Mom and Dad bought eight year old Cody’s old crib into his room just before he became sick, he lay in his bed watching that crib, as fever sweat dropped from his temples. He wondered why they put it there, he was far too big for it now.
In the night, Cody heard his mother crying. In the evening, his Mom and Dad shouted and yelled. Cody rocked his head from side to side. Then he turned in his bed and felt a nudge.
Maybe it was his Mom come to tuck him in.
Maybe the pillow moved by itself.
He turned his head. Moonlight streamed through the window onto two wizened faces, skin so tight around the jaws the bones beneath showed transparent, yet below the chin skin sagged down, and the faces smiled.
“You must get up and go with us,” said the first face.
Cody saw a blue tongue flash from the thing’s thin wide mouth. The voice from behind its thin lips sounded low and soothing.
“I’m sick,” Cody said. “I’ve got pneumonia.”
The thing nudged him again. Cody saw long fingers extending from a glowing indigo arm.
“Your fever is lifting,” said the creature, placing its soft hand on Cody’s forehead.
“Why won’t you let me sleep?” Cody asked. He brushed away sweat drops.
The thing pointed to itself, and said in the same whispery voice. “I am Yacaa.” He gestured to his right. “This is Chenoo.”
Those are funny names,” Cody said. He rubbed the top of his head.
Yacaa’s face appeared old and also like a tiny baby, wrinkle fissures in its sunken cheeks mixed with folds of skin under its jaw.
“We’re from the ground,” Chenoo told him. “Yet also from the sky.”
“Are you here because of Mom and Dad?” Cody asked.
“Yes,” said Yacaa. “We are here because of Mom and Dad.” He made a low laughing noise. “And so are you, Cody.”
“My Mom and Dad were fighting,” Cody said. “I could hear them.”
The two wizened faces glowed in the moonlight. Cody saw deep wrinkles around and under their blue eyes. Their pupils danced like small heads in the hollow around the skull bones.
“I should tell Mom and Dad you’re here,” Cody said.
“They’re very busy,” said Yacaa. “Your Dad is planting in the back garden right now.”
He pointed to the window. Cody stood up on the bed. The room swirled for a moment. Chenoo and Yacaa’s skinny spidery legs shimmered thin as strings, then grew as Cody balanced on his mattress. The creatures’ small round bodies lifted high as Cody’s nose. Chenoo grinned across to him, showing gum, no teeth. Cody smelled the faint scent of fresh soil. He stared out along the shaft of moonlight, saw nothing outside but the heap in the middle of the garden he recognized as the compost pile. A few weeks before when he was well he’d spied a thick black snake lying on the pile, still and fat as a rubber hose.
“Should we kill it?” he asked Dad, and Dad said “No, she’s not harming us.”
“But she looks so scary,” Cody said.
“She’s more scared of us,” said Dad.
Now, in the shaft of moonlight, Cody thought of the snake and what his Dad said. He rubbed his hands over his face and examined the wizened blue eyed creatures across from him.
“You need to know what we know” said Chenoo.
He turned his head to one side and disappeared.
“Where did he go?” Cody asked. “He became so thin he went away.”
“He’s playing a game,” said Yacaa. “When he shows you his front, you see a face, and that face lives for you. When he turns to the side, he becomes who he truly is.”
The soothing voice made Cody ask “Who is he truly then?”
“Nothing to be afraid of,” said Yacaa.
Cody thought again of Mom and Dad’s loud yelling earlier in the night. He’d felt fear at their noise, and how it turned to a wailing that penetrated all the corners of his mind.
He put the covers over his head then, and rocked back and forth. Yacaa’s even tones calmed him now.
“No one can see Chenoo now, but he is there.” Yacaa continued. He chanted. “He is there, he is there.”
Cody looked into the moonlight. “I don’t see anything but the compost pile.” he said.
“Follow me outside,” Yacaa replied in his low, calm voice. “And know what is real.”
He beckoned with his bony finger, and the white bone back of Chenoo’s bald head appeared ahead in the window. “Follow us,” Yacaa said.
Cody felt himself move, then float up. He navigated out of the bedroom door, through the open window, and outside. Because of his illness he hadn’t been allowed here for days.
He peered up. Millions of stars shifted and silvered across the sky. He drifted towards them, and then, over behind the garage, he noticed his Dad, pushing down a shovel, forcing the blade into the soil.
Under the moonlight, Dad lifted one thing wrapped in a cloth, and put it in a hole. Then he bent down and picked up another thing wrapped in a cloth. He held it in his shadowed hands and It went down into the hole also.
Cody saw Yacaa and Chenoo whirling round the yard and around Dad, who took the shovel and threw dirt over the things he’d just buried.
Then he stopped working and Cody heard him breathe deep, standing still in the night silence, until a strange sound rose, a low cry from Dad’s mouth. Cody floated across towards his father, who turned and dragged the shovel behind him.
“Can I help Daddy?” asked Cody.
“No, all is done.” Yacaa whispered, and Chenoo appeared in front of Cody.
“Go no further,” Chenoo said.
The boy saw the thing’s bat like arms move up and down like tiny wings.
“Stop here and breathe in,” Chenoo continued. “Breathe in deep, and take in the moment.”
“I can’t reach Daddy,” Cody said.
“Then breathe,” said Chenoo. “Stay with us.”
And Cody did, hypnotized by the whispered voice, and the certainty of the creatures’ words. He inhaled as he floated motionless above the filled hole in the ground, and he took in the darkness and the moment with his vision and his breath. He saw waves coming towards him, and part of Chenoo poured into him, and part of Yacaa. It happened fast and deeply, so he hardly noticed, but again he caught the scent of soil and the glimpse of fluttering arms. He heard the voices of Chenoo and Yacaa calling each other from under the stars as well as from within his mind.
“Chenoo, are you there?” said Yacaa, and Chenoo answered “I am here my brother.”
“Who are you?” Cody asked. “Do you know my Daddy?”
“We are together now,” said Yacaa. “That is who we are.”
“Let us follow your Dad back into the house,” Chenoo said.
The two wizened beings passed through the front door and Cody followed, he drifted through the kitchen and glimpsed a light on in the living room. His mother sat weeping silently under the light, thin and pale in her blue nightgown.
“Why does Mom look so sad?” Cody asked.
‘She’s not crying for you,” Chenoo told him.
Cody noticed his Dad’s shadow move out of one corner, and then Father’s arms circled around Mom.
“Now you have seen what we have seen,” Yacaa said. “Your fever has broken.”
Chenoo floated on one side of Cody, and Yacaa on the other. They pushed him with their long fingers and he felt himself guided along the hallway to his room.
He saw his bed there with the covers back and he sank into the coolness.
He didn’t wake up until two in the afternoon.
“Come in for lunch, sleepyhead,” called Mom.
Cody pulled on his pants and shirt and stumbled into the kitchen. Hot ham and cheese sandwiches sat on the table, ready for eating. They smelled great. Mom and Dad sat on either side of the sandwiches. His place was the middle.
“I guess I missed breakfast,” he said, sitting down in front of the food.
“You sound much better,” his Mom answered. “Your voice doesn’t have that wheeze.”
“I feel better,” Cody said. “Are you and Dad still mad?”
Dad stood up to get some milk from the fridge. “Sorry about the noise,” he said.
“We were working something out.”
“Yes,” Mom said. “What did you hear?”
“Just yelling,” Cody said.
“Sorry,” Dad said again. “Everything’s okay.”
Cody looked out the window. Mom picked up her sandwich. Yacaa’s breath blew through his ears, and out the other side. Cody laughed out loud.
Mom shovelled a few bites of ham into her mouth.
“That’s better,” said Dad. “That will give you strength.”
Yacaa blew air again and Cody laughed a second time.
Mom said “Last night I heard you talking to yourself in your room. That worries me.”
“I’ll try not to do that any more, Mom,” Cody said. He smiled at her and saw his reflection in the window behind. He jumped. It was like he saw straight through his child face to his skull on the other side. He gave a big grin and the skin around the skull in the window pane grinned too.
“He’s only eight years old,” said Dad. “Kids make up imaginary friends.”
“Could you please pass the milk?” Cody asked.
“Drink all your milk, Cody!” said Chenoo.
Cody put his hands over his ears and Chenoo’s voice faded somewhat.
Dad stood up and the top of his head almost touched the ceiling. “You take it easy today, son,” he said. “We must try not to raise our voices,” he said to Mom. “That disturbs him.”
“Yes,” Mom said. “But he feels better today. You got up by yourself just now, didn’t you Cody?”
“I do feel better, Mom,” Cody said, and repeated what Yacaa had told him. “My fever has broken.”“
Dad stood up and the top of his head almost touched the ceiling. “You’re acting like your own doctor today,” he smiled slightly, and moved for the door.
“See you, Dad,” said Cody.
He knew he must be a good boy for his parents. He would try not to look at his reflection or listen to the wizened brothers’ voices. He would forget.
He went back to bed, and lay down a while. The harder he tried to force the voices from his mind, the more he heard Chenoo say “Breathe in deep, and take in the moment.” He visioned his Dad’s outline shadowed against the garage wall like the black snake on the compost pile, and his mother crying in the night. He saw himself again, floating over the hole filled with black loam.
“Mom and Dad only acted out of fear,” the voice of Yacaa echoed in his head. “You are better and wiser now.”
Cody rocked his head back and forth, like he once rocked back and forth in the crib that sat at the back of his bedroom. He chanted to himself “I am better and wiser now,” and the voices faded as he took up their tone. He imagined that their soft murmuring would be part of him the next day, and the next no matter how much the garden froze, and the shadows stayed underground. He had breathed in their presence, in that summer night, under the cover of his fever-broken dream.
“The Story of Yacaa and Chenoo” comes from Kim’s most vivid childhood nightmare, including aspects of the reality that entered into it. His stories have been published in Storgy, Horror Zine, Literally Stories, The Blue Nib, Bewildering Stories, Horla, Blue Lake Review, and others. https://harrisonkim1.blogspot.com
Image via Pixabay