Monday, January 6, 2014

Fiction: A Story Across Years [chapter seven]

This story at Fictionpress.

Also included this week:

Secret Life: Chapter eleven. Sci-fi horror. "He is afraid. Afraid that he knows why he is here."

A Story Across Years

Chapter seven: Childhood


Are you going to start her on guns yet?

No, not yet. She's too young. I got her a few more disentanglement puzzles, though. She's solved all the old ones. But if I start her on disassembling guns, next thing you know, she'll want to learn how to shoot. I'll wait until she's eight.

"No, no, no," Marilyn said, despairingly. "Don't swing your arm," she told her daughter. "Anybody could block it. Like I just did. You've got to move straight, like this." She demonstrated, and then stood back to watch the young girl, who repeated the motion, and did it four more times before her mother decided that she'd done it right.

"Now, try to draw it faster." Marilyn paused. "When you can finally catch me off my guard, we can go to that arcade with the talking rat."

"Chuck E. Cheese's?"

"Sure. That's the name."

No matter how mature they are, there are some things a young child will do anything for.

How's my granddaughter doing since I saw her last, girl?

Great, Father. She loves the gift you got her. Two months ago.

That's okay. I don't ask for thank-you notes until the box actually gets opened.

It was by the time she was five years old that she had managed to learn to look at her grandfather's presents in a... "special" way, so to speak. She wasn't being forced to wait to get to her present until she could open the box, she was getting two presents: the puzzle box, and whatever was inside.

Considering that she had just recently been able to open up the puzzle box she had been given for her first birthday, this was an extremely useful mindset to have.

So what does she know about me?

About you, or about you? I told her the story, but she thinks that it's the first bedtime story I ever told her which wasn't history. Nah, the only people who know that you were a masked criminal back in the day are me and a few of your old partners. More coffee, Father?

It was the oddest story she'd ever heard, the young girl quickly decided. It was a qualified happy ending ("as happily as they could be expected to") but that was still a miracle, when she thought that she'd have to fight tooth and nail to get a happy ending like what might be found in the Book of Job. Normally, her mother thought that Alexander the Great had a happy ending, failure and premature death notwithstanding. Or Julius Caesar. She had a thing for telling stories about people who died, and calling those "happy endings." Her mother, it seemed, was more concerned with the end results of a person's works, than whether that person was ever really happy.

But then she was told the story of Skeleton Scott and the Girl, or at least a very brief glossing-over of it, and of how, when Skeleton Scott killed a police officer and his wife, he took the girl to raise as his own, in order to keep her from growing up to hate him.

It was... odd. Disturbing, in some ways. But the girl couldn't deny that it had perhaps the happiest ending of any story her mother had told her. Scott grew to love his adopted daughter, too, in the end.

A shame that it wasn't true. She'd have liked her mother to have given a happy ending for a true story.

"Hello again, Father. I'm sorry about not popping by sooner."

"It's okay. You've had to wait on me enough times. I owe you the same. They say I've got a year, maybe."

"You'll beat it. You've survived worse."

She was seven, when she heard that her grandfather was sick. It was some disease she couldn't even begin to pronounce. She missed him terribly, already, even when he was so near, and she became even closer to him, in that time. Whenever her mother flew back to see him, she made sure to tag along.

There was nothing that made him happy so much as seeing her beat the last record she'd made on the 5x5 Rubik's cube he'd put in the puzzle box she had gotten from him for her fifth Christmas. At this point, doing it fast enough to be, figuratively speaking, a blur, wasn't nearly so hard as making sure she didn't break it in her haste. A professor's cube was a notoriously fragile thing, and not generally up to the rigors of speedcubing.

Please don't leave me, Father. Not like Dad.

That was entirely not his fault, you know. A few bullets in the vital organs can make a man leave his daughter whether he wants it or not, you know.

That doesn't mean I want you to die, too.

She was nearly eight, when her grandfather died. She was not allowed to attend the funeral. Her mother thought it might be... dangerous for her. Some very bad people might be there, her mother explained. She was distracted, during those days that her mother was gone. She didn't hear half of what was said around her, and she had to be actively engaged in something in order to actually do anything. The moment people stopped bothering her, the life seemed to go out of her. She just sat down, and stared at the wall, as she thought.

Her mother came back three days later, and there was a brief moment of irrational panic when she saw the gun in her mother's hand. Not a minute later, though, they were alone in the workshop, and something seemed to fall into place as they began Lessons again. The gun fell apart so easily, and the pieces went back together just the same. They went through three guns that day, and by the time that she could do it with her eyes closed, she was already yawning, and she was brought to bed

She dreamed of puzzles.

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