Dear Diary, when I last left off, I believe I was screaming in fright at the glowing eyes facing me in the creepy cave. During my mindless shrieking, Dax tried to hush me and Mr. Glowing-Eyes actually covered his ears and swore under his breath.
When I saw this human action, my screaming abruptly stopped. Firstly, Dax wasn’t in the least scared, and secondly, what kind of monster who is about to kill or eat you, covers their ears when the person they’re about to kill or eat starts putting up a frantic fuss? Of course, I don’t have any real idea how this scenario goes, I’m just trying to explain where my mind was at the time.
“What a fright!” Glowing-Eyes exclaimed, his voice a deep, commanding, baritone that echoed off of the stony cave walls.
“I scared you?” I yelled, my fingers pumping into fists at my sides. “That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard!”
“Blue, don’t be rude… he’s sensitive,” Dax whispered in my direction as he stood between Mr. Glowing-Eyes and myself.
“I can hear your whispering very well,” Glowing-Eyes said, clearly taking offense to Dax’s description of him.
“And, I told you not to look in his eyes.”
Quickly, I looked down at my feet as Dax faced Mr. Sensitive.
“I told you that’s an old wives’ tale. Looking into my eyes does nothing except scare people.”
Was he seriously complaining?
“Better safe than sorry,” Dax reasoned.
This had gone on long enough. Forgetting my frayed nerves, I demanded, “Dax, why are we here and who in the world is this?”
As I looked up, his eyes automatically caught mine again. While I couldn’t place him, he did seem vaguely familiar.
“Do you know me?” he asked, looking fully at me as if he was willing me to know something I didn’t.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, I said, “No, of course not. I’ve never seen you in my life. What is this about?”
After the staring contest continued for a few more minutes, he made a “hmph” noise and turned back to Dax. “She’s much further behind than I thought she would be. This family is so frustratingly obtuse.”
“Listen here – ” I began, but Dax turned to look at me, his big brown doe eyes imploring me to be patient. Something in his beautiful face made me step back to see what would happen.
“This cloak and dagger stuff isn’t for Blue. In fact, it’s only kind of fun if you’re a kid,” Dax told him with an easy, lowered tone. “I did what you asked because you’re my friend. But now you need to explain to the both of us what it is that’s going on.”
My jaw gaped just a little as I listened. These two unlikely friends had plotted to bring me to this cave, and for what?
I involuntarily took a step backward as Mr. Glowing-Eyes turned his attention to me. “I am your great-uncle Mango.”
I stupidly stood there, my mouth now completely slack, my heart picking up its pace. “Dax, whatever he’s told you is a lie. My great-uncle Mango died when my dad was a toddler!”
Dax quickly caught my hand before I could flee from them and he held me firmly until I stopped struggling. As I calmed down, he loosened his grip completely and stroked my hand gently before finally letting go. “He isn’t lying, I promise. I know it sounds crazy, but you saw the money trees outside. This is a strange place and it didn’t get strange until he came here. Please listen to him. It’s more important than you can even imagine.”
“I really don’t see how you can be Mango. Not only was he presumed dead after the meteor hit the house, you’re obviously too young to be him.”
“I know why you are skeptical,” he said, his voice still bouncing off the hard walls. “But you must listen to me. The meteor did hit the house, that’s true. And I was presumed dead, but it was by my design that it worked out that way.”
“Why do I feel as if you’re still beginning in the middle instead of at the start?” I said, putting a hand to my head. Was I feverish? Having a terrible nightmare? You know, the kind where you absolutely think it’s so real that when you wake up, you have to give yourself a reality check?
“You’re not feverish and you’re not dreaming,” he firmly said.
I can’t even describe how often my jaw dropped during this conversation. “How – ”
” – I have certain psychic abilities,” he murmured.
“You’re not very good at this, Mango. Tell her the part you told me about the scientists first,” Dax suggested as if what was happening was the most normal thing in the world.
“Yes, yes, good idea.”
The dramatic way he cleared his throat just then cued me in that this was going to be a really long story and I didn’t know if my mind could handle it. For Dax’s sake, I tried to hang on.
“Many years ago, before your father was born, I was an up and coming professional athlete; baseball, to be exact. I was extremely strong and healthy and my future looked very promising. I had just made it to the big leagues and had moved to Storybrook with your great-aunt Keniesha and your grandparents when I was approached by a group of scientists from the area. They had seen how powerful my throws were and so they said they needed someone like me. I was skeptical that they needed precisely me as there were many good athletes on the team. It was then that they told me about your grandmother’s father Prescott Day. Did you know that he was a scientist?”
Having read both my grandmother’s and father’s journals, I knew this very well. “My great-grandfather came up with the vaccine that eradicated Fading Finger Disease.”
Mango smiled but instead of looking happy or pleased, his glowing eyes and pale skin made him look almost ghoulish and deranged. “Yes! Good, you know about that, then. That’s a start!”
“Keep going, you’re doing great.”
“Why thank you, Dax.” His mouth widened into that ghastly smile again, causing me to cringe. “Where was I? Oh yes! The scientists told me about your great-grandfather’s accomplishments and told me this was a way I could contribute to the family and society. They were very close to finding a vaccine for Deathbell Disorder and they said they needed my help very badly because of something to do with my strength and type of blood I had. I really didn’t understand the details at the time.”
Deathbell Disorder! Good gravy, that was serious stuff! It was a rare disorder, but anyone infected with it had terrible symptoms. I’d read about an outbreak once in a remote village where almost all of the residents had succumbed and died.
“I’ve read about that disorder,” I said, speaking hurriedly. “It causes receding gums, thinning of the skin, headaches, and the sensation of hearing bells.” In fact, the poor afflicted person heard bells that were so loud, they often went insane before dying.
“Yes, exactly,” Mango said softly as if he was thinking deeply. “The scientists promised me I would move up in the ranks faster and that I would be profoundly rich if I cooperated with them. I wasn’t very comfortable with the situation because the contract demanded that I could not tell anyone about this. Keniesha and I had never kept anything from each other… until then.”
His madly glowing eyes peered into the distance, taking him into the past. I could imagine what Aunt Keniesha looked like back then as I’d seen many pictures. She’d been so beautiful and so in love with Mango. In my mind, I saw her with their twin daughters, smiling and cooing at them in her arms, completely unaware of the decision he was about to make.
“The scientists did not tell me everything involved, of course, but I knew it would mean they would be doing some type of experiments on me. But, if it meant I could be the pro-ball player I had always wanted to be and able to provide well for my family, I thought I should do it.”
“But, I gather, that was a mistake,” I said.
Suddenly, Mango’s eyes rolled back, then forward again, his eyelids only partly open. His entire body began to tremble and then shake and I was afraid he might fall over. As I stepped forward, Dax touched my arm and shook his head.
“Don’t touch him when he’s like this.”
“But… what’s happening? Is it a seizure?”
“No. I don’t know what you would call it, but he’s connected to someone.”
“What?” I asked, my voice a hushed whisper.
“Connected with someone – like, he’s not here anymore, mentally, I mean. This happens sometimes when there is something he needs to know.”
“I wish you would all stop talking in riddles!”
“I don’t know much more than that, honestly,” he said.
“Well, try to explain what you do know then.”
“All right, all right,” he answered, seeing my immense agitation.
“What I know is that when I saw the note you got, I was very certain it had come from Mango.”
“Well, how did it get all the way to my school? It’s so far away.”
“Mango says he can will himself to other locations. He can look normal if he concentrates and he can even go places and be right in front of people and make it so they don’t even see him.”
“And you believe all of this?”
“Money trees,” he said with a shrug.
He had a point. I’d never believed in such a thing as money trees until I actually saw them.
Suddenly, Mango took a deep, heaving breath and staggered forward a few steps.
“What happened?” I breathed, waiting for his response, every fiber of my being on edge, waiting for the crazy answer I was sure was coming.
Folding one arm over his stomach and putting a hand to his face, he mumbled, “It’s difficult for me to talk after an episode like this. You must go now. I will see you again another time. Soon. Come back soon, there isn’t much time left now.”
Wanting to shake him and scream, I yelled, “How can you just send me away now? Haven’t you wanted me to come here for a long time now?”
Shuddering at my raised voice, he said, “Well, you weren’t my first choice. As I said, your family is quite obtuse.”
“Ahhhh, you just can’t imagine how frustrating this is!”
“Yes. I can.”
His voice was somber now and all at once, I could imagine all of the things he’d been through that I didn’t have any inkling of. If he’d been alive all this time but for some reason, couldn’t be near his family, he must have been utterly devastated.
“I’m sorry, Uncle Mango,” I said, touching his arm.
When I touched him, he jerked back as if I had burned him. Glaring crazily at me with those terrifying, glowing eyes, he bellowed, “Go, now!”
Without another thought, I turned on my heel and ran as fast as my exhausted legs would carry me away from that damp, cold place, his voice still roaring in my head. When my feet were finally skimming across grass and earth again and I was breathing fresh air, I kept right on going, passing the money trees on the way.
“Blue! Wait!” I heard Dax call, but I didn’t stop.
Suddenly, I came out of the woods, my feet sinking into cool sand. I tried to continue running, but it was harder on the sand and my breath was coming in ragged heaves. With every step, my legs felt heavier and heavier. Abruptly, I stopped my frightened running and as I turned, my hands on my knees to catch my breath, Dax came barreling out of the woods and smacked right into me, knocking me to the ground.
We landed with a solid thud and the air was squeezed from my lungs. As I gasped for air, I realized Dax was lying haphazardly on top of me.
In the movies, we would have fallen, not quite this hard, but gracefully. When he realized he was on top of me, his face near mine, he would kiss me. But, Dax had never been to the movies so this was anything but a classic cinematic moment.
“I’m so sorry,” Dax said, absolutely horrified. “Are you hurt? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“No – ”
And then he began to cough and hack uncontrollably, spitting sand from his mouth. “So – sorry,” he tried to continue.
Before I could stop it, a giggle erupted from my throat and then I was laughing full force. This was just so dang comical. Then he was laughing with me.
Moving to a more comfortable position, he threw his arm around me, his thumb caressing my cheek once in a while, his face near mine.
“Blue, I want to tell you something.”
My heart stopped. Somehow, I knew what he might say and I also realized that I wasn’t ready for that. I couldn’t be in love or in a relationship when I was only just figuring myself out. And I couldn’t delve into something so complicated, no matter how I might feel, when I had big problems with my family. If I was in a relationship, I wanted my family to be a part of the process.
“Dax, please don’t. I’m not ready yet,” I said, barely above a whisper, then holding my breath. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him.
As I waited for him to reply, I watched the hues above us as the sun warmed up the sky, making the water glow in purples, pinks and golds.
“Okay,” he whispered back. Tenderly, he brushed some sand off of my nose, smiled slightly, then rolled off of me.
Was he really taking this as well as he seemed to be? I hoped so. Raising my hands to him, I let him help me to my feet.
We lingered there for a moment and I almost lost my resolve as his deep soulful eyes looked into mine. Just yesterday, Elliott had held me in a similar way, but this seemed a little more intimate somehow.
“Someday, Blue, I don’t know when, I’m going to tell you what I want to say.”
With his face that close to mine, it was difficult to keep my head straight. In a way, I would have loved nothing more than to surrender and for Dax to profess his love to me. However, I had the distinct feeling in my gut that I would love that because it seemed like such a wonderful thing and I’d never experienced a man telling me anything like that before. My future just looked so uncertain, how could I begin anything serious now? Again, my head took charge of my heart. The timing was wrong and this could not work for either of us. There were things Dax needed to work on, too. For instance, he only went out at night and kept himself contained to a dungeon-like cellar.
Maybe Dax would tell me what he wanted to say someday. Or maybe when “someday” came, it would be someone else entirely who expressed their love to me. I just couldn’t tell yet.