“Willie, don’t make me say twice!” said Brent with a terrible annoyance in his voice. “You’re coming with me and that’s it.”
His younger brother was such a wuss, as always. It could be his age of just twelve. Sometimes Brent hoped that teenager years will bring Willie some ‘cojones’ like their Latino neighbor would say. For sure, that worked fine for him. At sixteen, he was now more confident and ready to do anything to achieve his goals.
Today he needed to make some cash and opportunity knocked when Luiz, their neighbor, suggested to him he will pay one hundred bucks for a carburetor for a Chevrolet Camaro from ’69 he was reconditioning in his garage. And when opportunity knocks, you can’t just not answer.
So, now he was dragging Willie to the scrap yard from the south of the town where he hoped to find the desired auto part. The problem was the yard was guarded by a mean old man by the name Stanley ‘One Eye.’ He had that rugged face and looks of an old pirate with the black patch on his left eye, hence the nickname.
Why he needed Willie for that? For bait. He needed Willie to keep the old man busy while he was looking for the part. But aside from old Stanley, there was another threat Brent omitted to speak about. It was rumored that old Stanley had a rabid dog with glowing red eyes called Cerberus. Brent didn’t see the feared beast when he passed by the yard the day before, so he hoped that all was just a rumor.
The light was dimming in the sunset now, facilitating their infiltration into the scrap yard through a hole in the planks fence, pretty far from the main gate.
“Willie, you go toward the main gate and if the old man asks, say you are lost and don’t know how to get home. Just keep him busy. Get it?”
“But what if he doesn’t believe me?” asked Willie with his innocent voice.
“You figure something else. I don’t care. Just keep him there.”
With reluctant steps, Willie moved toward the main gate where the old Stanley’s cabin was. Now Brent focused on identifying the right car in the long stacks of discarded metal carcasses. There were enough Chevy carcasses, but none so old. Eventually, luck smiled on him and in a row dangerously close to old Stanley’s guarding post, he found what he was looking for. It was almost dark and when he lifted the hood of the rusted old car, he saw with amazement that some parts were glowing.
Probably they were coated with phosphorescent paint, he thought.
He took the wrench out of his backpack and loosened the carburetor’s screws. After he removed the plugs, he could get it out safely. And it was still glowing.
Right then, a desperate cry was heard.
He ran toward where the scream came from and two rows further, he saw his little brother cornered by a massive black dog. Maybe it was the strange light of the dusk, but the animal’s eyes were indeed glowing red.
What could he do?
Brent let out a whistle to distract the beast, but with no success. Ultimately, he came closer and threw the newly recovered auto part toward the dog. The carburetor fell near the dog, but the moment it touched the dusty ground, the dog and his brother disappeared. Vanished into thin air.
What the hell was that? asked Brent himself. He didn’t drink or smoked pot, but for sure that was a hallucination. The carburetor was still on the ground where he threw it, but now it wasn’t glowing anymore. The boy put it in his backpack and went to look for his brother.
“Willie! Where are you?”
No one answered. He roamed the entire scrap yard, but Willie was nowhere to be found. Eventually he went at old man’s cabin and knocked.
“What!” old Stanley asked in a gruff voice, opening the door.
“Excuse me, sir, did you see my little brother? About twelve years old, this high, with blond hair?”
“No, I didn’t see any boy. And get out of here if you don’t want to get your ass smacked.”
“But sir, maybe he was scared by your dog,” insisted Brent.
“My dog is here and is not scary at all. So, mind your business.”
Just now Brent noticed, near the door of the cabin, a small dog, probably a mongrel of a beagle. Far from that frightening beast from before.
Totally confused, Brent left the yard and kept calling for his brother, hoping he may be on the neighboring streets. No luck there too.
That wuss probably ran home, he concluded eventually, and headed home too.
Once arrived there, he saw his parents were home too.
“Have you seen Willie?” he asked them.
Their faces changed instantly and his father snapped angrily, “Are you stoned or what? We are not in the mood for your sick jokes.”
“No dad, I just lost him…”
“Enough!” his mother said in a tight tone. “Go to your room.”
Brent obeyed, his mind trying to make sense of that scene.
* * *
Brent was going back home so later in the evening because he preferred to wander on the streets than to go home to that oppressive atmosphere. Since his little brother Willie was killed by a drunk driver while he was riding his bike two years ago, his parents barely spoke to each other, blaming one another for that tragedy. Or even blaming him. He was at a friend’s house at that time and when he got back home, his entire life was turned upside down.
Little he knew that tonight his life will be upturned again.
He entered the living room and saw that both his parents had different faces, different moods. Totally improved. His mother was setting up the dinner table.
“Ah, Brent. Just in time. Go wash your hands and tell your brother to come down for dinner.”
And she was saying those words with the most serene face. Was she delusional or what? Brent didn’t know what to think.
“But, mom—” he wanted to object.
“You heard your mother,” his father intervened. "Be a good boy and do as you’re told.”
He went to his room and left his backpack. Then, after he washed his hands in the bathroom, he laid on the bed with his arms below his head and looked at the ceiling. With only the bedside light on the white ceiling of his room was a scene filled with shadows coming from the room and through the window. The branches of the tree just outside the window were moving in the fall evening breeze.
His melancholic wide-open eyes dreaming was interrupted when a thud was heard from the next room. His brother’s room. Startled, Brent stood up and left his room. He stopped in front of his brother’s room, inhabited for two years, and turned into a shrine to his loving memory.
He slowly opened the door and remained stunned when he saw a boy resembling his late brother standing on the bed and playing with a ball.
“What!” his brother said.
“Err, who are you?” mumbled Brent.
“You hit your head or something?” asked Willie.
“No, but you are not supposed to be here.”
“And where am I supposed to be, dip head?” asked the younger boy in a mocking tone.
Yes, that was something his brother will say.
Brent didn’t want to embarrass himself any longer and just said, “Downstairs at the dinner table. Mom is waiting for us.”
“Now, you’re talking,” said Willie, eager as always to fill his stomach.
This was going to be an interesting dinner. When his brother went past him, he patted him gently on the back. His hand met solid matter, so he was not a ghost.
* * *
Brent was looking at the carburetor that sat on the top of his desk.
Start glowing again, damn you! he said with desperation.
After being left without any other explanation, Brent concluded this auto part was responsible for his brother’s disappearance. But it was not just his brother. His entire world disappeared. Those people downstairs were not his parents. He must be in an alternative reality where Willie was dead because earlier, he had checked his room and nobody was there, just a lot of pictures of him looking younger.
Feverishly, Brent started to twist the screws of the carburetor. Nothing. Furious, he let it fall on the desk with a thud. Then, the part started to glow. He quickly grabbed it and the scenery around him changed.
He was in a lush tropical forest. He was keeping the carburetor in his hands. Small, grayish reptilian hands.
Looking up, in front of him there was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was a bit smaller than him though, so no immediate danger. But Brent went haywire when the smaller T-Rex said, “Hey dude, what’s that in your hand?”