A Shot in the Dark

                                                                                I

“Kyd! Breakfast!”

Kyd Magenta runs downstairs, ready to head off to school–jumping from the fifth step to save time–and heads to the kitchen. His father, Curtis Magenta, is at the table with his face buried in the Daily News while his mother, Maggie Magenta, brings over two cups of coffee–black–from the counter.

Kyd takes off his backpack and sits, his father peeks over the newspaper with suspicious eyes trained on Kyd–feeling his father’s gaze and not daring to look up. His mother, on the other hand, places a plate of eggs, bacon, and waffles in front of him and Kyd takes in the aroma with pleasure. Curtis Magenta still has his eyes on Kyd, barely noticing when Maggie places his plate on the table; Kyd looks up then quickly away–knowing what his father is waiting for.

“Do it,” Curtis says.

Kyd points his finger at a fork in the dishrack by the sink and pulls it back, the fork levitates and comes toward Kyd and he catches the fork like a pitcher catches a baseball. Curtis looks on with smiling eyes and goes back to his paper.

“I never get tired of that,” He says.

“Curtis,” Maggie says while washing the dishes, “are you going to talk to him or not?”

“I figured we should all be at the table for this,”

“For what?” Kyd asks with nervous eyes looking between his parents.

“Don’t worry Kyd,” Curtis says, “you’re not in trouble.”

Curtis gives him that suspicious, fatherly look again, “Unless…there’s something you want to tell us?”

Kyd looks to his mom who’s gone back to the dishes, then the ceiling, then the lime green walls, then into the light blue living room, then to his plate. He takes a bite, the chewing and crunching inside his head sounds far away–as if on some distant planet–his heartbeat speeds up gradually and sweat starts to drip from his brow and temple, his father’s gaze feeling like a sun ray when its trained on a specific part of your body.

Curtis smirks behind the newspaper and Kyd knows from his eyes that Curtis is joking. Kyd relaxes and gives his father an annoyed look, Curtis laughs.

“Why’re you always trying to scare the boy, Curtis?” Maggie shakes her head as she finishes up the last of the dishes and dries her hands. She makes herself a plate then comes over to the table, Curtis folds the paper up and lays it over his lap.

“Alright, Kyd,” Curtis starts, “your mother and I think you’re old enough to be walking to school by yourself.” He continues, “your mother had some reservations at first but–seeing that you’re in the sixth grade now and most sixth graders don’t need to be babysat–we came to an agreement. We won’t be driving you anymore, starting today.”

Kyd nods.

“However,” Curtis continues, “there are a few rules and conditions,”

Of course, there are Kyd thinks but knows better than to say out loud.

Kyd nods to confirm he’s listening.

“First,” Curtis starts, “don’t walk by any alleys. Predators have been known to wait there for kids coming out of school, in the shadows. They wait until the kids are almost out of reach then snatch them at the last minute, and god knows what happens to those poor kids after. So, when you see an alleyway, what do you do?”

“Cross the street.” Kyd answers.

“That’s my boy,” Curtis reaches over and ruffles Kyd’s afro gently, careful not to mess it up because picks aren’t allowed on school grounds, metal or otherwise.

“Second,” Maggie picks up, “don’t use your powers under any circumstances. Unless your life is in danger.”

Kyd nods.

“Uh uh, none of that nodding business,” Maggie says, “I wanna hear you say it.”

“I will not use my powers under any circumstances unless my life is in danger,” Kyd says, using the same emphasis and holding his mother’s gaze.

 “Alright,” she says, “anything else, Curtis?”

 “Hmm,” Curtis thinks, “no, that should be it.”

“Alright, let’s go over it again,” She says, “what are the two conditions, Kyd?”

“Never walk by an alleyway and cross the street when I see one, and never use my powers under any circumstances–unless my life is in danger.”

“Alright,” Maggie says, finally relaxing but still looking a bit worried.

“Now eat your breakfast and git,” Curtis says, “you’ll be late.”

“Yes sir,” Kyd eats his breakfast, makes the dishes levitate and places them in the sink, grabs his backpack, and walks toward the door–waving his parents’ goodbye–and closes it behind him.

“You think he’s gonna be alright, Curt?” Maggie asks.

“He’ll be fine,” Curtis digs into his plate of food, “besides, he’s a resourceful kid. A bit cheeky, but resourceful.” He chews and swallows, “if anything happens, he’ll come out alright.”

“He better,” Maggie drinks her coffee and gets up from the table, not touching her food, “this was your idea, after all.”

Curtis finishes his food and goes back to the paper and Maggie goes upstairs to their room to change clothes and get ready for work.

                                                                                 II

After six grueling hours of Math, Science, Social Studies, English, Gym, and other people’s kids, the eighth-period bell finally rings and the kids are let out. A stream of kids run out the building–glad to be out of the dungeon disguised as a school–and head home to play video games or go straight to the park with their friends and play sports–mainly basketball and sometimes baseball or soccer. Kyd is one of the last to come out after the stampede because one, he’s not in a rush and two, he’s not trying to get trampled.

Kyd looks up at the sky like he always does and reflects on his day–thinking back to when Ricky Garcia kept smacking him in the back of the head whenever he walked by in Math; when Chris Johnson kept yanking his ‘fro and pretending it wasn’t him whenever Kyd looked back in Social Studies, when Gary Macklemore kept sticking twisted up paper into his ear trying to see how much wax would come out in English, when Kayla Gonzalez–dubbed one of the ugly ones–kept staring at him and grabbing his butt in Science, where they sat next to each other, and worst of all, when everyone on the other dodgeball team tried to get in a headshot when he was the only one left in the game–throwing all the balls at the same time.

Kyd lets out a sigh of relief that another day has passed and he’s another day closer to getting out of this cesspool of misery.

If anything good came out of today, it’s that Kyd didn’t have to use his powers. There were a couple times he came to close, however, like when Jose Rivera–a kid that hangs with gang members and skateboarders–bumped into him on the third floor and knocked a pile of books out his hands and stepped on them one by one. Rivera called him a nerd ass pussy and laughed all the way to his Special Ed class.

There is a vent that runs along the hallway–a steel vent–and, at the time, it took everything inside Kyd not to drag that vent down and bust him upside the head with it. There was no one in the hallway which meant he could knock Rivera out–Rivera being none the wiser–pick his books up and go about his business. Kyd would’ve been satisfied but his mother’s orders took precedence.

When you have a no-nonsense mother who works as a high school teacher and a father that’s a college professor–that also served in the Marines for a time, discipline was something to be feared and revered and Kyd would rather face a hundred bullies than take one punishment from either of his parents–powers or no powers.

 I hate school, Kyd thinks when he walks down the stairs and heads toward home.

                                                                             III

An alleyway is just a block ahead when Kyd crosses the street and walks up Pennsylvania Ave, but he is unaware; growing up in East New York and riding in the back of his parents’ car every other day, he knows the neighborhood like the smell of mamma’s biscuits.

Kyd walks habitually, lost in his own thoughts and the mystical, magical nature of life. He looks dreamily at the birds perched atop the streetlights, the apartment buildings with their faded browns, dirty beiges, brick reds, and graffitied grays; abandoned buildings at the end of each block with a FOR RENT or FOR SALE sign tacked on the front, the line of old cars–some BMWs and Mercedes Benz’s–streamed along both sides of the street, some of which have the yellow boot on them and a ticket, one being towed.

The smell of polluted air and trash, piss, and excrement fills the air along with chicken on the grill when he walks by the Jamaican selling breasts and thighs and legs for five dollars–three or four people lined up to buy. The sky is a steel gray but it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain, the clouds consume the sky like a planet-sized comforter–the one his mother uses whenever she makes up her and Curtis’s bed.

The alleyway is just up ahead but Kyd is no more aware of it than he is the dog doo-doo on the ground to his right–which he sidesteps without a second thought. Kyd continues looking at the world with wondrous eyes as he walks past the alleyway, a shadowy figure waiting in the cut–its sulfurous, dirty yellow eyes shine brightly in the darkness of the alleyway when he pounces and snatches Kyd with an eerie silence and stealth.

                                                                               IV

Kyd lands in a brown puddle of water, facing the sky, his backpack putting him in an awkward position with his spine elevated and his bottom on the ground. He rolls over and gets up with filthy water running down his cargo shorts and the back of his legs into his socks. Now I’ll have to take a shower, Kyd thinks then looks around–the thought vanishing as he does.

The narrow walkway, forest green dumpsters overflowing with trash, the dirty windows with dark gold lamplights shining behind them, the fire-escapes leading to the rooftops and the dead-end path that shoots off to the right in the middle, and the dark, ominous backdrop that makes everything look like something out of a dystopian fantasy novel all hit Kyd like a heavyweight boxers’ punch. He is in an alley which can only mean one thing. . .

 I’ve been snatched. . . 

Something moves behind Kyd and his head snaps in the direction of the swift, whooshing sound. It moves again and Kyd turns, unable to keep up with whatever snatched him. The shadowy figure with dirty yellow eyes looms over him and tries to swoop down for the kill but Kyd instinctively dives and rolls out the way and turns to face the figure.

What Kyd sees just about scares his soul out of his body.

The first thing Kyd notices are the three inch long claws dripping with a black, thick substance Kyd thinks can only be blood, the second thing is the long, white, filed cannibal’s teeth and the wide, sadistic, almost manic grin on the creatures’ face. The third thing being that only the top half of its body resembles a human, the bottom half looks like that of a ghost. The last thing–perhaps the thing that scares Kyd most of all–are those dirty yellow eyes with a murderous intent that instills a paralyzing fear in his heart.

Kyd’s backpack slides off his back and hits the floor with a soft thud and his face turns to a pale and ashy brown. The shadowy creature gazes at him like a lion about to feast on fresh prey and more water starts to run down Kyd’s legs, only this water isn’t from the puddle but from Kyd himself. Those dirty yellow eyes all but take Kyd’s breath away as he stands there like a mannequin–his face frozen in terror.

“Yes,” the creature says with a low, raspy, deep voice, “you are the one I must destroy.” the creature continues, “Yes, you are the one, indeed. You are the Magnet.”

Kyd has an inkling of what the creature is talking about but is incapable of following it all the way through, the terror that has a death-grip on his mind won’t allow for such calm and analytical thinking. Kyd tries to say something but his mouth just opens and closes like a goldfish, his legs turn to mush and are about three seconds from giving out on him with his heart not too far behind.

The creature roars a loud, terrible, grating, ear-splitting roar. The glass on all the windows shatters and falls on top of Kyd’s head. Tears stream down Kyd’s face like a waterfall and his legs go on a permanent vacation when he falls to his knees–the fear and terror now have him in a straitjacket. The creature smiles a sinister and evil smile as it rushes Kyd for the kill, his eyes never leave the creature’s when they go from an ashy, lifeless brown to a deep and radiant silver.

The creature is repelled with a groundbreaking force and pushed back into the dumpster. Kyd stands up with a far-away expression on his face–as if the thing acting on his behalf is not him but another, more confident entity. Kyd extends his hand toward the dumpster on the opposite side and it levitates, he looks at the creature trying to shake it off and pull himself out and waits, looking at him with a murderous gaze of his own.

When the creature pulls itself out, Kyd swings his arm and the dumpster swings with it and hits the creature again–bashing its head into the black, brick wall. Kyd lifts the dumpster up and slams it on the creature’s head repeatedly in an almost cartoonish fashion. Kyd tries to slam the dumpster a final time but the creature moves out the way and tries to rush Kyd again, big mistake. Kyd throws one dumpster away and pulls the other one–the one the creature was just in–toward him, scooping the creature up.

He lifts the dumpster high into the air and the creature lets out a low, whispery yell, Kyd flips the dumpster over and yanks down, the dumpster hits the ground with an earth-shattering force and the creature goes silent. Kyd–with silver eyes and a straightened, silver afro–lifts the dumpster up to reveal a black, shadowy, and groggy creature. Kyd extends one hand toward the dumpster he flung to the side and the other toward the dumpster he just trounced the creature with and scooped it up again.

He brings the dumpsters together and crushes them into a ball and shakes it like his mother does when she brings home a fresh carton of orange juice before opening it. To finish things off, Kyd spins the crushed dumpsters around and throws them into the stratosphere–watching until the object becomes nothing more than a blimp in the sky.

The alleyway loses that dark and ominous backdrop and the world reveals itself once again with groups of kids walking home from after-school and sports practice, buildings with faded colors, pigeons perched on streetlights, lines of dusty, old model cars along the block and dog doo-doo in various spots on the ground. Kyd loses the confident, silver eyes and the straightened afro and reverts to normal.

He stands alone in the alleyway with the shadows to protect from his embarrassment when he realizes he’s pissed his pants. He looks for his backpack and finds it laying haphazardly on the floor and picks it up then goes out the other way and heads home–taking the side streets so no one from school sees him and the wet spot in the center of his shorts.

                                                                                V

Kyd enters the empty house and shuts the door quickly and firmly behind him. He runs upstairs and takes off the dirty clothes in a hurry and hits the shower to wash the terror away. When he finishes and puts on his pajamas (a black shirt and basketball shorts), he runs down to the kitchen and gets some of the plastic bags his parents usually keep between the wall and refrigerator and runs back upstairs. He puts the dirty, piss smelling clothes into the bag then runs downstairs and throws them in the trash. Kyd remembers that Trash day is every Thursday–which is today.

Thank God for Trash day, Kyd thinks when he pulls out the trash bag, takes it around the house to collect other trash, then takes it outside and leaves it out front. Kyd runs upstairs and takes a look at his backpack–some dirty water on it he’ll have to clean but nothing too serious–then takes everything out and runs to the bathroom and washes it down with soap.

After ten minutes, he rushes back to his room, puts everything back in his bag and plops down on his bed and falls back–his heart rattling in his chest like a savage prisoner. He breathes in and out–trying to forget today’s horrors–until his heartbeat gradually slows and his eyelids gradually become heavier and before he knows it,  his eyelids shut and he’s asleep without a care in the universe.

Six o’clock comes and the door clicks open, Kyd’s eyes shoot open as soon as he hears the sound and he jumps out of bed and rushes to the staircase–almost tripping over his backpack and dirty sneakers–to see who came in. He sees shoulder-length black hair and glimpses of the green pants suit his mother usually wears, he relaxes.

“Kyd! I’m home.” She says.

Kyd goes downstairs and greets his mother, “Hey, mom.”

They hug.

“How was your day?” Kyd asks.

“Same old, same old,” Maggie says, “angry customers and miserable employees.”

Maggie asks, “how was your day, baby?”

Kyd gives her that patented annoyed look Maggie swears he gets from Curtis and she immediately gets it and laughs.

“Boy,” She pushes him playfully and he grins, “you just like your father,” she adds. “You do your homework?”

 “Not yet,” Kyd says, “I knocked out as soon as I hit the bed, just woke up.”

Maggie chuckles, “alright, go ahead and get to it while I change out and get dinner started.”

Kyd rushes toward the stairs and Maggie watches him along, he gets as far as the fifth step when he asks, “hey mom, can I take a karate class?”

She gives him a puzzled look, “Why? Some kids been messing with you?”

“Not really,” Kyd says, trying his best to forget recent events, “It’s just that if I’m not allowed to use my powers I wanna be able to defend myself in some way.”

Maggie considers this, gives him the piercing, school-teacher eye–Kyd holds her gaze and focuses all his energy on keeping his heartbeat normal–then says, “alright, wait till your father gets home and we’ll talk about it then.”

“Alright,” Kyd goes upstairs and tends to his homework, letting out a huge sigh of relief when he gets to his room.

Eight o’clock comes and the door clicks open again, “Honey! Kyd! I’m home.” Curtis says.

Maggie has dinner ready–chicken, Spanish rice with vegetables, broccoli, and biscuits with fudge brownies for dessert–and Kyd comes rushing downstairs at the aroma. He greets his father first then rushes to the kitchen, Curtis laughs at this. Maggie tells Kyd to go wash his hands and he goes to the downstairs bathroom and does so and is back in a flash, ready to devour mamma’s home cooking. Curtis, however, takes his time–knowing the family can’t eat until he’s at the table. When Curtis finally gets to the table–Kyd’s stomach growling up a ten-point-five magnitude earthquake–they all say grace and dig in.

At some point in the dinner, Maggie says, “Kyd wants to take Karate classes.”

Curtis’s eyes shoot to Kyd, “that true, boy?”

Kyd nods nervously.

“Some kids messing with you at school?”

“Tell him what you told me, Kyd,” Maggie says.

“Not, really. I just wanna be able to defend myself in some way that doesn’t include dropping a steel vent on someone’s head.”

Curtis laughs at the idea, “alright, I get that.” He glances at Maggie, “what do you think, hon?”

“I say why not,” she answers, “but under certain conditions.”

Kyd flashes his eyebrows and looks away to suppress his laugh.

“I know that look, Kyd,” Maggie says.

Kyd tries to suppress it but can’t any longer and bursts out laughing. Curtis joins in and eventually, they’re all laughing and having a good time.

“Alright,” Curtis wipes the tears from his eyes and sighs, “you just earned yourself Karate classes for that one.”

“Okay, I suppose I do worry a bit too much,” Maggie says with a genuine smile, “I just don’t want anything to happen to you, is all.”

“I’ll be fine, mom,” Kyd says, “it’s only for self-defense purposes.”

“It better be,” she says, “‘cause if I find out you out here kickin’ people in the head, there’s a nice, thick leather belt waiting for that little butt of yours, you hear me?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Kyd says with a fearful spirit.

“Alright, then I guess that’s that.”

“Mhmm,” Curtis says and they all finish dinner.

Ten o’clock comes and Kyd is lying in his bed, looking up at the ceiling. That two-hour power nap being a little too powerful. After five minutes of seducing comfort, however, Kyd yawns and his eyelids grow heavy. He tries to fight it, knowing that with this sleep comes nightmare about the creature and those long claws, cannibal teeth and eyes–those dirty, yellow eyes. Another five minutes pass and Kyd can’t fight it anymore, his eyelids close and take him into a dreamless sleep–forgetting the dark alleyway, the shadowy creature’s ghostly body, those long, dripping claws and white cannibal teeth, and dirty yellow eyes.

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