Unwritten Rules of Impossible ThingsTom Lichtenberg / Fantasy / Science Fiction
Unwritten Rules of Impossible Things
Copyright 2010 by Tom Lichtenberg
Later, when the Dark Rider was once again known only as Phil, he wouldn't want to talk about what happened that summer. Of course, the Dark Rider was never much of one for talking anyhow. He was more of a traveler. He'd been born and raised right there in Spring Hill Lake, spent all his life so far in a dingy little house by the old wharf with his mom and dad. Well, he shared the same house but hardly saw much of them. Pete and Marina Galvez weren't the traditional family types. They'd achieved a sort of equilibrium by rigorously avoiding each other and their son. Pete put in long, irregular hours in a warehouse near the old abandoned railway station. Marina worked the night shift as a waitress at a restaurant in the fish market. Marina's expected arrival home was always Pete's cue to leave. Pete's return coincided with Marina's exit. In this way they'd managed to remain married for more than twelve years.
For eleven of those years, they'd had a son to work around. Early on they'd tried to get by using neighborhood teenage girls to raise him, but these too often simply left the baby alone, and then demanded more money for the trouble. Then they tried some old women but eventually got tired of the griping. So by the time he was six, Phil was pretty much left to take care of himself, and he did pretty well for a kid.
By then he was already swimming in the river, climbing every tree, scrounging for food in dumpsters, and looting every unguarded building for parts and equipment. He was a taker-aparter. Anything that was made of more than one piece was subjected to his special skills of deconstruction. For a long time he wasn't interested in putting things back together, and his bedroom housed a mountain of assorted bits and pieces. Later on he started assembling them all in new and interesting ways.
Everyone knew about Phil. Social workers paid regular calls to make sure he was trying to stay in school. His teachers complimented him on his handwriting. Local shop owners left their scraps and junk in prominent spots in order to get rid of the stuff, and to discourage him from invading their storerooms and ripping them off further. He was quick and as stealthy as a feral cat. He was always a bit tall for his age too, and amazingly thin no matter how much he ate, and he did eat a lot. Local schoolgirls were always putting out plates full of goodies on the chance that he might come on by, especially one named Karly, whose dad owned the local donut shop. Karly would hide behind the screen door, peaking out to catch a glimpse whenever she expected to see him. You had to be alert for the Dark Rider. He'd come wheeling by on his skateboard, and before you knew it, whatever had been there was gone. He would sometimes hear Karly giggling there, but he never even stopped to say “Hi.”
The Dark Rider had his own plans. He got the name from his hair, which was black and thick as a mop, and his clothes, which were always as dark as his hair. The Dark Rider went barefoot whenever he could, which was everywhere he went except school. It was the summer before the sixth grade, and the Dark Rider wasn't planning to attend. He was a kid who knew how to learn for himself. He was a regular at the library, where he found everything he needed for his self-education. His major interests were mechanics and physics. He'd become more and more into inventions, beginning with the motors and widgets he'd started attaching to his vehicles. His bicycle had auto-location and voice-activated braking. His skateboard had auxiliary solar power and remote controlled velocity. His roller blades had self-adjusting torque. The Dark Rider wanted a car and he wanted to build it himself, and he wanted it to be small, self-powered, non-polluting and one hundred percent biodegradable. All of this was going to take study, and time, and salvaged materials. The boy had no time to be wasting in school.
Mostly the Dark Rider was fine by himself. He didn't have friends, and didn't feel lonely. There was always someone he could nod to if needed. He'd gotten by all those years on facial expressions and a handful of words. He knew that girls liked him, but he wasn't much bothered by that. The boys kept their distance. Most were afraid of him but would never admit it. Even the older ones secretly wanted to be him. He wasn't much known for conversation, so it was a startled Marcus Holmes who suddenly found the Dark Rider standing beside him one late afternoon by the grocery store.
"Yo Marcus,” the Dark Rider said, and Marcus looked at him and shyly replied,
"You're not going to believe what I saw,” the Dark Rider continued, and he lingered, waiting for Marcus to prompt him. Marcus already had his hands full with his little brother Ben, who was trying to "borrow" some lollipops from the basket by the fruit stand out front.
"Sorry,” Marcus said, grabbing his brother's hand and yanking it away from the candy.
"Ow, that hurt,” Ben protested and twisted away. Ben, at six, was five years younger than Marcus, but sometimes he acted like he was still three.
"Geez,” Marcus sighed and looked back up at the Dark Rider looming beside him.
"What'd you say?" he inquired.
"You're not going to believe it,” the Dark Rider repeated, but this time he didn't wait further for Marcus to ask “believe what?” The Dark Rider had something to tell someone, and that was rare enough. Marcus felt lucky to be the one who just happened to be around.
"Up around Cantwell's,” the Dark Rider said, "You know where I mean?"
"The smoke shop,” Marcus replied, and the Dark Rider nodded.
"You got it,” he said. "There's a house down the street on the left."
"The ghost house?” Marcus asked.
"Cross the street". The Dark Rider shook his head. Obviously Marcus didn't know his left from his right.
"The one with the dogs,” Marcus guessed, and the Dark Rider nodded again.
"That's the one."
"What about it?” Marcus asked. He knew that house pretty well, since he had to go by it on the way to the school every day. Those two big dogs would always be charging the fence and baring their teeth and slobbering and barking and scaring the heck out him and his brother.
"Those are mean dogs,” Ben added, who had come over to stand by his brother to listen.
"You been over there lately?” the Dark Rider wanted to know.
"Like yesterday,” Marcus told him.
"Well, I don't know if it was there yesterday."
"If what was where?"
"The big honking antelope!" the Dark Rider said. "They got this giant antelope in the bedroom."
"A giant cantaloupe?” Ben screwed up his face to ask. Ben even talked and looked like a toddler sometimes. Marcus often wondered if the kid would ever grow up.
"Antelope,” the Dark Rider told him. "Like a moose. Like a big old giant moose."
"That's impossible,” Marcus replied. He was a practical boy. With Marcus, either a thing was possible or not, and if not, there was no point in thinking about it. As young as his brother was for his age, Marcus was always a bit old for his own. Other than the fact that the two were utterly different in each and every way, they looked exactly like brothers. No one would doubt it for a moment. They had the same close, tightly curled hair, the same big brown eyes, the same smooth dark skin, the same small mouth, even the same straight and purposeful stride.
"I'm telling you,” the Dark Rider said. "You've got to come and see this thing."
"Yeah,” Ben cheered, ever eager for anything new.
"We're supposed to get back with this stuff,” Marcus said, gesturing at the bag of veggies and fruit he was holding.
"It's not out of your way,” the Dark Rider told him. "Come on! You just got to see it."
"Well, okay,” Marcus started to say but the Dark Rider had sped off before him. Marcus was a little annoyed because he wanted to go home and get back to his video game, but at the same time, an invite from the Dark Rider wasn't something that happened any day, and a moose in a bedroom had to be something to see. Ben was already sprinting ahead, so Marcus had to hustle to catch up.
"Impossible,” he muttered to himself. "There's never been anything like that.