The Gingerbread Castle (a short story)

The Gingerbread Castle

It’s a summer night but it feels like Autumn – the wind dissipates the humidity, the leaves rustle, and the stars shine high up above. A chill takes over my body as I peer to a lit castle amidst the dark sky – it’s an array of colors and straight out of a fairy-tale book. Humpty Dumpty sits upon a wall and next to him is red-spotted mushroom lit from the hue of the cool blue moon. It’s here. The time has come for the doors of the castle to open once again – all are excited but I am not. I sense an uneasiness about this place; I sense a darkness within the fairy-tale façade. Who am I to make these assumptions? I am the proprietor of this newly renovated castle but I don’t feel right about this – there’s this darkness within me that justifies my reasoning for creating it; my reason for what I intend to do with it, but the light inside me disputes it – but why is this light so easy to smother – why does the darkness and the pain outweigh the light – because in the light in the trust and I have yet to handle the truth. I shall mask my demons with this castle built upon happiness – I shall use this amusement park to heal all that are sick.

There he stood, staring out the window. The eccentric Willy Wonka-influenced man deeply ponders while looking to a glass encased mushroom in his large office.

In the depths of the forest a rainbow-colored mushroom exudes fungal life as dew collects upon its rounded top. A cabin quietly sits in the belly of the greenery. Fog covers the vibrant green grounds of a dense Pennsylvania forest amidst tall, vibrantly green pines. The cabin’s chimney exudes heavy smoke and the smell is hickory.

Inside of a young boy’s unkept room, an old book of fairy-tales lies on the ground. There a boy eagerly sits and flips from page to page. He stares mesmerized. Old burns and scars fill up his frail arms but are nicely decorated with markers, turning his wounds into lively fairy-tale stories, similar to the thick book in which he eagerly flips. Humpty Dumpty, Gingerbread, The Tree Little Pigs, The Smiling Sun, The Magnificent Moon, and all that is happy and vibrant, decorate the book and too his arm; it’s the only thing that truly has life within his undesirable cold room.

His ears stand to the screams of a woman — angry footsteps echo in the hall — the boy nervously looks up. His drunken father enters and stands at the door with an angered gaze. “What did you do?” The young boy is frightened and speechless as he barely nods his head to say ‘nothing.’ He clenches the pages of the book as his father slowly stumbles towards him. He’s drunk again but this time it’s different. There’s a look of anger in his eyes that the young boy has never seen before. Tension fills the room. “Does Jesus lie?” The boy nods no. “And who is our savior?”

The boy stutters as his father slowly kneels down, “J-J-J-Jesus…”

His father rips the book from his hands and throws it against the wall, screaming in a violent, red-faced rage “Then why would you lie in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ!” He freakishly stares to his son.

His son whimpers and nervously looks away, “Is mommy, okay?”

“Is mommy, okay?” he mockingly says to him with spit flying from his mouth. The boy looks away. His father grabs his face and lifts him up to his view. “Look at me.”

His eyes refuse to match his father’s. He grabs his son’s neck and rushes him into the wall, lifting him from the ground. The force knocks Jesus’ statue on the wall behind him, the crucifixion then spins upside down.

The young boy chokes for life, kicking his little legs, and stares to the eyes of his father, pleading “Please, stop –”

“You did this! You did this to us!” Tears fall from the young boy’s eyes. “I didn’t want to have to do this. But I too will sacrifice my only son to show my truth to God. I can no longer live in this torturous demon-filled world!” The young boy is blue in the face as his father looks to the ceiling, “Lord, forgive me.” He squeezes his son’s throat harder. The young boy’s kicks get weaker and weaker as the last amount of oxygen leaves his body. His kicking feet reveal sox that are decorated with a large Gingerbread Castle scattered throughout the wrinkled and ripped pair.

His father, filled with his demonic rage, whispers, “When the lights go out, it’ll all be okay—” WHACK! The father gets clunked on the head and falls to the ground. The purple-faced boy coughs and gasps for air and then looks to his frightened mother holding a bloody fire prod.

“Run. Run Jacob!” she pleads. Jacob quickly runs off and out through the narrow door but stops, looking to his book on the ground, and then turns to run back, grabbing it. “Go, Jacob!” His father lies on the ground comatose. Jacob’s mother drops the metal prod, looking to her bloodied abusive husband in fright, and then quickly turns to scurry away.

Jacob runs just a short distance from his home. He nervously looks back to it with tears in his eyes. He holds his book in his arms, clenching it in fear.

His mother places a rifle upon the couch across from the gleaming fireplace and rushes to the nearby kitchen. The eyes of a buck on the wall light up from the flames below; its horns point to the high wooden ceilings. She grabs food from the pantry and her bags sit on the floor nearby. Behind the wall of the kitchen, in the hallway, her husband angrily stands entranced, possessed with rage, with blood dripping down the side of his face while he now wields the fire prod. His mother stands atop the counter and reaches into a tin can and grabs out a roll of money. She rushes to her bags on the floor in the living-room and then looks to the couch to see that the rifle is gone but doesn’t second guess it being in the frenzy that she’s in. With no time, she quickly decides to leave, opening the door and shutting it behind her. The fire burns bright; a log falls from the large stack. A reflection in the hollow deer’s eye shows the bloodied husband wandering with the shot gun – the dead animal’s eyes has become a lens.

Crows caw in the trees above. Jacob impatiently waits on a trail leading to the woods and then sees his mom running towards him. He begins to run to her and then notices his father standing with the gun aimed at his mother. Fright fills his face as time abruptly begins to move slowly. Bang! He fires and his mother’s eyes light up upon impact. The crows fly from the trees. Her knees hit the ground as her tear-filled gaze stares to Jacob, apologizing for her mistakes with just one look. Jacob’s heart palpitates. All slows down. Tunnel vision. Time slowly becomes normal with each deep-belted heartbeat but his heart will never beat the same. Jacob runs and then dives to the ground to console his mother. He lies on his stomach and looks to her dead gaze. “Mom?” he cries. “Mom!”  He stares to her and then hysterically begins to cry. Abruptly, his father pulls him by his legs back to the house, dragging his yelping and flailing body through the dirt. “Mommy! Mommy! No!” Jacob howls. He cries as he’s dragged away from his mother and then quickly gets filled with a powerful rage. His father drags him off as Jacob drags his fingernails on the hard dirt; he kicks and flails, knocking his father’s knee down, thus releasing him. Jacob scuffles and attempts to run back to his mother but his father grabs him by his shirt and cracks him in the back of the head — THUD — dropping him to the ground. His vision fades in and out as he stares to his mother’s lifeless body. 

A pool of blood pours out from his mother’s body. The crows fly above head as storm clouds come in, blocking out the sun. His mother’s eyes are wide open, and her gaze becomes closer and closer to penetrating the soul of the Universe and all that are watching; you, I and, the shared beasts of the forest.

The psychedelic-looking mushroom sheds its final droplets of dew as it prepares to engulf the mother’s lifeless body and become whole once again.  

2022 All Rights Reserved. Michael Angel Loayza Jr.

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