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“You know me? Oh . . . well,” he stopped. His memorized speech had vaporized. “I just – I wanted to say I think you’re beautiful.” “Oh,” she laughed, blushing prettily. “I think you’re beautiful, too. I mean – handsome. Whatever.” She actually thought he was handsome. “Yeah. I mean, thanks. So, anyway, I was wondering. Would you like to see a movie with me this Friday?” “Actually, I’d love to. To be totally honest, I’ve been wanting to go out with you for a while.” “Really? That’s awesome. I guess I should’ve asked sooner.” “For real!” Jean laughed again. She was always laughing. As they walked together down the sidewalk, she continued to laugh. He had never noticed before, but the sound was a little annoying. Her laughter took on a mournful note. Then, he looked back at Jean’s face in confusion. Her pretty smile was distorted into a chilling sob, and tears streaked down her face as she sharply turned to him. “What are we going to do?” she cried loudly, her harsh stare piercing his eyes. Dorian choked and stepped back. Her hair was white as paper, and her hazel eyes looked red while blue veins were visible in her claw-like, outstretched hands. “There’s nothing else we can do!” she sobbed, staggering a step toward him. He reached out to her as she fell, but then she was gone. She had disappeared. He woke in his bed at home. He was drenched in sweat and gripping handfuls of his sheets. The late-night dusk of his room felt stable and warm, but his heart pounded violently. The shifting murmur of living voices anchored him. It was his foster parents in their bedroom down the hall. For a few minutes, he listened as their conversation drifted in and out of his hearing. “Honey, we can’t just cop out of this.” The solid sound of the man’s voice was reassuring in the dark. The woman was crying softly. “But I just can’t take it anymore. I just don’t know what to do.” It’s probably another of her volunteer activities with the school. She always tries to do too much. Dorian rolled over and drifted out of consciousness, his hands closed tightly in fists against his chest.

“Look, just forget it. I don’t give a fuck about you either.” “Dorian, don’t-” “Would you stop talking to me? Just call Mary and get it over with. I don’t wanna stay here anymore.” He left the room, poorly maintaining a stiff posture of courage, and recoiled to the bathroom like a wounded animal. Grimacing into the mirror, he bent over almost double, holding his pain as if it were physical. He gripped the edges of the sink and stared into the familiar yet eerily-changed reflection of his face. The way he searched his face for changes was compulsory, following a routine he had developed: large nose to start; fuzzy white hairs beneath nose and around mouth; blanched lips; pale throat with prominent bluish veins; general whiteness of the face; white-blonde eyebrows; matching hair; to finish, eyes. The eyes were supposed to be windows to the steady soul, but his continued to change. They had faded to a watery pink, and Dorian regarded them like the eyes of a stranger. Sometimes life moves slowly when interactions happen at an unhurried pace. And then there are moments that act as catalysts in life’s reactions, hurrying it toward some blurry goal. As Dorian looked into his own strange eyes, deep and solemn tears began to form. But, through the tears, he saw what couldn’t be. His eyes seemed to melt for half a second and become a well of tears with nothing – nothing – behind them. His heart and breath both stopped, stung into stillness by the pain of surprise, and, in that moment, he knew the truth of what his foster parents would not admit to themselves, what he had felt the truth of but hadn’t been brave enough to accept – the truth of what Dr. Harris had told them. A single gunshot can start a war; one drifting spark can ignite a waiting, dry-boned forest. That moment brought Dorian’s world reeling to its knees and crushed even the confused view he had of himself as a Mysteriously Changing Boy. What was he now? He was nothing becoming nothing – nothing inside, no body, and no soul. That moment brought a grown-up world of realization to Dorian, presented a door, and asked him to step through it, to leave everything – to leave his childhood, this house that had been his home, Jean Frank, and everything – everything that had been who he was. And he knew he would go. He couldn’t love these things, a world that stayed forever the same as he and he alone changed. And he would go alone.

“But we want you to understand that it’s not your fault, Dorian – you didn’t do anything wrong.” It was a week after his nightmare. Dorian sat in the dining room with his foster parents. “It’s because I’m sick, isn’t it? There’s something wrong with me, and you don’t want to deal with it.” “We need to focus on our family right now, but we’re very concerned for you, too.” “How long did you practice that line?” “Dorian, it’s not a line! We want you to be in the best situation, and we feel that living here is not best for you right now.”


Vortex 39 - April Online  
Vortex 39 - April Online  

The University of Central Arkansas'sVortex Magazine of Literature and Fine Art is an undergraduate run publication, publishing students from...