Years ago, my brother and I would play a game. We had a make-believe world called Moga, where we went on adventures, created monsters, and then fought them. I called him my Little Adventurer and he called me his Sister of the Seas. For years this world was our fun secret.
Over time I grew. I became sexually mature and interested in nylons and lipstick, and apparently seem to think I’m some sort of writer. My little brother still plays those make-believe games, but I can no longer see any monsters or go to Moga, and suspect I never will again.
When I see my brother having these adventures, I become conflicted and wonder: is it inherently wrong to become mature? Or can coming of age be a good thing?
This story begins, like many others before it, with a moment of chance. One random moment, almost by accident, that set far too many things in motion. In this case, it was a little boy on a rooftop at night.
This rooftop was in a suburban town called Rono, Virginia, a town that was very impoverished, and home to many families that were struggling in the early 2000’s.
On this summer night, the moon was out and all was very still when a small hand pushed a windowpane open. A twelve-year old boy was climbing out of his second-story window bedroom and onto the roof of his house. Slowly he balanced himself, and then continued to crawl outward.
When he came to the edge of the roof, he slowly stood up, balanced himself, then lept onto the roof of the neighboring house. Up ahead, the town pool rested about three houses down.
The boy’s name was Sean and he was poor. Three days earlier he had realized that by sneaking out his window, he could crawl directly into the town pool, and sneak in a nice dip. He had concocted the plan to try this adventure in the middle of the night, long after his mother went to bed, but had taken two days to work up the courage, only to be thwarted the previous evening by rain. This evening, he had finally worked up the courage.
He had almost made it across the second rooftop before he slipped.
He slid down to the edge of the roof, but was able to grab hold of the chimney and hung on to it tightly. There he hung suspended, terrified. And that’s when he heard two voices below:
Sean gasped, but then realized the voices weren’t referring to him. Two men were on the street below, congregating by the house. It was difficult for Sean to seem them properly from his current vantage, but the town was known for its criminal life. Sean had heard much about this given his father’s job. Right away, he knew these men were criminals. Small-time of course, nothing worse than street thugs, but not the sort of men he felt the need to reveal himself to.
“So what’s the word?”
“Nuttin’, John. No word at all.”
“You got me all the way out here just to tell me nuttin’?”
“I got you out here to talk about your acrobatics with Mr. Untouchable.”
It looked like a confrontation was about to go down.
It was then that Sean noticed a silhouette slowly entering the picture. A third member was joining the team. An ambush, set up by one of the two men to kill the other? No, Sean sensed something wrong afoot. For at that moment, both men noticed the figure approaching them, and neither looked amused.
“‘Scuse me,” one of the men said–the one named John– “I think you got the wrong street, buddy!”
The figure stepped forward into the moonlight, and Sean saw a visage that would change his life forever.
It was a woman, or at least female. She had the face of a human; certainly the nose and lips fit a shape that suggested a very beautiful face. The structure of her body and general appearance was humanoid, but she was tall, and tiny sharks protruded from her head in place of hair. Yes, tons of tiny sharks, each one alive and individually snapping its mouth. Her skin was a dark pea-green. Her fingers were long, slightly longer than a normal person, with nails shaped like claws. She wore a long, black toga, that seemed to bury an otherwise normal human body. Finally, she wore a thick iron mask across her face that covered only her eyes. The mask contained two glass eye-holes, so she could see clearly, but what her eyes looked like, or if she even had any, was a mystery.
Sean had never seen a creature like this in his life, but the closest image that came to his paralyzed brain at that moment was that of Medusa and the gorgons of Greek mythology. Close, but not quite.
“No,” she said with a voice that boomed yet also seemed subtle, “I think I have the right one. Will you be my ambassador?”
Sean was frozen on the rooftop. Down on the street the two men stared in fear and awe. One of them–the one named John–paused. The look on his face seemed confused. He recognized this creature from somewhere…but where?
“The name’s Stheno,” the creature said, speaking directly to him, “Or have you forgotten?”
And at that moment she lept forward and attacked both men!
Sean climbed up behind the chimney and covered his face in panic. Yet he missed nothing of what went on.
The creature was wrestling primarily with the one named John. The other man lept onto her back and tried to knock her over, but she proved to be far stronger than he.
“Sorry, ambassador,” she said with relish, “No entry.”
She easily shook him off, throwing him smack into the wall. He hit it with a loud thud, then fell unconscious.
She next wrestled with the one named John. She easily lifted him by the neck as he continued to try and jam his elbow into her face.
Sean watched all this in shock.
The one named John was rammed against the wall. As he flinched in pain, he he looked up. For one split second, he and Sean locked eyes.
And then the creature came in for the kill.
Sean never forgot what he saw next until the day he died: the creature tore into the man’s turtleneck shirt, then bit into his bare neck.
Sean covered his mouth to hide the gasp.
The man struggled and tried with all his might to swat at her.
But she–whoever she was–only laughed at him.
“No. You are not coming back. Not this time.”
After a few long, agonizing seconds, he was dead.
The creature dumped the corpse back on the pavement, then walked away.
Soon she had turned back into the dark alley she had materialized from, and was gone once more.
Silence came back in to the world.
Sean continued to lie on the roof for a full ten minutes further, trying to gather his senses. Very slowly, he began to move.
Finally, he made his way back to his bedroom window, crawled back in, jumped in bed, and hid his face under the covers.
Outside, the moon kept shining, the summer air was cool, and the town pool received no visitors that night.