Thomas was alone.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Thomas was alone.
At the foster home, he was just another kid. With Louise missing, everything was missing. Laughter and conversation had been taken by the dark hand. Even arguing and slamming doors were missed. The house was one long dreary day.
He missed his Mom and Dad; it was more the memory of them, a life distant and vague. The Hand took more than Louise.
School was worse. From day one, the other kids avoided him. He was known as “Delusional Tom.” Some called him “Crazy Tom.” It was almost amusing how the different groups could not decide on what to call him: DT, CT or that kid. Almost amusing.
The girl, Mason, who sat next to him in English, was the only one that bothered to give him a smile, every day for the first five days of school. It’s a polite smile, courteous, hiding her fear, but a smile nonetheless.
All week, teachers and counselors were all “Hey, Tom,” and “How’s it going?” and “We should try to take some steps.” They were concerned, but distant. “It’s a tragedy what happened.” Yet, he knew that, like the kids, they had heard his story of the door, the shadow world and the hand. They had that look in their eye of concern and of suspicion. He’s heard them whisper too, and he caught words like “therapy,” “mental trauma,” “blocking out reality,” and “Could it be drugs?”
Williams, however, was just clueless. He talked to Tom as if nothing had ever happened. “Hey, Tom,” he would say. “Your journal mentioned a hand grabbing and hitting. I like the metaphor. You should work with that more.” What the hell is that all about?
It came down to one thing. No one believed him.
He was alone.
And that’s what he was writing in his journal, “I am alone.” He had written it over and over, and without realizing it, the words became a hand, dark and mighty, grabbing Louise. He had drawn the picture again.
Tom looked out from the corner of his eye. Her face was afraid. Yet, he also recalled how she had been defiant too. She had not gone “quietly into that good night” as Williams said the other day. But, that was about someone dying. She was fighting. She had not given up.
Nor would he. But, what could he do? He felt hopeless.
Tom looked at his drawing of the hand below the words, “I am alone.”
Where did it come from? Where did it go?
He felt anger rising up into him. Heat flushed into his head. He felt it prickle down into his neck and shoulders. It was burning. He felt it, but he knew it was not real. The sensation of heat moved down his arms. They throbbed. Sweat beaded on his forehead. The surge of heat moved into his hands, then to his fingers. His fingertips itched with pinpricks of heat.
Fire flashed where his fingers held his paper. He heard a shriek, but his eyes remained on the flame incinerating the drawing.
“Tom,” said a voice.
He did not move. All he could see was some wisps of smoke and ash.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
“Here you go sweetie,” said the secretary and handed Mason her updated schedule. Williams was printed boldly in the seventh period slot.“The first day here is always hectic,” she said. “And the new scheduling program is goofy. Classes were not balanced. Yours was an easy fix.”
“What happen to Phillips? I had Phillips for Freshman English seventh hour?” The secretary buzzed some more words about teachers and the changes and hustled Mason out the door. “Good luck, sweetie.”Good luck? had thought Mason. I get Worksheet Williams and you say ‘good luck’? She looked at her schedule. For sixth period, she had to go to Algebra again. And you call me Sweetie?
Her brother had tormented her with the legendary torture of “Worksheet Williams,” the one teacher she should avoid at all costs. In the morning, Mason’s schedule had brought a smile to her face because she had been assigned Phillips for seventh period. She had heard good things about her and was relieved that she had avoided Williams.Therefore, in her dreaded approach to room 161, the classic curse of collision with another hit her hard, literally. Her notebook and pen flew out of her hands as she spun and stumbled, avoiding the all out sprawl on the floor. This curse, however, was rectified, in Mason’s eyes, with the also classic romantic gesture of her notebook being handed to her by a dark curly-headed boy that she had not seen before.
He wore a faded denim jacket, and there was a shadow of a bruise around his left eye.
“Here you go.” He smiled warmly. “The hallways can be crazy.”
“Uh, yeah,” she stammered. Her cheeks felt hot. “Crazy.” She took her notebook. “Uh, thanks…”
“Leo,” he said.
“…Leo,” she repeated. The bell rang. “Oh crud.”
His eyes crinkled. “Don’t sweat it,” he said as he moved past her. “Most teachers are cool the first day.”
“Thanks,” she said.
Two steps further she heard him say, “Unless…” Mason looked over her shoulder. “…you got Williams.”Mason’s smile turned to a grimace as she turned back to 161.
Carefully, she approached the door. The class was seated and students were talking quietly. The room was full of tables, chairs and students. Books and boxes were scattered about along the walls. It seemed that the room was in some kind of reconstruction. Two bulletin boards were sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall. There was an extra large trash barrel just inside the door.
“Please move on in,” said a voice from behind.
Mason stepped to the side. “Sorry,” she said quickly.
In walked a man carrying a box with books. He handed it to Mason. “Set that by the wall, would you?”
Mason juggled the box in her arms along with her notebook and set it by the wall. The man went to the white dry erase board.
He pointed to the board where it read Williams.
“I am Mr. Williams,” he said. “I will be your freshman English teacher.”
The class was silent. Stunned, actually, a bewildered, good kind of stunned.
“I know. I know,” he said, waving his hands in the air. “I’ve been hearing it all day. You were expecting different Williams.” He laughed. “I’m a newer, different version.”
He stood proudly in front of all of them. He wore a gray tweed jacket, a black crew neck shirt and blue jeans. His hair was light from a mix of blond going gray. He had a goatee and odd colored hazel eyes.
He looked at Mason. “Thanks,” he said. “I think there is a seat over at that table.”
Mason nodded. She quickly went to the table and sat down. Then it hit her. She was sitting with D.T. He wore a dark shirt, grungy jeans and sat in a slumped position with one arm in the middle of the table. He did not move his arm when Mason sat, so she felt crowded.
Mr. Williams, once she was seated, went into motion.
“As you can tell,” he said, “I am not the Williams you were expected. She had a stroke of good luck with the Lotto two days ago and changed her life plans rather suddenly. I am happy for her and for me, since now I can be your teacher. ” He looked about the room. “Fate can be a kind mistress after all.”
He went to the board.
“Let’s get started.”
He turned and wrote, “What’s on your mind?”
With a whirl, he moved among the tables. “Get out some paper and a pen. You will now write for ten minutes about ‘What’s on your mind?’” He stopped, noting that no one moved. “Let’s go! Paper over there. I have extra pens on my desk.” The room broke into motion. Kids got up and grab paper, some grabbed pens, and most, like Mason, opened their notebooks.
“What do we write about?” said someone.
He was moving again. “What ever is on your mind as long as the pen doesn’t stop.” He swung by D.T. and Mason. “Just keep writing, even if the same line repeats over and over, keep writing it.” He got to his desk. He sat down and started writing too. Mason noticed that some kids watched him for a minute. Two girls started to whisper.
He growled. “No talking. I am trying to write.”
Some kids laughed. He growled again. It quieted, and all were writing.
Mason took her pen to her pad. She wrote about the day, but mostly the curly-headed boy that had picked up her notebook. She wrote how she thought he was definitely older, and he how he had a bad boy prince personality. She laughed quietly. She knew it was a little silly, but that what was on her mind. Her writing took on a creative angle as she found herself writing about the boy’s troubled past in another country.
She flinched when Mr. Williams yelled, “Times Up.”
Kids all over the room were grinning, nodding or flexing their hands. There was a buzz of voices.
“Let’s share.” The buzz died instantly.
Mason casually covered her notebook with her arms.
“I will go first,” said Williams.And off he went. He wrote from the perspective of a student sitting in class wondering who the new teacher was that told everyone to write. He even wrote, “Who the hell is this Williams guy, and why is he making us write so much?”
Kids laughed at what he wrote. It was clever. It sounded like a ninth grade kid wrote it, bad grammar and slang included.
When he finished, he looked about the room. Everyone was quiet. He said, “Thank you for letting me share.” He nodded. “When we do a free writing like we just did, we will share. No comments will be made, just a ‘Thank you for sharing’ will be given, and then we move on.” He paused, eyeing the class some more. His eyebrows were a wiry mess. “Who wants to share?”
Four hands went up.
Mason inadvertently glanced at D.T. and his paper; he only had written a sentence or two. The rest of the page was a drawing that sent a chill over Mason. It was of a dark hand reaching out of a door in the middle of a neighborhood and grabbing a girl.
She was at house number three, at the corner, then four houses down. Her and Autymn were seven houses a part. Seven was Louise’s lucky number, so when she had moved in with her foster parents, it made sense that she would make friends with Autymn.
Yet, as she rounded the corner, a chill ran up her spine. She had insisted that she could walk home by herself. She was ten, and she had done it before, so why was this evening different. Not to worry, she could always run. Her house was just three away. Louise could see her brother playing basketball in the driveway.
There was a shudder of air, maybe a ‘whoosh’ sound from behind. A blast of cold hit her back and swirled about in front of her. She stopped. The cold air seemed to take the shape of a hand. It moved toward her and pushed against her. Something whispered to her.
Slowly, with her body against the translucent hand, Louise pivoted to look behind her.
In the center of the sidewalk was a dark rectangle, like a door. It was as if a picture of another place appeared where there should have been a sidewalk, grass, the neighborhood and sky should be. The setting in the door was dreary with fog and shadowed ground of a heavy forest. It stood in sharp contrast to the pleasant neighborhood Louise was familiar with.
Something within moved.
“Louise,” said the whisper. “Come to me, Louise.”
And Louise, a smart girl, summoned her courage and said, “No.” She twisted against the invisible hand and put her shoulder into the palm and pushed. She made three steps. Through the hand, as if looking through a plastic bottle, Louise could see her brother running out of the yard toward her. He was too far.
“Hold on Louise,” he was yelling. It sounded like it was in her head.
Her eyes blurred from the tears of exertion against the hand.
Again she heard his voice. “Fight, Louise. Fight.”
Anger welled and she punched against the hand. It wavered back, and she took another step. Her brothers distorted form was closer. He looked as if he to were pushing against something. She punched again. This time the hand did not move. A thought flashed into her mind.
Louise put her back against the hand, counted to three, and then dove forward onto the rough cement of the sidewalk. The cold hand rushed over her and into the dark door. Thunder rumbled from inside. In a flash, Louise jumped back to her feet as a ‘Ha-ha’ broke from her grinning mouth.
She ran to toward her brother. He was struggling against the other hand when it seemed to darken as it solidified into dirty water. It became stronger. It knocked him to the ground. Then, as if he were a bug, it rose up high and came smashing down upon him with a hard slap of water on cement.
Louise screamed. Her brother lay motionless in the receding puddle.
From behind, out of the door, came another dark hard that seized her and pulled her away. In another swirl of wind, the door shut.
The only sound left was a skittering of a few innocent leaves in a dying breeze.