YODO: You only die once

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

 

Chapter 1

She called me a murderer. Under the oak tree in my friend’s backyard at 9 Hood Avenue, she found me standing over her daughter’s body. Gwendolyn died two years ago maybe three days ago or was it last week? Time was time, it came and it went and this malleable thing and my thoughts were muddled by the smell of apple blossoms. When in bloom, the apples whisked me away to 9 Hood Avenue behind the brownstone two story house under the oak tree where Gwen and I had carved our names into the trunk. The wind struck the chimes while I drew circles with blood on Gwen’s light coffee brown skin.

Through her glistening hazel eyes, I had seen my death, a very gruesome one at that, blood splashed across the manicured lawn and bulging guts thrown in front of my body. Rage and sadness left an imprint on my dead dark brown eyes and my mocha skin told the story of my death. Ten fingers around my bony neck and the broken vessels in my eyes coloured the whites of it red. She had strangled me. My lilac shirt was ripped, grass and mud stained my black tights and the silver buckles on my tall black boots were broken. I had fought back. Clumps of her straightened black hair were clutched tightly in my right hand and her thin lips were bloody. I had hurt her. The impression of her orange shiny work boot on my chest, rope burns around my wrists, burns on my arms and cuts on my bruised face. I was tortured.

Drowning in the monotony of the endless days, I had thought about it. Dying. The finality of it. The artistry it took in planning my death kept me from dying; the days seemed fuller and the nights seemed warmer. Ironic. Planning my death was what kept me alive. This though. Sprawled out across the lawn behind Gwen’s house, battered, bruised, broken and dead was not how I pictured my death. This death was not peaceful. This death was not something I designed. This is why I did it. This is why I took a knife and slit Gwen’s throat; it was quick and it was more than she ought to have had, a painless death.

She called me a murderer but in this place filled with oak picnic tables draped in red tablecloths adorned with glossy silver bowls and bright red apples, I was Bianca Elliot. The parentless dark-skinned Seer who had crossed the Seer Creek, Toronto border into Mover Rill, Toronto in search of a place to belong but soon I became the dark-skinned Seer with curly dark brown hair and questioning dark brown eyes in search of the mother who had once called this town her home. This was the restaurant where she met my father and his sister Seraphina.

Seraphina had light brown eyes with a tinge of blue in them. Like my father? Perhaps. Chubby cheeks like my father? Perhaps. Broad shoulders like my father? Perhaps. Golden brown hair like my father? Perhaps. Freckled pale skin like my father? Perhaps. Large hands like my father? Perhaps. A Seer like my father? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Seraphina was a nice woman who was unable to see the past or the future. A Thinker like my father? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Seraphina was unable to hear the thoughts of others. A human like my father? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Like most humans who wander accidentally into our world, Seraphina was out of place and like most of these humans I wondered if she would die. Seraphina was neither smart nor complex and yet what she was and thus who I was appeared to be a mystery. Had my father died in the war my mother went to fight? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

“Eat,” Seraphina said.

“Thanks.”

“I asked around,” Seraphina said.

“And?”

“Not here,” she whispered. “Meet me outside. Five minutes.”

“Wait.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” I sighed.

When my hands were glossy and red like a ripe juicy apple, it hushed the noise in Mover Rill. Like sharpened butter knives, the voices slowly tore my mind open and all the good thoughts came rushing out while pain coursed through my veins setting my nerves on fire. Stacked on top of each other, the voices were muffled yet my body responded. My body stood up then my trembling legs took me towards the front door while my soul hungered for the truth and my heart thirsted for blood. Villains did this. Beasts. They imagined death, how, when and where to enact it. It was wrong. The blood of a hero coursed through my veins and that was who I was meant to be. Perhaps? Perhaps not. Not knowing where I came from was difficult but unlike many people in Toronto I moved with the wind and though I suffered my own harsh realities I never longed for a roof over my head and food in my belly. I was lucky.

“Hey,” he said.

“Scott,” I said.

Scratching his nail against his yellowing teeth was the foul smelling older man with a shaved head and brown eyes. Apparently a long-standing friend of mom and an acquaintance of my father, Scott found me on a starless night, cold, hungry and alone. The scrawny man with the tattered blue jeans and coffee-stained white shirt regaled me with stories of a mom who left her daughter to go fight a war she had no business fighting and the father who left when the daughter was three. Those were my angry words but that was what was said to some degree. My mom was a hero and she went to fight the corruption in the Seer and Thinker communities without truly knowing who was at fault and someone betrayed her. My father. He was. He was. He was a man who left when I was three and the memory I had of him was vague. Perhaps he was kind. Perhaps not. Perhaps he loved my mom. Perhaps not. Perhaps he loved me. Perhaps not.

“Hi,” Scott said

“Not now Scott,” I said.

“Sit down.”

“Seraphina is waiting for me outside.”

“Sit down,” he said. “There are things you need to know about your mother.”

“What do I need to know?” I said.

“The whole community loved your mother.”

“What community?”

“You know the community,” Scott winked. “You. Don’t know. Your mother was an important part of the community. She was the glue and when you know we lost. Everything fell apart. She didn’t see the differences. She saw what made us the same. It was the brain.”

“I. Have no idea. What you are talking about. I have to go talk to Seraphina now.”

Scott slammed his calloused hand against the table. “It was her idea.”

“Calm down.”

“I’m sorry. It shouldn’t have been me. There was no one else. Do you remember the story?”

“Little Red Riding Hood?” I said.

“Shh. Not so loud.”

“Why?”

“Ears everywhere,” he whispered. “The story reminds us of where we come from. The essence of the story was lost. The characters though. They’re the essence of who we are.”

“I’m not following.”

“The Thinkers are divided. One part is grandma and the other part is Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolves are the wolf. The Seers can be the lumberjack or Little Red Riding Hood and the Regulars are the basket. Get it?”

“No.”

“Your mother was better at explaining these things,” he sighed.

“What things?”

“I. Miss her. I. Am.”

“Me too.”

“You need to know things,” Scott handed me a piece of paper.

“What is this?”

“Keep it safe,” Scott slapped my hand. “Don’t read it until you can get far away from the ones that can get inside your insides,” he ran away.

Melting faces. Black, white and brown hues ran towards the red concrete ground. The various hues were swirled around then the red ground swallowed the murky hue whole. Trembling legs took me to the exit without my mind’s knowledge. Cool night air, the smell of urine, garbage and stale beer. The smells that lingered next to the tavern. My nose smelled the tavern while my eyes saw the sun instead of the moon and the ground instead of the paved street.  Beyond the naked apple tree, the scorched ground was littered with bodies and apples and in the centre of the bloody graveyard there was a girl in a red hood nearly five feet tall. Splatter. Slash. Gleeful sounds that warmed the girl’s heart. Dried cracked lips, dried bloodied hands, a sinful grin, muddied wet golden brown hair, smooth glistening brown skin and hollow dark brown eyes. This was Little Red Riding Hood.

 

 

By Sonya Watson