The Inventor

“I really hate going home to my parents’,” Nina said. I wasn’t sure if she meant the actual act of going back home again or if she meant the drive to get there. It had been nine hours and she was crawling the walls of the car.

“Tell me why you’re inflicting it upon me again?” I asked.

Leaning towards the driver’s seat, Nina grabbed my hair in a fist – it felt insanely good – and smiled at me. But the muscles around her eyes were tight and nervous. “You want to marry me, don’t you?”

I clicked on the signal light for our exit. My voice held all the certainty her eyes didn’t. “For sure, Hummingbird.”

* * * * *

The driveway to her parents’ house was long and dusty, hedged closely by a dark tangle of trees. The trees, dark sentinels, funneled us to an iron gate that slowly opened for our car.

As an inventor, I leaned forward to catch a glimpse of the mechanism that had opened it for us.

“Impressed, Gadget?” Nina asked. She knotted her fingers and unknotted her fingers around mine.

I had caught a glimpse of the weighted pulley that had opened the gate. Large, black, dull with infrequent use. “Only by you.”

Behind us, the gate slammed closed.

* * * * *

The house was bigger than I had expected, even given the size of the grounds around it and the elaborate gate. It crouched at the end of the driveway, walls dark and possessive, windows lit glowingly by the slanting evening sun. There was no car in the drive; Nina flapped her hand rapidly for me to park around the side of the house while unbuckling her seatbelt.

“They’ve rolled out the red carpet as usual,” she said sarcastically.

I squinted at the house through the sideways light. Analyzed the number of windows, the pitch of the roof, what I would’ve done differently if I’d built the structure myself. “Maybe they were expecting us later tonight.”

I got out of the car; Nina was already spinning round outside the car in her usual ceaseless motion. She stopped spinning long enough to grab me around the waist and say, “I love you.”

* * * * *

The house was striated inside, light and dark. Brilliant evening sun slashed across the floor at each window, leaving still, blue darkness beyond its reach. Nina and I made our way through a formal dining room – her running from window to window and me walking, eyes looking at the arrangement of chairs at the table. Only one ajar. The others were pushed in firmly. A single faint spiderweb led from one chair to the table.

Nina hit the lightswitch. Nothing happened. “Not again,” she said miserably.

* * * * *

“Mother, Father!” Nina’s voice echoed through around the massive ceiling of the foyer. I looked up at the chandelier; a small bird looked back at me, dark and half hidden in the shadows.

“You don’t call them Mom and Dad?” I asked.

Nina ran halfway up the stairs and then back down again to my side. “Not when I want to please them. Come with me.”

I followed her up the stairs; they were silent beneath her small feet, but beneath my weight, the wood creaked and sang. I looked at the shape of the hand railing, considered the structure of it, decided that if I had done it, I would create something more likely to support the weight of a full grown man falling against it. I was not much for decorative flourishes.

The mostly decorative handrail had a dark stain running along it for several feet; Nina ran her hands along the wall instead. In the sideways light, I could see the smudged oily prints on the paint where she had done it hundreds of times before.

* * * * *

Nina stopped calling for her parents on the second floor, which was dimmer than the first floor. We walked through dull grey and blue bedrooms where shadows climbed the walls and the smell of dust clung in our nostrils.

I was aware of only the sounds of our feet, my steady gait on the floorboards and Nina’s more frantic pace. I looked over the balcony to the first floor, far below, and saw the shadows deepen and lengthen, out of proportion to the setting of the sun.

We stepped off into another bedroom off the main hall, this one small and deeply mulberry. “Is there something wrong, Hummingbird?”

Nina looked at me, and as she did, there was a tremendous cracking sound from the stairs outside. Her eyes were wide. “Gadget, shut the door.”

* * * * *

I shut the door, and by so doing cut the light nearly in half; Nina’s pupils were huge and dark. My hand was pressed across both the door and the doorjam, frozen in the act of pushing, and because of it, I noticed the deep scratches in the wood. Ragged and new, right at the level of my hands. I slowly put my fingers into the jagged trenches in the doorjam.

My fingers matched.

I turned to look at Nina. I didn’t say anything, but I knew my face held a question. One that I couldn’t answer by observation.

For once in her life she held perfectly still. “Lewis,” she said. She never called me by my real name. “Lewis, don’t let them bite you.”

* * * * *

I pushed the door open and stepped into the hall. The hall had darkened and changed in our time in the bedroom. The smell in the house had changed too: no longer was it the dusty scent of neglect. Now it was sweet, metallic, fruity.

It smelled of danger.

The only warning I had was Nina’s scream: “Father, no!”

The dark form looked like a demon and flew like a raven, but I knew, logically, that it was neither. I waited for it, watched the path of its simulated half-running, half-flying, analyzed the breathless speed of its plunge towards me.

And then I took a single silent step to the left.

* * * * *

It crashed through the railing of the balcony and plummeted to the floor. If it could truly fly, it didn’t, because I heard the crash below.

There was no warning for Mother. She flew at me from above, landing on my shoulders and rolling me down the stairs to the first landing. I was choking in the long black fabric that wrapped around her like a shroud, and I was burning under the touch of her freezing fingers.

I lay on the landing, eye to eye with the chandelier, her teeth flashing in front of my face. Taking a handful of her black fabric, I reached out and grabbed the very edge of the chandelier. With a deft twist, I wrapped the fabric once around the chandelier and I jumped.

* * * * *

The fabric, me, and the chandelier, made a wicked pulley, ripping Mother from her feet and snarling her with the cable of the chandelier. As I dropped slowly, slowly to the first floor, my hands gripping the fabric to slow my fall, I heard her gasping and gagging and finally becoming silent.

I slid the final few feet to the first floor beside Father and landed hard on my knees.

“Hummingbird?” I called up, badly out of breath.

* * * * *

Outside, the gate closed behind the car, and in the driveway on the other side, two dull, dark figure
s watched us leave, fabric streaming around them both.

“I hate going home,” Nina said.

Author’s Note: A supernatural metaphor for bringing my husband home to meet my parents for the first time. (aw, you know I love you Mom and Dad. And you know it’s so true!)

photo courtesy of basilisksa


22 thoughts on “The Inventor

  1. I like it that Lewis was smart enough to use the fabric and the chandelier. I imagine I’d forget I did years of karate and just wet myself.

    If this character is based on the love slave, I want one! … uhmmm, only if he’s not too hairy, he has to have nice fingernails, and dimples on his hips.

  2. Worst. Nightmare.
    …though my family are just sort of crazy, and not exactly prone to eat any of my friends. At least I don’t *think* so…

  3. Great metaphor, haha. I liked how this flowed; it forced me to read it in one sitting instead of flicking my attention elsewhere. *has bad habit of being distracted*

  4. Perhaps the nicest thing you could have said about it, because at 1200 words, this thing is a whopper in comparison to my usual fics here. So thank you!

  5. Yeah, well, perhaps the stories I tell give them a bad reputation…my friends seem to have strange ideas of them…

  6. Cool. Not picky? I’ve made some mistakes I have to say. I did like the story. I like it here. I feel like going to the fridge and grabbing a beer. You know when you visit someone often enough the fridge becomes your friend. Oh. Is that cold pizza?

  7. Characters who are clueless irritate me greatly! I’d rather a character be one step ahead of me than one step behind.

  8. Okay, see, this? Statements like this are why I’m looking forward to Lament. Competent characters are my favorite thing in the world.

  9. Hahaha–I love this! The best part is, you totally know that this is not a dealbreaker for him.

  10. Hehehee. Was I the only one to find this outrageously funny?

    Yay, vampires!

    I like Gadget. Good characterization for both of them. As freaking usual! 😉

  11. I did find it outrageously funny, but that’s probably because of my peculiar perspective on this story.

    And thanks. Glad to hear this particular vamp story didn’t suck the life out of teen romance. :p

Comments are closed.