. . . . .
Warmth. I never seemed to forget it. Where Momma touched my arm…that little soothing spot on my forearm, where she would stroke and gently brush my bath-soaked skin…that was my mark. It was always there, wherever I went, whenever I needed it most. And when I needed it, I would touch that mark… I would do what Momma would, and soothe the skin.
When Hobbs, (the staring bear that never moved from my shelf, the bear that only answered me when I so needed an answer) asked me one day if I were to grow up; I only said, ‘Of course not, Hobbs! I’m here to stay, with you and I in my room.’ But… I never thought of that, this so-called growing up. I always thought I would stay here, inside my Crib, surrounded by my friend, and would spend every night cuddling and being cradled by Momma. But… could I, grow up?
I live inside of a wooden crib, painted yellow like the grainy sand dunes that piled inside my books. This is tall, and the smooth glazed bars that block my escape into the unopened doors beyond are taller than I, so I can only grope the slender bars like a villain watching their life fly by right in front of them…but having no way to live in it.
My Room is small… or at least by Hobbs’ standards. There is a small desk by the drawer, where the faintest orange glow hovers when Momma flips the switch. Beside the light are two of my most favorite books, accompanied by my milk-drink, and a grubb-stained bib. By my bedside, the large, thick blue drawer rises, holding yet another hovering glow, and below the light, my unmoving friend Hobbs. But what changes me every night, is the glass above my pillow… the glass that separates my throbbing head from the pattering rain beyond. There is always something new coming in through that glass… either the deep gray of morning, or the endless black of night. And in some way… it comforted me.
Hobbs is a bear that I remember from when I saw the light. But… the thing is…he can never move. He is a panda bear, with silky-white and cookie-black fur. He faces me, with his two beady little eyes, and has the same expression on his face at all times; it is much like a smile that never ends from a joke that will long be remembered. He sits on the wooden dresser, like a bird perched on a wire. And yet he didn’t move. He is my best friend… besides Momma, anyway. I would NEVER desert him. NEVER.
. . . . .
Later that night, Momma came into the room. Like always, she grabbed me from my cloth, and swung me into the air, my face only full of fresh flower-scented air and a big, bright smile. She then cradled me in her arms, and stared into my eyes.
“How is my Angel today? I know you need a bath… but we have something fun ahead of us! Tomorrow, we are going to go to Grammy’s, huh? But you need a good rest, first.”
I giggled, and then with struggle pointed at the biggest book on the shelf.
“Would you like to read that one? Ok then… but after that, its bed sweety pie.”
She then reached over for the book, and with both of her hands full, plopped herself down onto the desk’s rocking chair.
Once I was cuddled into the position that I liked, Momma flipped open the book to the page with the bright orange tag popping out. Here, was a very large picture of a beach, with sand blowing here and there, crisp ocean water churning in the distance, and a bright, burning sun in the sky.
“This is a beach, Sweety. Pap-… I used to take us to one once. It’s always hot, but if you get too hot, you just splash right into the cool water! One day, in the future, I will take you to one again. It’s so much fun.”
I clapped my hands, indicating that I really wanted to do this someday… and I really, really did.
“We should go to bed… we have a long morning ahead of us, Sweety.”
At once, I grabbed at her mouth, and stared into her eyes. In my eyes, I told her that I wanted the Song… and she knew the eyes, the song, enough to satisfy me.
“Okay, my Darling… I’ll sing…but you have to promise me that you will sleep well, alright?”
This made me even more happy and warm than I was to begin with, and with that encouragement, I swayed my weight towards the Crib, saying that I wanted to lie down while she sings in her elegant voice. And so, I plop down into my soft, plush nest, awaiting the covers to coat my skin, and the song to coax me into a dream yet to come.
Momma tucked my body in warmth, and stood back above the Crib’s top… and with a breath of air, she began the song:
“Sweet baby of light.
With eyes shining bright.
Gives in to the coaxes.
Of the soft, tender night.”
I could feel my eyes growing heavier, as the lullaby swirled through my ears, and the smell of Momma’s perfume wafted over my limp, motionless dream-of-a-body.
“Rain patters the glass.
Sleep comes here a’las.
And bright morning hoaxes.
Soar high to the height.”
My eyes… they are so… warm. They are closing… just… closing…
“A hearth full of fire.
Flames curling the higher-”
Eyes…closing… my head… drifting off, only set upright… by the tune… of the song…
“Burn only one form-”
“To make sleep…”
. . . . .
I awoke to thunder. Then lightning flashed from the glass above my head, and struck the painted walls of blue, making me see for one second the perimeter of my whole room. But… it wasn’t the sight of my lit room that caught my attention; it was the bitter chill of a sudden wind, and the eerie fact that the pouring rain outside beneath the skies could be heard perfectly.
I quickly flipped my aching head behind me, to see in appalling confusion, the window to be completely open. Rain drizzled into my bed, soaking my pillow and sheets to a jaw-wrenching chill. The lightning struck, the thunder crashed, and the rain poured, making my once peaceful quiet room an onslaught of noise.
I wanted to scream, to shout for Momma, but there was no way she could hear me under the maelstrom of sound.
I then, with no second thought, glared up to the top of the dresser… and where my eyes hoped to see Hobbs, saw nothing but the shimmering reflection of the pattering rain.
Hobbs… Hobbs, Hobbs, Hobbs!
This was too much for my small mind to process… but to add to the confusion, I looked yet again behind me, opposite the glass… to see my crib’s caged door… opened.
With the wind tossing my frail body side to side and the continuous torrent of rain soaking and soon to be filling my crib with bone-chilling water, I struggled to crawl over to the opened crib-door. My hands were freezing and wet, as well as my quivering legs. Every movement I made seemed to get me more caught up in the vortex of moist sheets; it was like I was sinking.
At last, I reached the crib door, relieved and scared to be out of the sheets… but when a bolt of lightning outside flashed through the opened-glass, the image of my floor before me was burnt into my eyes.
In one second, I saw the exact opposite of the room I fell asleep to.
Before me, two of the hovering lights on my desk were lying beside each other, both surrounded by small curved and edged snowflakes. The once memorable rocking chair Momma sat in before my previous dream was now on the ground, the cushions spread out around it like branches, and the book with the picture of the beach turned upside down beside it. Clothes were strewn across the floor, like a newly bed of grass. A long, ravenous vein cracked up my closet mirror, making it impossible to see a reflection. Hobbs was nowhere to be seen. But worst of all… my bedroom door……. it was wide-opened.
It didn’t make any sense. None at all! So many questions were blazing through my head, too many to comprehend. But that wasn’t the problem. I needed to find Hobbs… and more importantly, I needed to find Momma.
. . . . .
The hallway was darker than my room… but only until the lightning charred the walls with a head-aching white.
I peered out from the opened doorway of my cluttered room, and groped the slick wooden floor tight with my frozen, quivering hand. The hall was long, with two doors on both the right and left sides. None of those doors were opened… even Momma’s was shut tight. The floating light at the end of the hall, originally on a small table accompanied by a telephone, was on the floor, similar to the ones in my room. But this one… this one flickered every once and a while, like the lightning. And it was so…eerie.
With fear pumping through my veins, and my arms and legs shaking, I crawled on.
I reached the lamp; it flickered. So bright, was it up close.
I grasped my hand towards the light, and slapped my fingers on the glass. Immediately I heard a sizzle, and I shot my hand back, tears already surfacing round my eyes. My hand, once cold now burning hot, began to feel warm. At that second, I felt a moist thing slithering down my arm, warming and scraping my skin.
Holding back tears that still streamed down my face, I felt for the stairs to the left that would lead me down into the kitchen. Expecting the lightning to give a second of sight, I groped the air in front of me… and what I thought to be the stair post, turned out to be just… air.
Wind whizzed by my ears, and I could feel my body thumping… slapping each and every stair. All I could see was darkness, and all I could feel was the throbbing pain in my hand, and the searing pounding in every part of my body.
I hit what I thought to be the bottom of the staircase with a crack, and right then I felt my back rip; I didn’t want to move.
Tears poured down my face now, and faint sobbing and wails escaped my injured mind, and out of my gaping mouth.
In front of me, the kitchen door gaped empty beyond, showing a flickering light against a peeling wall.
I struggled to move, and what would be called crawling would be seen as sliding with restraint.
I reached the door frame, and… my hand slipped on the tile. My whole body fell abruptly into a sticky, wet water. It splashed across my face, my arms, my legs, and my chest. It smelled of salt, or at least what I thought salt smelled like. And… it was… warm.
I was half-tempted to just lie there, watered in this warm substance. It was warm, and it made me feel like I was back in my dream, cuddled and wrapped in my soft, fleece sheets. It felt like…Momma.
But I knew I had to trudge on. So I groped up the side of the door frame, sliding constantly, and then I hurled myself into the kitchen. And there, in the current of a river of the warm, fleece-water, was Hobbs. He sat there, motionless, with eyes like glass staring blankly beyond. And, seeing that Hobbs’ once white-colored fur was the hue of dark pink, I noticed what the liquid’s true color was: red.
Finding thousands of words to say, I opened my mouth to speak… but all that was heard was a faint gurgle, and out came more warm water, oozing out of my own mouth and sloshing onto the milky floor below.
My eyes grew hazy… I saw a cloak of red… but I urged my body on.
I grasped the red-stained tiles, and reached for Hobbs, gripping him in my arms, and sploshing him in the liquid below me.
I chose to follow the river of water, hoping it would lead me to the fountain that is spewing such a warm feeling. I slap my hands on the water, hearing the pitter and the patter of the droplets that flew here and there into the void around me.
Every movement… every slight, tender movement, would just rip… somewhere in my body.
It hurt everywhere. I couldn’t understand it, this feeling of pain. Every place in my body told me to stop moving…and I honestly wanted to. But something drove me forward…either the new-found Hobbs dragging by my side, or the swaying current of the warm water.
I scooted my body forward, my hand burning from the lamp’s sharp heat. I could feel the tears streaming down my water-soaked cheeks, and the wails that escaped my mouth. I wasn’t even there.
Here is this limp, quivering body, completely unable to move forward, with sobbing and moaning saying it all… but… what was inside of me, was completely different. I wasn’t even there. Inside of me, was a man driven to move on…to never let go. The pain and moaning didn’t stop him. So it didn’t stop me.
. . . . .
Fountains… they spew water, or have it cascade like a waterfall down small stair-like mountains. Fountains release a lot of water… in the same shape… in the same form… and in the same amount of time. But the fountain that stood before me… the fountain releasing the warm, red water… I never saw one like this before.
In the room following the kitchen, where my mind drove me along the river,was a sight that made the ping in my head and the burn in my hand worse.
A light was on, perched on a small table to my left. Straight ahead, yet another pane of glass was opened to the war outside, and the laced curtains siding the glass were pulled from the wall and sucked outside, as if a wind from the inside of the house blew them out of the glass. Like my room, clothes, books, and other things littered the floor. And there, in the center of the room, was the source of the warm water… the fountain.
It was a large pool of the water, and where the stairs to the kitchen began to descend was where the river flowed out into where I found Hobbs.
But sadly, I knew what was lying in the middle of the pool… I didn’t want to know.
In the middle of the pool, like me soaked in red, was… Momma.
. . . . .
With all of the command I could muster, I slid by body over to the motionless sleeping Momma, much like Hobbs. At once, I could see that the water was thicker here, and that it drizzled from Momma’s neck. I bent over to see, and where a neck should be I saw a thick, red smile. With my hand, I reached over and padded her neck… and out came a gurgle of liquid that seeped over Momma’s chest, and onto my hand.
I didn’t hesitate, however. I let the warm water ooze down my arm… and suddenly I thought I to be in a dream. Then… I heard a voice…
‘She’s dead to you. All you need is me…’
It was Hobbs. I turned around, staring at the bear that apparently left my hand. He spoke to me. Why would he say that?
‘She’s… dead… to… you…’
Immediately I lunged over at Hobbs, my best friend, and I threw him at the wall. I screamed, loud that it hurt my aching head.
What was happening? Why did I think this… this nightmare?
Slowly, I began to sob, mucus slithering down my lips and dropping into Momma’s cold, dead hand. My thoughts raced… faster and faster, louder and louder, more and more thoughts to think.
I slid my body deeper into the pool, where it was closest to Momma. The water, in response to my movement, skidded and swayed with me, like an ocean during a storm.
Stopping myself from falling, I pried at Momma’s shirt, spurting a new stream of water onto my face.
By accident, the water filled up in my mouth, and I swallowed it… choking and gagging, until it spewed right back out into the pool.
I felt dizzy… like the world around me was slowly spinning, and I was too slow to catch up to the chase. My arms quivered, and I shook loose of Momma’s shirt, falling into the warm, milky puddle.
For a while, I just lied there, thinking about Momma, warm water, and Hobbs. For a while, I just looked up at the ceiling, and waited for the spark of lightning and the crack of thunder to shine and echo off the walls. And for a while, I thought of…what did Hobbs call it?…growing up. Something inside me told me that I would never be able to grow up. And frankly, I didn’t really want to.
Suddenly, I felt a sheer chill run across my bare-skinned body. In desperation for heat, I flailed my arms towards Momma’s hair, and when my fingers felt a few strands mixed with the water, I tugged as hard as I could.
As I tugged, I heard, and oddly felt in my hands, a riiiip. Following the rip was yet another stream of water, this one much thicker and warmer than the others. It laced across my icy head, and dribbled off of my hair. Tiny droplets like the rain outside pattered into my mouth,
and I licked these up…for some reason, these tasted different than the others.
Ignoring the water, I tugged at Momma’s hair, pulling my head closer to hers. And what I saw, behind the tangled mass of hair, was something that made me stop and look.
Momma’s mouth was wide-opened, water dripping slowly from her curved lip. Her face was red-stained, very much like my hands. But when I saw her eyes, the eyes that usually were always bright and gleaming and full of love…I saw water. Like the red water, it spewed out and out…but this water was clear. It was as if I could see my reflection, shining right back at me through crystalline droplets.
And I remember…remember the last time these droplets of water ever dripped out of Momma’s eyes.
. . . . .
It felt like so long ago…and it probably was. I remember the day we came back from a colorful house…Momma ran upstairs and put me in my crib, and said, ‘Stay here, sweety! Momma will be RIGHT BACK.’ She then ran through the door, and left me sitting there, hearing her pounding footsteps wither away. Then…I remember hearing a scream, and a shout saying ‘No, Eric! Don’t! Leave him alone!’. At once, a tall man came storming into the room, and shortly after my screaming Momma. The man grabbed me by my shirt, my small legs dangling like ropes, and shook me. Momma screamed. I wailed. And the man kept shaking. When Momma insisted that he put me down, he tossed me into the crib, and slapped my Momma across the face. He then pushed her onto the ground…and when she hit the ground, the man brought up his giant boot and slammed it onto her chest. He then turned to me, and then to the drawer…and he looked up at a plump little panda bear…Hobbs. He grabbed the bear, and then brought it into a hug under his neck. He smiled, such a large smile that it seemed to me he was the happiest man on Earth. His eyes then peered open, and he stared at me.
‘You’re supposed to be DEAD…’
That’s all he had to say. He then threw Hobbs at me, and left the room. Shortly after, Momma woke up…and when I saw her eyes, they were…wet. Little droplets of clear water, that shine in the sun. Momma told me that these were tears, and that they happen when someone is sad about something.
That was the last time I saw the man.
. . . . .
I felt so cold. I no longer wanted to look into Momma’s eyes.
Using my arms, I slithered down into the puddle, and having the urge to be warm, coated myself in red.
I would stay here. I would stay put, next to Momma, and never grow up. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll wait for her…wait for her to wake up, and only then will I grow up.
I then brought my knees up to my chin, and wrapped myself in the red that surrounded Momma and I. It was all so, warm.
I slowly closed my eyes, thinking of the Song that Momma would sing to me.
It was all so WARM…
It was all so QUIET, and so WARM…
And then I heard footsteps.
Then a click.
And I opened my eyes to see a figure standing before me.
He held something in his hands…he gripped it tightly…
And he glared at me, like I was a piece of trash.
He stared into my eyes, then to Momma, and then…he glanced ahead of him, where I guessed was where Hobbs sat in the puddle of red.
The man just stared at Hobbs…and slowly, very slowly, a smile altered across his face. It was the same smile that the tall man gave Hobbs when he made Momma cry.
And at that moment, I realized that there was more to this man than I thought.
“You should be DEAD…”
What? What is he saying?
All of a sudden, the warmth I felt just seemed to fly away. I slid closer to Momma, cradling her arm.
“Why aren’t you DEAD!?”
He screamed at me, and I hugged Momma tighter.
“You were a mistake from the start…but Alice wanted you. I hate you. I HATE YOU, and all about YOU!”
I was scared…and I felt cold, as my eyes began to drip.
I whimpered, and held Momma as tight as I could; I could even feel water seeping out of my burnt-hand, which was scraping Momma’s arm.
“I hope you ROT in HELL;…you should have been there ever since.”
My body began to shiver…and I held Momma tightly.
I opened my mouth slowly, and I tried to speak the only word that came to mind…
I closed my eyes…
“Nighty Night, punk.”
The last thing I heard was a bang……
And I felt my body rip, and push towards the ground……
My arms flailed, my head falling…
And Momma’s warmth was all around me…
Credit To – D.M. Slivinski