The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 2

by Mark Figueroa | Featured Art by A Forgotten Pen at @theforgottenpen


Chapter 2: Logically speaking, this doesn’t make sense.

The sun’s out. What the hell happened? I scratch my head and rub my face. How long did I sleep? Did I even sleep? What was—

“Emery!” Mom yells from downstairs. Her authority drags me back to reality.

“Coming down!” God, I need someone to talk to. There’s nothing I can do about it though, for now.

Muddy coffee wafts through my room. I hate that stench.

I yawn, opening my underwear drawer. I fish for the mysterious, last-surviving pair of clean boxers, but only come up with ghost pubes and lint. “Where do these things come from anyway?” As weird as it sounds, asking myself arbitrary questions keeps me from losing my grip on reality. But how long can I do this? I mean, last night was just…

I check my sock drawer to no avail. Now I gotta go into the closet, dig in the hamper for a—sigh—crusty sock.

Great. My only wearable pair doesn’t even match. Forget it, they’ll have to do. Who really looks at socks anyway? The pretentious scumbags at school? Ugh, I wish they’d all ju—

“Emery!” Mom yells again, scaring the hell out of me. I already heard and even freakin’ answered her. She’d get it if I ripped her thro—No! I don’t want to think like that. I have school. It’s daytime. I can’t have this happen now.

How would I look clamping down on my arm anyway? I dismiss my madness and suit up: baggy jeans, check; thin, long-sleeve, check. I zip up Aiven’s—my—black jacket. 

“Got my backpack. Gameboy. Pokémon so I can trade with Arsen… What else? Actually, I’ll leave my 3DS here. I don’t want to get distracted in school, or have it taken away.”

If I had to deal with inattentive little shits on their phones or video games all day, I probably wouldn’t care about equipping them for life. I’m better off letting the other kids fail.

I walk toward the bathroom, slowly farting through the hallway. Better now than at school. If that catastrophe happened, I’d be marked till graduation. I’d have to— Nope! No bad thoughts.

Mom and Dad’s voices echo in the stairway. Those idiots haven’t said anything ear-worthy since Aiven died. They live in a never-ending cycle of excuses to validate their neediness, inappropriately-timed affection, and laziness. Do they ever get tired of that disgusting, “But, I lost my baby!” pity party? I don’t understand how they can be productive with all the bitching they do. They believe that somehow—just because they’re adults— their struggles are worse than mine, and every conversation is just a variation of the blame game.

They have a predictable routine: Mom doesn’t have twenty minutes to make coffee for Dad because of her morning commute. Realizing he has to fend for himself, Dad brings up the last time Mom almost made him late to work, despite him being the boss. Ironically, the rough morning of Dad’s verbal abuse makes mom NOT have enough energy to eat lunch when she goes to work. Hungry and angry, Mom comes home too tired to make dinner. And in the end, I eat a bowl of cereal or top ramen.

If that wasn’t enough, according to Dad, he works to feed and shelter us. But really, his biggest complaint is that Mom occasionally cooks, stays on top of me, stays on top of her job and doesn’t have time for everything in between, meaning sex. Not his exact words, but that’s what I get out of it. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me. Dad established his film production studio before I was born, so I don’t understand when it suddenly became something he actively does. He rents out the space, equipment and even the staff. Dad only shows up to work twice a week, by choice, so he can make sure “Ash Leheir” is spelled correctly when “Executive Producer” rolls up in the credits.

Mom, on the other hand, takes care of her patients at the hospital, despite no longer needing to work, while occasionally taking care of us. Her only complaints are that her son committed suicide and the husband she does occasionally neglect still finds her attractive. Kind of a bad deal, but it’s self-imposed.

Sometimes I wonder what kept them together after Aiven died, besides me, and I try to be patient with them. Other times, I become unruly to give them a common enemy to unite against. It’s easier than trying to explain that if they communicated their feelings, recognized that they create most of their individual problems, and in turn bleed their bullshit into their relationship, they could overcome their pitfalls. But what do I know? I’m just a straight-A student who plays a lot of video games, reads too much fiction and manga, and watches a ton of anime.

Eh, look at this place. The living room is always perfectly staged while the real problems get the silent treatment. Every now and then, there’s the random outburst about something that happened weeks ago.

The walk down the hall and into the kitchen feels like an eternity. I stand at the door frame and take a few breaths before creeping past the dinner table. Mom and Dad are silently sitting at the island. I just gotta’ get to the pantry. If I move fast enough, I won’t have to talk to them.

Aside from creating me, providing food, and allowing me to have shelter, they’re just side characters in the unfolding chronicles of my life. I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t even really my parents. It’s not like we’re particularly close. Not now anyway. Maybe when I can get the hell away from here, we’ll develop a bullshit bond based on warped memories of crappy events:

“Hey, Emery,” I say, mocking Dad in an annoying voice. “Member that time we went fishin’, eh?”

“I sure do, dayaaad!”

God, I never want to be like that. Turning crappy events into something positive so I can drown out reality. I’ll let the robots with human hair do that. 

Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t to say that I don’t care about my parents or that I don’t love and respect them for that matter. I never talk back, argue, fight or do anything other degenerates do. I appreciate and understand them, I just don’t like putting myself in situations that I know won’t turn out well, which is any time before 9 am and after 10 pm.

Between 9 am and 6 pm, Mom is at work. Usually, Dad is working from home; he only leaves the house if it’s important. Between 6 pm and 10 pm they’re fine, unless they talk to each other. But, unfortunately, they talk to each other every day. That leaves a very small window for me to insert a joke, create a problem for their own good, or ask for permission to go somewhere.

I open the pantry, reaching for the wheat bread.

Mom’s whispering triggers a low conversation. It eventually fades into silence. They’re going to say something. I can feel it. I open the fridge, snag a jar of peanut butter & jelly. Why do they do this? It won’t go bad if it isn’t refrigerated. It’s also easier to spread when it’s at room temperature. Eh.

I shove the loaf back into the pantry. My hands forage for foil or saran wrap, and accidentally slap a cylinder of oatmeal and a loaf of white bread out of my way. Dammit. I can feel their heads turning. 

Aiven’s the only one who ate that nasty bleached bread anyway. I’m surprised he didn’t die from malnutrition. Dead bastard. If he didn’t kill himself he could’ve saved me from the inevitable, brewing conversation, but, he did, and he can’t. Suicidal asshole.

I slowly close the pantry. Slamming it opens me up to conversation. I’ll be damned if that happens. My parents’ eyes pierce through the short, well-lit distance. The thousand-pound elephant is too quiet. They’re going to say something: some nonsense about what I’m wearing… what I’m eating… or break into some irrelevant incessant rambling about the garbage not being taken out at some point last month. Mom always hits me with some bullshit, snide, passive-aggressive remark to escape her own misery. She’s allergic to direct confrontation. Dad just says crap as simple and blunt as possible, not too concerned with how it’s interpreted, or whether he’s even right.

I wrap my sandwich. The foil crumbles, screaming, “Say something quick. Emery’s getting away.” I know it’s coming, someone’s gonna’ sa—

“Emery how on God’s green—when did you get down here?” Mom asks, responding calmly to the thunderous aluminum shrieks.

And, here we go. Where’s the circus music, or off-tune trumpet, when things like this happen?

Mom brings the mug close to her face. “We didn’t notice you coming down,” she says, dramatically sipping her coffee. She’s like a bum who ashes his cigarette for emphasis.

“You know I can be stealthy,” I respond. Contrary to what they believe, this thing— life— can be, and usually is, easy. Mom and Dad just don’t have the fortitude to free themselves from their own tyranny. “I stomped down the stairs like an iron ninja. Then, I crept past you and silently raped the pantry for a piece of bread. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.” I shrug. “I’ve been here awhile. I know you guys saw me. I’m too old and too straight to announce myself whenever I enter a room.” I know they at least heard me walking downstairs. Passive aggressive bullshit.

“Oh? Too old for a cup of coffee?” Mom says, handing me a mug, ignoring my comment.

“Too young… I’m thirteen, not thirty-one, Mom.” I know she’s just asking questions to stall. It’s a half-assed attempt to figure out what I’m up to. She thinks I’m moving too fast. I glance at Dad. It would be wonderful if I could just rip— I gotta’ relax… even if it wouldn’t even be both eyes, ju— God dammit! My mouth waters at the thought of warm blood in its metallic glory invading my nostrils.

If I were to ever actually eat someone, Mom would be the best person to start with. She eats the purest, non-whatever, foods. She’s a vegan or some other pretentious, bullshit diet. Although, I can’t deny that her appearance and physical capabilities at her age are proof that not eating meat, dairy, processed foods, and all the other crap people eat, works wonders for the human body, I still think peoples’ reasons for anything, especially exclusive diets, are usually bullshit.

“Look out,” Dad laughs, waving his hands, mocking a panic.

He’ll wave bloody murder if I tear his arm— again! What the hell is wrong with me today?

“Em’s too young to be treated like an adult,” Dad says to Mom. “Ay, Slick, we left you a cheese and spinach omelet with chorizo on the table, or are you too young for that too?”

“Well, Dad, as you know, I’m a cannibal. If it isn’t human, I don’t eat it.” I’m an idiot. Why did I say that? Mom flashes a concerned look. Of course, she has nothing sarcastic, or clever to say and remains quiet. Coward.

“Really Em? That’s why you’re always eating chicken, eggs, corn, peanut butter or cereal right?” Dad asks, nonchalantly.  “You must be one of dem’ dere’ nutty, whole grain type-uv kitchen roamin’ chickens. Mah boah da cannibal. He gon’ make ‘Merika great too,” he says, imitating someone we saw on the news. “There are a lot of people like you in the mountains, where we adopted you from. It’s not too late to bring you back.” 

“I still need my nutrition. I’m a growing man—”

“Boy,” Mom slides in, taking another dramatic sip. She probably feels like she’s an actor in her own mind.

“Growing boy,” I clear my throat. “I can’t turn down a healthy breakfast. I’ll be as short as Aiven was. I can’t survive on human flesh alone.”

“Stop that, Emery. It isn’t funny,” Mom says; her eyes water. I shouldn’t have said that. 

“It isn’t supposed to be. I’m serious. Given the chance I’d eat both of you.” God dammit, what is wrong with me?

“Well you don’t have that chance, Em.’ So, eat up while it’s still warm, or I’ll gladly eat your breakfast for you. By the way, I’m also giving you a ride to school today,” Dad says, unaware that he just sealed my fate. Hopefully, “a ride to school” doesn’t become an unsolicited life lesson. I’m really too hungry for this shit. Despite my reservations, the breakfast looks and smells bomb as fuck. Mom sips her coffee. They really haven’t addressed each other the whole time I’ve been here. Fuck. They were probably arguing about bullshit before I showed up. Do I even want to know? Today’s going to be a bad day.

“Today is going to be a great day, Em’,” Dad says, adjusting his tie. He sits at the table and pulls a chair out for Mom. They’re annoying as hell, but at least my parents are pretty dapper people. They hold hands and watch me with Sunday school smiles.

Oh, no. They weren’t arguing… They want something. Something they know I won’t want to give. What could it be? Maybe they want me to lend my inbred cousin the game I bought with my money from shoveling snow? Wait! Maybe they want me to shovel our old neighbor’s backyard? That has to be it. Dammit! I really don’t want to do that! Their lips are half-muted by my chewing and incessant paranoia.

“Well, we—,” Chew, chew, crunch, crunch, “…because, we’re a family, Son.”

“And,” Mom interjects, “It’ll hel—,” chew, chew, crunch, crunch, “…holidays. And, since your cousins, and everyone hasn’t seen you in so long, it mi—,” chew, chew, crunch, crunch. Gulp. I nod. 

“Hmm.” I groan, trying to savor the melted mozzarella and chewy spinach omelet. I’d talk with my mouth full, but this breakfast is amazing, and Mom’s tan suit-skirt combo also looks really nice. I don’t want to get egg or food oil on her clothes.

“Your Mom makes a compelling argument. I ha—” Chew, chew, crunch, crunch. “, —ree with her.” Dad smiles.

“Are you listening Em’?” Mom asks, squinting with a passive, subversive fury.

I nod and squint seriously. “Yep.”

“I’m serious, Emery. Do you want to go or not?” Dad asks impatiently.

Just let me eat! “Not sure, Dad. Do I have a choice?” I made up my mind when the inbred, “wepah”-touting spics were mentioned. We’re all Dominican, so it’s not racist. They just happen to be “those Dominicanos,” the ones that talk about Dominican Republic, like it’s some sort of paradise, yet they’ve never been there. They can’t speak Spanish, but somehow manage to speak broken English with an accent they don’t actually have. They blame other people for their living conditions. They get angry when they receive constructive criticism. Honestly, I don’t even think they deserve to be called Dominican.

“Well…” Dad begins. He pauses, and glances at Mom.

“Well, doesn’t exactly sound like an option, Dad,” I respond, breaking the silence. I don’t want to go anywhere around those people. Just like Whites have hicks and white-trash; Blacks have those niggas; Asians have kids that don’t do well in school; Hispanics, more specifically, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, have the obese women who wear Bebe shirts, men with Don Juan Syndrome and kids who want to be like Scarface, despite the character being an accumulation of stereotypes and white fears from the 50s. Those particular individuals make the rest of us look bad, and give that hate-mongering, toupee-wearing louse a podium to speak on. Even if all he says is just bullshit to appeal to the lowest common denominator. “Do I really have a choice?” I ask again. 

“You ALWAYS have a choice, honey,” Mom says. She places her palm over my hand affectionately. A sigh from the living room catches my attention. I quickly glance at the hallway. A dog? It briefly locks eyes with me.

My body goes limp. I drop my fork. My forearm slams onto the table, flipping egg, sausage grease and cheese over my sleeve, the table and the tile. The plate shatters. Strange, the noise doesn’t startle me. I almost rub sausage grease on my face, but catch myself, and pause. Why am I so calm?  I look back down the hallway. What the— Aiven?

“Whoa!” Dad scrambles to grab the egg bits and shattered china from the floor and table.

“Emery,” Mom says, as she wipes my face with a moist paper towel. “Change your shirt. I know it’s a little tough. It might seem too soon, but it’s okay if you’re uncomfortable honey. We miss him too. It won’t be the same spending the New Year there without him.”

Yeah, I definitely can’t tell them about last night, or this. They’d put me on some serious medication or do something drastic. “It has nothing to do with Aiven, Mom,” I respond, unconvincingly. If I redirect them, they won’t impose their will under the illusion of help. “I swallowed without chewing and dropped my fork. Eating way too fast.” My fake laugh gets them to smile.

“Come on, Son!” Dad helps me from the chair chuckling. I have a chance at his throat! He won’t survive the bite—Whoa! Come on, Em.’ Get it together.

I wash my hands and face in the kitchen sink, then run to my room for a change of clothes. I follow Dad outside when I get downstairs. The veins on the side of his neck are thudding so loud, I can’t hear myself think. If I go for the bite, he’ll probably destroy me before I can draw blood.

Anxiety hits when I cross the front door. Why was I so calm? What was that? I shuffle into the front seat. Something makes me look over my shoulder.

That dog. It’s sitting in the backseat. It looks like a dog at least: a gentle, big, black lab. Its unnaturally blue eyes pierce through me. I feel cool, calm and collected. I immediately face forward when Dad gets in the car. From the corner of my eye, I see Aiven. He’s sitting next to it.

I observe them through the passenger side mirror as Dad pulls out of the driveway. It isn’t doing anything. Doesn’t seem to be observing me either. Those eyes…

What’s its purpose?


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