Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Darius Lives! Well, Not Really Lives. Well, He's Kinda Back.

Remember a while back, I wasn't sure if this was a short story...or the beginning of a short story...or what?  Well I've decided it was the beginning of a short story.  Well, I've decided it's the beginning of a short story.  And I've dusted it off.  And I wrote a little bit more of it today.

And even though I made you look at that link, I'm putting the whole thing here from the beginning...'cause I'm a snot like that.  And yes...I kinda know where it's going, but I'm not sure what the ending is.  Ah well.

P.S. I'm still thinking of making up a new banner with Jim's suggestion as a tagline:  Don't Listen to the Mean Internet People.

Darius Coville woke at precisely one minute after Midnight.  He didn’t wake with a start but the transformation from deepest sleep to wide awake had been instantaneous, nonetheless.  The first thought that occurred to him was to wonder how he knew the time precisely to the minute.  He didn’t have an answer to the question, but he knew that he was exactly correct.

The next thing he noticed was how completely dark it was.  It didn’t scare him at all, but this too, weighed on his curiosity.  He was actually rather pleased with himself that the dark didn’t inspire any sense of panic. His mother would be proud of him if she knew.  After all, he was little more than 11 years old and he could well remember being afraid of the dark; and that was normal dark, the kind with shadows moving about, taking outlandish shapes and meanings in his imagination.  This was an utter absence of light and even though it should be much scarier, it did nothing but add another item for him to ponder.

Something was truly different but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

He thought back.  He recalled that the day had started like any other day with Momma hollering from the kitchen for he and his little brother Jake to come in for breakfast.  He had been doing his morning chore of milking Honey Pie, the family’s one cow.  Jake was still too small to handle the milking but he had recently gotten the job of tossing feed to the chickens and retrieving any new eggs in the coop.

After breakfast, Momma had made sure that Darius and Jake practiced their letters.  School might be out for the harvest but Momma still made them keep up with their lessons.  She had plans for her boys and those plans didn’t include scraping out a living on any Missouri farm, no-siree!

The rest of the morning had also been uneventful.  Jake had been sent out to collect fallen apples from the tree behind the barn and Darius was kept busy splitting some logs for the woodpile.  Eventually Papa came in from the fields for lunch and the family had all sat down together for a meal of Momma’s fried chicken (almost fresh from the icehouse), and sweet buttermilk.  Lunch was eaten in silence after Papa had uttered a short prayer.

Darius had heard his father and some of the other men down at the town store arguing about whether or not a war was really brewing.  Nobody there was overly fond of Lincoln, (Darius had learned a few new terms listening to that conversation), but neither were they all-fired eager to get involved in a fight they didn’t see as their own.  There wasn’t a single slave owner in the county and the few freed blacks living there weren’t any trouble at all.  That young’un, Thaddeus Washington was a fine blacksmith and when old Bart Johnson had died, all of his usual customers had taken their work to him without a word of complaint.  Darius knew his Papa was a lot more worried than he let on.

After helping Momma clear the dishes, Darius was told he could take Jake down to the creek and see if they couldn’t catch some dinner.  They chased each other and stopped to have swordfights with their cane-poles on the way down to the creek but it had only taken them twice as long to get there as it should have.  That was fine, though.  Momma wouldn’t expect to see them again for hours and as long as they brought back a few fine catfish, everyone would be happy.  The fishing might be serving a real purpose on the farm, but everyone knew the boys had been let loose from chores for the rest of the day.

The day had turned awfully hot by then and Jake shucked off his clothes and jumped into the creek the minute they got there.  Darius had yelled at him to come on out, that he’d just scare all of the fish away, but there was no heat in the rebuke.  Soon, the two of them were both splashing in the creek and cooling off.

Jake was making a game of diving under water in one place and reappearing somewhere else, hoping to surprise his big brother.  Darius just floated lazily on his back, enjoying the sensation of the cool water.  The cool water and the quiet of the creek flowing and the breeze in the trees.  The quiet.

Suddenly, Darius had realized that he didn’t hear Jake splashing or whooping any more.  He’d looked around and hadn’t seen him anywhere.  Frantically, he’d started searching for his little brother, diving and swimming underwater in the silty water.  On his fourth dive, he’d come up hard against a large tree limb resting on the bottom.  Somehow, Jake had gotten his ankle trapped under the branch and was trying to free himself.  Darius tried lifting the branch, but that only forced his feet deeper into the muddy bottom.

He dug furiously at the mud and rock bottom trying to free his brother. With his breath burning in his chest, he fought a heavy rock out of the way and Jake was free.  In the act of moving the rock, however, he had rolled it onto his own forearm.  He was trapped himself now and knew he couldn’t hold his breath a moment longer.

Darius lay in that unusual darkness, just moments after he’d awakened and smiled inwardly, knowing he’d saved his little brother.  He was glad to have that memory because he also remembered that it was the only thing he had to stack up against how much it sucked being dead.


Right on the heels of that thought, Darius indulged a moment of curiosity. Sucked?  That sure wasn’t a word left over from his short life.  He realized he knew exactly what it meant, though; the way someone living in a foreign land wakes up one morning to realize they had just been dreaming in the local language.  Where the hell did “sucked” come from, he thought.  And when did “hell” replace “heck” in my vocabulary?

This was followed almost immediately by another thought.  “Vocabulary”? I’m sure I’d heard that word before my unfortunate accident, but the other boys would have ragged me to the ends of the Earth if I’d ever used such a high-falutin’ word in their company.

Darius lay there for a moment, understanding that if he was only patient, it would all come back to him.  Patience was something he hadn’t come by naturally.  Achieving any sense of patience had taken…well…a lot of patience.

He remembered the first time he had “woken up” here in his casket.  That one had been really bad.  He hadn’t even realized he was dead at the time…just that he was in a dark, stuffy place.  He’d panicked and tried scratching his way out.  Good thing the dead don’t feel pain.  Or bleed.

In fact, he’d lost count, but he was sure he’d wasted his first 20 or 30 “risings” panicking and trying to figure out what was going on.  Finally, he’d made a breakthrough when he remembered how pointless the anxiety was.  That time, he’d calmed down almost immediately and really put some thought into his situation.  And, sure as can be…he’d drifted up through his coffin lid…up through the six feet of soil and roots that had taken hold since his drowning.  Up to a surface he didn’t recognize.  And then, he’d let panic set in again.  Another wasted rising.

It took him another 6 risings before he figured out that he was in his family’s burial plot out on the little rise overlooking the house.  Only the house wasn’t there anymore.  The farm wasn’t much to look at either. “Well, it never was all that much to look at, but at least you could tell it was a farm back then”, he’d thought.  Apparently, while Darius had been decomposing – funny, he didn’t feel any less solid – the town had come out and swallowed up the farm.  There was a Bank building and a Sundries Store and a Theater...clear out here almost a mile from where "town" used to end.  There was even a trolley line.  He was just beginning to wonder how he knew anything about "trolley lines" when this particular rising came to an abrupt end.

It took two more risings after that for him to come up with anything resembling a plan.  Toward the end of that second subsequent rising, he decided he should take advantage of the little time he seemed to keep getting – try to actually learn something about his situation.  And then, of course, that particular rising came to an end too.

On the occasion of his 42nd rising after his death, he wasted only 20 minutes or so trying to force answers.  He quickly came to the conclusion that if he was going to ever make any real plans, it would help to know how this whole rising thing worked…and how long it lasted.  He quickly set himself to simply observing.

There were very few leaves on the trees; it must be autumn.  And, on thinking about it, he was pretty sure it was always autumn during his risings.  He also realized that there was a full moon.  It sat huge and bright almost directly overhead.  He watched the moon transit the sky and tried to judge the time passing.  He thought he might have heard some birds start to stir and chirp in the trees, but before he could sense the onset of dawn, it was all over again.

The next, rising, however, he remembered all that had gone on in the previous.  He was making progress!

On October 18th, 1904, Darius rose and, in no time flat, he recalled all that had he had learned since his death.  And he decided to go for a walk.

1 comment:

vince said...

Well, get crackin'. Since it's just the beginning, I want to see where it goes.

Yes, you sucked me in. I admit it.