A crisp breeze played across skin as he stepped out of his car. The wind danced with the scent of the earth and encouraged chatter and applause from the outstretched branches of the forest. The secluded hill, upon which his home stood, overlooked much of Silverdale with a perfect view of Mt. Reiner standing boldly in the distance in all its ancient glory.
He paused as the wind played about him. A resonating sense of oneness with the surrounding majesty set his heart alight with an overwhelming calm; a peace he knew nowhere else. Wonder and awe filled his spirit; this was home.
For Marcus, home was magical, sacred, holy. Until he had moved out of the California deserts, far away from the house of his youth, and found his place in Washington, he had never understood what home meant. He had only understood home as a house in which he kept his things and dodged the bullets and bombs of his father’s fists.
In the past he was the first born and the last to escape. It took him many years to break free of his father’s abuse and bondage; years for him to break free of the caretaker role his mother left behind when she put a gun to her head and told the world enough. He was twelve then, twenty-four when he made his getaway, and now thirty-three with an education, a stable income, and a dream to be free from the baggage weighing down on his shoulders.
In a way, coming home from a day of running errands, replacing cell phones, and sitting with an old friend, convinced him of the importance of making one last pilgrimage to the deserts he left behind. It sung with the promise of becoming finally free; to return to bury the burdened he carried within him once and for all.
Much to his sorrow, he knew he would have to go back, walk the halls of the old house, face the scornful judgment of a people he once called family and meant it as if they were blood, and lay everything to rest. There was no joy in this decision, but there was hope.
He approached the door of his home, painted blue, adorned in silver stars and a winking moon, turned the key and stepped inside. Like the door, the interior of the home was one grand night sky mural. Stars blazed across the horizon of the heavens; an intentionally painted personal universe he made his own.
The lingering scent of lavender and dragon’s blood hung in the air. It was his custom to burn incense upon coming home -believing it to sedate his personal demons. A quick flick of the wrist and twitch of his thumb conjured a flame from his lighter. He held it for a moment to a waiting cone of incense before banishing the flame as quickly as it has been brought to life.
He wandered through the living room exploring the many bookshelves lining the walls. Christian theology, pagan religions, legend and folklore, poetry, philosophy, and not a few psychology and self-help books filled the shelves. He beamed with satisfaction at the collection he had built over the years. The varied selection made it difficult to choose what to read, so instead simply walked over and sunk into his couch.
For only a moment he rested quietly before stirring to fuss with the bag he had carried with him. From the bag he produced a box containing a new phone. It was fortunate he had been long overdue for an upgrade from his service provider; otherwise he would not have been able to afford the would-have-been five-hundred dollar phone.
The screen came to life with the service provider’s logo and trademark tone to announce its readiness to be mishandled and overburdened with unnecessary applications, photos, movies, and songs. Marcus, however, was not ready to explore the application store and bog down the phone. Instead he thumbed through his contacts to ensure everything was there and set it down on the charger.
Struggling against the soothing comfort and low center of gravity of the couch, he stood to make his way to the master bedroom. If he didn’t start packing right away, he would not get to it until after midnight.
He walked to his bedroom and went straight to the walk in closet to retrieve his suitcase.
“About time you took your ass back home, bead twirling faggot!”
Marcus froze at the voice shouting behind him. After an eternity passed in the seconds it took him to spin on his heels come face to face with his father sitting on the edge of the queen sized bed.
“No! It’s not possible! You’re…”
His father screamed out rising off the floor an entire foot. The spectre flew toward Marcus with jaw unhinged, opening its mouth impossibly wide; face taught over the impression of a skull underneath. Tendrils the color of a starless sky on a moonless night reached out from the abyss held in its maw.
In the fraction of a second it took for Marcus to instinctively throw up his arms, he was thrown into the wall of the closet, head crashing against the aluminum bar from which his clothes hung. The world went black and silence fell as he landed in a heap on the floor.