I saw his heart break.
It was a visual thing, something I could see very clearly with my own eyes. What was worse was that it broke over something I brushed off quite easily. He was drinking his morning coffee. I was eating a bowl of cereal. It was a regular morning and he wasn’t expecting a harsh truth concealed amongst my thoughtless words.
The seesaw was enormous. I’m sure it was blue, but it was too dark to actually see the color. I was sitting on one side and my father was sitting on the opposite but it was so far that I could barely see him in front of me in the darkness.
He was obviously a lot heavier than me and so I was high up in the air dangling my feet, having flashbacks of playground moments. Especially one incident went through my head when one of my friends just stepped off the seesaw, leaving me hanging and then just walking away as I plummeted to the ground with all the force of gravity. The sting of the hit left me dizzy for a long while. But I knew my father wouldn’t do that to me, he would never, but there were others who might force him.
They were small creatures with long, straight, black hair, sharp teeth and hands so long they almost touched the ground as they walked. Some of them were beating drums rhythmically while others danced wildly to the beat.
The few that were guarding us were serious though. They stood down there in the dusk with their spears or their bows and I couldn’t so much see their eyes on me as I felt them. They looked like creatures who could see in the dark, creatures out of a book by Richard Matheson or H.G. Wells, surprisingly monstrous and yet somehow, deep inside human.
I wasn’t sure what they wanted with us. I had been happily sleeping in my bed in our apartment, which was on the second floor, when the first arrow flew into the room. The window must have broken, but I slept through it because the arrow I noticed hit the wall above my bed, scaring me witless. I didn’t scream, but my father grabbed me and started running towards the hallway.
They were already in the room though, and his screams as they captured us scared me more than the creatures who held me so easily under their arm and jumped out the window with us. They seemed to fly in the air, only touching the ground occasionally, and suddenly we were far up in the mountains, sitting on that giant seesaw, contemplating what they might do to us.
I was holding the handle in front of me, my knuckles white, half happy to be up in the air far from the creatures, but also terrified because I might plummet down at any moment and I knew my father would think that it was his fault, that it was somehow his doing, and I didn’t want that. That was all that was on my mind, that I didn’t want my father to think all this was his fault.
Then the damned thing started descending. I put my feet up on the seat in front of the handle and made myself as small as possible. When the seesaw was all the way down on the ground one of the people around me signaled for me to push with my feet and I did, but nothing much happened, so she pushed with her hand and the seesaw flew up in the air again. I had to hold on to the handle hard as my body flew up in the air, quickly pushing my legs out as far as I could before I landed in the seat again. And then I was descending again, holding on to my dear life, because now I realized what they might be trying to do. They were trying to get me to fly off the seesaw, that was their game, that was their fun.
The woman started pushing harder and harder, making the thing bump me harder and harder, it became increasingly difficult to hold on. So I started to shout, in my horror I didn’t know if this would anger the people doing this to us or amuse them but I couldn’t help myself. I shouted and I screamed.
And then I couldn’t hold on anymore and I flew up into the air, off the seesaw and I could see arrows flying all around me, thin, long armed bowmen approaching, except that it was I who was approaching them and not they approaching me. But they shot their arrows above my head and when I got closer one of them dropped his bow and caught me.
I landed safely in his arms and he laughed and put me down on the ground.
I saw my father still sitting on the seesaw, trying to see what became of me and when he saw me he got off and started running towards me. Two loin clothed men stopped him and held him with their strong arms. My father struggled with the men, and only stopped when one of them cut his arm badly with his spear.
I saw the tears in his eyes, and the frustration that he couldn’t get to me. I may not have been able to see the tears really, but I knew they were there.
Then one of the men started pushing me towards the seesaw again. When we were almost in reach of each other my father and I, I slipped away from my capturer and ran straight into his arms.
He grabbed me and started running.
I don’t know how he did it. I saw the arrows raining down around us, but somehow he managed to run out of the camp and into the wild with me in his arms. And we managed to escape. It occurred to me only afterwards that the creatures wanted this, that they liked the chase or that they were just having a bit of fun and never meant us any real harm. Because how would he otherwise have been able to escape these beasts?
My father wasn’t a runner, he was an overweight smoker. How could he possibly escape those lean men and their bows?
I woke up in the early morning hours with a scream. The arrows were still raining inside my room. I ran out and into my father’s bedroom. He was sleeping on his back, snoring.
I didn’t wake him, but crawled into his bed behind him and closed my eyes really hard, but I couldn’t sleep. I could still hear the monster-humans shooting arrows into my room and the sound was hollow and frightening.
When my father’s alarm clock finally woke him up I was still lying there, trying not to hear the strange sounds. Maybe I had fallen asleep, but I wasn’t sure. He shook me gently and told me it was time for school.
I was happy to go to school that morning. It was a normal thing to do and though there were bullies, there was no one there with a bow, I was sure.
“Did you have a bad dream?” he asked, cocking his head as he looked at me.
“Yes,” I told him, chewing my cereal.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked.
“I knew it was just a dream, I was fine.”
“You knew it was a dream and that made it fine?”
“You saved me in the dream, it was quite an impossible position and you saved me. So I knew it was just a dream.”
“And I wouldn’t be able to do that?” he smiled a little.
“No,” I tell him, “You ran with me in your arms away from the fast bow-people.”
His smile faded. And that was when I saw his heart shattering. It was a physical thing. It was as if his body shrank and became tiny, tinier than he could possibly be, so his soul no longer fit in his body and it seemed to squirt quietly out of his eyes, not as tears but as smoke. It was horrifying, more horrifying than the dream I’d had and I wanted to shrink down into my chair and vanish. Just do anything to make this look of disappointment and sorrow vanish from his eyes. But the words had been said.
“Get ready for school,” he said briskly and finished the coffee in his cup with smoke still seeping out of his eyes. Then he got up to shower and all I could think of was that in my dream he actually did save me, even though I didn’t think he could. He did.
But I never said the words, because the smoke never stopped coming out of his eyes and I didn’t notice the wound on his arm until it had become an ugly scar.
By then it was too late. The damage was already done.
© 2016 Eygló