Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Strange Tongue (Part 2 of 3)

Beneath the table, I press my hands into fists and those against my thighs. I don’t know what I’ll do if this hasn’t worked.

I take a slow breath and in a shallow voice, I ask, “Mom?”

Vertical lines etch into the skin above his nose as the frown deepens. Slowly, his eyes meet mine. He squints.

“Alan?” The voice is soft, surprised, but still unmistakably David’s and I realize that if the powder didn’t work, he’s going to think I’ve lost my mind.

“Yes,” I say, trying to sound casual. “It’s me.”

David’s eyes swoop around the coffee shop, taking it all in before returning to me. “What have you done?”

There is no mistaking that tone, even in David’s nasally voice. I let out the breath I’ve been holding. “Mom.”

She – he grabs my face, turns it roughly from side to side. “This is real? You’re, I’m here? With you?”

“Yes, but I don’t think we have much time.”

“I shouldn’t be here.” She looks down at her chest – David’s chest, lifts his hands and studies them. This time her voice is full of horror when she asks. “What have you done, Alan?”

I’m struck by the surrealness of seeing my mom’s expression interpreted by David’s face. He looks twenty years older, but also like David, at the same time. For a moment all I can do is watch David’s mouth twist into my mother’s. It would be funny if it wasn’t so scary.

“I needed to talk to you.” Hearing the words out loud, I realize how pathetic they are. I ripped open the veil, pulled my mom out of wherever she was, and forced her to possess a slightly annoying, but totally innocent college student who just wanted to study for his o chem midterm. I don’t even know what happened to David. I never thought to ask. Is he in limbo? Can he see us right now? Does he know what I’ve done?

The fury on his face is all Mom. “You promised.”

“I know but—”

“No.” She/he leans forward and speaks low through gritted teeth. “No magic. Ever. It’s too dangerous.”

I put my hands flat on the tabletop and brace myself for what I have to say next. “Something’s happening to me.” How could I tell her about the dreams? How ever since she died, there's this hunger building inside me. How almost every night now I dreamt of flames, and screams. Horrific scenes of people begging for their lives as they burned to death while I laughed, a delicious power surging through me, filling me up the way no meal ever could. And worst of all, it was me who set them all on fire. “I need to know about my father.”

David’s face contorts with rage. The words spew out of his mouth in one angry stream. “I did not spend every ounce of my lifeforce shielding you from his influence just so you could seek him out the moment I was gone.”

I jerk back, her words a slap to my face. “What?”

No. Mom had cancer. It ate away at her. The potions she drank were for healing. But I remember the name of the recipe – Soul Saver. The way she was always running her hand through my hair just before she mixed up a new batch.

“Alan,” she grabs my hand with both of hers. Her mouth is open, but no more words come out.

“Hey lovebirds,” a man’s voice shouts from behind me. “You think I can get some coffee?”

I turn around to see the counter is empty. Kris must’ve gone on her break. A red-faced man glares at me, taking a moment to glance pointedly at my hand in David’s before crossing his arms and making what I’m sure he thinks is a hilarious joke. “If you’re done gazing into your boyfriend’s eyes, maybe you can come take my order.”

A few of the other customers laugh and I feel my face get hot even though he’s got it wrong and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to hold my boyfriend’s hand in public, anyway. If I had one. “Sorry, sir.”

I choose a pace somewhere between walking and running. I don’t want him to think I’m rushing for him, but I don’t know how much more time I have with Mom. And I don’t want to be anywhere near David when she leaves.

I feel Mom’s eyes on me as I hurry through making the man’s triple espresso.

“You know, I don’t have a problem with you guys,” the man says when I hand him his change. “Just keep it on your own time. This is a place of business.”

“Yes, sir,” I say, and the hunger flares in me. I would love to watch this idiot burn.

I shove the fantasy aside and sit back down across from Mom. She’s doing that thing she used to do where it’s like she’s looking inside me, like she can read my thoughts. It’s unnerving to see that knowing look on David’s face.

“You’ve changed.”

I almost laugh. She has no idea. “I know. Tell me what you meant about my father.”

David’s eyes fill with tears and I’m amazed that his body reacts to my mom’s emotions. She’s really in there.

“I thought I could protect you. I thought if I raised you right, you’d never need to know.”

“Mom, please.”

She nods her head quickly and wipes her eyes. She takes a deep breath and spits it out. “Your father was a demon.”

The sights and sounds of the café fade away until there is only the word “demon” echoing in my brain, and David’s tear-streaked face pleading with me. And I know in my gut that she’s telling the truth. This isn’t some nightmare, or a sick joke. My father was a demon, and so am I.

David/Mom wraps his arms around his stomach and gasps. “I have to go.”

“Wait!” I say, too loud, but I don’t care.

“Be careful.” David’s body hunches over the table. The muscles in his face strain and push against each other as my mom fights for her last words. “Now that you know, he’ll find you.”

David’s eyes roll up as he collapses face first into his notes.

She’s gone.

Come back Friday for part 3 by Lacey!

Photo by Jayeb333 via Flickr Creative Commons

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