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Written by Christine Yakir
The light of the moon and stars made a glowing path through the snow as my brother and I traveled on into the woods that night. We had been pushing our way through the snow for five nights. Numb from the cold, winter air, our fears were frozen to the inside of our hearts, as we continued on our journey, away from our living nightmare. It followed us…closer now…I could only hope, with hope that was left, that it strayed under the trees during the night in unquiet rest. When we reached a frozen pond, my five-year-old brother staggered to a park bench that looked out over the ice. Heaving, he sat on the snow-covered bench, making room for me before he inquired to pick my brain.
"Sally, when do you think the world is going to end?"
I pulled a pack of smokes out of my coat pocket, lighting one through my chattering teeth while serenely gazing at him.
"Pete, what the hell are ya talkin’ bout?"
"The end of the world Sally. The end of the world."
He tried to climb up onto my lap, to peer into my eyes. I hate it when he looks at me in that way. Thinks he can read my mind. This time I pushed him down before he got a chance to gaze into my blood shot, cold, tired eyes.
"The world ain’t gonna end Petey."
"How do you know?"
Once again he tried to affectionately grasp my hand and pull himself up. After I shoved him away he settled for using my lap as a pillow. Blowing the smoke out of my mouth, I stroked his forehead with my free hand.
"I know everything."
The night was cold; blood chilling, bone grinding type of cold and the smoke lingered, visible in the air. The stars were shining brightly, but whatever warmth they have couldn’t reach the bench upon which Pete and I sat. He shivered under my touch and coughed profusely into his ungloved, snot hard hands. I tossed the cigarette behind my shoulder into the foot deep snow. The pond before us glistened in the moonlight.
"The moon ain’t never looked so big before," I muttered into the frosty air. Petey flipped over unto his back, my lap still his pillow as he gazed up at the moon and the stars.
"It’s the end of the world," he whispered angelically. His eyes were bright and wide as he stared into the sky. He was afraid, shivering, but that could have just been the cold.
"The world ain’t gonna end on such a pretty night as this." The evergreen trees swayed in the wind with agreement. "Why don’t you just hush on up and go to sleep."
"If I sleep, the man on the moon will come and take me away."
"But if the world does end, won’t you feel safer on the moon."
"No. Not with the man…Sally…." He trailed off waiting for a response.
"You won’t let the man on the moon take me, will you?"
I looked down at the scared, shivering little boy in my lap. Tears were frozen across his eyes. His black hair was sticking out matted from the sides of his cap, his mouth and gaping teeth opened, wanting to cry, but no sound came out, nor tear fell.
I took him in my arms and held him awhile, trying to keep him warm.
As he started to drift off into sleep I whispered into his red numb ear, "I won’t let the man take you Petey."
As he slept, I watched the reflections of the trees on the frozen pond water. On nights like this I feel the most alone, the most hurt. After awhile my arms went numb from holding him for so long. That’s when I realized that I could hardly feel him breathing anymore.
I didn’t want the world to end for him that night, but there was nothing that I could do. I tried to make him wake, tried to get the brown, glassy eyes to open again, but on in sleep he dreamt.
I now felt more scared and alone. I never realized how much I had cherished the company of my five-year-old brother until now. Instead of being sad, I envied him, because I knew that now he would be lying in my mother’s arms, a place that I have often wanted to be.
As the sun wakened the dawn on the world, I forced my legs to bend straight and I carried him away from the hard park bench. Once again another night had gone by without me sleeping. I didn’t think that I could carry him far. I was so thin and weak that I could just barely walk far with him. Finally after passing round the glass pool, I stepped among the evergreens and laid him on some thick bark. Using shoestrings for a rope, I pulled his body through the woods. By this time his skin had a forever ice glow and was just as cold. I tried taking the hat off his head so I could wear it. It was really mine. During the night it had frozen to his hair. I didn’t want to break it off. When he started growing hair, I always thought he had the most beautiful. My hair was an ugly mud colored brown, while his turned up a beautiful black. Mom always favored his looks to mine. Even now lying on the cold torn bark, he looked like a beautiful angel. I knew that would make momma happy when she saw him.
By midmorning I could no longer go on and was forced to stop under a big hickory tree. I poked around for a smoke, but I was mad to see that they were no longer in my pocket. The morning sun did not hide the chill of the night. As I tried not to sleep, I thought I heard a yell somewhere in the woods behind me, whence I just came.
Knowing my father’s voice I tried to make a run for it, but the deep snow and my love for Pete kept me by my brother’s side. In my last attempt of movement I pulled Pete off the bark and held him in my arms. The tears were in my eyes but they would not fall. The happiness in which my brother lied I only prayed would come take me soon, for the man on the moon’s breath was growing closer to mine. Shivering against the cold, or the fear…by this time I was so numb, I could not tell the difference. I closed my eyes… pressed my face towards Petey’s and as though God Himself were listening, I whispered,
"Petey, the end of the world has come."
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