Authors: Michael Marano
Tags: #Speculative Fiction
I wonder why my face is on the paper box. I put it back, because Mother and Father put it there so I wouldn’t see it and I didn’t want them to think I was bad.
I go to my box full of good-smelling fur and I worry the Bad Mother and Bad Father can find me, because dreams are pictures, and if I can be inside a picture, then maybe they can get me.
I go to sleep and try to dream of the black stone steps that take me to the happy place.
Mother is hurting today, making “
” sounds and she is biting a big piece of wood and it goes “crack! crack!” because her teeth are breaking it up.
Father is holding her and I am sad that she might die.
Mother is still hurting. I bring her water and she does not talk but she looks at me and I see in her eyes that she loves me.
Then she goes, “
” and her legs go wide and something comes out of her. It is a bag of wet skin and there is something inside. It moves like one of the little white fish we eat sometimes that live in the water down the far tunnels, but it is grey. I think I hear Mother and Father crying, but they are laughing. They are happy because of the bag of skin.
Mother bites open the bag and the little thing inside cries “
” Mother licks it clean and eats the skin.
And I feel very sad.
The little one looks like Mother and Father. It is not ugly like me.
It has fur, and its head is shaped long and right, not round like mine.
Mother and Father hold it close and they cry and laugh while the little thing goes “
They say, “Look, Little Round Head! Look! You have someone to play with now!!!”
I try to be happy.
But in my box later I cry.
I don’t want to be so ugly.
It has been summer and winter, now.
It is warm again and Little Velvet Ears can walk some.
That is the name of the little one. Mother and Father call him that because his ears are soft and furry and shaped right, not round and funny feeling like mine. Mother and Father touch their lips to the tips of his ears and say how soft they are and how good they smell. Sometimes, Mother and Father call me just “Round Head” now, because I’m not as little as the baby.
Father and I go for food all the time. Little Velvet Ears needs lots of food and Mother does not want to be away from him. Sometimes, Father and Mother chew the food up before they give it to Little Velvet Ears. Sometimes they bite the head off a rat and pour the red food into Little Velvet Ears’ mouth and he laughs and giggles and makes funny “
” sounds because he likes the red food so much. It makes his pink tongue all red, and I wonder how he can eat the red food when he is so much littler than me and it is a grown-up food.
Little Velvet Ears gets food from Mother, too. She holds him close and he puts his mouth on her and he gets food that way. Father told me he gets milk that way, and I wonder how, because milk comes in paper boxes.
Little Velvet Ears can talk, some, too. He can even say words from the old songs that I can’t say. He says them in baby talk, “
” and he laughs and claps his little hands so the pads make soft noises. Mother and Father laugh, too, and say how clever he is.
I went deep in the tunnels where there is water to get white fish to eat. They have little red eyes that are sweet. I pretend when I eat the eyes that I am eating drops of the red food.
I put bits of food in the water that the white fish eat and when they are eating, my hands go “
” and I get the fish and their funny mouths open wide and I squeeze them, “
” so they don’t get away.
I was eating a fish when I heard a rat that sounded funny. I went where the sound was and saw a big rat in a nest made of leaves. It had little rats pressed against its belly and I thought of the animal Father showed me a long time ago in the box outside. The big rat was a mother rat and it made a noise at me, “
” The little rats were getting milk from the mother rat.
The little rats didn’t have fur like the mother rat, they were all pink and ugly. Ugly even for rats.
That is how I am. All pink and without fur. The little rats had heads that weren’t shaped like the mother rat’s.
The little rats were so ugly I found a rock and smashed them. The mother rat tried to bite me, but I took the rock and crushed her head, so it was ugly and shaped wrong, like mine. There was red food all over the rock, red food that I couldn’t eat. I got mad that I couldn’t eat it, so I kept smashing the rock down on the mother rat and her babies.
After, I was breathing funny, “
” and everything was all red. It was like a dream, and then when things weren’t red any more, I was licking the red food off the rock. It was very, very good and I liked it lots and I was happy I was becoming more like Mother and Father.
But when I go to sleep I still think about the ugly, ugly pink rats without fur.
I had another dream about the Bad Mother and the Bad Father.
“You will grow up to be like us,” they said. “You will not have nice grey fur and your head will be round and your ears will be wrong!”
And they laughed and laughed.
“You are not Little Round Head! You are a rat! You are like an ugly baby rat!”
I woke up crying, and Father came over to my box.
“Hush, Little Round Head! Don’t cry!” he said and he touched my face. His hand pad was soft and smelled like wet dirt.
“Do you want to wake up Little Velvet Ears? You have to be brave and quiet for him. Bad dreams can’t hurt you!”
Then he walked away back to sleep.
I was all alone in the dark, and thought about what the Bad Mother and Bad Father said.
* * *
Little Velvet Ears hurt me today.
Mother and Father had to go far down the tunnels, because it was a special day and they had to do special things in the place we get food from.
Mother wanted to stay with Little Velvet Ears. But Father said they had to go and that I was big and brave enough to take care of Little Velvet Ears.
Little Velvet Ears cried when Mother and Father were gone. I tried to hold him close, like how I hold my doll, but he kept crying and crying. I put him back on his little bed of cloth and I went to get my doll, because I wanted to share my doll with him because I thought it would make him not cry. But Little Velvet Ears jumped on my back, like he jumps on Mother’s back, and tried to grab on.
His nails cut my back and I started crying, because I don’t have nice loose skin and fur like Mother and Father have and I could feel the red wet going down my back and I tried not to hurt Little Velvet Ears because he is just a baby. I heard the cloth I wear go “
Little Velvet Ears put his tongue on the bad cuts. He thought what came out of me was red food for him to eat and that made me hurt worse because red food that comes from rats is good to eat and I am like a big pink rat without fur.
Little Velvet Ears dropped off, and he cried too, because he fell hard on the floor. I ran to my box and hid.
Mother and Father came home and they were covered with red mud and dry skin and smelled like smoke. They saw Little Velvet Ears crying on the floor. Mother picked him up and she and Father came to my box and they looked like they were going to scold me. Then they saw the bad cuts on my back.
I told them what happened and Father picked me up and Mother started cleaning the cuts with her tongue. It felt nice, because she wasn’t licking fast, like Little Velvet Ears did to lap up red food. Mother made little sad noises, “
huh! huh! huh!
” and Father sounded sad when he said, “Don’t be mad at Little Velvet Ears! It’s not his fault! He’s just a little baby . . .”
There is hotness all over me, and I feel bad and sick.
Mother and Father are afraid I might die. Their eyes are all worried, and they keep licking my cuts clean. I am scared the Bad Mother and Bad Father will get me, because being dead is like being in a dream.
Father and Mother say some of the old words when they take care of me, and the big pipes glow all purple and green and red and cold and hot winds come.
Mother presses the cuts to get the sickness out. It smells bad. Then Mother and Father take leaves and mash them in hot water and put them on my back and I don’t hurt so much.
Sometimes I wake up to see Mother and Father crying. They hold each other close and go “
huh! huh! huh!
I don’t want to make them sad.
Mother and Father had to go away.
They had to get the leaves they put on my back from a special place while the moon was a certain way. They have to go say special words over the leaves for them to make me better.
Before they left, they held Little Velvet Ears close to me in my box. They said he didn’t mean to hurt me. But I turned away and said, “No! He wanted to, because he’s bad!”
I said those bad things because I wanted him to feel bad. And I was sick and the hotness was burning me up.
When Mother and Father left to get the leaves, they put Little Velvet Ears in his nest and they were all quiet and sad when they went down the big pipe. I felt bad because I was being so mean, just like the Bad Mother and Bad Father who have no fur and have no goodness inside them.
This was when the bad things happened.
I fell asleep and kept waking up and I heard things that sounded like they were in dreams, but I woke up all the way and knew I really was hearing things from down deep in the pipe.
They were sounds like “
” And voices saying words I didn’t know, the kinds of words the Bad Mother and Bad Father use. It is bad when things in dreams become real.
I peeked over my box, then I went like a mouse that Father stares at to make it not move.
There were lights bouncing down the big pipe that leads to outside. The lights were talking.
Then I saw under the lights two creatures like the one mother jumped on, with yellow head bones on the outside with lights attached.
When they came into our home, Little Velvet Ears started crying, and they looked over where he was and they started yelling and I couldn’t move because I was so scared. Little Velvet Ears was in the bad lights that came out of their heads and he covered his eyes because they were so bright. Then one of them that was yelling really loud took a big metal thing off its belt and hit and hit and hit and hit the baby over and over again until he was all red and mashed and then they ran away.
I climbed out of my box and the hotness was burning me up and there was wetness coming out of my skin and the crying was in my eyes so I couldn’t see.
Little Velvet Ears didn’t have a face anymore. It was all bashed in, but his chest still went up and down.
When I touched him, he fell over and there was one long last breath that fell out of the baby’s mouth, “
” Then I knew the little one was dead and would never be with us anymore.
I screamed and ran down the tunnels, yelling for Mother and Father. I yelled and cried and yelled. I went “
” through the water near where we get food. I ran to the door of the white place Father and I come out of, but I couldn’t move the door. Then I ran down other tunnels.
I ran to the tunnel where Father showed me the little animal with the babies and went up the metal things to the round thing that went to the place with the red stone blocks. I felt sick and bad and redness was wet all on my back because the cuts got open again.
I pushed and pushed on the round metal thing and “
” it slid open and I went out and ran yelling for Mother and Father, yelling for Mother and Father, yelling for Mother and Father.
But they didn’t come.
Water was coming from the sky, soon.
I couldn’t find the round metal thing I came up from.
Then I fell down near a door to the big building that made all the noises and put all the smoke in the sky.
Everything started to go all dark, and I thought I was starting to be dead. I wanted to be going dead.
Then the door opened and I screamed even louder for Mother and Father.
Because a big creature like the Bad Father came out of the door and looked at me like I was the scary thing. Like I was the awful Monster.
I ran, but I was too sick to run good and the Bad Father Thing grabbed me in its ugly hands and I started yelling “
” The thing pulled me through the door and I tried harder to get away.
Then it hit me hard behind the ear and I went to a bad sleep.
* * *
Now I am in a bad place.
There are Bad Mothers and Bad Fathers everywhere.
They put tubes in my nose and fill the behind of my mouth with gooey food that is awful and stick metal things in me and they tie me with cloth strips to a big metal bed and make me sleep after sticking me with the metal things.
They are mean and awful, and they look like me.
Ugly, ugly monsters who keep me here far from Mother and Father, and no one gives me love or good food.
There are other little ones here. They look like me, but they are scared of me. They get to move around the big, big room we are kept in.
I will never see Mother or Father or Little Velvet Ears again.
Mother and Father will think I hurt Little Velvet Ears, because the thing the creatures used to kill him is like one of the metal things that hangs off the belt I keep by my box, that goes “
” when you shake it.
They will think I am Bad, like the Bad Mothers and Bad Fathers I look like.
The place is too bright and makes my eyes all hurting and the sun comes through a hole in the wall that has cage bars on it.
It is my bad dreams all come true.
Sometimes I dream Father is looking for me. There are green lights and cold winds, like when he says the special words. The lights and winds are looking for me and when I wake up, I think I see the lights fading and the winds stopping to move the air.