Cuento de Mi Id
“Really Cool Air”
(A story I wrote several Octobers ago)
The AC was up high, just like he expected. Very high. In a place like this, cold temperatures didn’t surprise him, but he did wish the management had made allowances for the occasional human visitor. As it was, he almost expected to see his breath every time he exhaled.
All the windows in the place were covered with tinted glass and every other corner was covered in shadow. The bartender gave him one of those odd looks as if he was the type of ghoulish tourist who would deliberately seek out a place like this.
He kept telling himself he had a legitimate reason to be here. Then he saw her.
“About time you showed up,” she said. She was dressed in black, of course. And seated at the bar. Even in this dim light, she seemed pale. But oddly enough, she wasn’t shivering even though her arms were bare and her silk blouse and leather skirt way too revealing.
“How about the two of us get a booth at the back?” she said.
“How about we not?”
“So it’s going to be like that.”
“Our parents want you home, Karen.”
“Of course they do. And the moon is made of green cheese.”
“No, seriously,” he said. “They told me to come get you. All is forgiven, they said. You can come home any time you want.”
She smiled. “Suppose I don’t want?”
“What do you mean?”
“I like it here. The temperature’s just right, the sun is not always shining in my face. I can virtually live here if I wanted. In a manner of speaking.”
He frowned. “The accident wasn’t your fault. They know that now.”
“Now,” she giggled. “They know that now
. Of course it doesn’t help much that they know it now.”
She smiled and sipped at her drink. “Antifreeze,” she said, pointing at the clear liquid in her glass.
“Just come home, please, Karen,” he said. “I already said they forgive you. You know how rarely Mom and Dad do that.”
“Well, maybe they forgive me but I don’t necessarily forgive them.” She took another sip.
“You can’t stay away forever, you know.”
“I don’t have to,” she said. “Mom and Dad are getting old. In a couple of decades, they’ll be gone. I can wait till then. And then I’ll come home.”
“That’s pretty cold.”
“Hey, watch the puns.”
“No, seriously. It’s not just Mom and Dad who need you. I need you, too. You’re my sister. You belong at home.”
“I belong somewhere else, you mean,” she said. “Besides, I’m not your sister. You said so yourself. I look like your sister. I talk like your sister. I even think like your sister. But I’m not your sister. Not really. Not since the accident.”
“For the last time—“
She interrupted. “Your sister died in that accident. And she was glad to be dead. She hated living at home. Never having any friends. Never having any love. She had one chance at freedom and she took it. And of course, your parents had to screw even that much up.”
“But they saved you.”
“No, they did not save
me. They saved something that looked like me. The me I used to be died in that accident. I’m no longer here anymore. You just think I am.”
“Please come home.”
“Someday,” she said. “When I think I’m ready.”
He could grab her, he thought. He could grab her and force her to come with him.
But then she really would hate him—-far more than she did now. And he couldn’t live with that.
Besides, he thought, as he walked away from the bar, it’s not really her. Just something that looked like her. She said so herself.
As he started toward the door, a woman came in. She was still reeling from her time in the sun and it was obvious that she craved the cold and the shadows. She smelled of the stuff he had remembered smelling at grandma’s funeral. She looked darn good and it was all he could do to look away.
He walked out into the harsh sunlight and told himself he would never come back to this place. And he wouldn’t, he promised himself.
At least, not while he was alive.
Labels: Cuentos de Mi Id I, H. P. Lovecraft, Pastiches, Valores Familiares