Shelley helped Daniel get his carry on out of the overhead bin. Since he was only ten, she was the flight attendant who made sure he was taken care of on his plane trip from California to Idaho. Daniel hardly felt he needed the attention, and his parents remarked more than once that he was more organized than most thirty-year-olds, but the rules were the rules. Daniel could play the role of a typical child when it was needed.
“Have a good visit with your aunt and uncle, Daniel.” As he exited the aircraft for the jetway, Shelley bent over slightly and tousled his bushy blond hair. Daniel suppressed his annoyance.
“Thanks, Shelley. Have a safe flight.” He knew that sounded stupid, but after all, he was supposed to be a kid, so circumstances often demanded he act like one.
Social requirements satisfied, he pulled his wheeled luggage behind him and walked toward the gate.
He’d been to this airport several times before, so it was a simple matter to locate and then walk in the direction of the luggage carousels. He noticed, as usual, most of the adults tended not to pay a lot of attention to where they were walking, so the boy had to dodge out of the way of several of them to avoid a collision. Daniel hated even casual touch.
By habit, he scanned the crowd for anomalies. So far he saw none. He’d seen several at LAX, but anomalies tended to congregate in larger population centers. In the six or eight years he’d been aware of them, he didn’t clearly recall seeing more than three during his annual visits to Idaho.
“Danny!” He heard his Uncle Ethan’s voice booming over the chatter of everyone else around him. His uncle ran over and gave him what he called “a great big bear hug.”
Only his aunt and uncle called him “Danny,” an indignity he tolerated because of his affection for them. And he only hugged or kissed his parents, aunt, and uncle.
Uncle Ethan finally released him and stood up. “How was the flight, boy? Any adventures?”
“No, Uncle Ethan. It was just a plane ride.”
Ethan took Daniel by the shoulder and guided him to the carousel where his suitcase should soon be appearing.
“Hardly anything excites you, Danny. Well, I bet your aunt’s famous fried chicken and dumplings will get some kind of rise out of you.”
“I can’t wait, Uncle Ethan.” Daniel really did like his aunt’s cooking. Mom and Dad were pretty good cooks when they had the time, but more often than not, Daniel made his own meals. He grudgingly admitted to himself that the food on the farm was a lot better than he got back home.
While Uncle Ethan was scanning the moving carousel for Daniel’s suitcase, the child looked around. There at the other end of the room were two of them, a couple. No one else could tell they were anomalies. While they looked like ordinary people to the rest of the world, Daniel saw them as shimmering, multicolored shapes.
They probably didn’t sense Daniel, but he was getting anxious anyway. True, only a few had discovered he could see them over the years, but when he was four, one of them tried to kill him.
It was in a parking lot. Dad turned his back only a few seconds to load some groceries into the car. The anomaly was another shopper who had somehow realized what Daniel was. The anomaly got close enough for Daniel to smell fetid death on its breath and see dozens of serrated teeth ready to rip out the little boy’s throat.
Dad turned and saw a middle aged man about to attack his son and shoved him away. When the anomaly attacked again, Dad punched him several times. Someone called the police. Daniel found out years later that the anomaly committed suicide by hanging itself in its jail cell.
He had nightmares for months afterward, but eventually regained control over his emotions.
Uncle Ethan complained about how reserved Daniel was, but if he could see the look of fright on his nephew’s face right now, he’d realize there was at least one thing that could “get a rise” out of him.
“Here it is.”
Daniel composed himself as his uncle wheeled around with his other piece of luggage. “We’re all set now, Danny. Let’s go find the car.”
“Okay, Uncle Ethan.”
Daniel looked back, but the two anomalies were gone. He hoped that was the last he saw of anything unusual on his vacation.
As Daniel and his uncle walked out of the terminal and crossed the street into the parking lot, the knot in his stomach told him that he wasn’t going to be that lucky.
This concept is loosely based on Iain Kelly’s recent A to Z Challenge 2017 story series. Every day, Iain crafted another puzzle piece to his murder mystery that had me and his other readers spellbound. I doubt I can create the suspense he conjured up, but when my wife got a giant A to Z jigsaw puzzle for our two-year-old granddaughter, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I don’t have a lot of time, so I think each “letter” will be shorter and I’m not sure I can write one every day, but I’ll do my best.
Let me know what you think.