Newspaper Horses

April 12, 2010
By , Calgary, Canada
I lay myself to sleep again tonight. The raging storm outside my window is my perfect soundtrack. I’m afraid to fall asleep, for I know what will come. Every night it’s a different story, but it always ends the same way. It always ends with his death.

The storm grew fierce outside: the drumming beats of rain on glass quicken.

Lightning cast shadows across my walls silhouetting the figure of a boy.

I sat upright in bed to look out the window.

The lightning sparked again shooting light across the boy’s features. Paul, I thought, but it was only a whisper. Another flash lit up; it was my twin brother.

My bed protested as I clambered to my window. Hopelessly, I tried to pry open the panes of glass, but the window had long since rusted shut. I called out to him through the fogging glass, but he didn’t appear to have heard me.

Before I fully realized what I was doing, I was on my feet, racing for the front door; my sleepless fingers fumbling with the lock.

The storm harassed me the moment the door swung open. Wind tore through my flannel pajamas. I’d been such a fool to not have grabbed my coat. The cement was damp and frozen beneath the soles of my feet, yet somehow those things didn’t matter; all that mattered was Paul.

I called his name out to the darkness, but there was no reply. “Paul!” I called again, but still no answer.

A man on the opposite street corner was completely unalarmed of my panic. He didn’t even appear to have noticed my brother or me as we stood across from him. He just stood there cupping a soggy glass of orange juice. I didn’t have time to ponder the strange man. I had to find Paul.

I searched the yard, but couldn’t find him. Where had he gone? I closed my eyes; feeling defeated.

And the rain stopped.

When I reopened my eyes, I was dismayed to discover that I no longer stood on my front porch. I glanced around for any sign of my house, but I appeared to be standing in a corridor. The walls were slick with condensation and mold. The very place seemed to echo my silence.
To my right a pathway was lit by torches; the road to my left lay in darkness.

It was clear which way fate wished me to proceed, but yet I was filled with indecision. Two passageways presented themselves, so which do I choose? Do I follow the safety of the light, and walk the way I already know, or do I drift into unknown of the darkness and let it swallow me whole?

Staring into both, I remember back to when Kane and I were little. We would go down to our basement, turn the lights off, and play hide and seek. Our mom always used to come down and turn the lights back on, and reveal where we were hiding. It wasn’t as much fun when you couldn’t hide in plain sight.

My thoughts dragged me back to the present. I took a deep breath, and with one hand dragging against the slimy wall, I ventured into that unknown. I slipped and tripped and fumbled and fell my way through the nothingness, calling his name with every step.

Eventually a pinprick of light broke through the darkness. I released my grasp on the wall and began to run. The opening grew larger with every step that was behind me. All I could see from the opening was white, but as I reached the mouth of the tunnel I realized that beyond it was a playground.

It was the rusted old playground that we used to play at as children. The chains on the swings rattled as the wind passed through them. The teeter-totter groaned as it rocked up and down as if being ridden by invisible children.

My heart thudded through the ground as the thought of failure crashed through me. Maybe I’d chosen the wrong tunnel after all; though I had been so certain that I’d been right. Just as the realization set in, that’s when I heard it.

A name was called upon the wind, my name. I turned to face the mouth of the tunnel only to find it had disappeared. In its place sat a rickety looking carousel made from Popsicle sticks and silver and gold foil. The horses had been skilllessly crafted from the local newsprint. I’d seen this carousel before were it had once sat on my bedside table. Paul had made it for me on our thirteenth birthday, and there he now stood on the edge of his masterpiece. “Paul?” I whisper.

“Who were you expecting?” He smiled me that crooked grin of his. I ran over to him, and wrapped my arms around his neck. I’m not letting you go, I thought, ever. He hugged me back with a strength that I’d forgotten he’d had. I pulled my face back away from his chest, so that I could see him.

“Why were you running from me?”

“I wasn’t the one running.” There was regret and saddest in his words. “You have to stop chasing ghosts, Meg. You have to stop running while you can still stop.”

The carousel began to turn. The horses began to run, taking me with them, and leaving Paul behind. Everything revolved in a colorful blur, and the carousel spun. It spun faster and faster until suddenly it stopped.

My bedroom seemed more unwelcoming as I woke to its familiar walls. This dream had not been like the last.

So, when our doorbell sounded at two a.m., I didn’t need to crawl out of bed and hear the policeman tell my parents that Paul had been killed. I didn’t need to see my mother collapse to the floor in her hysteric tears, or my father’s futile attempt to be the strong one. It was all over, and in the end, I had still lost.

So, here I lay, just me and my newspaper horses.

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