Home > Uncategorized > Day Two Hundred and Thirty-Three: Refuse the Call

Day Two Hundred and Thirty-Three: Refuse the Call

Fran nearly tripped over her son’s radio-controlled car, which had been left in the front hallway. Again. “Wyatt, get this car out of here before I throw it away!” The doorbell was still ringing, and she’d made little progress towards answering it. When it started, she was making lunches for the kids to take to school. Wyatt wanted ham and cheese and would not abide by mayonnaise or anything that looked even remotely like a vegetable. His twin sister, Winnie, would only eat tuna or chicken salad, and bread without crusts was apparently a moral imperative, the violation of which would earn her the disdain of a petulant ten-year-old for days. Fran had tried reasoning with them and forcing them to try new things, but in the end it was easier for everyone involved if she just made the damn sandwiches and counted her blessings.

She got three steps from the kitchen counter towards the front door when Winnie yelled from upstairs, “MOM! I can’t find my bag!”

“Not my problem,” Fran hollered back. “You left it somewhere, you find it.”

By the time she’d taken another two steps, her daughter had already slammed her door, and her son was slouching down the stairs in his pajamas, his full attention devoted to the handheld game he was playing. As soon as he was in reach, she swiped it from his grip, snapped it closed, and turned him bodily around. “The bus will be here in ten minutes, young man. Get dressed.” She gave him a light swat on the butt as he went up and felt the progressive, enlightened parent she once swore she would be die a little bit.

Then there was the toy car, and it was still a good five or six steps before she’d get to the door. She picked up the car and dropped it on the steps as she passed them. In the back of her mind, she knew that was going to be a problem, but it was a problem for later. “Both of you, move it!” she yelled. “Miss the bus and the movies this weekend are canceled!” The footsteps from upstairs turned into a small rolling thunder, and Fran smiled grimly. There was no way they would risk not being there for the opening night of the Captain Cosmos movie.

Finally, she was in reach, and she really, really hoped that the person on the other side of the door was carrying a giant novelty check, because that would be the only thing that made this worthwhile. She unlocked the door and yanked it open, a harassed tirade on her lips.

Whatever she was about to say vanished when she saw the three men standing on her front porch.

The one in the middle was a little brown man in green robes. His head was shaved, and his large black-brown eyes looked too big for his face. He looked almost like a child, but the wrinkles and the sense of deep, deep age that came off him said otherwise. He was flanked by two taller men, dressed in similar, if slightly more ornate robes. The one on the left, tall and pale, with a face that looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks, was wringing his hands and staring at the little man. The one on the right was built like an old football player, and he was smiling serenely at her. Taken together, they had the atmosphere of people who had gotten terribly, terribly lost, and only one of them actually knew it.

The little man in the middle blinked at her, slowly and deliberately, and said, “Fran Chapel?”

She ran a hand through hair that she really wished she had time to wash in the mornings. “Yeah?” She spun around, her hand whipping out to grab the cookie that her daughter was eating. “Not a chance, young lady,” she said. “Go finish making your sandwich.”

“But mom, I don’t know how to -”

“It’s not rocket science, Winnie, it’s a sandwich. Go!”

Her daughter stalked off to the kitchen and Fran turned slowly back to the group at her front door. The nervous one looked more nervous, and the smiler was smiling more widely. The little old man hadn’t changed at all. “Look,” Fran said. “What do you want? I have kids I’m trying to send to school.”

The old man nodded. “Fran Chapel, we are here to -”

“Mom!” Wyatt came pounding down the front hall. “Winnie won’t give me the mayonnaise!”

“Winnie! Give your brother the mayo!” Fran wondered what her neighbors were thinking, and then remembered that half the block had kids the same age. They probably wished they had problems as simple as this.

“We are here to -” the old man began again.

“I’m not giving him the mayonnaise until he tells me where he put my bag!”

“I don’t have your stupid bag!”

“Yes you do!”

“Fran Chapel, it is our duty to -”

“Here! Here’s your mayonnaise!”

“MOM!!” Wyatt’s hollering made her usual morning headache blossom. “Winnie dumped mayo all over my shirt!” A moment later, there was an answering scream from Winnie.

The old man held up a hand, and everything went silent. The sensation was almost palpable, like she’d been wrapped in a blanket that took the world away from her, and the first thing she did was take a deep breath and let it out again. There was probably something terribly wrong about what was happening. She should probably run into the kitchen and find out what the kids were doing. There were a lot of things she was probably supposed to do at this point. But for right now, at this moment, she closed her eyes and breathed.

“That is good,” the old man said. “Breathing is the first step to a balanced mind.”

The one on the left was looking around, as if he expected someone to show up and hit him. “Master,” he said. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

The other one took a few steps out onto her lawn and reached up. He took a bird out of the air and brought it over to them. The bird was, or at least seemed to be, in mid flight. Its wings were just at the top of their arc, its tail angled slightly to help it turn. She thought it was a robin, but she hadn’t had an interest in birds since she was a kid. The big man smiled serenely at it and lifted it into the air, where he then let it go.

It hung there, in mid-air and in mid-flight.

Fran looked from the bird to the big man to the little one. Then she turned to look back in the house. Through the doorway to the kitchen, she could see her son, his hands up to deflect the large white glob of mayonnaise that was hanging in mid-air in front of him. The light was glistening off it, and it left a trail in the air of little white drops.

The old man was still smiling.

“What the hell did you do?” she asked.

“Fran Chapel,” the old man said. “My name is Tetath the Elder. My companions are Odeti -” The nervous man raised a hand. “And Hajob.” The big man just continued to smile. “We have traveled very far and for a very long time to find you.”

Frank blinked. “Me?” she said.

Tetath the Elder nodded slowly and serenely. “Indeed,” he said. “You.” He held out a hand to her. His arm was thin and birdlike, and a small circle of blue beads hung loosely from his wrist. “Fran Chapel,” he said, “we are here on a great quest. There is a darkness in the world that must be battled. There is a duty that must be performed. And you are the one who must perform it.” His large, brown-black eyes locked onto hers, and she could almost feel his mind trying to travel across the distance between them.

“You’re not serious,” she said.

Odeti let out a pained whimper, and the little man’s mouth twitched in a smile. “Of course we are serious, Fran Chapel,” he said. “I understand it must be a surprise, but it is true.” He still held his hand out. “You are the one we have chosen to fight the forces of darkness. You are the one we have chosen to help save the world.”

Fran looked at him for a long, long moment before she took a step back, closed the front door, and locked it. Behind her, she heard the wet slap of mayonnaise on her son’s face, followed immediately by his outraged howl. She watched as he launched himself at his sister, and listened to them scuffle for a few moments, each one trying to invoke the Wrath of Mom against the other.

Then she turned around and opened the door again.

The men were gone.

She shut the door and nodded. “They’ve finally done it,” she said to herself with a sigh. “They’ve finally driven me insane.” She let them fight it out and went upstairs to her room to go back to bed. It seemed like the only reasonable thing to do.

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