“I’m not going,” a boy said to his mother.
“Yes, you are. You have to go.” His mother called to him from outside the closed bedroom door yet her voice was clear as the new day. She had steel plated lungs capable of piercing any barrier with ease. The boy’s room had a window facing east, and on this morning the blinds were not fully closed. There was a gap just large enough that when the sun rose a beam of light shot through. The light edged down the wall and crawled across the floor toward the boy’s bed. Splinters of inhospitable light sliced through the venetian blinds like warm butter. The grey, black and muted browns of night were consumed by sanguinary hues of morning: pinks, orange, deep and ripe reds. The boy’s mother continued.
“Do you hear me? You’re going to be late for school.” The mother, nowhere to be seen, belted out her notes. The sound had no issue with the thin painted wood of the boy’s bedroom door or the wall’s white plastered barrier. It burst through every crack and imperfection like an eggshell falling to a kitchen floor.
“I’m sick,” the boy said moaning.
”No, not this time,” the mother quickly resolved, “I won’t fall for that again.”
There was a brief pause before she continued.
“When you’re ready breakfast is downstairs.” The mother turned to the staircase and upon taking the first step all sound immediately stopped, turned likewise, and rushed out of the room to follow her, leaving silence in its wake. The light, seeing it was no longer in competition, gained on the corners of the room to encircle the boy then, with leisure, began to ascend a portion of blanket that had conveniently slipped to the floor. The light formed a thread, drawing up, now slowly, to savor the acquisition.
The boy was totally unaware of what was happening. He was so engrossed in the problem of convincing his mother, he did not seem to notice. He was usually able to persuade his mother with considerable ease but the frequency of his tactics had given her good reason for suspicion. Collecting all his thoughts to this one task, he search for the perfect thing to say and after some deep contemplation he gave this compelling argument, “But I really am sick!” There was no reply. He took a deep inhale and crossed his arms in defeat sinking back into his pillow.
As the boy considered his next move he began to notice his hair stood on end. He drew the covers over his head as a cold shiver shot down his back. His stomach leapt forward.
With his arms wrapped tightly around his knees, the boy fell deeper. He had fallen into the frozen waters of the arctic. Ice clung to his face, water ran through his fingers, in between his toes, he was submerged. He lay there helpless and shivering as he plunged deeper. He felt the frost flowing through his veins, crystalizing into stone. Then, he remembered he had never left his room. He told himself this strange feeling was nothing more than a draft of morning air and that his mother probably had just opened a window.
The boy drew his blanket closer, pressing it against his face. He began to adjust to the cold air. He exhaled. To his great relief his body was warming up, his blood was returning to its original liquid state. Soon he was feeling better, but his body did not stop. It got warmer and warmer, his blood started to boil, his skin began to blister and peel. He was set ablaze, trapped in the heat that so recently had saved him. Desperate to escape he flung his arm forward. With a sudden burst of strength he broke out of the furnace and was free. The victory, would not last long.
Less than an inch from the boy’s face, the morning light was waiting for him. The boy threw off his blanket and called for his mother. But before the words could leave his mouth the rays cut into his eyes. In the face of this terrible journey, all in a moment, the boy remembered something he had since forgotten: his very first memory.
The boy was on a beach. Waddling through the warm yellow sand along a gentle summer tide, he was nearly two. He found a shell he liked. So, he grasped the bottom of his shirt, carefully widened his stance, and bent down to appreciate it from a closer view. The boy leaned over it thoughtfully for a while, noticing it was particularly beautiful. With a tender hand the boy picked up the shell and placed it in his mouth. It was salty, it made him spit and the boy decided he did not like his shell anymore and let it fall from his grasp. He raised his head to look for his mother. The breeze was picking up ocean vapors and sand. It blew over the boy’s face and through his hair, he could not see very well. But the warm sun and cool breeze comforted him. With great dexterity he managed to stand upright without falling. The boy turned his head squinting.
The air thickened into tar and dripped into his cornea. All the boy could see were little shards of light radiating around him carving into his vision, the rest was steeped in unearthly blackness. He saw the light dance out in all directions at once in such complicated motions he could not follow the steps. He glanced around the room and no matter where his eyes fell the light was jumping in and out of view. Some periodically floated down to lacerate him further, the rest poured the gritty syrup.
Tar spilled from his eyes, dripping down his face, it filled his lungs and his stomach, and back up over the brim of his heart.
His eyes, free of resin, were able to see the world more clearly. The light had left the boy alone. Every particle had retreated into the walls and in the ceiling between the plaster and the insulation. Some hid in the door between the wood and paint. Sound passed through the room.
“Mom,” the boy cried out to his mother. “Dad,” he cried again.
A voice answered from the ceiling.
“Mama is beneath the kitchen sink.”
“Dada is inside the cabinets.”
The boy was lying in his bed. Motionless. He stared at the ceiling. It was moving. Clockwise. On the edge of his vision he saw the walls. They were moving. Clockwise. He could feel his hair growing. He could feel his fingernails growing. He felt his skin creasing. He felt the enormous pressure of the bed against his back, how it would never go away.
“Even if I stand up the pressure would be on my feet,” he thought.
“I should never get up.”
“I live here,” he thought again, “I live here”
The boy stared at the ceiling. He noticed his hair began to stand on end. As he stared on he saw the little shards hiding in the plaster illuminating the ceiling. It was white, which was the familiar color. Yet, it was different to him. It was not its ordinary shade of white. It was far more vibrant. It was so pure, impossibly clear. It frightened him. The boy was lying in his bed. He felt himself moving. Counterclockwise, He left his bed behind. In that moment the boy knew he would grow old. He closed his eyes to sleep.
The boy was called Daniel. For no real reason, it was just what his parents had decided upon when he was born. Most things seem to happen that way for Daniel. He had a room on the second floor. It was sparsely furnished. Eight pairs of clothes, one pair of shoes, a bed, a lamp, a nightstand, a rug, a window with blinds, and a toy box with thirteen toys, he could list them all from memory. But his mother told him he was more lucky than all the kids in Africa to have a room like that, so he kept his list to himself. He had a few friends, they called him Danny, but he never saw them away from school. Except for once on the way to the supermarket, he saw Sarah playing with a basket ball in the street near a stop sign. Daniel’s mother slowed the car as they approached. Sarah stared from the sidewalk as they passed.
“Isn’t that your friend over there?” Daniel’s mother asked him, gesturing out the car window.
Daniel didn’t know what to say. He didn’t say anything at all.
The boy felt an unusual sensation. The boy felt one of his toys pinned between himself and his mattress. A small red bouncing ball. The boy shifted to retrieve the ball and put in in his toy box so he could return to a comfortable rest. He probed through the bedding blindly, squinting into the night. He finally felt it with his leg on the lower left side of his bed. He kicked it and he felt it roll toward him. Confused, he switched on the bedside lamp and tossed off the sheets. There was a large hairy cockroach frantically circling to find the missing blanket. Terrified and angry the boy threw his pillow at the bug. The cockroach wondering where the incoming missile was from recoiled then flew in the boy’s direction rushing right by his face.
The boy spun in terror, looking for a sign of the rogue insect. When in the corner of his eye he noticed the lamp giving him a peculiar look, one of disapproval.
The walls were also looking at him. The walls stared with hatred. The ceiling was unblinking, staring with threatening intensity. They began to whisper.
“What am I,” the boy asked.
There was no answer.
“Why do you want something,” the boy asked
“You’re not,” shouted the boy
“I can’t,” shouted the boy
The walls became wide and bowed. The ceiling leaned in to stare at the boy.
The window bore its teeth and spat. It slid itself open to stick out its tongue. Out from its throat slid thousands of cockroaches, climbing down the walls, crawling over each other across the ceiling into the boy’s bedroom.
The boy tried to scream but the sound was with his mother. He pushed through the sea of roaches, bursting through the the thin painted wood of his bedroom door. The cockroaches did not pursue him further. He ran down the stairs to find his mother in the kitchen. She was on the floor beside the kitchen sink. She was pale as clay, her hands clasped around her shoulders. A praying mantis presiding over the funeral gave the eu- logy. It was beautifully spoken. When the service was concluded it proceeded to remove the mother’s head and consumed it. The boy in all his anguish mounted the counter top and descended into the kitchen sink. He sat upon a hot dog, using a napkin for a sail and a chop stick as a rudder he sailed away on his little boat. When he was hungry he ate a piece of his proud vessel. When he was thirsty he simply drank from the faucet above. Life was good for the boy on that day and every day after. He was so filled with joy he would often sing.
“Life can be easier than you think
If you live in the kitchen sink
To catch a fish inside a spoon
And eat beneath the Bleu Cheese Moon”
The ripples of the tide cradled him as he fell into a peaceful slumber drifting gently down the drain.
The boy was trapped in his feverish nightmare well into the night. When he woke he was downstairs in the living room, beside his mother. She was holding a damp cloth against his forehead.
Though it was difficult to tell what it meant or if it were a dream or a memory. One thing was certain. The boy was alive and though he was still a boy, Daniel was certainly not little.