The Tuning Fork
Two-shot. Lonely six year old Danny Fenton is delighted to make a friend. Of course, his friend intends on recreating a festive St. Valentine's Day massacre, but that's okay. One can't be picky with friends. Especially ones that love you.
Hello again, everyone. Yes, I realize this story is a lot like My Fair Lady, only this version is a bit darker. As in, the authoress has personally disturbed herself to a whole new level. If this story gets a fairly positive feedback, I'd like to continue and conclude on St. Valentine's Day.
In the meantime, working with The Little Things and Black Garden. Never done trades before, so was really worried about getting them right. (Really didn't like the first few drafts...) xechoheartx, MasterFranny, SO sorry, and should hopefully have both updated soon. I really appreciate your bearing with me-will do my best, and I hope you enjoy the finished product!
A few more things before I at last shut up: I realize the poem for this story might seem a bit long, but it seemed to be a perfect fit. (I am at both parts equally distraught and fascinated by Edward Gorey's work. Part II of the poem will come with….uh, part II of the story.)
This story is probably not one for the kiddies…it IS father/son, however. And yes, I am fully aware that the story is about as OC as you can get.
Theoda was a homely child, whose presence drove her family wild.
Her conversation, and her dress, inspired them all with distress!
Theoda, bent on suicide, rushed down to meet the rising tide.
She cried "Farewell!" to empty air and rushed off the jetty there!
She sank; the water chilled her limbs, she recollected bits of hymns-
She sank until her senseless toes came into contact with a nose.
When she revived, she was not dead, but on the ocean's floor instead.
A monster, of alarming size, was peering at her, in surprise!
Despite this sudden change of fate, with monster, she soon began to perilate.
The simple creature was aghast at hearing of her cruel past…
The next day, her baffled family found
Her father, in the bathtub, drowned...
-The Tuning Fork, Edward Gorey
His hands were raw with cold, but they felt like they were burning.
Danny drew one of the sorry red fingertips to his mouth and sucked on it, wincing slightly. His head ached a little too, from where the snowball had hit it. He thought that they today might have sealed a rock inside the little missile. That would definitely explain the angry throbbing at his temple.
He'd be in trouble when he got home, and he knew it; Mommy was immediately going to notice that he wasn't wearing his mittens, and she would demand to know why. This would be the second pair of mittens he'd lost in a fortnight.
Again, he'd have to lie and tell her that he'd dropped them or had swapped them at school for lunch money. And again, he'd have to watch her shoulders sag and listen to his mother sigh and tell him that once again, he would not be getting dessert that night.
He wouldn't tell her the truth. Why should he? Jazzy certainly wouldn't, for the third-grader simply hadn't bothered to stick around for the near-daily beating that happened behind the school, near the dumpsters. Today had been particularly nasty; he'd tried slipping out the window from the boy's bathroom instead of taking the main exit, but there the boys were from his class, waiting for him. Dash had brought a slingshot-he must have been in a particularly foul mood that day.
Danny had long ago given up screaming and pleading for his sister's assistance when his classmates would terrorize him. It only made it worse; when he screamed, the boys would stuff one of his own mittens into his mouth to gag him, and he'd nearly choked more than once. What was most painful of all was watching Jazz's idly retreating back whilst the little girl perused a book at her leisure, oblivious to the muffled squeaks and sobs from behind her.
He'd learned to stop crying a long time ago. This had annoyed Dash and his cronies to no end, so they now took it upon themselves to jump up and down on the boy's back, not satisfied until they'd seen a few fake tears oozing out of swollen blue eyes.
That, or they just hurled him to the ground, and jeered at him to stand up. If he tried to curl up in a ball, they threw rocks. They wanted him to stand up, wanted him to continue fighting futilely, like a good and obliging bit of game. Goading was the spice of it all. Without it, you had a victim who wouldn't at least try to fight back, which, to Dash, Kwan, and Tucker, was inexcusable.
Almost as inexcusable as for his taking up space, apparently.
They were delighted to push the stumbling boy back down again, and start kicking, which was usually better than the stones, excepting when they kicked him in the ribs.
Today, they'd thrown his new pair of little blue mittens into a creek, and to their disappointment, Danny wasn't stupid enough to try sloshing through the icy water to retrieve them. He'd also tried to delay the inevitable by escaping through another exit, which was also another cause for punishment. Thankfully, the boys had at last retreated when Mrs. Baxter had arrived to pick up Dash for a piano lesson, and to give Kwan a ride home. Tucker had the car door slammed in his face when he'd tried to tag along like a timid stray, and the Mercedes had zoomed away. When the quiet boy had turned around to cast a sheepish, apologetic glance at his former friend, Danny was already limping his way across the street, moving away from the boy as quickly as he could. He'd only just now finally caught up to Jazz.
He'd never know what it was exactly that made them hate him so much. He'd never really had anything to do with Dash Baxter back in Kindergarten, but one day, at the beginning of First Grade, Dash had cornered him before class, and threatened to knock out all of his teeth unless he handed over his lunch money. Terrified, Danny had quite willingly handed it over, though he'd been bewildered as to why Dash wanted it to begin with. The boy had plenty of money, money that he was quite pleased to flaunt around school with light-up high-tops and fancy birthday party invites that had once made Danny's heart ache in envy.
But no more. Dash was simply mean. Danny had never gone out of his way to hurt anyone, spoke only when spoken to, (Which was rare; he had no friends) shared the safety scissors, and wasn't the teacher's pet. And yet Dash loved to torment him. It was as if Danny were the only pustile in an otherwise perfect existence, and Dash was after him constantly, doing his absolute best to destroy that deformity. His best friend Kwan went along with it because Dash told him to, and Danny's once-friend Tucker, who was a teacher's pet, (He had a massive crush on Miss Star) had three choices: Become a bully, a victim, or a toady. Tucker's glasses had been broken more than once, and he was more frightened of physical pain more than anything else.
So despite the fact that he and Danny had been great friends the year before in kindergarten, and Danny had stood up for the young boy on a number of occasions, Tucker had eagerly grasped his chance of safety by becoming Kwan and Dash's "friend." Being with the two boys made Tucker feel quite cool and pleased with himself, and was eager to brag of his friendship with the two boys, conveniently omitting the fact that they made him pay ten cents a day for their friendship, and he had to do all of their homework.
And participate in the beating of his former best friend. Which Tucker did do, although with less vigor than the others. But still, he did it, and it would be too soon if Danny never had to see that traitor again. Looking at Tucker made his heart feel….well, he didn't know, like crying.
Grunting slightly to move through the large drift of glittering snow, Danny had to hop from one of Jazz's bootprints to the other. If he tried anything else, he'd only get stuck, or fall flat on his face. He inwardly groaned.
Darn it, why did Jazz insist on walking across the snowy hill when there was another path home on the sidewalk? It annoyed him deeply, but he was still a little frightened of the dark, and certainly frightened at the idea of walking home alone.
The sun was already beginning to sink below a thick blanket of clouds, and the streetlamps of Amity Park were beginning to light up, illuminating the streets below the two children, much to Danny's relief. The lamps were little glowing globes, and they made the snowflakes that drifted around them twinkle, like little falling stars.
Jazz hastily began climbing downhill from the slope, her hands shoved deep in her lavender jacket as she headed towards Harmony Road, the street on which the Fenton children lived. Their home was hard to miss; every window was lit up, and about a dozen satellites and miscellaneous devices on top of their building were either flashing or buzzing.
Danny paused at the top of the hill and looked up at the sky, relishing the quiet freedom he had to himself before he was sent to his room early tonight. The wind whistled from above him, and his coat fluttered wildly behind him, like a pair of wings deadset on taking off into the air. The idea pleased him, and, after closing his eyes, Danny extended out his arms and pretended he was soaring off into the evening sky, the world becoming mysterious and magical all at the same time.
Under the now midnight blue sky, a rare smile escaped him. He was home here. The building below was just where he happened to sleep and eat and be told to stay out of everyone's way. But here was enchanted. He was fairly certain it was, anyway. It was his favorite place to be when the weekend came and he was invariably booted outside to play. He was where he could pretend that he was a prince dullly surveying his new kingdom below or that the gnarled old oak tree behind him was a fierce forest monster that had eaten up Dash, Kwan, and then Tucker as an afterthought, but had spat out the terrified boy because he had tasted nasty.
Or that he wasn't lonely, in the house, or outside of it.
Arms still raised, raven black hair still fluttering, Danny's smile nonetheless faded, and his sad eyes opened. Then, a shout from below startled him:
Taken aback, Danny glanced down. Jazz was standing at the door of Fenton Works, arms crossed, and while he was too far away to see her face, Danny was certain that Jazz's trademark scowl was on her face.
"Danny, you moron, Mom says we can't have dinner until you get your butt down here and take out the garbage! It's YOUR turn, not mine! Move it!"
Danny stuck out his tongue out at her, knowing it did not matter. With a sigh, he awkwardly began moving down the hill, whimpering as his hands continued to burn. Darn it, but he wished his coat had pockets!
He slowly maneuvered his way home through the snow, soundly regretting having to leave the one Quiet place he knew.
It never occurred to him that someone might be watching him.
"You never listen to a word I say, honest to God, degrading my authority in front of the children-"
"Good Lord, Mads, it was just a pair of mittens! They're like a buck fifty at the dollar store-this time, we'll just pin them to his coat so he doesn't lose them! There's no reason to get so heated-"
"I'm not heated!"
"Says the woman who's having a fit-"
"Well, what about you when Danny brought home that bad test? I was the one who actually offered to get him tutoring, not to LOCK HIM UP in the Fenton Stockades!"
"A couple of hours in there wouldn't do a boy any actual harm-it would just teach him a lesson or two about getting ridiculously easy test questions all screwy! Heck, even I could answer those questions!"
"I went over those problems with him," piped up Jasmine, whose attention up till this point had been devoted to her plate. "For about a week. I don't know what happened: either Danny choked or he needs to be sent back to kindergarten. You can do that, right?"
She flashed a small, friendly smile at her brother, her teal eyes sparkling with laughter.
"Don't worry, little brother. I can re-teach you the ABCs."
Mr. and Mrs. Fenton ignored her. Maddie was still glaring at her husband purposefully, unmistakable hurt and anger in her violet eyes. At thirty-one, she was still a very pretty, curvy sort of petite woman whose trim waist was accented by both her aquamarine hazmat suit and her years of teaching karate. Jack Fenton was her opposite: A beefy man whom towered over his family and whose hair was already showing signs of graying in the back. He looked like a giant in comparison to his youngest child, who was hunched over uncomfortably in his seat, blue eyes dully considering his plate, pale fingers clutching his fork, but completely motionless. He was dressed in a dark gray and black wool sweater that seemed at least two sizes too large for him, (Mr. Fenton could never remember the children's sizes when he shopped; that fact had prompted yet another fight between him and his wife last week) and gave the child the peculiar appearance of walking around with a bed sheet around his torso. His dark hair kept falling into his face, but Danny didn't bother to sweep it out of his eyes. If he did, his Mommy would notice immediately, and then tell his Daddy to take him to the hairdresser. Daddy would argue that it was too expensive, and that he could easily do it himself, whereas Mommy would retort that she wanted to send her son to the school looking like a freak, than she could simply drive Danny over to Clown College and have the students cut it themselves. Then Daddy would get angry, yell, storm out, and Mommy would start crying, and nothing could be done with her until tomorrow morning, when she at last retreated out of her room and turned off her soaps.
Danny learned by now that at mealtimes or movie nights with his family, it was better not to move, not to react, not to say anything at all, if he could help it. While this sort of behavior invoked comments from Jasmine (Who suggested that her brother might be somewhat mentally retarded and could he please see a specialist?), and maybe one or two remarks from Mommy and Daddy, they usually left him well enough alone, which was a relief.
Jack Fenton moodily stabbed at a potato on his plate, popping the entire tuber in his mouth and began chewing, sparing a frown for the small boy who sat beside him, stirring around the contents of his plate. After what looked to be a painful gulp, he moved a gloved fist to his watering eyes. "Danny, stop picking at your food and eat it already," he said sternly. "I didn't endure another earful just so that you could-"
"Another earful? From me? Why wouldn't you expect to get an earful, when that bimbo bartender down at the bar gets more of an earful out of you every night on how horrible and ugly your wife is, conveinently omitting the fact that you don't do a lick of work in the lab and break things on a daily basis?"
"Mom, I finished my dinner," said Jazz quickly, keen to break up the fighting. "Can I please have-"
"What's a bimbo?"
The question was out of Danny's mouth before he could stop it. The color drained out of his face when everyone turned to look at him, but his mother's lipsticked mouth just curled into a bitter sneer.
"Yeah, honey. Your son wants to know. What exactly is a bimbo? You would know better than anyone else at this table, I'm sure."
Danny forced himself to swallow his kidney beans, feeling the now tasteless food stick in his throat as Jack quietly lowered his silverware to the table, face unusually fixed, large hands curling into trembling fists underneath the table.
"Yes," replied Jack, after a moment's nasty silence. "Because I'm married to one."
A pause. Then, Maddie's chair scraped back against the floor as the woman hastily stood up, struck her husband across the face, and ran out of the room, sobbing. Jack neither moved nor reacted to the slap, still simply staring across the table. Danny and Jazz were petrified in their seats, and could say nothing for a moment. Then, at last, Jazz tentatively murmured: "Daddy...?"
The man stood up, and strode away, heading towards the doorway. Jazz leapt off her chair to pursue him, and, after some hesitation, Danny did, too.
Jack was standing at the front door, angrily tugging on his coat from the nearby hook, his face beet-red. His daughter anxiously went to his side, and tugged at his coat.
"I'm going out" was the only reply that the girl got as the man fumbled for his RV keys. "Don't wait up."
He gently pried off Jazz's fingers, though the girl still looked unhappy. Then, as the man opened the door and turned around to go, the prodigy child immediately spoke up:
"Daddy, you know I love you more than Mommy, right?"
At this, the man paused. He turned, looked at his daughter, ruffled her carrot hair, and left. After a moment, the two children heard the familiar sound of the RV engine revving to life, and the death trap automobile backing out of the drive, (A distant thud told them that their father had hit the garbage can, as always) and zooming away, the sound of the RV's roaring dying in their ears. Jack had not said a word to Danny.
Jazz turned around to glower at her brother, eyes looking unusually shiny. Then:
"You ruin everything. Mommy and Daddy didn't fight as much when you weren't around. I hate you. I wish you would do us all a favor and die."
With that, Jazz whipped around, nose in the air as she hastily trotted up the stairs, towards the source of all the crying. He could hear his sister calling up the stairs: "Mommy, you know I love you more than Daddy, right?"
He could hear a door close as their mother admitted Jazz into her room, and immediately started crying again, leaving Danny alone in the hall, in the dark.
He helped himself to a cookie from the jar, although he wasn't very hungry. After scooting his chair back to its place in the kitchen, (He'd needed some help to reach the counter) Danny wondered vaguely what he was going to do next. Daddy had gone out to that place which made him loopy and smell funny, and more likely than not Mommy was not going to tell her children to get ready for school tomorrow and brush their teeth and go to bed. The night was his to do with as he pleased. He didn't particularly feel like watching TV (There was nothing good on and he always fell asleep around midnight), so he supposed he might as well take inventory of all the groceries that they would need before long. It was a boring sort of job, but Danny had nothing better to do, and he didn't relish the idea of coming home to make yet another icky condiment sandwich. He never got to eat at school (Dash only ever had to open his hand whilst everyone was standing in line), and was usually ravenous when he came home. Daddy didn't like to go shopping until they were quite literally out of everything but baking soda (Which Daddy said made a pretty nifty parfait), and Mommy was often too miserable to, so he usually stuck the list on the fridge with a magnet. Jazz always took the opportunity to needle him about his atrocious handwriting and spelling, and between being teased and starving, he'd take getting teased. Danny's lists were a subtle "hint-hint" for his parents. He wished he were old enough to go shopping himself.
After wandering around the kitchen for maybe a half-hour or so, Danny stuck the completed four-page long list on the fridge, and, pleased to hear the sound of his mother's crying being replaced with the upstairs TV blasting, he hurried upstairs, tiptoed past Mommy and Daddy's door, and happily locked himself inside of his room, feeling secure for the first time that day.
Well, almost. There WAS a strange prickling at the back of his neck that he couldn't quite explain. He shrugged it off as he happily dragged out his treasure trove that he'd squirreled away from the art cabinet at school.
While everyone in class gagged
after Ms. Star had read aloud a story about Valentine's Day during Circle Time, Danny had been secretly fascinated. Not in the dumb, romantic aspects of it, of course (That was an epidemic of cooties just waiting to happen), but...
He had vague memories of celebrating the holiday last year in Kindergarten with his classmates, back to when Dash had been indifferent to him in class, back when he still had Tucker as a friend. He remembered that day well; after coming home from a Valentine party at school, he found that Daddy had made Mommy dinner. Of course, that particular incident meant that Danny had to call the fire department (Yet again; he and Officer Stanley were on a first-name acquaintance), while Daddy tossed the flaming charcoal out the window, but Mommy said she loved Daddy for trying.
There had been no cold-shoulder in the house, no crying, no shouting. In fact, Daddy had brought Mommy chocolate and flowers, and Mommy had seemed unusually perky and giggly the entire day. They'd simply ordered in pizza for dinner, and even had a game night. Not once did Daddy berate him for a bad quiz or Mommy remind him that he had a scheduled playdate with Tucker. Jazz had gotten a valentine from a boy named Roger in her class, and that had put her into such a good mood, she hadn't once called Danny names that day. In fact, she'd been in such a good temper, the child had wondered if perhaps Jazz was seriously ill when she pulled out her crafts supplies-the supplies that she never, ever let Danny touch normally-and proceeded to teach Danny how to make a proper valentine. She said that, once people reached elementary school in Amity Park, people made their own valentines for classmates they really liked, and gave boring store-bought valentines to people they disliked or didn't care about. She had said that the entire purpose of Valentine's Day was showing love to the people who meant the most to you.
The concept had the bitter child's heart perking up hopefully. It sounded so much better than Easter and Christmas and Halloween combined, which admittedly wasn't saying much, considering Danny unconditionally hated all three of those holidays. On Christmas, there were undead turkeys marching about the house, and twelve days of his parents' nonstop arguing about stupid Santa Claus. Danny had agreed with his mother; Santa couldn't exist. According to all the stupid specials on the fat man, he gave coal to bad children, and yet Dash came to school after winter break bragging about the excessive piles of toys he'd gotten from St. Nick. And considering the vast amount of toy drives made during the season were all directed towards the poor, well, either Santa didn't exist, hated poorer people, or was just a heartless sadist. Danny had rooted for the Grinch, up until the point that he'd let him down sorely by picking up that stupid sleigh. And all he ever got for Christmas were presents he'd never wanted or asked for. Easter wasn't much better, considering Mommy and Daddy essentially destroyed all youthful dreams of the Easter Bunny by arguing about him, too. And every Halloween was essentially a nightmare, considering Mommy had to increase insurance coverage every year so that the Fentons were legally covered if Daddy happened to fire ectoblasts at some terrified trick-or-treaters.
But Valentine's Day seemed simple and clean, and it promised what the child inexplicably craved, late at night when he had no one to turn to after a nightmare. He longed for it inexplicably, with every fiber of his being so much so that his soul ached just thinking about it.
Love. The stupid commercials on TV had to ruin a perfectly nice idea by advertising candy and jewelery and getaways and the whatnot, but Valentine's Day was not something that shoved its way down his throat like the other holidays did, forcing him to wander into town like a ghost while his parents shrieked at home. Town admittedly was not much better; there were too many kids his own age who were sitting atop the shoulders of their family members, which inspired him with distress and envy alike. He thought he hated those children. His heart hurt when he thought of them.
But there was hope. If he made valentines for Mommy, Daddy, and Jazz, even though he did not particularly like any of them, they might be softened enough to give him valentines of their own. Danny had never had one before.
A physical token of affection, made by your own hands! It was so beautiful, it made his eyes water.
Danny reached inside the carton and grabbed a piece of red paper, carefully folding it in two. He snipped out a shape, but to his suprise, it came out looking like an oval when he unfolded it. With a sigh, Danny reached for another red sheet, being careful not to cut the numerous holes that covered it like Swiss cheese, and tried again.
This was hard.
Still, Danny continued to labor late into the evening, until the scissors slipped from his limp, sore hands, and his eyelids drooped. It was around ten or so that he woke up in bed, somewhat startled.
He'd moved. Someone had touched him. Did Mommy actually come in here? He could still hear the TV going; it didn't seem likely.
He glanced down his front in the dark, slightly confused.
Huh. He hadn't remembered changing into his pajamas.
Or getting into bed.
Or turning off the lights.
He quickly checked underneath his bed, and sighed with relief when he discovered his box was still there. Someone had tucked the scissors on top, so that Danny wouldn't step on the blade and cut his feet when he got out of bed.
Confused, but owing his memory loss to sleepiness, Danny only lay down, and cheerfully crept back into warm slumber, unaware of the two bloodred stones focused on him from his bedroom ceiling.
Later that night, or perhaps early the next morning, he again awoke, this time to the muffled sound of his mother's voice somewhere in the distance. Groggily assuming that his father had come home and that his parents had again begun to yell at one another, Danny turned over under his covers and waited to fall asleep again.
But his mother continued to angrily mumble in the next room, and Danny absentmindedly wondered why he couldn't hear his father. Yawning, and drawing a fist up to his eyes, the child reluctantly sat up in bed, wondering what the fuss was about this time. He waited, concentrating:
"-no. I've told you again and again that you're wrong."
Perhaps she was on the phone with Daddy. Danny was about to turn over again, when-
"You have no right to try and come-in my-cause-pain. Stay away-my family. I'm happy. He's happy."
Another pause. Then a cry.
"What do you mean, I don't know him as well as I think I do? What have you been doing, spying on us? Stay away, I mean it!"
Startled, Danny found that he wasn't asleep after all, and the small boy blindly scrambled out of bed, nearly knocking his head on the old bedstand nearby. He tiptoed to his bedroom door, and dared to open it a crack. He could hear Mommy next door better now.
"Well, you're just going to have to live with your suspicions, but I...I won't consent to it," he heard Mommy mutter, sounding slightly scared now. "You can't legally force me to. I don't care how much money you have-the courts are going to rule in favor of the ones who've taken care of him all his life! I won't have you tearing my life to pieces over this, you pompous sicko! I won't give him to you. I-"
Danny sank down to the floor, and put his hands over his mouth, listening carefully. A pregnant moment of silence. Then, his mother spoke again, this time sounding guilty.
"Look, I-why can't you accept and understand that he's not yours-that he never will be yours? If you're threatening us, I can get the law on my side too, you realize."
Danny crept out of his bedroom, to his parents' bedroom. Thankfully, it wasn't closed; there was a tiny crack in the door. He peered through it, able to see a tiny bit of light from his mother's lamp, and a dark shadow moving around. His mother was pacing, holding her cell phone, and murmuring. He pushed door a hair more open.
"I won't take the test. Even if it was by some cosmic joke positive, he still wouldn't be yours. It wouldn't change anything, other than your reputation, which I might mention would be severely botched if the public found out about that night you-you-took advantage of-"
Now Danny could hear a loud sound coming from his phone, and Maddie drew her head away from the speaker, looking pained.
"Yes, yes, alright, alright, I get your point, I get your point! Enough! Now, I-NO, I WILL NOT LET YOU SPEAK TO HIM!" she exclaimed, her voice rising to a scream. "Where do you get off of-what do I have to-ENOUGH! Knock it OFF!"
Icy water flooded his chest, and Danny gently pushed the door open, trembling with horror.
He understood, now. Mommy was arguing with the bimbo lady she'd spat about before. The one that she claimed was going to steal her husband away from her, even though she was a "heartless homewrecking leech," according to Mommy. The lady wanted to steal Daddy away from them, which meant no one to occasionally defend him. No one to stop Mommy's tears with flowers and candy when it got bad enough to the point that Mommy was lying in a comatose ball on her bathroom, unable to move.
They were getting a divorce. If he hadn't lost those mittens to those bullies, he wouldn't have pulled the last straw. It was his fault. Jazz was right: It was entirely his fault, and he wished ardently that he would die. Tears streaming down his face, Danny took a few steps towards his mother, who had his back turned to him, still talking on the phone.
She turned, and her eyes boggled out with horror. Immediately, her hand went to cover the speaker on her cell phone, and she yell-whispered:
"Danny! Go to bed. Right now!"
"Am I in trouble?"
"Go to bed."
His mother frantically gestured for him to go, but Danny only took a few steps forward, tears continuing to spill from his eyes.
"I'll be good. Real good. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I won't lose anything anymore. I-"
"Don't leave Daddy. I'll get a good grade on my tests."
"Danny, I've heard about enough-"
"Please, Mommy, I love you-"
Madeline Fenton dropped her phone on the bed, crossed the room in two strides, took him by the scruff of his neck, and hurled him out of the room. He staggered, tumbled to the floor, and heard the faint sound of his mother locking the door behind him. He wept bitterly, at last retreating to his bedroom, tightly hugging himself. He fell into bed, shoulders wracking with sobs, his pillowcase quickly getting wet under the barrage of hot tears.
The wind moaned into the night, sounding like a suffering child in a cold cradle. Danny's crying did not let up.
He sobbed into the night, curled up into a fetal position, and cried, and cried. When at last he didn't think he could possibly squeeze out another sob, he lay in the dark, exhausted, wishing over and over again that he would die.
And a very sensible idea soon struck him:
Why shouldn't he die, just right here, right now?
The idea was so clever and reasonable he was baffled he hadn't thought of it before. Slightly startled, Danny rubbed his red eyes, and the tremors shaking his body ceased somewhat. Now, he thought.
On the telly, all anyone ever really needed to die was a quick dose of poison. You fell down dead after choking a little bit and turning colors, then, you just...fell. On the ground, where you didn't move anymore.
What happened after that, he didn't know, but perhaps it just meant nothing. There would be no more Dash making him fear for his life if he simply took care of the problem and didn't exist anymore. There would be no Jazz calling him garbage. No treacherous Tucker. No ear-pulling Kwan. No Mommy hitting him. No Daddy lying on the living room floor, telling him to "sod off" when Danny tried to pull him up again. Just sleep. Just warm sleep, where no one would be able to hurt you or send you store-bought valentines or want you gone.
Sometimes, on The Three Stooges, Moe, Curly, and Larry blew themselves up and wound up in a place called heaven. He didn't know much about the place excusing what the Hallmark cards had taught him, but what he did know was that it meant gentleness. Mean people were not allowed. He never tried to be mean. He could go to heaven, if it existed.
Or, he could be a ghost, and go anywhere he wanted. He could fly up and be with the stars, and become the first kid astronaut. He wouldn't be tied down to this awful place. He could make friends with other kid-ghosts. He could be loved.
Excited, Danny made to scramble out of bed, only to have his heart sink before his feet hit the floor.
He didn't have any dynamite, (Though Daddy's experiments might have done the trick) and he was afraid to get skewered through like that one guy in that late night movie he'd made the mistake of watching. And he was fairly positive Mommy and Daddy did not keep bottles of poison in the house.
But there were, he reasoned,Things with poison in them!
Danny's heart raced. That nice police officer had come into their classroom to talk about dangerous substances-stuff that people shouldn't touch unless they wanted to get or die or get green hair or something.
Like bleach. Which he knew they had in the house!
He slipped out of bed, and crept off to the bathroom. After anxiously glancing around him, Danny uncertainly opened the little cabinet below the sink, and was well pleased that Daddy forgot to live by "universal housing safety regulations," or whatever the police man had mentioned. Swallowing past the lump in his throat, Danny seized the container of bleach by the handle with two hands. It took some work dragging the bulky thing out.
His heart hammered against his ribs like a hummingbird's as he slowly unscrewed the lid. His breathing quickened. This was it. Ugh, boy, but did this stuff stink! He had to turn his head away; his eyes were burning.
Did he grab the cup from his nightstand and pour the stuff into that? Or did he just drink from the bottle directly? Did it matter?
The dim light above him flickered; Danny let out a little whimper as he considered the bottle.
Would it be quick, or very slow? Would he scream when he tasted it, and pit it back out? Would he only get sick, and in trouble? Did poisoning hurt?
He shook, very cold. Maybe this should wait until he learned more about it later. But if he left, he might be too scared to try again. And then he would be truly stuck. Daddy might even get suspicious and move the bottle away, to somewhere he couldn't reach!
What if no one wanted to be his friend when he died? Mommy and Daddy hated ghosts, but they surely wouldn't kill their own son...
Eyes dewing up with tears once again, Danny closed them, took a deep breath, and told himself to stop being such a baby. He very slowly moved his lips closer to the hole, wincing as his senses were again accosted by the sharp chemicals.
Danny started violently at the sound of his own name; the bottle of bleach fell from his shaking fingers, and tumbled to the floor. The oil gushed out from its side, and suddenly, Danny's head was spinning. He immediately dragged the canister upright, although now it felt like sharp, toxic fumes were flooding into his mouth, making him gasp.
He stood up immediately, only to tumble back to the ground, dazed. He started coughing.
"Daniel, come out. Come out of the room right now. Come to me."
The voice was intoxicatingly smooth and comforting. Danny glanced dreamily around him, feeling a little sick. He could not stop coughing.
The voice sounded like it was coming from beyond the walls. It was smooth and elegant and pleasant, like that of a very well-experienced orator, though there was a bit of an edge to it. Danny drank it in serenely, still coughing as he reached for a nearby towel to mop up the large spill.
"Daniel, please. Please, just leave it. You're going to hurt yourself," pleaded the voice. "Go outside and breathe."
Maybe he had already died and this WAS heaven. Danny did not want to move. Then:
"Daniel. Go outside, I implore you. Go outside before I fetch you myself. Come along, now.
With some difficulty, Danny did at last stumble to his feet, grabbing the sink as a means of support. He slipped out of the bathroom, still coughing, eyes still burning unpleasantly as he slowly made his way downstairs.
He vaguely remembered something his parents had said about strangers, but he didn't know what that was, or care.
The voice was soothingly guiding him on, advising him to skip the third creaking stair. As if guided by the Piper of Hamelin himself, Danny meekly obeyed its request that he put on a coat before he went outside. The voice was gentle, caressing, and he wanted to be with it as soon as possible. It had cared enough to intervene on his behalf. It must've wanted to be friends.
Danny opened the back door, head clearing somewhat as he inhaled the cold, clean winter air. Senses finally catching up with him, he hesitated at the door, growing scared and glancing uncertainly back at the steps.
Did he dare run for Mommy or Jazzy? He decided he did not. He turned his head back outside, and squinted out into the darkness. Snow was still drifting down. There would be some new fresh mounds for sledding tomorrow. But his wandering eyes found no one.
"Hello?" Danny squeaked uncertainly. He reddened, and tried again:
"Hello? Is anyone out here? Hello?"
But no one answered. Now extremely confused and sorely disappointed, he made to shut the door again. But then-
"A stranger's just a friend you haven't met," said The Voice, so clear that it might as well have been speaking in his own ear.
Danny couldn't argue with that logic.
And so with a shiver, he slipped outside.
The child wandered around the snowy banks and continued to call out, but The Voice was not answering again. With a sigh, Danny found a particularly fresh patch of newly fallen snow, and carefully fell back against it, moving his limbs back and forth like windscreen wipers.
Again, that perfect, kind voice:
"Are you feeling better?"
Danny nodded absentmindedly. Maybe if he didn't push the voice, it would again start talking of its own accord. He stared up at the now-cloudy heavens, looking for a clear scrap of sky. At last, his eyes alighted on a thin patch of clear sky, where a handful of stars were glittering.
He continued to wave his limbs robotically, gazing at them. The Voice again broke the silence:
"Are you not going to make a wish?"
Danny abruptly stopped moving. Oh. The wishing star. He didn't know which one to look for exactly, and it had never worked before, but he supposed there could be no harm in wishing now. He wondered if the gentle Voice was really the Voice of the stars. The idea was incredibly comforting.
He thought for a moment.
"I wish my parents wouldn't get divorced."
Silence. Danny watched a shooting star silently tumble in a rush of silver above him, and to his surprise, he realized that it didn't really matter to him whether or not his parents got divorced or not. Either way, one parent was going to be miserable in the house, and another one miserable OUT of it. It actually might be a relief more than anything else-at the very least, there would be no screeching or crying or screaming in the house anymore.
Danny carefully flipped out of his snow angel, careful not to ruin it, and turned his attention back to the sky. The stars were still glittering serenely like diamonds above him.
"No, that's not it," he told them. "I changed my mind. I wish...that Dash and his friends would pay for what they do all the time."
But although revenge for several months of agony and humiliation sounded wonderful, he didn't want to waste his wish. Danny drew his head down when a sharp cold gale swept over the area, making his hair flutter wildly again. He quickly shook his head.
"No. No. I mean, I do want that, but I think I only get one wish..."
He swallowed, hard. Then-
"I want to find someone who'll love me. I want to love someone else, too."
The blast of wind died away to a light caressing on his cheek. Danny closed his eyes.
"Um...I know I'm being greedy, and I'm really sorry, but can I just be really specific with my wish? You can, uh, tell me if I'm being greedy or mean or anything. I'm sorry."
The stars remained silent above him. Danny took a deep breath.
"I want someone who'll love me more than anything, someone I can make a valentine for. Oh, and if they don't mind making one for me, that'd also be nice. I've never had one before. Um, please let them be able to scare away closet monsters, and look at my drawings, and play with me. And fly," he added, getting ambituous. "That'd be so cool. I want to love them and make them happy. And..."
His voice died away; a siege of memories had taken his mind by storm.
Mommy and Daddy not sending him to astronaut camp so that they could send Jazz to ballet classes. Jazz had skipped out on most of her practices, and didn't even show up to her last recital. Daddy promised that the Summer would still be fun, and that he'd play with him every day, but he and Mommy were always either working or yelling at each other. Some nights, Daddy would be out cold on the living room floor, and Danny had to prop pillows underneath him so that he wouldn't get cold.
Mommy didn't come to his kindergarten graduation because there was a new episode of her favorite drama on during the program.
Daddy had been drunk when he'd come to Parent's Night.
Jazz had stomped on his fish Skipper because Danny took the last cookie.
Jazz never let Danny play with her.
Jazz who did nothing when people beat him.
The one time he'd ever fought back and hit her after she was happily pummelling him, Jazz screamed and bit him and wailed so loudly that Danny had been punished for a week. No dessert, no TV, no going outside except for school, no trips to the library. Jazz had also put a rotting banana peel outside his door on April Fool's Day, which had resulted in him falling flat on his face and his getting a bloody nose. Mommy had half-heartedly told Jazzy off...
...and laughed at him.
Danny started breathing very quickly, the world spinning in and out of his eyes. Something hot was spilling down his face, and squeezing his insides. His pulse soared, and he saw red.
Mommy embarassed him by telling another mother at the clinic that her son was probably never going to be as smart as her daughter.
Daddy forgot to pick him up one day after a field trip, and he'd had to wait with the janitor for three hours.
Mommy did nothing but cry about how mean Dash's stepmother was the one time Danny had confided in her about the bullying and she'd called Dash's parents.
Dash stepped on him.
Dash pulled his hair.
He stole his test paper, switched it with his own awful one, and threatened to put gum in his hair if Danny refused to comply.
He did, regardless.
He alienated the class away from Danny, who avoided him like plague, or worse, cooties. Dash, who had tripped him, Dash, who had stole his toy rocket, Dash, who had become his "buddy" partner during another field trip, and called out "present" for Danny during roll. He'd been left behind, and the firemen had to drive him home.
Dash called him a crybaby.
Jazz called him a baby.
He'd been left alone.
Face scarlet with rage, Danny opened his mouth and screamed. Screamed in despair, horror, at the unfairness of it all. Screamed that he'd had to convince his mother not to put her head in the oven on particularly bad days. That his one friend had turned his back on him for a couple of sadistic creeps. That he had no valentine, nor anyone to love him. The stars would never change that. Nobody could.
He was trapped. Hopeless.
Throat ready to tear, Danny nonetheless turned his face to the sky, and bellowed:
"AND I WANT SOMEONE WHO'LL GET RID OF DASH AND HIS STUPID, MEAN-HEAD FRIENDS! I WANT SOMEONE WHO'LL MAKE EVERYONE GO AWAY! MY CLASSMATES, MY TEACHER-"
He was crying again now.
"MY SISTER! MOMMY! DADDY! EVERYONE, EVERYTHING..."
And his most secret, ghastly wish spilled out of him, the one that had lay in the depths of his lonely and unhappy heart, tormenting him:
"ANNIHILATED! I WANT EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING ANNIHILATED!"
There was a pause. Danny drew his head back down, and started to cry again. A pair of warm fingertips had taken hold of his chin, and gently drew it up.
Drifting a few feet above the Earth serenely, flesh so blue the Creature looked as if it had died of hypothermia. Its hair was gleaming black, and its eyes were boring into Danny's, great and terrible and bloodthirsty and red. It was smiling in a charming fashion, which was somewhat marred by the fact that sharp canines were glittering under the stars. Dressed in a billowing white and red, it looked like a vampire. Only infinitely more terrible than in any movie he'd ever seen or nightmare he'd ever had. It was slightly hunched, as if in a predatorial crouch, and its velvety voice was so alluring and kind, it was dangerous...
"You only ever had to ask, little badger."
Whew! Hope you guys enjoyed. NO, I do not think small children should talk with strangers, or with deranged spirits, for that matter. Some serious stuff is about to hit the fan...
Please review! And hoping you and yours get absolutely everthing they want on Valentine's Day. *Smiles pleasantly*