Fiction

2018

Red Sky Over Boston

By Laetitia West
Boston University Academy. Class of 2018.

    Red Sky Over Boston

I have to warn you first of all that I get lost easily. I can tell you that the way to my old friend’s house involved passing under a bridge with a large blue and yellow sign on it, but I cannot guarantee either the words on the sign or the name of the bridge. I have gone over that bridge a hundred times in someone else’s car and I never remember this bridge and the bridge I passed under a hundred times on my way to my old friend’s house are the same place.

    The place I found with my friend lay past a comic book store that was next to a hotel that was somewhere close to a baseball field.

    It was a street I only barely recognized, and mostly from a dream. My friend did not recognize it, even though we could see the same tall building you can always see in that part of the city. This was strange to him, because he knows that part of the city like I know the creek by my house. It’s the kind of knowing that creeps underneath your dreams and into what many people call the soul.

    The street lights did not look unusual. They were that kind of old-fashioned street light the old parts of the city have not replaced. It was daytime and so we could not see what made them truly odd.

    I realized I was carrying a baseball bat in my left hand. This was somewhat distressing because I had not been holding anything in my hands mere moments before that realization. I looked over at my friend. He was also holding a baseball bat. His clothing had not otherwise changed. He wore a ballcap that had been red once, but the color had faded to dark pink with time.

    People who live in here can guess what the color of his shirt was. People who live in a different city will hate my friend absolutely because of this color. Rest assured: he also hates you.

    My clothes didn’t have much to do with those colors, or that hatred. I dressed early in the morning, in the dark, so my clothes were all in grey and black.

    Distracted by the baseball bats, I remained unaware of other, smaller changes. The ground under my feet was no longer ill-maintained asphalt and concrete. The trees were smaller or not there at all. The buildings had an air of sepia about them.

    These buildings were like those in the part of the city where my old friend lived. They were dissimilar to the buildings in the part of the city where we had intended to go. We had somehow managed to get lost in a rather spectacular fashion.  

    “I told you,” I said, seeking humor, “I have this super power. I can make anyone lost.” This was a mostly superstitious statement. I was trying to be funny because laughter is a more comfortable feeling than creeping terror.

    My friend dropped his baseball bat. It clattered on the cobblestones.

    I looked down at my left hand. My bat was gone.

    “Okay,” my friend said, “this is weird.”

    It was mostly spring. I expected a few more hours of light, an assumption based on the time it was before we came upon this street. I looked up at the horizon, or what could be seen of it with all the buildings in the way, and realized that the sun was about to set.

    “What time was it when we started walking?” I asked my friend.

    “Just after the end of classes,” he said. “It shouldn’t be sunset for another few hours, at least.”

     It was not yet sunset. It was the time just before sunset where the Western sky is showing signs of red or orange or pink dye.

    “Did we just lose three hours?” I asked.

    “I don’t know.”

    I was holding the bat again.

    “Is that blood?” my friend asked.

    Dried blood is brown. What we saw on the baseball bats we were suddenly holding again was red and shiny.

    “I don’t know,” I said. I didn’t want it to be blood. I looked away from the thing in my hand at the horizon again. The sun was setting. “How long have we been here?” I asked.

    “I don’t know,” my friend said. His voice was higher and had more air in it than usual.

    A woman in a dark wool overcoat was walking down the other side of the street, using a long pole to light the street lights. The lit street lights flickered in her wake.

    “Gas light,” I said. I was guessing, mostly. I realized my friend and I were still walking. The baseball bat was heavy in my left hand. I could taste iron in my mouth.

    I stopped, staring at the woman in a dark wool overcoat. I heard my friend stop. I did not notice the echoes his boots made on the cobblestones until he stopped walking.

    The only sound was the soft echo of the boots of woman in a dark wool overcoat on the cobblestones. I could hear no cars. I could hear bird song.

    I looked at my friend. He was staring at his bat. I noticed his hands were smudged. I looked down at my hands. There was rust under the nails.

    “Okay,” I said, inhaling more than was necessary to breathe. “This isn’t good.”

    The woman in a dark wool overcoat walked on. I don’t think she was oblivious. I think she didn’t care.

    We were not close enough to hear the gas in the lights igniting.

    In that city, big streets intersected with each other at regular intervals. One could not always see them because of trees or buildings in the way, but one could always hear them.

    The street we were on, lined with those almost familiar buildings, was crossed by no streets that I could see. I could see stars.

    The footsteps of the women in the dark wool overcoat faded slowly. It was night time, the gas light illuminating more than I thought possible.

    “We need to keep walking,” my friend said. His voice was hollow. “I want to get out of here.”

    “I agree,” I said. I could not get myself to put emotions in my words. The baseball bat was heavy in my left hand.

    We shared the growing sense that we had done something very bad.

    I looked at my feet as we walked. I looked up and found myself in front of a brick wall. I reached out to keep my friend from running into it. He was staring at his bat.

    “Where are we?” I asked. I turned around. I didn’t want to look at the brick wall. There was moss on some of the bricks.

    My friend grabbed my wrist to hold me back. I looked down. I had almost stepped on what could have been a man, once.

    His face had been caved in. He was curled up, as though to protect his soft parts.

    Two baseball bats leaned against the alley wall. My hands were empty.

    “We have to go,” I said. I shook my wrist free of my friend’s hand and fled. I could hear his footsteps behind me. The alley was all up hill. There were no streetlights.

    We burst out of the alley onto the sidewalk of a busy street. It was like the street we had been on but there were cars. I put my hands over my ears, biting back a scream. Everything was so loud. The day was so bright.

    My friend had his hand pressed against the side of the closest building. The people hurrying by along the street ignored the both of us. We were not strange.

    “What was that?” I asked. I felt nauseated.

    “I don’t know,” my friend said. “I need to wash my hands.”

    We watched each other in his bathroom mirror.

    The street lay past the comic book store and the hotel. I have been there since, always with my friend.

    I am not sure if we are friends with other people anymore.