MIND OF SPIRITS
His feet were numb, even in the warmth of his home, the warmth under the comforting blankets providing vibrance and safety. His breath appeared as smoke; it rose higher and higher, then evaporated until it camouflaged itself with the surrounding air. But it was not cold inside. It wasn't the temperature that chilled him, no. It was the contained frights for the future, for the actions that would come, the actions he knew he couldn't refuse to perform.
He listened to the rain pitter-pattering on the ground outside, to the occasional booms of thunder in the distance. Normally, the sounds soothed him.
Do it, whispered a voice. It was deep, threatening, disturbing in a sense. The tones of the voice, nameless, shifted between threatening and mild. Sometimes things came as a mystery to the boy. That boy was Alan Trowbridge, quivering, teeth clacking together rhythmically. Do it, the voice repeated.
Now the blanket had been crumpled together in the corner of his bed. Alan was on his knees, sinking into his mattress like quicksand, wondering when he would hit the ground. He stared at the window curtain. Beyond it was the outside, was the world free from captivity. Alan contained the desperate need to escape the prison, to open the cell door with strength and courage, to leave after years of hatred, to leave the demons holding him there, in jail.
His head throbbed.
He pulled aside the curtains, revealing the drab outside scene of midnight, the town of Dunwaters, California covered by an extended sheet of chilling fog. Droplets of rain fell from the sky. Winds shifted back-and-forth. A boom of thunder from the distance.
Alan stared through his mucky window, looking upon his mother's rose garden. Large rectangular bushes acted as the borders between the stone walkway and the roses. Large rectangular bushes. A soft landing on the flexible branches and leaves. He would designate the bush as his landing spot.
He thought he heard the voice routing him on in a whisper, almost inaudible.
"Oh god," he mumbled. It was muffled by a blast of lightning. He saw the blue zig-zag in the distance for a split-second, and it became an engraving on the back of his eyelids.
He hooked his fingers under the window and pulled it up with a struggle, having deficient muscle and skinny arms, almost skinny enough to admire the bone and its details. When the window thrust up, raindrops freckled his face and upper body.
He hauled one leg, his left leg, over the windowsill. Then he proceeded to throw the other one over until he was sitting on the thin slice of metal, the windowsill, like a stool, his green pullover dotted with specks of water. His gaze focused on the block of twigs and leaves, around twenty feet below. He gulped. It echoed.
"Oh god," he said again.
Do it! The voice was amplified now.
Unknowingly, he slid off of the windowsill, attempting to hold back a scream enclosed in his throat. It threatened to come up, clawing his esophagus like a cat who hasn't been fed. He curled in his lips.
He collided with the bush, and, as expected, it was a comfortable landing, pain-free. The scream retreated.
He rolled off the bush, splashing into a deeper-than-expected puddle forming on the crevices between the stones layered on the pathway. His back, his hair, everything got soaked in the puddle water, consisting of dirt and leaves and muddy liquids. He groaned. In the freezing temperatures of thirty degrees, it suddenly turned to ten. The water could've been a block of ice.
He stood up. It took three tries to stand stable, ankle deep in the puddle. His socks were damp, injecting the feeling of numbness into his feet. It came to him, the numbness, the awkward feeling of nothingness, in an instant. The revelation shocked Alan, turned his eyes into bowling bowls. It feels so...
The voice: Come on, Alan, get up. You made some noise, too much noise, so get going.
He couldn't run. He was only able to move his feet in a shuffle, plowing through the puddles, gyrating to sustain warmth. He brushed off miniscule twigs attached to his pullover.
Alan, run, run now! Alan don't look behind you, just run, dammit, run! ALAN RUN!
He ran. He forced himself to accelerate, unaware of the sights ahead; the thick wall of fog blocked his view. Where was he going to go, anyway? The question popped up, and it frightened him, because he didn't know. He was oblivious. He wished he knew more, but he was oblivious, left behind in the shadows, contemplating the future, the present, the past.
Forward Alan, to the park!
And as he ran-jogged, really-the voice continued telling him to get that head forward and to not look back, filling his head with images of his father with his rifle in hand, cocked, finger resting on the trigger. If he looked back, the bang of the gun would ring in his ears. Then, the bullet would puncture his chest or skull or wherever the bullet hit him. Blood would pour down his clothes, burying his body in a puddle of the thick red liquid. It was the thought that haunted him. Blood. The disturbing liquid coursing in his body, pumping out of the heart constantly. It was the topic of nightmares. Why? Maybe because he had to see it drip out of his back at least twice a week, then form into a cringe-inducing scab, the Tupperware container of blood. But he wasn't sure of it.
It began to hail.
After a couple of minutes, he could see through the rolling fog, able to make out what seemed to be a field of bright green grass. Yes, he realized, it was the baseball field scattered with puddles and mud. Smoke rose into the air behind it; it carried over the fence.
Three people sat together in the dugout, protected from the rain by a wooden overhang.
"Hey, Lily, pass the lighter," said a boy, shirtless, hiding his shivers. To Alan, he seemed to be seventeen.
"I don't got it," said the girl, Lily, a blunt stuffed with weed resting between her lips.
"Here," said another boy, sitting beside Lily. Pouches with weed inside rested on the boy's lap. His eyes were surrounded by a pink circle. So were the others'. The boy handed the lighter across Lily to the other boy. The flame lit the blunt; smoke rose up into the air, acting like fog.
Alan stepped towards them.
No. Not there. You don't want to be dumb getting caught by the police if they ever come by. Just keep walking forward.
"But I'm tired," he whined in a mumble.
You'll sleep soon. Just keep walking.
He approached the road, empty of cars, dim-lit by the overhead streetlights. His head continued to throb, pulsating as if his heart took a trip north to the brain. It thumped and throbbed and pulsed; the migraine worsened over time.
He walked through forests of redwood trees bordering the park. He didn't understand why the voice decided to retreat away from their original idea. Well, it wasn't their original idea. It was the voice's idea, although Alan chose not to think of it like that but as a group effort. Nothing was his idea, even when it was, he realized, his eyebrows slanted in, presenting a passionate anger. He recalled the boys at school treating him like a napkin. When fresh, the napkin was seen as a tool, something useful. But, after one or several uses, it gets thrown in the garbage or on the ground and seen as an infected piece of worthlessness. He would always be a napkin. An item in the world. An item worth nothing, worth no more than-
It was too tough to think, to produce any thoughts or memories in the empty plains of his mind.
After another minute of stumbling through the fallen branches and leaves, he found a parking lot, vacant. An invisible welcome sign flaunted itself before Alan.