I have Part 2 of the short story Iyrico. If you didn’t catch Part 1, it’s here – Link to Part One
If you’re all like ugh, just give me the whole story, you can access the story in its entirety at:
Levi went directly back to his room as soon as lunch was done and shut the door. It had no lock, unfortunately, but he was thankful for the physical barrier, just the same. He shut out Nessa and the sounds of dying down the hall. The room became his island of solitude, just him and faithful Hound along with the ever-present sound of waves crashing against the rocks below. Holing up this way, only coming out for bathroom visits, worked well for most of the day, until he heard the front door open.
He poked his head into the hallway. Nessa stood at the front door, calling outside.
“Kitty, here, kitty, come back in. Please, baby.” She begged as she knealt and snapped her fingers.
Hound whined from his napping spot on the braided rug, a warning to his master.
Don’t trust the girl.
Nessa stepped outside, still beckoning. She didn’t have a cat when they last came to Cliff House, but he supposed she could have gotten one.
No. Better to shut the door and forget about her. He did just that, backing away as though he expected a monster to burst through.
She continued to call for the cat. He lost her voice as she moved away from the open front door.
Levi went to his window to see if he could watch her. If she ran into some kind of trouble, he could go get the adults. She didn’t cross his narrow view of the yard in the minutes ticking by like days.
Would she put herself in danger to get him into trouble? He turned the idea over and over in his head. How far would she go?
He removed the library book he brought with him from his suitcase to read but stayed at the window. More minutes passed with only the sound of ocean waves. Words in the text failed to hold his interest. He tossed the book onto the bed, paced to the closed door and back.
“She isn’t my problem,” He told Hound.
More minutes ticked by in tense quiet. What if stray dogs mauled her? He pondered how a tragedy like that would affect his mother and Dean. They didn’t need any more grief, not with their mother dying. He decided to tell on Nessa.
He abandoned his solitude for the hall, stopping next to Grandma Mola’s now closed door. Voices spoke on the other side, his mother’s words broken by tears and Dean chiming in. This was important talk. Interrupting them for the childish act of ratting out Nessa would mean greater consequences for him than her.
Levi growled under his breath. He had two choices. He could go back to his room and wait out the suspense or he could fall for what was likely a trick to lure him where he wasn’t supposed to go.
Nessa had left the front door open. The adults would want him to shut it, especially with stray dogs nearby. They wouldn’t want the dogs to smell cold cuts and wander in.
“Iyrico, Iyrico, Iyrico.” Grandma’s Mola’s words rose above the others, sounding a warning no one understood but her. Her frustration dissolved into mournful explanations in some other language.
The language of the dying. Levi thought.
He kept his eyes riveted to the sunlit foyer and listened for Nessa calling to the cat as he crept closer. He tried to detect her voice over the ocean waves beating against the shore. The air became heavy, bearing down on him like in a dream. It would resist any attempt he made to run.
His mind conjured images of hulking beasts, of dogs pushing in through the open front door. Jaws snapping, mouths watering at the idea of ripping into his flesh, they filled the hallway of his imagination, scrambling on the wooden floor.
Levi hesitated next to a window. The yard remained still beneath the weight of the air. He made fists to stop the tremble in his hands.
“Stop being stupid.”
He ran forward and slammed the door. Stunned by his own action, he stared at it. The house was secure again. He assured himself they couldn’t come through.
You shut her out. The idea nagged. He could always tell them he had only just noticed the door open. He didn’t know she’d gone out there.
Levi leaned against the door to catch his breath.
“Nessa, are you in the house?” He asked aloud and received no reply.
With the door closed, the smell of decaying vegetation returned. It coiled around him, the fragrance of dead things in their earthy tomb. He ventured down the hall to the kitchen.
He didn’t see her. There were other sections of the house interior, a utility room with a washer and dryer, a pantry, a storage room holding all sorts of junk Grandma Mola had deemed important. He had been back there only once with her. Thinking he might want a toy to play with, she had asked him to retrieve a spinning top made of dented tin from a shelf buried in the corner. Boxes were stacked everywhere with random items scattered among and on top of them. She had dirty dolls and clocks, fabric scraps and ceramic figurines of fancy ladies in fancy hats, power tools. He’d scraped his elbow on a rusted animal trap, and after all that squeezing by and rummaging, the top didn’t even work. It was junk like all the rest.
Iyrico. Grandma Mola’s mind was as cluttered as the room, he supposed.
“Nessa.” He whispered.
Nothing moved. No one replied. He felt the house waiting for him to make a next move, watching for him to slip up.
At the back of the house, he left the storm door closed as he surveyed the yard leading down to the edge of the cliff. No one ever went into the back yard. They had no picnics near the ocean. The danger there was worse than anywhere else, especially for a kid when the wind was high. A lone seagull glided from the trees down toward the rocks below. Nessa was not there.
“I’m going back to my room now. Your trick didn’t work.” He said more to the yard than her.
Back in the front hall, on the way back to solitude, he made the mistake of glancing toward the well. What he saw there chilled the blood in his veins.
A big, brown dog nosed the carcass of a small animal, rolling as he pushed. Irritated skin poked through bare spots in his fur where bugs had bitten him raw, and his head twitched as he nipped bits of flesh from his meal. A second dog entered the scene from behind the well, and they bickered over the meat.
“Kitty, kitty.” Nessa spoke, but he didn’t see her. “There you are.”
Where had it come from? The sound was muffled by a wall between them. He went from window to window, trying to determine if she really was outside.
The dogs tussled, growls escalating to shrieks. If Nessa wandered anywhere nearby, they would rip her to pieces. The first dog broke from the fray to snatch up the animal carcass and bounded off, into the wilds with the second mongrel at his heels.
This was Levi’s chance. He promised himself he would be quick. He just needed to know for sure so he could return to the solitude of his room with a clear conscience. He burst through the door.
“Nessa!” Near the well where the dogs had just been, he swung in a circle, dizzy with the rush of heat from the sun and his pulse in his throat. “Nessa, dogs!” were the only words he could manage. The day was too bright for his eyes to adjust so quickly. He blinked at the shadows at the front of the house, trying to force his vision into focus.
A growl emanated from the woods, a rustle of branches, and then he was running. The door slammed in his face, throwing him onto the rocky soil. He sat, numbed by the denial of safety.
The dogs fought again, moving through branches in a chase just inside the trees. Leaves seemed to whisper, run! The danger brought him to his feet.
With a murderous smile, Nessa waved to him from a window, and then she receded into the cavernous house.
The doorknob refused him, and he threw his body into the door, beat on the wood with both fists and shouted as loud as his voice would allow, “Help! Mom! I’m locked out!”
The sounds of canine struggle in the woods ceased.
He stopped shouting and faced the yard. Wild dogs stalked him from the leaves, possibly more than the two who had been so brazen as to enter the yard. Eyes peered out at him, evaluating; he felt them just as he felt his heart racing in his chest. If he ran, they would certainly chase, and the only direction that would carry him farther away was around the house, to the cliff, where the wind posed an equal threat.
Other than the cloud of flies over the wildflowers at the base of the well, the yard remained still. The sun had begun to set into the woods, giving the sky a radiant rosy glow over the trees. And the leaves rustled again. Movement, more deliberate than a chase, more calculated. He tried to track their locations by the disturbance of the tangle of green.
Levi was cornered. Did he dare put his back to them to beat on the door again? Did he risk being swarmed at the back by a pack of wild dogs and dragged into the woods? He had no choice. He went at the door with the full force of his urgency. Through tears, he screamed for his mother until his voice broke, pounded until he thought he would break every bone in his hands. He felt a change in the scene behind him.
He turned to see a snout had emerged from the trees. A red dog with a bull nose sniffed the ground, his eyes on Levi.
His left ear was gnarled against his head. Another dog, a sightly smaller version of the first minus the gnarled ear, came next. He assessed the situation by sniffing the air instead of the ground. They were cautious but wouldn’t be for long.
Levi flattened his back against the door only to have it swing open. He landed at his mother’s feet with her looking angrily down at him.
“Levi Francis Philips, what in the world are you doing?”
Breath wouldn’t come at first. He simply gawked up at her and his uncle as they stood over him.
“The dogs.” He finally said. “They’re out there.” He pointed to the empty yard.
“We told you to stay inside for a reason. Go to your room this instant and stay there until dinner,” She ordered.