|THE DAY SHE BECAME THE STORM by Yuliia Vereta|
Skylar Lawrence was a very quiet little girl. When she was a baby she lost her parents in a car accident and was raised by her grandmother in a small town in Vermont. The few things she knew about her parents were mainly the memories she built from photos and some of their belongings. She never actually missed them; she did not feel she was ever familiar with the people she saw on the photos.
She spent her childhood and young years in that same town. She left after having entered college. When she left, she left forever except that week she came to her grandma’s funeral in the middle of spring term. That day changed her, made her feel totally alone in the big brave world, made her hate her solitude, which lasted until she met Hayden Foster—the love of her life, her future husband who cured her from her superstitions, prejudices, preconceptions, paranoia and what’s most important—loneliness. She was looking for him for a very long time before she found him: the person she pictured in her head as a perfect idea, the shining star that would light her way.
She was dreaming about someone who would come to her life not to visit, but to stay; someone, who would love chocolate cake and hate olives, just like she did; someone, who would see, understand and accept the monsters she was holding in her dresser and her wardrobe, and let her keep them; someone, who would see the beauty and the ugliness in every single human being; someone, who would be able to see the world not the way it was, but the way she saw it, so gorgeous and so monstrous, so innocent and so filthy, full of amazing things that are easy to create and easy to destroy. Eventually she met that person, he came out of her. She met him a long time after she was meant to, in the most uncomfortable time, but she met him. Moreover, she made him.
Skylar Lawrence was special. Everybody said that—her grandma, her teachers, her neighbours, her friends. But it turned out to be a problem when she became too special. Her grandmother took very good care of her, at times even being too strict. Skylar had dark blonde hair always braided or scraped into a ponytail. Her clothes were always ironed and neat. Her manners were just fine, her posture was perfect and she never sat with her knees apart. She was not very social, but had several school friends, who stopped talking to her after everybody discovered what she was capable of.
One day when she was a child, she was playing outside with her ball and it rolled into the neighbour’s rosebush. When she finally got it from there, having scratched her forearms bloody, she saw two patent-leather shoes standing on the grass. She raised her gaze and stood up. “Who wears leather shoes in summer?” she thought.
“I do,” answered the boy standing opposite her. “These are my favourite shoes, I wear them every day.”
Skylar gasped, her eyes widened. “That was so rude. I did not want to say that aloud. Did I say that aloud?” The thoughts rushed through her confused mind.
“No, you didn’t. You did not say that. But I heard it.” The boy was slightly smiling, “You don’t have to say it for me to hear it.”
“Liar!” said Skylar impatiently. She knew it was rude to say that word as well and she was not allowed to use it, but lying was also bad and having measured those using the scale of bad things she just invented in her head, she came to conclusion that pronouncing the word ‘Liar’ was not as bad as actually being one.
“I am not lying,” said the boy.
“Yes, you are. Nobody can hear what I think if I don’t say it out loud.”
“I can,” said the boy, shrugging his shoulders.
“I guess,” Skylar started, “you can prove it, if you really can read my mind.” Then she tightly shut her eyes and covered her mouth with both hands.
“Pizza, pony, twelve,” said the boy, rolling his eyes up. “Anything else?” he seemed upset because of Skylar checking him.
She peered out at him and tried to understand how he was doing it, but could not find any reasonable explanation.
“I want to try again,” she said and rapidly closed her eyes and covered her mouth.
“Hopscotch, Christmas tree, Barbie.” The boy seemed to be getting bored.
“How are you doing that? Is it some magic trick?” Skylar did not know how it was possible for a person to read someone else’s mind. She could not yet figure out how far from being the person that boy standing in front of her was.
“Kind of. I can do many things,” answered the boy. He could clearly see that Skylar was curious and not scared a bit, unlike the rest of the kids he had tried to make friends with. He liked her. She was different.
“Many things?” Skylar widened her eyes. “Like what?”
“Like this,” said the boy, touching Skylar’s forearm that had been scratched when she was trying to release the ball from the rosebush. When he moved his hand away there was nothing else but smooth, perfect skin with no marks. Skylar stood motionless with her mouth open.
“The priest was telling us about people like you, who can do miracles,” she finally constrained herself to speak.
“There are only a few people who can do such things. So I can’t tell others about it. Only to those who can do something special too. Can you promise that you will keep this secret?” he asked.
“I will. I promise,” said Skylar nodding. “But why did you tell me? I can’t do anything like it.”
“I think you can. You just need to recall it. You are very special, Skylar. I hope you will soon have the power to do amazing things just like I do. And if so we could make great things together.”
Skylar’s face widened in a smile. “Wow! Can you teach me how to do it?” She was excited.
“Sure. We can begin right away. I can show you more and you will learn something of what I can do.”
“Do you want to go to the park and show me more there? It’s just around the corner.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” the boy smiled.
“You didn’t tell me your name, by the way,” said Skylar.
“Dylan,” he answered and together they went along the road, deeper and deeper to what had to be hidden from Skylar and all the other living beings, having left Mrs. Lowell’s rosebush behind.
“What are you doing there, Karen? What are you looking at?” Lincoln Lowell asked his wife when he saw her standing by the window staring outside.
“This girl is getting even weirder,” she said following someone with her narrowed eyes.
“Can’t you just leave her alone? Their family’s business is their family’s business.” Mr. Lowell never liked his wife’s habit of poking her nose in other people’s lives.
Karen craned her neck to see further, but to her great disappointment could not peek around the corner. She sighed and pursed her lips. Then she turned to her husband. “You just don’t know what you are talking about. I am absolutely sure this Skylar has something wrong with her head. She seemed all right when she had just moved here, but now… I understand that she lost both parents and that she is probably going through tough times, but this is not enough. And it is definitely not an excuse for talking to trees.”
“Talk to what?” Lincoln Lowell knew that watching other people’s lives was not his wife’s biggest sin. What was worse, she was always gossiping with others about what she knew or what she suspected, thought up or slightly sprinkled with sugar.
“That girl was talking to the oak tree in our yard just now. She came to pick her ball from the rosebush and after she got it she kept standing there talking to the tree, covering her mouth, laughing. She was doing that for a pretty long time and only now she went away with that ball under her arm.”
“Maybe it’s just a child’s imagination. She is just a kid.” Lincoln did not want his wife to start telling everyone around that the neighbour girl, who had just became an orphan, was crazy. He knew that Skylar Lawrence was already not very popular and too quiet for her age.
“All children imagine things, but did you see any of them talking to trees? What’s next? Talking to the wooden fence?” Karen Lowell did not like kids. Probably that was because the Lowells did not have children of their own and never felt like they needed them. Having lived together for almost half a century, the Lowells never thought they should have made any different decisions when they were younger.
In the meantime people in the park just around the corner from Karen Lowell’s house were smiling at young Skylar Lawrence, lonely passing by, heading for the wooden bench standing under the huge chestnut tree, where she was going to share the secrets with her new friend Dylan, who was walking just beside her.
As the days passed by Skylar Lawrence became smarter and much more confident in what she decided to call wonders. The majority of her free time she spent with her new friend, whose invisibility was another great trick, but for now he could not help her to do it herself.
“Imaginary companions usually appear as a result of some major loss. Taking into the account recent events and the sudden death of her parents it’s rather explainable. I don’t think you need to worry. She will forget about him as soon as she finds someone capable of filling that emptiness she feels,” the physiotherapist said to her grandma after one of the regular visits that they paid to her twice a week.
Skylar did not care about what the doctor thought and what her grandma said—she was sure that Dylan was not just a figment of her imagination, more than a usual flight of fancy. The things he did were even more than just real, he was twisting reality himself, changing it, looking at it from different angles, manipulating it, making it do what he wanted.
Dylan could do a variety of things, starting from making himself invisible and reading people’s thoughts as Skylar discovered on the first day she met him to predicting the future and talking to ghosts. He acquainted Skylar with spirits and creatures she had never even heard of and helped her talk with them. They kept this secret as no one but the two of them could see those things.
There was a day that determined the further development of the events and the communication between Dylan and Skylar; that day was very important to him and crucial for her. That day made her who she became.
They were as always sitting in the park after Skylar came back from school. Just like on every other weekday she was upset. There was a girl in her class called Francisca, who was very popular at school. Her father was a pretty successful lawyer and her mom owned a fancy cake shop. Francisca thought Skylar was a very weird girl and never missed a chance to bully her in every possible way. Although Skylar never told anyone about it there was a person who knew how hard it was for her.
“We can talk about it if you want, you don’t have to suffer from it,” suggested Dylan one day, but they never discussed it as Skylar never wanted to. They did not come back to this issue until that very important day, the usual Tuesday afternoon they were sitting under the chestnut tree.
Across the road, opposite the park, there was a cute little shop selling coffee. Skylar saw a shiny black Audi parked in front of the shop and a woman getting out of it together with her little daughter.
“Oh no! That’s Francisca with her mom! They will definitely go to the park now!” thought Skylar as her eyes widened.
Dylan got distracted from Skylar’s biology school book which he had been studying for the last several minutes and looked across the road. He could clearly hear the far-away distant voices: “Mom, I don’t want to wait for your stupid coffee. Can I already go to the park?” and “Okay, but only cross the road on the green light.” Dylan moved his head and started studying everything on that street, every single person moving, and everything happening was like in slow motion. Dylan paid his attention to the tiniest details, his mind was away from reality and its disturbances, and that moment he concentrated more than ever before.
Scanning the street, for a fraction of the second his eyes stopped on the flashlight countdown, Francisca putting on the earphones, the man riding the bike on the sidewalk, the taxi rushing down the road, the young lady walking out from the flower shop with a bunch of flowers in her hand, the little girl drinking milkshake with her dad in the café beside the cake shop, the bus driving down the road, the puddle on the road that was getting slopped by every car going towards that cake shop. And then everything on that street, every slightest fine point, came to its place. All the movements and sounds were gathered in the magnificent carnival, a bittersweet symphony, a powerful orchestra, an implacable fate.
“You can stop it now,” said Dylan. “And she will never talk to you again, she will never bother anyone again.” He was pretty sure that Skylar could move further than where she already was. His decisive eyes were scrutinizing her. Without a pause Skylar said: “Tell me how.”
Dylan smiled, totally satisfied with himself. “Make it stand on the top of that blue US mail post box by the road,” he said giving her the pencil from her pencil case he had just reached out for. “Leave it there and come back,” he added.
“And how will this help?” said Skylar suspiciously, looking at Dylan.
“You’ll see. Just put it there. Hurry up!” he said impatiently. Dylan could not wait for the fun to finally start.
Skylar stood up and headed for the post box with a pencil in her clenched hand. She made it stand on the top of the box and came back. She sat beside Dylan and asked, “Now what?”
“Just look and wait,” he answered.
The pencil was still standing on the post box, but not for long. In a couple of seconds the taxi, with an irritated passenger inside, passed the mail box and slopped the huge puddle on the road. The water from the puddle hit the mail box, it shook a little and the pencil fell down on the pavement. The little girl drinking milkshake with her dad saw it and came to pick it up. She stopped by the mail box and looking at the pencil stood right in the way of the cyclist. The girl’s dad was typing something on his phone and did not notice a thing. The man riding the bike saw the girl and turned right trying to avoid hitting her. He bumped into the row of vases in front of the flower shop and fell off his bike. The place was suddenly too crowded and loud. The girl, her dad, the flower seller and nearby passers-by came to check on him and help.
“How did this happen?” Skylar wondered.
“Nothing has happened yet. Wait for it,” said Dylan.
It seemed like the whole street was involved in the tiny accident, everyone but Francisca. She was detached from the reality with her earphones, standing on the sidewalk and waiting for the green light, impatiently stomping. The traffic light finally turned yellow. Francisca stared at it, ready to walk ahead.
“Here we go,” said Dylan with a sly smile.
When Benjamin Stenson woke up on the morning of September 20th, he was in a very joyful mood and did not have any idea that this day would turn out to be one of the worst days of his life. After his wife’s death several years ago he could not be as happy as one can be anymore, but was still trying to find small things to cheer him up. After a well-performed ‘We belong together’ in the shower Benjamin made toast and eggs, because that’s what he ate on Tuesdays, and savouring every piece of them began another nice day. At least that’s what he thought. After a cup of strong tea with plenty of sugar he took his bag, said bye to the photo of his dead wife resting on the shelf, and went out to go to work, to do exactly the same thing he was doing the day before, and the day before that, and the year before that, even a decade before that.
His every day job was pretty boring, but he had got used to it a long time ago. It wasn’t the worst job one could do, so Benjamin never complained. He began and ended his day at the terminus stations, the same place where he enjoyed his short pauses between trips. The rest of the time he drove the 115-route bus, passing same things every day, meeting the same people and driving on the same old roads. The difference that could make any day stand out from the rest of them was nasty weather or some especially irritating passengers that were possible from time to time.
Fleet Road was one of the calmest streets in the whole neighbourhood. Usually no passengers got off there and there was nobody waiting for the bus at the stop. People were mainly just chilling there, walking to or from the park, eating ice-cream or holding a coffee paper cup.
Although on another regular Tuesday Fleet Road became more or less active and troublesome. The man riding the bike on the sidewalk fell off his bike right into the row of vases standing by the flower shop window.
Lucy Young had at least a dozen thoughts busy buzzing in her head. Her child’s mind was always thinking of something. Like right now, coming back home from the preschool, sitting next to her mom on the bus, she was wondering if there was any chance the parents could buy her a puppy for her sixth birthday and if there was any way to convince them that it was a bright idea. Though it was not. And it was absolutely and totally predetermined that she was not going to get a pet any time soon. And for sure not for her birthday on the following week. In fact everything was already decided and unpreventable. Lucy’s parents were to present her with a very unusual gift, they were to pay an extremely expensive bill from the dentist, though they didn’t yet know about it; it didn’t depend on them or on her. The decision was made by a little good-looking girl with a sly smile, sitting under the oak-tree and staring at the bus Lucy was in, which for a minute stood motionless on the traffic light and after a while kept going.
“Mommy, what happened to that man?” asked Lucy, staring out of the bus window on her side, kneeling on the seat, and pointing at the cyclist on the ground right in front of the flower shop, surrounded with people helping him to stand up.
“What is it all about?” wondered Benjamin Stenson, switching his look from the road to the crowd for a split second, which was definitely enough. Sure it was. Dylan knew he did not need more. Wearing the earphones, with her look on a just-appeared green light, Francisca made a couple of steps forwards, which were also just enough.
Everything that was happening during the next thirty minutes was a subject for the further discussions of everyone, who was in that street that moment; it was also the source of pangs of conscience for Benjamin Stenson, who for the first time in his life was glad his wife had died before he got involved in anything like it. The bus heading down the Fleet Road hit Francisca right in front of her mom’s eyes, when she was crossing the road to the park. The people who previously had gathered around the cyclist switched their attention to the body of the girl on the zebra crossing. The white lines were slowly covered with a puddle of hot blood. After the hard bump and the sound of the brakes the street became silent for a moment and then the air was pierced with the scream of Helen, who had lost her only daughter, while buying the non-caffeine coffee.
After he hit the brakes Benjamin Stenson got numb. The sounds from all around gave him shivers. He could not even make himself move a finger in fright. For him the time had stopped. When the bus hit Francisca, Lucy Young accidentally hit the seat handle with her face and front teeth, crying her eyes out when the paramedics finally came. Her mom was sporadically shouting “My daughter also needs help. Take care of her too.” Helen was silently sobbing, sitting on the pavement, frozen with grief.
People standing beside the road covered their mouths and looked away from the body on the road. Her clothes were soaked with red long before she was taken away. That was the picture that was going to pay regular visits to Benjamin Stenson’s nightmares, making him live it though again and again, until that very day he decided to take the old revolver and shoot his brains out, leaving tiny parts of them all over the ceiling fan. He was surely right thinking that it was good his wife was dead before he did anything like it.
The Fleet Road was way too far from being normal on that day. People from the whole neighbourhood rushed to stare at what was happening and check on their relatives, who were either in the park or on their way to it. One of them was April Donovan, the aunt of Skylar Lawrence; she got there earlier than others as her house was just around the corner. What she saw made her totally certain about what she was worried all this time about. Her niece was standing under the old oak tree in the middle of the park, looking at everything with a wide smile. She was right there, a nice little girl standing all alone and rejoicing.
April finally accepted the fact that the pastor was right about her. She could see it now. It was not Skylar anymore. There was something else in her. And it was not going to leave without a fight.
Aunt April remembered the day she first brought Skylar home, shortly after her parents died. She was pretty bad; so bad that it seemed she was never going to recover and fill the newly created emptiness with love for someone else. With the passage of time, Skylar became better though. She was never too talkative or emotional, but she treated everyone nicely, and it was more than enough for Aunt April, who was a righteous Christian ready to help others, especially her niece, who was now her only family.
From time to time Skylar did weird things just like every child and was scared of certain stuff just like every child. However what Skylar was terrified of was different from other children’s fears. It wasn’t the darkness she was scared of; otherwise, it was something in it she felt curious about. Although she was scared that someone might notice the way she saw the world. She seemed to be constantly looking for something to give her shivers just to feel alive and kicking, for something to entertain her, to amuse her. She did do weird things, but they never affected her school marks or her manners, which meant that Aunt April was fine with it. She tried to understand Skylar as much as she could and support her in every deed, not encourage her too much though. But at some point the way Skylar behaved started attracting the attention of other people as well as their excessive comments and suspicious looks. Year by year her attitude towards surrounding people and events was becoming more and more disturbing, so that Aunt April could not ignore it any more. The way Skylar smiled when watching the tragedy of the whole street put the final mark on her aunt’s decision to resist whatever was in her and it could not be explained by her psychiatrist any more.
Aunt April knew what it was, it was pure evil that her niece was dealing with; it was pure hatred and dark matter that filled her to the ends of her fingers; something that pushed her towards the horrible unknown she was going to drown in one day. And despite every attempt it had to be so. That is what they call destiny, unpreventable and ruthless, decided. She became what she became that same day when her curiosity did not stop at the black doorstep. She became the storm the day she opened that door.