The Two

The Two

By A.J. Brown

The windshield wipers beat a rapid tattoo along the front glass, trying uselessly to keep up with the rain pouring down. It was a dark night, made darker by the clouds blocking out any moonlight. The road twisted and wound its way through trees on either side. Pot holes cratered the road every few feet, jarring the car all over the wet, slick pavement. 

“You took a wrong turn,” Marissa said. She stared out the front window while her right hand clutched tight to the door’s arm rest.

“I followed the directions,” Chet said, “at least until this storm hit and the GPS lost signal.”

“Then the directions are wrong. We’ve been driving down this road for miles, there is nothing out here. Turn around.”

“I can’t turn around, the road is too narrow, and the shoulder’s non-existent. If you haven’t noticed, water is covering the road and I don’t know if there are ditches on either side. If I try turning around we might get stuck, or worse.”

“Then, what’s your plan?”

He looked at her. Though the car was as dark inside as the world was outside, he could still see the side of her face, the silhouette on the backdrop of the passenger’s side window. “The road has to come out somewhere, right?”

Marissa’s eyes grew wide. Her right foot shot out in front of her, mashing an imaginary brake pedal. Her left hand clutched her seat. “Watch Out!” 

Chet slammed on the breaks and looked back to the road. The car slid and tires caught dirt and gravel. It went sideways and toward an unknown ditch or soft shoulder he couldn’t see. He jerked the steering wheel to his left. The car fishtailed then went sideways again before it came to a stop, somehow still in the road.  

For several long seconds both Chet and Marissa sat, not saying anything and holding their breaths. They both let the air flow from their lungs simultaneously, relaxing slightly.

“Oh my God,” Marissa cried when she looked out of her window.  “You almost hit them.”  

Hit what?”

“Those children,” she said, looking back at him. “Didn’t you see them?”

“No, I was …” He paused. How many times had she told him to keep his eyes on the road? How many times had he not listened and veered into other lanes? “I was trying to find a place to turn around when you screamed. I just reacted.” It was a partial lie, the only part being true was he reacted to her scream.

Chet looked at the road. The car had come to a stop facing the opposite direction they had been going. Any other time, he would have thought that was a good thing, but right then, he stared out the window, at the pouring rain beating on his car and the road and … and what he thought was a lump of something in the road. His skin prickled as he thought that lump could be kids. 

That’s impossible, he thought. Why would kids be in the middle of the road out here, in fricking Egypt?

“Chet, we need to check on them and make sure they are okay?”

“Are you sure that is a kid?”

Two kids, Chet. Two kids, and I am positive. I saw them while you were busy not looking at the road, again.”

“I was looking for a place to turn around,” he yelled.

“I’m sure you were.”

“Let’s just go,” Chet said and put the car into gear.

“Wait. What? You’re not going to check on those kids? Are you serious?”

“I don’t see any kids, Marissa.”

“They’re right there in the road, Chet. How can you not see them?”

“I don’t know what that is in the road, but it isn’t a couple of kids.”

“Look again.”

Chet did, straining his eyes, trying to see through the rain. He flicked the bright lights on and his breath caught in his throat.

“I can’t believe it.”

“I told you.”

“What are we going to do?”

“We need to help them, Chet.”

He licked his lips. He didn’t like the idea of getting out of the car in the storm, but Marissa was right. They had to help those two kids. 

Chet opened the door and wished he had thought to bring an umbrella with them, but it had been bright and sunny when they left home earlier. The rain soaked his left side even before he got out of the car and stared at the road. He was drenched within seconds, but it didn’t matter right then. Two small kids, the oldest maybe three and a girl, the youngest not even able to stand on its own and possibly a boy, were in the road.  The girl sat in the road, her legs crossed. She cradled the boy in her arms. They looked to be no more than 20 feet in front of the car, which didn’t seem possible to Chet—they had been a good sixty feet or so seconds earlier. At least, he thought they had been.

Marissa opened her door and stood, closing it gently. The little girl looked up at her with deep brown eyes filled with fear. Her long brown hair was flat and stuck to a face that appeared dirty, even in the rain. Her dress and shirt were tattered and clung to her body. The little boy wore a dirty one piece out fit that appeared too small for him.  

“Hey,” Marissa said as she walked slowly toward them. “Are you okay?”

“That’s kind of a dumb question, Honey,” Chet said, rounded the car and stood next to her. Even with the rain pouring down on them, they didn’t hurry, they didn’t risk the chance of startling them. ”What are we going to do?”

“We can’t leave them here,” Marissa responded. “I would hate myself if we just left them out here to die.”

“How do we get them in the car? They don’t know us. They might not go with us.”

girl-3813105_1920“Hold on,” Marissa said and squatted down. She waddled slowly to the little girl, stopping within an arm’s reach of her. The little girl didn’t flinch or attempt to move away.  She only looked up at her with those sad doe eyes that seemed to reflect in the glare of the headlights.

“Are you okay?” Marissa asked again.

The little girl shook her head.

“Is this your baby?”

She shook her head from side to side. 

“Is this your sibling?”

She nodded.

“Where’s your parents?”

There was no response this time.

“Do you have a mommy?”

Another simple nod.

“Do you know where she is?”

The little girl looked toward the woods, then back at Marissa. With one small hand she pointed at the trees.

“Your mommy is over there?”

A nod.

“Chet, can you—”

“Yeah, I’m on it,” Chet said. He didn’t want to be on it. He didn’t like the idea of walking into the woods at the whim of a creepy little girl. As far as he knew, her parents could be waiting in there to ambush him. They would kill him and kidnap Marissa. They would do all sorts of bad things to her before killing her and burying her in a shallow grave. 

Instead of going straight to the woods, he went back to the car. He popped the trunk and rummaged around the junk in there for a flash light and a weapon. He found a screw driver and picked it up. It might not be much, but it would work as a knife if he needed to.  He flicked on the flashlight and walked to the edge of the road and shined the light into the woods.  

Mostly, he saw trees and underbrush. The beam of light shone on a swath torn into the woods. Just beyond it was a battered car.

“Oh no,” he whispered. He glanced back at Marissa. She was still squatting in front of the two children. Chet stepped into the woods and carefully picked his way over broken tree limbs and flattened bushes. When he reached the car he turned the light to the driver’s side window.  His breath stuck in his lungs. A man and woman were in the front seat, their heads split open, the windshield shattered. The rain had washed a lot of the blood away, but he saw a clump of brain tissue and hair clinging to the windshield where the woman’s head and struck it. 

Chet shook his head and backed away as his stomach rumbled. For a few seconds, he thought he would throw up, but somehow managed not to. He stumbled back along the ruined foliage, slipping a couple of times in the mud but not tumbling to the ground. He left the trees behind and hurried to Marissa and the children.

“Did you find their mother?” Marissa asked.

He shook his head and said nothing at first. Finally, he said, “Their parents are … ummm … gone.”

“Gone?”

He nodded. “Dead.”

“Oh no.” It was hard to tell, but Chet thought tears had formed in Marissa’s green eyes. She wiped at them and turned back to the two children—the two orphans.

“Do you want to come with us?” she asked. “We’ll get you something to eat and clean you up and try to find some of your relatives.”

Again, the little girl nodded.  

“Can I take the baby?” Marissa asked.

The girl looked down at her brother, gave a quick nod, then held the child out to her. Marissa looked the baby in her arms, cradled him gently. 

“Come on,” Chet said, held his hands out to the little girl. She reached for him. Chet lifted the girl from the ground. She wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” he said.

As they hurried back to the car, the little girl lifted her head and looked toward the woods where the car had caromed off the road. A smile creased her young face, revealing two sharp teeth.

__________

This is one of those stories that just kind of happened. An image popped into my head of a little girl sitting in the street, cross legged. In her arms was a baby boy. It was raining. From there the story kind of told itself. However, when I got to the end, the easy thing to do was create a happily ever after type of scenario. 

Come on. This is me we’re talking about. 

As I wrote the last part where Chet and Marissa pick up the two children and take them to the car, I saw the little girl smiling. Behind that smile were sharp teeth. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to make the story just a little darker.

Are the two children vampires? Are they something else? Did they kill the couple in the car in the woods? Are they going to kill Chet and Marissa? I will leave that up to you.

I hope you enjoyed The Two, and please, leave a comment, share to your social media pages and like it as well. I thank you from the top of my heart.

A.J.

 

Voices, The Interviews: Lena and Nothing

SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT * SPOILER ALERT

Before reading today’s post, I want to tell you about our continuing project. In the coming months one character from each story in my collection, Voices, will be interviewed by Lisa Lee with Bibliophilia Templum. 

No, this is not your typical interview session. What I want to do is make each interview like a story, one that continues until we reach the end. Some of these are going to be short. Some of them might be long. I don’t know. Like you, I will find out just how long each interview is based on the questions Lisa provides me. I don’t know the questions ahead of time and neither do the characters.

Since this is an interview, I will go ahead and say up front there are spoilers in each session. If you have not read Voices, I urge you to do so before continuing (you can pick up a copy here). If you haven’t read the collection, you have been made aware of possible spoilers. 

You can also read the first two sessions here:
Session 1: Spencer 

Session 2: Mr. Worrywort

One more thing: if you have read Voices and would like to ask a question of today’s character, leave a comment at the end, and I will see about getting an answer from the character for you. Don’t be shy, ask your questions. You may get an interesting response.

SESSION 3

Lisa looks away from where Mr. Worrywort slinked off to when she hears a sound. A young woman, possibly in her early twenties, but maybe even in her late teens, rights Mr. Worrywort’s seat and sets it back in the U. Others watch her, but say nothing. She is pretty, a blonde with sharp cheekbones, thin lips and hauntingly beautiful blue eyes. Her hair falls to the middle of her back and when she leans over to set the chair right it looks like a yellow veil has been placed on her head. She is petite, but not brittle in appearance. In truth, Lisa finds her very pretty, strikingly so. 

“Thank you,” she says to the young woman.

“You’re welcome.” She is polite and gives a slight curtsy with her statement.

“What’s your name?”

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 2.26.45 PM“Lena.”

Ahhhh … Lisa thinks and looks around at the faces of the other characters. She had expected Nothing to be here, not Lena, but she doesn’t see anyone who might fit his description. 

“Hello Lena.”

Lena nods, “Hi.” Her cheeks turn pink and she looks down at her hands. She twists several of her fingers together, almost as if she wants to turn them into knots.

“You’re … umm … you’re Nothing’s girlfriend, right?”

The pink in her cheeks darkens to two blossoms of red. “Yes, Ma’am,” she says without looking up.

“You know, Lena, you and I have something in common.” 

 Lena looks from her hands up at Lisa. Their eyes meet and Lisa sees the clear blue of Lena’s and it almost takes her breath away. 

No wonders he loves her.

“We do?”

“Yes. We both believe in loyalty.”

Lena doesn’t respond to this.

“You are very loyal to him, aren’t you? Loyal to Mr. Nothing?”

It sounds weird in her own ears. Mr. Nothing, as if the boy this girl loves is nothing … nothing to her, nothing to anyone. Adding a prefix to his name doesn’t change the way loyalty to nothing sounds to her. A tinge of sadness touches her heart. 

Lena shrugs. She is looking at her hands again. 

“Loyalty is … loyalty is good. It’s a good thing, Lena. Don’t you think so?”

“I guess.”

Lisa take’s a deep breath, let’s it out as a loud sigh. Just ask her the other question.

“So, Lena, I was wondering, are you actually into his fetish for cutting and scarring, or do you participate in it out of loyalty?”

Lena’s bright blue eyes grow wide, her mouth drops open. She closes it, then shakes her head. “I … I …what?”

“Do you not understand the question?”

Lena nods. “I … I understand it, but it’s … it’s not a fair question.”

“It’s not?”

“No.”

“Okay, okay,” Lisa says. 

“You wouldn’t understand.”

Lisa smiles softly. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so direct. “Look, I do understand what happened. I really do. But, what is in your past that you would embrace a relationship with someone like him?”

“Someone like him?”

“Yes. Someone like him. I mean, do you even know his real name?”

“His real name?”

“You know, he has to have an actual name. Nothing? Really? Is that his real name? It can’t be.”

“I … I …” She looks around. Her hands clench together. Lena’s neck twitches. She bites her bottom lip and one of her feet bounces on the floor. 

She’s freaking out, Lisa thinks. She starts to speak, to try and calm the young woman down. “Lena, it’s okay …”

The door opens. In steps a tall young man. He is lanky and has no hair. A loop earring is in his right ear. He wears a long-sleeved gray shirt buttoned all the way to his throat, and baggy black pants. There are no shoes on his feet. There’s a puckered scar along his chin and others pocking his cheek and neck, and one directly under his right eye. He closes the door gently behind him and walks over to the U shaped group. He grabs the chair Lena had righted minutes earlier, the one Mr. Worrywort had cast aside when he abruptly stood and slinked off to the corner where he, no doubt, sits, staring and listening to the voices of the rest of the participants in this … group interview. But is that what it is? Lisa isn’t too sure. She thinks it is more like a group therapy session, with each person here dealing with their own demons, trying to escape their own pasts, escape their own presents, and maybe forget their own futures.

The young man picks up the chair and walks down a few spots. He looks at the guy sitting next to Lena. “D’you mind?” he asks and nods for the kid to move down. The boy says nothing, only moves his chair to the right. The person next to him does the same; all of them do until the gap left from the empty spot Mr. Worrywort had vacated is closed. The young man sits down, looks at Lena and takes her hand. 

“It’s okay, Baby,” he says and he sounds like he is not just in love with her, but is her protector, maybe even her savior. Or maybe it is the other way around.

“Mr. Nothing, I assume. Good of you to join us.”

Nothing looks at her, but there is contempt playing on his face, a sneer on his lips. Like Lena, his eyes are captivating. Unlike Lena’s, his are green. He looks back at the pretty girl, whispers something to her. She whispers back, then cast a mournful glance toward Lisa.

“Why?” he asks Lisa.

He catches her off guard with his sudden question. It strikes her as an accusation, as if she has done something wrong, and not him, the young man who mutilated his father with the broken neck of a beer bottle. “Why what?”

“Why did you try to hurt her?”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt her. I meant no offense. Really.”

He whispers to Lena again. She nods, but she doesn’t smile.

“You have questions?”

“Yes.”

“I do, too.”

“Okay, Mr. Nothing—“

“It’s Nothing. Just Nothing. No mister, no last name. Just Nothing.”

“Okay. Nothing it is,” Lisa responds, then adds, “I was actually hoping to get to speak with you.”

“I’m here.”

“Okay,” Lisa says and licks her lips. She wishes she had a notepad with a list of questions on them, but she hadn’t been prepared to step into the room, not like this at least. “Like I said to Lena—“

“Do you love?” Nothing asks, interrupting her. 

“Do I love?”

“Yes. Do you love?”

“I love my husband.”

“No. Do you love?”

Lisa shakes her head. “I just told you I do.”

“You said you love your husband.”

“I do. Very much so.”

Nothing laughs. “You love … a person. But do you love?”

“Yes. I love. Deeply.”

Nothing and Lena exchange glances. One side of her lips curl up. Her eyes aren’t quite dazzling, but Lisa sees something in them that could be good for her. 

“Ask your question,” Nothing says.

“Okay. As I was telling Lena, I understand why you felt the need to do what you did.”

“What did I do?”

“Excuse me? What did you do?”

“Yes.”

“You killed your father.”

“You understand what that is like?”

“I said I understand why you needed to kill him.”

“How? How could you know that?”

“I just do.”

“How?”

“I …”

“How!?”

“There’s only one way I COULD understand isn’t there!?” She clenches her teeth. She fights back the urge to stand and walk up to Nothing. She fights the urge to slap him hard across his pale, scarred face. She fights the urge to say ‘screw it, I’m done,’ and leave the interview and not look back. She can. She knows she can, but she doesn’t. Instead, her jaw relaxes and she takes a deep breath, letting it go before speaking evenly, “I apologize for the outburst, Nothing. I won’t claim my … um … history is quite the same as yours, but I do understand the impulse, the desire to fix something or right a wrong or just get good old fashion revenge on someone. I just never would have followed through with such compulsions. All I really want to know is … why? Why would you follow through with it?”

Nothing eyes her. His jaw moves from side to side. He is leaning forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees. Lisa sees him then for who he is: a scared child just looking for love and acceptance. 

“You say you understand.”

“I do.”

“Then answer me this: Do you hate?”

It’s Lisa’s turn to laugh. She brushes a lock of dark hair from her eyes. She is not smiling when she responds. Even if she wants to, she doesn’t think she can. “Do I hate? Oh, I did. Oh, I most certainly did. And sometimes I still do.”

Nothing nods. “Me too.”

“The difference between you and I is I never let it consume me. I certainly could have, maybe even should have. But I didn’t.”

Silence fills the room. With the exception of a gleeful laugh from Mr. Worrywort in the corner, there are no sounds to be heard. 

“It’s your turn to answer my question: why did you follow through on your compulsion to kill your father?”

Ten seconds pass. Twenty more follow. A full minute of silence ensues. Nothing stands. He unbuttons his shirt and slips it off his shoulders, dropping it to the floor. He wears a white t-shirt now. He pulls this off as well. There are several audible sounds of disgust and wonder and shock from the other characters. 

Nothing doesn’t stop there. He unsnaps his belt and the button that holds his pants closed. He unzips and drops his pants. He steps out of them and stands before them as naked as the day he came into the world. Nothing lifts his hands out to his side and slowly spins around for each of them to see the multitude of scars lining his body, the puckered, discolored skin that will never be smooth again. 

When he has come full circle, he bends down, picks up his pants and slides it back on. He sits down, but doesn’t move to put either of his shirts back on. 

“This is me. This is who I am. I am hate. I am nothing. And he made me this way.” He pauses, looks at Lena. She nods. The look on her face is hopeful, like a mother’s would be if her child was afraid of something and finally facing it. “He was my hate and as long as he was alive, I could never love.”

“Why involve her?”

A smile, genuine and warm, crosses his face. “Because she is my love. Without her, I couldn’t have faced him and I would still hate, not just him, but myself, my life. Now … now … I love.”

“I can see that,” Lisa says. It’s true. She does see what most probably have never glimpsed. She also knows a truth she didn’t before. It is Lena who helped Nothing overcome his fear, overcome the monster that had stalked him his entire life with words of hate and loathing. It wasn’t his idea to kill his father. It was hers. And he had followed her lead and allowed her to scar him, not the way his father had, but with their version of  affection. “I have one more question, if that is okay?”

“What is it?” He is holding one of Lena’s hands now. His leg is next to hers, his foot touching hers. There is no doubt in Lisa’s mind that they are meant to be together, that they are destined for one another. 

“Nothing, what is your real name?”

He stares at her, as if contemplating the meaning of life. Lisa thinks he knows the meaning. It is love and not much more.

“Honestly, I don’t know. I thought I might remember after he died, but I don’t. As far back as I can remember, my father called me nothing, so nothing I became. I am Nothing. No one else. There is no other name.”

Lisa smiles at this. It is a truth, and if not, then it is the truth she will take with her when this is over. “Fair enough, Nothing. Thank you for your time. And, Lena, thank you, also. If I upset you, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

Nothing and Lena look at each other, their eyes lock and remain that way for several seconds. Finally, Lisa pulls her own gaze away and settles them on the next person she has questions for …

To be continued …