photo from Pexels by artist Wojciech Marciniak
join me on Instagram
| connect - share - support |
a story by Joshua Brown
Rifantador could smell the kitchen humming along down the long dark hallway. He could make out some shadows in the light spilling out of the lonely door so far away. There were happy voices, collaborating, sharing that happy spot.
He hurried down the hallway, the conversations becoming distinct. There was no drama. But there were colors. Discussions of faraway places and experiences overlapped eachother. Rifantador abruptly entered into the light.
It was Tiffany, his grandmother. She was dressed in one of the most outlandish, colorful displays of post 2020s garb, her dark brunette hair splashed on her shoulders, and her bright smile disrespected the cool of the hallway he had just exited.
The groupings spread through the weekend styled ranch house in loose twos. The kitchen was immaculate. Custom made cupboards etched with familiar scrollwork were accented with appliances that looked like they were straight out of the 2000’s, stainless steel everywhere.
He grabbed a small stack of still melty chocolate chip cookies and darted out of the kitchen to go find more aesthetic company. He loved grandma, but come on, the conversations with her just never seemed edgy enough. She talked about boring stuff like patriarchy, sex hierarchies and politics. He preferred talking about family and important day to day effects, things that actually mattered.
There was a terrifying tall spiral staircase that reached to a seeming eternity. Really it was just the second floor, but when looking from below, it looked like it should come with some type of warning about oxygen quality at the top. Rifo darted up the stairs two by two. He really was waiting for someone specific. Pearl.
He had met her when she showed up to compete in their neighborhood sauceball tournament. She wasn’t great at sauceball by any means but she made the tournament so much more fun with her charismatic personality. And it wasn’t that he wasn’t charismatic himself, because he was, but it was more the fact that he admired her commitment to making the tournament more entertaining and welcoming for everyone.
One of his other favorite people were calling him, his sister, Verasia.
One second Vee.
She was in the game room, it was a huge room full of all kinds of fun stuff, there was a riff tare table and a place to play all kinds of games from card games to board games. And in the corner was a huge couch, which Vee was sitting on with her Treyi headphones on.
Hey Rifo, do you want to play a game with me?
He jumped over the back of the couch and grabbed his favorite game.
Let’s play Ruins and Banshees.
They quickly set it up and jumped in and forgot about the hubbub downstairs quickly. They were well into the game when they were distracted by a knock on the window. It was Pearl. Vee laughed.
They opened the window and Pearl gave a final shove and tumbled in with uproarious laughter. She had scaled the side of the house to surprise them and surprised they were. Her brother Gaelen came running up the staircase like a normal civilian to join the merriment.
The played for an hour then retreated down to the rest of the families. They breathed with relief to see the toddlers, pregnant mothers and a tapestry of other ages mixing throughout the rest of the main floor, the cacophony of noise, voices and shifting furniture pieces drawing them into the community of different people with different smells and gaits.
Outside on the lawn was a giant bonfire, raging into the sky, welcoming the coming darkness of night. The shadows of the trees on the avenue stretched longer and longer, starkly contrasted by the deep hues of yellow, orange and pink.
There were no clouds. There never were. In fact, no one had seen clouds since the 22nd century began. Instead a giant ice sheet had been grown over the lower atmosphere to regulate the air temperature and moisture distribution. Rifo dreamed of going outside the ice sheet.
There were dogs everywhere. Okay, it was only eight dogs, but it seemed like a lot in comparison to the two that lived with the Gessecks day to day. And, oh, what joy the dogs displayed!
Rifo joined the bonfire brazzers, sitting around discussing business and local matters. These were his inheritance, a kindred of intelligence, wished upon society by the indigenous procreators that brought them to life, including himself.
He was happy.
Pearl was happy.
That long dark hallway was just a faint memory at this point in the evening, surrounded by engaging ideas, stimulating sights sounds and smells, and the warmth of the raging fire. Why would anyone remember that void when you can live in the moment where people caress, reproduce and laugh?
Maybe it wasn’t the darkness. Maybe it was the aloneness.
No one else knew about the hallway, or if they did, they purposefully gaslit Rifo into denying its existence. Whose house was this? Where was Rifo’s father? His mother? Who were these people?
All these questions snapped in an instance. They brought no value to Rifo, Vee, Pearl or Gaelen. In fact, asking those questions would bring the darkness from the hallway out into the rest of the house.
The fire raged all night, deep into the now amplified starry sky, the families seemingly full of endless energy to fellowship. At some point, the pregnant mothers turned in for the night, disappearing into the woods along the avenue. Then the toddlers, but they trundled together as their own little family down the avenue in the light of the stars over the crest of a hill to not be seen by the flickering fire.
Then the six dogs spread their separate ways, some to the east and some west-ish. Finally, the brazzers put the bonfire out with the hose from the house and left the Gessecks and their two friends to close up the party for the night. The first slivers of sunlight were coming over the horizon, teasing the stars with threat of overwhelming brightness.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
They were inside, sipping some hot water, together when Pearl whispered the question to Rifo. He only paused for a moment.
They walked together, he brought her to the dark hallway. He struck a match and handed it to her. They started walking. There were doors all down the hallway, you could barely make them out with the matchstick burning but Pearl was curious. She had seen plenty of hallways in her life, but never had she seen a boys.
The doors were all padlocked, and on careful inspection, she could make out tiny dates sharpied onto each one. She would never date them, she thought to herself. They continued in hushed tiptoe down to as far as Rifo had ever made it.
They turned around and the light from the kitchen was gone. You could still smell the lingering aromas from the great fellowship. Pearl was impressed. She had never seen a hallway so deeply infiltrated, they were at least a half mile deep. And each room could only hold what she imagined to be dragons and monsters of varying dangers and sizes.
She was inspired by his bravery. They made their way back to home. Pearl preferred to face wild outside foes and overcome barriers of achievement, but seeing someone brave enough to go more than three doors deep was somehow encouraging to her.
Kings and knights were less brave. The sunshine, drowning out the stars now, welcomed her back to the Gessecks and her and Gaelen said their farewells.
Rifo knew that it was brave, but he didn’t realize just how deep he had delved. But three months later, he heard that Pearl had accomplished the impossible, she had built a biteyon evoker, by herself, in her grandma’s backyard.
As soon as he heard it, he ran directly to their house.
Pearl. That’s incredible.
There were so many people crowded around. Security, documentarians, scientists, so many people curious to her incredible creation.
When Rifo came in, she immediately gave it to him to hold.
Wow. This is incredible.
I made it for you.
Pearl looked earnestly at him. For a moment, he felt the weight of his life’s decision to be brave begin to loom over him. Would he have to go further into the hallway? What would she think if he didn’t take another step down the hallway? What did she mean?
And as if a sign from God, an earthquake began to shake violently. There was an eerie silence but you could see terror spread as the earthquake continued second after second. Wave after wave knocked items from shelves and furniture crashed into walls methodically crushing fractures into the drywall.
They looked at eachother and realized what had to happen, Pearl nodded, and Rifo stuffed the evoker into his backpack, darting out of the house, stumbling with each wave. Pearl ducked under the dining room table just as the chandelier broke free of it’s retainer and splashed glass into every corner of the room.
Rifo ran. God, that 90 seconds seemed to be an eternity. There was a small footpath through the woods and he held his backpack straps tightly, swaying and stumbling through each aftershock. He crossed several avenues before he ducked into the undergrowth, sitting on a rotting log to think through details.
Three men in camo fatigues jogged past him, carrying rifles. Just as they passed him, he observed them break up and go separate ways.
He didn’t understand any of this. He reached in his pocket, he still had some clickers but not enough to get the evoker to Happy. He might be able to go home and get some more clickers from Vee but she’d probably not appreciate him involving her in this adventure.
Actually he should. He pivoted and ran home. Vee was in her room, working on some research about female reproduction.
Hey, I need some clickers.
Rifo, just grab some from my vanity. Jesus, you don’t have to ask.
Hey, I’m going to Happy.
Do you need anything from me?
Can I borrow your firestone?
Rifo, I need it back by Sunday. Will you be gone longer than three days?
Then take it!
She buried her nose back into the reading she was immersed in prior to his intrusion into her place of safety. He smiled, grabbed some clickers, and her firestone, then quickly walked back out before Tiffany could see him.
Brave meant nothing in comparison to what was about to happen.
Happy was a kid in the next county over who lived in the Mirror. Just showing him the evoker would help hundreds of kids in the community. Being in the Mirror was a privilege and a responsibility, but just getting there was hard.
So many years of work getting in the Mirror isolated you from certain other kids and people in general. The Class did its best to make sure that Happy wasn’t disturbed from his place of reward.
But this was bigger than Rifo, Happy, Pearl and the dark hallway’s secrets.
Rifo sweet talked his way through the Class guards and double timed up the stairs to knock on Happy’s door. There was a certain fear that Happy might be suspicious of this call during such a tumultous time, earthquakes and all.
As the door opened, Rifo blurted out before any acknowledgements could be made. Happy looked curiously.
We want you to have this.
A smile broke over his face and he pulled Rifo’s hands with the evoker in them to his chest. They both did a small bow and stepped back from eachother. No more words were spoken but as Happy looked down at the evoker in his hand, they both realized the gravity of everything happening.
Inside the room, Happy’s television turned to a video of Pearl announcing that the evoker would be used to build new hallways with good dragons. Rifo and Happy nodded at eachother and Rifo left the same way he came.
Trusting Happy with the biteyon evoker was a small stretch, they knew his track record and even met him as a small child before he was placed in the care of the Class. Pearl had talked about him. Rifo knew many of his friends. There was no doubt in their minds that the evoker would be used to build new hallways.
Vee spent the rest of her life being an incredible wife, mother and women’s reproduction writer.
Gaelen built a business with hundreds of employees making technology to thicken the ice layer.
Tiffany continued to talk politics and stereotypes until her deathbed.
Pearl and Rifo found their parents down the hallway, built evokers, got married and had four children.
Happy built a hallway for the Class, and millions of children were given new dragons.
There are no substitutes for bravery. And living vicariously through others is the quickest way to become a coward. Be kind.
#story #fiction #family #ya #youngadult #teenager #character #virtue #inspiration #fear #positive #writing #creativewriting #philosophy #ideas #future #adventure #hero
This story is meant to articulate some of the ideas around young earth creationism, post-modernism, objective free will, and romance.
This was written while doing inmate oversight as a security guard in Denver, Colorado on July 22, 2023.
Thanks for reading, I hoped you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it!