Full Dark pt 1

photo of night sky
Photo by Faik Akmd on Pexels.com

Dad called the house sturdy. A good starter home. 

Mom thought it was cute and loved all the cabinets. 

I didn’t know about all that. But it had a big yard with a gigantic tree for me to climb and my room was on the second floor with a skylight. 

I’d never seen a skylight before. My room was the only one that had one. Mom says it’s because their room is under the attic. But I thought it was cool. I positioned my bed directly beneath it so I could stare at the sky before I went to sleep. 

The first night I tried to count the stars. But realized I didn’t have that great of a vantage point to count more than a few. It was still cool, though. The night sky would ripple with color in my little square of light. And I wondered how I’d never noticed that before. 

We moved in during the summer. I was bummed because all my friends lived on the other side of town and I hadn’t seen a single kid outside in the new neighborhood. I rode my bike around the block seven times that first weekend. No kids. I barely saw any adults either, though. So maybe we’d moved into an empty neighborhood. It was weird. And quiet. And boring. 

“Are you excited for school to start?” My mom asked. 

I was lying on the couch and tossing a ball over my head and catching it before it smacked into my face while she hung the new curtains. She looked over her shoulder to make sure I was listening.

“I guess.” 

“Just you guess?” 

I shrugged, even though she’d turned back to the window. “It’ll be nice to see someone my age again.” 

Mom laughed. “It’s a little odd, I know. I didn’t realize no one around here had kids your age.”

“Kids any age. Shoot, I’d take play with a toddler if it meant I could get out of the house.” 

Mom laughed again but didn’t respond. 

“Judy?” Dad clomped into the room, his toolbox in his hand. He plunked it onto the coffee table and threw open the lid. “Where’s my ratchet set?” 

Mom raised an eyebrow at the dirt flaking onto her table. “I don’t know what you’re insinuating, Greg, but you best get that out of my living room.” 

Dad rolled his eyes. “My ratchet set. It was in here. And now it’s not. I was just wondering if you’d used it for something and didn’t put it back? What about you, Steven? Did you use it?” 

I hoped my blank stare would answer the question. I didn’t even know what a ratchet set was. 

“Greg, seriously. Please take that dirty thing out of here. We don’t have your precious ratchet set.” 

Dad grumbled something and then snatched up the box. “Not precious, I just need it. And I can’t find it.” But he walked away as he said it and mom only shook her head at his retreating back. 

“Steve, hunny, why don’t you go help your father find it? I’m sure he’s just set it down in the garage or something and overlooked it. It will give you something to do.”

I rolled my eyes, but got up to do as she said. I saw her stoop to clean the dirt off the table, but then straighten back up, her face scrunched in confusion. 

“What’s up, mom?” I said over my shoulder, pausing at the door. 

“Nothing… I thought there was dirt… from the toolbox. But I guess I was seeing things. Go help your father.”

I found dad in the kitchen, a cup of coffee in front of him and the newspaper open to the business section. 

“Find your ratchet set?” I asked. 

Dad looked up and frowned. “What?” 

I pulled up short and looked around. I didn’t even see his toolbox in the kitchen. And I thought he’d been wearing a plaid shirt when he’d come in the other room. Now he wore a blue sweater vest over a plain t-shirt. 

“Your ratchet set… you just came in the other room asking mom if she’d used it. You had your toolbox and everything.” 

Dad lowered the newspaper and his mouth hung open the slightest bit. “I, uh, I don’t know what you’re talking about, bud. I’ve been sittin’ here all morning reading the paper. I’ve only got up to get a refill on the coffee.” 

I stared at him and then glanced back to the living room, pleading silently for my mom to come in here and clear this up. It was clear dad was telling the truth, but how could he be? We’d seen him… talked to him. 

And then I remembered the way mom had tried to clean dirt that was no longer there. 

Without speaking, I crossed the kitchen and stared out the back window into the yard in the direction of the shed. The door was propped open on a bucket and the lawn mower sat in the opening. I couldn’t remember if it had been like that earlier. Dad said he’d been in here all morning, though. 

“Uh, dad… did you leave the lawn mower out?” 

“What?” 

I watched dad flop the paper onto the table and walk towards me and then turned out to the yard again. And to my horror, the shed was now closed, the lawn mower nowhere in sight. 

“What are you talking about?” Dad scrunched up his face as he looked at me. 

Mom came to the rescue, though. She clattered into the kitchen with her bucket of cleaning supplies and slumped against the counter. 

“Did you find it?” She asked. 

“Find what?” Dad said. 

“Your ratchet set.” 

Dad flung his hands into the air. “I don’t know what you two are talking about. I’m going in to town to get some lunch.”

Dad pushed through the door to the garage, and I shrugged at mom. I didn’t have the words to explain what had happened. I opened the back door and went to sit in the yard. Maybe I needed some fresh air after being cooped up in the house. 

That night I stared through my skylight, a hand propping my head up. Mom and dad hadn’t said another word about the ratchet set situation. I couldn’t figure it out. Who had come in the living room if it hadn’t been dad? Or had it not been dad in the kitchen and dad was in the shed? My arms erupted with goosebumps thinking about it. 

The color of the sky rippled and the deep purple mixed with blue and the stars twinkled brighter for a few seconds. I blinked and the sky looked normal again. My heart rate sped up and I frowned at the skylight. Then I sat up to stare through the window over my desk. The sky looked normal out there. It wasn’t even that dark of a purple. But maybe that was something to do with the streetlight being closer to the window. 

I lay back down and looked through the skylight again. But nothing changed. After some time, I drifted off to sleep. 

*

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