Leon lay on the grass in the dark of the night, his brown eyes bright like the stars in the heavens.
"Leon!" Hanna called, "Leon, come inside right now!"
Leon didn't even look towards the voice; the stars were too beautiful to leave. A door slammed and Leon once again lay in peace on the lonely hillside. His brown eyes saw the stars like no other boy ever saw them. He wasn't sure why, but somehow he could see more in the skies than everyone else.
"Look at that." He told his father when he was little, "look at the funny pink star."
His father had just laughed. "You have a good imagination my boy."
Leon closed his eyes for a moment. Remembering the things that took place. No one ever believed what he said, but he knew it was true. Everything in his very being told him that what he saw was truth.
The stars above him twinkle happily. It was as if he could read their thoughts and they could read his. Sometimes he could just lay there, with his eyes closed, not even looking at them, but simply feeling them.
The odd thing was that during the winter, he was to scared to look at the stars. Something black and evil would stare down at him. Something darker than death herself. A chill flowed up his spine even as he thought about it.
He supposed it was a black hole. But its name didn't mean much because it didn't have one. Not like the other stars anyway. They each had a name, and they all told him their names. But the hole, all it did was draw breath as if it was trying to scream one last time, but never could. It was sad. Too sad.
Leon sat up and rubbed his neck. It hurt just a tiny bit. It was fall and with the black hole coming closer and closer every night... He sighed. "Try not to think about it."
"We know," the voices came to him. "We know of the black hole, and that is what we all must go."
"But why?" he remembered asking time and again. "Why must you scream forever."
They only laughed at him. "You are young," they sang, "One day you will understand."
"But I'll never be as old as you. Never!" He felt anger in his eyes as he ran down the hill, and into the cluttered house below.
"Leon," Hanna asked. Are you all right?'
"Yes mother." he said.
She did worry about him, and she tried to understand the things he said, but it was hard, too hard. Sometimes he would be sent home from school, with a note about what he did, saying that he ought to see a psychiatrist. Usually it was something simple like glue a page together in his book, claiming it was too frightening and evil to look at.
His mother saw one of theses, so to speak, frightening pictures once. And saw why. It was like a misshapen black hole with bright colors around it. It had the caption of being Fractal Geometry. Something in the mandelbrot series. Well, it was just like the blackness he saw. When she was a child, she remembered that something similar had happened to her. But note nearly as frightening.
"Mother." Leon called.
"What is it," she went to him. She was always frightened for him, and she wasn't sure why, it not as if his was a weakling, on the contrary, he was one of the strongest people in his grade, and stranger than some of the older children too.
Leon had his window opened as usual, she had long tried to stop the window from being opened. He never caught a cold, and what was really odd, was that he never caught anything for that matter. She couldn't remember a day when he was ill. Sometimes, just sometimes she would wonder how he was or who he would become. She could see it in the way he walked or the way he spoke. He was very smart, and very strange, but for some reason he covered it all with mad stories about things that people were to scared to do anything but laugh at.
"Mother," his voice said. "Do you think there is a God?"
She sighed. Sometimes his questions were too hard. "I don't know," she said. "How can I know? I am only a human."
He sat up in his bed. His brown eyes twinkling in a kind of strange excitement. "That is the point mother, how can we, mere mortals know anything?" He lay back into his bed, and for a moment she wanted to ask him, what is the answer, is there God, is there hope? But she left the room, staring at is smiling face in the darkness and the wind blowing through his hair like a kiss. Suddenly she was angry. She couldn't help being angry. If he knew why didn't he tell. Why did he hog it al for himself?
Leon could almost read his mothers thoughts as she left the room. "Don't worry," he whispered, one day you will remember.
"Yes," one of the stars whispered in his ears, and "one day you will know".
Then he heard the silence of the night, the silence that was chillingly like the black hole, sucking in all life eating away at noise. Does it come out the other side as very loud he wondered. He stood up, closed the window and went to sleep.
The sun came up bright and happy the next morning. Leon yawned and listened to the shine. The he gasped. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. It was not something as simple as a cracked board or even a plague. The chill ran down his spine. He lay back down. At first he considered it might be the black hole, but it was more than that.
"Leon," his mother came in, she looked pale and worn.
"What wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing," she snapped. "Why aren't you ready for school? It was unusual for him to stay in bed.
He sat up and smiled, but it was an artificial smile. "I was just thinking mother."
"Yes, well, you are always thinking," she said, "now hurry up or you'll be late." She turned her back to leave, but sneaked a look back to see if he was moving yet. She covered her hand with her mouth trying to suppress a gasp of fear. He had his eyes closed, and a frown on his face. He looked pale and was shivering slightly. He opened his eyes and saw her.
"Don't worry mother," he said, his voice very soft. His hand went to his head and he fell back, groaning. She came over to him.
"Leon?" she asked. "What is wrong. You've never been sick before."
"I just need rest," he gasped. His heart was pounding in his chest. "I'll be fine after I get some rest." He closed his eyes.
She closed his opened window and ran her hand over his head. It was cool, cooler than it ought to be. She left the room, hoping that it was only something normal, after all you can't expect a child to go all their life without even catching a cold, can you?
She sighed and called the school. "He won't be into day," she said. "He isn't feeling well"
"Noo!" Leon screamed at the darkness filling his mind. "No!" Lights were flickering. It is only a dream he kept trying to tell himself. But he knew it was more. Much more. Something laughed in the dark. He dogged it with his mind and it laughed. The stars were crying out.
"What is it?" he would shout over and over. It was not that they wouldn't answer, but they couldn't. There wasn't a silence, it was more a din, stars groaning in an un-symphony. "No!" he cried again.
His mother got the newspaper. She opened it up, ready to throw it away, when she saw the from picture. The paper flew to the floor as she screamed softly. The from picture was black, not just a dark picture, but it was not a picture, it was a blackness. She took the newspaper into Leon's room and shook his shoulder.
"Leon," she whispered, "Leon, you have to look at this."
He groaned in his sleep and finally opened his eyes. "What?" he asked. "What?"
"Leon, you have to look at this; something is wrong."
"I know," he whispered, "something is wrong with the universe."
"Look," she said. She gave him the newspaper.
He opened it up and screamed. She had never heard him scream before and it was terrible. She took the paper laying on the bed. He screamed and screamed, not even bothering to take breath. How he did that, she didn't know, but he always had done many things without her knowing how he did them. All that mattered was that he did. Finally he stopped screaming and she went into the room. He was laying with his eyes closed but he talked when she came in.
"Mother," he said. "I have to save them."
"Who?" she asked.
"II have to save all of them --I'm sorry."
She had a sudden fear that he was saying that he was dying. But as usual he read her thoughts and said, "no mother I am not dying I am changing. Look, closed the shades and look..."
She did as he asked. His skin was glowing, it was not very bright, but it was the reason he was pale.
"See mother it will all be over soon."
"What are you changing into?" she asked, "a star?"
His face wrinkled up and for a moment she thought he was going to cry, but instead he laughed. He laughed and laughed until tears came out of his eyes.
"A star," he said, "you think I'm turning into a star?"
"Well," she said, "yes."
He fell onto his back roaring with laughter that filled the house.
"A black hole?" she asked.
That stopped his laughing he stared at her, his eyes wide. "You'll know soon." He said. "You'll know."
She left. Surprised that she had put up with him so long. But then again, she was her son, her only child. Leon really didn't know what he was changing into.
Leon lay in his bed, trembling. He had to save them! He felt his skin changing, his mind shrinking. Fear shook his bones, stretching itself into his mind, turning his heart cold and small. Winning over his goodness, over his hope to save them. He couldn't he would rather die than face the blackness. He thought about the blackness, its evilness, and it was pulling him, sucking his soul into its depths.
"Face your fear, don't let it take you over!" a beautiful harmonic voice yelled. "Have courage!"
Leon shuttered, wanting to be free, wanting to have hope.
"You don't have to face your fears alone," a voice whispered. "I am here."
"Who are you?" Leon asked, his mind reaching out to the warmth in the voice. The blackness sank into the background, he only felt the warmth.
"I am who I will be," the voice rumbled. "I am your light, I am your defender. It is not wrong to be frightened. But let me be your strength."
"Yes," he whispered, giving his heart to the master, "it is yours, you are my strength." And then, off he went to face his worst fear.
He was surrounded in blackness, a blackness that went forever. He kept his eyes closed, not able to look at the world. Then, he felt something, something pulling him inside the blackness, through the thick wetness and into the world of darkness.
Leon was on the coldest night of the decade, the last day of a long year. Jana cried as she gave birth. Leon heard the cry, and knew it was him who had made her cry, knew what this world was, knew its darkness, so he screamed. He screamed because when he opened his mouth, cold black air he never knew existed rushed into his lungs. He could feel it's cold icy fingers tickling his tiny ribs.
"No!" he screamed, "Put me back, I want to go home, I can't save anything!" But his cry was soft, his voice to young and raw to change the world.
"It's a boy!" he heard a voice yell. The world moved all around him, smells, sounds, air, so different from what he was used to, so cold and harsh compared to the quiet harmony of the stars.
"Oh, isn't he a cutie," said a soft voice.
"Let Aunt Audry hold him for a moment" said another voice that shook and roared. He felt himself passing from arm to arm, then suddenly he took a breath of foul smelling air and shuttered. It was strong, terrible and filed his nostrils. The arms that held him were wrong, they pulled at him mind, they pulled at his soul, killing the warmth and brightness inside him. He screamed, closing his eyes against the darkness, against the stench.
"He's a little thin, but we can change that," the voice cackled.
"Please, let me go home!" his cried said, "leave me alone!" But no one understood him. So alone, so cold, so strange. He screamed again, his throat feeling dry and sour from all the work it had done. Suddenly he found himself pressed against something almost familiar, something soft. Skin that he knew only because it pounded the same perfect rhythm of a pulsar star.
Then there was something sweet like honey and milk in his mouth. He closed his eyes, letting himself fall into the sweetness, forgetting everything he ever knew.
"Mommy!" Leon shouted, a filthy toy cat pulled tight to his chest, "Mommy!"
"Leon," he could hear her voice even before she swung the door open. "What! Is something wrong with you?" his mother asked. "Can't you be good for even a few minuets? "
"Mommy," he squeaked loudly, excuses flowing thought his young mind. He looked down at the toy stuffed cat in his arms and held it up. "Look!" Gucky's eye is falling off again, can you fix it?" He shook the cat, making the eye shake and wiggle like a jumping bean.
Jana wanted to slap him for calling her to his room for nothing. But if she did that he would really cry so, she walked over to him and took the cat from his outstretched hand. The left black button-eye was hanging by a thread or two, but she said nothing. Jana threw Gucky back to the bed, glancing disgustedly at Leon. "You're a five year old boy for crying out loud!" she complained. "Gucky is just a stupid stuffed animal!" He just stared at her with that soft baby face that pleaded for love. His soft cheeks wetting with useless tears. Gucky wasn't stupid. He was his friend, couldn't she see that? Gucky knew that he wasn't really her son, Gucky knew that he was somehow special.
Jana glared at him, her eyes burning like coal. How could he be so....bothersome? Gucky wouldn't get him out of this one, so Leon frowned and opened his brown eyes until they watered. "I'm, scared, Mommy," he whined, a tear starting to slid down his face. "Can't I go outside? Can't I go look at the moon?"
Jana stood looking at him, she didn't walk towards him with a soft smile or a soft hug. She didn't wipe his eyes of tell him to blow his runny nose like most mothers would. She didn't tell him not to worry or that there was no reason to cry or be afraid, instead, she scolded him. She knew all his tricks.
"Leon, you're to little, and you cry too much." Couldn't he see how ridiculous and obvious he was? Didn't he know that she was trying to help him? Make him normal so he could survive?
Leon heard her words for what they were, an accusation. Was it really his fault, his curse? "But Mommy, I'm always good!" Leon started. He wasn't stupid or clumsy, he hadn't done anything---!
"Leon," Jana had to growl over his whine, "right now, you take a nap and shut up so I can finish having tea with Aunt Audry."
Leon shuttered at the words. "She's not my aunt" he whispered, she's not!"
"What did you say?" Jana asked. Leon stared at the floor, his eyes closed, his hands shaking. Jana frowned at his silliness. How could he be so terrified of Audry? She knew everybody, she saw every child within an hour of birth. She loves everyone, didn't she? When she was little she remembered...no. she shook her head, it was silliness, and a five year old was not going to bring it back. If he didn't want to see Aunt Audry or be polite to her, then he would stay in his room until he learned.
"I'm not silly" Lean complained, reading her thoughts. "I know there's something bad."
Jana sighed. He was always so difficult, he always wanted to look at the moon, and tell you he was right, just like his father... Right now it didn't actually matter what he did, as long as he didn't make any noise. "Fine, you can play, but for heaven's sake, be quiet, and stay in your room."
"Okay, but I still wish you'd make Aunt Audry go away." Leon stuck out his lower lip, wishing things that his mother didn't want him to wish.
"Leon, if you're going to pout, then get into bed right now." Jana had been in his room at least a couple minutes, and Audry wasn't going to like that. She was a little scared of her, but then who wasn't, a little fear helps people learn respect.
Leon turned his face away from his mother, trying to keep his tears from falling. Why couldn't she see that Aunt Audry was some sort of terrible monster in disguise? He tried to be brave. "I'll be good," he whispered. If it was a game, his mother had won.
"You'd better be," Jana grumbled before closing his door, leaving him alone in the room.
Leon lay on his bed, trying so hard not to cry. "No one loves me. Everyone hates me," he muttered unhappily. He was angry with his mother for ignoring him, for thinking his fears were silly when she understood them. He was angry because she hadn't helped him fix Gucky's eye. He was angry because no one ever explained why. "I with I knew why I was here," he whispered to his only friend. His only friend who really was loosing an eye.
Leon let his short legs take him across the room, to the door. He left the door open so no one would think he was doing anything wrong. "Let them see how good I am," he thought.
So he lay on his bed, closed his eyes, and thought. That's what he knew best. With his eyes closed the world was different. It was a world where everything shined like silvery stars. The water glistened and the birds sparkled, but for some reason he could never see any people, just stars.
He pressed his hands onto his eyes until stars of color rotated around him. Then he was falling, falling towards the perfect world made of silver stars and golden suns.
"Lee-on," a voice from the kitchen broke into his dreams of light. Leon let his hands fall to his side and kept his eyes closed, pretending to be asleep.
"Leon, come here!" Jana's the voice insisted from a distance. He stood up, slid of his bed, skipped out of the room, and walked to the kitchen. Then he saw HER. He forgot she was visiting today. His small heart pounded in his chest and he tried not to tremble in her presence. He stared at the floor, trying not to run or show his fear.
"Leon!" it was his mother's voice. Jana could see Leon's hands tremble at his sides, she could feel his fear, and felt sorry for him, sorry that he had to be so little. He had to get over it, he had to grow up and Audry could help fix that. "Aunt Audry wants you to go with her to the park. Do you want to go to the park?"
Leon shook his head vigorously, seeing the dull tiled floor twist as he shook. He could never look at HER. Maybe it was something about the way her face wrinkles went forever deeper and down, or maybe the way she smelled that made him want to scream.
"What was that?" Jana asked, ignoring his silent answer. "Don't you want to go to the park?" She had to make him learn respect. Audry couldn't be what he thought, could she? Audry was a little strict, but he had to learn to respect her, to fear her the right way. Tonight maybe Leon would understand how silly he was for fearing an old lady.
"No," he said, taking a step back, knowing what his mother was thinking. "No!" If he went with her...it was to terrifying to think about.
Jana shot aunt Audry an "I'm-sorry-I-don't-know-why-he-acts-like-this look and grabbed Leon's arm.
"Leon, aunt Audry really wants to spend time with you."
Leon looked into his mother eyes silently pleading with her. Didn't she care about the tears he was holding back, or the way his heart pounded, making him pant.
"No, I won't go!" Leon shrieked. He stamped his foot and screamed as loud as his little voice could.
Jana grit her teeth and let out some breath. He was embarrassing her in front of Audry. Jana was not going to put up with it. She grabbed his arm roughly. "I'm sorry about this Audry, you won't have to wait much longer."
Audry smiled, and from the corner of his eyes Leon saw her face cracking like black cement. He pulled back, kicking, but Jana held him so tight that it hurt to struggle. She forced him into the back of aunt Audry's old black car, turned her back and went inside. Now there was nothing he could do but scream, and suddenly he was to scared to do that.
Audry got into the car and drove for what seemed like eternity. Leon tried to keep his eyes closed, tried to think, remember the sparkling stars and their land where everything was pretty, but he couldn't. It was as if she took the light away, as if she swallowed it up by just being there. The smell blocked his imagination, and all he could so was stare out the window and shiver.
Suddenly he realized they were not going to the park. With Mommy it only took a few minuets to get there, so something was wrong. But Leon didn't say a word. Aunt Audry was the scariest person he had ever seen, and he was going to ignore her and whatever she did.
By the time the car stopped, the city was nothing but a shadow in the distance, and instead of cement, there was grass as far as he could see; not green grass that blew in the wind, but short brown ugly grass that hurt your feet if you ran barefoot on it. It was as if the life had been sucked away from it.
"This is where I live," Audry told Leon. "You are going to love it." It was more a command than a statement. Leon unhooked his seat belt, opened the door and hid behind the car. He would not be nice to this lady--if she was a lady. No he wouldn't!
"Come in and I'll give you some nice yum-yum food, you little brat" Audry coaxed.
Leon shook his head, still trying not to look at her. He didn't want to eat her food or be at her house. But his rumbling stomach gave him away.
"See," she said, "'I know you're hungry. come in." Leon lifted his head, staring her in the eye for the first time in his life. He was angry, and defiance showed in his face.
Aunt Audry's face went white with anger, her eyes suddenly yellow like a snake. "You will come with me!"
Leon took a step back, not able to take his eyes from her terrifying gaze. Her eyes were black. They were dark, cold, as if they wanted to swallow him into them. They weren't even round. They reminded him of something terrible, something he didn't want to remember.
She came towards him and he couldn't move. His muscles seemed to have frozen, and he fainted. she grabbed him like a sack of potatoes, as if he weighed nothing, and carried him all the way into the house, dropping him roughly onto an old yellow-brown musty sofa.
"I can see your mother's too soft on you" she said as he opened his eyes slowly. "Well, at my house, you will behave! You will sit in the living room, with your arms folded in your lap until I come and tell you it is time to eat. Then you will sit with me, eat your food--with no complaining and go to bed. If you complain, you will have no supper and go straight to bed."
Leon sat up slowly, still shaking with fear. There was nothing he could do, nothing. He was too scared to do anything buy obey.
"What was that?" she said,
"O--okay" he said, his voice shaking.
"No, that is not the way you speak to your elders. you are to say Yes ma'am. you have to say that." She demanded
"Yes ma'am" he said, hearing dissonance like a thousand demons screeching in her words.
She smiled again, he saw it even when he wasn't looking. Then she left, but her terrible smell stayed with him, watching his every move, keeping him from seeing stars, keeping him from remembering the light world, but filling him with fear. (is this what happened to the mother?)
Supper was silent, she didn't say anything even when Leon swung his feet under the big oak chair she made him sit in. It was boring, and nothing happened, she didn't eat him, she didn't lock him anywhere or hurt him... maybe she wasn't as bad as he thought. maybe it was just his imagination like his mother always said. Maybe there really was no such thing as starlight.
Audry didn't believe in dessert, so right after supper, she made him go to bed.
"I am supposed to go home," he complained. "Gucky will miss me." Gucky was important, Gucky helped him. didn't he?
Aunt Audry frowned as if confused at his words. "Don't talk back to your elders, brat" and turned off the light with a harsh click and walked into the darkness.
As soon as he couldn't hear her footsteps anymore, Leon found the small light on a table next to the bed. He reached for it, nearly knocking it over. But he couldn't stand the dark, not in HER house anyway. It was scary.
He found the switch and the light flickered on, making dark looming shadows in the room. He stared at the light, imagining that it was a star, a star brighter than all the other stars that existed. Leon relaxed enough to move and glanced cautiously at everything. The dark cream walls had flowers stenciled near the ceiling to match the flowery quilt on the bed. "Flowers!" he muttered, "but I'm a boy, not a girl!" He lay still, and nothing moved or came after him so Leon let his eyes close, his muscles relax and his fear dissipate. Sleep was almost upon him when he heard something in the other room. Something like hissing or creaking. Leon flipped the light off and lay still, trying to ignore the sound, hopping it wouldn't come near. He didn't notice how his skin had stared to glow dimly in the darkness.
But soon the creaking thundered everywhere, making Leon cover his ears with his hands. He closed his eyes tight and in his mind made things bright. The swirling silvers and gold's he watched them and danced with them until he wasn't scared. when he opened his eyes and looked around, for some reason everything was still bright and he didn't know where he was. He didn't realize that he was making everything bright, that he was glowing brighter than any light in the whole world. He wasn't in the room with flowers, and he wasn't at aunt Audry's house.
Leon didn't move. He stared, shocked. Instead of the house with furniture and nice walls, he saw he was in a cold stone room with a huge carved wooden door, on the door was carved a triangular shape, a shape that went forever into infinity, a shape with no end and no beginning.
He screamed, and the hissing stopped as suddenly as it started. Something dark, ugly, and foul, came towards him, something that ate the silver light in his mind and skin and in his eyes. He covered his eyes and screamed again.
"Shut up, brat! You are having a dream yelled aunt Audry's voice."
He lowered his hands to his side and opened his eyes. The brightness was being ripped form him, soaking into Audry as if she was a vacuum cleaner. Soon the room was lit only form the small dim lamp in the corner. He thought he had turned off that lamp. But ignored that and stared at the floor in front of where aunt Audry stood by the door, tiny particles of light still sparking towards her..
Aunt Audry came into his room. Her gaze drilled through his head, making him shiver, taking all his warmth away but he wouldn't look at her. "Fine!" she rumbled, "Sleep with the light then, I don't care! Just be quiet and sleep!" She saw his light, she had eaten it on purpose. Leon had never been able to read Audry's thoughts, but now, there was something in her head that stood out so strongly he had to see it. she did care about light-she hated it, but once she loved it...once...
Leon didn't know if he had been dreaming or not, but he couldn't stop crying "I want my Mommy," he sobbed, "I want my Mommy. "
"You can't have your Mommy now, even if you do act like a baby," aunt Audry interrupted his cries with a voice harsher than sandpaper on skin.
Then she slammed closed his door wanting Leon cry himself to asleep. But as he lay in the dim light fear eating his soul he heard a voice, so failure as if he had heard it a hundred times before. Remember Leon "I am your light, I am your defender. It is not wrong to be frightened. Let me be your strength." Leon opened his eyes and felt his warmth return, feel his live, his hope flood into him, in his mind, he saw the brightness of the stars singing somewhere far away. he couldn't see them, but they knew him, and he could feel their brightness.
"Mom, I need lunch money!" Leon yelled. "The car's already here, I need to go now!"
"Take some bread and peanut butter from the kitchen," Jana yelled from the bathroom.
Leon ran into the kitchen, carefully got two pieces of bread, the jar of peanut butter and a plastic bag. He pushed them roughly into his school bag and ran outside.
The kids in the station wagon stuck their tongues out at him as he got in. "What are you trying to do, make us late again?" Bobby asked.
He closed the door but they didn't go anywhere.
"Leon," said Miss Julie with a sigh, "Go tell your mother that I can't bring you home today, there's a game that I can't miss."
Leon reluctantly got out of the car and ran back into the house.
"Forget something again!" asked Jana, now in the kitchen.
Leon shook his head. "Miss Julie says she can't bring me home this afternoon."
"Good," said Jana. "I forgot to tell you that I was going to send someone to pick you anyway."
"Who?" Leon asked.
His mother stared at him a moment without blinking. "You'll know where when you see her," she answered.
Leon sighed. "I think Sari's older sister can probably take me..."
"No, I'm sending au....... someone.... you haven't seen in a while. Now go- and don't make everyone late again!"
"I'll try not to mom," he said and ran out the door.
The way to school was boring and tiresome. The kids hated him. Hated him because he was tall and skinny, but he didn't have friends and he didn't talk much. They called him scaredy cat and a baby, but he ignored them.
He read his book about gravity and light emissions straight through chemistry class without getting in trouble, and then ate lunch outside the library in a corner, staring at the dim cloudy sky. He looked at the book he was reading, and wondered why the sky was always cloudy. The sun must be a dim one he thought, and I wish I could see the stars again. For some reason, he knew he had seen stars, he knew what they looked like, he knew who they were. He surprised himself by thinking this.
During gym there was a dark thunderstorm and some guy passed the ball to him and missed. The basketball bounced off his head, making him see stars screaming in circles around him. Wait Leon wanted to tell them, wait, tell me why you're screaming. Leon closed his eyes and let the world spin around him.
"Hey, you alright?" Sari asked, pulling him for his spinning. "Leon?"
"I feel like I'm spinning round and round..." he said dreamily.
Sari laughed. "That's because you are!" She said.
Leon opened his eyes and realized he was bent over and spinning and there was a light spinning in his eyes. He blinked hard, several times decided he didn't feel well and walked over to the bench.
"I think I hurt my head" he said. With that he lay on the bench with his eyes opened.
"Leon, stop playing around and get up," said Mr. Clark, the coach, but Leon hardly ever heard him because he was concentrating on the lights. Every person he saw was like a star, but they were all screaming. the people weren't really screaming, but their insides were screaming.
He felt as if he was in a dream, and wanted to close his eyes but he couldn't. It never occurred to him to do anything--the screaming stars were so strange and frightening, it reminded him of something terrible and he had seen somewhere else a long time ago.
He lay on the bench until gym was over and went to the nurse. "I almost fainted," he said, "maybe I broke my skull."
"Are you dizzy? Are your ears ringing?" She asked.
He shook his head, not anymore, he didn't even have a headache. She game him an ice pack anyway, just incase.
Sari's father came instead of her sister, so he couldn't have gotten a ride even if his mother wasn't sending whoever she was sending.
He sat at the curb, waiting for what seemed like forever, thinking about the ball in gym. It must have been fake he thought. It couldn't be real. He heard a car coming and looked up.
He took a sharp breath and tried to keep his heart from pumping to fast. It was HER car coming, a dark, shadowy black car. The same one she always had as long as he could remember. Aunt Audry's car. He stood up, he would rather run home then go with her. You haven't seen her in years he told himself, stop being childish.
He could disappear to the library quick and say he had lost track of time, but she had already seen him and was parking. She got out and came over to him, pinching his cheeks as if he was a five-year old. Her face cracking in a smile at his discomfort. Still skinny as ever I see she told him.
He took a breath, trying to stop all the cold prickles fro dancing over his skin, only to breath in her terrible chocking smell.
"Come on," she said, "get in and don't make a fuss." She made it sound like he was a criminal and she was the officer.
He reluctantly got into the car and buckled in, as far away form her as he could. Why, how could his mother have asked HER to come. She lived in the country, and him mother knew hat she couldn't stand her.
"I have a surprise for you," she said, making it sound like a threat. Leon didn't say anything. Well, speak up boy she said, say something, or can't you talk yet.
"Yes ma'am," he said. Then, causiously you have a surprise....?
"Yes," she cackles, "you'll see."
Leon felt tiny, he felt as if he was five again, and wanted to scream and cry, wanted to be somewhere warm and bright, but there was nowhere in the world like that.
They weren't going to his house at all, they were going into the country, to HER house. That was the surprise.
He closed his eyes and tried to make his fear go away. He would not let her darkness take his courage. He would not let her steal his light. He hadn't been to her house since....well, since he's been very little. The car stopped with a squeal and aunt Audry got out.
"Hurry up rebellious brat," she said, "out!"
He got out of the car and stood, looking around. The same dead grass went for miles and miles, and Audry still looked as terrible as ever. Did she ever change at all? Did she ever get older?
"Come in," she said, "and wipe you feet at the door. Quickly-- no dawdling! Don't they teach you anything in that poverty stricken school of yours?"
Anger was rising inside him, rising over the fear. He didn't answer, he didn't trust himself to speak.
The aunt smiled as his flashing eyes. "Good, be mad! Scream, cry prove you're still the same stupid baby."
Leon took a breath and calmed himself. She would not control him, not with ear, and not with anger. "I have to do my homework, Aunt Audry" he said, biting out her name weakly. hoping it was an escape. Maybe he could get away.
"Fine," she sneered, "you can wait in this room and do it. When the food is ready--"
"Aunt," he interrupted. "I need to go outside for some of my homework" he said, half truthfully. They had to do a project in chemistry in a few weeks, but really, there was something else he wanted to look for--not that he would find anything outside but dead grass, but that was the point, and even if he didn't find anything, if would be better than sitting in front of the ugly terrifying pictures in her living room.
She glared at him, her eyes turning completely black for an instant. "Never interpret me again young man. I seen you mother still hasn't taught you anything."
He looked back at her, trying to hold her gaze. She seemed to enjoy his discomfort. "That's better, now--you may go outside, but when I ring the bell for supper, you must come immediately."
"Yes ma'am," he said, and he ran past her and out the door.
He stood outside the door looking around. There were no trees for miles, there weren't any puddles, or anything, just grass almost as far as he could see. He picked a direction and started walking, wandering wherever his feet took him.
The strange screaming lights he had seen inside people kept flashing in his mind. What was it, where did it come from? Am I crazy he thought?
He hadn't been paying attention, to the grass, when his foot hit something. He stopped and looked down. There was a stone there, it looked like it had once been carved, but the carved shaped was covered with dead, blackened mold. He scraped some of the dead mold off trying to see what was carved. He stopped scraping and froze. It was a never ending shape, one deeper and harsher than ever. The blackness pulled his mind into it. You could loose yourself in the patters and never find your way out. He blinked, flipping it over so he didn't have to see the shape and put it into his pocket.
Just then the bell rang, and he ran back to the house. He still didn't want to make his aunt Audry angry.
"Stop, Boy," his aunt said when he came in.
Leon stopped standing perfectly still.
"What's in your hands?" she asked.
"Nothing," Leon said truthfully.
"Liar," she accused. "Open your hands and let me see them."
He did. She barely looked at them, and shook her head. "Filthy with dirt" she said, seeing the black mold he had scraped of the carving. "You are a filthy boy, playing with dirt, now go wash and don't come until your hands are clean."
The bathroom was creepy. There was only a small mirror but the tub and sink were made from mettle that reflected everything crazily. If made his hands go into infinity as he washed.
He washed and returned to the table. Aunt was waiting for him, sitting at her place. He sat where the other place was set and waited.
Supper was uneventful, Leon felt as if the terrible and ancient pictures on the wall were watching him, but Leon ate in silence.
He doubted that he would be going home tonight, and guesses that he would spend the night, just as he had as a small child. The more he was at this place, the more he remembered about the last time he had been there, and the more he believe it to be true.
At the end of supper his aunt spoke. "You are spending the night here."
I knew it he thought. I knew it. She showed him to the room where he would sleep, it was the same room as before, flowers and all, except it was smaller than he remember it. He closed the door to the room and tried to read a library book for a while in the dim yellow light, but he really was tired, and couldn't concentrate on anything--not even on the book he was reading out clusters or stars that gave birth with bangs. Leon turned the light off and closed his eyes.
He awoke in the night and he couldn't move. He felt as if someone had frozen him, stolen his energy. He kept his eyes closed tightly, trying not to be terrified. He could imagine aunt Audrey's smile at his fear.
His eyes were closed so tightly that he started to see the silver stars and gold sun patterns. His skin again began to glow, but with his eyes closed, he never knew. It calmed him, seeing something bright, something normal. He relaxed, rolled over and opened his eyes. He was in that place again, the one that was but wasn't his aunt's house. He looked at his hands. They were glowing brightly, and his arms were glowing, he was completely lit up, as if he had light bulbs inside him. He wasn't going to be scared. He kept the light off, quietly got out of bed and walked out the door, letting the light from his skin illuminate the way.
The house was stone, it was almost a castle. It had the normal rooms he had been in normally, but it also had doors all over the walls rooms and more rooms. He walked around and didn't touch anything. Everything was still bright, and then the creaking started.
It was so loud, so terrible that he covered his ears with his hands. It was trying to make him dizzy. He stumbled, but stood still, leaning against the wall as the noise grew louder and louder, but he couldn't let the light fade, he had to concentrate but the creaking was making his legs week like water.