It was November 1963, two weeks after the assassination of President, John F. Kennedy. Just the month before, Vince had been made aware of how fragile life was when his grandmother, who he had always said was his best friend, passed away.
Little Vincent, that’s what all the adults in the neighborhood called him, was a frail, sickly nine year old who looked no more than six. He had been sick since birth and had already come to terms with the thought that he would not live to adulthood. But, when he went, he wanted it to be of natural causes; not like in scary movies where a vampire, werewolf, or some other monster was looming around the next bend.
Death seemed to be on his mind all the time these days, but I guess a large graveyard and an old spooky church in the back yard would make most people uneasy.
It was Sunday, it had been raining all day and Vince had spent most of the day in his bedroom, daydreaming. He did a lot of daydreaming and paid for it in a most embarrassing way, too many times, in school. Vince suffered from depression that was every bit as debilitating as his physical ills and daydreaming offered some relief from the reality that was his life.
After supper he went back to his room, sat on his bed, and stared out the window at the old church and graveyard. The rain had stopped and the graveyard was shrouded in an intense fog that lay low to the ground in placid rolling waves, but in an dissonantly intimidating manner.
Nine o’clock arrived and Vince was off to bed. When his mother turned off the light and left the room, shutting the door behind her, he noticed the light of a full moon was illuminated the opposite wall. Shadows from the weeping willow outside his window performed a soothing ballet in a moonbeam spotlight, as a slight breeze provided the verve for the dancers.
In spite of the comforting dance and the gentle breeze, tension still crowded his thoughts as he sat up and looked out the window at the lingering fog that seemed to be rising slowly, revealing only the tops of the tallest tombstones. Wave after wave of the pallid vapor rolled by, inspiring Vince to take refuge under the covers.
He tried to think of pleasant things, of sailing on his own boat, on a calm sea under an enlivened, deep blue sky. He dreamt of an island paradise with no sickness or evil of any sort, and there would certainly be no school. He knew from first hand experience that kids could smell a weaker of their kind and would impose a tax of abuse in their attempt to prove Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.”
He would call his island Serenity; his grandmother called her gardens, “Serenity Gardens” and it was a place where he spent the happiest days of his life. On the Island of Serenity his grandmother still lived, his mother and father never fought, and his father wasn’t ashamed of him: even his sister was tolerable.
Suddenly, Vince was plucked from his dream by a thump against his window. He waited a minute under the safety of his covers, then sat up and peaked out to see if anything was there. He slowly got out of bed and moved stealthily up on the window from below. As his eyes met the glass he saw nothing but the willow, the old church, and the graveyard which seemed to be sinking in the sea of fog. Spooky, but he saw no walking dead or any other monsters. He turned back to his bed and a more dense shadow streaked across the still moonlit wall. He turned back to the window just in time to see a bat slam into a moth that had been lingering on his windowsill. The shear power of the shock, energized by his already frightened psyche, knocked him to the floor. He rolled over on his stomach and was face to face with the underside of his bed; he sprang to his feet and leaped into bed and the safety of his covers.
He lay there under his covers trying, with all of his imagination, to escape the horrid frightfulness of this night, but the longer he lay there the further he drifted from Serenity Island.
A couple of hours had passed and curiosity began to out way fear. He sat up and from the foot of his bed he could look out the window and see the church, which was by now, half buried in the ocean of fog. The dark side of his imagination took complete control and he knew without doubt that the heavy rains of the day had swollen the ocean and it was now moving inland. He knew that they were all going to drown, his family in their sleep and he in his fear. He knew what he had to do, in spite of the monsters under his bed and all of the other things that go bump in the night and waited just outside his window, was to wake his family so they could all get to higher ground.
He tried to leap from his bed and run to his parents but he couldn’t, something was holding him back. He tried hollering to wake them, but nothing came out of his mouth, not even a whisper. The only thing left to do was crawl back under his covers. He knew now that this was the end and there was nothing that he could do about it.
He laid there under his covers, crying and shaking within his fear, and after a while he felt the house moving beneath him. The rising water must have lifted their house off of its foundation; it was only a matter of time now before the ocean would swallow the house with him and his family helpless inside.
The strain of the night had exhausted him and he was overcome by sleep. He dreamt of sailing to his Island of Serenity and exhaled his final breath.
The next morning their neighbors brought flowers and wreaths and placed them on the front porch. They stood and talked, some of the women cried and the men all smoked and huddled around the morning paper discussing an article that read, “Family of four die in automobile accident when their car left the road and sunk in Harmony River.”
Vince was finally unchained from sickness and had moved on to his personal paradise, his Island of Serenity.
Copyright © 2004, D L Ennis