October 13th, 1991. Rain splattered the bedroom window like paint onto a canvas, forming watery shapes that danced on the glass. No lights were left on within the house, leaving everything dark and eerie with only moonlight and street lamps providing a faint glow through the windows. Sitting on his bed with its blue Batman sheets, legs curled criss-cross and staring out into the storm, was Harold Rockwell. Harold lived inside the Wentworth Institution for Young Adults and was thirteen years old. His home, a white, two bedroom, single story abode which he shared with his mother, was on Lake Shore Drive, number 1581. There were many streets that made up the Wentworth Institution, winding around and leading to different buildings and sections. Some roads were named after old men who long ago donated money to the institution, funding school sections and the library, but Harold’s street was named for the lake that was across the road. He had always liked the lake. He loved the way the sun’s brilliant rays reflected off the surface of the cool grey water, and always envied the forest animals that could drink from the lake any time they wished.
That night, through the falling rains and foggy darkness, Harold saw something floating in the lake. Through the window he could glimpse it flashing, a radiant red in the still grey water. The light intrigued Harold, it entranced him. This was not the first time that glow had called out to him. In fact, he believed that he had ignored it many times over his life, but tonight was different. Harold craved its soft red flashing more than anything he could ever recall desiring. He wanted it as his own.
Deciding upon the matter, Harold made a move to retrieve the item. Throwing off his sheets he walked to his bedroom door and looked into the hallway. No one was there, so he knew he could continue, making way toward the prize which awaited him. Going out the door of his house he felt the rain touch his skin. Laboriously, he took in a deep breath of the cool night air, blowing down at him from above as Harold began to head for the lake. As he walked across the road he envisioned the light’s pleasant glow in his mind and quickened his pace. “What if someone else has seen it?” He wondered. “What if they get to it first?”
With this thought in mind Harold broke into a sprint for the lake. Reaching his destination Harold saw the beautiful blinking wonder just inches from his reach. Grabbing a stick from a nearby tree, he pulled the wondrous object closer and picked it up from the cool gray water. In his hands he now held a small red sign that’s pulsing glow reminded him somewhat of a beating heart. Written across it was a strange word, four letters which combined to form “TIXE” in that pleasant red sheen. Harold had never heard this word, but even still he knew he loved it. He could not wait to show all his friends this new and delightful possession, and watch the envious looks spread over their faces as they themselves could not possess it.
As Harold stared at his prize a gust of wind whispered in his ear and for a moment he was staring at a door, his hand on the knob, as he stood in a dark hallway with a single bulb barely casting light into the corridor, flickering as if about to die. Letting go of the bronze knob the scene melted away, and once again Harold sat kneeling by the side of the lake which was across the street from his home.
Dropping his precious sign, Harold ran back across the street, now slippery with the rain, to the front porch of his house. He hesitated before gripping the bronze door knob and turned back to the lake. There, in the grass beside the water, he saw the blazing red light blinking back at him as if beckoning for Harold to return to it. Turning his gaze back to the door he turned the knob and entered his home’s entry hall. The walls, a moldy green, were cracked in multiple places and seemed to shudder with each of Harold’s steps. The pictures of his family hung there, covered in dust from never being cleaned, and each shudder made them jostle a bit on their nails.
Entering the kitchen, Harold sat down in the brown pine chair which faced the television at the best angle. Despite his intentions, he could not focus on the moving images dancing and singing upon the screen because his mind was instead thinking about the sign: the sign that in his mind he once compared to a heart pulsing with blood. His blood, he thought. That sign was a part of him. It had been his to take, and he had nearly done so, but then he thought again of the dim hallway and its single bulb. And the door. The door that trapped him. A woman walked into the kitchen as Harold pondered his thoughts. She wore a white hat and apron, quite like the ones worn by a nurse or a maid. The woman, Harold’s mother, looked at him as if trying to think of something to say. In her high, squeaky voice she spoke. “Harold dear, please take your medication,” she said, offering Harold two white pills. Harold accepted the pills, and with a wave of relief began to focus on the cartoon people moving across the screen, all thoughts of the sign, his sign, and it’s flashing red words eased out from mind.
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Alex R. London.
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