Feathers. Millions and millions of feathers were drifting from the sky. It was a bright atmosphere, nothing but the scent of sweet petunias and heavenly roses pressing heavily upon my nose. The distant flapping of wings and the beautiful chirps of the morning lark singing its waking tune adds to the delightful setting. From somewhere nearby, the gentle exhaling ‘whoosh’ of a beach pulses a slight rhythm following the hissing inhale of the salty water; natures’ forever lasting chorus. The calmness of the scenery only makes me paranoid. Something terrible is going to happen.
Through the thick cloud of black feathers, I spot a lone figure. At this distance, with my lines of sight being very limited, the gender couldn’t be determined. Even with my sense of danger on high level, my curiosity soon gets the best of me, so with great caution, I attempt to advance toward it.
As I take my first step, I’m startled to hear a slight ‘crunch’ coming from the uneven ground. As I stagger back a bit from the sudden change of the surface, I find the flower aroma had taken its leave. Spread completely around me, were the powdery substances of white snow, bright from the warm reflection of the rising sun. To my shock, there are no feathers resting upon this new form of terrain. I take the time to observe a couple of them falling gracefully toward my feet. Just before contact, they evaporate with a slight ‘poof’, leaving nothing behind but pure wonderment and uneasiness. Where the flowers had disappeared off to escapes my mind, however I shake off the new wave of forthcoming bad fortune, and continue my trek to the figure.
For the next several steps, time appears to stretch into an agonizingly slow period. My breathing becomes slower, and my pace cuts down to half the speed I had taken before. Everything has been reduced to a delaying feel, everything except my restless mind. As I press on through the confusing dilemma, entities around me began to take a different shape.
The welcoming heat the sun had blanketed around my bare shoulders now began to withdraw, leaving a new growing coldness to crawl into my exposed skin. The wintriness appears to be too intense, given to the fact I should have at least been in simple clothing. But to my astonishment, I find my entire attire has gone missing, leaving me utterly naked. My eyes glance down to find even my feet are bare now, the bitter cold nipping at my numb toes. Hadn’t I been wearing shoes before? Where had my clothing gone off to?
Natures’ icy breath leaves me feeling dumber than ever, my grip on what was occurring slips away with each intake of the frosty air. It was so frigid, my breathe was clearly visible. I found myself constantly exhaling a thick, puffy mist.
Feelings of insecurity dawn on me as I remember I wasn’t alone in that place. My peripheral vision depicts a quick movement, alarming me. Normal speed has returned to me at last, my hastened reaction bidding me to jump back a few feet from where I had detected the intruder. Knees slightly bent, arms raised in a defensive position, I braced myself for combat when to my relief, I see only a vast outstretch of deserted winter land and a thicker downfall of feathers.
Even though there had been no one to deal with, I can’t help but feel a wave of embarrassment, my feet shuffling sheepishly. Then it crosses my mind, the figure was still nearby. I spun around frantically, making sure to hug myself tightly, radiating what little warmth I could manage. Then I saw it, or rather on closer inspection, him.
He was staring directly at me, only a couple of feet from where I stood. His attire consisted of a dark, menacing, hooded cloak, although his head remained out in the open. Despite having his body covered entirely by the outfit, I could still see the outline of his muscular body, powerful and dangerous. Short, black hair rests messily on top of his scalp, covered by tiny flecks of falling snow. His face looks to be slightly humored, a crooked smile spread amusingly across his light, pinkish lips. His eyebrows are arched in a way to express either confusion or fascination, and his eyes penetrate me with such discreet intensity, as if he were gazing into my very soul.
My heart rate quickens as I wonder if he had seen my ridiculous reaction to the noise that had startled me earlier. My face feels scorching hot. He was, in a way, quite good-looking, and here I was standing before him, wearing absolutely nothing, freezing in the bitter cold.
Almost as if he heard my thoughts, his head tilts slightly to the side. He now takes onto a look of confusion mimicking me by crossing his arms tightly against his own chest. Then with a swift movement, he nods toward me, as if gesturing me to take a second look at myself.
I felt warm, surprisingly warm, and it takes me only a few seconds to realize I am covered by a cloak, the same one as the mysterious man standing just before me. Looking back at him, I find him smiling proudly as though he had something to do with the sudden change in my appearance. He opens his mouth slightly, still amused, about ready to say his first few words.
Then without warning, a wave of feathers erupts into a rage, swirling around me faster and faster in a counterclockwise direction. Fear courses through my veins as I stood there defenseless, staring at the now frowning man for help. The wind continues its relentless speed, circling a dazed me, just about ready to pass out from an overdose in adrenaline. I catch a sad look surfacing in the motionless beings’ eyes, watching me carefully. Then as soon as I blink, he is gone, leaving behind a flock of feathers to be sucked into the on-going whirlwind. This process seems to go on forever until the miles and miles of snow blurs into a sea of black. The wind then finally dies down to a gentle breeze, and then nothing.
There is only darkness.
My eyes jerk open to a blaring alarm clock waking me from my slumber. Bringing myself to a sitting position, I gaze at the bright red digits reading 7:02. The annoying sound has now come to agitate me as I push myself off the creaking, old mattress and drowsily stagger to the opposite side of the room to slap my hand upon the snooze button. Instantly, the sound dies, leaving me to stand in the middle of the eerie silence which follows.
Sleepily, my hands find their way to my burning eyes, rubbing them a bit too roughly, causing them to water. As I fell into a yawn, I slump back over to my ancient bed, eager to have more time to rest. When I reach the end of the piece of furniture, I fall back onto it, letting my head sink into one of my plush pillows. Just when I think I’m officially comfortable, the door to my quarters opens suddenly, leading up to me jumping back into an upright posture. Standing just outside it, grinning all too happily for the morning is my father. Once he sees where I am sitting, his smile disappears.
“Oh c’mon honey, not this again,” he groans, shaking his in disproval, “it’s a new year, you can’t start this again. You don’t want to be late for the first day of school do you?”
Now it was my turn to groan. “Oh no, Papa, I’m just feeling under the weather. Can’t I just stay home for today?” It wasn’t a complete lie. That dream had left me feeling a bit queasy, all those dreams had an after affect like that for me, but it didn’t seem like Papa bought it.
“Xing, it’s the first day of high school. You’re a freshman and you’re just going to have to learn to tough it out, especially when you become a full-fledged adult. Now get off your lazy butt and get dressed, it’s a big day!” His tone drives off from a strict tone into an excited one, nearly leading to him skipping off down the hall when he finished speaking.
“I still don’t understand why you’re so happy!” I yell at him as he disappears into the dark hallway, whistling a small happy tune to himself. I shake my head, finding myself smiling anyways.
Somewhat ignoring his command, I remain where I am, waiting for the alarm to go off once more. I want nothing more than to fall back down upon the sheets and pass out for another interesting dream, but I decide to not risk that for Papas’ sake. So instead, after clicking off the alarm once more, I climb over to the shelf Papa built me for my 6th birthday hanging over my bed. Before moving onto my knees to reach for one of the books, I lean back to take a quick note of how crooked the shelf was, leaning too far to the right. So much for our father and daughter handiwork, I think to myself, hoping to remember to fix the frame in the future.
I went to rummage throughout the hundreds of books collecting dust, searching for my dream journal. Cursing to myself, I mentally vow to get rid of some of the aging fictional tales I had already read. As I take a couple of them out, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Brave New World, I find my white journal, decorative with green flowers and blue butterflies fluttering about, not exactly to my personal tastes. The hardback journal is cold at the touch, reminding me of the bizarre crisis I had endured in that bitter snow within dreamland. I shiver at the thought, pulling back the book, and throwing it onto my covers. I put back the two other stories I had taken out before, suggesting to myself I organize my shelf a bit better, it was a heaping mess.
Sitting with my legs crossed, I pull out the recorded recollections, flipping between the pages. One of the dates catches my eye, documented: August 9, 2012, two weeks ago. I quickly scan the scribbled handwriting, giving the door occasional glances and listening for my dads’ chipper tune. The smell of burnt bacon fills my nostrils. I sigh, sniffing in the heavenly smell, and quickly scan the page.
August 9, 2012
I had that dream again today. It always starts off the same, the peaceful place where everything seems calm, the distant waves of a nearby beach, the strong smell of flowers, and the strangest thing, black feathers falling freely around me and evaporating into nothing once they even get close to touching something, but I just get the sense that something bad is going to happen. This has happened ever since that day. Well, so far, every night it’s become true and I’ve been noticing a strange pattern.
“Xing? Are you getting dressed?” my dads’ voice startles me from my reading. I leap up from my bed, charging after the still open door, slamming it shut. Last thing I needed was for my dad to come in and read my personal stuff.
“Now I am!” I yell back, practically tripping as I run towards my closet door. I threw it open, picking a shirt at random and throwing it on over my blue laced tank top. Next, while still struggling to pull the t-shirt over my head, I thrust open a nearby drawer and yank out a pair of jeans. As soon as those are on, I jump back onto the bed, glancing back at the page I was on. I should have at least a couple of minutes to spare. I was usually a slow dresser.
Every single one of them is the same. It starts off serene, and then it goes horribly wrong. Today’s dream ended up with the sun exploding. At first it was just the perfect climate, and then all of a sudden, I look up and I find the sun growing larger and larger. I freaked out and tried running away, whatever good that would do, but I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move at all, and the heat just got worse and worse. Eventually I was at a near pass out state, until the sun finally just blew up. It was blinding, even with my eyes shut, but as it finally dimmed down a bit, I opened my eyes, having no idea how the heck I could have possibly survived (it is a dream I guess), and there, standing a distance away (I couldn’t see very well) I think it was a figure of some sort.
All this starts to come to memory, I recall there being a figure in all of my dreams. Every time, it would get closer and closer, only this time, I guess I was able to actually see the face. I already knew how the rest of the story went, but I continue on anyways, preparing myself for the gruesome image.
The lighting of the place was quickly dimming down, but just before it did, the figure disappeared in the blink of an eye. Then, I felt something wet touching my legs. It was warm and sticky, it was awful, and the smell, I’ll never forget it, it was the stench of…blood. And to my horror, when I could finally move again, I looked down to find it was blood, a sea of blood, and it was already up to my knees. So much blood was everywhere, even when I looked out to the distance. It was literally an ocean of that dreadful stuff. And then after that, after I had the nerve to take a few steps from where I stood, I felt a hand on my leg. It was tugging on me very lightly and when I looked to see whose hand it was…
“Xing! Seriously, how long does it take for one girl to put on a shirt and some pants?!” my father screams from the kitchen. I quickly slam the book shut, sickened to the stomach by the content even without finishing it, and throw it back on my shelf behind some novels. When I am satisfied with the placement of the journal, I open the door and sprint to the bathroom making some quick minor hair adjustments and grab some pieces of jewelry, throwing them on sloppily. Thinking I was all set for the day, I run back out, only to slam face first into a wall. Oops! Contacts! I then rush back into the bathroom to jab a couple of contact lens into my eyes, nearly poking a hole in them.
Blinking rapidly to keep from going totally blind, I casually walk into the kitchen, now filled with the sweet aroma of scrambled eggs, chili powder and brown sugar style bacon, and French toast drizzled in succulent syrup. Smiling, I help myself to a plateful of food and sit down at the table, pigging out. Papa looks at me with a mixture of frustration and impatience and a hint of disgust.
“What?” I ask, though with a mouth full of food it sounded more like “wah?” He only looks at me, shaking his head again with disproval, but his frustration becomes replaced with humor.
“Jeez girl, mind cleaning up the syrup from your eyebrow?” he questions with a slight chuckle. His finger points to my right eyebrow, thick with sticky syrup. I have no idea how in the world I could have possibly managed that. Sheepishly, I lick my finger and wipe off the substance, stuffing yet another piece of delicious bacon into my bottomless mouth. “How are you not fat?”
At this, I burst into laughter, nearly choking to death on the piece of meat. “I’m a teen, unlike someone,” I reply, being sure to poke at my fathers’ bulging beer belly. He fakes an expression of hurt, sticking his bottom lip into a childish pout.
“Hey, no need to pick on your old man.” He pats his stomach contently, “So what if I’ve been putting on a few pounds?” I snort at this, forking in a scoopful of eggs coated with the salty liquid of soy sauce.
“A few?” I tease, continuing my pig out.
“Ha.” Confusion crosses his face now. “Did you put soy sauce on your eggs?” I burst into yet another fit of laughter.
“C’mon Dad, it’s my Asian blood that craves this stuff,” I retort, getting a couple of laughs from him. I shovel in the last bit of egg from my plate then move back from the table, heading for the sink. Then I throw in the dishes, making my way over to the living room where my backpack sat waiting, already packed full.
I glance questionably back at my smiling father, something glistening in his eyes. Still excited for his daughter, or perhaps something more?
“Yeah, I went ahead and packed everything for you since you were too lazy to do it yourself,” he said, answering one of my suspicions. He then sighs tiredly. Oh boy. My emotional daddy senses were on high. “I can’t believe my little baby is already in high school,” he says, as I cringe at the sound of the word, ‘baby’. I was tempted to speak against that comment, but I thought I’d let him have this one for now. He was in his emotional state, too vulnerable to make any offended remarks.
“Pretty soon, you’re going to graduate and move out the house and then I’m going to be all alone here…” His voice trails off as if in deep thought. Sadness washes up into his eyes, pushing a weight onto me, bringing me down with him. Several moments of silence pass on by, when I walk over to him and give him a weak, awkward daughterly hug. I feel his arms wrap around me, his hand stroking my hair. “You’ll always be my little girl, you know that right?” he says softly, pushing me back to where I could see his deep sea green eyes. I nod, feeling even more embarrassed with the sappy moment, moving back over to my backpack filled by my loving father. I quickly sling it across one of my shoulders, straining under the heavy weight. Just as I began to think the moment was over, he takes too much of a step in making the moment painful.
“You look so much like your mother.”
I swear I could have heard glass shattering, because just then, reality settles back in. A series of emotions from the past come up to haunt me just that very moment as well as last nights’ dream. My eyes began to sting once more, so I try blaming it on the contacts. Wordlessly, I walk past Papa, giving him my best smile, and went out into the garage where his red truck rests, waiting for its’ passengers. I make sure to grab my tennis shoes than jump into the leather seats of the vehicle, becoming oddly fascinated with the strap hanging off my backpack. I twiddle with it for a while, and put on my old, worn out shoes, waiting for my dad to compose himself. Something told me he was probably sitting down in a chair, head in his hands thinking about them. In these times, it was best to leave him alone and wait it out. I, on the other hand, had grown to bring myself out of my depressed state, but it didn’t help that I read the journal before leaving.
The door to the garage opens back up again, my dad walking right out, a smile back on his face. He was holding a couple of cups in his hand when he approaches the car. That was my father, putting a mask on to get through the day, being the father a girl needed. Like father, like daughter as they say, so I smile on back, tossing back the strap, settling back into my seat, and buckling my seatbelt. He passes one of the warm cups to me, the scent of French vanilla coffee drowning the musky smell of leather. He then slams the door shut with a jerk, and raises a toast.
“Here’s to a brand new day to my girl! May the odds ever be in her favor,” he announces in an Effie impersonating tone from Hunger Games, lifting his plastic cup.
“And ever in my favor, the odds may be,” I say, raising mine as well, clanking it against his cup. The garage door opens to a blinding ray of sunlight. Down the driveway we went, heading to my new school and old friends. I try my best to push out the dream of my mothers’ hand clasping around my ankle, the pleading look on her bloody face, calling for her baby girl.
New school year, new beginning, new dreams what could possibly go wrong?
Eight years ago:
Mom and Dad were fighting again.
Jacob, Jeannette, and I were all sitting on the sofa, trying to watch some TV, but most of all, trying to drown out the yelling and screaming coming from Mommy and Daddy’s room. From their expressions, I could tell Jeannette, being almost seven months, was doing a fine job of not letting it bother her, and Jacob, at age sixteen, was having a hard time trying to block them out. I was dealing with the same problem as Jacob, so instead of trying to ignore them, I try to make out what they were saying. The theme of whatever show my brother and sister were “watching” was pretty loud, so depicting what Mom and Dad were saying was a bit of a difficult task. I could only manage to hear bits and pieces.
“You need to…more time with…your own goddamn children Samuel!” I hear my mother’s voice shouting angrily, startling me with her sudden cursing. It was rare for her to use such foul language unless she was really steamed.
“…to support this family…have to travel for just a few days! I’ll be home…weeks…won’t know I’m gone!” my father yells back, growing more and more impatient with my mother’s stubbornness for not backing down from an argument.
It dawns on my, they were fighting about the same thing they always fought about, Dad’s business trips. He worked as a manager for one of the most famous bands in the area, “The Threads”, and though it may prove to be a bizarre name, their playing was known for being “music of the century” and “unforgettable”. Being the daughter of the man practically in charge of them, I’ve been to several of their concerts. My dad always took me, and they never came to impress me. They were usually too loud, and they only seemed too eager to finish and hang out with their fans, mainly the girls.
Just earlier today, Papa had come by to tell the whole family of his trip starting tomorrow and lasting for over a course of two entire weeks. Since then, which was almost thirty minutes ago, mom’s been talking his ear off about not being committed to this family and caring only for his career.
I knew none of that was true. Papa was only doing this for the family. As of late, we’ve been running short of cash, and even being a manager for a top band didn’t prove enough to support ourselves. Just missing one of those trips was equivalent to a whole month of starvation, but that fact still never seemed to get to Mother.
I’m pulled out of my thoughts when Jacob nudges me. I look up at him, his eyes glistening with a beautiful shimmering blue. I’ve always been envious of his eye color, what with mine being a simple dull brown, but mother had always told me in a way I was the more unique one of the browns, that I shined brighter than most, and at the time, I believed her. Any words of advice Mother gave was sure to be believable.
“Hey, are you doing alright there? Did you want to watch something else?” he asks me, switching to big brother mode. He hands me the remote, eyeing me cautiously, deciding whether or not to bring up the situation our parents were in. I smile and accept the remote, watching him sigh with relief at my childish seven year old need for entertainment.
In truth, I was not interested at all in the television. I wanted only to reassure my brother that I wasn’t attracted to the tension going on just a few doors down the hallway because that normally isn’t something a girl my age should be interested in over television. More than anything, I want them to stop fighting so we could get out of this bloody house. I needed some fresh air.
Just then, as if my prayers were answered, their door bursts open and I hear Mother stomping out towards us. Pretty soon, she stands in front of the set, arms crossed, nostrils flared.
Everyone at school thought she was beautiful, and I had to agree with them. Her long blonde hair stretched down to her pencil thin waist, and she was never seen going around town without a dress of some sort. Today, she wore one of a beautiful red which made her seem even skinnier, something I thought to be physically impossible. Her nose was an elegant, slender shape, perhaps the best looking scent detector I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. She could really smell anything from miles away. Of course that was who I got my great sense of smell from.
Her lips were a rose red, her eyes a sunflower yellow, and her skin a delightful shade of tan from endless days of lying in the sun. Burning in the sun was another thing which couldn’t be done. Her skin was just that fair.
“C’mon kids, get in the car, we’re going to your Aunt Jenny’s,” she fumes, not giving us a chance to reply, she storms out into the garage, slamming the door behind her, hard.
Jacob only shrugs, “Guess we’re going to Aunt Jenny’s.” He shuts off the electronics, and slowly rises to pick up restless Jeannette, now crying at the sudden realization Nickelodeon time was over. With slight grace and tender love, he swings her back and forth to a lulling rhythm, heading in the direction of our angry mother.
“Guess so,” I mutter under my breath, coming up to follow them, but just then, my dad came out from the back room, staring at me with a sullen look in his eyes. It was the same look that had always made me feel his pain and the need to hug him and tell him that everything would be ok. So having the mentality of a seven year old, I did just that.
“It’s ok Daddy,” I said, running into his open arms, “everything will be ok, Mommy will forgive you, she just doesn’t understand yet right?”
Giving me an unsure smile, he nods and lifts me up into the air, spinning me around like he always did when I was even younger. I find myself giggling uncontrollably, “Dad! I’m too old for this! Aren’t I heavy?” I ask uncertainly, he only grins and chuckles.
“Of course not my little angel, you’re light as a feather!” he exclaims, pulling me in and pressing his lips against my forehead as a loud ‘smack’ echoes the room. Finally he puts me down, patting my head lovingly, his face going serious. He gets down on one knee, so we see eye to eye. “Now, you go and take care of your mother ok? I want you to let her know how much you love her, and I’ll see you later ok? I promise you, I will come back home and we are going to go on a vacation.” I tilt my head at this, stunned by the sound of this new word. “You know what a vacation is?” he asked me as I shake my head violently. “Well sweetie, it’s when we go somewhere really fun as a family you see. We can go anywhere you want! We could go to an amusement park, a cruise, an airplane, or the beach?” My eyes grow wide at the sound of the last place. My facial reactions never seem to slip on by his way of judgment. He knew he had picked my curiosity just by how I reacted.
He chuckled, “The beach it is then. Your mother and I will take you there when I come back, you and Jacob and little Miss Jeannette, and you are all going to love it. There are these things called waves that go up and down, climbing up the sandy ground. We’ll all build some sandcastles and go swimming in the salty water!”
“Salty water?!” I exclaim, mesmerized by the description of this place called the beach. I can already picture it, the breathing water climbing up to my toes, buried in the hot sand, and Mommy and Daddy coming in to lift me in the air and toss me into the cool water. I would secretly taste this water whenever I wade in, really wanting to see if it was actually salty, and then I’d ask Jacob to take me the deeper end and we could go underwater to search for some fish. The idea sounds exciting, and I can hardly wait.
“Yes! The saltiest water you’ll ever swim in! It’ll be an adventure!” He becomes excited at the sound of this and goes in for another suffocating hug leaving me crying for several “mercy!” and “can’t breathe!” cries. Then he lets go, and bids me farewell, wishing me luck and to look after the crew while he was gone.
I leap through the door leading to the garage excitedly and jump into the little blue Smart car my mom had treasured for several years. When I’m buckled in, the garage door opens with a low hum, and blinding light comes into the room, making me and Momma squint. She looks at me through the rearview mirror, her sunflower eyes catching the reflection of the sun, causing them to glow, her lips widen to a dazzling smile at the sight of my wondrous plain brown eyes. I start to wonder if she saw the glint that made them special.
“Ok everyone! Let’s go have some fun!” she says in her mothering tone, hiding away any hint of anger or sadness from the heated debate. We’re backing out, off the driveway, and onto our neighborhood street. It’s a beautiful day, and several people were out about their afternoon stroll. When we drive down the area, every once in a while, a familiar face would give us a brief wave and a pleasant smile, and every time, I’d return the favor. Jacob was busy with Jeannette, making funny faces at her and getting her to laugh. I admired his brotherly skills and wished I could use my sisterly skills to make her laugh too, but of course, I was bad at that sort of thing.
The ride was soothing, mom was a safe driver, and we were never worried of getting into a car accident. Any car Mom drives was accident free, well, perhaps when it came to babies and food it was a different story, but driving wise, it was all safe. Despite that, I didn’t feel quite satisfied with the car ride today.
To be honest, I didn’t really want to go to Aunt Jenny’s. Not because it was far away, or the fact she gave us too many kisses and considered all of us as two year olds, even Jacob. Jeannette didn’t mind as much. With the last few words dad had told me, all I could think about was the beach and vacation. How amazing that trip sounded, and how far away it seemed!
“So Xing, you look very excited about something? What’s up? Did your father say something to you?” my mother’s melodic voice draws my attention, looking at me through the rearview mirror. I grin, nodding my head profusely.
“Do you really think we’re all going to the beach when Papa comes home?” I ask, sitting tall, waiting for her response. Her eyes dim to a gloomier color, but she maintains her perfect smile, eyeing back to the open road.
“Sure, that sounds fun! Has Daddy told you about the beach?” she asks back. I nod enthusiastically.
“He says the water is salty! Is that really true? The lakes and ponds we went to weren’t salty. Can we drink it?” I watch as she falls into little hiccups of laughter, Jacob was chuckling too, ruffling my hair with one of free hands. Jeannette fell into a series of soft murmurs, tugging on Jacob’s other hand, demanding to have back his full attention. I raise an eyebrow, curious as to what was so humorous about my question.
“That, my dear Xing, is probably not a good idea,” she says, recovering from her laughs, “The Ocean has sea creatures living in it, so the water may not taste very good. But yes, the water is very salty, so be sure to not open your eyes in it. It can be a bit painful. Nonetheless, we are going to have a wonderful time there, I can tell you that.”
I furrow my eyes in untrustworthy suspicion. “Cross your heart and hope to die?” She chuckles.
“Cross my heart and hope to die.”