‘In a single moment of doubt, my red socks got soggy. It just rained cats and dogs in Lethe. Literally. Canines and felines, from the small toy varieties to the bigger, more fearsome big cats and direwolves, poured from the sky, roaring and growling, and splashed against Lethe’s cobblestone streets, instantly turning the animals into crystal clear water that flowed down the streets or pooled into deceptively deep puddles.
‘I wrapped myself in my red bedsheet; it was terribly cold all of a sudden, as if a blizzard was blowing through. It was uncharacteristically cold that night, remember? So, I’m standing there, half-naked, and, for a single moment, I forget where I am. .
‘First thing I realized is that my socks are wet and no one likes the feel of a wet sock. Worst thing in the world, I swear! It’s like your feet are ankle deep in cold mashed potatoes.
‘Second thing I realized is that this puddle is deeper than I thought. I fell in and tried to hold as much air as I could. I struggled to stay above the water, but, of course, fear has already taken over my body. I panicked, so I sunk.
‘I looked up and I can see the sunny sky darkening and I’m thinking that this is it. This is my last moment alive. Then I felt your hand grab mine. Suddenly, I was yanked out of that ocean of a puddle. It took me a bit to figure out where I was, to realize that I was still alive and breathing. And you stood over me and you said– what did you say?’
‘I said,’ he thinks or at least pretends to recall back to that day. He strokes his jaw that was chiseled out of marble and he paces in the shadow of Poseidon’s Trident, shifting from light to dark. Then he stops halfway into the light. ‘I said that it’s sad to see a superhero needin’ saving.’
I laugh at the memory. It’s as fresh as a new pair of shoes that still have the smell of the store on them. ‘That’s when I decided to be a Sandman.’
‘What I did wasn’t special,’ he says. He takes note of the few people walking through the Drowning City. ‘Anyone could’ve pulled you out.’
‘But it wasn’t just anyone. It was you.’
There’s a crowd coalescing around Poseidon now . He watches them flow in, but I keep my eyes on him. I watch how he bends his fingers, stretching them. I watch him shift his weight ever so slightly. I watch his stone face, blank as always, but telling so much. It’s a rigid stone mask made of marble. A crack splits his face, bifurcating it. Underneath the crack, I can see the faint visage of a human, his true face.
‘We can do this alone, if you want,’ I say, knowing full well he has complete control over this oneiroscape. I try to come up with possible reasons why he would want an audience, but he suddenly comes out into the light.
‘Just let me be,’ he says with an air of acquiescence, but his hands are still tense and balled. ‘That’s all I want, brother.’
‘Not your brother anymore. You broke the Code. You betrayed family!’
In an almost imperceptible instant, my fist collides into his stone-sharp cheek. Starting from the point of contact between my gloved fist and his marbled skin, a ripple appears and expands out in all directions, engulfing the both of us. Then, it reaches the ground and–
–My reality got sharper by the millisecond and then the dread of realization fell on me.
‘Marcus!’ My dad’s voice was a grenade going off in my head.
‘I’m up! I’m up!’ I scrambled up my stuff as I opened the door and practically fell out of the car. Eventually, I got myself correct and shut the door, taking my first step to school.
‘Marcus!’ Another grenade boom stopped me where I stood. I turned around with barely hidden annoyance, but that melted away when I saw my dad stretching out his hand to me. In his hand was my tablet for school. I would’ve been dead without it.
I reached up to take it, but my dad held it firm. I looked at him and saw all of the love he had for me. It was a lot, as if I were the only thing in the world that mattered to him. Not even the scar splitting his face could hide it from me. ‘It’s sad seeing superhero needin’ savig’,’ he told me with a smile.
I didn’t return it. I just saw his fade away into his lonely world as he drove off.
Next: Hand over Fist
Previous: Mysteries of the Orientation
Photo credit: andrewek