Yet Another excerpt from my collection of short stories
As a kid I traveled a lot to see surgeons and specialists. It was not that I lived in a place that was devoid of medical practitioners, it was the fact that my disability was so out of the ordinary and not many people knew how to analyze and work with it that I had to travel a few states away from where I lived just to find a doctor who was qualified to interpret what was going on with my body.
Lucky for me a friend of my parents lived near the medical university that I was being treated at and my parents and I would stay at his mother’s home. Nora was not her name, but as I have stated not everyone who is mentioned in these recollections will be portrayed by their true name, none the less my love for her was deep and I still look on my time I got to spend with her fondly. She acted as a surrogate grandmother to me and she was for lack of a better word amazing. Nora was small in stature with a deep warm smile and eyes that always seemed to not look at anything but still take the world in on a level generations past hers had forgotten how to. She was always accompanied by a cloud of smoke that issued from her slow burning cigarettes and she would moved about in her slippers and house coat making sure we were all taken care before she would sit and enjoy her cup of lava hot coffee while she played solitaire, the kind with real cards not the computer game, if memory serves me correctly the most modern peace of technology that she owned was an old tube television, her house was not the type of place that seemed to welcome the modern world and as far as I was concerned that was fine with me, after spending so much time surrounded by medical equipment and modern fixtures it was just nice to be somewhere that felt real, a place that had the softness and comfort of a well worn stone.
Her house sat halfway up the side of a mountain. Far below you could make out a rural road that wound its way by and somewhere up the mountain from where she lived past the large gardens of vegetable and herbs, pass the crooked trees, and pass the trellis of grape vines her mother lived. Her home was wonderful. Like something out of a story book. I had a room of my own to stay in. The walls were dark wood paneled and the floor was plush green carpet. There was only one light in the room and it was a small orange desk lamp so when the sun went down the lamp would cast the whole room in an almost campfire glow. I would sit on the fold out cot in a forest of dime store novels and comic books and read for hours uninterrupted. She would have an excuse to walk by the door every hour or so, but she never felt the need to ask if I was okay, or if I needed anything. She gave me the freedom to ask if I needed or wanted anything and to be left alone otherwise. I think on some level the old woman understood that I enjoyed my solitude after medical ordeals and I needed the time to slip into the world of Howard or Lovecraft to just get away for a while. There were times I would read well into the night and find myself shocked by the hands of clock as they read half past eleven.
It was on one particular night where I was following the adventures of a small boy and his newly found pet dragon that the world off of the pages began to get a little strange. From outside the window I heard something strange, it was not quite the sound of a cat, but something larger, more primal, and less natural. I turned off the orange light, and giving into my curiosity I made my way to the small window in my room. Outside I could make out little more than pine trees and moon light, stars littered the sky and the soft glow of the moon off the evergreen trees cast everything in a beautiful unnatural light. But I could not see anything in the darkness. Whatever had made the sound was not there, or at least I could not see it in the darkness.
It was then I smelled the familiar comforting aroma of slow burning cigarettes passing by the door to my room. I clumsily made my way to the door, my lack of leg braces for support and crutch to lean on had me making use of the ancient chest of draws for support. I launched myself to the door frame and poked my head into the dark hallway just in time to see the tail of a house coat slip out of the screen door. It was late for her to be going outside, she had no problem smoking in the house and any ripe vegetables would have been picked by now. I knew she woke up early, but deep in my stomach I knew something was going on. Using the walls of the hallway to steady myself I made my way slowly to the screen door I had seen the house coat disappear through. It was dark but the large window in the kitchen let in enough moon light for me to make my way around tables and odd artifacts of antiquity. Nora had a strange collection in her home old wooden statues, brass animals, and other things with stranger more indescribable characteristics.
Another strange feline sound spurred me to hasten my movement. Swinging from breakfast window to coffee table to setting chair I made my way to the door in three short ungraceful jerks of my body. I peered through the screen into the yard beyond, wild flowers lined the gravel path leading around the front of the house the summer moon illuminated the soft uncut grass that bordered on the well tended garden. To my left there sat an old barn well worn with age the front of a tractor poking out to my right a field that slowly became the thick woods that surrounded the house. But Nora was nowhere to be seen. The sound came again but this time it was louder, closer, I was not afraid but still I was filled with a strange since of dread. Whatever was making this sound was not of this world.
What happened next is a bit of a blur, it happened so quickly, from out of the shadows of the field a great emptiness strode, it looked as if someone filmed a large jungle cat walking out of the thick grass and then removed it leaving only a hole in space where it should have been, to say it was black would be an understatement, it seemed to be formed out of the absence of space itself. My mind felt like it would fracture just looking upon the thing, then without warning something strange erupted out of the left side of the yard as Nora came around the corner of the house. Her hands on her hips the smoldering cherry of her cigarette looked dim in comparison to the smoldering crimson of her eyes.
At the time I was not sure what was happening, what I saw was thick wind, like smoke with a purpose lashing out at this lack of a creature. I fell to my knees, everything was just so much to take in, this elderly woman who made breakfast and cookies while humming silly little tunes, was somehow willing the natural world to lash out at this thing that was just not there and yet was moving about. The thing leaped at her, it was like a cat, huge, but at the same time it was like nothing, just, not there. Nora stretched out her arm and a sound came from her lips that may have been words but they were constructed in a way that I had never heard before. The nothing thing tore into her arm but when it pulled back all it had in its nothing mouth was a few shreds of house coat, it was at that point Nora’s cigarette became white hot and then….
I woke up in my room to the sound of frying bacon. I serched my memory of the events from the night before but I could not find anything more than what I have recaled here. I made my way to the kitchen to see my mother and Nora chatting and not wanting to seem like I had some sort of nightmare brought on by, as my mother was prone to saying, “to many comic books”. I played the part of the sleepy child and sat at the table. My father came in with a few tomatoes from the garden and we all sat down to breakfast. Nora ruffled my hair and asked me if I slept well and I nodded.
“You were up late.” Nora said.
“I was reading a good book.” I replied softly.
My mother piped up “Nora, what happened to your house coat?”
Looking down there were what appeared to be large scratch marks ripped into one of the selves of the old house coat. Nora just smiled and shrugged. “Who knows she chuckles, you know me, always getting into something.” She reached over and ruffled my hair once more and then noticing that there was plate showing through the mountains of breakfast food she re lit her cigarette and launched into her normal dance of filling plates and frying eggs.
The lives that I am lucky enough to have twine into mine are important to me. Nora was always a solid part of my childhood, it was like having a story book adventure that had retired and now spent her days as a simple widow woman making me breakfast and telling me stories about giants and talking fish. People would look at her and just see an old lady, even if behind the haze of cigarette smoke and old housecoat there was so much more. As I grew older and more doctors who were closer to my parents home became aware of how to deal with my neurological disabilities I spent less and less time with her, and many years ago she passed on from this world, but I will never forget the way she made eggs, the kindness she showed me or the things I saw on the mountain that night both the things that were there and the things that weren't.
May you always remember those important to you, and as always all I ask is that you believe in everything.