Credits to an amazing painter Amy Judd for another painting that perfectly puts the mystery of my Things into visual context.
I waited for the consistent taps of Dad’s keyboard to begin before I began my task. I ran my finger across the the surface of the paper on my lap.
My fingers followed th curves and grooves of the numbers, and symbols near them.
“Don’t forget to write your answers on the line next to the problem.” I turned to him and stuck out my tongue.
“Accuracy becomes a problem when you don’t have vision.” I patted the couch near my leg finding my pencil and carefully wrapping my fingers around it.
“You have fingers, so feel,” Dad chuckled under his breath, I shook my head and went back to my math problems.
“I can’t believe you go through the effort to hole punch numbers for me, but you can’t even make a few stories.” I whined, knowing it would bug him.
“Give me some credit kid, I used to do that when you were like 8. Once you went onto chapter books...” I could hear Dad put his laptop to the side of him.
His glasses tapped as he closed them. “Okay kid give me some credit. I used to hole punch 50 pages worth of words. You can’t honestly expect me to recreate all of Harry Potter for you.”
I turned away from him to hide my smirk. “Why can’t you just buy one of those braille machines, you said that’s how blind people used to read.”
“Yeah, used to. You know those things don’t care about the blind, or the deaf, or the impaired. And at the moment I don’t think the government really cares either.”
“But there has to be at least one left over Dad.” I looked back to him, his foot was making a gradually increasing tapping noise on the ground.
“There might, but I have no idea where to look. I promise if I ever go on tour for one of my books I’ll look high and low for you.”
“But we both know even if your book sells all across the world you’ll never take me with you, and you’ll never leave me alone here. I pressed my back against the couch and slid down.
My fingers lazily moved across the math problems. Dad sighed, his finger tapped against his laptop three times before he shifted quickly like he had an idea.
“Hey, crazy idea do you want to-”
“People watch? Definitely, can I do the math later?”
There was a half second pause, Dad only half heartedly pretending to think about it. “Sure, you have all your life to learn math. I’m teaching you valuable stuff here.
” After a few seconds of fidgeting he turned on the television and one of the few channels left began to play on screen.
I placed the papers off of my lap and onto what I believed to be the coffee table. There was shuffling, soon Dad’s arm was pressed against mine.
“What’s the station?” It was hard to tell by voice, the broadcasters were either leaving or dying.
“TNC, it’s the one that tries to talk about the light stuff, rather than our planet being invaded.” My dad chuckled but there was no vibrations in it, I awkwardly chuckled too.
We listened to the first women speak, it was obvious that she was 100% human, we didn’t waste time pointing it out.
The next guy was a toss up for me, he sounded like he was having trouble speaking.
“What does this one look like Dad?”
“Well, he’s sort of bald. He has a ring of hair on his head, small nose, glasses, and super big ears.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think he’s a dud, he’s just a little goofy looking.”
“But the way he talks, it doesn’t give me that chilling feeling but it’s still really weird.”
“I think he just had a stroke, he looks pretty old. Trust me, I think the Things are past the talking funny stage. They’ve been around for almost ten years now.”
“Well you say that, but remember last week that one that got itself killed because it read too many Shakespeare novels.
” I pointed out, Dad even said he was wearing puffy sleeves but he might have embellished.
“Okay, but speaking in Elizabethan english is a lot different from pausing in between sentences. Usually if they don’t know what they’re doing they get outed pretty quickly.”
I bit my tongue fighting my urge to continue to argue and listened to the weather man.
He had an accent and something about the way he spoke wasn’t quite right, it made me feel like I was seconds from throwing up.
“Dad?” I tilted my head up, I could practically see Dad’s slow and sad head nods.
“One hundred percent, no doubt in my mind. That’s one of the worst Spanish accents I’ve ever heard in my life.” He chuckled, I did too.
Laughing pushed away the sick feeling in my stomach, but only for a few moments.
“He probably landed in Hollywood and watched a few too many fake telenovellas.”
“I guess it’s just bad enough to be passable. But...I just don’t know...do you think he’ll hurt the people at the station?”
“Shh,” Dad’s hand rubbed my upper back, like he was trying to physically distract me from the ideas. “Let’s not think about it okay? We’ll check tomorrow see if he’s gone yet.”
“But why can’t they feel it too?” Dad had explained this probably a hundred times, but I was hoping one of these days he’d change his answer.
“I think you just have to know what you’re feeling. I’ve been around them before knowingly and I can easily identify that feeling.
That instinctual, primal, gnawing feeling that’s telling you to turn tail and run. People who don’t know what it feels like mistake it for weakness and just ignore it.”
“That’s how they die I guess.” I pressed against my dad firmer, he was like a warm rock that could melt some of the sick things running through my mind. “Is that how you felt with Mom?”
There was some silence, I was afraid I’d broken him again. My arm moved so that it could touch his, just as he began to speak again. “Yes it was. That gut feeling.
You believe me right Germ? You knew even from the living room something was wrong with her right?”
“Yes Dad, I know.”
“If I didn’t lock her in there she would have...she would have hurt us, hurt you. I saved us, even if it was terrible.
” Sometimes when he said this it sounded like he believed himself more times than others.
“I think I miss that house, even if I can’t see it. I still miss it. There was this warmth that was always there, like the color gave it life and love. Do you think it’s still there?”
“If they stopped it from burning maybe, Germ.” He rubbed my head, it was less comforting for me now, but I knew he was the one that was hurting.
“Dad, maybe you can write in your room for a bit? I’ll just listen to the TV a little longer okay?”
Dad patted my leg a three times, “You know what that’s a great idea. Maybe I can get some writing in, give you some fresh content for your story tonight.
” He stood up and gently rubbed the top of my head. “Don’t stay up too late, just knock on my door when you feel ready for bed.
” He picked up some things from the couch and stomped all the way to his room.
I leaned over to the side of me and felt around on the couch until I found the remote. I gripped it tightly and brought it to my lap, where I could relax.
News was talked about quickly, the general warnings about staying vigilant and aware of people acting odd.
And more recruitment opportunities from the military promising to keep everyone safe somehow.
It wasn’t until I was close to shutting off the television when I heard a voice that caught my attention.
The woman's voice was harsh and nasally, it sounded like she was sick all the time and angry about it.
Her voice was almost a fond memory to me at this point, she had been on the news since I was little and could see.
Here she was, in the middle of an epidemic and the extinction of the human race and she was still doing her same schtick.
“This is book talks with Mariah Paytas,” I mouthed the words along with her, I figured I would get through her segment of the channel and shut it down.
Afterall, summaries and discussions to me where just as good as listening to the actual story.
“Today we are talking about a disturbing series of books that have been kept on the underground of society. The series is called Etre Humain: Being Human by Michael Kind.
The author might surprise you, yes this is the Michael Kind. The once afamed children's author of fantasy and science fiction novels.
Once thought to be have disappeared with his son after a mysterious fire killed his wife and burnt his home to the ground.”
I sat straighter, it had been a long time since Dad had actually talked to me about his books directly.
He would often read me blurbs, tell me ideas for stories, but I was never privy to the final cut.
“There are 24 stories in this collection, yes you hear me right 24.” Mariah continued. “I want to make it clear to the audience that nowhere in this actual book does his name show up.
And the book isn’t even a physical thing, they’re all a series of documents that were shared with one of my coworkers.
The only other name at the very bottom of the page, that was in this 389 page document, was Participant Michael Kind.
” Mariah paused, letting her live studio audience get their oohs and gasps out. “Oh ladies and gentlemen hold you tushes it gets worse. This story, is a step by step guide on how to be human.
Including social etiquette, the strange qualities of people, the psychology of human beings, family structures, basic history.
Anything that one of those Things needs to know to pass a Robot Test is what is in here, and so much more.
My lovely viewers, the once bestselling award winning children's author Michael Kind is nothing more than a treasonous son of-” My shaky fingers pressed hard against the power button,
silencing Mariah’s voice.
“D-dad?” I whispered, my hand on my chest it had to be beating faster than a million miles an hour.
There was nothing about this that made sense, Dad hated those things, they took Mom, they killed people,
everyone burned so many books trying to stop them from learning too much about us and he was helping them?