Read The Forgotten Eden Online

Authors: Aiden James

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Fantasy

The Forgotten Eden (8 page)

BOOK: The Forgotten Eden
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Jeremy leaned up against the kitchen counter, smoking his last cigarette before dinner. Tall, dark, and very good looking—at least that’s what the ladies have always said—he’d be seventeen in September and already had a job lined up working fulltime for the local sawmill in town. Grandpa reluctantly agreed to let him drop out after the previous school year at Demopolis High, since he’d nearly flunked out due to apathy anyway. ‘What a waste!’, he’d say, especially since Jeremy had shown such promise scholastically just a few years before. But ever since he blew out his right knee playing football the previous fall, he pretty much gave up on his education.


He leaned against the counter, the powerful build that had made him an all-state halfback on display and hard to ignore. I often felt weak and puny in comparison to my older brother. Nonetheless, like many folks, I couldn’t help but stare in admiration at his physique and rugged handsomeness.


He, on the other hand, felt uncomfortable being so adored and idolized by me, and would meet my absent stare with a cold, icy glare. His piercing green eyes cut through me like a pair of lasers as they peered out from behind his curly black shoulder-length hair.


What the hell are you looking at, little pecker head?’ he asked.


As often the case, I was unaware of my obvious adulation.

“‘
Oh...u-uh nothing really, Jeremy.’ I stammered. ‘I-I was just wondering what you’d been up to today.’

“‘
Is that so? For a moment I thought you wanted to kiss me or something,’ he sneered. ‘I might have to come over there and kick your ass, little brother.’

“‘
Jeremy! Damn it, son, that’ll be enough of that kind of talk!’ Grandpa scolded. He moved closer to the table, never taking his eyes off him as he made sure the two of us remained physically separated. ‘You’ll not be ruining supper tonight, ‘you hear? Don’t think I won’t enforce my words on you, son, if I have to!’


Jeremy looked over at our grandfather, whose icy glare was far colder than his own. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders as if to say ‘I was only joking, man’, and then took one last drag from his cigarette before mashing the remainder of it into a small ashtray sitting next to the sink. All the while, he never took his eyes away from Grandpa’s unwavering gaze, until he finally glanced back at me. I gave my best effort to pretend my feelings weren’t hurt.


Grandpa knew otherwise.

“‘
Jeremy,’ he said, ‘you owe your brother an apology. As soon as you do that, we can all sit down and start eating. You reckon you can handle that?’


A slight, smug grin appeared on my brother’s face, and he slowly nodded his head. I believe partly in amusement and partly in admiration for our grandfather’s talent in manipulation. I’m sure he considered resisting the obvious coercion, but his growling stomach strongly suggested he do otherwise. He gave in to his hunger.

“‘
Sure, Grandpa,’ he said softly, though insolent, while smiling at me. ‘Sorry, Jackie, if I offended you in some way. Just don’t patronize me so much, man.’


Patronize?
Such a big word for him to be using, though I liked him a hell of a lot better when he let his intelligence rather than his vulgarity shine through.

“‘
Apology accepted,’ I replied.


With that taken care of, all three of us converged on the table already set with steaming hot spaghetti and meatballs, buttered bread and fresh salad from Grandpa’s garden. After a quick grace, we all dug in. At first there was very little conversation among us, other than the usual ‘please pass the whatever’ and the obligatory ‘thank you’. But after our initial hunger subsided, the scope of the conversation broadened considerably.

“‘
So, what’ve you been up to today, Jackie?’ Jeremy asked. ‘Grandpa told me you were trying to catch some strange looking lizard out in the backyard. What about it, little brother?’


Ah...the moment I’d anxiously awaited had arrived! A very rare thing to capture center stage with my loquacious big brother around. I cleared my throat as I straightened myself in my chair, and checked one last time to make sure both he and Grandpa were truly interested in what I had to say. Then, I began telling them about my backyard adventure that afternoon.


Grandpa listened, polite, occasionally rubbing his chin as if pondering how much of my narration was the actual truth and how much an exaggeration of the facts involved. Jeremy, on the other hand, couldn’t hide his complete disbelief in my story.


Pretty obvious to both me and Grandpa that he thought most of what came out of my mouth was a load of fabricated bullshit. He finally looked away from us, turning his attention instead to the new décor in our recently remodeled kitchen. He seemed genuinely interested in the new cabinets, ceramic tile, and appliances, as well as the ancient crown moldings Grandpa had just finished restoring to their original sheen. All the while, the pompous smirk on his face broadened until he let out a sarcastic chuckle. When he could contain himself no longer, he gave in to a roaring fit of laughter.


I immediately stopped talking, the wound from his blatant disrespect bringing an abrupt end to my story.


Grandpa was greatly pained by my most recent hurt, and even more annoyed by my older brother’s rudeness.

“‘
I’d like to know what you find so damned funny, Jeremy?’ he demanded. ‘You can be one insensitive horse’s ass, you know?
Well?
?
What’s up with that crap, son??’


Not the least bit disturbed by Grandpa’s rebuke, Jeremy continued to laugh until his face turned beet red. With the icy stares of our grandfather and myself upon him, he managed to regain his composure and soon told us what he’d found so amusing.

“‘
So, Jackie, you’re telling us that you saw a lizard that looked like a miniature dragon??’ he said.

Ple-e-e-ase!!!


He slapped his hand open-faced upon the kitchen table, rattling the plates and dishes. Again, he laughed uncontrollably until he struggled to keep his breath and tears formed in his eyes.

“‘
Are you sure it wasn’t Barney or Puff the Magic Dragon out there in the backyard?’ he taunted. ‘Maybe it was one of the Palmer kids’ stuffed-animals being pulled on a string or something.
O-o-o-oh!!


He held his hands out in front of himself in mock fright, all the while ignoring my indignant pleas and Grandpa’s growing anger, the sullen redness spreading rapidly across his face.

“‘
I’m telling you the
truth
, Jeremy!! It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen around here!’ I cried. ‘I wish you’d seen it yourself, because then you’d quit being such an
asshole about it!’


Both Jeremy and Grandpa eyed me sharply, for until that night I’d never cursed in their presence.

“‘
The
truth??

Jeremy mocked, and then stood up from the dinner table, walking over to his cigarettes and ashtray still sitting next to the kitchen sink. ‘You’re telling
me
the
truth
, Jackie?? Let me state here and now what likely
is
the
truth!
’ He tapped out a smoke from the cigarette package and lit it before going on, signaling to Grandpa he was done with dinner.

“‘
Here’s what I think happened,’ he continued. ‘I don’t think there was
any
’dragon-lizard’ at
any
point or
anywhere
in the backyard, Jackie. I think this little story’s just a lame cover-up of yours. Just an excuse for getting caught jacking off by that sphere out back. Hell, Grandpa says he found you holding something just below your waist while you stood there in the rain. I’d bet a hundred dollars against a stale doughnut that the thing in your hands was just your ‘pre-pube’ tool!’


Grandpa now completely mortified for me, he was about to severely upbraid Jeremy again. But, I stood up to my brother before he had a chance.

“‘
I’m not the one with the sticky-paged porn magazines stashed under his bed!’ I said, daring him with a look to come over and shut me up.

“‘
Fuck you, you little dweeb!!

Jeremy shouted. He was about to come after me, and likely would’ve punched my lights out if it hadn’t been for Grandpa’s bear-like grip restraining him. As it was, he nearly knocked the remaining spaghetti and meatballs to the floor while trying to get me.

“‘
Boys!’
Grandpa shouted. ‘I’ve had about
enough
of this!!
Both
of you sit down—
now-w-w!
!!’


He eyed us both evenly, but soon focused his attention on Jeremy alone. The weight of his icy stare forced my brother back down into his seat at the kitchen table. He motioned for me to sit down as well.


A tense and uncomfortable silence settled upon the kitchen. None of us were hungry any longer. I fidgeted nervously while looking down at the half-eaten meal on my plate, as I waited for the horrible silence to end. Unwilling to look up, I could feel the searing heat of Jeremy’s stare as he attempted to melt me into a molten puddle where I sat. My story, which I’d hoped would impress my grandfather and especially my brother, had failed miserably.

“‘
What
were
you doing, standing out there in the rain, Jack?’ Grandpa finally asked.


I looked up, cautious, peering at both of them. The perturbed and angry stares from a moment ago had changed into more pliable and open looks of guarded curiosity. I took this as the perfect opportunity to play my ‘ace in the hole’ and reveal my hand to them. I stood up and carefully removed the golden object from my pocket.

“‘
Like I said, I wasn’t playing with my privates out there,’ I told them, and glanced coolly toward Jeremy before continuing. ‘I was looking at this thing.’


I cleared a spot amid the dishes of cold spaghetti and rapidly congealing tomato sauce, and set the object within the open space on the table.


They both slowly stood up and leaned down toward it, a look of shocked fascination on Jeremy’s face and one of surprised horror on Grandpa’s. The object glowed softly on the table, surrounded by the remains of our foregone dinner. Its brightness seemed to increase as they leaned in closer to get a better look.”


Do you recall how the object glowed, whether the light emanated from within the thing, or was it more like a halo surrounding it?” Peter asked him, reaching for another journal and then paging to the middle of it. “It wasn’t like a haze of some sort, was it?”


No, it wasn’t a haze,” said Jack. “Actually, it reminded me of a glowworm I once saw on the Discovery Channel—the ones that light up that cave down in New Zealand. The light came from
within
the object, similar to them.”


I see,” said Peter, clicking his pen open to jot down another note. “So what happened next?”


Well, Jeremy reached for the object, his hand wavering as if he expected it to disappear at any moment. It did. Just as he reached for it, Grandpa snatched it off the table. He brought it close to his face as if to confirm and then reconfirm the reality of what he held. Jeremy stood dumbfounded, scarcely believing the old man’s reflexes were that quick.


I felt vindicated to some degree, though Grandpa’s behavior made me nervous. He kept turning the thing over and over in his hands while muttering under his breath. Before long, the crimson color returned to his face, deepening steadily until the veins in his neck began to throb.


Jeremy and I prepared ourselves for the rising anger we saw simmering to a boil within him, though he rarely got upset unless my brother purposely pushed him into a rage. Something different about his demeanor this time, it took us a minute to identify what it was.


He started pacing aimlessly back and forth across the kitchen floor, still muttering to himself as he wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. He seemed momentarily to have forgotten our very presence. That’s when we recognized what we’d never seen in him before. Primal fear. He was really frightened.

“‘
Oh, my God. M-my God! Oh-h, m-my
God!!

he stammered, gingerly passing the object from hand to hand as if trying to avoid any contamination from it.

“‘
What’s wrong, Grandpa?’


Jeremy moved closer as he tried to take the glowing object from him.

“‘
That’s close enough, Jeremy!’ he warned. ‘You have no idea what you’re dealing with, son!’ He tightened his grip on the thing, which glowed brighter.

“‘
Come on
, Grandpa!’ Jeremy pleaded, a slight adolescent whine creeping into his tough guy persona. ‘I just want to look at it, that’s all!’

“‘
I’m sorry, son, but whatever look you’ve gotten will have to suffice!’ said Grandpa. ‘This thing’s an abomination, and I’ll be damned for sure if I allow it to remain in our house another minute!’

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