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The Mark: Chapter 1
he glass shattered in the dining room as Teddy opened the door, bumping into me.
“Watch where you’re going, dude!” I yelled, looking down at the floor. When I say shattered, it’s no joke. Our mother’s Tiffany vase was in a million pieces. I knelt down beside it being careful to not touch the glass.
“What the heck is that?” The glass was coated in a thin layer of black dust, and on closer inspection, I saw a pile of something that seemed to be ash, but I couldn’t be sure. What was in that vase? I shuddered not wanting to think about what it could be.
“You are so busted,” Teddy said. He is eight younger than me.
My name is Mark, I’m 14 years old, and my mom hates me. Whenever something happens she always finds a way to tie it to me.
“Mom’s going to flip - she was going to use that vase for something at the Halloween party tonight.”
“I know Teddy, what do you think I was doing with it? Help me clean up this mess, will you?”
He ran into the kitchen and came back with a mop. I stared at him and he looked up at me.
“What?” He said with an innocent look on his face.
“That’s a mop, how will that help?” I almost yelled at him.
“No need to be mean,” he said with a hurt look. It was something Teddy had perfected and used with grace on my mother every time she was mad at him. I shrugged, looking at the beautiful white rug which was now ruined. Who has a white rug anyway? I thought. The shards of glass were sparkling, mixed with the black glow of . . . what was that? I was transfixed; the shards seemed to be moving, to be reassembling themselves.
I heard the front door slam, but I wasn’t going to run after Teddy. My troubles were escalating anyway. Bad grades, broken vase, a pouting little brother wasn’t my top priority right now. I bent to pick up a piece and yelped in surprise as it burnt my fingers. I looked closer, peering at the edge on which I burnt myself, and was surprised to see that the shard had stuck to the one next to it. I could see a slight movement along the naps in the rug, slowly twitching and moving the shard into a general direction, me.
I jumped up - it was coming fast, like a demon on wings and lunged at my throat.
I caught it as it took a bite, but it only seemed to get bigger.
Diving away, it stuck on the edge of my shoulder, slicing through the skin like wet cement. I scrambled up knocking into a chair and turning it over. I flew out of the room and into the hallway. Looking back over my shoulder, the good one, I noticed the thing had stopped right at the edge of the carpet. It was just sitting there watching me like a puppy watches food.
I grabbed a wooden spoon that was next to a pot in the kitchen and went back to the hall to see the “thing”. It had turned more or less back into a pile of shards. I felt a strange sensation on my shoulder where the “thing” had cut through. I brushed my hand lightly over the wound, careful to keeps my eyes on it. As my hand came back I looked at it and was shocked, instead of coming back bloody like I thought it would, it was completely clean. I looked under my shirt and saw only a faint black mark swirling around where the gash had been.
I felt a little light-headed and sat down to rest.
The door opened and Mom and Teddy entered, Mom already looked mad, probably because Teddy was out in the streets again. Her gaze swept over me and then to the vase, smashed into pieces. She gasped and I looked over expecting to see “thing”, but it was gone.
I muttered: “Oh it’s only that.” That was a mistake.
Mom’s glare flew back to me. “Mark!” her eyes blazing with fire. “I don’t even know what to say, first the office, then Teddy and now the vase!”
I was silent, which was unusual - I was never someone to let a fight go. I hated being blamed for things, but today I didn’t have it in me. I needed to think.
I started to walk to my room cutting off my mother’s rant. The last thing I heard before I slammed the door was my mother crying.
I headed to my mirror in the back of his room. I took off my shirt.
All over my body, there were strange black markings swirling around. They seemed to sparkle as they flowed and changed. Like life itself, it went here and there until it had me mesmerized. It spoke to me and played in my mind, a true being of its own.
The glass shattered and Delilah scrambled away, eyes squeezed tight, getting her a few yards from the mess before opening them.
Delilah went back to the mess fully realizing her job was on the line. Her boss stood up from the conference table and angrily shook the wine off his blazer. Delilah started picking up glass, profusely using the word “sorry”. She was the secretary for this pig of a boss. She hated her job, but after Teddy and Mark’s dad passed away, she had to support the family, and was determined to do so.
“Why did you do that!?” he snorted at her.
She couldn’t explain it herself. The wine was in a bottle shaped like a vase she had at home. A vase her husband had given right before he died, a vase containing secrets. She had to leave.
Her boss stood, hatred emanating out of his cold blank eyes. He slapped her across her across the face and told her to go home, she was fired.
She knew she should beg him for her job, that was what he expected but she couldn’t. She turned and left, making sure she pulled the fire alarm on the way out, one last effort to stand up for herself, hoping she would soak him and his guests.
Tearing down the street, desperate to get home, she saw a bus pulling up around the corner. Tears of relief filled her eyes as she sat down and rested her head on the window. When the bus pulled up to her stop, she finally lifted her head and saw her youngest son waiting for her.
“Mommy,” Teddy cried out and he ran to her and hugged her. “Why are you home so early?” He asked.
“Me? What about you? I thought Mark was watching you,” her tone was reprimanding but it was lined with care and worry. “You know you can’t be out on the streets.” She picked Teddy up and began to walk back, her anger building from before.
An hour later she was cooking dinner, her entire day becoming more like a bad dream. The vase had been broken, its contents gone, and was she deluded in thinking that it might not have claimed Mark? Why do I keep getting into these fights with Mark? She wondered, her thoughts spiraling like the steam rising from the soup.
Her first thoughts had been what was wrong with him, but slowly they rose to the issue of her. She had never been the same since her husband had died, bottling her sadness and turning it into the fire that lit her and kept her going.
She still heard him, her husband, he would speak to her as her conscience, or maybe she was just going crazy. It didn’t matter. He would guide her and tell her she was alright, that they would make it through.
She picked up the spoon, and disrupting the perfect circles of steam, called Mark and Teddy for dinner. She had to tell them.
“Mark! Teddy! Dinner!” I heard mom yell.
I couldn’t deal with this now; I wanted to figure this thing out, not fight with Mom and waste time. I had to get out of the house. I threw on my t-shirt as I made my way down the stairs. The golden light seeping through the crack in the front door seemed to mock me; to say you don’t have the guts to leave.
I was scared, and this thing knew it, taunting me even more. Even with this new strength coursing through my body, I knew I was truly powerless.
I glanced at the window to the left of the door in the other room. This was a mistake - the black thing stared back at me in the reflection of the window, its piercing eyes ripping through me and pulling on the tattoos. It had me hooked, speared through the middle, and I was just a puppet for it to use.
“Mark!” Mom screamed. “I heard you walk down those stairs, get in here!” I frowned, apparently I wasn’t as quiet as I thought, but there was something else bothering me besides that.
“Mark!” there it was, I hadn’t caught it at first but now could hear it in her voice now. I always thought that she only had one emotion: anger which would turn into a flat affect. This time she had raised her voice but it didn’t hold its usual aggression. Her voice was wrapped tightly with fear.
Teddy appeared in the door before I could move. He must have been hiding out in the fort our father built when we were young; he went there whenever Mom and I fought.
“C’mon little brother, dinner’s waiting for us. Better hope it doesn’t get lonely and walk away,” Teddy was a little old for these things but he gave a small laugh for my sake. Again I looked toward the door to leave, but Teddy gave me a strange look and pulled at my hand. “Don’t leave her waiting,” he said, his voice sounding a little off.
We made our way to the kitchen but Teddy kept giving me those weird looks, his eyes a familiar green that brought back memories of Dad. As I pulled up a hazy image in my mind of Dad, a different one came too, with the same eyes. It was a crystal clear image of Its face. Startled, I stopped walking for a second but Teddy pulled me along and into the brightly lit kitchen. Time to face mom, I thought.
The soup was ready and Delilah took time ladling it into bowls and making sure they were even. This mattered greatly to her, as once again she checked the levels to ease her anxiety.
She jumped as the door to the kitchen pushed open, surprising her, but it was only Teddy. She crossed over and bent down to pick him up, but before she could, he looked over his shoulder and she noticed that Mark was in the shadows. Quickly, she kissed him on the cheek and stood back up facing Mark.
“Why don’t you sit down honey,” she whispered to Teddy, walking back over to the stove. Mark followed her.
The light cascaded down over Mark’s face and he greatly resembled his father.
She picked up a bowl and handed it to him along with Teddy’s. His fingers slipped a little on the surface, a shock spreading from his fingers to Delilah’s, but the bowls stayed in his hands. They were content sitting there.
She thought about sending Teddy out of the room, but he gave her a funny look as if he heard her thoughts. He needs to hear it too, they deserve the truth. She shivered; the truth. It had a different feel to it; she had kept too many lies.
She walked over to the table with the hot soup; her footsteps echoed her beating heart. How will I begin? What if they can’t believe it?
She blocked out her thoughts and focused on eating, not on the stares burning through her. Putting this off would be too hard, especially now that the vase had broken, and their lives would depend on the outcome.
“It is time I told you about everything,” Her voice a mere echo. “Your father, he, he isn’t dead.” She tried to pull her gaze from Mark’s but she was trapped, any sense of the power she once had over her son was gone.
“How?” Teddy’s small voice came from her side, she could see he was scared and she wanted to go comfort him but that would just be delaying what had to be said, and she knew Mark didn’t want that.
“That vase you broke - there was black ash in it, right?”
Mark stared at her, the color draining from his face. He mouthed the words, black ash, and confirmed Delilah’s worst fear. She turned away.
“The black ash from the vase killed your father,” Delilah continued saying. “It took him over until he was crazy inside his own mind and then it consumed his soul until there was nothing left of his body but a shell.” Her children stared at her. She took a deep breath and she started again. It was so hard for her to explain this to them,
“Your father isn’t dead, but something much worse.”
“What could be worse than death?” Mark demanded, hands twitching.
Delilah was silent for a moment, “He is in a military hospital in Virginia where he has been under observation for several months. He is in some kind of coma, but it is different, the doctors say that it is unusual.”
“What’s a coma?” Teddy spoke again.
Mark replied impatiently, “Dad is like sleeping, but can’t wake up.”
“The doctors think that whatever did this to him still needs him. It feeds off of his body, slowly taking control. He is basically in hell.”
Mark grabbed Delilah’s shoulders. “Is that what’s happening to me? Look at me, look at me!” Delilah felt his fear and his rage, but she knew that if she looked, she wouldn’t be able to look away. He let go, muttering, “I’ll fight it. It won’t happen to me.”
Teddy now spoke up, his voice quivering like a toddler, “Why is he in hell mommy?”
“The activities coming from his mind are waves identical to ones of memories, but slightly different, like they don’t fully fit into his normal ones. They think this thing has become so independent it is feeding him his own fears, like a nightmare, but he feels it all.”
Mark gasped, his face turning a white she didn’t think possible, and he fell off his chair, shattering a glass on the ground. Delilah rushed over and Teddy began to cry. As she leaned over his face, it was glistening with sweat, and she finally stared into his eyes. As they turned a writhing black, his cheeks contorted and shifted, black markings appearing on his face and burning through his clothes to reveal themselves everywhere else.
And then she cried, her frail figure leaned over his, but there was nothing she could do, Mark was gone.