Thursday, February 27, 2014
Christian Powell hadn’t seen daylight in as long as he could remember. Whiter than chalk dust, Christian wondered if there had ever been a day where he soaked up the sun and breathed fresh air.
Ruth Powell told him to think of it as a game. Just like hide and seek. Except this particular game consisted mostly of hiding.
The same went for Addie and myself. Mom named her Adelaide, but I always called her Addie. And she seemed to take to it more than her birth name. And she called me Dina, which is my name. But when she was younger she used to call me Dee-nee. That’s how she would pronounce it. God, she’s adorable.
It’s not easy being the youngest of three children. That’s why I always looked out for Addie. She was more my child than she was moms. Addie’s the youngest. I’m the middle. And Christian was the oldest.
A brooding child entering that awkward stage of adolescence, Christian’s objective was to defy our mothers every will and command. But she was adamant when it came to her rules.
The curtains stayed drawn, the doors and windows remained locked at all times. That was the way it had been since they had gotten to dad.
We all knew how father had met his fate, but we never spoke of it aloud. The V word was expressly forbidden in this house. In case you’re wondering, that V word is vampires.
Dad had gone out one night to gather supplies against his better judgment. He never made it back. The vampires snatched him in the night, drained him of every ounce of blood. At least that’s the story mom had scared the hell out of us with.
Mom found the body and gave him a proper burial. That was why mom never wanted us going outside. Day or night. The vampires were always lurking, dwelling, waiting for a fresh bite.
Mom was the only one brave enough to venture out once a week to gather food and supplies. Well, Christian had expressed interest in venturing out on his own, but mom wouldn’t take the risk.
Christian had grown suspicious of mom those last few months, questioning every motive. And also questioning the bittersweet fruit punch she served us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was never store-bought, always homemade.
Then, one day, it boiled over during breakfast. Christian was in a rotten mood and mom wasn’t having any of it. Addie cupped her teeny hinds over her delicate ears to shield them from the angry shouts.
“I won’t have you telling me what to do anymore,” was Christian’s final argument. “I’m a teenager. And with dad gone, I’m the man of this house. It’s time I start acting like it. And it’s time I show everyone there’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s no vampires, no monsters. It’s all in your sick mind.”
“Christian, please!” mom cried as Christian marched towards the front door. I heard the lock snap and the hinges creak as the door thrust open.
Christian stepped out onto the porch, and the warm pleasant sun grazed his face. “See!” He shouted from the porch. “Nothing to be afraid of. I don’t see any–” Christian’s word were cut off by a sudden bout of pain.
The sun was making him ill.
It was killing him.
The exposed skin of his arms and legs bubbled, cracked, and sizzled. Flames sprouted up from his chest and back and in seconds, every inch of his body was lit ablaze. He was a human fireball. His pale white skin transformed from raw-red to brown to charcoal black.
Smoke billowed to the sky, tainting the air with the stench of cooked flesh. The fire devoured him as he sank to one knee and with his final agonizing breath, disintegrated. His body reduced to a pile of smoldering ash.
Addie and I watched from the shadow of the door, my hand patting her back gently as if this gesture offered some form of consolation. It took a few seconds, but the tears came eventually. First for Addie, then for me.
I realized that day what Christian refused to accept. I realized that mom wasn’t crazy. Mom really was trying to protect us. And she didn’t lie about the vampires either. She just wasn’t honest about which side we were on.