, these Cufflinks go perfect with this suit.” He flashed his wrist in my line of sight so I could see them before he started laughing and walking away.

I was speechless. I couldn’t even scream as they continued to drag me right out of the room.

It was over. I failed. I knew Cain had pull with the government and practically built the Faction but I never expected something like this. A scheme so advanced that he nearly fooled me too. He really was a monster. He took my family. Now he has taken me. Soon with the new advances of Distortion, he will find a way to take over all of the people of the new world. Distortion was a beginning to an end.

Independent Benevolence

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“Get up! Get up! Get up!”

It felt like a high magnitude earthquake was occurring just from beneath my bed. Shake after shake, bounce after bounce; the extra pillows that were laying upon my bed were being tossed to the floor; I was lucky enough to not have fallen right behind them. I groaned, rolled over, and glanced at the clock. Barely even 8 o’clock in the morning and I had just fallen asleep around 5. I wanted to bury my head into a dark hole and sleep in pure silence for another few hours or so. The shaking paused for a moment and I thought that maybe I would have my chance to do just that. That is, until I heard a high pitched squeal coming from right above my head. A shrill, evil battle cry, was coming forth from this demon spawn’s lips and piercing my ears with sheer determination behind it. Before I could even react, at least 60 lbs of mass crashed down on top of my sprawled out body.

“Ugh! Damn it Cally! 

“I’m going to tell mom on you. That’s a bad word and you know mom hates it when you use bad words.”

I tried to squeeze out from underneath my sister, slowly, without throwing her to the floor in the process (Though I would have much preferred to just throw her on the floor). It didn’t work. She felt like dead weight laying upon my back and there was no escaping.

“I don’t care Cally, just get off of me. Its too early for this. I’m tired.”

“Maybe if you would go to bed at a decent time, you wouldn’t have to sleep till noon everyday.” Cally started bouncing on my back, making my bed, and us, move along with it. 

“Cal-ly!!! Sto-p it!” The pressure of her body on my back combined with the bouncing, was making it hard to speak properly, or even breath for that matter. 

The bouncing stopped but the giggling had begun. What in the world did this 8 yr old have for breakfast? An energy drink? I haven’t seen her behave in this manner since she was a preschooler. It was nerve-wracking. I thought these days were long gone.

“Seriously kid, why don’t you get off my back and explain why you are in here to begin with. I promise to get up if you get up.”

“You promise Lilly?” She leaned down so that I could see her pouting lips and puppy dog eyes staring right at me. I mean really? Who could turn that face down? 

“I pinkie promise Cal, just please. I cant breathe.”

“Yay!” Cally rolled off of my back and scampered across my room and sat into my desk chair. She began rolling it across the floor without a care in the world. I just shook my head slightly and sat up in bed. I quietly watched Cally as she continued to enjoy the most simplistic of activities. To see her smile grow that big, over something that small, brought my own smile upon face. I didn’t even care about the mere 3 hours sleep I had gotten any longer.

“Alright. I’m up and I ‘m listening. What’s with the fireworks this morning?”

Cally abruptly stopped rolling and began to stare at me with her mouth agape. “That’s just it Lil. Fireworks.”

“Yes, fireworks. Which is what I am calling your crazy entrance this morning. A wild array of fireworks.”

“No Lilly. Real fireworks. It happens tonight. Moms taking me to see them after the cookout tonight. I have never been so excited.”

I stared at her for a moment not really understanding why that made her so happy. Happier than I have probably ever seen her. Its not like its the first time she would be able to see fireworks. Just last year mom took us to the harbor to watch them over the water. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know why you are so excited though. You’ve seen fireworks before.”

“But now, I know what they mean. Just yesterday, Mrs. Sands taught us all about the 4th of July. None of my other teachers had bothered to tell us what all of the parties and fireworks meant. They always just said to enjoy our break. Maybe they thought we were still too young to understand. Either way, I know now Lil and I cant wait to see them with that meaning in mind.” Another smile sprawled across her face and she began to bounce in the chair, continuously showing her excitement. 

I couldn’t believe that this was my little sister, who only minutes ago was re-enacting pro wrestling moves, telling me she wanted to experience Independence Day for the meaning in which it conveys. There are grown adults who don’t even give a damn about that. I was flabbergasted. 

“Wow, I’m impressed. Its nice to see you so excited over this.” 

“Its super exciting Lil.” She hopped up out of my chair and began skipping her way out of my room. Time for a little more shut eye I thought, as I began to lay back down. 

“Oh!” Cally paused in my doorway and swung back around to face me. “I almost forgot to tell you… Mom said she wants you to be up and dressed by 9. She wants help getting things ready for the cookout.” She flashed a smile and continued her trek out of my room. So much for sleep. I guess I needed to get a shower instead.

______

It was going on 2 pm and the house and backyard were beginning to fill up with our family and friends. We’ve been running around all morning cleaning and cooking for this gathering and the last thing I wanted to do now was to actually “gather”. My late night, accompanied by my early morning wake up call, was beginning to take a serious toll on my body and current mental state. A few hours of mingling left to go before I could hit my bed once more, I had to push through.

I plopped down on the bench swing and gazed at everyone around. It was always a nice sight to see everyone come together and enjoy themselves. Well, almost everyone. Dad was still barricading himself in his office because of a huge case he had coming up in a couple of days, but really, there was nothing new about that. It’ll be days before I see him again. 

I caught a glimpse of Cally on the play set with a few of her friends from school and some of our little cousins. She was smiling, and laughing, and I could hear her telling everyone about the fireworks she would see tonight. It was a shame that Dad wouldn’t be going with them later but I knew that her and Mom would have a great time. I didn’t even want to think about fireworks though. If I couldn’t see them from my bed, I didn’t want to see them at all. 

I scanned the yard once more over and found mom conversing with Aunt Lisa. I must have stared too long apparently though because the next thing I knew, mom was waving me over. It was time to mingle I suppose. 

______

The evening began to roll in with the clock reading almost 7. The house was almost fully clear with everyone going to their respective places to watch fireworks. I couldn’t have been happier. All day I was bombarded with questions of what college I had chosen to attend come fall. Which of course that question led into full fledged conversations about college life in general. The day could not have ended soon enough.

As the last guest exited the house, I went up to my room and plopped on the bed. I was finally ready to doze off when I heard Cally yelling, crying, and then running into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. 

“Lilly?” My mom peaked her head around the corner of my doorway.

“Yeah?” I looked up from my pillow and could tell that my mom was slightly flustered.

“I have to go into work. I have a patient in labor and I need to be there. Your sister is very upset with me. Maybe you could take some time and try to calm her? Your dad is still in his office if you need anything.” and then she was gone. 

So that’s what all of that noise was for. Mom had to go to work which meant that Cally couldn’t go see the fireworks. As excited as she was today, she was probably devastated now. I dragged myself out of bed and made my way down the hall to my sisters bedroom. I pushed her door open and found her with her face buried into her pillow, curled up on her bed, sobbing. I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of pain reverberate within my chest. I found myself sitting next to her, rubbing her back calmly as I used to when she couldn’t sleep at night. 

“Cally… I’m sorry mom had to leave.” I continued to rub her hoping that it would eventually coax her to sit up. It seemed to calm her slightly but it took longer than I would have thought to help the crying stop. A couple of minutes had passed before she finally decided to raise her head. I caught a glimpse of the final tears that she had let fall, roll down her cheeks. “Its alright Cal.”

“Its not alright.” She started to sob again lightly but caught herself before the tears pooled once more. “I really wanted this Lilly. I told all of my friends… I was looking forward to this… I…” She broke off with the tears starting to stream once more. I grabbed a tissue from her bedside table and lightly wiped them away from her face. She sniffled and then looked up into my eyes. “Can you take me Lilly?”

My heart broke a little then. I wanted to be there for her so badly. “Cally, its like 5 miles to the site and you know I don’t have a license yet. I’m still taking classes. We would never make it there in time if we walked either.” She threw her face back into the pillow and abruptly started wailing. I had to do something. I stared at the wall for a moment bouncing ideas through my head. I knew bothering dad was out of the question. Even though mom said if I needed anything he was there, I knew he would never open his office door. Everyone else I knew was already attending their nights festivities, leaving me with only one possible option. “Ill be right back Cal.”

A few minutes later and I was ready to cheer up my little sister, I hoped. “Alright, dry your tears and come on. We have some fireworks to go see.”

The sad face that I had seen moments before quickly changed from despair to jubilation. “Really?!”

I chuckled, “Yes really, come on girl.” She ran towards me and embraced me in the tightest hug I had probably ever received. “Thank you.” She mumbled into my stomach. 

“You’re welcome” I grabbed her hand and led her out front as we waited.

“Why are we just standing here Lil?” She looked up at me bewildered.

“You’ll see.” A minute later a yellow taxi appeared in front of our house.

“A Taxi!” Cally squealed in amusement. “I’ve never been in a taxi before. This is awesome.”

Another smile became plastered on my face. To see just how excited the little things made her could make anyone’s day brighter.

_____

We pulled up to the elementary school, where they were setting off the fireworks this year, with time left to find a seat upon the hill. I gave the driver the only twenty I had and then we began our little hike. Exhaustion nearly took over as I reached the top but I held it together as I helped Cally up the last few steps. We settled ourselves on the grassy knoll and looked upon the sky for the show to begin. My little sister barely spoke two words while we waited for things to begin. She just gazed upward with a beautiful gleam of excitement in her eyes. I could barely keep mine open and I bet she never even dared to blink. 

The noises came unexpectedly and made us both jump in fright. Once the sky began to light up in beautiful colors though, our bodies began to relax and our eyes became fixated. Cally’s eyes never strayed and her mouth never closed. She started pointing up at the sky and yelling out her favorites as it was clear that her emotions were becoming uncontrollable. I never strayed my eyes either. They were locked on to Cally’s love and excitement. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 

The show ended and there was happiness all around. Exhaustion as well. We began to walk home since that was our only option. I used the only cash that I had to get us here knowing this would end up being the outcome. I could see Cally begin to drag her feet a bit and start to fall behind. She was sated with happiness. “Come here Cal, I’ll carry you.” 

Miles walked, with frequent sitting breaks in between, and we were finally back to our front door. Mom still wasn’t back home yet and I’m sure dad had never even left the office. I sat Cally down, practically asleep on her feet, so that I could open up the door. I promptly picked her back up and carried her to her room. After tucking her in bed, and was ready to go pass out in my own, I took a minute to watch over my little sister as she snuggled beneath her blankets. 

“Lil?” A barely audible whisper escaped my sleepy sisters mouth.

“Yes Cal, I’m still here.”

“Do you think the British Empire missed having the Colonies a part of them?”

“That has got to be the weirdest thing I have ever heard.”

“I know. I was just thinking about how the colonies declared their independence, the reason for today’s celebration. It just made me wonder about people wanting independence in general. I think I am going to really miss you.”

My heart thumped in my chest and then melted within a matter of seconds. “You’re worried about me leaving for school?”

Cally sat up in bed and stared at me through the darkness. “I am. Its you’re own form of independence, right? You’re leaving us. Making your own separate life.”

I shook my head and walked over to the edge of this amazing little girl’s bed. I bent down and looked into her eyes. “You heard the conversations earlier with everyone at the cookout today, didn’t you?”

She bowed her head slightly. “I did.”

“I will be leaving Cal. Not forever though. Its a different kind of Independence. I may not always be physically around but I will always be here to talk to you when you need it. I will also be home for breaks and holidays, even the whole summer. I will only be a few hours away. I’m not declaring a separate life. That would never happen. I will be independent in a way but my heart will always be yours.” I brushed her hair out of her eyes and kissed her on her forehead as I stood back up. “Lay back down and get some sleep Cally.”

She slowly slid down in her bed and began to flutter her eyes shut. “Thank you for the fireworks Lilly. It was the best night ever.”

“You’re welcome.” I lightly closed her door behind me and made my way to my own bed. This was probably the longest day I have ever had to partake in. I wouldn’t change it for anything though. As I finally allowed my body to succumbed to the exhaustion it had been fighting all day, I replayed everything through my mind once more. I knew that I would never forget just exactly how my sister was today. I would remember her smiles, her laughs, her tears, and her sorrows; it will pull me through each and every day of my life. Independence Day has a new meaning for me now and all it took was my little sister’s love to make that happen.

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A Mother’s Pain

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Her eyes were usually a smokey bluish gray but now with tears forming I could see them change to a glassy ice blue in an unusual way.

They gleamed in the light and shined with pain and as they stared at mine I could see through them into her eternal thundering rain.

Her moans were getting louder and my ears were catching it all; every single sound pierced my heart like an urgent siren’s call.

I wanted to help her but I had done all I knew that I could, if only that small bit of sentiment was enough to comfort her as I wish that it would.

So I lay her head on my chest and held her body tight, knowing the only thing I could do was to stay with her through her fight.

Hopefully my presence alone would be enough to dry her tears, so those icy blue eyes could turn back to their normally colored, grayish spheres.

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Wishing Upon a Star

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After Mikey overhears his buddy, Brett, reciting nursery rhymes he antagonizes him for being the softest All Star Quarterback ever. Little did he know, Brett had a secret, and was simply trying to keep a promise which lead to questions only the universe knew the answer to. 

——–

“Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight”

Was that Brett that I heard reciting nursery rhymes? It couldn’t be. I must be hearing things. I finished my trek down to the basement with my six pack in hand. Maybe I already had a few too many because now, at the bottom of the stairs, I swear I could still hear Brett.I

“I wish I may, I wish I might…”

Oh, it definitely was, and I just couldn’t help myself. “Get some ass, by the end of the night” I shouted in the midst of my laughter as I made my way to Brett who was staring out of the sliding glass door.

Brett turned and glared at me. Apparently that was not how the rhyme went.

“Way to be mature, asshole.”

“Really Brett? You’re the one singing to stars. Where is the maturity there?” I pulled out a beer and handed it off before I plopped myself on the couch in front of the TV. 

“You’re always so quick to judge Mikey. Its your ultimate flaw man.”

“Aww, did I hurt your feelings? Now you have to start talking about my flaws to make yourself feel better? Dude, you’re a 22 year old, all star quarterback, who is currently being looked at for the upcoming draft.”

“So? Was there a point in that last statement?”

“The point is, you shouldn’t be singing to the fucking stars at night man.”

“Mikey, I swear, you are so damn single minded. Do you even care as to maybe WHY I was doing that.” Brett huffed and slumped onto the couch at the opposite end.

I shrugged “Because deep down your rapport for childish things turns you on? Or maybe you’re just secretly gay?”  

“Because even if I were gay, that would provoke me to sing to stars? You’re full of shit Mike. How about my rapport towards my little sister?”

Brett raised an eyebrow in my direction and then turned to focus on the game. I really felt like I screwed the pooch on this one. I screw up often but it just felt different this time. I felt an ache in my chest and a severe case of guilt began to settle on my conscience. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”

He glanced back at me swiftly but I could still tell I had upset him. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy with droplets forming in the corners. “I don’t… Not anymore.”

Now I really felt like a piece of shit. I shook my head and almost teared up myself. “I’m really sorry… I…”

Brett reached out and gave me a playful punch in the arm. “Its alright. You didn’t know. I shouldn’t have been so defensive.”

We both turned our attention to the game and it became eerily quiet for the next 10 minutes until i heard Brett release a saddened sigh. “It was during the summer before I left for college when it happened.”

I could tell this was going to be the story of his sister. He didn’t have to tell me, especially after how I had acted, but I appreciated the sentiment. I could also tell this was going to need another beer. I pulled two out, handed one to Brett, and encouraged him to continue.

He nodded his head solemnly and started once again. “My sister, Tracey, had just turned 6 a month prior to finding out she had leukemia. It was extremely hard for the family to handle. The only one to stay strong was Tracey herself. It was amazing on how much life was still generating throughout her body. Nothing could ever break her spirit. Some days we even forgot she was sick. What I loved most about her though was the extreme amount of thoughtfulness that she continuously displayed for the world.”

Brett stopped for a moment, wiped his stray tears away and then took a swig of beer before finding his footing in his story. 

“For a 6 year old, I always thought that was something special. My sister loved wishing on the stars but Instead of wishing for toys for herself, she always wished for others. Most times, instead of toys, she would wish for others to just be warm and happy.”

“That is something pretty special, man. ” I tried to hide my own tears that began to form but at this point it probably didn’t matter. My heart was already being lifted higher than it had ever been. 

“What’s even more special is that when she became sick, that never changed.”

Brett took another drink and tried to force a smile through his saddened composure. This story was taking a toll on us both. 

“When she was finally made to stay in the hospital for her last days, she still insisted on taking time for the stars. Even when she became too weak to go to them herself, She insisted I carry her and lay her upon the window. Every night I did, and every night, she never spoke once of herself. Never once did she wish she was better or that she could live longer. She wished for the world’s happiness, her family’s happiness, all before she ever uttered words about herself.”

How a little kid could possess such a strong aversion to self preservation is beyond my understanding. How any person could never stop, just once, to think of themselves is unbelievable. 

“We knew when her last night had come. We could all tell how quickly she had deteriorated and there was nothing left to be done. Barely breathing and barely holding her eyes open, she asked me once again to take her to the window.”

Brett’s words were becoming shaky and hard to understand through the tears but I just leaned forward and listened harder. 

“After she made her wishes for the night, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said ‘Who will wish for them when I’m gone Brett? Who will make sure everyone is okay?’. I couldn’t hide the shock that sprung across my face after she spoke those words. Her last moments and that’s what she chooses to say? I never loved that girl as much as I did in that moment. I would never want to let that little girl down, so I told her I would. I promised her I would continue to make her wishes whenever I saw the stars. The same exact way she did.”

With that, my asshole status just went through the roof. I was such a prick before, I couldn’t even stand it. I stared at Brett and then just watched him crumble. I couldn’t help but scoot closer and offer any support that I could. The second I was closer he latched on to my arm and cried on my shoulder. 

“I’ll never understand why Mikey. Why that little girl, so young, was taken from this world. This world is slowly dying without people that hold the kind of compassion that she did and yet… she’s gone. The world decided to expel one of the rarest and truest souls that ever existed. No matter how much time passes, I will never get over it.”

I continued to offer my support and allowed Brett to cry as much as he needed. I patted his back and tried to keep my own tears at bay. 

“I don’t understand either. It’s not fair at all. Even more so that it was your sister. I’m so sorry man.”

We both sat there and pondered life’s shitty decisions until we kind of went back into the rhythm of the game on TV. 
It was best that way. Fading out a conversation that intense and full of emotion was not an easy feat. I’m not even sure that conversation will ever fade out inside of my head though. 

When it came down to it, I really couldn’t understand it. It was an enigma that apparently only the universe was meant to know. It better had a damn good reason too. No one, especially someone that precious, deserves to be snuffed out before their lives had even began. She could have changed the world. 

I know she changed mine

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