Dinner that evening was silent. Everyone seemed to be avoiding the most challenging topic at hand. They were content at blissfully naive. Sam didn’t want to speak of the horrid story she learnt of Bram’s mother. It still cast a new shadow on her cheekbones, which were dusted with rose today. Thomas didn’t want to speak of Bram’s Grandmother’s loss, full well knowing it meant he would have to carry the household on his own. Justyce was too high from her THC laced tea to want to discuss the seriousness of no college education, no job and no money.
She sat silently, shovelling back the food as her high left her a bottomless pit: homemade pierogi and wild game sausage. Bram didn’t know his father had been hunting or fishing in his free time, and he was surprised to hear Sam enjoyed these activities with him. The sausage they ate was wild Moose meat ground with pork fat. Made through a local butcher and packaged but hunted and shot by his father. He told the story over dinner, as Bram shovelled the sweet pierogi and salty meat into his mouth. It was refreshing, a meal which did not come from a box or a can. The meat’s colour was a deep purple, closer to what you would imagine flesh untampered by humans would look like. No hormones, no antibiotics or steroids. Just grass, tree bark and leaves.
The spices seemed to lift their spirits. His father ranted on about his hunt trip, even offering a beer to his under-aged son. Bram gulped it back happily. It completed his meal and drowned the fear of having to call his mother soon. He drew out the conversation on the table, asking questions he didn’t care about knowing.
“I couldn’t count the tines.” He went on about trying to see if the moose was legal. Sam had finished her petite-sized portion, and the platters were being cleared onto Justyce’s plate now. San leaned in lovingly to listen to her husband tell the story. Bram wanted to vomit at her puppy dog eyes, but it was better than the horrified look she had carried.
“Bellowing a moose call was the only way to get his attention.” Thomas’s fork was frozen halfway through his pierogi. Cold by now, Bram doubted he even wanted to eat anymore, not now that he was talking.
“Finally,” his father turned his face, using his hands as moose palms, “he began to turn his hundred-pound head.” Justyce scraped the plate loudly as the last of the bacon bits fell onto her pierogi tower. She didn’t care about the moose kill. Maybe even she had already heard the story numerous times.
“I counted two-three-four.” His father smacked the fork off his plate when he pretended to hold a rifle. Eyeing the scope, seemingly seeing the moose again for the second time. Or god only knows how many times he had told this story. Justyce got up and walked away from the table with her empty plate. The fork clanged to the floor and sour cream splayed across his father’s soft blue button shirt.
“Oh, Thomas!” Finally, Sam interrupted the story and jumped up to clean the mess. His father still held the pretend rifle and made a phew noise. Bram slammed the last quarter of beer he had and lifted his empty plate.
“Are you done? Already?” His father snapped out of the dream he was in and looked at his plate. Realizing everyone was finished around him and no longer listening. Sam reappeared from the kitchen with a new fork.
“Thanks, honey.” He smiled so kindly to her and shovelled a pierogi in his mouth, hardly looking to Bram as he backed out of the dining room.
“Yeah, I’m um. Going to call Mom. Want to see how she is doing.” Bram grabbed his father’s iPad off the kitchen counter and walked up the staircase to the second floor. Music was banging out of Justyce’s room, a quick memory of her soft skin flashed in front of his eyes. He was throwing it away as he threw himself at the second set of stairs to enter his loft above the house—the games room.
The entrance to the room was just a hole in the floor. The stairs were steep and narrow, the type if you aren’t paying attention you would completely miss one and tumble down. Thankfully they were separated by a 10-foot hallway before the next flight of stairs, so you would never go down two full sets. There was one window at the backside of the room, a perfect triangle window. With no shade to cover the window, the sun rose each morning full and bright. It would wake Bram abruptly. He pictured it was the type of window a dead ghost woman would linger at, so if there had been a shade indeed, she would move it back and forth. He was thankful there was no shade.
On one wall was a large screen TV, an Xbox, VCR and Nintendo Wii hooked up. Next to the TV stood a tall bookshelf. Custom made to fit the triangular roof. It held the controllers, game cases and more than just a few movies. Old movies, Disney movies, classic movies; they had been moved from house to house with his father, and Bram recalled watching nearly every film. Except for Titanic, nobody wants to watch that. On the opposite wall sat the couch, which doubled as Bram’s bed when he came to visit. He threw himself on the couch and flicked the TV on. He was punching in his mother’s Apple ID into the iPad. FaceTime began ringing immediately and echoed through the vast loft room. It rang only twice before the screen flicked on, and her face appeared before him.
“Hi, Bram.” She smiled, the screen coming nearly too close to her mouth and then repositioning to be about a foot back. Bram knew immediately she had been drinking. He could practically smell the alcohol through the electronic device. Plus, the iPad had almost smacked her face, and she giggled before recomposing herself. She was never this easy-going sober.
“How are you?”
“Good.” She smiled.
“Mom, honestly, how are you?”
“Good.” She smiled.
“I hope so, and I didn’t mean to leave you by yourself. I’ll be home on Tuesday. That’s only three days from today.” He spoke to her as if she were a child. Her eyes revealed nothing, and she just smiled and nodded. She didn’t ask questions, never pried and never pushed back, much more problematic than; no thank you. She had lost all fight in her soul, all will to pursue.
“Okay, son.” She smiled, but Bram saw something glint there for a moment.
“What’s wrong, Mom?”
“Nothing, I’m good.”
“Why won’t you talk to me? What do I have to do to make you open to me? You have no one else now. Grandma is gone. It’s just me and you, Mom! You need to let me in.” The screen beeped and went black. His mother had hung up. Bram wasn’t surprised, he had pushed too hard for answers, and she was still fragile. Now she was alone and had no one to lean on. Sadness ensued on him, and he allowed his eyes unfocused. Like letting go of the world holding you back like letting go of what you know, leaping into the darkness. He relaxed and allowed the bedroom to dissipate into blackness. The black matter spread and grew as he built the plane to stepping into. Obscura seemed overly large today.
To find his mother took a lot from him. The space was nearly too large to cross. He wished he could feel along walls, follow signs and sounds to where his mother was, but he couldn’t. Bram walked blindly through the dark matter that clung to his world until he felt his mother’s semblance. Until he sensed the beating of heart was near, then he turned. He ventured further than he ever had before and saw her eyes.
The pupils, black and lifeless, held no secrets for him and told him nothing of what his mother was. They deceived him and reiterated what his mother always would say, I’m good, I’m fine. The lines coming from the pupils were brown but a tawny mixture of diamonds and pearls. Jagged and rounded all at once, the colours messing and melding from espresso browns to wintery greens. With lines and splashes, the paint took over Obscura. Bram had seen people, words and places in Obscura. This overtaking of Obscura with colour was nearly too much for his senses. The continuum of spectrum engulfed him, took over his sight, smell and hearing. All he knew was colour, and it was the colour of his mother’s eyes burned so brightly through Obscura. An axe would fly through to splinter logs, shrapnel hitting the sides, and reflect the floor. An invisible force broke Bram’s mother’s iris. Shattered them into a million pieces across, through and down the Obscura. Hitting the dark matter, they lit up as red-hot coals, burning and incinerating instantly.
Bram didn’t make a sound, and he watched everything unfold before him. He never moved or forced any action from Obscura this time. He was in absolute awe, watching the oranges and reds of the pieces falling and burning. Then disappearing into thick chunks of ashy rain but not falling, rising and coming up around him and bursting wings to fly away like moths and filling Obscura with rainbows from every different plane of existence. The flying moths didn’t disappear, and they filled the dark spaces. Sticking to the subliminal sides of Obscura, they piled up more and began to fill the blackness. They were causing webs to form and grow.
Webs of his mother’s subconsciousness. Stuck in this place, stuck in her mind, they clogged everything that seemed to be her. They took over her comfortable everyday sense of womanly love and began to drive out her human. Replacing it with sticky webs of doubts and fears that never moved much further than the corners of her mind. Forming, creating and branching but never reaching their end goal of developing on her tongue. Never passing from her mind, sticking and overtaking it instead. Something made this mess in her mind. Bram no longer wanted it to live in his mother’s psyche, and he wanted it gone. He tried calling Nought and attempted to offer the trade, but he was left to deal with it alone to no avail.
Balling up Obscura, pulling back the dark matter with his own will, Bram forced it at the cobwebs. The wave of blackness hit and shattered the stickiness. Transforming it from stuck webs to glass shattering, opening the widths of his mother’s beautiful penny shaded eyes. The greens pulling in the browns and the colours’ swirling seemed to open suddenly and threw Bram out of Obscura. Hitting him back on the couch hard, he slammed his head on the wall and knocked himself out. Blackness ensued not in of Obscura, but unconsciousness from the force of being thrown back out.
A jingling ring sound roused Bram, his eyes were blurry, and the sun had descended below the horizon. Leaving the games room nearly pitch black, the house below him was deathly quiet as well. He was suddenly shocked no one had come to say goodnight, or maybe they had, but he had knocked himself out that badly. The confusion was like a fog in his mind. It rolled in quickly and stayed in place. Reaching his hand to the back of his skull, he felt a slight lump and sore spot from the point of impact. The wooden frame of the couch seems unscathed. The crystal ringing continued, and he looked around the room. What was happening that this sound was persisting? Just beginning to stand up off the couch and he realized where the sound was coming from.
The iPad he had earlier dropped. Facedown now, it was ringing non-stop, a slight pause between the hangup and a new call. He reached and flipped the thin electronic over only to see his mother’s facetime ID ringing in. The time boasted a late 10 pm, surprising Bram not only was his mother still awake, but she was calling him too.
Sliding the red button to the right, the screen lit immediately with her face.
“Hi, sweet pea.” Her face was smiling; her teeth were bold and white on the 10-inch screen. She appeared to have had a shower with her hair neatly bunted on the top of her head. Her skin was freshly washed and seemed to glow even through the screen.
“I just wanted to call you back, and I felt horrible for hanging up so abruptly. I’ve been upset, you know, with your Grandmother’s passing and all. It’s been hard for me.” Her face sunk, he could see the sadness there, but she brushed it aside and smiled again, for him. Not a stupid ‘I don’t know any better’ smile she had worn for years. This smile was unique to his mother, not one he could recognize as far back as his memory would go.
“Mom?” He could muster no other words than to continue repeating his question. Not a question of, are you listening? But a question of, are you my mother? She seemed different from how her voice rose and lowered as if renewed. Her eyes sparkled even with the death looming so recently still. After years of depression, her smile was genuine, so deep she couldn’t keep the tears at bay any longer.
“How is your father? Have you been fishing with him yet? I hear he has a secret fishing hole.” Her smile grew at the mention of Bram’s father, and she even winked at the end of the sentence.
“What did you call me?” Was a better response, he figured, than repeating just, ‘Mom’?
“Yeah,” he knew his Grandmother had called him by the pet name, and he felt something should spring forward to mind from that memory, but nothing came. Not a memory, not a feeling. Nothing.
“It’s what my mother always called me when I was growing up. I miss her so much, my prickly pod who protected me from rain, predators, and even the inevitable green sprig forcing my growth. She would imply with that kind name, no matter the element, she would love me. And I, you, Bram. I love you, no matter near or far. Any place you are, my heart is with you.”
Bram was dumbfounded now, and he wasn’t even sure how to respond to his mother. She was opening her soul, bearing her heart for him to see. It was no act, and this was real. This was all so alien to him, though, and he was unsure how to reply. The feelings she was pouring out through the small iPad were immense. The love she was emitting to him was warming and should make him feel better. Yet it seemed to hit his heart and slide off. His emotional receptors seemingly burnt and charred closed. He had no words to respond to her.
“Okay, I know you’ve gone through a lot lately.” His mother’s face sunk. Not to the low it usually sat at, but a new low just showed she had something heavy to say. Bram was still floundering in the comments she had already said. The words did not feel familiar to come from her mouth.
“Yeah,” he remarked as she paused long, waiting for a response.
“I didn’t want to tell you while you were away. I know you need this time to heal. Heal from your Grandmother’s…” Her voice trailed off, her eyes looked to the left as if Grandmother would walk in the door at any moment. The crazy thoughts used to evade her mind seemed to melt straight off, her better common sense telling her it wouldn’t happen, and Bram could see her mind processing this.
“I have to tell you, Bram. Honey, your dog died.”