Watch the grass grow

Short-listed Entry: Fiction Category

By: Mohamed Osman

The young child picked up two action figures from his toy chest. One was a dinosaur, and the other was a knight.

The dinosaur had scrapes all around them, but he didn’t mind. He was more interested in immersing himself with the endless adventures that could transpire with the two toys than caring about the nigh-broken condition one of them was in. Like his father said, anything and everything can happen if you have a colorful imagination and a toy in play, even more with two.

With them, the child recreated a scene from his all-time favorite movie, Solemnity from the Solemner, where a dinosaur; a rather large, but kind being who has the ability to talk is being ambushed by a lone knight who thinks he is a threat to his town. The dinosaur escaped from his hostile habitat to search for a better future, but, due to his size and structure, he posed a threat to any human who laid eyes on him. Unfortunately, the knight who caught wind of him tries to do everything he can to extinguish the poor monster from existence. And even in a more unfortunate manner, this scene just so happened to be the climax of the movie, where the dinosaur, unable to speak his way out of the situation because he had laryngitis, was inevitably slain and eaten by the knight and his people.

The child thought the idea of a dinosaur having laryngitis out of nowhere was stupid, but he still replayed the scene with the toys nonetheless, as he loved tense and brutal moments like this one. But he overemphasized the intensity of the slaying in the movie and ended up stabbing through the plastic surface of the dinosaur’s stomach with the knight’s blade in the process. The knight’s arm was budged in the stomach, and the panicky, fruitless attempt to pull the arm out only succeeded in ripping apart the knight’s body from it.

The child screeched, and then sighed at the sight of the unforeseen destruction of his two precious toys. He weights himself down with a sense of regret for causing it, but succumbs to the notion that these toys couldn’t last forever. Like his father said, your life can end at the blink of an eye. And so did theirs.

He picked himself up from the cement floor with the fragments of his broken companions in his hands. As he tried to walk to the garbage bin to dispose of them, he stumbles and swerves since his legs were still half-asleep. He hated it when they slept. They never stop sleeping, which became very annoying for him. Although, his father pointed out that the reason they sleep all the time is so that when they fully wake up, they’ll be bigger and stronger than ever. …Like an athlete! But he constantly wonders to himself if his legs ever have dreams. Do they dream about walking? Do they have dreams about running? Sprinting? Galloping? It was confusing for him. But, then again, he didn’t remember having any dreams when he slept for years.

He kept wondering about it for another minute, and then came to the conclusion that if the legs had dreams, they would be about running. He thought it’d be cool to go into their dreams and have the ability to run as fast as you can in there. But his father said there’s no point in running. He always says to take your time and walk instead! …The child still questioned that saying.

The garbage bin wasn’t far from him, so his charades of wallowing and blundering would be short-lived when he reached it. He slowly moved his jittering hands towards the top of the bin. His hands stayed in that position as he began to realize something.

Suddenly, the noises of padlocks and chains being rambled rocked through the small room in an inaudible deafening. The noise stopped, and the door swung open. It revealed a man in an odd-colored full-body suit, covered and masked from head to toe, holding a garbage bag in one hand. The man walked in as he slammed the metallic door behind him. The man’s soles echoed through the room with every step he made. The man unlocked and unzipped the plastic opening, and entered the child’s little hobble.

He investigates the cramped area. A small, wooden toy chest and a tape recorder stood on one side of the area. He walks over there and picks up the recorder. A small, perched drawing and a waste container sat on the other side. He walked over there, picked up and dumped the excess in the container into his garbage bag.

He then stared at the plastic side of the area. Over there, the right corner had the garbage bin. He noticed the child standing before it, looking at him with the broken toys in his grasp. And without hesitation or remorse, he jaunted over to him and swiped them from his palms. The child’s barren attempt to retrieve the toys in a pantomime of screaming of shouting only elicited the worst of actions from the impassive man. Stuffing the toys in the garbage bag, he grabs the child by the arms and pulls out a serum from his pocket to inject him with, knocking him out entirely.

The child woke up in a daze. Wiping the drool off his mouth, he immediately examined his surroundings. He carelessly ran around the room to find his toys, tripping while knocking the garbage bin down with it. Then, he remembered. They were gone. His only toys, taken away viciously by the tyrant in the devil’s suit. His father.

He started to cry.

###

It’s been a day.

The child grew more and more anxious. He has never seen his toy chest this empty before. It’s been the first time in years that he was parted with his only companions forcibly.

He got up from the floor, and wiped the tears from his eyes. He noticed a newer-looking tape recorder next to his toy chest, probably to replace Dad’s New Quote for the week. But the recorder was whiter and slimmer, which he thought was odd since the recorders his father usually leaves here were gray and fatter. Next to it were two new toys; a prince and a princess. The child crawled towards the recorder, faintly grasped it, and touched the button that read “Play”.

“Like I always say, don’t play with the defunct; we wouldn’t want that toy trunk to be junked! Play with the new; don’t play with the broken poo! These new toys will keep you company, give it an hour, you’ll come up with a new journey! And with your strong imagination, anything can happen with your course of action!”

The voice stopped, but the recorder still kept playing. He placed the recorder down and picked up the two new dolls to get a good look of them. He threw them near the waste container.

His thoughts became cloudy and ambushed with his newfound hatred for his father. The voice note did more to enrage the child than to soothe him, replacing his apparent anxiety with overwhelming frustration in remembrance of what he did yesterday. But he couldn’t have his mind set about that now. His toys must be somewhere outside, out in a dumpster nearby. He has to go out and get them back, and flee this malicious hostel for good. But the recorder suddenly rang with a cautious, worried voice. It was his father’s.

“…Look, just listen.

“I’m terribly sorry for what I did yesterday. I love you more than ever, but I had to do it for your own sake. There was something really, really wrong with your toys, and I had to take them away before it does even more harm to you than it did now. They were wearing off and, um… Ugh, you know what, never mind. But just please keep this in mind.

“I may be harsh and cruel, and brash and accrue, but I’m just doing what’s best for you, so you can live long enough to see the day anew.

“I will f–”

The child abruptly cut the voice recording. He threw it on the floor, stomping it with his bare feet. He didn’t believe a single word his father had to say. He hasn’t seen anything dangerous about his toys. The father was lying so that he could get away with his cruel, torturous deeds like the sick monster he is. The child’s anger from the misconception of his father reached to a breaking point. But he shook it off, because there was something he had to do, and he has to have a clear conscience to go about it.

He had to rescue his toys.

His toys meant everything to him. They’re out there somewhere, and he’s going to do what he can to get them back, damning the foul words spoken by his ill-mouthed patriarch. They were his only true friends. And even if they’re broken, he doesn’t mind. He doesn’t care. He’ll still enjoy them, even more than the first day he got them at the hospital. Because they hold the memories of all the times they played, laughed, cried, and basked in utter happiness for all these years.

He’s calling his father’s bluff.

The child turned towards the wall with a picture of a drawing on it. The child approaches it in a stumbling fit and ripped the drawing off, revealing a small crack on the wall. The child hopes that this makeshift wall is as hallow as he intends. The light that shone through the crack illuminated the room more than the weak artificial light bulb that hanged above.

The child’s eyes darted towards the empty toy chest. The child tried to run to it, but tripped and his head collided with the chest’s hard surface. Blood started to pour from his nose. His wail and the abrupt sound that came before it alerted the entire house in a shrouding echo. The sounds of someone fleeting steps from the other side of the door beckoned the call. He had to move fast.

He regained his consciousness and his balance, and wiped off the blood from his face. He grappled the toy chest and picked it up with all his might. The sounds of the door being brutally unchained deafened the little child with an oncoming warning. And with that, he held his breath, closed his eyes, and started to sprint, with the toy chest facing forward.

He broke through, out into the open air.

The collision sent the remnants of the weak, wooden wall strewing across the vibrant, grassy terrains, as with the child and the destroyed toy chest.

As his awareness started to accumulate, the child’s eyes slowly opened. He scratched his head in fatigue. He picked himself up from the ground, and witnessed a sight he has never saw before.

He sat back, and stared in awe.

The radiant, grassy plains stretched on for miles and miles on end, each leaf swaying about happily from the cool summer breeze that brought them to life. Each leaf was sharply coloured, dazing in the wondrous luminosity brought by the sun and the skies above. Clouds, perfectly shaped and formed, were swimming through the wide open air moving slowly, but as free as everything else. It was a view to illustrate the very concept of elegance and pure artistry. It was a sight to exemplify the brilliant essence of a true haven. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

The child basked in the grass, his mind being completely wiped in the majesty of the luscious landscape. But he noticed little, rugged blobs starting to appear all around his body, poking through his skin. These blemishes emitted a tingling sensation, then an itchy sensation, then a burning sensation. And before he could realize it, the blemishes started to emanate a pain so excruciating, it elicited blood-curdling screams from the poor child.

His skin was burning at the seams. The blemishes grew larger in size and girth. His muscles expanded and contracted in a spasmodic outcry as the indescribable agony the blood-drenched child faced grew and grew to an unrealistic point.

The screams from the child terrorized the father ears as he continuously attempts to unlock and unchain the budged door after many unsuccessful fumbles. Scared out of his mind, he sprinted to his office and shifted violently through his toolbox under his computer desk. He brought out a bolt cutter, and ran back to the door to cut the padlocks and chains. The sudden cut of his child’s screams frightened him even more. He bashed the door opened, and ran out through the broken wall without thinking. And there he saw it.

His child. His body, covered in large, pulsating blemishes. His skin, charred fiercely with many exposure points. His face, unrecognizable from the physical pain that brought about its deformity.

His legs, twitching. His arms, shivering. His eyes, closing.

His soul, fluttering in the breeze.

###

“I may be harsh and cruel, and brash and accrue, but I’m just doing what’s best for you, so you can live long enough to see the day anew.

“…I will find the cure. No matter what it takes, I will find it, damn it.

“Maybe then I could finally take you out of that bubble. That filthy, confining bubble filled with hundreds of unhealthy chemicals made from God knows what. The worst thing about it is that the chemicals you inhale constantly are the only things keeping you from dying horribly.

“You’ve already spent your first living years in a coma, and I don’t want the rest of your life being in the physically infirm. I want you to have fun and live life as freely as a child should be. But the thing is that I also want you to be alive.

“…I have all these toys for you. I had all these toys and videogames and sports equipment ever since you were born and they’re waiting for you. I can’t give them all to you now because I’ll have to specially disinfect them, and doing that for all the toys would cost more than I can afford. So I can only spray the smallest of toys and accessories for you, like the dinosaur and the knight. The thing is, the disinfecting chemical only lasts for a while. Like, a week at the most. But I see that you liked the dinosaur and the knight the most, so I sprayed them whenever I could when you’re asleep so that you could be with them the most, because I want you to be happy.

“This just goes to show that I don’t hate you. I’ll never hate you, diseased or not. And when I’m finally able to get you out, we’ll do everything together. We’ll play baseball, we’ll go to the movies, I’ll send you to a school so you can learn with many other people who are just like you and would love to be friends with you.

“And maybe one day, where the sun is at its highest and the skies are healthy and blooming, we’ll go to the backyard, lie down on our stomachs, and just watch the grass grow.”

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