Rest Easy *Valentine's Day Entry*

*I'm submitting the first part of a novel, as it is still underway, but almost complete! I began it in January and the majority of it was written after the opening of the competition, but I had to re-upload because of the original upload date*

*Based on Prompts #1 and #2*

In Arizona, two teenagers spend a summer attempting to decrypt the life of an elderly woman with dementia, who had gone missing over forty years ago and cannot recall to anyone where and how she lived. This ongoing mission keeps the teenagers occupied all summer, bringing them closer and helping them to avoid the rough times they have been going enduring in their lives, and the pasts they just want to forget. As the pair grow a bond, it eventually appears that the world around them wishes against it. The price of overcoming the obstacles that stand ahead of them is hefty, but only they can determine whether it is worth the risk.

For those on desktop - I've added thematic songs to some of the chapters :)

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9. CHAPTER SEVEN | ALIENS

 

 

On the second day of the programme, the pair were assigned to help sort out the books in the care home library, and it was a task that would take them both longer than they initially assumed. Naya would stop and peak at almost every hardback and paperback, mentally adding it to her to-read list, or asking Dudley if he’d read it before. Most of his answers would be something along the lines of No, I Don’t Really Read, and Naya would scowl in disapproval. It was a fairly quiet afternoon, with initially little to no conversation bouncing between the two. Though Dudley didn’t mind the silence, Naya despised it. She needed to find something to say.

 

“Why is your hair so long?” She asked him. She was pretty sure it was a dumb question, but one worth asking in the moment, to murder the noiselessness.

He looked up from where he sat cross-legged, with books splayed across in front of him. He hadn’t tied his hair this time; it hung long and wavy over his shoulders and down to his abdomen. He spent a split second trying to figure out whether he should give a blunt non-answer, or the real reason why. He figured the real reason wouldn’t kill. “I’m half Navajo. It’s just a cultural custom.”

“Ah. That’s pretty cool, actually. It is mandatory?”

“Sort of, and not really. It depends. Most of my maternal family grow their hair out, so I thought I would, too. Especially since I’m don’t live around them in that sort of community. I just wanna keep my heritage alive.”

“That’s a better answer than because you thought it looked cool, or something.”

Dudley looked across the room then down at the books in front of him. “I would have cut it after my mom died, but she made me promise her that I wouldn’t until I turned twenty-one. I normally wouldn’t listen to my mom when it comes to stuff like that, but I thought that growing it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Plus, my loser friends spend so much on barbers every damn week.”

Naya raised her eyebrows. “Your mom died?” She was nonplussed. She thought she would have known of this fact by now. She was aware of the fact that his parents weren’t in his life, but not to this extent.

“Yup. Three months ago.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry.”

“Why? You didn’t kill her.”

“I know, I know. It’s just… I spend so much time taking my parents for granted, you know. It’s awful.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re allowed to take your parents for granted. Whether you cherish every moment with them, or you turn a blind eye to them, it doesn’t really change how it feels when they’re gone.” It was one of the most profound things she had ever heard him say so far. “I mean, I’m dealing with it a lot better now. I spent weeks taking drugs and treating my ex like shit, but I knew that that was not the way forward.”

“You just had to get it out of your system. It’s only fair.”

Things got pretty deep pretty quick, and they didn’t know how to handle the vibe in the air. Did they just go back to small talk or silence, or keep pouring out hard truths and sombre anecdotes?

 

A few minutes later, Dudley asked her why she dressed so colourfully.

“Why do you dress so boringly?” She laughed.

“What? I’m a dude. I’m pretty simple in that sense, right?”

“That’s no excuse!”

“Yeah it is, haha. I don’t want to attract attention to myself.”

“So you dress like a monochrome hipster, and you have hair reaching down to your ass crack, and you think people won’t notice you.”

“Something like that. You didn’t answer my question.”

Naya rolled her eyes. “Do you really want to know why I dress so colourfully?”

Dudley paused. “I mean, it can’t be that much of a mind-blowing reason, can it?”

“No, it’s actually pretty simple.”

“Go on, then.”

“I’m going blind.” She waved her hands across her face.

“Wait. Are you serious?” His face dropped.

“Yeah. My eyesight is already abysmal, thanks to my albinism. But on top of that, I was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease a few months ago. It went unnoticed for a while because my shitty eyes were already a given. This just means I’ll probably be legally blind by the time I’m like, twenty-five. So I live in colour, I wear it, I make sure it’s all I ever see. I describe in colour, too. Whatever someone radiates, I make sure I can at least see that.”

“Oh. Fuck. Fuck.”

“I know, right?”

“Don’t you tell people this?”

“You mean my friends?”

“Yeah.”

“Not really. I think you’re the first person I’ve told here, actually.”

“Shit. That’s terrifying. You’re a champ for taking something positive out of it.”

She shrugged. “I don’t really have much choice.”

 

 

Once the book sorting was done, they had an hour left of the day. They decided to spend it reading some of Marie’s old poems to her. Naya didn’t know how to react to Marie, who repeatedly kept telling her that she had pretty blue eyes, just like her baby daughter. She would say that she wasn’t sure where her Charlotte was now, and she hoped she could meet her again before she died. She didn't know that she already had. Marie also had no knowledge that the poetry book was hers, when she was presented with it.

“Wow! This looks nice. Who wrote it?” The three were sat outside in the big garden. Dudley and Naya looked at each other, not sure whether it was worth reminding her that she wrote it, once upon a time.

“This writer, she’s not well-known. But you’re clearly a fan of her work. This was on your shelf.” Naya said. “Shall we read something of hers?”

“Sure, go ahead. That would be lovely.”

Dudley picked out a poem at random. It was titled Imago Dei. “Should I read it?” He looked at Naya. She nodded. Though she loved reading, she hated doing it aloud. It was harder for her to gather the words into her retina, and she knew her words would spill out jagged and incongruent as she waited for her vision to catch up with the page.  Dudley paused, feeling awkward. But Fuck it, he thought. This one’s for Marie.

 

“It’s almost as if God electrocuted me.

He zapped me with a million watts of Passion and Fear,

And oceans of heavy tears and mountains of heavy feelings.

It’s almost as if God recreated the Big Bang and stuffed it into my ribcage,

And that is the reason that I explode.

He fed me with bottled constellations. That is the reason I shimmer.

That is why my soul is dark, painful silence. That’s why I’m breathing.

That’s why I sometimes wish I wasn’t.

God made me so that my thoughts would scatter like the Red Shift,

And all the space between would fill up in my chest.

God made me in His image, but it hurts to have infinity thrust into a finite body.

It hurts to feel sometimes. It hurts to feel because feeling means hurting,

And I understand why Adam and Eve got so much flack. God Hurt.

God made me take a sip of the pain. The pain of feeling, the blessing of feeling.

No, the curse.

The curse.”

 

“That was amazing!” Marie gushed. Who did you say wrote this?”

Dudley hesitated answering. Naya swooped in. “You wrote it, Marie. A long time ago. It says in 1964, back when you were twenty. Do you not remember any of this at all? It’s wonderful.”

Marie frowned. “No, not really. Please, can I see the book?” Naya gave it to her. Marie stared hard at the front cover before flipping through the pages. She frowned again. “It’s a terrible thing, not to know your past. I feel like this must have been in another life, like I reincarnated after all of this.”

What Naya found amazing was Marie’s strong ability to recall most things surrounding her first marriage and her child, and nothing else outside of that. She did not mention anything extremely comprehensive about her childhood, and nothing of her life after her disappearance. It was like her memory was articulately erased, like it was planned by something bigger than her. Things she would say didn’t seem to add up, like how she said she always read the books on her shelf, yet she didn’t even know her own. Every time she mentioned Charlotte, or her husband, Naya’s heartstrings tightened. It was a strange thing to witness; a woman who was clearly bright and learned, held onto memories like sand in her open palms.

 

“First theory: Aliens.” Naya said to Dudley as he drove them home afterwards.

“You serious?”

“No, I’m not serious. Not all the theories have to be plausible. After all, we’ll never know. It’s like when Amelia Earhart disappeared. Anything was possible.”

“Yeah, but Marie’s still here.”

“You think people have been abducted by aliens never to return? They almost always return. They’re just different afterwards. Like Marie.”

“Return from where? Aliens aren’t real!” Dudley was grinning at how ridiculous this conversation was.

“It’s just a theory!”

“Jesus. OK. Well, then you better elaborate.”

“One of her last poems alluded to the universe. I think it’s called The Birth and Death of Andromeda. Maybe her poetry book was a prediction of the future, of things to come. So she can’t recall anything now, but she saw everything coming. And she just wrote it in riddles. Maybe she knew she was going to be abducted, that day she went to to the grocery store and never came back. Obviously, aliens erase your memory and stuff. They poke and prod at you, make you act different. They dropped her off in another state and she had no choice but to start her life again.”

“I’m pretty sure if I had been abducted by aliens, I’d want to go home after. See my family, make sure I’m still sane.”

“You don't know what you'd do if you were abducted by aliens, Dud.”

“Yeah I do. I’d tell my mom about it, and she'd be the only person who believed me, and she’d probably crack some weak joke about it.”

“Well I guess if we’re talking hypotheticals, I’d probably hope that they’ve cured my eyesight. No, given me super eyesight. So I have like, x-ray vision and I can see things at microscopic levels. I could read people’s texts from far away, or look into someone’s wallet and get their credit card deets. Nobody would mess around with me.”

“Truth is, we’d probably just become vegetables.” Dudley chuckled.

“So we’re good with the Aliens theory, right?”

“I think we need to build up on it. Add levels and layers. What kind of aliens? From where? Why? These things matter.”

“So you’re really getting into this, huh?”

“I’m selectively passionate.”

“Haha. Well, the aliens would have to have come through a wormhole, you know, like in Interstellar. A species way more intelligent than us feeble beings. Marie wouldn’t have been the first person they abducted - in fact, over centuries, they’ve taken millions of people. Some returned, some didn’t. People are still being taken now. Sometimes only for hours, sometimes days, or years. Maybe Marie was up there for two decades. Maybe only a month. Either way, she made it back, and they messed her brain up so bad that her dementia is some sort of way of covering it up.”

“That’s pretty wild.”

“Right? I should become a storyteller. A novelist. I’m gonna work on my sci-fi saga the second I get home.”

“You’ve got to put me in your acknowledgements.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

“Why’s your hair so long?” She asked him. She was pretty sure it was a dumb question, but one worth asking in the moment, to murder the noiselessness.

He looked up from where he sat cross-legged, with books splayed across in front of him. He hadn’t tied his hair this time; it hung long and wavy over his shoulders and down to his abdomen. He spent a split second trying to figure out whether he should give a blunt non-answer, or the real reason why. He figured the real reason wouldn’t kill. “I’m half Navajo. It’s just a cultural custom.”

“Ah. That’s pretty cool, actually. It is mandatory?”

“Sort of, and not really. It depends. Most of my maternal family grow their hair out, so I thought I would, too. Especially since I’m don’t live around them in that sort of community. I just wanna keep my heritage alive.”

“I mean, that’s a better answer than because you thought it looked cool, or something.”

Dudley looked across the room then down to the books in front of him. “I would have cut it after my mom died, but she made me promise her that I wouldn’t until I turned twenty-one. I normally wouldn’t listen to my mom when it comes to stuff like that, but I thought that growing it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Plus, my loser friends spend so much on barbers every damn week.”

Naya raised her eyebrows. “Your mom died?” She was nonplussed. She thought she would have known of this fact by now.

“Yup. Three months ago.”

“Oh. I’m so sorry.”

“Why? You didn’t kill her.”

“I know, I know. It’s just… I spend so much time taking my parents for granted, you know. It’s awful.”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re allowed to take your parents for granted. Whether you cherish every moment with them, or you turn a blind eye to them, it doesn’t really change how it feels when they’re gone.” It was one of the most profound things she had ever heard him say. “I mean, I’m dealing with it a lot better now. I spent weeks taking drugs and treating my ex like shit, but I knew that that was not the way forward.”

“You just had to get it out of your system. It’s only fair.”

Things got pretty deep pretty quick, and they didn’t know how to handle the vibe in the air. Did they just go back to small talk or silence, or keep pouring out hard truths and sombre anecdotes?

 

A few minutes later, Dudley asked her why she dressed so colourfully.

“Why do you dress so boringly?” She laughed.

“What? I’m a dude. I’m pretty simple in that sense, right?”

“That’s no excuse!”

“Yeah it is, haha. I don’t want to attract attention to myself.”

“So you dress like a monochrome hipster, and you have hair reaching down to your ass crack, and you think people won’t notice you.”

“Something like that. You didn’t answer my question.”

Naya rolled her eyes. “Do you really want to know why I dress so colourfully?”

Dudley paused. “I mean, it can’t be that much of a mind-blowing reason, can it?”

“No, it’s actually pretty simple.”

“Go on, then.”

“I’m going blind.” She waved her hands across her face.

“Wait. Are you serious?” His face dropped.

“Yeah. My eyesight is already abysmal, thanks to my albinism. But on top of that, I was diagnosed with Stargardt Disease a year ago. Just means I’ll probably be legally blind by the time I’m like, twenty-five. So I live in colour, I wear it, I make sure it’s all I ever see.”

“Fuck. Fuck.”

“I know, right?”

“Don’t you tell people this?”

“You mean my friends?”

“Yeah.”

“Not really. I think you’re the first person I’ve told here, actually.”

“Shit. That’s terrifying. You’re a champ for taking something positive out of it.”

She shrugged. “I don’t really have much choice.”

 

***

Once the book sorting was done, they had an hour left of the day. They decided to spend it reading some of Marie’s old poems to her. Naya didn’t know how to react to Marie, who repeatedly kept telling her that she had pretty blue eyes, just like her baby daughter. She would say that she wasn’t sure where her Charlotte was now, and she hoped she could meet her again before she died. She didn't know that she already had. Marie also had no knowledge that the poetry book was hers, when she was presented with it.

“Wow! This looks nice. Who wrote it?” The three were sat outside in the big garden. Dudley and Naya looked at each other, not sure whether it was worth reminding her that she wrote it, once upon a time.

“This writer, she’s not well-known. But you’re clearly a fan of her work. This was on your shelf.” Naya said. “Shall we read something of hers?”

“Sure, go ahead. That would be lovely.”

Dudley picked out a poem at random. It was titled Imago Dei. “Should I read it?” He looked at Naya. She nodded. He paused, feeling awkward. Fuck it, he thought. This one’s for Marie.

 

“It’s almost as if God electrocuted me.

He zapped me with a million watts of Passion and Fear,

And oceans of heavy tears and mountains of heavy feelings.

It’s almost as if God recreated the Big Bang and stuffed it into my ribcage,

And that is the reason that I explode.

He fed me with bottled constellations. That is the reason I shimmer.

That is why my soul is dark, painful silence. That’s why I’m breathing.

That’s why I sometimes wish I wasn’t.

God made me so that my thoughts would scatter like the Red Shift,

And all the space between would fill up in my chest.

God made me in His image, but it hurts to have infinity thrust into a finite body.

It hurts to feel sometimes. It hurts to feel because feeling means hurting,

And I understand why Adam and Eve got so much flack. God Hurt.

God made me take a sip of the pain. The pain of feeling, the blessing of feeling.

No - the curse.

The curse.”

 

 

“That was amazing!” Marie gushed. Who did you say wrote this?”

Dudley hesitated answering. Naya swooped in. “You wrote it, Marie. A long time ago. It says in 1964, back when you were twenty. Do you not remember any of this at all? It’s wonderful.”

Marie frowned. “No, not really. Please, can I see the book?” Naya gave it to her. Marie stared hard at the front cover before flipping through the pages. She frowned again. “It’s a terrible thing, not to know your past. I feel like this must have been in another life, like I reincarnated after all of this.”

What Naya found amazing was Marie’s strong ability to recall most things surrounding her first marriage and her child, and nothing else outside of that. She did not mention anything extremely comprehensive about her childhood, and nothing of her life after her disappearance. It was like her memory was articulately erased, like it was planned by something bigger than her. Things she would say didn’t seem to add up, like how she said she always read the books on her shelf, yet she didn’t even know her own. Every time she mentioned Charlotte, or her husband, Naya’s heartstrings tightened. It was a strange thing to witness - a woman who was clearly bright and learned, holding onto memories like sand in her open palms.

 

“First theory: Aliens.” Naya said to Dudley as he drove them home afterwards.

“You serious?”

“No, I’m not serious. Not all the theories have to be plausible. After all, we’ll never know. It’s like when Amelia Earhart disappeared. Anything was possible.”

“Yeah, but Marie’s still here.”

“You think people have been abducted by aliens never to return? They almost always return. They’re just different afterwards. Like Marie.”

“Return from where? Aliens aren’t real!” Dudley was grinning at how ridiculous this conversation was.

“It’s just a theory!”

“Jesus. OK. Well, you better elaborate, then.”

“One of her last poems alluded to the universe. I think it’s called The Birth and Death of Andromeda. Maybe her poetry book was a prediction of the future, of things to come. So she can’t recall anything now, but she saw everything coming. And she just wrote it in riddles. Maybe she knew she was going to be abducted, that day she went to to the grocery store and never came back. Obviously, aliens erase your memory and stuff. They poke and prod at you, make you act different. They dropped her off in another state and she had no choice but to start her life again.”

“I’m pretty sure if I had been abducted by aliens, I’d want to go home after. See my family, make sure I’m still sane.”

“You don't know what you'd do if you were abducted by aliens, Dudley Warrington.”

“Yeah I do. I’d tell my mom about it, and she'd be the only person who believed me, and she’d probably crack some weak joke about it.”

“Well I guess if we’re talking about hypotheticals, I’d probably hope that they’ve cured my eyesight. No, given me super eyesight. So I have like, x-ray vision and I can see things at microscopic levels. I could read people’s texts from far away, or look into someone’s wallet and get their credit card deets. Nobody would fuck around with me.”

“Truth is, we’d probably just become vegetables.” Dudley chuckled.

“So we’re good with the Aliens theory, right?”

“I think we need to build up on it. Add levels and layers. What kind of aliens? From where? Why? These things matter.”

“So you’re really getting into this, huh?”

“I’m selectively passionate.”

“The aliens would have to have come through a wormhole, you know, like in Interstellar. A species way more intelligent than us feeble beings. Marie wouldn’t have been the first person they abducted - in fact, over centuries, they’ve taken millions of people. Some returned, some didn’t. People are still being taken now. Sometimes only for hours, sometimes days, or years. Maybe Marie was up there for two decades. Maybe only a month. Either way, she made it back, and they messed her brain up so bad that her dementia is some sort of way of covering it up.”

“That’s pretty wild.”

“Right? I should become a storyteller. A novelist. I’m gonna work on my sci-fi saga the second I get home.”

“You’ve got to put me in your acknowledgements.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

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