I was making the bed. A pile of sheets with little blue flowers lay at my feet and I had to keep reminding myself not to trip on them as I walked around the queen size bed frame and straightened the lines and smoothed the wrinkles. I looked at the bed with a little bit of pride and a little bit of wonder. It was done and I had done it. Who would have thought I was the guy to make a bed on a cold morning.
I tugged on the bottom left corner, pulling the blue comforter until it went taunt and then pushing it down past the pine frame and tucking it tight under. Now it was done. It was perfect.
Of course that’s when he came. The destroyer. The monster of my dreams. The tiny god of broken things.
He ran straight for the bed, bypassing me completely. His little hands grabbed at the comforter for hold and pulled himself up. Standing on my freshly made bed he began to jump.
I looked at him. He was me and he was her. The big looping blonde curls he would grow out of because I had bounced around a face that was long and lean like hers. His smile was crooked to the right like mine, but the dimples and wrinkles around his eyes were all hers.
I pushed at his chest when he reached the top of a large bounce. He fell back, a chorus of giggles, his hands and feet spread eagle to cause as much damage to my work as he could.
And I laughed. And I reached down and I tickled until he cried out for mercy. He smelled of her, of spice and roses and sunshine. He also smelled like the kitchen, of coffee and bacon and warm biscuits.
He jumped down and ran off to find a toy or his mother or food or whatever it is that three year olds run off to find on a lazy Sunday morning after ruining a freshly made bed.
I looked back at the bed. Not too much damage done. I straightened the corners again. I smoothed out the wrinkles. It would do. She would be shocked it had been done either way.
I smiled and went down the hall and down the stairs. The smell of breakfast grew stronger. I had woken up early to cook her favorite, but she had beat me to it while I was in the shower. This was her day and by god she was going to do what she wanted to do and I would let her, with minimal complaint.
I slipped out the back door and across the yard. I kicked a little soccer ball as I went. It rolled back to the house and to safety. I used the little fob on my keys to open the trunk. The little yellow box with the red ribbon was where I had put it a week ago, in a place she would never check. I hoped she liked it.
The house did not explode. The house did not implode. This house simply became no more.
A darkness settled over everything, a giant shade. Thunder crackled in the distance and the acrid smell of ozone filled the air. My house, my home, was gone and only ruins remained.
I ran toward it, but the darkness held me back. The world had become ash, color washing out as rain began to fall. The fat droplets splashed over everything, gathering the hues and pigments and taking them away. The black and white hell around me was wet and cold and violent with rain and thunder. I yelled at it. I screamed a nonsense scream of torture and hate.
My world was gone again. My color and my life were taken by an ugly smear of the void that pulled at me. And in the middle of that wreckage was the man in red.
He stood where I had stood minutes before, where our bed had stood in our bedroom had stood only minutes before. And he was holding my son’s hand.
I knew what he had done to her. I remember him snapping her neck and making me watch. What would he do?
I ran at him. My legs pumped but I grew no closer, found no ground underneath me. The man in red smiled.
“Soon,” he said, and vanished with my child.
I woke up in the hospital soon after. But not after I spent a lifetime in that gray world where everything had been taken from me.