Leaves lay like bodies beneath the trees, still and unmoving. Shadows of trees, long arms cross the yard, tips of their fingers slowly dragging furrows in the landscape. Chris watches in macabre interest out the window. The grandparent's house, once a fun Sunday afternoon retreat, is not the same at sixteen.
Unable to get a clear cell signal to text his friends and knowing that his grandparent's television only received the local channels, he had resigned to sitting in the bay window. He had hoped to be out with friends today celebrating his recent birthday, but his parents had insisted he join them for the ritual visit. They had come every Sunday as far back as he remembered.
Hot coals sit in his chest, each though a breath of oxygen to stoke his frustration. It is unfair, he can drive now. He has a life and is old enough to decide what he wants to do with it. He rehearses the tirade, envisioning their faces when he finally unloads on them. Jaws slack they'd sit until his dad cleared his voice, maybe even ask for another slice of pie. He has never seen them get angry. Their passivity turns his stomach.
Chris hears his parents in the living room talking with his grandmother, their hollow voices leave only hints at the content of their conversation. He should go do it now, he quips to himself. Rising from the window seat, he is gathering himself when the voices stop and an unsettling quiet descends on the house.
"Chris," a rattling voice startles him, causing the flesh on his arms to dance as he jumps.
His grandmother stands in the doorway, her eyes calm puddles in the loose folds of her face. A smile plays at the thin line of her lips. He notices and frowns, embarrassed at being startled, but also at her amusement. He heard nothing of her approach, but that though is quickly consumed as his anger once more claws its way to the front of his mind.
Coughing gently,she continues, "I know you don't find this much fun, being here today Chris. You can blame it on your grandfather and me. Care to sit for a moment and humor an old woman."
Surprised once more by her acknowledgement of his feelings, he simply says, "Sure."
She motions and they cross the room to a brown leather couch. Its skin is worn and cool on the backs of his arms. He sat here many a Sunday, listening to the stories of his parents growing up. His grandfather never said much, choosing to sit quietly in the recliner and watch as his grandmother spun the tales, his parents interjecting at points to minimize the extent of their rebelliousness.
Moments pass in awkward silence, as his grandmother measures his face with her eyes, taking the care of a tailor to get it just right. Chris squirms, shifting his legs, the desire to leave washing down his spine in slow sharp touches.
When he is about to get up and go find his parents, his grandmother says, "Have I ever told you about meeting your grandfather?"
Breath expels loud from his mouth, the question confusing after such a long silence. He knows he has not heard the story, but also that he could care less right now. A shadow crosses the window, drawing his eyes. Too dark to be the trees he was watching earlier. He blinks and it is gone. Putting a hand to his face, his fingers find his eyes. Why am I being put through this, echoes in his head.
"We went to the drive in on our first date. My parents were not keen on it, but we told them we were meeting my friend Amy and Jane, which seemed to set them at easy. My daddy was not the most cordial of men, being in the military. He was rather intimidating and few boys had the nerve to ask me out for fear that he might take offense. Not your grandfather though, he was different. He brought flowers for my mom that day, shook my fathers hand with a firm grip and promised to have me home safe as soon as the movie was done," his grandmother began, Chris opening his eyes, resigning to hear what she had to say.
"Well, that seemed to go well," Robert breaks the silence between them, as he pulls the car onto the road that runs in front of her parents house.
"I think daddy likes you," Estella smiles her response.
"That is a good thing," Robert laughs, "because I heard what he did to the last guy that asked you out."
Estella punches his softly on the shoulder, "Don't believe those locker room stories Robert. Daddy is a sweat and gentle man, he just wants to make sure the boys have manners with his little girl. He probably started those stories himself."
Robert settles a bit more comfortably into the driver's seat, letting the conversation lapse as he joins a few cars traveling the same direction. making a few turns through town before heading out the other side to the drive in. It is located on a old farm, the giant screen showing its back to the road so no free shows were given. Gravel crunches beneath the tires as they move in a line slowly, each taking turns paying the entrance fee.
"What are we seeing tonight?" enthusiasm in her voice.
"Some new space movie. Probably got some gruesome aliens and a dashing young man to save the day. You won't get scared will you?" he chides her.
She likes his playfulness, "No. but if you need me to hold your hand to make you feel safe, I just might."
Her friends never show, not that they planned on being there, but if Daddy asked they knew what to say. She feels a bit bad on not telling her dad the truth, but she was practical as well and afraid she might end up a lonely old spinster with all the boys afraid of him. Robert is a handsome boy and treats her so nice at school.
The sun falls behind the hills and the movie begins. It is not scary, the aliens look mostly human except their faces which look more like pigs, or her uncle Fred. She leans into Robert, his arm drawing her closer. He is warm and she likes the feel of being with him. The movie fades as she begins to think about her own future, maybe their future.
"Look!" his arm is suddenly no longer behind her head, but pointing to the sky.
Shaken by the sudden movement, it takes a few seconds for Estella to gather herself and find where he is pointing. Three shooting stars streak onyx curtain over their heads, vanishing behind them.
"I have never seen shooting stars so bright," she breathes, then finds his lips against hers.
Hey eyes go wide, then close, her fingers finding the hair at his neck. She feels herself floating inside her body, as if she were at the community pool. Before she is ready, it is over and she opens her eyes into his and fears she will drown again.
"Sorry, it's just good luck to kiss the one you are with when you see a shooting star," he is embarrassed at his forwardness or maybe how she will respond.
"Well, I" she begins, when he interrupts.
"I am going to go get a drink at the concession stand. Be right back," he is gone as the last word finds her ears.
Estella resituates herself on her side of the front seat, running a finger along her lips. Warmth consumes her insides and she smiles to herself. She likes it, letting it carry her thoughts. She looks over the seat for him to return, but sees only cars, some with heads visible in the pale light of the movies reflection. Ten minutes, then twenty pass as she sits, fighting the feeling to go look for him and let him know it was okay that he kissed her. She is afraid he might be scared of her and that is the last thing she wants.
The movie ends and cars begin to cut through the night, their headlights knifing the darkness, blinding her with their brightness. Fear is nearly choking her now at where he might be. She begins to fear for herself as well being stranded in the inky night alone. When the driver's door opens, her scream pierces long and high, rivaling any that came from the window speaker all night
"Hey, its okay. It's okay. I am sorry," he is in the car and she in his arms once again.
Her face presses to his chest and she feels his heart thundering against her cheek, in time with her own. She sobs, fear making her emotional, and then they are kissing again. Lights wash across them, but are only flickers at the edge of their reality. This is the hungry kiss of a famished man stumbling from the desert. Gasps provide much needed oxygen as they threaten to consume one another.
Bang. Bang. Bang. They break apart, searching frantic for the source of the sound. A gnarled face leers in the passenger window and they both scream this time. Light fills the car, flooding their eyes, their arms flying before their faces.
"Break it up you two, I got tired of waiting. I need to get some sleep too. Get out of here," an older man with a flashlight stands watch as Robert finds enough fortitude to start the car.
They laugh the whole way home, shedding the fear a little each time, until the lights of her parents house fill the front window. They sit and breathe for a few minutes, unable to speak or move.
"So, you going to walk me to the house?" Estella asks, shy for his answer.
Robert exits the car,coming around the back opening her door. She takes his arm as they take the stairs up to the front porch. Boards creek with their weight, announcing them to her parents. Her fathers face appears in the window briefly then disappears once more. They stand in the pool of light that bathes the porch.
"I had a good time tonight Estella. I hope that we can do this again," he takes her hand in his.
"I enjoyed it as well. I think I would."
They kiss once more, lightly this time and she turns to open the front door then asks, "Robert, where were you for so long tonight."
Chris' throat has gone dry as a corpse, and he coughs interrupting his grandmothers telling. She stops and lapses again into a quiet watchfulness. He can not imagine why she is telling him this story. It has been fascinating but also a bit creepy learning things about his grandparents. Intimate things. His skin is crawling again and he scratches at his arm absently.
"Gramma why are you telling me this?"
"It is time you knew," she answers.
"But, what did I need to know?"
"I tell you what, why don't you go down to the basement and see your grandfather. He has been anti social all day down there working on something special for your birthday. He needs to come up and join the rest of us and he should be about done with it," Estella, his grandmother rises without waiting for an answer and leaves the room.
Chris sits for a few moment, confused and taking in the story his grandmother told him. He turns it over in his head, having a hard time imagining his grandparents being young and kissing. It was too much for him to process and before he even realised it he had moved through the house and was standing at the door to the basement.
A fresh trickle of anxiety walks through him. He could count the number of times he had been in the basement on one hand and never had he gone there alone. Grandfather is down there and you are being ridiculous, he argued with himself and turned the knob. Cool air crawls across his face from the open mouth of the stairs, its breath stale.
Steeling himself, he descends one step at a time, settling his weight on each one. It is dark, except a light behind the stairs, where he knows his grandfathers work bench to be. Sweat trickles down Chris' neck. Scratching noises slither into his ear.
"Grandad?" his voice squeaks ad he pushes it out of his mouth.
"Chris, come on down.I just finished something for you."
Reassured he takes the last couple stairs quickly, proving to himself that everything was okay. Boxes line the walls, filled with treasures of his family's history, Old trophies peek the lids, vases line a shelf. A humidifier chuffs, leaking a small line of water that runs through the teeth of a drain in the concrete floor.
His grandfather is hunched over the workbench, seated atop an wood bar stool. A fluorescent light casts a cone of light over the bench, highlighting the cold steel of tools hanging from small hooks in the wall in front of it. Chris reaches forward to place a hand on his grandfather's shoulder, another act of reassurance.
At first touch, his grandfather folds in on himself in a great shushing noise, defying everything Chris knows to be true. A pile of empty skin surrounds Chris' ankles and his bowels release in a hot geyser down his legs. He can not breath to scream, stammering incoherent, he turns to run back to the stairs.
Standing at the base of the stairs, an gruesome thing, more insect than human, snaps long spiny mandibles, hissing, "Chrissss itsss time youss knew."
Backing toward the workbench, his feet catch in the pile of skin and he falls, knocking tools and the bar stool across the floor, crying, "No!"
He is pleading when the stairs begin moaning under the weight of the rest of his family, coming to join them.
Ok, so this is obviously fiction. It has been a long time since I posted something this long or something like this here. I used to write these scary tales once a week before I moved them elsewhere. For those that took the time to read, thank you. I hope you enjoyed a bit of my darkness. Smiles.
This is a Magpie Tale.