Clouds, p.2Nate Allen
Grant sat in class, tapping all ten fingers on his desk, and shaking his head. Had it been eleven years since burying his father? Had it been that long?
The years had passed, only to prove that time heals nothing. Still, when the wind blew through his voids, it burned. Though, the pain wasn't as sharp. It had dulled.
He could hear the fat and balding teacher talking up front, but he wasn't listening. Instead, Grant was closing his eyes, and digging for a memory. He was looking for something to tie him to the father he had lost almost exactly eleven years and one month before.
But, there were no images waiting within. The only memory he could ever find was the hospital and the ever-lasting Beep. All Grant had was the present moment, and the future that sat not so distant, not anymore. The American Dream was on the horizon: college, marriage, kids. Yet, Grant was stuck in the same place he had been for the last eleven years: empty. He was in twelfth grade now. It was September 16th of 2011, a Friday.
As he sat at his desk, Grant pondered the meaning of a future. What would come in a world with a temporary war now entering into its tenth year, a failing economy, and talk of the end of the world just around the corner? Did he have a future, or was it a futile thought to begin with?
The minutes on the clock ticked by; the moronic teacher up front spoke of irrelevant things; life was a dead end, just like that stupid town with the cemetery by the lake, and thirty three hundred some odd souls. Grant wanted to be able to sit at his desk, smile, and say the future holds bright things! But, he couldn't. He had no aspirations. Every day was just another day to stay alive. But, this wasn't living. This was just surviving, in a shell of a human who had never found the happiness that left when his dad died.
After another four hours of mindless teaching from different teachers, school ended for the week. Grant left the high school with his books in his bag, his car keys in his hand, and his mind trapped in the Mundane. It would be like every other day in this stupid town, and he knew it. He knew he would get in his forest green Sable, drive home, do whatever homework he had, and then live with a mind that desperately wanted a reason to continue. He had thought about ending his life many times. But, something always stopped him: fear. Though, it wasn't of death. It was of the possibility of something more.
Ten years before, Grant had come to a place where he accepted his father's death. And for the shortest of time, it made him feel okay. It didn't last. It proved to be just as brief as a sweat after a nightmare.
Everything was changing around him. His mother was now dating; his little sister was now ten and only growing; his best friend, Bobby Jackson, was now just a son of a father with terminal cancer. He had been a class clown. He had been a joyous person. Now, he was just pieces of the friend Grant knew.
Grant sat in his idling Sable, waiting for the red light to turn green. He tapped the bottom of the steering wheel, situated his rearview and side mirrors, and then hummed impatiently. Another ten seconds passed, and the light turned green. He drove home. After shutting off his car, Grant stared at his steering wheel for a moment, and then walked inside. He thought he knew what he would find when entering, but it wasn't what he had expected.
Grant opened the front door.
Standing tall, ensconced in shadow, was his father. A wide grin sat on his face, and his eyes shone like dark diamonds.
"Hello, Grant." he opened his arms wide.
"Dad?" Grant asked while stepping forward, seeing only an empty home lit by candles.
"Why did you stop believing?" his father started walking forward. "I told you to never stop believing."
"I never did believe dad. It's a stupid thing to believe."
"Why is it stupid?" his steps became faster.
"God isn't real!" screamed Grant.
"What about the devil?" his father asked, now guttural.
"I said what about the devil?" Grant looked left and right slowly. The atmosphere had changed; the house was empty; his father had now been absorbed into the shadows.
"Dad?!" Grant yelled. "Are you there?"
"Why aren't you showing yourself?"
"I'm a monster."
"No you're not."
"Ye-yes," he trembled. "I am."
"I miss you, dad." Grant was near tears. "It isn't the same without you, it never will be."
"Run, kiddo." his father whimpered, growling pervasively.
"I'm going to eat you." Suddenly the door swung shut, and all but one candle went out. Grant blinked twice, breathed deep, and tried to calm a hectic heart. A deep growl sat within the shadowed house, bouncing from wall to wall.
"Da-dad?" whispered Grant as he fell to his knees. "Save me."
"I can't." he answered. "Not anymore..."
HONK! Grant's face was pressing against his steering wheel. Sweat dripped down his face; his eyes were wet with tears. Grant sat and stared. He was a wrecked, broken young man, abandoned by the God he had one time believed in.
He dug deep down only to find that he was empty. He knew that he couldn't stay in this sad life anymore. Something had to happen soon. Happiness had to find him. Or Grant knew that soon he would be just like his father: dead and buried.
"Why do you still haunt me?" Grant sniffled. "What do you want?" His father didn't appear next to him, smile, and say that everything is going to be alright. His answer was a quiet voice calling him to the cemetery. He couldn't avoid it anymore. It was slipping out in dreams. It was threatening his very existence.
Grant put the car in drive, and took the first left. He drove by several blocks worth of homes, and then parked outside of the gate. In the eleven years that his father had been dead, he had visited his grave only twice. The last visit had been ten years before, with his mom. She had brought flowers to lie on his grave.
From his car, Grant looked out past the gate. He remembered the finality of that day. He remembered standing in a suit, being a strong boy as they lowered the casket into the ground. He remembered the last words his dad ever said to him: "love ya, kiddo." A stroke of sadness brushed across his being, and then went away. Like alcohol on a cut, it burned while cleaning. And when the pain faded, he felt different.
He sat in his car for a few moments more, now taking deep breaths and wiping his eyes dry. He had cried years worth of tears, and now was a calm soul. Grant grabbed the door handle and opened it, only to find himself in a haze of memories. For a moment, he was not eighteen, but a seven year old boy walking through the gates to bury his father. It was a walk of memories that seemed to mirror what he remembered. He heard the sniffle of his mom's cry behind him, though he was walking alone. He heard the preacher blessing his father's body, although the cemetery was empty. Grant relived the burial of his father eleven years and one month after he buried him.
Clouds littered a light blue sky; the sun was a bright light shining down on a man who felt child-like once again. Grant glanced up with his palm covering his squinted eyes. "Jonathan Smith was a great man," the preacher's voice sat next to him as he walked through an unkempt yard of green. "But, we should not mourn his loss. The Lord has called His child home."
His father's grave sat below a weeping willow, in a peaceful, shadowed place. He was just a child, now once again hearing the quiet cries from his mom behind him. The grave still looked new. It was a clean marker for a death that had made him the broken man he was. And for some reason the preacher's words played over and over in his head, taunting him. It was a mockery of his pain. It was a reminder of just how much he had lost on the day they buried his father.
Grant had never actually stopped believing in the idea of a God. He still thought that maybe his father was in heaven. But, he also thought that there was nothing after life. His father's death wasn't a calling home to heaven. It was simply a mistake made that put him six feet under. He stared down at those words: Jonathan Smi
He looked up from the card, and then back down. "I'll never forget you, dad." it was quiet and controlled. He closed his eyes and stood up. The lake was a clear bed of crystal reflecting a color filled sky. He looked up and then down. And then without saying anything more started walking back toward his car.
A girl five inches shorter than his six foot self, stepped into his view. She was dressed in tight faded blue jeans, and a white t-shirt. Grant glanced at her, and then turned his head away. She hadn't noticed.
She looked broken, much like him. Grant wanted to hug her, kiss her? marry her. As he looked at the girl with reddish blonde hair and eyes like the sky, he knew she was the one.
Grant stopped walking. He could only stare. She glanced over, looked away, and then glanced again. Her pretty eyes, though sad, craved life. There was a sparkle of personality. It was a personality Grant immediately connected with.
They now observed one another. They contemplated an immediate attraction and then each took a step forward. It seemed poetic that two lost souls were finding each other in a cemetery.
Neither Grant nor the girl said a word. They didn't need to. Their eyes expressed feelings that their mouths couldn't. The girl's pain seemed to drip away the closer she came. And little bits of life were crawling into her eyes. They both now smiled. Grant had never been a believer in such things as love at first sight, until now.
"Hi." Grant said softly.
"Hi." she answered shyly.
"What brings you here?" it was all he could think to say.
"Pain." she whimpered, mid-sniffle. "You?"
"Pain." he answered hesitantly.
She nodded her head, and then looked down at the ground.
Grant could see her reluctance; he felt the same way. It was quiet as he shuffled thoughts around in his head. He was being careful. She was fragile, maybe even more than him. "What's your pain?" he asked with sympathetic curiosity. "I'll tell you mine."
"Can I hear yours first?" she asked candidly.
"Yeah," he nodded with a sigh. "Um, when I was seven m-my dad-god this is hard to say out loud." he paused, and grinned while shaking his head. "He died from a car accident. His injuries were irreparable. I remember the way the doctor looked at me when his heart monitor flat lined. He had this cold understanding, like he was in on some joke I wasn't. Maybe it was just my perception, I don't know. I remember the funeral like it was yesterday. All I can think about now is the preacher blessing his body. I don't know why, but it makes me angry. He died eleven years ago, but it's only just become real. That's probably stupid."
"What's your name?" she asked.
"It isn't stupid, Grant. Not at all." she reached for his hand, and grabbed it. "I know that feeling."
"How do you handle it?" he took her hand as well.
"... I don't know. I guess I don't, that must be why I'm at her grave on a random Friday."
"Who?" he asked.
"My older sister's." again, she looked ready to close herself away, but instead she opened up even more. "In certain ways I envy you, Grant."
"Why would you envy me? I've been an empty shell for eleven years, a sad, pathetic shell."
"You didn't kill him. I killed her. It was my f-fault."
"What are you talking about?"
"Sh-she was at a party almost three years ago. It was like any party: drinking, drugs, sex. But, my older sister had never been one to fall into that scene. She was there with friends. They were all drunk, unable to drive. They hadn't designated a driver," she sniffed, and ran her thin fingers through her thick hair. "Not this time at least. So early that morning, she called me and asked to get a ride home. I was fifteen, not yet old enough to drive legally, but she was my sister. Dad is a military man and he would have torn into her, and mom would have sided with dad. After she called, I snuck out of my room, stole the keys from mom's purse, and drove out to where she was. It was a country house out in the middle of nowhere. I drove wary of cops, and finally arrived out at the house. Theresa stood outside, out of it-um high, and drunk, maybe more. It wasn't like her, but I didn't judge. She climbed into the backseat, curled up into a ball, and said thanks. It was th-the last thing she would ever say to me. The next thing I knew, a deer stepped out into the middle of the road, I panicked, and jerked the steering wheel left. When I woke up, I was in a hospital, staring into my mom's eyes. She had this pain in them, this hate toward me. The questions, the blame... I killed her."
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Chelsea," she was quiet.
"That was not your fault, Chelsea. It could have happened to anyone."
"But, it didn't happen to anyone. It was me." she said softly. "Maybe if I had done something different, m-maybe she would be in college now, instead of there." Chelsea pointed at her sister's grave.
"What could have you done differently?"
"All I can ever imagine are the words she'd say. The memories of her are good, but they are overshadowed by everything else. She'd have so much to say. My parents still blame me. I am ugly and worthless."
"Do you know what I see when I look at you?" Grant smiled. She didn't reply, instead she blinked and shook her head from side to side. "I see someone who doesn't know how beautiful she is. You have sadness, but I can see the life in your eyes. I'm just a stranger, and all you know about me is my pain, but I can honestly say you are the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen."
Chelsea's cheeks were streaked red as her eyes smiled. But, her immediate impulse was to hide away. He was getting too close. She tried to close away, only to find Grant's finger rubbing softly against her cheek. His lips touched hers, once and then a second time. Without saying it, the message had been conveyed. Grant knew her heart was his. Chelsea knew his heart was hers. Two shy souls had met in a cemetery, united by pain. Or maybe it was hope?
Clouds by Nate Allen / Horror have rating 2.8 out of 5 / Based on36 votes