Old Things Die (But Not Us) -- Chapter seven: West Side

Fiction By Madalyn Clare // 3/27/2019

As I sat on the icy bench outside the principal’s office, my mind raced. It went to frightening places for the lesser part of an hour, to the darkness I imagined followed Josh all the time.
What if his dad…
My stomach turned over and halted my head.
Devika sat down next to me. Her bright yellow peacoat stood against the grey of the world; I thought that was her role in life. To shock reality out of its monotony.
I looked up at her, and she wasn’t smiling. Her brow was wrinkled at me as she laced her arm in mine.
“What’s wrong?” she asked quietly. “Are you okay?”
I sighed out, facing away from her, and a massive gust of icy breath escaped me. I took her hand in mine and placed them in my jacket pocket. She scooted closer.
“Josh is missing.” I choked on the words. “He hasn’t been to school in weeks.”
Her hand clenched mine and a soft gasp was the only sound for a few moments. Then she stood all of a sudden, pulling me up with her. “We have to find him,” she said simply. “Where was he last seen? Did anybody say anything? Is he still home?”
I didn’t fully clue Devika in on everything about Josh, but she liked him. They were nice to each other and it seemed that, in the few times they interacted, she connected with him well. But still, I was surprised to see her urgency.
“I don’t know about the whole situation,” I replied, “but I’m going to find out. I’ll tell you when I have a better understanding, okay?”
“No,” she quickly said, in a wildly defensive tone. “No. I’m going to help you. We need to figure this out.”
She took my hand and we sped towards the school counselor, leaving behind our bags at the bench.
The counselor was on the other side of the campus, so it took us about five minutes or so, slipping across the icy sidewalks. I knocked, but the counselor was occupied.
“Who can we talk to, then?” Devika asked. She hugged her arms to herself, a sign that she was cold, but wouldn’t accept anything to cure it.
My mind went to my stepdad. I looked at her and she understood. Just as the last bell rang, Devika and I rushed to my car and drove home.
“Dad,” I called into the house. He was usually home on Friday afternoons. “Dad!”
Dad showed himself coming from the garage, carrying his keys in. Miles ran wildly to his playroom as Dad saw how disheveled we were, and immediately took on a worried face. “What happened?” he asked in a rushed and concerned tone. “Are you two all right?”
“Call Josh’s house,” I pleaded. Devika and I were already heading back out. “Then call the police. Ask them about disappearances.”
His face paled several shades whiter. “Levi,” he said, breathless, “you don’t mean- God, don’t let it be true-”
“Please,” I stopped him, “just call. If anything call his dad. We’re going to his house.”
I found myself praying as we drove through my neighborhood and towards the other side of town. Praying that Josh was okay. That nothing happened to him. By the look on Devika’s face I’d bet she was praying, too.
It took us forty-five minutes to cross the city, but it seemed like an entire day. I was nauseous at the sight of Josh’s neighborhood: broken, shabby phone lines hung overhead, collecting snow and grime, all the while dripping it onto sunken one-story roofs and rusting ancient window grates. Windows with bullet holes in them. A few kids played basketball in front of a miniscule house, dunking a flat ball into a Home Depot bucket with a cutout at the bottom. When they saw my car slowly come down their street, the kids stopped in their tracks and stared until we were safely by. I saw hunger and disbelief in their eyes as they drank in my new, clean, and working Civic as it cruised through their game.
I didn’t remember which house was Josh’s. He didn’t like me coming here. I drove very slowly through the old streets, watching carefully for something I remembered. I snuck a glance at Devika, who sat stiffly against her seat, as if she let herself be comfortable, someone would do something to her. But when I saw her face, it wasn’t fear. She was crying.
I held her hand in mine as I turned onto another street. “We’ll find him,” I said.
“Do people live like this? Here?” Her voice was broken by salt water.
I couldn’t answer. I let what stood outside the car answer. I just squeezed her hand.
It took an eternity before things started looking familiar. I remembered the house with the dilapidated truck on the lawn, the place with the blue planter, even the brown cat who watched us carefully from the cheap curtains from another house. I parked the car between the cat house and its neighbor, then unbuckled.
“Levi.” Devika’s voice was low and her tone was panicked. “Levi, what are you doing? Are you getting out?”
I nodded. “I need to see,” I said carefully. “Stay in the car. I’ll lock it.”
“Don’t leave me, Levi.”
I smiled. “You won’t be out of view, okay?” I kissed the back of her hand and exited the car, promptly locking it behind me. I had left all my stuff except my keys in the car with Devika.
In all honesty I was freaking out. I had met Josh’s dad only a few times, but only once was enough to be disgusted by him. I was scared. I didn’t want to knock on that door, like, at all, but I knew I had to. It was a greater duty than taking a bitter medicine, or doing math, or something. Because as much as I hated the feeling of stopping before the sunken door, my muscles wouldn’t allow me to stall. The duty was so engrained in even my body that there was no hesitation.
I knocked on that moldy door, half slamming it. I was angry. My heart was pounding- no, thudding. A was sweating regardless of how cold I was, standing there.
I heard someone yelling in the house, followed by angry footsteps towards the door. Cursing tainted the air I breathed as the door finally opened.
Josh’s dad was pretty tall, standing a few inches taller than me. Intricate, undecipherable tattoos ran along both arms and his neck. His eyes were black, like Josh’s, but at least you could see Josh’s soul in his. His father was unreadable, as if he was just a statue, a shell of a person. His height intimidated a lot of people, but I was done being afraid of him. I held myself as tall as I could be.
“Who are you?” the man demanded, then cursed. “What do you want?”
“I’m Levi,” I said, doing my best to hide the quivering in my voice. “I’m looking for Joshua.”
Mister Kang leaned on the door as he scratched his head, as if trying to place me. Finally, a joyless grin stretched across his teeth. “Oh, you,” he half snickered. “You, the one who testified against me. Your daddy tried to win custody over him.” The smile went away, and I couldn’t tell you how relieved I was to be again under his hateful glare. “I won’t forget you.” I won’t describe what he did next, but after that, he spat at my shoes.
I stumbled away from his spit, though I was further prodded by his absolute vulgar behavior. “Where is Josh?” I pronounced each word with a desperate emphasis. The shake in my voice was hopelessly perceptible as I refrained from punching him in the stomach.
Nonchalantly, the man shrugged, again leaning against the doorpost. “He ran off,” he said. “I beat the snot out of him just a couple nights ago. He was sleeping for hours, then disappeared.” He flicked a piece of a cigarette off of his T-shirt then looked back to me. “If you ever see him again,” the wicked smile returned, “tell him he could’ve taken it like a man.”
With that, he went back inside, and the door was closed to me.
If I had been holding my breath the entire time, I felt the air rush back into me now that he was gone. But it was quickly knocked out of me as I thought of the weight of the situation.
Josh was missing. Even his father – his sick, horrifying excuse for a role model – didn’t know where he was.
I ran back to the car and feverishly entered. I made Devika shriek with my desperation to get out of there.
“Levi!” she urged. “Did he hurt you? Where’s Josh? Are we being followed?”
I was nauseous. I needed to throw up. I was shaking ferociously. But I didn’t pull over until we were out of that neighborhood. I pulled into a gas station and vomited in the plants.


Okay, I have no idea where

Okay, I have no idea where Josh is going, I have no idea what Levi will find, I have no idea what will unfold, but I do like it and I can't wait to find out! Keep writing!

Grace J. | Sat, 03/30/2019

“You are doing something great with your life—when you are doing all the small things with His great love.” - Ann Voskamp


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