A Strange Omen
by Andreas Economakis
I click the light on. The metal-caged light bulb sputters to life, scattering velvety brown moths into the musty darkness of the cement basement. The smell of petrol, rot, old magazines and damp dirt fills my nostrils. I take a halting step down into the urine yellow light, concrete pebbles crunching under my sneakers. I can feel the dampness of the room on my bare legs, the blackness of the room’s corners and cavernous depths, monsters hiding in my subconscious, hiding their evil from my fragile eyes.
Behind the dusty green boiler, a ruffling sound and the delicate crying of kittens. Tiger pokes her head around the corner and looks at me. She emerges with a trembling tail and dangling pink teets, swirling about my legs with nervous affection. A cobweb dangles from her ear but she doesn’t notice it. I kneel down and pet her, peeling the delicate cobweb off of her ear. She hurries back around the boiler and I follow. Slowly. Six tiny kittens squirm in a furry ball on an old rag between some bricks and a cinderblock, their necks craning toward their mother. Next to the cinderblock, a dead lizard with caved-in eyes stands silent watch like a dehydrated sphinx, a tiny vent hole under its armpit a sign of where the worms must have entered. A strange omen.
I pick up one of the warm kittens, his little claws ticking my hands, his nose leaving a tiny cold wet spot on my cheek. His eyes are sealed shut and his mouth is bubblegum pink. He won’t stop squirming in my hands. Tiger bumps into my feet constantly, eyes glued on her kitten. I hear footsteps by the door and quickly place the kitten amongst its brothers and sisters and mommy, moving the dead lizard accidentally.
“Go back upstairs,” I hear from behind me.
I turn and see her stumbling through the darkness, a bag in her hand. She is dark, almost black, the open basement door backlighting her. As I walk past her, the smell the wine and cigarettes mingles with the other smells in the room. I think of turning back but am too chicken. I turn for one last look and see her kneeling down by the boiler, Tiger swirling about her anxiously.
I enter our quiet house, aware of the sound my footsteps are making, aware of the emptiness all around. I walk into my bedroom and go to the window. The narrow street down below is still. The silver-green olive trees are not rustling and the dark grey clouds that are threatening a storm seem frozen in the sky.
She emerges into the yard, the plastic bag heavy in her hand. She trickles down the stairs, spilling out onto the street. She walks to our station wagon and places the bag down by the hatchback. She walks to the driver’s side door and pulls out her keys. I can hear the muffled tinkling sound of the keys as she opens the door. She gets in, turns over the car and gasses the engine, metal gears and pistons groaning, straining.
She gets out and walks around the back. I watch from the bedroom window, the glass wavy and imperfect. Dread fills my lungs, my heart, my veins, my eyes. She kneels down by the exhaust and ties the wriggling bag to the tailpipe. The bag struggles violently and then goes suddenly limp. She unties the bag and tosses it in the garbage. She turns and walks back to the running car. I walk to my bed, burying my head under the pillows. The wet pillowcase feels cold, cold like the kitten’s nose. I clamp my eyes shut, and breathe hard. I must not forget to keep breathing. I must not let the worms enter.
This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.
Copyright © 2011, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.
For more stories by Andreas Economakis click on the author’s name below.