Fantasticoe Fall 2004

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Cool Green Eyes

Valerie Zaric

      I stomp through the thick weeds of the Brazilian jungle, fighting the heat and my hunger. My khaki pants are soaked with sweat and mud. We walk in a group of thirty-three and I am toward the front, right behind our leader, Peter. Peter says that we will be there soon and not to give up, so I keep walking to get this miserable trek over with.

      Peter is a tall man with dark hair and mysterious green eyes. Handsome Peter always knows what to do in any situation. He is so close to us and our spirits. Whenever Peter gives me advice, I am never doubtful that he knows what is best for me. My best friend Ellen feels the same way. He simply looks at me with his cool green eyes and strikes a calm expression that allows me to know that I can trust him.

      "I am so freaking hot!" laughs Ellen as she struggles to maintain a quick pace with her short legs.

      I became friends with Ellen when she was just known at school as the "new girl from New York." She was very quiet and afraid to be the first to say something to anyone. She was stereotyped as being snobby because she was quiet and her family was wealthy. I could understand because my school would always give me the same grief. I tried talking to her because I know how it felt to feel left out in the high school. Pretty soon we became pretty good friends and she even started dating my older brother Brandon. I saw Ellen just about everyday from this point on at our house when she was with Brandon, but we weren't great friends. We became closer after Brandon's car accident. After three days of trying to resuscitate my brother, we lost him. We both slipped into an indescribable depression both from the loss and all the stress of everyday life. My family grieved but I didn't think they did it enough. My friend and I were advised to seek help through some anonymous faculty members. Ellen and I met Peter through our school counselor. Peter started taking us to meetings a couple nights a week. He called them "family" meetings. Almost everyone in the family had been through something traumatic, whether it be death or a drug addiction. My friend and I could finally relate to a group of people. After a few months, Ellen and I were invited to be in the family. Neither of our parents understood the importance of the family. They were probably very upset when they realized that Ellen and I left town. We even had to steal some money from then to help fund for our trek.
 
 

      "Oh my God, Ellen! I finally see it!" I yell when I finally spot the small village shortly ahead of us. Ellen begins running through the weeds, her dark hair swinging back and forth from a short pony-tail. The backpack she is carrying bounces up and down as she hops over the logs lying in the path. We were advised to take only our valuables to the jungle due to lack of space in the tents. Several other people join me as I follow her to the mass of tents. We then begin to devour several glasses of a drink that Peter provides.

      Peter and some other members of the family prepared the village for us several weeks ago. They set up five large tents in a circle surrounding several picnic tables and a campfire area. The entire family understands the importance of leaving civilization. The world is too chaotic, shallow, and impersonal. We don't want to be living in a corrupt world because the end of our lives that is quickly approaching. Peter has explained to us that since the world has become so corrupt, God wants those close to Him to separate ourselves from the cruel society and form a new ethical world.

      Many people who are not involved with the family are skeptical of Peter's abilities. I will admit that I was also a little unconvinced of his unbelievable powers, until I witnessed a display of magic. Margaret, an elderly lady in the family, was having a heart attack during a family meeting. The group immediately became frantic. Peter, however, slowly walked over to Margaret and placed his hand over her heart. Margaret miraculously stopped gasping and slowly stood up off of the floor. From that point on, the family has been strictly devoted to Peter and our family. It is apparent that God reaches us through Peter. The family feels safe from dangerous wildlife because we know that Peter will protect us.

      Margaret ahs had some other close calls. The older woman is about eighty years old. She sometimes passes out during the middle of group services. She will lie on the floor with her white hair spread over the ground. Her frail body convulses wildly wile the family watched her. We know that Peter will be able to help. He lays a hand over her heart. He continues to close his eyes and mumble something quick under his breath. As he does this Margaret's breathing gets steadier until she is fully recuperated. The family watched in amazement as we witness God's work through Peter.

      ~      *      ~

      That night Ellen and I walk to the first community family dinner together. We are excited to eat a large meal while mingling with the group. Most people help prepare salads and other foods that we brought with us on the trip. We knew to bring a small amount of food because it would just spoil after a couple days in the heat of the jungle. Peter was very adamant about preparing a good meal today. He likes to call it our "last supper" because it is the last time that most of us will be eating normal American food.

      As Ellen and I sit on a homemade wooden bench, everyone in the family mingles. We hear a chorus of laughter surrounding us. Instead of joining we take advantage of having privacy. It's hard to realize that we won't be getting very much from here on.

      "It seems like so much has happened so fast. I haven't really had time just to stop and think for a while," Ellen tells me.

      "I know. Ellen, ever since Brandon ya know…passed away, I haven't been myself. I don't have fun like I used to. Life is so different." I confide to my best friend in a shaky voice.

      Ellen's eyes start watering and her small pink lower lip trembles. "I miss his so much. I really loved him ya know. Thank God I found this family; otherwise I don't know what I would have done."

      I wrap my arms around Ellen's slender torso wile she cries on my shoulder. I can barely steady her because I suddenly become very dizzy. My eyes close halfway. They almost close but I see a figure run behind a tent and dart into the wilderness. Margaret must be having more stomach problems from the excruciating trip. I excuse myself and follow the person into the mass of damp trees to make sure she is alright. When I catch sight of her crouched by a tree, I stroke her long white hair while she vomits from the harshness of the day.

      When Margaret is finally finished I crouch beside her to ask her how she is feeling. Once I begin to ask, the old woman looks at me and transforms into a tall gray creature. The creature is about seven feet tall with long and skinny features. It hisses my name through its sharp black teeth. I try to scream but the creature clasps my mouth shut with its long slimy hands. The creature grabs me roughly and drags me through mud for several minutes. I am so dizzy at this point that I cannot defend myself. I merely give into the strength of the creature. Tears burn in my closed eyes while I try to grasp the idea that I am being kidnapped by some sort of monster.

      As we dash through trees, I close my eyes because the quick motions start making me nauseous. The creature finally sits me down gently on a comfortable chair. The delicious scent of baked chicken and mashed potatoes fill the air. The dizziness fades. When I open my eyes, I am confused to be sitting at my dinner table at my parents' house. Sure enough, the exact image of my mother walks through the entrance of the dining room.

      "Hi honey, I didn't even see you come in. How was school today?" the image asks while patting my shoulder in a familiar fashion.

      "Never ask a kid that, you know what the answer will be: 'Fine Mom, when's supper?'" this figure of my aunt says with laughter.

      I don't know what is happening. I know these mirages cannot be my actual family members because they are at home in America. However, the image of my mother is exactly her, perfect in every detail, from her scent of Channel perfume to the small scar above her right eyebrow.

      I don't get the opportunity to reply because my father barges into the room laughing in a way that I have not heard for a while. Behind my father enters Ellen and Brandon laughing loudly with him. I could barely breathe when I saw the perfect sight of my long gone brother. Everything was the same about him, from the way that Brandon throws his head back when he laughs to the cowlick on the back of his head. Brandon and my dad shared the same bizarre sense of humor and were always laughing about a joke that no one else understood. The images sit down around the dining room table and start eating the hot meal. The food tastes the exact way my mother's dinners tasted when I lived with her.

      Brandon begins to tell exaggerated stories about his terrible job as he often did in the past. Ellen's image giggles contagiously when he begins to tell us funny stories about the couple's worst date. After the stories are told, Ellen smiles at Brandon secretly and lovingly. I talk about subjects that normal teenagers talk to their parents about: the Homecoming dance, my schoolwork, and my mom's job. I feel strangely comfortable and content with my current situation as if I've forgotten how I got here. As my mom is setting dishes into the dishwasher, I embrace her tightly. I feel comfortable in her arms. I wonder why I left her for this trek so far away. After a few seconds, she looks up and transforms into the familiar despicable figure.

      The monster drags me through the humid jungle like before. I cry again, but this time not out of pain. The creature is growling as it runs faster while dodging trees. Suddenly we come to a complete stop and it drops me into a deep dark pit.

      "She's still moving! Give her some more drink, Mother. She's almost out. Why didn't she drink more like the others?" shouts Peter's voice.

      Margaret approaches slowly. Her cold wrinkly finger presses down on my wrist to check my pulse.

      "Well son I give her about a minute. I don't know what took her so long. Maybe the more money you have, the longer it takes to die," Margaret says with a scoff.

      "I can only imagine what sort of state she is in right now," Peter says.

      "Well after all of those fake heart attacks I'm surprised no one has caught on," Margaret quietly says.

      My head is throbbing unbelievably and my body is wet and muddy from lying on the ground. I can't believe what I am hearing. When I open my eyes I see a fuzzy vision of Peter and Margaret about me laughing loudly. I look next to me to see Ellen lying nearby with her lifeless face staring beyond me. The bodies of the other family members surround the area with their cups setting next to them on the jungle ground.

      "Oh sweetie, just drink some more of this and you will have no more worries," says Margaret's crackly, elderly voice.

      I try to fight back as Peter opens my mouth and feeds me more of his deadly drink. Before my eyelids become too heavy, I look deeply into Peter's cool green eyes. I feel unbelievably betrayed and nauseous. Margaret and Peter had been apart of an elaborate scheme all along. They have taken the family's money and our lives. My eyelids close and soon I meet the creature once again to transmit me to where I belong, with my real family, when I was happy.


Acknowledgments
      First of all, I would like to thank my entire creative writing class for reading through this story over and over again. I would particularly like to thank Danny Arroyo, Alonso Avilla, Sarah Jarmon, Chris Kehe, and Jeff Weisenborn for their helpful advice. Also, I can't forget to thank Terry Heller for being patient with my slow progression to a fantasy writer. Allison Carr, Shauna Nally, and Joi Bergman were also very helpful by reading through almost all of my struggling fantasy writing. I would also like to thank my parents, Sherrill and Gordon Zaric, for persuading me to take a writing class for my first year seminar.