The Cloak of Nothing: Chapter 4

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

Chapter 4: Two words, Snake: Shadow Moses.

A black snout and deep blue eyes…

“Emery!” Dad shouts. He sprints between his front bumper and the parked car ahead.

The massive lab leaps over the cemetery fence. If I knew what was happening, I’d give it a ten out of ten. Dad helps me up. He pats snow off my jacket and backpack.

“D’you see that, Em’?!” Despite Dad’s demeanor, his green button up is still wrinkle-free and creaseless. He actually looks pretty calm considering how he normally gets.

“Yeah! The fence is like eight feet tall, how could I not?” The dog saved my dad’s life… Did Dad… Did he see it? Does he know? How could he miss it?

“Fence?” He flinches.

Never mind. I guess he didn’t see it.

“I don’t know anything the fence, Emery, but I meant that obese louse in the red car.”

I shake my head and stare out into the cemetery.

“We can talk about what you’re going to do later tonight, as a team. With your mother. I don’t want to ruin the last school day of the year before it even starts,” Dad’s guilt quivers in his voice. He walks to the totaled red car; it’s pinned against the car in front of his. “Hey pal! You alright?!” he shouts, curiously examining the red vehicle. Dad peeks into the rear window, then continues moving forward.

A fat guy covered in blood stumbles out of the driver’s side. His mouth is a horizontal line. His empty eyes examine the scene, then dissect us.

“Emery, get in the car… Get in the car…”

I can’t stop staring at the man walking toward us… He looks like a zombie. Black wisps are floating around him like flies. I can see it clearly. A mannequin… one of those shadow beings… is inside of him.

“Get in the car! Now!” Dad roars.

Holy shit alright! I scramble to the car and slam the door shut.

The fat man walks closer. He’s limping. This doesn’t feel right. There’s blood running down his forehead. Shit! There’s a bone sticking out of his elbow! His face is soulless, like he’s wearing a mask. The fat man opens his slit-like mouth. He briefly speaks with my dad, then walks back to his car.

Dad walks back to the car while making a phone call. Sirens blare in the distance; a cop car and an ambulance roll up on the scene. Dad talks to two police officers and a paramedic. The three men rush to the fat man’s car.

“They arrived quickly, huh, Dad? What happened?”

“Not much, let’s get you to school,” Dad  responds nonchalantly. “Relieved?” He pulls away from the curb. His hands are shaking on the steering wheel.

“Sort of. I’m just glad it didn’t bite you.” I stare out into the cemetery hoping to catch a glimpse of the dog again. How far could it possibly have gone?

“Bite? You mean hit or kill?” Dad laughs. “Damn Jersey drivers.  They don’t know how to share the road. This is why I want to leave this place.”

“Rabid dogs?”

“No!” He laughs. “Really bad drivers.”

Holy shit! There it is! The dog’s sitting between two tombstones. One’s Aiven’s. His apparition waves from the cemetery and vanishes. A bright blue light— almost like lightning— flashes.

“Whoa!” I yell, pressing my face against the window like a maniac.  

“Emery?” Dad asks.

An awkward silence climbs forward from the backseat. It’s not quite an elephant, but just as big. Did Dad see that? “Did you see it?” I ask. Dammit, I can’t talk to him about this shit, but I can’t control the garbage pouring out of my mouth.

“How could I not, Em. The damn thing came straight for me,” Dad says  condescendingly. “I’m old, not blind. He smashed the entire left side of the car in front of me. He could barely get out of his damn car. That guy’s lucky he was able to move after that. His leg was crushed.” He clears his throat. “If I didn’t fall backwards, I would’ve been pinned between the cars.”

“How’d you fall?” I ask. I hate playing this fucking game, but I can’t go back to that dark, drug-induced existence. “How’d you fall, Dad?” I ask again.

“Divine Intervention,” he responds. “It was the strangest thing. It felt like a force just pushed me away. I can’t describe it, but this sense of peace overtook me. It had to be God.” Dad smiles at me. We stop at a red light a couple blocks from my school. He frizzes my hair. “Welp, thankfully, someone’s praying for me, right?” Dad asks sarcastically. He nudges me.

We pull up to the main entrance. “Halfway through 8th grade,” He begin and takes a deep breath. “I remember when I was your age. I bet you can’t wait to get to high school, huh?”

I shrug. “Sort of.” Why do I care about high school? It’s not that much different than this. “I want to learn cool stuff, but I don’t know about being around these retards for another 4 years. I wish I went through school before cellphones and social media.” I sigh. “Honestly, I feel like it’s all the same, Dad. I’m trading in one three-grade brick building for a bigger four-grade brick building with misguided children rushing to grow up.”

Dad nods. “Hmmm. I can see that. I—”

“I just want to make things, like you do,” I say, talking over him. That’s right, it’s my turn to talk. You ain’t shuttin’ me up. “I need an education, and a teacher, but I don’t think it needs to be in school. I don’t want to be trapped in a life-sucking prison like Mom. That isn’t for me, regardless of the pay. It just seems like a waste of time to do someone else’s work, and then have them determine how much of their money I’m allowed to receive.”

“Ha. I raised you right, son… Well, you don’t want to rush at that. Talent, skill, or whatever you want to call it, is like knowledge too; a social talent is just useful as anything else. Unfortunately, you will do most of your socializing and self-discovery in high school and college.”

“If I go to college…”

“You sure as hell will!” Dad blurts out. “When you’re 18, you’re out. No free rides here. But, that’s beside the point. If any potential talent isn’t refined, then it’s just another wasted resource in your inventory.”  He stares into the distance. “If you don’t evolve, then life will make sure you go the way of the dinosaurs. The only way to evolve is experience, knowledge and courage, Emery.”  Dad glances at me, then at the front of my school. He looks at me again. “I can do the things I want, the way I want to do them because of my experiences, my education and my connections. What’s an artist with no imagination? What’s a musician without a vocabulary? What is any art without some occasional feedback from people who love its creator?”

Hmmm. “I—I don’t know.”

“Exactly,” he responds. “Neither do I.” Dad smiles and adjusts his tie. “It’s difficult to hone your capabilities if you don’t utilize the world around you. Only nothing comes from nothing. A lot of your favorite artists, rappers, and even film actors wouldn’t be where they are without experience and some type of formal or informal education, be it from school or a mentor, and the courage to succeed. Now, get out Emery. You’re almost late,” he says. “I’ll see you later!” Dad drives off as I walk up the large marble steps.  

Sometimes he isn’t so bad. These damn, heavy doors. Sigh. Great. Here comes the flock of “high schooler wanna’-bes.” It’s always these kids who show up just before being late. I hate them.

Edgar, a ginger who looks like he’s going to be in jail ten years from now, is standing at his locker with his partner in crime, Gaige. They’re both mindless idiots who spend most of their time on social media or causing problems for attention. Gaige is one of “those white kids” who thinks he’s a mafioso because he’s Russian or Italian or some other bullshit like that. They dress exactly how those kids dress: preppy collared shirts, wrinkled jeans and shitty sneakers. They want to be immersed in a culture that doesn’t belong to them, but can’t seem to comprehend the value of dressing with dignity. I wish I could… eh…

Fuck it. I can’t really judge them on being late. Today, I’m like them. Sigh. I’m such a hypocritical faggot. I hate myself sometimes. I try to walk forward, but my feet stick to the floor. Darkness inside of me taps my shoulder.

Butterfly wings blink in my mind. Wait a minute. They aren’t wings. They’re eyes. Is that him? Is that Aemon?

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