Micah's Voice | By: Scott Mathews | | Category: Short Story - Science Fiction Bookmark and Share

Micah's Voice

-interlude- Let me just put this in a way common, regular folk can understand. Micah was retarded. To put it in a way that would medically describe his dysfunction you would use the word Autism. To put it in a way that the people who loved him used, like his mother, Micah was special. Micah was a person. He never talked. He fidgeted often. If sitting, he would sometimes rock back and forth repetitively. He stared blankly for hours if allowed. Not-so-frequently did he make eye contact with people. Micah was a large boy, not giant, just big for his age. He was eight. He liked his green sweatshirt. At least his mother thought he did. She had assumed his interest in the color green because of the way he could stare at the lawn forever. She wondered if he knew how many blades of grass were flowing in the sunny breeze. How many waving leaves were flapping on the twisting barked arms of the thick oak trees in the yards. She’d sit with him on the summer days and let him stare. It seemed like something he enjoyed. She couldn’t tell because he never showed emotion. Except frustration. She decided that when he wasn’t frantically fidgeting in an aggravated spasm, he was happy. She needed to believe he felt, even if he never really displayed it, even if she had to describe his emotions, like a mirage in her mind. He was a good boy. She saw the other special children at the therapists office. Wild maniacs, clapping or flapping there arms repeatedly. Running around in circles non-stop. Parents chasing, trying to settle them down with no result. Micah was quiet, distant. A recluse in his own body. He was born premature. She remembered when he was a baby, the awful way he’d tense up when she tried to hold him. As if it were the most unpleasant thing the poor child ever sensed. He didn’t like contact. She couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking in that silent head of his. From the blankness in his eyes you’d think nothing, but she knew better than that. She believed that Micah understood more than he allowed anyone to know, and that he saw more than just that void stare. 1 “Come on. Do it!” Said one of the boys. “Shut up! I’m trying, dumbfuck!” Said the other, “Wait,…ok…alright!” A nervous chuckle echoed. “He probably thinks it’s raining.” The urine stream had ended in a bubbling froth as it was absorbed by the mess of thick black curls on Micah’s head. The wet over-soak ran down his face like putrid, thin dripping rivers. “Ha Ha Ha!…What a stupid-ass. He’s just laying there!” He was laying there. Unresponsive, except for the tremulous shakes that were rumbling his muscles. Positioned like a feeble boy-fetus. The two older boys. The ones laughing. The ones tormenting. Were both fourteen year old assistant counselors at the Gainsville Summer Camp for Mentally Challenged Children. They were involved in a program allowing young people the chance to interact with handicapped children. Teaching and caring for them. A great learning opportunity for both sides. “Oh my god, it’s all getting in his mouth and shit, Ahahaha! How gross! Oh, sick! He’s not even moving! This dude is unreal!” “He’s not real, he can’t even talk. Ha ha! He looks like a goddamn, retarded zombie-baby!” They had been scheduled for the night watch of a small section of bunk cabins. It was a fairly large responsibility for two young assistants, but one of the older counselors had become violently ill, and they were needed, to fill in. One of the boys was, the woman who ran the camp’s, own son. The other was a friend he had dragged along. The son hated the camp. It was ultimately the reason he lost a whole week of summer. And a week of summer to a young, school-bound boy, was about the most important thing in his selfish little life. He felt it was they’re fault he was here. And he was usually mean to the special children, when there was no one around to notice, or to stop him. This was definitely the worst thing he had ever done to any one of the challenged kids though. His friend followed along as most friends do. Egging him on. It was a dare. A devilishly, mean dare. “Make sure you piss all over the bunk, so they think he’s wet the bed in the morning.” They had to do rounds, checking in on the occupants of the cabins they were responsible for. They were bored malicious boys, and craving some form of fun, something with an mischievous edge. That was how the revolting dare was born. The creeping light, from the unusually bright moon, spread out across the wooden slatted cabin floor as the old rickety door creaked open. They were loud as they entered. Laughing anxiously. There were three other autistic boys, sleeping in the cabin. They might have been awake. They were silent. Either way, the two boys knew none of them would be able to rat to the adults, being retarded and all. The two boys knew enough, to know these were the severe autistics. Some were even blind, most didn’t speak well, or at all. When the poor excuse for an assistant counselor was finishing, zipping up and fastening his belt, he took one more look at the now soaking, stained child, quivering under his wet blankets. It was said that autistics rarely looked at anyone in the eye, almost as if they didn’t understand that other people really existed. It was said that they didn’t understand that other people had an inner self or an entity soul. The boy and his friend found this out to be, not so true. Not tonight. Not as they stared at the pitiful, helpless child soaking in the wet bunk. While they took one last look, one last evil giggle, they were confronted by something that silenced them. Something that would keep them looking away from peoples eyes for awhile. As they stood, Micah turned slightly and cocked his sopping head in a way that looked like it pained him. His dark eyes met theirs. They froze silent. No more laughs, no more giggles. The color left their faces like water down the drain. There was a certain twist in Micah’s face, a strange reality in his eyes. It sent waves. The color from their faces must have ended up in their guts, and in the form of fecal guilt and nervous stinging wasps. A nauseous fear jolted each one of them. The two boys then realized Micah was a real person. And in just a look, he had made them understand how awful that they were. It was a comprehension they couldn’t bare to tolerate. “Come on let’s go.” The rotten son said. The other followed. They carried the worming shames, sliming around in they’re heads, out with them. 2 “Hey baby!” Micah’s mother was hugging him from behind, planting little kisses on his pale cheeks. With her arms wrapped around him, he was shivering, fitting, he hated the contact. “I still love you, even if you hate me for loving you, Micah.” she said. She often wondered if her special son did hate her. Because he never spoke, never showed emotion. For that, she made up emotion. And she decided that he hated her. He was always blank. Just tensing and delicately shuddering when he was touched. Closed lips. She tried to look at his eyes, force him to look at her, to see her. No matter how she looked at them, no matter what angle, she couldn’t see his focus. It was like the opposite of those Jesus pictures that are always looking at you, wherever you are in the room. Micah was the opposite, she could look right into the center of his pupils and see nothing, null like a grumpy department store mannequin. And of course he didn’t communicate. Just stared. She had come to pick him up from the camp. The counselors told her about how much he had enjoyed himself. Had such a good time. He slept in a bunk house, though they didn’t include the part about finding the two boys sneaking out, after they had drenched him in piss. He went swimming, they didn’t tell her about how he thrashed around uncomfortably in the cold lake water, as if he hated it. They put together puzzles, they didn’t tell her how remarkably fast he completed a thousand piece puzzle. They didn’t tell her because no one really noticed. Anyone who neglectfully glanced at Micah sitting quietly vacant in front of a completed master-puzzle had just assumed that one of the other counselors had ‘assisted’ him with it. This was the second time she had been able to seek therapy for Micah. And this wasn’t really therapy, more like a small time babysitters club for the mentally challenged. It was a little sketchy, and roughly organized, inexperienced adult’s directing kids to watch after special children who needed full time attention. That was why she wouldn’t be signing Micah up for the next year. The first time they had reached out for treatment, he was able to attend one session. He was diagnosed Autistic. Micah took a standard intelligence test. A test in which he scored significantly low. He was classified as having severe mental retardation. After that, the insurance fell through and they couldn’t afford the rounds of heavy payments. That was when Vincent was still alive. They had received a decent settlement from Charla’s husband, Micah’s father’s accidental death lawsuit. Vincent worked at an industrial steel plant. The building was dirty and smoggy. Rusty piping tangled across the ceiling and down the grime covered, concrete walls. There were silver shavings spread out all over the ground, like metallic cage flooring for a giant robot hamster. Noisy machines thundered and hammered constantly. Filling the already dingy air, with painfully mind-drowning vibrations. It was an unbearable echo that would remain in your head, ringing and buzzing long after the clock had been punched and the grueling work day was finally over. Vincent had operated a particular machine composed of a series of heavy rollers used to press the metal into flat thin sheets. Not that it wasn’t a dangerous job in the first place, but today the rollers were jamming, like they did almost every day. It had been occurring so often in fact, that instead of shutting down the entire sector and losing valuable production time, it had actually become standard procedure to have one person simply toggle the safety switch while the other tried to loosen the press by jumping on the rollers. It sounds reckless, but after a few years people become familiar enough with a job to use the less safe methods. Vincent had seen this solution to the roller-jamming problem used many times. He had used this solution many times. It really wasn’t a big deal. It was quicker, simpler, easier. More so than backing up the entire assembly line and waiting for the tech guys to come down for the repairs. Plus, while the tech crew fixed the machine, Vincent’s entire zone, all the workers on the presses, had to flock down to the molting sector and help out, and nobody liked the molting sector. It was smoky, hot, and it stunk like rotting sulfur. The day of the accident there was a new woman training at the plant, Glenda Devons. Vincent’s partner had gone off to use the bathroom when the rollers jammed for the second time that day, it had been getting worse lately. Glenda was walking by and Vincent had asked her for some assistance with the stubborn contraption. Being new and all, Glenda was already a little nervous. When Vincent explained the task at hand, she was a little worried about being in control of his fate. He told her it was easy, there was an off, a slow and a fast setting. If she just toggled it between off and slow there would be no problem. If she was going to work here it was something she’d have to learn anyway. She agreed to help, and Vincent hopped up on the rollers, climbing steadily without fear. “Alright, go head.” He yelled back to her. She began flipping the switch up and down with her shaky hand. It groaned and began making grinding struggles. Vincent was jumping up and down, slamming his feet down onto the problem roller. Something popped, and the roller made it’s normal cranking up sounds, as it began rolling again. Vincent was in mid-air when this happened and came down on the now active roller. He lost his footing. This wouldn’t have been a problem. All Glenda had to do was turn it off. When Vincent came down he ended up on his ass. Seeing this, caused the new girl to panic. Her hand fumbled as she tried to shut the machine down. She wasn’t familiar, she hadn’t done this enough to hardwire her brain in case of panic. Her shaky hand slipped and she turned the switch to fast, instead of off, the thing she had been telling herself over and over again not to do. Her brain made an error. Vincent was dragged under the roller, and then he was gone. Charla was crushed. After the money came, she bought a nice ranch home with some land. A place to live away. A place maybe Micah would enjoy. There was lots of green grass to stare at, lots of rustling leaves. He could stare out as far as he could ever dream of. The money would take care of them for awhile, and she could use some of it to find help for Micah. She missed her husband, dearly. Micah was the only piece of him she had left. “You ready, honey?” His mother asked. He was silent. She took his hand, he jerked it away. He always did. Unless there was a reason he wanted to move on his own accord, he wouldn’t. She usually had to force him up from where he was, by the armpits, while he wore a grumpy face and tried to wiggle away. Then he would have to be sternly guided to a destination. He had such an ugly slouch in his walk. They got to the car in the gravel lot. It was parked in a space marked with logs (for the authentic camp look. Like at the normal kids camps.) She hoisted him into the seat and strapped him in. He didn’t fight the restraints. She got into her own side and started the car. She thought he enjoyed the car rides. He never fidgeted, not even a twitch as they whet over a bumpy pot hole or the vibrating bridge separations. It was in the car that he could stare out the window for as long as the ride lasted. It was getting him out that was a small chore. As they drove Micah stared out the window, silently, and his mother stared at him. Glancing occasionally at the road. “I found a doctor for you, Micah. He’s going to try to help you.” She spoke as if she was speaking to someone who could generate a response. She spoke as if Micah was a normal conversationalist. A stupendous linguist, who would turn to her flicking useful words from his able tongue. Eyes, beaming with wonderful emotions. Teeth, shinning with wide endless smiles. She believed Micah was in there. She believed he had feelings, colorful feelings and understanding. If he wouldn’t exhibit them, she would have to imagine it for him. Even if it she thought it annoyed him. She needed it. “The appointment is for ten o’clock in the morning. Ok baby?” She patted him lightly on the arm. He shivered it off. He was still just staring out the window. She tried to look at him through the translucent reflection. He was so blank. She wanted to cry. Her empty sad son. 3 They pulled up to the long driveway beside the front yard of the ranch. She got out. When she opened Micah’s door he was still staring into nothing. She undid the buckle and tugged at him, trying to trigger him to slide out on his own. He never did. Charla pulled him up and out by his armpits and stood him on his shaky legs. He hobbled over to the weathered porch and sat, hunched on the stoop. This is where he would remain until dinner, slumped in a motionless stare. She went past him into the house. As she entered, she put her keys on the little key hook by the door. She removed her shoes and rubbed her stockinged feet on the woven floor mat. From there she walked into the living room and turned on the TV. She did this to fill the still abyss of the big silent house. Besides her, there was only Micah. It got pretty quiet sometimes. She then walked into the kitchen. It was almost seven o’clock by the tin clock hanging above the entrance opening. She waltzed over to the refrigerator and pulled out an already opened bottle of crisply chilled chardonnay. She poured a glass and put the bottle back into the fridge. She took some long sips and watched Micah through the window over the sink. He was still there, unmoved. He wasn’t motionless though, he was rocking forward and back, uneasily. Watching out into the yard, across the street, through the field, into the woods. What was he seeing in those eyes she couldn‘t help but think. He needed help; she had convinced herself. She wanted him out of that blanketed shell, that cloudy atmosphere. He’s in there, she repeated to herself a few times. He just kept rocking, backward and forth. She put the glass down and walked over to the cabinet. She pulled down a skillet and set it down on the stove burner. She twisted the knob to medium-high and went back over to the fridge. She opened the freezer door and pulled out a few frozen burger patties, then flipped them into the skillet. Then she opened the fridge side and pulled out a tomato. There was a stained oak cutting board built into the peach counter. It was next to the sink. She liked that because she could chop and watch out the window. Watch Micah while he watched nothing. She put the tomato down and began slowly cutting a few slices from it. The burgers started popping. She walked over and flipped them. Then back to the window. To celebrate his return home from the special camp; that was the reason she cooked burgers. She had come to figure it was Micah’s favorite food. He would always eat two. That was all she’d let him eat anyway, he could probably eat a hundred. He didn’t leave a scrap. He also sat blank while chewing. But she knew inside, it was his favorite. He wouldn’t fuss with it. Not like he did with peas and broccoli. “Come on baby they’re green, you like green” she’d say. He wouldn’t touch them. See, other than that, he could feed himself. That was one of the good things. He could do a few things without assistance; wash and dress. He could use the bathroom all by himself, even wipe. She thanked God for that. She had been advised not to let him do these tasks without supervision. She was told he could hurt himself. Drown. Fall and break himself. The thing was, she wanted him to become independent. To learn to keep care of himself. She wouldn’t be around forever. One day he would be completely alone. She didn’t want him to end up in some nursing home, where the orderlies would care less about him, and more about what they would do after work, with their own, more important lives. Besides he could do the things, perfectly. He had a knack for it. She showed him how to use the potty at the age of three. After the first time he could do it himself. That was better than some normal children. Same with brushing teeth, and dressing in his clothes. He wasn’t stupid or dumb. He just couldn’t show the emotion or speak the language. And he hated contact, but he never got violent, he was too reclusive. She put the juicy tomato-half away, back in the fridge, and wiped the cutting board with a paper towel. The whole time glancing out the window every chance that she didn’t need her vision for an action. She then pulled out some buns and squirted them with ketchup and mustard. She applied the tomato slices. She pulled out some plates and set the prepared buns on them. Back to flipping the sizzling burgers. She got the cheese from the fridge and opened the individual packaging, slowly, while she watched Micah rocking, from the window. She then flipped the burgers one more time and put the cheese on, so that it would melt over the frying browned meat. She took another look out the window and Micah was gone. She panicked for a moment, looking around frantically, but when she was just about to go out searching for him, she turned and saw him sitting at his table place staring off into nothing. She always panicked like this when she couldn’t directly see him. She put the burgers on the plates and served them. Micah dug right in. She turned off the stove and sat in her place at the table. “I made these burgers for you Micah, I know they’re your favorite. I love you honey.” she said to him. He just kept eating. He looked as if he was unaware of her existence all together. This always hurt her a little bit. That blank uncaring stare he wore. As much as she loved him, it frustrated her so. “Micah, don’t you even care how much I love you!” she had raised her voice. It carried tones of anger. Micah had stopped chewing. He started trembling. It was an ill scene. He dropped the burger on the plate. He slunched back in his chair, quietly shaking. He looked catatonically blank-eyed in a sort of way, except that he was shuddering, his hands cringed up. “Oh, baby I’m sorry!” she apologized, pleading him to return to his calm blank stare. She couldn’t stand to see him shaking, she knew that meant he was in pain, deep inside. He hated angry tones. Even if it wasn’t directed at him. “Baby, I love you, Micah! I love you!” she cooed, begging him to accept her apology. She had gotten up and was trying to massage his shoulders. He squirmed and twisted away. All she could do was kneel beside him and tell him she loved him over and over again. Eventually he did settle down some. His shakes growing into softly fading shivers. He didn’t even want to finish his burgers. She knew better than to become verbally loud with him. She knew that would bring on the shakes. She was just so frustrated. She loved him so much. She just wanted a response. Something to show her that he knew that. Even if he hated her, she wanted him to know; she loved him. 4 After awhile, after she had turned off the TV, after it had grown quiet, after Micah had settled to his normal emptiness, they both sat on the porch for a bit. They watched the sun go down. Since they had moved here, they had watched the sun go down together every night. It was a joy, that she felt he enjoyed. By experiencing this with him she felt like they were sharing a moment. It was part of her quest for some kind of intimacy with her son. She had missed him the last week. Without her husband around anymore, all she really had was Micah. She’d wandered out on the stoop alone. It definitely wasn’t the same. In fact it was a bleak chill near frightening. She had wandered out with a glass of wine, sipping it while she sat on the porch. The rough sandy texture of the wood was soon forgotten as the wine took slow effect. She stared up at the night stars, they were beautifully clear here in her country ranch. Against the cobalt black sky, she could almost differentiate between the colors of the twinkling lights; pale blues, whitish-yellows, bright peaches, and cinnamon reds. Their bouncing fuzzy rays reaching from the dazzling center of the plasmatic spheres. Stretching farther and extending the beams in the squinting blur of her glazed-over eyes. After her third glass, she had become sleepy. Heavy minded. She laid back, across the stained wooden planks. She just felt for the warm breeze, making it’s wistful through-way tunnel out of the long front deck. It washed over her, sweeping her hair across her face occasionally. She let herself melt away, as the breeze gently caressed her soul, mixing with her spirit until she fell asleep. She didn’t know how long she was out there. The sun wasn’t up yet. So it was some time in the middle of the dark night when she awoke. There were some peculiar cracking and crunching noises. She opened her eyes, but saw nothing. She sat up startled. A figure? A shadow? Something raced across the yard and into the woods. What the hell was that, she thought? Wolves and coyotes were known to roam around these areas, but she really couldn’t be sure what had happened. She was a little woozy still, from the wine, and her swollen tired eyes hadn’t quite adjusted from her sudden return to consciousness. She shook her head in an attempt to clear it. She knew the imagination could play tricks. The shadows; probably just shadows from the bushes of leaves, swinging from the tree branches. The night was clear. The moon was casting dark shapes in the yard. She had watched the different shades of black shadows, stretching and swaying, creating motional dark patches across the dark calico-green shaded grass. She convinced herself, that was all, it was just her imagination. Still, she made her way immediately inside and locked the door. She stumbled upstairs quickly and laid down in her bed. Eventually, she finished her sleep locked in her bedroom. She hadn’t been back to the stoop until now, tonight. For some reason she just felt safer with Micah there, back from the camp. It sounded funny but she almost felt protected. She figured that since Vincent had passed, Micah was, in his own way, the man of the house. His accompaniment gave her a small sense of security. It was getting late. Micah needed to go to sleep. He would be a grouchy pill to deal with in the morning if he stayed up to late. She had to force him, gently by his armpits and guide him up stairs to his own bedroom. He shook and twisted away from her, but still followed the path of her guidance upstairs into his room. He clumsily changed into his favorite green plaid jammys. At least his mother assumed they were his favorite. She looked around the room. It was neat and tidy. She kept it clean. Not that it was a difficult task as it might be for normal parents, Micah never touched his things. There were unused toys, some not even removed from their store packaging, stacked in the closet. They were actually getting to be too much, the closet was going to burst and a tidal wave of neglected toys would come spilling out all over the floor. Even though he never played with the toys, she had still gotten him Christmas presents every year. Woke him up, whisked him downstairs, against what seemed to be his will, and always by his armpits of course. Then she helped him open up the presents in front of the sparkling tree, as he sat blank faced. He seemed so uninterested. He probably didn’t care. His somber glumness affected her, leaving her feeling unwanted by him. He had no idea how much she loved him. How much she wanted him to have the joys of a normal life, like the normal children. He finished buttoning up his pajama shirt, which surprisingly he never messed up, he never missed a button. She guided him into the bed and tucked him in tight. She kissed him on the forehead. He squirmed away with a hollow grumpy face. She shut off the little clown lamp. The one where the balloons, that the clown’s holding, are the different colored lights. Then she turned on the little baby monitor, and took the receiver with her. She knew he wouldn’t make a peep, but it made her feel safer. She left the door cracked a little, allowing a little light to peek in the room, also because she didn’t like to feel as if she was locking him away. 5 She graced herself downstairs. She set down the monitor receiver on the counter and poured a wine glass full. She took a sip and looked out the window. It was a gorgeous night, she could smell the breeze through the screen door leading to the porch. She opened it and made her steps outside. She had determined that she was simply imagining things, just being paranoid because she was alone. If there were hungry animals out there they probably would have went ahead and attacked her, slashed her apart on the porch. Anyway, she had a little more confidence. A week had passed, and nothing else had happened. She had her baby back, that was a pleasing thought. It was a wonderful evening. That was why she bought this place anyway, to enjoy warm nights on that porch sipping chilled wine. She sat on the stoop. It was clear again. She looked up at the huge sky. Everything felt so comfortable. The doctor was going to begin helping Micah tomorrow. Things were going to get better, maybe. Since her husbands passing, she almost didn’t know how to act, how to be, how to live. She was slowly adjusting. It was tough. She went inside to fill up her glass again. On her way back out she saw something in the yard. She squinted. It looked like a rag. It wasn’t too far out, so she decided to investigate. The chalky moon was bright as she left the porch, the glowing light illuminated the grassy yard. She had walked about thirty feet out when she realized what it was. Vincent, her husband’s, old bandana. He used to wear it to work at the steel plant. He’d use it to cover his face from breathing in the sooty environment. All Vincent’s old clothes and things were in the cellar. How did it get out here into the front yard. Maybe there were wild animals out and about. Breaking into the cellar though? How strange. Rummaging through her husbands old belongings. Why? Well, she’d have to check it out tomorrow. She was getting tired. It was getting late now anyway. She squatted down to pick up the bandana, then subconsciously looked around, like anyone would, as she stood back up in the shadowy yard, almost completely outlined in an enclosure of dark forest. That was when a cold chill rolled up her spine. She saw something. Something in her house, something in her windows. A figure? She froze. Her heart leapt, a dull sour twinge rushed through her. It took her a minute, but she soon realized what she was looking at. She felt foolish, but still a little creeped out. It was Micah. He was awake. He was staring out of his bedroom window. She almost didn’t recognize him at first. His features were so intense. He had a terrible scowl on his face. His eyes seemed ghastly wide, a haunting stare emanating from them. An appalling little frown-like gaze. It spooked her a little. She didn’t like it. What was he looking at? She turned around. It was the woods. She took some steps back, back towards the porch. Her adrenaline was surging her out of her skin. Her pulse was a hundred miles per hour as she stumbled backwards. She kept backing up slowly, carefully reaching for the deck. She first heard the noises, the gurgling bray of a scared animal. Then the violent rustles. Horrid sounds of a vicious struggle in the forest. But it was frighteningly close. The violent snapping of twigs and crunching of fallen leaves. Growls. She heard the animal shriek again. Then something leapt from the woods. It frightened her immediately. It’s hind rump was covered in dripping blood. It was kicking violently as it limped across the yard. She watched under the light of the glowing moon. A wounded young fawn. An early summer deer. There were jagged rips and long gashes in it’s fresh new coat. They were spread open. The flesh torn back. The fatty pink meat was raised up and exposed. It’s entire back side was covered in dark, wet, maroon blood. She looked back to the window. Back to Micah. He was still staring forcefully. That wicked craze in his eyes. It gave her chills. She was disgusted by that ugly stare. It looked like Micah was just about to have an epileptic seizure. That ghostly howl in his eyes. But what was he focused on? The woods. What ever attacked the deer was still there. Grunting and growling. But it wouldn’t show itself. Finish the attack. Was it scared of her. She could hear the frustrated pacing. It wasn’t her, it was afraid of. What was keeping it, this fearless predator, locked at the edge of tree line? She looked back up at Micah. He was still stuck, staring that awful stare into the woods. The injured fawn cried again, it was limping around in a circle. Looking for somewhere to cover, some kind of hiding. It plopped down in the yard and began trying to lick at it’s opened flesh. Where was it’s mother? Maybe dead already. It would have protected it’s young as best as it could. The creature in the woods must have already killed her, while she was defending the weaker fawn. Now it was alone. She finally made it to the stoop. Her head was jerking around in all directions. She was scared, but now there was an eerie hush in the air. It was so creepy. What was it that Micah was looking at in the woods? He didn’t use that look, not unless something had severely disturbed him. She was very scared now. Why hadn’t she heard him getting out of bed? The monitor, where was it? Inside, on the counter. The woods-creature snarled and snorted again, making loud crunching noises. The baby deer panicked. It jumped up, and scurried off into the woods on the opposite side of the yard. She heard the large pursuing creature bustle off aggressively, crunching and pawing through the woods. She rushed inside. Shut and locked the door. She rolled the little reel for the window pane, above the sink shut as fast as she could. It was the kind of window that opens outward, with a crank that operates the panes motion. Her own motherly had instincts kicked in. She wanted to make sure Micah was okay. She ran up the steps, and almost fell down in the hall. When she got to his door, it was closed. Oh God, she thought. Her imagination twisted up all kinds of frightening images. Things that could be going on in there. Her mind conjured up, bloody, jaw gaping horrors. Weird twisted creatures ripping her baby apart, tearing at his flesh while he wore that freakish stare. She touched the doorknob and waited for her heart to pump a beat of adrenaline. When she felt right she twisted it and barged in the room. Micah was in his bed. Just in his bed. Sleeping. Had she simply imagined things again? She looked at the bandana in her hand. Then she looked at Micah’s window. The drapes were messed. He had been there looking. She went to the fabric curtains and began straitening them. She looked out to the woods from his view. The animals were gone. The frightening events of the evening were over. She closed the drapes and walked over to Micah. He seemed peaceful now. The light from the hall brightened his normally pale skin. She didn’t want to disturb him. But, she couldn’t resist. She bent down and kissed him gently on his forehead, he squirmed as usual. She sighed. “I love you, honey.” she whispered. She left his door cracked again. She went to her bedroom to calm down some. She had been through quite an event. She was out in the middle of the yard and that animal could have attacked her. She sat down on the edge of her bed. She was still holding the bandana, a soiled memento of the man she had once been married to. She put it to her face, it smelled a little old, kind of musty, but it still smelled like him. She remembered when they got married. When little Micah was born. He used to be such a wonderful man. Kind and gentle. She laid back across the silky comforter. She had bought all new things, since he died. It was a whole different life. She missed him. Even though he worked grueling hours, he still wore a gentle smile when he came home. Kissing her, alleviating her daily stresses. Now he was gone. She tossed her head, trying to shake the ill memories away. She closed her eyes. She let it all drift off. Into the darkness, as she fell unconscious. 6 It was strange when she awoke, because Micah was standing in the room. The early June sun was pouring in through the window. It gave everything that bight new tint of the golden fresh summer day. Micah was hunched over in his normal droopy character. Standing beside her bed. But he was facing the door, away from her. She rolled over and reached out to touch him. He struggled away, but didn’t shake his mind from his fixed gaze, locked on the open doorway. “What are you doing baby? Are you ok?” She hopped up. She walked around the bed. “Baby,…Micah?” She reached out. What was he doing? His face was just blank, like usual. She would have liked to think that he was eager for the doctor visit, but he was still dressed in his p.j.’s. Why was he acting so funny? Maybe he got scared again, remembering the scene last night. Maybe he came into her room in the middle of the night, so he wouldn’t be alone. How could she know, he never communicated. So she just left it at that. It was 9:00 am. The appointment was at the Douglas Therapy Center. And it was for 10:00. She had an hour. She had to get Micah, and herself ready. “Come on honey.” She said half dragging him out of her room as he wriggled from her grasp. She took him in the bathroom and he began getting undressed. She ran the tub, making sure the water wasn’t to hot, but just perfect. He liked the water perfect, she thought. She added the bubbles an then went into his room and grabbed the monitor unit. She then carried it back to the bathroom and set it on the linoleum tiled floor. She stopped the water flow, and then helped him in. He fought it, and struggled. At least, until he felt the warmth of the water. Than it was easy. He sunk down into the embracing warm bath. She was jealous. He would accept the comfort of the white plastic tub, but not her own flesh and blood, not her own loving arms wrapped around him. She went down the stairs. When she got to the bottom landing, she noticed an odd smell. A little musty. It reminded her of a dank mossy basement. Then she realized, it was the same smell from the old bandana. Vincent’s bandana. The cellar. The house smelled like the cellar. Why would it smell like the cellar? The scent was getting in the house somewhere. There must have been a crack or something. An opening. Leaking in the odor, as it wafted and soaked into the house. God, she hoped the animals weren’t trying to get into the house. The cellar was directly beneath the TV room. She did a quick walk-around. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. She was thinking, I really don’t have time for this. She’d have to figure it all out later. Right now, they had to get ready. She walked back to the kitchen. She could hear Micah splashing in the tub. The monitor hadn’t burned out yet, even though she forgot and left it on all night. The indicator light was still beaming red. She opened the cabinet. Grabbed a bowl, and fixed Micah some cereal. She set it on the table. She poured some milk for Micah, and ran a glass of water for herself. She turned the water off. When the rushing faucet stopped. Everything was silent. There were no more bubbly splashes echoing from the monitor. It must have burned out. She looked at it. The red light was still on. “Micah.” She yelled up the stairs. Of course there would be no response. She went up to make sure he was ok. He was. He had already dressed, jeans and a clean t-shirt. He was standing, staring out the window. “Micah, honey. You’re cereal is ready. Come on sweetheart.” She walked over to him. She had to literally peel him away from the window. It was a yet another nice sunny day; blue skies, calm winds swaying the trees. Cool blotches of shadows, blocking the summer heat. He was looking at the wooded area to the right of the concrete driveway. The same place he was staring last night. She tried to peer over and see what he was looking for, or at, or what was compelling him to stare out like that. She didn’t see anything. What ever it was, the animals from last night were gone. It just looked like normal woods to her now. “Come on Micah” she called, as she turned around. But, he wasn’t there. When she got downstairs she saw him, sitting down in his place at the table. He was eating his cereal. It was crunching, and milk was dribbling out of his mouth. She let her puzzled look fall away and went up to get herself ready. She skipped the shower and threw on an old pair of jeans herself. A nice summer top and then she pulled her hair back in tight ponytail. She hopped back down the stairs and Micah was finished eating. He was out on the stoop, staring off again. She grabbed her purse and with one arm heaved Micah up. They were in the car by 9:28. 7 When they arrived at the Douglas Center, Charla parked the car. Then she had to, once again, assertively assist Micah out of his seat, as he struggled against it, and then they made their way towards the entrance. Once inside, they had to take the elevator to the fourth floor. It was a short ride. Micah stumbled around a little, trying to catch his balance from the weightless feeling. The doors dinged open and they made their way to Dr. Stan Bryant’s office. Third entrance on the right. She opened the fogged glass door and the noisy-clatter hit her. Spastic children, hollering. Running around in circles. A child with down syndrome was throwing toys across the room, as he sat there giggling with his drooling, goofy smile. There was drool rolling down, out of his mouth, and onto the front of his t-shirt. Collecting into a forever wet stain over the faded printed logo. Charla watched as the other mothers were racing around, trying to calm their own special children. “Stop it right now, David!” One of the children’s mother disciplined. Grabbing the boy by the arm and sitting him down in one of the waiting room chairs. “Stop it right now! David!” he mimicked, giggling hysterically. Getting up as soon as he was sat down. Laughing and clapping his hands together infinitely, while she chased him down again. Charla sat Micah down in a chair and he stayed put. She walked up to the counter. She used the cheap pen hanging from a thin little ball chain, and signed in. “The doctor will be with you momentarily” the receptionist looked at the clipboard. “Miss Stevens.” Charla nodded with a quiet slender smile. She went back and sat by Micah. They sat there amongst the blabbering chaos. She looked at Micah. She wondered what was worse; one of these ‘wild childs’ or her silent mute, Micah. Sometimes she wished he was a little wild. Show a little emotion. But he just sat there with his eyes rolled upward, mouth glued shut. Sometimes he made a little gag when he swallowed his spit. That was about as wild as Micah got. About twenty minutes went by and they got called back to a patient room. The nurse told them it would be a few more minutes and shut the door. She tried to place Micah on the paper-covered bed-like contraption in the center of the room. He didn’t like the crunchy-crinkling sound the bed paper made, and kept trying to get down. Finally the doctor entered. He introduced himself. “Hello I’m Dr. Bryant” He shook Charla’s hand. His face was a soft concerned frame, inlaid with a enthusiastically, sincere smile. “You must be Micah.” He even knew her son’s name. This pleased Charla. She liked this doctor. He reached out to pat the boy on the shoulder. He was friendly. Micah squirmed as always. “Oh, hey I’m sorry my buddy.” he gave Micah one of those nice guy winks. He opened up his file. He studied it for a moment. “So Micah’s been diagnosed as Autistic?” the doctor scratched his cheek and looked over at Micah. “Yes. And uhm…after some intelligence testing, he was found to have an IQ of 43, they then claimed that he was mentally retarded.” She said, and them looked up at the doctor sadly. “Those test’s can hardly test an autistic patient’s possible intelligence spectrum.” He replied. She looked a little confused. He took a sighing sympathetic breath. “As you already know, some of the symptoms of Autism include trouble with speech and language, attention problems. These handicaps make it extremely difficult to discern a level of intelligence.” He flipped a page in the file, “Plus it shows here you only attended one session. Then your insurance plan was cancelled. That is hardly enough time to put together a proper synopsis of his intellect.” She looked at the doctor. “Yes my husband’s union was going through a bad time. They were in the middle of drafting up a new contract policy.” She remembered back, and she spoke slowly, like a thousand thoughts passed between each word. “Are you ok?” he asked to make sure. “Yes.” As she spoke she had a blank stare herself. She thought, this must have been how Micah felt inside, locked in a receded stare. “It says here, Micah was born premature?” The doctor asked, inquiring confirmation. “Yes, seven weeks early.” she said. “Hmm,” he scribbled something down in the file. “What’s that mean? Does it has something to do with his condition?” She asked. She was obviously concerned. “It could. Sometimes during premature births, there are complications. A prenatal lack of oxygen, uhmm…sometimes after the birth to much oxygen could be administered. Too much or too little could cause brain damage.” “So you think he has some brain damage, from the birth complications?” She asked with a quivering remorse in her throat. She pounded herself with the guilt that it was her fault. Her stupid body damaging her baby, and pushing him out too early. No wonder Micah hated her, she thought. “No, not necessarily from the birth complications.” He said this carefully, trying not to upset her further. “Damage can also come from a overload of the hormone testosterone on a fetuses brain. This is what many doctors account as the reason autism occurs more commonly in males. Four to five times more commonly in males. It could have part to do with genetic flaws. Some tests will show mutations in the DNA could be the cause the brain damage. But in any case this is not your fault.” as he spoke, she was shaking her head, watching her poor child, Micah, gaze off into his mute abyss. “Regardless, speech, verbal and communicative skill, the skills in which Micah lacks, is mostly located in the left hemisphere of the brain. Indicating some probable damage.” he paused. “But, also because of the premature birth, there’s also a chance he could be an autistic savant.” The doctor tried to spark a little hope into the barren heart, he could see her peeking out from. “A savant?” she asked. Her eyes cocked in notable curiosity. She had heard of savants, but they were geniuses. Not catatonic, like her quiet ascetic Micah. “Yes, during the early stages of pregnancy the fetus’s neuron cells, the tiny nerve cells in the brain, can grow at an incredible rate of about two hundred and fifty thousand a minute. This sound like an overkill, and it is. About half will die off.” Charla looked at the doctor confusedly. He continued to explain. “A neurobiologist, Gerald Edelman, described it as a tropical rain forest in which the neurons go through a ‘neural Darwinism’ selecting the fittest neurons to remain. During the end of pregnancy, the infants brain goes through a process called ‘pruning’. In this process, a large number of excess neurons, do die off. In order to eliminate the chance of faulty neural linkage. But, in premature births, the babies brains may not have had time to shed the excess neurons. In the effect of trauma, causing brain damage, this bulk of uncommitted, unshed right hemisphere neurons stick around and begin to compensate for the left brain‘s damage. This, in turn, could give him an unbalanced, yet undeniable excess of right brain cells, making him super talented in the brains, right hemisphere skills. Genius talent. Something like the way a blind person develops an excellent, enhanced sense of hearing, to counteract the loss of their eyesight. These talents can sometimes even surpass normally gifted children of the same age group. There could be some serious brilliance trying to shine from that silent exterior.” he looked from the file to Charla. “Has Micah ever demonstrated any strange talents?” “Well,” She thought back, “ever since he was three he could use the bathroom and dress himself. We only had to show him once and he understood. He’s never had an accident or mishap, ever. I always thought that was something quite extraordinary for his…,his condition.” “Yes, that sounds like it might be something.” the doctor stated. Scribbling in the file folder again. She stayed for about an hour and talked with the doctor. She answered more of his questions, told him a mild summary of Micah’s life. His silence, his staring. His fathers death. His struggling away from human contact. “So where do we go from here?” She asked. “Well, we’re going to run some tests, write up the diagnostics reports. After that we’ll see where we stand.” His eyes moved from the file to hers. She felt his sincerity. He showed an assuring smile. “You don’t mind if we keep him here for a little while today, do you?” She looked at Micah. Then the doctor. She decided she trusted him. “No. That’s fine” She said. 8 As she left the lot of the Douglas Center, out into the bright noon-ish sun, Charla figured she could use the few hours to inspect the cellar. See if the animals really were intruding. The thought almost scared her, but it was daylight now, and under the bleach white clouds and deep blue sky, she felt unafraid. Poised and almost assertive. The doctor seemed rather friendly, caring. She trusted him. This boosted her spirits. She stopped by the grocery store on the way home and bought some more batteries for the baby monitor. She had left it on all night and the power had already been indicating low levels. It was sure to be burned out by now. When she got home, she pulled up the driveway next to the woods. She looked into the trees before she got out. Reassuring herself that everything was safe. When she did get out, she still tried quickly to walk around the car, and then hurried to the path leading to the house. She looked out into the yard. There was a faint spot of sun-dried blood where the fawn had laid down in the grass. She looked away, trying her best to ignore it. She walked up the stoop and into the house. She was reminded of the smell. The moldy, mildewed fragrance. She set her purse on the kitchen counter along with the bag containing the batteries. After that she spent five minutes opening the windows in the house, to air out the smell. She also turned on the TV. When she finished she made her way back into the kitchen. She opened the drawers and rustled through the clutter, she was searching. Finally, She found the flashlight. Even with the cellar doors wide open, letting in the sunlight, it was still a little creepy without the flashlight. She turned it on testing it. It glowed dim in the daylight, but at least she knew it worked. She walked out the door. The cool breeze felt flawless against her sweat glazed body. She skipped down the porch steps, through the yard to the driveway half of the house. When she got around to the back of the house, she could already see it. The thin unlatched wooden doors were flapping a little since the wind had picked up. She walked up to it and saw exactly what she didn’t want to see. There were deep scrapes and claw marks in the wood, around the handle and the crease where the two door-flaps met. The cellar door had been ripped open. The creature had dug at the door until it had popped the small locking bolt. From the damage, it looked like it had twenty arms, and a hundred fingers, with a hundred sharp talons protruding from the hairy fingertips. Innumerable digging scrapes crisscrossed and chipped against the wooden grain of the door. It looked very bad. A tingling, confused chill washed over her. The musky smell breezed up, from the dark below. It drifted into her nose. She gagged a little. She shined the light down into the under-house. All she saw was dust particles floating in the light ray as it shined on some old boxes of packed up with junk; all Vincent’s old clothes, papers stacks and other random jumble. She opened the other door flap, and began walking down the creaking steps. There was a more distinct rotting smell now. She could hear an odd buzzing, along with little tinks and pings of the metal pipe work hanging from the ceiling. She made it to the bottom of the staired descent and had to duck because the ceiling was so low, probably five feet. As her neck was ducked down she looked around and saw some torn up cardboard boxes. There were clothes, ripped up and strewn all around on the concrete ground. Stupid animals. She assumed this is where the old bandana had come from. When she bent down to pick up the clothes, and pile them back into the box, she stumbled over a twisted up jacket. She dropped the flashlight, and the beam rolled across the solid echoing floor. It shone on something that made her stomach turn. It looked like a couple gallons of sticky red paint was spattered all over the cold floor, some reaching up the walls. At first, for a quick second she really thought, maybe the animal had gotten into the red paint she used, trying to fix up the old barn structured on her twelve acres of property. Of course it wasn’t. After she collected herself, and calmed her mind from the sudden fall, she picked up the light. She beamed it full on, and saw the source of all that red paint. She also realized what the uneasy buzzing was. Along with what had happened to the mother deer. She gasped. There it was. It’s white belly slashed open and half gone. Messy purple, sausage guts were grossly spread all over the back corner of the dank cellar. The carcass was twisted at the torso so that the hind legs faced in an awkward display, upward and set against the blood soaked wall. One of them was broken, and the fresh white bone was protruding from the peeling fur-covered flesh. The front half of the body was on it’s dead side, abnormally, with the front legs crossing over each other in opposite directions. It looked like the poor thing had been cruelly ravaged by the beast, and then slung up against the chalky drywall, splatting blood, the same way a wet sponge splashes water when thrown up against a wall. It’s head was tilted sickly. It’s flaccid tongue hanged out of it’s mouth in a way that looked like the animal was screaming or choking when it had been mangled. It’s empty dead eyes were a glance of hollow bewilderment. Blank black stones, silent like Micah. The buzzing flies had already gathered and were consuming them, along with the slinking entrails, and the dried scabs on the decomposing tissue. It made her sick. Her stomach churned and she dry gagged a few times, holding back her queasing desire to vomit. Then she plugged her nose and shined the light around, looking for the source of the smelly leak into the house. Up on the ceiling of the cellar, in the corner, above the decayed deer corpse, was a few pushed up plank studs. It looked like they were maybe bucked by the deer in the struggle. It definitely exposed the inside of the house, she could see the wallpaper. The planks were splintered a little and she couldn’t quite tell if there were scratches in them, like the cellar doors. She didn’t care anymore, she didn’t want to be down here another minute. She left the clothes in a scattered mess. She left the deer in it’s congealed red pool. She left the cellar. She didn’t take a breath until she surfaced. The sun was still warm. She took a few coughing hacks, as she was recovering from the fusty decay. She turned and shut the cellar doors. She walked around the house, back to the front, and walked in the house. It smelled better, the breeze was blowing the curtain swags as they twisted and waved. There was an old bike chain in the closet. She grabbed it. Attached was her old padlock. What was that combination, she thought? 11-3-78, that was it. She walked back outside, back around to the cellar. She wound the chain in and out, weaving it in between the secured metal handles. She clicked the lock and rubbed her hands together; a job well done. Back to the front. She entered the house and walked in to the TV room. She pictured the cellar layout. If she was correct, the loosened plank should be right under the couch against the right wall. When she looked at it she noticed something she hadn’t seen earlier when she did her quick-check. It was actually pushed back diagonally from the wall. She pulled out farther and it revealed that the carpet was bubbled up in a long hump, like a toothache against a swollen cheek. But where the carpet met the wall it was actually torn and raised up further than she had realized. Hell of a kick, she thought a little suspiciously. She went back to her kitchen drawers and found a trusty hammer. She hammered the carpet bubble back down, against the wall where the nails met the cross-stud. She knew she couldn’t let the carcass rot in the cellar, or there really would be a problem. Stupid country. She had been warned she might have to deal with animal messes, but this was ridiculous. She was thinking things like knocked over trash cans and a little deer shit. Not leftover gutted spoils, splattered in her cellar. She decided to let her fingers do the walking, as if they needed the exercise. She found the phonebook and it spread it‘s heavy bindings. She hated looking through the phonebook. The pages were too thin and they easily stuck together. After a few minutes of searching she found a cleaning company. The ad stated: American Cleaning and Exterior Restoration We Specialize in Everything! -Parking Garages & Lots, Buildings,- -Sheds & Cellars, Decks & Patio’s - Clean / Seal,- -Houses and Roofs- No matter the mess, Were the best! Call Today! - (509)889-4675 It sounded like the right one for her situation. She called the number. The girl on the phone was pleasant. Charla explained the problem. How the deer had been attacked and ended up dead in the cellar. The girl acted grossed out, in sympathy, and they both laughed. She asked Charla to hold on a minute. When she spoke again, she explained the workmen wouldn’t be able to come out until after dark. She had just paused to look through the schedule book. They were really backed up today. Charla said that wouldn’t be a problem. She then gave the girl the combination to the bike lock, repeating it twice. She’d hate to have some dumb, miscommunication be the cause of her having to spend another night with a dead deer under the house. Only floorboards, some spotty insulation, and carpeting was separating her from it. The thought made her shiver. The girl confirmed that they’d be there tonight. Charla thanked her and then hung up the phone. After that, she inserted the new batteries into the baby monitor. She showered and then watched some TV. By the tin clock, it was only three-fifty. She still had about an hour to waste before she needed to meet back at the Douglas Center. 9 Charla walked out to the stoop. The sun was beaming and she could feel the afternoon heat. At least the breezes were comforting. She sat down. The TV was loud, and the air was quiet. The only other sound was the rattling leaves as the wind blew. She wondered how Micah was; if the doctor was making any breakthroughs. Probably not. The first doctor wasn’t really much of a help. He was hurried and busy. He didn’t even seem to pay attention to Micah, much less give him a diagnosis. She wondered how a doctor like that was even paid. The nurses did most of the work it seemed. They gave him the tests. Charla didn’t even see the doctor until the last five minutes. He came in, bustling around. Shuffling with his files. Like a waiter with too many orders. A doctor, in the weeds. He thanked her for stopping by and said that they would discuss the results at the next visit. Because the insurance fell through, there was no next visit. The results were mailed in a confidential manila envelope. She opened them and read the explanatory first page. After looking at the test score she felt that the first page had just explained to her that her son basically amounted to a useless bunch of stupid flesh. She hated that day. She knew Micah was not a useless bunch of flesh. He had qualities. It wasn’t simply her imagination. He was just trapped inside himself. He just couldn’t convey himself. She thought maybe one day Micah would be able to learn to use his hands. Sign language. That way he could communicate and show his emotions. But the letter had further described how the test indicated that the verbal damage was not a paralyzation of his tongue or his vocal chords, it was his brain. Something was wrong in his brain. Something that was not allowing him to understand the process of communication. Exchanging thoughts with another human. Without this understanding he could not express dialog in any form or manner. Not his hands, his mouth, not even through typing. No words. He would be locked inside forever. She cried that day. It hurt her deeply. There was a deep hate for how a stupid piece of paper, a dumb test score number could steal away her hope away like that. The hope that Micah would be able to come alive somehow, one day. She was still crying when her husband came home from work. Vincent. He dropped everything, every tired need he had, and consoled her that evening. He didn’t even eat until she was safely calmed and in bed. Then he came back upstairs and cuddled with her until she fell into a tranquil sleep. She didn’t sleep like that anymore. She missed Vincent. But he was gone and she would have to deal with it. At the very least she had the loving memories. And she still had Micah. But, left alone just her and Micah, sometimes it felt like, just her. Micah was so empty, she felt like he was barren to her; a parched desert, dehydrated of any emotion. Even when she tried to pour her love over him, he shook it off. Like a soaked cat. He’d run away if he could, she thought. As Charla sat, her eyes moved along the lawn. They came across that brownish spot in the yard again. The dried blotches of crusting blood. The place where the baby fawn had tried to clean it’s wounds. She wondered if the fawn had survived the night? The beast in the woods was raring, determined, the hurried fashion in which it ran off after the lamed baby, she figured not. But it was so strange. Why did it run off and go around? Was it toying with it’s prey? Why didn’t the creature show itself? Why not chase the fawn right through the yard? So many oddities about the grizzly evening. Why hadn’t the beast attacked her? She was sick of looking at the despoiled splotch in the yard. She stood up and walked over to the right side of the house and began unraveling the coiled green hose. She twisted the valve, and the mouth end of the hose began sputtering and burbling. She could hear the loud rushing squeal at the spigot. The water began gushing out. She picked up the stiff, slick hose, flushing with water, and aimed it downward, as she dragged it out into the yard. When she got to the stain, she saw all the fat-bodied black flies. More flies. They were circling around in a solid whirving cloud. Feeding on the flecks of dried blood cracking from the soft green blades. Some flies were landing, some lifting of, some just veering around confusedly in the warm air. They all scattered when the cold water hit. It splashed upon the grass, rinsing out the tinge. It washed the blood flecks away like wet, brown and red fish food flakes. While she rinsed, she looked to the woods again. She could see farther in now, it wasn’t darkly masked like it was last night. She kept wondering what had kept the stalking creature from attacking her. There were no fences. She looked to the other side. The side where the doomed fawn had made it’s escape. The sunlight clearly revealed the forest floor bed. The twisting thickets and the furrowy undergrowth. It was broken away in some places. Probably where the fawn had ran through and tried to escape. It probably hadn’t survived the night. The stain was gone. She put the hose away. She walked inside, and it was almost five. She grabbed the keys and headed to the car. Her eyes watched the trees, and she was still careful entering the driver side door, right next to the woods. 10 When she arrived at the Douglas Center for the second time. She was nervous. The nurses told her to wait like normal. It was much more quieter. The office didn’t make any normal appointments for after five o’clock. And, in fact she sat alone in the room. She stared at the flat, needle punch carpet. It was light blue, tan, and drab. She twisted her shoes across it. The friction made rough scratching sounds, vibrating her feet, distracting her from her anxiousness. There was a closed door next to the big window, where the nurses sat. When it opened a nurse directed Charla to follow her down the hall. They walked past the paper-bedded rooms, past some water fountains, bathrooms, and some more rooms with their doors shut. It all had the same carpet as the waiting room. They finally got to the shut door, apparently containing her special Micah. The nurse opened the door and escorted her in. She didn’t exactly understand what she was looking at when she first entered. “Hello” The doctor greeted her. She tilted her head and looked around the room. “I’d say we’ve made a small break through.” The doctor smiled. She was just scanning the walls. Amazement and confusion just kind of twisted up into one emotion. There was Micah, he was doing something she had never seen. Something she almost couldn’t believe. “We started out with the CAT scans and MRI scans we found evidence of some major damage to his the left side of his brain. We’d like to also, eventually, get a PET scan done on him too. The damage is affecting some of his motor skill but mainly his speech production. Now there are actually two separate areas associated with speech. The Broca’s area and the Wernickle’s area. The Broca’s area; the area located inside on the cortex, around the place of the temple.” the doctor was pointing on his own head to his temple. Charla was listening but looked disorientated as her eyes rolled around the room. The doctor continued. “This area controls a persons ability to understand language spoken to them. Micah has some damage here but it’s actually quite minimal. The real damage is in the Wernickle’s area, located back behind the ear.” he demonstrated the location on his own head again. “this is the area controlling the manufacture of thoughts into verbal speech. Micah has some serious damage here. I hate to say it but Micah may never speak.” The doctor looked at her with deep sympathy. She looked down at her feet. “We also noticed some bizarre growth in his right side brain. That was a good sign. The right brain specializes in things like music awareness, artistry, imagination, and recognition of 3-D forms.” Charla looked around and then to the doctor again, more curiously. “With this information we began testing him with a non-verbal intelligence test. Something to judge his visual-spatial intelligence.” He pulled out a sample page of the test and showed it to Charla. She looked at the page and it didn’t make much sense to her. The test was compiled of square-blocked images, like one side of a Rubik’s Cube, except the block’s increases in numbers. From four blocks by four blocks to five, than six, than seven, and so on. The little blocks inside the squares are colored to create patterns. In each problem there are three of these square-block pattern structures, and the fourth one is blank. To answer the problem the tested subject had to find the fourth square pattern in sequence with the other, out of series of mutable choice’s. In the standard test, there are four hundred and thirty questions. Most people don’t even finish it. She looked back up at the doctor. He looked her in the eyes, “Micah scored a perfect.” “A perfect?” Impossible, she thought. “ I’ve never been able to even get him to pick up a pencil? He can’t even read! How did he manage a perfect?” She was very curious to understand how this doctor, in one day got Micah to start performing. She looked over at him again. “Well, this test doesn’t actually require any reading, and at first we had the same problem. He wouldn’t even touch the pencil. We tried normal explanation and nothing would work. We figured even though his speech comprehension is minimally damaged there are still things, words, speech patterns that he will never be able to understand. I remembered how you told me that he that he could learn to dress after you showed him. So we showed him.” The doctor told her. “Showed him?” She still looked very confused. “Yeah, we did the sample question in front of him. Directing attention to him. Still speaking to him. Hoping he would understand something. At first he did nothing, so we did another one.” “So you did some of the problems for him?” Now this made a little more sense to her. “No, these were the sample problems, but we didn’t even get to the next one. He picked up the pencil after we showed him the second one.” he paused a moment, “Charla I’ve never seen anyone complete this test with such a rapid determination. He finished in an outstanding record time. No one has ever completed so fast before.” The doctor was looking at her very seriously. Charla’s head was swimming. This was all so miraculous. She just couldn’t believe it. Her Micah was performing amazing feats. She always knew he was inside, somewhere. She always wanted him to break from his shell, show a little piece of himself. She just never was prepared for when it would happen. “But this…what’s this?” She was looking around the room wide eyed. Then she looked at Micah, who was working frantically. “Well, after the pattern test we decided to test him in…in a more freely creative way. So we gave him the paints.” The doctor watched Charla as she looked around the room in a subtle daze. It was amazing. The inside of the room, all the walls, even the door that she had entered from, was almost entirely covered in stunning masterpieces. Micah was at a table, wearing an old smock, covered in spatters of colorful paint. He was still blank stared, but he had a focus about him. Something in his disposition. Now, if she would have been told Micah had been painting over the phone, or in the waiting room, she would have imagined messy finger paints slopped onto a soaking piece of paper. This was certainly not the case. The pictures that he was painting were some of the most expressive pieces she had ever seen. Someone could have told her they were Dali’s or Rene Magritte’s, she probably would have believed it. The surrealism was one outstanding quality, but the color usage, the mixture, the definition, just the flow of some of the paintings were inspiring awe and utter captivation. She looked at Micah again he was working on a piece as she watched him with the brush. Even though he had that blankness and that slouch, this was the most real, the most alive she had ever seen him, so concentrated. He almost looked natural waving the brush around, like an orchestral composer. She walked closer to a wall. It was beyond her. The entire room was full. How long had he been painting? Some accomplished, famous painters hadn’t completed this many masterworks in their lifetime. Micah’s were so beautiful. So rich and explosive. But than her eyes fell upon one in which the images were a little frightening. It was dark. Their were two goblin monsters facing her. They were thin and sneaking. Black and green skin, melting and bubbling over their unholy bones. Their eyes were so thin red, deep and devilish. It chilled her. Their mouth’s were open, exposing their laughing teeth, compelling a maniacal awfulness. It also looked as if one of the creepish freaks was urinating. Pissing boiling, vile acid at her, while he giggled monstrously. She stepped back. She looked at her poor Micah, working his brilliant magic. She wondered what kind of terrible tortures went on in that feeble head. Eventually she looked back to the wall. This time her eyes found a better one. Something persuading more of an emotional beauty. Something she could have never imagined that Micah could comprehend. It was a picture of her husband Vincent, hugging her, wrapping his arms around from behind her. It was under a beautiful stared skylight, shinning these glorious fizzles, like gorgeous fireworks. Charla’s eyes watered. As they lowered she saw something even more unbelievable. Her belly was swelled, but it was clear like glass. It had such a beautiful shine. Inside of her was Micah. He was a tiny baby. She would have tried to wonder how he understood life in such a manor, with such remembrance that he could create a memento of such, but it was far beyond her. He had left his mouth painted shut, but in an image that looked as if he was struggling to speak. Choking on his words while his lips were shriveled closed like a shrunken head’s sown mouth. She was in awe, grieving sadly at his self comprehension while she stared at the melancholic splendor radiating from the magnificently imaged portrait, but than she noticed that he had also painted Vincent’s bandana on his head. She couldn’t believe this, it was incredible. She often doubted that Micah even remembered Vincent, much less than understood they’re connection. His father. She was crying now. She looked at Micah. She loved him so much. She then turned to the doctor, he was smiling at her. It seemed her moving emotions were contagious. She gave him a hug. She had only hoped he could make a dent, instead he blew a hole through the wall. And now she could look through it and see a small part of Micah. 11 “How long has he been painting like this?” Charla’s eyes were back to the walls. “About four hours. We didn’t want to stop him. The paintings were…well…” He just kind of laughed, as he looked to the walls himself. “Yeah,” she agreed, smiling. “I wish I would have known about this before.” “Uhm…well, I did want to inform you that many ways to draw a response from him as well. Sometimes, things like ‘pet therapy’ work wonders. “Pet therapy?” Charla asked. “Yea, Micah seems to be non-violent enough. We wouldn’t want to suggest this to some of our more aggressive patients, but I’m sure a puppy or something might be good for him. Some of the autistic patients seem to relate to the animals. They don’t feel threatened and sometimes they are able to draw a response, better than a human can. I remember one patient I had, he had such a deep connection with his pet retriever that they seemed to communicate without words. They would play fetch, and the dog could do tricks. It was really amazing.” “Well I’ll definitely consider that. I think first, I’ll get him some of those paints though.” she kind of giggled. “Oh, yes. Defiantly keep up with the painting. Some of these portraits are truly outstanding, he might even be able to become a famous artist one day.” The doctor said merrily. Charla hadn’t really considered that. She was just glad to see him active, and alive. She looked at him again. He was sitting there silent. The paintbrush was down and he was still. He had finished the painting. She walked over to look. The closer she got, the more she noticed that it was another dark one. At first glance she didn’t see it. What it really was, but as she got closer, the look on her face revealed her opinion of this one. And it was gloom. It was a view from a window, in a dark room. Through the window, she could see a dark yard with dark grass, and on the sides, a dark forest. But in the center of the yard, it was herself. And it was her slashed open, instead of the baby fawn. She was lying down in the yard, licking her wounds. This made her feel a little weak, and queasy. It was an engrossing shock. She figured Micah’s damaged brain had perceived her and the fawn as one. Distorted the image he saw from the window. She was out in the yard when the blood soaked fawn leapt out of the woods. His mind was just confused. In the forest, there were the reflectors. Sinister yellow eyes with red tints. Scary eyes. Eyes of pain, eyes of hurt. Angry eyes. The trees looked wicked. They were bent and crooked. The shadow patterns on the bark, created a luminance of flickering brownish-black flames. This painting was dreadful, the way it made her feel. It was the worst one she had seen. She hated it. Then as if she couldn’t have hated it anymore she saw the reflection. The faded mirror image of Micah’s face on the glass of the window pane, in that twisting, hollowed grief. The chills from the night returned to her again. She looked at Micah. He had returned to his blankness. “What‘s this about?” the doctor asked, noticing her distress as he walked up. He sounded concerned as he looked at the painting. “Last night I had an encounter with some animals in our yard. A young fawn and it’s mother were attacked by something in the woods. I think it was wolves probably. It was a little scary. And I guess Micah witnessed it from his window. It must have frightened him too. In fact, when I awoke this morning, he was in my room. I think it really shook him up.” “Yeah, it looks like it. You should really be careful out there if you’ve got wild animals running around madly.” The doctor appeared extremely worried as he was looking at her. “This really could end up being…devastating. “Yeah, I know, I’ll make sure to be a little more cautious from now on.” She nodded then looked at the painting again. She looked at those evil eyes behind the haunting trees. She looked at the doctor again. “There was something really strange about it though. When the fawn had escaped into the yard, whatever it was that attacked it, wouldn‘t come in to finish it off. Eventually the fawn ran off into the woods, on the other side of the house, and I heard the animal run off after it. But the attacking animal never came into the yard. I don‘t know if it was my presence, or what. I could even hear it right there at the edge of the tree line. But it’s weird that it didn‘t attempt to kill me. I was right there, exposed. I was scared to death.” “I bet you were. Listen, if those animals are dangerous enough to kill a family of deer. There not going to be anymore afraid of you, and you don’t even have antlers.” Charla smiled. He continued “I recommend that you call animal control, have them come check it out, while you stay inside.” “We’ll I’m hopping it was a single event.” “Well,” he mimicked with a smile, “you should still be very careful. ” They stood there for a moment looking at the painting. Then Charla walked over and began taking the rest of the paintings down. The doctor helped her. When they were finished he told her to schedule an appointment on the way out, so he could check up on Micah’s progress. She agreed. After they left, she packed up the paintings, and got Micah in the car. The painting hadn’t done anything to stop him from struggling away from her. On the way home, she stopped by a collage art store and picked up a whole assortment of paints and some different types of canvasses. One’s she thought Micah might like. As she left the art store, the sun was setting. There were huge, puffy clouds floating around the horizon. They reflected the light into such pretty shades. She saw it as her own little pretty heaven. They watched the sun go down together, the whole ride home. 12 When they got home, the cleaning van was in the driveway. The red and yellow logo painted across the side. A layer of dirt was dusted around the wheel wells. She pulled up beside it and parked. It blocked the woods. She thought about the last painting Micah had done. The dark colors and sharp brush strokes. She got out feeling slightly jumpy, and looked around the van. It was almost fully dark now, but she could still tell that the back hatch was opened. She tried to peer in side. It looked like some big black plastic bags were tied up and piled inside. She imagined that they held parts of the dead, half decomposed, momma deer. “Howdy miss.” Charla jumped, and looked up. She was a little startled, but when she looked she realized it was just the cleaning workers. They were both wearing yellow overalls, matching gloves and boots; it all looked like it was made of plastic or some kind of waterproof material, because the blood was beaded up on them, like a butcher‘s rubber apron. One of them was a tad overweight and was carrying a lumpy black garbage bag over his right shoulder and a flourecent lantern in his left hand. He resembled an abstractly freakish, and quite unkempt Santa Claus. The other had a normal build, and was carrying a bloody machete. He must have been the strangest elf ever. “Oh hi, how are you?” Charla asked politely. “Pretty good, I suppose.” The larger one said rather un-jollily. “That thing made quite a mess in you cellar, huh.” Said the other one, without any cheer. “We’ve been cutting this thing apart for an hour now. This is finally the last of it” She almost gagged at the thought of the deceased mother deer on the smooth concrete floor of the cellar, and it’s sagging guts, being chopped up by the less than funny, Laurel and Hardy pair, here. They walked past her and put the bulging bag, into the back of the van, along with the machete. They got out the cleaning supplies and headed around the back to continue the revolting job. She went to the passenger side of her own car and got Micah out. He kind of followed her lead. It almost seemed easy. Of course he went right to the stoop after that. And she let him sit. She felt safe knowing that the workers, unpleasant, but big and strong men, were right behind the house. She walked inside and put her keys on the little hook, then walked into the TV room and turned on the tube. When she entered the kitchen, she walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a lasagna. She removed the plastic wrap from the top. And then kicked on the oven. When it clicked signifying that it was preheated, she threw the lasagna in. She set the oven-timer, than looked out the window at Micah. He was just staring off like normal. She was still in shock over the paintings, and it was obvious that Micah was more conscious than he appeared. She got out a pitcher, and made some instant tea, she added some ice and put it in the fridge to cool. Then she poured herself a glass of wine. She checked on the lasagna, and then went out and sat with Micah. She planted herself down and put her arm on his shoulder. He squirmed slightly, but not so much. He was still hunched over in an uncomfortable looking slouch. “I’m so proud of you baby, all your paintings. I know your in there now, Micah. I want you to know, I love you very much.” She looked over to him. He was dull, no reaction like normal. He would never give her a reaction, she thought. She sipped some wine. They sat for awhile. There was a calm gust of breeze flowing past them. It swayed the dark branches and rattled the familiar leaves. Besides the usual rambling sounds of the TV, there were really no other noises. It was pretty dark. The only light that shone was from the half-cracked front door. The clouds from the sunset were now blocking the moon, and the atmosphere had a grim duskiness about it. There weren’t many stars out, but the ones that were shone bright in the blackness of the dark sky. Charla stood up, took the last sip of wine, and went in to check on the lasagna. When she entered, she thought she smelled the musty smell again but she wasn’t sure because she’d left the windows open, from earlier that day, and the cycling current was constantly airing out the house. She glanced into the TV room and saw nothing but bouncing shadows as the screen flickered. She couldn’t tell if the couch was moved or not. She could hear some faint rustles and muffed rattles. It was probably the cleaners. They might have knocked the planks back up by accident. She figured she would just hammer it down again after they left. She could smell the lasagna now. She opened the warm stove. It was fine, still a little cold in the middle, but getting close. The dry metal hinge made a creaky grind as the oven-flap was eased shut. Charla went to the fridge and refreshed her glass of wine, she put the bottle back and closed the door, than took another peek out at Micah. He wasn’t there. 13 Her heart skipped. She set the glass down and swiftly walked out to the stoop. She was panicking like normal. Usually, he was around somewhere, and she would realize that she was overreacting, but he wasn‘t anywhere in sight. She tried to squint her eyes into the darkness, but the light from the open front door, only shown halfway out into the yard. She stood there for a moment, confused, TV blaring, she didn’t know what to do. After a second, the timer started beeping. She quickly looked around again. And then rushed inside. The loud TV and the sharp beeping of the timer just added more fuel to her panic. She ran into the kitchen and shut off the annoying beeps, the TV just kept blathering on. She pulled the lasagna out of the oven, and set it on top. It was very hot, and the glass pan was even getting warm beneath the oven mitt. She turned around to resume searching for Micah, and this is where it all came crashing down with one terrible stunning sight. It stole her breath as time stopped. There it was, her fear, completely animated and frighteningly real. With it’s concentrated eyes. Fierce, and seeming to glow, a sick yellow color. It’s wicked sneer. Curled teeth bearing over it’s black lips as they twitched with an atrocious hunger. Fresh blood caked around it’s mouth, in a haunting representation; the fact that something had just been killed, ripped apart as it‘s blood sprayed all about the wicked creature’s tensed face. She thought of her poor Micah. She imagined this oversized ‘beast from hell’s’ ravaging her baby son, ripping his dead stare right off his face. Her stomach dropped. It’s speckled gray fur was tuft up on the back of it’s neck as it growled and snarled, rumbling it‘s ugly throat. It was big, bigger than she had even imagined. Definitely big enough to kill a full grown mother deer. It’s stance was set, strong and ready to leap on her; waving it’s evil claws, shredding her own face into bloody, diced chunks of meaty flesh. She did the first thing that came to her mind. She threw the blistering pan of steaming lasagna at the massive fanged dog, the deadly, vicious wolf. It missed by a mile. Her heart sunk, than leapt in fear, as the huge beast jumped up on the kitchen table. Scrambling as it’s red stained, clawed feet, scratched and scraped at the stained-finish, while it tried to gain traction. When it had it’s balance, it leaped a second time. Directly at her. She scrambled to move, and did just in time. She felt the creature’s heavy body sail past her in a slow weighted motion. She had backed up just enough, and the animal went crashing in to the fridge. It opened after the impact, and the milk fell out, along with the tea, and an assortment of leftovers cased in plastic Tupperware. As the spilling tea gushed across the floor, she made her frenzied escape. She dashed from the kitchen to the door outside. When she emerged she didn’t know where to run. Where to hide. She felt like the injured fawn; now adopting her own sense of frantic dread. She just wanted to be anywhere away from the beast that was trying to kill her, and rip her body apart. It was a pretty large animal. She could hear the beast getting up from the crashing mess it had made, and she darted out into the yard. She was panicked, she had no idea where to go. She saw the cleaning van and remembered the workers. She ran around the left side of the house. It was quiet now, and all she could think about was the fact that there was a fierce animal chasing her, hunting her. Trying to take her life. The calmness left her mind in jitters, expecting the creature to pop out at any minute, from anywhere. As she came around the back, she saw the cellar, and the door flaps were wide open. A soft lantern light glowed from below. “Help!” She screamed. Nothing. Her heart was pounding frightfully. Her face was flushed, and she was out of breath. “He..lp!” she stuttered, breathing heavily. She could hear something now. Around the side of the house, the steps and twig snaps from lone wolf that was coming after her. Soon to be her killer, her son’s killer and… She tripped over something. As she fell into it, she could feel the disgusting squishy warmth. She knew before she saw it, that she had fallen into some kind of a dead body. Her frightened stomach had no time for unease. She stood up and then looked down. She had tripped over one of the cleaning men. He had already been slaughtered. The wolf had obviously, already killed them, her only saving hope. She was doomed. Her soul begged her for escape. Unfortunately, in the process she had tripped right over this man’s legs and right into his fat, stinking guts. Words like ‘Oh Jesus’, and ‘Oh God’, went through her head. The awful word’s of fear and doom, often triggered by the sight of a dead body. This body belonged to the heftier worker. He now looked like a gruesomely murdered Santa. His white ribs were exposed, along with red, bleeding muscle tissue, and gross yellowish lard. He had an open-eyed look of terror in his sunken dead face. She had to swallow her heart from her throat before she could breathe again. It made sense now. She had smelled that old musty smell. The beast killed the workers and then it probably broke up through the loose floor boards down in the cellar. That meant the beast could have crawled in the house the night it killed the deer. That same morning she awoke with Micah in her room. Micah was probably gone now. She wanted to cry, it was all over. The creature was still coming. She could hear it in the darkness, coming around the back. There was a tiny glint of light. She could now clearly hear sounds in the darkness of the backyard. They were getting louder and coming in her direction. At first she spun around in several panicked directions then finally sprinted back around the other side of the house, towards the front yard. 14 The grass blades looked longer because of the way the shadows stretched from the door-light. She ran into the middle of the front yard, just past the door shaped borders of yellow light, and laid down flat on her belly. She remembered this trick from playing hide and seek as a child. The dark would hide her as long as she flattened herself against the ground. As soon as she looked up, she was reminded that this was no game of hide and seek. This was a very real struggle for her life. She was not doing well. As soon as she had come around the yard, running at full speed, the wolf had seen her. He was right there watching her from their stoop. It looked as if he had never even gone around the house at all. What had made those chasing noises, she thought. Was there more than one of them. She was fully terrified and even shaking in the grass. The predator had seen it’s prey, and it was slowly stalking her through the lightened patch in the yard. The hairy beast was a completely black silhouette. It’s eyes were glimmering. She had never thought of the color yellow provoking fear, but it did, right then, to her. The beast was surrounded, outlined by glimmering aura rays, as the light from the door beamed the only existing background she could perceive at that fearing moment. Her adrenaline was a steady warm burst, rushing from her chest. Preparing her for a fight or flight response, in which she was definitely going to take flight. She stood and turned. Her feet burst out from under her in full stride. It wasn’t enough. She had taken less than three steps and she heard the wolf, felt the wolf’s deadly leap towards her. The impact knocked her down, face forward, as the large animal came crashing down right on top of her. She felt the searing pain of her leg being gashed open as the wolf tried, violently, to pin her down. The cool air stung on her freshly exposed calf muscle as warm blood washed over her skin. She screamed out as she squirmed and twisted, trying to roll out from under her heavy attacker. She finally rolled onto her back. The wolf was panting hot dirty breaths on her, snarling it’s bloody teeth at her face. Snapping them at her throat. She was kicking with her legs and using her hands and arms to keep the slobbering creature’s twisted deadly fangs away from her neck and head. She had her right hand under the beast’s jowl trying to muzzle it, and her left hand clinging onto the rough hair around it’s hairy mane, using both to try to push the creature off of herself as she squirmed pitifully underneath. It shook it’s head away from her grasp and it’s jaws snapped again, this time clamping onto her left forearm. “Ahhhh..rggg!” she screamed. The monstrous wolf ignored the cries and began brutally shaking it’s head side to side like a rabid pit bull. Charla could feel the dagger-like teeth jabbing through her flesh and scraping into the fresh white bone underneath. Her skin was being shredded. Blood and oozy warm saliva was now pouring down her arm and dripping into her face. She was horrified. The wolf was trying to rip her arm off. It was going to kill her. The pain was farther from her mind than the terror, until the wet pop of her arm bone breaking shot trough her brain. The hollow sound made her cringe. Then it stopped. The animal froze in motion and let go of her arm, it seemed to be just standing there looming over her, but looking forward. She didn’t know what to make of this. She struggled out from it’s massive paws with her arm tucked in and laid across her lap. The beast backed off like a shameful dog, looking down repeatedly, with it’s tail between it’s legs. It was circling around disgracefully as if it knew it had done something terrible. Somehow it had been installed with a conscious. When she was completely out from under it and scooting away on the side of her uninjured leg. When she was far enough away she paused. She couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Micah. And he was gawking at the wolf. It was definitely the most concentrated glare she had ever seen. Just like the one she saw in the window, but much more intensely passionate. He was standing strongly, fists clenched. His teeth seemed to grind. Something about that fervent look; it had strength, as if Micah had gathered up all of his will hidden deep inside himself, and forced it through his eyes. They were beaming a dazzling invisible ray, halting everything in their scorching path. “Micah?” She spoke softly. She didn’t quite understand what was happening. She looked back to the vicious wolf. It was now hypnotized by Micah’s powerful scowl, reducing it to a cowering pup. Micah was condemning it, protecting her. She suddenly realized that it was Micah that had been the reason the wolf hadn’t crashed into the yard and killed her and the fawn. It was that stare. Her now misshapen arm throbbed with nauseous ache from the crude fracture. The gashes on her calf were on fire. She used her good arm and good leg to drag herself towards Micah. When she was behind him facing the porch, she could finally see what had caused the noises on the side of the house, the ones she thought were chasing her. It wasn’t a second stalking wolf. The figure was a human. It was the second cleaning man. The thinner one. He was walking very carefully. He had come around the side of the house. She watched as he was holding the glinting machete. He had seen his opportunity, and was preparing to wield his sword and destroy the evil beast. He got closer into the light. His steps were quietly gentle as he crept closer. The machete was shining in the door light when he swung it. There was a solid ‘thunk’ as the machete dug into the beasts shoulder. It let out a violent howl as it tried to scramble off, jerking and falling down. It was already too late the second swing cleaved halfway through the beasts neck and shoulder, deep into it’s mid-chest. Blood was pouring out from the wound. It splashed as it hit the golden, green-lit grass in the lightened patch. The creature convulsed and seized, gurgling on the ground. The head, half hanging off. Yellow eyes bulging. The beheaded creature’s movements slowed, and stopped. The deadly beast was slain. The glare left Micah’s face and he slunched down like normal. Charla laid back in the grass. It was over. Micah was alive. She had too, had survived the deadly encounter. Even one of the workers, whom she had presumed was dead, was actually alive. And had ended up rescuing her after all. She took a breath. As she exhaled all the pain from her injuries welled in on her. At first she felt sick, then weak as the blackness surrounded her. 15 Charla awoke to the soft light shining in through the blinds. It was early the next morning. She was in a hospital bed. The sheets were a bright, clean white. She felt rejuvenated. The pains in her arm and leg didn’t even seem to bother her so bad. “Sixty-eight stitches and a cast for the broken arm.” The entering nurse congratulated. “That wolf roughed you up pretty bad.” Charla smiled glad to be alive. And the nurse grinned back. “But you are looking better, and refreshed this morning. The doctor said you’ll be fine but we‘d like to keep you overnight, just for observation.” “Sure.” Charla agreed cheerfully, then looked around the room. “Where’s Micah?” “Oh, he’s on his way up. He was here all night, a nurse just took him down to the lobby to get some snacks. Ooh, I almost forgot, I wanted to tell you, your son’s quite the artist.” The nurse was grinning wider now. “He’s really amazing.” Charla looked over at Micah. “Yeah, he is.” She then felt a little puzzled. “How did you know that, that he could paint?” she asked. All the paintings were still in her car, parked at the house. “Oh we gave him some crayons and a coloring sheet. He drew an astonishing picture with the colors.” She was just shaking her head. The nurse walked over and picked it up. Micah took notice and stumbled over, following the nurse. Charla took it and was confused. “It’s blank?” It was an photocopied picture outline of a happy cartooned doctor wheeling a satisfied patient out into a sunny day. But it was uncolored. And too simple for Micah to have drawn it. She had seen his work, this was not his. “Oh,” The nurse laughed out loud. “No, no,” she said. “turn it over.” When Charla turned over the piece of paper her eyes changed from confusion, to surprise, to soft loving amazement. She had never seen a picture drawn so beautifully in her life. And with crayons, the things she used to scribble on the walls with when she was a baby. The picture was only of Charla and Micah, and it was in the present. It was a picture of her and Micah hugging smiling into each others eyes. It was beautiful. They were laughing. Like an emotional depiction of Micah, if he could act real. If he had never had an infliction. He was so happy. So alive. He was even wearing his green sweatshirt. He must have used every crayon in the box. The color blending was like nothing she had ever visually experienced before. It was all so wonderful. The shading had a such a soft euphoria in it‘s tone. She noticed that he included what appeared to be a wonderful collage-like mixture, of all the gorgeous sunset’s they had watched together. The liquid orange sun melting down into the dream-like appearance of the scene‘s horizon. It looked so existent, the colors almost seemed to change on the paper. Micah looked so happy as they were smiling and hugging. She thought he hated that. She thought he had hated her. Now, she knew that it wasn’t true. He loved her, as much as she loved him. Gentle tears slowly streaked down her soft face. He was trying to show her. All of his paintings had meant something. He was trying to communicate. Show understanding. He had even tried to warn her about the attacking wolf. She realized Micah was inside, and this was her solid proof. She could see Micah’s emotion through his art. He didn’t need words. He was trying to speak. And these paintings had become his voice. When she looked up again, he was at the door. He was standing awkward with his head down, shaking softly. He seemed to sense her beckoning. He slowly lurched over to her, blank and quiet. He stopped at the side of the bed next to her. She reached up with tears in her eye’s and hugged him. He didn’t squirm away at all. -END

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