The next day school droned on with Alice finding it more and more difficult to focus on the work set before her. Varying equations, formulas, and chatter about long dead literary icons became nothing more than white noise as her thoughts turned to the vivid dream she’d had. From the time she awoke she couldn’t stop thinking about it. The taste of the sea salt lingered on her lips. The sound of the crashing waves rang in her ears while visions of three suns hanging over her head still left her in awe. In a sky that was the most brilliant shade of blue Alice saw a flock of feathered creatures soaring towards the suns, their feathered hides shimmering in the light.
She remembered how the peace and serenity of the dream was shattered by the darkness that came rolling in from the south like a bad omen. The sound of thunder drowned out the waves. Her skin bristled from the ensuing cold. And the dreadful feeling of something lurking within the clouds, something awful and cold.
Everything in the dream seemed so real, real enough to make her awake in a sweat. Not only that but there was a familiarity about it as well. A feeling she had been there before. The name of the strange birds and the three suns danced on her tongue. It was all strange and unique. A deep-rooted seedling yearned to return to this place, to this dream.
“Ms. Ember!” cried Mr. Billick, a small and balding imp of a man in his nasaly voice. “I’m so sorry my class is not capturing your attention. So sorry I’m not as compelling as those trees out there. But if you would humbly grace us with your presence I’d like to get back to teaching my class!”
A chuckle arose from the lips of everyone as Alice started to blush. “Sorry Mr. Billick.”
It was ironic that the teacher she stood the least, taught the class she loved the most. In all honesty she’d learned more by sitting outside her own window than listening to the pompous little man. In the dead of night the constellations revealed themselves to her in amazing clarity. The stars telling their stories to her open ears. That was something she liked to keep to herself.
“Now as I was saying,” continued Billick with a sneer. “Within a couple of days a truly remarkable event is going to take place. Friday night at ten thirty the Voldo Comet is going to be visible over our tiny little neighborhood. This comet comes around every ten years so we are in for treat. And by treat I mean weekend homework.”
Of course this was met with audible groans and protests. A few heads smacked against their desks as weekend plans were dashed. The sound of crushed social lives was almost deafening.
Very slyly the little man grinned, so thinly that no one saw it. He reveled in the misery and woe a simple thing like homework could bring. He knew he was despised by most of the school. This didn’t bother him in the least.
“By the level of noise I assume you’re just as excited I am about this. So Monday I expect to see everyone’s three page essay on the origin, flight path and other tidbits on the Voldo Comet.”
The groaning and hushed curses grew louder and viler. Nevertheless Alice’s attention wasn’t on the looming assignment or the snaky mannerisms of her teacher. She found her attention being pulled beyond the confines of the room, through the window to the outside world. Her mismatched eyes searched the heavens for any lingering trace of the beautiful song perhaps dancing on the wind. She wasn’t sure what it was she was looking for but she knew there was something there.
Something beyond the unseen.
While her eyes of orange and blue scanned the skies her attention was diverted to a dark object bounding across the ill-kempt lawn. She looked down, and there on the spotty lawn was a huge black rabbit. It darted about among the trees and shoddy grass. Seeing the rabbit dart around so carefree, its long floppy ears sailing behind it in the wind brought a smile to her face. Alice quickly stifled the smile for fear of being a blip Billick’s radar once again.
Taking a moment to make sure that her coast was clear she returned her gaze back outdoors. The rabbit was now stationary, gazing up at her with a glossy unnaturally large black eye. A floppy ear drooped over his left eye. From the great distance Alice made out that the eye was dancing with white, moving to its own rhythm. The rabbit stared at her with that odd optical appendage, its pink nose twitching making its long whiskers gleam in the light. A smile graced her face again. The rabbit nodded its head before darting off into a thicket of bramble.
Watching the rabbit’s dark paws vanish from her sight made her want to follow it. The thought of doing such a thing brought to her remembrance a certain story whose name escaped her at the moment. But it also brought about a pang of depression that gnawed at her heart.
Her gaze remained out the window for a while. Each of her eyes willing the rabbit back. As her eyes cried out to the rabbit, on her tongue there was a word. A strange word that meant nothing to her. Still the word stubbornly remained until it could no longer bear its weight, giving it life by speaking it.
The word came out like a ghostly whisper, barely escaping parted lips. “Moxie.”
She went back home after school. No more sightings or encounters with strange one-eyed rabbits on her way. Disappointment etched itself onto her face as she crossed the threshold of her home.
Sitting at the kitchen table peering behind a hefty mug of coffee, the sweet aroma of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee saturating the air, was her mother. The weariness of her long nights at the hospital showed in her eyes. Still she managed a smile to greet her daughter.
“So how was school honey?” her words muffled by caffinated backwash.
“Okay I guess. I have an essay to start tomorrow on the Voldo Comet.”
“Hmmm. I think I heard something about that on the news. What’s so important about it?”
“It’ll be visible over town. Gotta do a three page essay on it.”
The coffee mug dipped slightly away from Diana’s face. “Billick?”
Alice nodded, allowing herself to laugh a little. “Yeah. I have to stay up to see it.”
“Anything for school. That’s no problem.”
“True but I was wonder-”
The words stopped in her mouth as the sudden glare peering from behind the weathered mug disarmed Alice. All the tiredness and walking insomnia that her mother had been only moments before was replaced with offended parental rage. It was as if someone had taken control of her mom and wore her like a cheap costume.
“Wondering what? Whatever it is I’m sure the answer no.”
“I wanted to see it from the woods.”
Diana Ember’s dark chocolate skin grew red. The mug clutched in her hands trembled as she physically struggled to contain her rage. Alice felt her own heart racing, pounding against her ribs as she tried to piece together what had gone wrong.
“The woods?! In the middle of the night. You must have lost your mind?!”
“Why are you being like this? I just want to see it better.”
“You can see everything fine from your room. Why’d I even buy that darn telescope if you’re not going to use it.”
“The view is clearer from the cliffs.” As soon as the words left her mouth she wished she could snare them back, but like many wishes it went unanswered.
Diana’s jaws clenched. Coffee overlapped the rim of the mug as it was brought down with such force it nearly shattered. The angry spirit wearing the Diana flesh suit eyed her like a tamed lion eyes the trainer who forces it to perform. Alice felt two things at that moment: a sickening dry lump in her throat and the solar flare heat from her mother’s eyes.
“The cliffs?” From the bowels of her mother’s throat the words were as rancid as sour milk. Alice flinched as though the gravelly tones could harm her. “No child of mine is going to go to the cliffs in the middle of the night where anything can happen. No way. Consider yourself grounded from this moment forward.”
Alice wanted to protest but those words would stay trapped in her throat forever. Diana slid out of her chair not looking, not even once, at her daughter. There was a coldness that stalked her mother like a vengeful apparition. Diana let her footsteps sound off up the stairs to the bedroom where she slammed the door, punctuating her anger.
Left alone Alice felt tears welling up. Like a dam slowly crumbling first went her
orange eye then her blue in succession. Soon the dams had burst leaving her face wet and
her spirit wounded as she cried herself to sleep.