Xavier (Chapter One)

Xavier, Book Two: The Xavier Trilogy is currently being written. Here's Chapter One:

"Let's burn it!" Robbie bounced from one foot to the other, his exuberance contagious.

"No." Jon shook his head. "You're just being silly Robbie. Let's get inside instead. Go on, try the door."

They waded through the tall grass onto a concrete path. Weeds grew out of the seams and cracks. The weathered wooden steps creaked as Robbie stepped onto the porch. He jiggled the doorknob and shrugged. "It's locked."

Jon took his time and thought things through. Robbie stood still and stayed silent. Even when they were little, Robbie had waited quietly while Jon concentrated. Then Robbie listened to him and did what he asked; Jon just understood things, he just knew.

"Let's go 'round back," Jon said.

All the faded green shutters were closed. The backdoor was locked.

"No shutters up there." Jon pointed at the windows above the back deck awning.

"Robbie, come over here. Stand right . . . there." Jon pulled him into position. Even though they were the same age, Jon had to look up to see his freckled face. Robbie was a head and a half taller, much thicker, and easily twice as heavy.

"Put your hands like this." Jon laced his fingers together.

"Good. Hold my foot. Now boost me up."

Robbie lifted him up and practically threw him into the air. Jon caught the edge, swung up his feet, and rolled onto the awning. He stood and brushed the dust from his clothes. He could see the way they had come, across a field of tall green grass and through the bare lifeless trees. He felt the sun's heat on his long black locks. He closed his eyes and angled his face towards the source. Waves of warmth caressed his skin.

Jon cleared all thoughts and words from his mind, opened up his senses, and searched. He heard and felt the buzz of insects all around, but the birds had not come back. Uncle Carl had described their beautiful songs and hoped someday they would come back to fill the quiet. Jon had seen pictures of birds and listened for their voices, but he knew—they were still very far away and would not be here any time soon.

Jon took a deep breath and opened his eyes. The grass seemed to dance as waves of shadow and light folded and flowed with the light breeze. A grasshopper sprung up and flashed bright green in the sunlight. Jon expanded his awareness again and focused on the grasshopper. He felt the change coming, their bodies would become larger, darker.

They will be here soon, crawling, consuming, flowing like water. Jon saw in his mind's eye the waves of locust undulate as they moved across the landscape to leave nothing in their path. They had decimated the crops last year, even the orchard had lost all of it's budding fruit and leaves.

Jon sighed as he pulled himself back. He looked down at Robbie, his chubby inquisitive face tilted up in quiet expectation.

Jon moved to the window and tried to open it.

"Robbie," Jon called down, "go find me a big rock."

"Okey dokey."

Jon peered through the crust-covered glass. Although it was dim inside, he could see vague contours of a bed and a dresser. He wondered how long this house had lay dormant; it had been twenty years since The Fall. He knew no one lived here; no one else was on Camano Island except for his family.

"How about this?" Robbie called out.

Jon moved closer to the edge. Robbie held up a weathered red brick, the edges encased in dirt.

"Yeah, that'll work. Throw it up." Jon held out his hands.

Robbie stepped back and tossed the brick overhand in a high arc. Jon moved out of the way and allowed it to clunk onto the awning.

He picked it up and glanced back over the edge.

"Go to the front door. I'll come open it."

He turned and threw the brick hard. The top pane of the window shattered. Through the soles of his boots, he felt the brick hit a wall and thud to the floor. He unsheathed his knife and used the back of the blade to knock out the remaining shards of glass. He reached in and unlocked the window, pulled it open and ducked in.

Motes and swirls of dust danced in the sunlight, thick and disturbed. A dent shone where the red brick had ripped through the light blue wallpaper and had exposed the white drywall underneath. The wood floor was marred where the brick had fallen, skipped, and thrown flurries of dust into the musty stale air.

Jon gagged and his eyes began to water. He covered his nose and mouth with the elbow of this sleeve and tried to take only shallow breaths.

A small bed was pushed into the corner. A chill ran through Jon's scalp when he noticed the large dark stain soaked into the wall. His body seemed to move of it's own volition, his feet shuffled forward, and as he watched, his hand reached out and took hold of the comforter. Flakes of dust billowed up as he pulled back.

At first, he could not grasp what he saw. There was a large hole at the top of the mattress, a shredded pillow, and the box springs exposed underneath. The jagged hole reminded him of when they had practiced with a shotgun on a cardboard box. Then he saw the teeth. Only a bottom jawbone remained, the tiny white teeth bright against the rust colored stains on the bed. Jon stepped back involuntarily and yanked the comforter off the bed. A thick cloud of dust wafted up and obscured his vision. He tasted the alkaline dryness of the dust and a thick mustiness filled his nostrils and throat, unsuccessfully filtered by his sleeve.

The dust began to settle. A skeleton of a small child lay exposed on the bed.

The body, covered with tattered pieces of cloth, was mostly bone; the flesh had long decomposed. Only bits of sinew remained, dried and shriveled. Jon shuddered; the tiny skeleton was only as large as his three-year-old sister Anne. He wondered why there was not a stench of rot; there was only the strong stale musty smell of the house. Then he realized: it's been here since The Fall, for twenty years, rotting away, leaving nothing but bones. It's the dust! All the dust! The flesh rotted away and made all the dust! A hot surge of panic coursed through his body. His throat seemed to close, his breathing stopped.

His knees felt weak as he backed away to the door. The doorknob would not turn. Jon grasped it with both hands and wrenched it back and forth. It creaked and ground to a stop. Frantic, he kicked the bottom of the door and rattled it in it's frame. The knob turned and clicked.

Jon pulled hard and the door crashed against the wall. He jumped into the hallway and found himself on an open landing. A column of light streamed in from the skylight above. He saw the front door at the bottom of the staircase to the left. His feet barely touched the ground as he flew towards it. He bounded down the stairs three at a time, then heard and felt the staircase beneath him groan and give way. He leaped off the last third of the stairs, landed hard, stumbled, and skidded face first into the front door. As he placed his hand on the handle, a cold sharp chill shot up his spine as a loud splintering crash resounded behind him. Jon glanced over his shoulder and flinched; the stairs had collapsed and had thrown up a huge cloud of dust. Then he saw another body – scraps of cloth, tufts of short brown hair, and the white of exposed bone – it swung from the neck, the rope tied to the second floor railing. Jon watched in horror as the skull tilted to one side and the neck snapped. He heard the dry bones clatter as they hit the floor.

As the dust shrouded over him, another massive wave of panic surged through his body. Extreme fear overtook him, his senses overwhelmed. Tears streamed from his eyes as he pawed at the door. He somehow managed to unlock the deadbolt, so he pulled on the door handle with all his strength. The door swung open easily and rattled the whole house as it slammed against the frame.

Bright sunlight blinded him as he fled. He felt flesh impact his shoulder; Robbie had been standing in the doorway. Jon bounced off, careened sideways, and flew head first off the porch. He threw out his hands, rolled his shoulder, and tucked in his head. He brought his knees up to his chest and used the momentum to roll right back up to his feet.

"That was cool!" Robbie yelled.

Jon, breathless and his heart pounding, turned back toward the house to watch the dust billow out and envelope Robbie.

"Get away from there!"

"You looked really scared! Your eyes wide open, like deer in headlights!" Robbie pointed at him and laughed.

"Not funny, Robbie!" Jon yelled back, his face flushed with anger and fear. However, in the back of his mind, he quietly and calmly thought: Robbie just says that because our parents say it; we've never ever even seen a deer.

"You came out of there like a bullet! Bet you can't do it again!" Robbie laughed even harder.

"Not funny! Get away from there!" Jon moved towards him.

Through the dust, Robbie skipped, threw his hands up in the air, and mimed a leap off the porch. He dragged his feet down the steps and shuffled along the walkway. He bent over, held his stomach, and giggled. He fell over on his side and flattened a swatch of grass as he rolled into it.

"It's not funny at all Robbie! You know why?" Jon stood over him and pointed back at the house. "That dust is from rotted out dead people!"

Robbie coughed and rubbed tears from his eyes. "Huh? What did you just say?"

Copyright 2013 Bobby M. Author
All Rights Reserved
Book One, "The Fall" is available paperback and Kindle on Amazon
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1 Response Jan 6, 2013