8. The Infernato

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Charlie

I tried to slip Tane past my mother. I really did. I tried to hide the fact that we were dragging a dead body to the backyard to burn. I took every possible precaution but my mom suddenly appeared out of the proverbial thin air. I jumped a little, dropping my end of the body and glancing back at Tane. She was frozen in a half crouch, holding her end of the Feeder.

“Charlie!” I closed my eyes against the questions that any normal person would have. “I'm so glad you're home!” she cried, ignoring Tane and—more importantly—the body we were lugging. Any normal person, indeed. She kissed me on the cheek warmly.

“Hi, Mom.”

“I'm going to the store today—” she rambled, even though she said the same thing every day. Soon, her speech began to recycle itself. I waited until she got to a question that I could answer. “Do you need anything for school?”

I shook my head as I looked into her eyes, so much like mine it hurt. In some other life, under any other circumstance, I thought, she would have been the best mother any kid could ask for. Even out of her mind she was kind, considerate, and doting. Her hair was perfectly brushed, styled, and sprayed; the complete antithesis of a horror movie crazy person.

“Charlie, darling, I’ll be house-sitting for Mrs. Daniel’s for a couple of days. Tell your friend—” she threw a quick hopeful future-daughter-in-law look at Tane, “—that she is welcome for dinner. Make sure she calls her parents. And take out that trash,” she ended, looking at the load Tane still held.

House-sitting was my mom’s way of thinking of overnight observation at Shady Oaks. She smiled and gave my cheek a last stroke. Suddenly, as I watched my mom pull away from me and waltz into the back of the house, I missed my dad.

Tane's hand found my shoulder and she whispered my name. I turned back to her and re-gripped the cloth, hoisting the weight up off the ground a couple of inches. We stared for a long time; it just felt like a silent conversation. I told her everything. I thought freely and she nodded every now and then.

I told her that my dad had left a year after my mother had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder; a mental condition that made her have delusions that never went away and, without her medicine, horrible depression that lasted for months.

My dad couldn't deal with the fact that he was her husband and he couldn't 'save' her. As a surgeon, he just wasn't used to that reality. I refused to desert her, though. My dad called sometimes, but it was less frequent recently. He still paid for most everything. I guess it was his way of apologizing. I let Tane see how much it hurt before I remembered the Feeder.

I jumped at the realization of the heavy weight of cloth in my hands. I dropped the dead body, not really knowing why. I looked back up at Tane and there was no judgment in her gaze. I swallowed hard. I bit my lip and broke away first, clearing my throat and picking up my end of the Feeder again.

After hauling the thing to my backyard, I couldn’t stop panting. Tane was completely fine. She barely looked like she'd done more than two jumping jacks. I glanced up at her. Her eyes were not on me, but rather the wrapped body of the monster. So I figured it would be a good time to stare and drool.

She looked less glowing to me somehow. I wondered if being on Earth was draining her. I wondered if that was even possible. A rebel curl spiraled across her cheek and I felt a strong urge to brush it away. Her eyes were mournful and effortless at the same time as she unwrapped the Feeder.

“What?” I prodded, drawing her attention back to me; which is, admittedly, where I wanted it.

“The passing of this life saddens me.”

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