Friday, December 5, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - Piece by Piece

I'll be the first to admit that I use writing as an escape. As in this piece, sometimes all it takes is a first line then I sit back and watch as a story unfolds.

Every morning the first thing I do when I wake up is check to make sure none of my parts are missing. This all started I think at around eight years of age when one night I became aware of a presence hovering over me. I was certain that this gangling creature was determined to take me away, bits and pieces at a time, until there was nothing left. Shortly after that it happened--I found a place just above my right thigh where a piece of me was gone. Not a very large piece, mind you, hardly bigger than a dime. But when something of you is taken, no matter how significant, you notice. I tried to show my mom, who looked at the spot and, although sympathetic to my feelings, disregarded my claim as "just my imagination." Sure, the spot resembled nothing in the way of a flesh wound. No bleeding. No open sores. No noticeable hole. Still, I knew something was missing.

A few years later I had almost forgotten about the incident. Many nights had passed and I had slept solidly through most of them, the only exceptions being Christmas Eves and that night I went to the carnival and ate too many corn dogs. As one grows older other worries far more pressing than shadows seen in the dark of a lonely bedroom take over the mind: school work, making the soccer team, the bully who stalks you in the hallways after your lunch money, girls. As a youth you are taught to trust adults, especially your mother, and so I did. Maybe the whole thing was just my imagination, I thought. So at the age of twelve, when least expected, the morning came when I discovered I had been robbed of another piece, this time a portion the size of Chinese Yen, just below my navel. All the fear from the years past came back to me in a wave of panic. The thing was back in my room again last night and had done its dirty deed.

After several near sleepless nights I was in desperate need of a plan. There must be some way to protect myself from being removed over time from existence. I asked my mom for a dog, one that could sleep in bed with me. I don't think I need to tell you how she responded. So I came up with an alternative. I convinced my little sister to move into my room with me, talking my parents into turning her room into a game room the whole family could use. Not the best thought out plane to be sure, but desperation leads to extreme tactics. My hope was that if the shadow creature did come again, it would take parts from my sister who was younger and, as I would reluctantly admit, fairer than I, especially as my body had just begun crossing the threshold into puberty. In hindsight I realize I never fully dealt with the guilt.

For a time it seemed to work. Nights passed and after each morning's examination I was proud to proclaim myself the same as I had been the night before. That was until the morning I awoke and found my sister's bed empty. At first I thought maybe she had just gotten up before me, a rare occurrence but certainly not out of the question. Tiptoeing into the kitchen I found no trace of her. I asked my mom, who was cooking breakfast if Ashley had been up. Her reply sent chills down my back. "What do you mean, 'who's Ashley'?" I cried. "You know, your daughter, my sister." She thought I was kidding. I pleaded with my father, who was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper. "Tell her to stop kidding around." He put down his paper and looked me in the eye. "Did you have some sort of bad dream, son?"

That's when I knew. Not only had my sister been erased from existence, but my parents, my real parents, had been replaced by remarkably clever duplicates. How did I know this? Well, for one thing, my mother never cooked breakfast. Most of the time I was lucky if I got a bowl of cold cereal. And my father...well...for him the only section of the paper that existed was the sports section, and here he was reading the Lifestyle pages.

I tried calling the police from a phone booth that afternoon on my way home from school. Of course they didn't believe me and told me that if I called again they would have me arrested. I took stock of my options and came to the conclusion that they were dwindling down to next to nothing. As near as I could figure, there was only one thing left to do. Run. So I did, and I didn't stop for the next 12 years.

It was during that span of time that I began my morning ritual. Every day for the next 12 years, no matter where I slept I checked myself, and every day was the same. I finally assumed that because I never stayed in one spot, under the same bridge, down the same alley, in the same condemned building, for more than a week or two, the creature never had a chance to hone in on my exact location.

Eventually I grew tired of the hobo lifestyle and settled down. With any luck the creature had forgotten about me, or perhaps now that I was a grown adult it had lost interest. I got my own place. Not like the place I chose was all that nice, a single room with a bath and kitchen in a less than desirable neighborhood, but after all that time I was happy to have anyplace I could call home. Still I continued my ritual, not so much out of fear, but out of habit, like an addict's need to stick a needle in his arm. Each morning was the same, and each morning I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.

Until three mornings ago, when I found it. This time it was a Mexican Peso. I haven't slept since.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow... You write well! This was scary.