de la cruz STUDIO

Costumes, Cartoons, Illustrations, and Short stories





Marielena always saw things in her brother's bedroom at night.  They stayed away from hers.  From time to time she could hear them in his room, making noise, moving things, attempting to wake him. Sometimes one or two, a few times more, then nothing for weeks.  

It was always after midnight, usually when the train would pass, 3 a.m.  She could hear its haunting horn approaching miles away, getting louder and louder, now passing, then the clacking rhythm of train cars, a single cascading horn, now distant, softer and softer until the sound returned to the night, then silence.

She'd open her eyes and listen.  They'd bump things, move things around, wake him for a second, take part in his dream, scare him. Then everything would stop and he'd continue dreaming, talking in his sleep.

She heard them one summer night when she was 6.  Tired of hearing Noah's nightly 3 a.m. sobbing, she opened his door.  A long strip of light split the darkness, centered his room.  They looked at her, shadows darker than night, then scattered. She ran back to her room, covered herself, waited a few seconds and screamed.

Dad ran to her room, sat on the side of the bed and ran his hands through her hair, soothed her back to sleep.  He checked on Noah, his soft 10 yr old cheeks rising as he mumbled in his sleep. He crossed his forehead, "lord, make me an instrument of your peace... ", the prayer just loud enough for both. The air conditioner clicked on.  His freckles now larger, peaceful. 

A few nights later, after a furlough at their moms, she heard them again.  She heard Noah sniffle and cry, she was paralyzed, it was them.  They went on forever.  She could only count to 10, so she counted, very fast at first, then slower, then again and again until she fell asleep. 

That next morning she told her dad.  He'd heard her counting through the thin walls of their old home. I heard you counting last night, he said. 

She started to remember. Daddy, I'm sorry.  An apology for being up late, then the things in Noah's room.  The more she talked, she began to see the entire room, all at once, not just her father.  The cookie jar over the fridge beyond her fathers shoulder, their height markings on the dirty door jam, a dog bowl to the left, the droplet of water under the faucet, everything was in focus at once. Then she noticed a faint purple light behind his fathers head.  It would grow and shrink. 

She stopped, blinked and glanced around the room, blinked several more times, no change. She looked left, then right, her father was still in focus and so was everything else.  When she looked left it was the window, the salt shaker, the chain link fence across the street and the water tower in the far distance, to the right was the sink, back door, the dust on the screen, the window and the two flies hopscotching on it's glass.

Her slender little brown body started shaking and he reached for her, held her as close to his chest as he could, his arms a warm blanket as she sobbed and shook.  He sat there with her for over an hour, her body relaxed, her sobbing now a soft little snore. Her cereal now soggy.

Is she ok? Noah asked as he came into the kitchen.

She's tired, mijo. Are you done cleaning your room.

Yeah... What happened? 

She's just tired, buddy.  Noah walked over and ran his hands through her hair and kissed her warm forehead, joined the embrace.  

You wanna watch something? 

Dad, I thought we were going to the library.

Not now buddy, she needs a good nap.

They made their way to the dirty old grey couch.  He lay her next to him, covered her with a throw blanket, pulled his son next to him.  Karl Marx joined them at the end of the couch, continued gnawing on his foot-long rawhide bone.  He never left their side.  

Outside a warm breeze pushed away the morning chill.  A lawnmower, several birds, neighborhood dogs, kids walking to the pool, and the rest of the world continued about their business.