I started to sit down on a lone chair set outside one of the classrooms but Luz motioned with her head upwards.
A few of the overhead monitors were still on. A red dot followed everyone’s moment. You never could be too careful. All it took was one slip for the elders to come and take you away like they did Papi so long ago.
Screams resurfaced. Mami pleading for the elders to leave us, that it was all a terrible mistake.
I pushed the image aside. I couldn’t go there or I feared I’d ruin everything including bringing more shame to Mami. That should be enough to silence the whispers in my mind. It was bad enough Xochil did that with her questionable nocturnal activities that involved disrupting anything that had to do with being the ‘perfect’ follower of El Padre.
I followed Luz to the far end of the auditorium. We passed only a few others, nodding at them in passing.
Luz pointed to a darkened corner.
I sat down on a chair and waited.
She hauled out a paper, smoothing out the wrinkles. I strained to see it in the darkened corner. A small sketch of something caught my eye. I leaned in closer. Sure enough a small bird stared back, teasing me with hints of something but what? I racked my brain but I couldn’t finger out why the design felt so familiar.
The sound of footsteps grew close. Luz pulled the paper away, her hand covering the sketch.
Even after she withdrew the paper, the image on it burned in my mind. I’d seen that bird before somewhere.
Dios, Mio. Xochil’s tat. A similar design had also been on a few pamphlets she and her friends had scattered around before one of our required youth meetings. No, I couldn’t believe this nonsense and refused to be a part of any of it.
I waited till a couple people left our area before leaning toward Luz. She fingered her vidcom. It trembled in her hands.
CHILD OF LIGHT
“Robbie……” I started and took a step forward, but he turned on me and gave me a look I had never seen before, at once a warning and command: STAY BACK! He scared me a little and I stepped back. He turned back, raised his face into the sun again, and I saw how the sunlight danced on his hair, the blond curls now grown out again, the sun turning them nearly white, like a halo resting on his head.
He began to chant again, stretching his arms up and outward, his voice certainly unlike anything I had ever heard from my little brother. Loud, commanding, powerful. I sat down in a corner, half frightened, half moved. For the first time I knew that my brother was really a king.
The chanting went on, at times so beautiful, so powerful that I found myself in tears.
Then, abruptly, Mom’s voice broke in, abrasive, shouting, “What in God’s name…………?” I heard her footsteps flying up the stairs. I leaped to my feet, met her at the door, tried to prevent her from entering the room.
“WHAT have you done?” she screamed at me. ‘Have you NO shame whatsoever?”
“Mom….” I began but she got right up in my face and then she slapped me so hard I fell backwards. Whirling into the room, she grabbed Robbie by the arm, yelling at him to GET OUT. Interrupted in his chanting, he turned toward her, still with that look on his face of warning, of danger, on his face, but then he stopped, his face softening.
“Mommy,” he said softly, touched her on the shoulder, disengaged himself from her grasp, and walked past us both and out of the room. I was still cowering in the corner. She came at me again, shaking with rage, but her voice broke into tears.
“How COULD you? Haven’t you done enough to torment me?!”
I sank to the floor. It was some time, after she left, before I myself could exit the room and go to find Robbie again.
Trying to see past the gloom, Doodle Dog squinted and squinted some more and soon the pencil came into focus. Then, from around the bright yellow pencil, came floating two little white fluffy balls of dust, hopping toward the floppy-eared puppy. Doodle Dog was more curious than afraid as he eyed the tiny spheres of fuzz wafting his way. The dust bunnies hopped happily along from the edge of the pencil to the side of the bookcase leg to the puppy’s paws to the stack of books piled neatly just outside their shade-covered home.
Doodle Dog turned one floppy ear curiously to listen as the dust bunnies began to tell him of the great adventures in the storybooks stacked neatly there. They chattered about the fast ships sailed by explorers and the grand castles ruled by adventurers. Doodle Dog knew some of the stories, but others he’d never heard before. Then to his amusement they chattered about all the things they hear living under the bookcase in the office. What an interesting life they must have! Doodle Dog always wondered what the walls would say if they could talk, and the dust bunnies were even better than the walls – if they were bored all they had to do was take a ride on someone’s shoe, paw, or a particularly intriguing gust of wind to take a new journey. Doodle Dog was so very much entertained that he quite forgot he had been sort-of-stuck.
Brandy already had her music blaring into her head phones, with her hands above her head swerving back and forth to the beat when I pounced in the back seat behind her. The drive, on dirty, gravel, and narrow roads was long and boring and stupid. So, I slept.
And that was the first time I dreamed about her.
2 (THE DREAM)
I don’t know what you would call the noises. Shooshing. Shooshing sounds. That’s what I would call them, swirling all around me. My neck should have hurt from snapping it left and right, trying to see who was making them. But, it didn’t. I couldn’t feel much of my body. Smoke filled the air on all sides of me. It should have smelled like smoke, but it didn’t. It didn’t smell like anything.
I moved about slowly, cautiously, without feeling in my legs or feet. It was like I was there, but kind of not too. I noticed an area about five feet wide where the smoke moved as water, swirling and rippling. As I approached it, its form changed to water. It looked like water, sounded like rippling water, but my hand seemed to pass right through it, like it really wasn’t there either. I pulled my hand back out. Nothing. Not wet. Just…my hand, nothing else.
That’s when I saw her. Spiraling in the ripples of the so-called water, appeared a face, pale and gentle, with thick, long blonde hair as a frame. Her brown eyes sparkled and the skin around them, appeared slightly darker than the rest of her face. Her lips, pink and pulled back in a thin line, somehow looked out of place on the pale canvas. She held her chin low as an expression, tenuous and almost scared, stared back at me, studying me.
BEYOND THE GOLDEN GATE
Later during the day, as they made a stop to eat, they heard what Yawa could only identify as gun shots in the far distance followed by the sound of birds flying off and animals getting restless. That was pretty normal even if it was a bit unnerving. If her captor was worried he didn't show any sign of it except when they were back on their way Yawa thought the elephant was going a bit faster than in the morning. Her stomach growled. Maybe it was time she took the food he’s been offering her. If he was going to hurt her and kill her it probably should’ve happened by now. She considered breaking her silence then decided against it.
So far the terrain had been even, going green after green. For a little while she forgot about her current situation and became absorbed in her surroundings. If they had normal food and TV maybe she would reconsider wanting to go home.
“Hah,” the boy said suddenly.
Yawa had to hold onto her saddle not to fall off the elephant.