“What’s symbolic about the lemonade, Paul? You often refer to the lemonade made by…” the shrink pauses to look at his notes, “Bobby’s mom.”
I can’t bring myself to answer truthfully. Fear holds my tongue in place. No one can know what really happened that day. If they did, I’d go from sitting on this couch to a padded room in the blink of an eye.
“I think she used to put a little Vodka in it. Bobby and I still joke about it,” I lie, shrugging my shoulders.
“I see,” he says and scribbles something in his notes.
He doesn’t see, but I just smile and brush off my pant leg, even though there’s nothing to brush off. I’m here because I need help, but rarely does anyone find it in stuffy offices with coffee smelling couches. Not in my case. What we saw that day, I tried to tell myself it wasn’t real. I lie to myself every day, but deep down I know it happened. Bobby and I aren’t crazy.
“How does that make you feel, Paul?” He stares at me blankly.
“Made me feel great at the time,” I laugh, lying again.
“You were thirteen at the time. Very young. Did Bobby’s mom ever make advances towards you?”
“God, no!” I shout. “She was a great mom. The neighborhood mom even,” I tell him the truth.
He once again takes to writing in that godforsaken notebook. The sound of his scribbling turns my stomach. I feel like ripping it from his hands and shoving the paper down his throat. But the sun chooses that moment to filter light in through the shades, and I see myself in his glasses. I think about what he must see when he looks at me. A thirty-five year old man, not married, no kids, with unexplained depression and anxiety. He thinks I’m a loser. He thinks I’ve suffered some childhood trauma that he can diagnose with a college degree and the ink in his pen. I need to talk to Bobby, but he won’t talk to me anymore. He’d chosen the easy route; denial.
“Seems our time has run out,” he says, closing his notebook and unfolding his legs, causing dust motes to flutter up around his balding head. His expression never changes, though. And it’s damn near unnerving.
“Until next time, Ethan.” I smirk, knowing I’m being immature.
“It’s Dr. Lancaster,” he huffs before gesturing for me to stand.
Leaving Dr. Lancaster’s office is a relief, but I can’t feel relieved for too long. It’s happening again. I know it, just like I know what Bobby and I saw that day.
The heat was worse than any summer before. It was the kind of heat that made your back sweat standing still. Bobby’s my best friend and on days like today we either go swimming or sell lemonade outside Bobby’s house. We used an old desk that’d been stored in Bobby’s garage for years. It was long and rectangular, perfect for selling lemonade. I decided to pour my own cup as my sweat trickled down my nose and onto my upper lip. Right before the cup reached my lips, I saw its eyes in the tree across the street, the tree in old man Wilke’s yard. Eyes were looking straight at me through the clear lemonade cup. Red eyes. Somehow, whatever its body looked like blended in with the tree, making it difficult to understand exactly what I was seeing. My hands were shaking as I brought the cup down from my lips, my heart galloping in my throat, as I tried to make my brain reason with what I was seeing.
“Are you…are you seeing what I’m seeing?” Bobby asked. And when I looked over, his face was white as a sheet. I wanted to say yes, I see what you’re seeing, but I turned back to the tree. All I could do was stare, mouth agape for what seemed like forever.
Those red eyes, that lemonade cup, Bobby’s stutter, it still haunts me to this day. All those things and everything that happened after. I don’t mind being alone, it’s late at night when I close my eyes, and I remember that day. I try to take my thoughts elsewhere as I park my beat up Chevy in front of the fixer-upper house I’ve been renting for years. The house still looks the same because I’ve been too busy living in a state of depression. Yeah, I’m depressed, but I’m not crazy. But I’m crazy enough to know I don’t fit in here. Here; my job, this neighborhood, the people inhabiting my life. Even down to the cheap food I consume to keep surviving a life I want no part of. I’m that messed up and I don’t care.
I get inside where it’s safe, no people to bother me or ask questions. I just want some peace and quiet in my own living room. I want to sit here and watch the news and pretend the murders and the crimes mean nothing because in my living room, sitting on my couch, they can’t touch me.
That’s when my phone rings, short and shrill. “Hello?” I ask, sighing inwardly.
“Paul, it’s me. Bobby.”
Holy shit. “Yeah, Bobby?” I sit straight up. I can’t believe he’s calling me after all these years.
“We need to meet. I’m, uh, going through some…thing. Do you think we can talk? Meet tomorrow, maybe?”
“What the…hey, is everything okay?” This is way too weird and coincidental. It’s been years since I’ve heard his voice.
“No, everything’s not okay.”
He sounds nervous and scared. “Okay, where?” I’d been waiting for this moment… forever.
I pull up at the oldest Hotel I’ve ever seen. This place is way off the beaten track, but Bobby had said we needed to meet here for privacy’s sake. My stomach has been nauseous all morning, a feeling of impending doom all but waving itself in the air like a red flag. Maybe Bobby was having a harder time dealing with what we saw that day than I’d originally thought. As many times as we’d tried to explain those red eyes, we both knew that there was more to it than what we might ever know. The fact is I still see those red eyes. Once a year, no matter what I’m doing or where I’m at, I see them. At first I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me, that my own mind was haunting me. After so many years, though, I’d started to accept it. Whatever those red eyes were, they weren’t going away. I hold my breath and let it out as I slam my car door shut. My nerves are jangled like a scratched up old record on repeat.
“Paul, is that you? Over here!” Bobby yells from the porch of the hotel. “Just open the gate, it’s unlocked. Don’t worry this place has been abandoned for over a decade, and there’s no trespassing signs.”
Well, that would explain the lack of people and cars. I guess he’d really meant what he said about privacy. Not that I could blame him. “It’s been too long, old friend.” I hug him as soon as I reach the entrance; he returns my hug in a tight embrace. Whoa, I can tell right away Bobby is truly afraid.
“How are you? I heard you got married and had kids.” I ask, looking at Bobby. He hasn’t changed much since High school.
“They’re fine. Everything at home is fine, but I saw the eyes again, Paul. For the first time since that day. Why now? Why couldn’t that day be a figment of our imaginations, man?” He’s pacing now, running his hand through his hair.
“I never knew if you saw the eyes again or not. I see them once every year.”
“I’m sorry, Paul. I’m sorry we lost our friendship over this. I had no idea, but now I know,” he stops and looks me in the eyes, “you aren’t crazy.”
Years of sadness build up and I have to check the moisture in my eyes. “It’s okay, you always were the more logical one,” I half-laugh.
The sound of hands clapping interrupts our reunion. We both turn in the direction its coming from. An overly tall man appears at the tree line, walking slowly towards us. As he gets closer, I notice his strange attire. He looks almost medieval, a cape billowing behind him as the wind picks up. And the thought, ‘something old this way comes’, flashes through my mind.
He stops clapping and is standing a few feet away, his eyes glowing red. “Bobby and Paul, two best friends until that terrible day. Broken apart until this very moment, both scared at what their fragile minds couldn’t and still can’t comprehend. It’s almost…Shakespearean.” The strange man throws his head back and laughs.
“Who are you?” Bobby’s voice comes out just above a whisper. He’s visibly shaken.
“It’s not who I am, but what I am.” The stranger’s accent is completely unfamiliar. “But since you’re dying to know, my name is, Nazzar.”
“And what are you? What do you want?” My own voice is surprisingly calm.
“My race is known as the Old Ones throughout the universes. As to what we want; we want our planet back.” His eyes seem impossibly red, making me wonder if his tears would look like blood.
“This is crazy, this isn’t real.” Bobby says and keeps repeating this mantra over and over again.
“Close your eyes, Paul,” Nazzar orders, a sympathetic smile on his otherworldly features.
I have no choice but to obey as an intense ringing clogs my ears to the point of pain. It seems to go on and on as I drop to my knees and hold my head in my hands. I feel like I’m spinning but somehow still rooted to the spot.
“There, there. It’s over now, Paul.”
I open my eyes and see him standing over me with an expression of mock sadness. I look around and Bobby is gone. Just, gone. My mind is on the brink of hysteria when a resounding plop lands next to me. As if in slow motion, I look down, and there on the old porch is Bobby’s brain.
“We like to keep the brains for research purposes, of course.” His voice is cold and calculated.
“Where’s the rest of Bobby?” I’m for the moment, numb.
That’s when I notice an unusual amount of dust particles floating in the air. One particular dust cloud is in the shape of a screaming mouth. Bobby. “God, no!” I bite my fist into my mouth.
After minutes of torturous silence, I slowly get to my feet. “What now? What do you want with me?”
“Let’s just say an old enemy of ours decided to play a little trick on us.”
“An old enemy? I thought you said your people were the Old Ones?” I fire back, fury starting to replace the pain of losing Bobby.
“Ah, he’s even older than us, one of the first to be written into existence. He’s an ancient trickster, that one. No need to concern yourself with him. His days are numbered, just as the human’s days are numbered.”
“What do I have to do with this, and Bobby? Why’d you kill him?”
“Bobby was what you humans like to refer to as a casualty,” he said this like it made all the sense in the world. “You, however, play an important role, Paul.”
“What role is that, you bastard?” I’m seething, nearly blinded by an all-consuming need for revenge.
“You’re a part of the Prophecy, the one that was written when my kind were banished from Earth to Etheren.”
“Hold the phone, what’s Etheren?” I’m reeling inside, on the verge of a breakdown.
“Etheren is a rather dismal planet located on the outskirts in a galaxy far, far away.” He laughs at his own joke. At my expense, at the expense of the human race, and I had the feeling this entire situation was beyond my grasp. Everything he was telling me was only a small snippet into a much bigger story, a dangerous one.
“Why were you banished?” I needed to know.
“The usual, greed. Many of our neighboring planets believed we were becoming self-destructive. Some stories are bound to repeat themselves, aren’t they, Paul?”
“So, what’s my part in this? Why didn’t you kill me like, Bobby?”
“There will be someone in the future who can stop us from taking back our planet. A woman,” he scoffs before continuing. “You see, you will father this child. You, Paul Wynn and Amy Sinclair, will procreate. Your daughter will be the one to try and save the human race when the time comes.”
“My daughter? Wait, how could my future daughter save the world?” Nothing he says is adding up.
“Ruby Wynn, your daughter, will have supernatural abilities. She’s referred to in the Prophecy as the Dream’ar, one whose dreams can manifest into reality,” he says this bitterly.
“Why not let this all play out, since you know so much? Why did Bobby and I see you in the tree that day? This is ludicrous!”
“Bobby, as I said was merely a casualty. I’ve been following you since you were born, but that day you saw me, you and your friend. I’m still not sure why,” his face reveals he is clearly perplexed over this, “but I’ve used that occurrence to my advantage ever since. Thus, why you are here at this very moment.”
“Okay, I still don’t get it. Why not just kill me now, what are you waiting for?” I feel my mind trying to stretch to accommodate information, information that makes no earthly sense.
“Oh, how I wish it were that simple, Paul. Unfortunately, your daughter is already written into existence. If I tamper too much, I’m afraid the outcome will be dire for all involved,” he sighs before baring his razor-sharp teeth. “So, for now, I need you breathing. It’s your lucky day, Paul!” He laughs, and it’s a frightening sound.
“You’re cruel, that’s what you are,” I say. I want to lash out, but I know it’s useless.
“I’m here to plant the seed of doubt, Paul. I scanned your brain the moment you arrived.”
“What’d you do to my brain, you son of a bitch?” I yell. My heart starts racing as fast as it did that day, so many years ago.
He is quite suddenly in my face, his nose mere inches from mine. He looks as if he’s about to embrace me, but I know that can’t be. He takes one step back before answering. “Nothing much, I just ensured a few of your future actions. For example, the day your daughter is born you will mysteriously disappear. You will never see Amy or your daughter again.” He says this matter-of-factly while eyeing Bobby’s brains on the porch.
“Why?” The single word I keep asking is choking me with unshed tears.
“It’s quite simple, really. It’s common knowledge that fatherless little girls are less likely to succeed. She will be forever questioning why you abandoned her and her mother. Poor, Amy,” he tisks. “Thus she will always doubt men. We need that doubt on our side, you see.”
“I see.” And for the first time in years, I cry.
“Now, now. No need to get sentimental,” he smiles down at me genuinely. At some point, I’d fallen to my knees. “The moment you meet Amy this whole conversation will be wiped from your memory, along with our encounter from your sad little childhood. There’s no use fighting us, Paul. And remember this,” he pauses, kneeling in front of me, “you and your species are the ones uninvited.”
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