Ivory Nightshade began to peer through her bedroom window in hopes of finding her father's car. It was another work afternoon so she knew her father would be home later than usual. Still, waiting seemed to make the clock move infinitely slower. She started to wonder if it was ever really moving at all.
Her mother soon called her name and Ivory eagerly rushed down the stairs following the sound of her mother's voice only forgetting not to run until she reached the bottom. With relief her mother failed to notice as she was too engrossed spreading butter on a dozen of crisped oven rolls fresh from the market. She couldn't understand why running upset her mother so only that she tried her best to remember and avoid such an action.
Upon entering the kitchen her mouth watered at the aroma of all the different types of foods. Stuffed turkey coated in delicious gravy with a side dish of cranberry sauce and their traditional stuffing made with biscuits, onions, and celery. A pot of sweet potatoes were still boiling on the stove and the yams nearby were drizzled in marshmallows and a sugary sweet sauce. She always loved this time of the year when everything seemed so simple and somehow perfect.
"Is he still not home yet?" Ivory began to ask. She couldn't shake the feeling that something had gone horribly wrong and if she was honest with herself something else had been bothering her.
A warm presence patted her head gingerly and she looked up to find her mother's calm gentle eyes watching over her with endearment. "Don't worry too much." She said in a soft comforting tone. "Your father will be home soon. He would never miss an opportunity to see you and have some of our famous stuffing."
Ivory allowed herself to smile, already feeling at ease and went about setting the table. A fine red cloth adorned its copper surface, lace weaving into crimson fabric that hung gracefully over the edge and once Ivory was done there were forks, knives, and matching goblets placed in front of three empty seats. With a slight spring in her step, she skipped under the archway and into their relatively small lounge. The last rays of light on this autumn evening spilled across the spread of furniture in a warm glow. The sofas, already a deep shade of crimson, were vastly stark against the plush white carpet, but to her right stood Ivory's greatest treasure. A tall shelf of her favorite books and some of her father's own collection.
She had spent so much time trying to decipher those formulas and determine what exactly her father did, but alas her endeavor ended when she realized they exceeded far past the extent of her knowledge no matter how long she stared at them. Still when she bothered to give them some thought she wondered what they meant.
Once such an occasion her mother had caught her stealing a glimpse and simply snapped the book shut before her eyes, placing it back on the shelf and told Ivory not to go venturing into them again. Her gentle mother, who Ivory dared might say lacked a single menacing bone in her body, was furious at the sight of her studying those pages, even more so with Ivory's father for leaving them in such an open place.
She could still remember how they shouted that night, their heated voices carrying down the hall to Ivory's position on the stairs where she waited and listened. Her small fists buried within her gown knowing she had been the cause of their quarrel. From that point on she decided to never visit those books again, but that did little to erase them permanently from her mind and how she was ever so unconsciously drawn to them.
Humming a silent tune Ivory reached as far as her short feeble legs could stretch and turned on the old radio that had been left untouched for years. A soft melody began to play and Ivory smiled watching how her mother danced in unison to her work, spinning and seating with a pure happiness that couldn't be replaced. Even in these simple moments of no importance just being together was enough. Though sometimes there was a small part of Ivory that wondered if this was all just a dream. If this was where she truly belonged...
A phone began to ring and Ivory followed the sound with curiosity seeming to win over reason. "Hello?" A deep voice immediately responded on the other end. "Is this the Nightshade residence?"
She prepared herself to answer but came to a sudden halt. Her mother always warned her about talking to strangers. How did he get this phone number anyway? Ah, this has to be the man her mother had been talking with lately. He did sound familiar.
"Who is this?" The lack of patience and annoyance became obvious in his tone before he switched back to a calm and cool mask. "I'm looking for Janet Nightshade, is she home?"
No, Ivory couldn't tell her mother about this man. Something made her glance towards the kitchen and bite her lip in contemplation. She was singing and dancing, but most importantly she was happy and Ivory knew for certain this phone call would only bring despair. Alarmingly she considered if something really did go wrong, but before she could finish this thought the man once again fumed with irritation.
"This is extremely urgent and you have wasted my time for far too long. I must speak with Janet Nightshade at once! Is she around—"
The phone was snagged from her ear in an instant. "Ivory, you know better than to answer the phone!" Her mother scolded and Ivory could only watch as her mother calmly spoke to the man. "This is Janet Nightshade speaking."
As her mother walked back to the kitchen their voices soon became too far away and the music quickly replaced any notion of listening soundly. It wasn't too difficult to grasp how serious the situation was judging from her mother's deepened yet invisible frown and how her pale complexion appeared to grow even more stark.
Without a doubt this time something had gone horribly wrong and Ivory swore the warm inviting atmosphere seemed to drop and freeze at the thought. She knew the sudden chill had nothing to do with the early winter storm that began to brew outside. That's when she noticed in horror that her mother's eyes suddenly glazed over like a void that would never close. Why did all the light have to die? Why does the sun have to disappear? Darkness was something Ivory could never understand until the moment her beautiful world shattered.
The ignition started before she could adjust her seat belt and then her mother stepped on the gas. Her heart began to race and continue to drop with every passing beat. She wanted to know what was happening but couldn't find the courage to ask in fear the answer would be unbearable and only bring her mom more pain.
Many cars and street lights were lost behind them as they drove further along the roads of their small town.The vast green hills, shallow lakes, and cottage homes could be found unfamiliar from the bustling city of New York in a quiet place known as Spooksville. A mysterious name for a town where nothing ever happened and yet many legends and stories surfaced here about a time when gods and monsters and humans clashed and devoured these lands in ruin. Such devastation seemed impossible and even if such a notion as magic existed Ivory prayed to those very gods that they only ever remained rumors for the sake of anyone caught in such a tragedy.
Ivory tried to prepare herself for whatever horrors may lie ahead but when they reached the end of their journey and drove into an empty parking lot her resolve slowly began to crumble. "Mama, why are you crying?" She went to wipe the tears streaming down her mother's cheek. "Please don't cry." Her hands were shaking as they returned to her lap.
"Everything will be okay, my beloved. My darling daughter I know you are strong and can handle anything you set your mind to, but if there ever comes a day that it becomes too much... that you decide to choose your own path, stay strong. Don't lose hope. Even if the light disappears, become the sun that shines brightly over the heavens to evade the darkness and protect those in need."
She held Ivory close as she wept and told her everything would be alright and when her mother departed for the first time Ivory knew her mother had lied.
A cold breeze whipped past her as Janet rushed inside the all too familiar building where everything began and fell apart. Her heart mourned for all those wonderful memories that we're now twisted with delicate lies. If only there was another way... If only they had more time. "William." She breathed and clutched her husband's shoulder, the cloth seeming to burn against her palm as if weaved of tainted souls. "Please, find another way. I can't let our daughter become another experiment."
All those projects that went horribly wrong for the sake of science and perhaps even his own amusement because she knew that he was insane and yet she still loved him and trusted his judgment. He only smiled and cupped her cheek, an expression that she wondered was even human. "My darling wife, you have supported me without question for so long and I know this time I've asked too much." A sharp tool slipped into her arm and stole her balance. It took all her strength to keep from falling as an orange liquid drained from the vial and consumed her thoughts.
His voice lulled whatever remained of her senses. "There will come a day when this world will need to be saved but until then it will be my burden to bear alone." Had he planned this from the beginning? She didn't want to believe every moment they shared had been a lie. That autumn evening so long ago, when her skirt gently swayed against the wind, a warm hand wrapped around her own and a smile that consumed her very world. Soon her eyes closed into oblivion never to reopen the same again.
William brushed his wife's cheek fondly and in a soft manner spoke. "I hope one day you can forgive me for this my love." Because no matter how many sacrifices were made, one day this moment would change everything. That's what he told himself as he summoned a guard to take her away to rest. They will understand when the time is right. All his effort would not be in vain and with that final thought he accepted the fate he was given. Ivory was carried inside by another guard, a woman who was old enough to be a mother and kept pursing her lips at the unconscious child.
What a troublesome expression. He sighed to himself at the inconvenience, "Did she give you any grief?"
"A little." The guard admitted. "But we eventually gave her the serum." Carefully he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out another vial of orange liquid letting the substance drain into Ivory's arm.
And so it was done. "Sir, why?" The woman's eyes widened with shock. "If she's going to save us all, doesn't she have to remember?"
William watched the sleeping girl with great sadness. "Not right now. Let her grow up and live a normal life and when the time is right she'll know. Until then let's just be thankful we found a solution."
The guard nodded in understanding, until something dawned on her. It was all she could do to keep from dropping the sleeping child. Gunshots fired ahead, but it was too late. "Get her out of here! Keep them safe." He shouted.
Had he known all along? The prospect seemed impossible and yet... "But sir, what about you?"
"Don't worry about me." The sound of shots grew so close that she swore there were flashes of light just beyond the door ahead. "Just make sure they get out alive. Everything else depends on that girl."
. . .
Ivory awoke with confusion. Her head was pounding as she struggled to move towards the window. "Mom, what's going on?" she asked. "Where are we?" She must have dozed off during the night. Brilliant orange streaks of light fell across the sky like dying embers.This road seemed familiar, they must be heading home. Something warm slid down her cheek and it suddenly became increasingly difficult to breathe. "Mom?"
She caught her mother's shattered expression, "Your father... he's... he's gone." Her voice broke from sobbing. "I'm so sorry." She managed.
No... no, not my father. There must be some mistake. Maybe someone else's father but not mine. And then the truth sank in and her body collapsed with unimaginable grief and rage. Even when she thought it was no longer possible to produce tears she cried inside feeling nothing on the out. It felt like a dream that went horribly wrong and all she had to do was wake up and her world would be restored to normal, but no matter how hard she tried the dream wouldn't end. There was no end.
The engine stopped in a parking lot, the same place he would drive into every night and almost without thought she followed her mother inside their house. How did he die? She tried to wrap her mind around the idea but found no conclusion. Nothing would bring him back. The forks and napkins were left on the table untouched along with the now spoiled food on the stove. It doesn't feel real, she thought again. Just like a dream, only this time there would never be an end.
Even after five years Ivory and her mother were still grieving, but silently. They didn't show emotion over it anymore in fear the other one would hurt again, but this only brought them closer together and to understanding one another. Still to this day Ivory has no idea how her father died or even where he worked. Now that she thought of it there wasn't much she knew about him at all, but what she did know was that she missed him, constantly.
Why does it take a death from someone you love to realize just how short life is and how precious. She kept telling herself that this would pass and somehow she knew it would.
Because somewhere in the back of her mind she could hear her mother's voice telling her to stay strong.
And so she was.