Dreadlocks and the Three Heirs
by R D Larson
The young man slouched against the inner wall of his cabin. Sure, it's rustic, but better than his shack; it has a floor and windows, he thought as his brown eyes warmed with memories of his days here. His longm twisted hair caught on one of the hand-hewn logs when he made to move. He jerked it free and went to the table.
He lit the lantern and stood gazing at it. His mind for once didn't dwell in the future. He remembered his dead father. Hawk's dark face and streaked hair told of years in Brazil, not here in the mountains of Montana. He'd never have returned if he'd not been a Smith of the Smith Accounting and Financial Equities of New York and Hong Kong. His father had died less than a week ago. None of his siblings called to tell him the old man died, but his stepmother called the cafe where he worked and begged him to fly north to the U.S.
Madison Smith had four children by his hippie wife and none by his second wife. The two sons and two daughters normally spent their summers with Madison working as ranch hands. Madison declared every summer that it gave rich kids a realistic work ethic.
The two younger children, Song and Hawk, closer in age, liked their stepmother. Especially Hawk, thoughtful and artistic, felt estranged from his two fiscal sisters and algebraic brother.
He didn‘t know any of them after twenty-five years as an ex-patriot living in Rio de Janeiro on only one Brazilian Reals a day. They didn’t write and he didn’t either. They met once with Father in Miami. It didn’t work out. His dreadlocks scared them, his music drove them mad, and his words disturbed them. They were the kind of people who enjoyed symphonies not reggae in a cafe.
Eagle, Brook and Song would arrive in a day or two for the reading of the will. Hawk missed his life in Rio already with the easy friendships. Still he savored his time in the cabin that his father had given him.
Hawk remembered his father’s summer marriage. When he turned ten years old, he experienced an astonishing transformation in his life. Night after night, he woke up screaming. During the day, he began having visions and singing strange songs, he’d only heard a few times when visiting his mother in California. Bob Marley changed his life as much as the visions of the future. The predictions grew more persistent. No matter the situation, Hawk would shout out his internal warnings about future catastrophes.
Hawk told of fires, floods, disease and violence that would happen in 2050. Finally, his visionary prophecies cost him his place in the family. His father being a pragmatist and a realist grew impatient with his youngest child.
Madison Smith gave sit-down barbecue dinners with various celebrities during the summer. With an aging movie star and a pair of gay magicians turned sheep herders as guests, one particular dinner ruptured completely. The new Mrs. Smith looking beautiful wore a low cut dress. The three older children, dressed properly, behaved civilly. Hawk remembered even now that he monopolized the conversations by proclaiming that the flying of rats with the falling of feces and urine would cause widespread contamination in August of 2050. His father lost his tolerance of the boy.
After a three months stay in Wooten-Banks Children’s Clinic, Hawk was sent back to his family. Psychiatric tests showed normal behavior and a high sense of morality. His mother in California couldn’t take care of him, she wrote. So Hawk returned to his father’s home. Despite medication, only a few weeks passed before Hawk started revealing events of 2050. Madison Smith suffered a mild stroke, and set the boy apart from the family. He had an old cabin renovated and forced Hawk to live there some two miles from the ranch house.
Allowed to spend only an hour of each day at the ranch house when the family vacationed in Montana, he spent most of his time at the cabin. His father did not allow Hawk to attend dinners or social events. In the city, Hawk attended a boarding school for artistic children.
Hawk recalled how his father watched his much-younger wife danced alone on the slate floor. She'd been a Texas cheerleader. When Kristy said she loved his father, none of them believed it. The crusty old financier was 30 years older and a sophisticated divorced bachelor when they met. His children and ex-wife figured Kristy only loved the Smith money.
Yet his father and Kristy stayed married all these years, Hawk marveled to himself as he stood looking out the dark window. He would try not to tell his siblings what would occur in 2075 and perhaps they would love his music. If revelations were his curse, then reggae was his peace
Lights. Who could it be? He could see lights glinting in different areas and only barely discernible in the woods. What lights were they? Ace, the foreman, as silent as always, picked Hawk up at the airport in the Land Rover and drove him straight to his cabin. Before leaving, Ace left an ice chest on the porch
Hawk wandered out to the porch to open the ice chest. Candy, potato chips, cola — an array of food crap he hadn’t eaten for a long time. He dropped the lid with a snap. He glanced out at the almost teasing lights among the trees.
He went back in to get the flashlight from his backpack. Singing slightly under his breath, Hawk began to make his way to the first set of lights.
The lower branches of the fir trees brushed against him. For a moment, he thought about being lost, but then laughed at his false fear.
He came to a clearing where the lights blazed brightly through the sheltering trees. He jerked up sharp. The low-built house, almost a bunker, squatted with wide windows around the top of it. Great metal ducts rose over the roof in four directions. So different from Brazil, he thought with longing.
He walked slowly up to the set-in door. The first door was heavy wood with some kind of sealing compound around the door. A key punch on the wall glowed with a tiny green light. Grinning, Hawk punched in the numbers, 1243, and the door slowly opened.
Song still didn’t have any imagination, he told himself. He could probably hack into her financial service. The same numbers she used for code for messages that they’d secretly sent each other as children and even her for her school locker. 1243. Hawk wanted to see his sister.
He stepped through the door as more lights initiated and the glass door shut silently behind him. Trapped in an airlock cubicle surrounded by glass, as wide warm bursts of air blew on him from all directions while the grate he stood on vibrated. He smelled bug spray or medicine.
The second glass door, he realized, created a “clean zone” like he’d once envisioned. All the doors were sealed and the windows were double-paned with some kind of algae-type material sliding around in between. Weird, he thought to himself. By the door stood a long table made out of polished steel. In sealed clear boxes were eye guards, masks and brown vials. He then heard the air system come to life and growlingly began to clean the air around him.
The house literally sucked. It sucked its own air out, cleaned and purified it, sending it back in over humongous filters. Used to freedom, Hawk panicked and ran toward the glass door. He jerked on the steel pull bar but it didn’t open. The hospital smell and the swirling air nauseated him. Finally, he saw a button on the wall and slammed his fist against it. The door opened. He bolted through as started closing again. Through the other door, Hawk anxiously crossed the threshold to the true Montana atmosphere.
He dryly retched, holding his head, trying to clear the medicine smell of Song’s house/bunker. Pitiful Song. She must be afraid to breathe natural air. He shook his head at such absurdity
Much slower, he drifted to the second set of lights. Through the trees, he could see something that shimmered and sparkled. Brazil with its excitement and teaming life retreated until Hawk felt he was on a strange planet. A flash above his head made him look up. Barely visible through the treetops a shooting star caught his eye.
Then the vision took him. The seizure threw him to the ground.
Year 2075. The giant star smashing into the Milky Way threw off all the gravitational pull of the planets, altering the solar system. Chaos. Torn by his painful knowledge, he curled into ball, his knees pulled up.
After what seemed like hours trying not to think about the horrors of the future, Hawk stood up. Looking up he childishly shook his fist at the night sky.
He went on toward the twinkling lights, figuring it must be Brook’s house. As he walked down a small hill, he could see it before him. The house was wood, cedar maybe, with old-fashioned windows and doors. Built to look old, it didn’t fool Hawk. It had not been there when he fled to Brazil.
As he stepped over a short ledge, he realized that water surrounded the entire house. This was a creek, or maybe a moat, with a wooden footbridge leading to the house.
Again, the same push-button door key existed. Hawk put the same number in. Brooke had even less imagination than her sister. Feeling a keen lack of closeness to his father and now long-dead hippy mother, Hawk wanted to see his brother and sisters. Brook might have arrived early. Hawk strolled through the door into a huge living area.
He turned and looked at a wall of water, bubbling down the back of the house. He called his sister again. “Brook?”
Through the waterfall, he could see a pool with low, flickering lamps and raised areas of smaller pools, interconnected with arches and tunnels. He pushed aside the sliding door.
Steam rose from the heated water. Slipping off his sandals, he dropped his clothes in a heap. Warm as blood it coursed around his ankles and soothed him.
Hawk slid into the water. He hadn’t been in a pool for years. The seashore in Rio had been his playground. This was paradise, he thought as he floated, his hair stringing out in long ribbons and his beard making an eddy around his chin. He paddled like a child, even with an echo from his mother, telling him not to swim alone. Hawk smiled. How Brook must enjoy this, he thought.
When he was tired, he climbed out and dropped down on a deck chair. Even though it was a cool night, there was some kind of heaters near the pool. Languidly, he began to wonder what powered the water and the heaters. Probably generators, running on gas or propane or maybe by now there were huge power factories somewhere near. He remembered the dark sweaty nights with insects and screaming, dirty children. People, good people, with only enough water to drink. They could never imagine a huge pool that would serve so few. Disgusted, Hawk’s pleasure turned to depression.
When barely dry, he threw on his clothes. He didn’t bother to look in any other room. He understood how Brook’s selfish and careless nature could corrupt even him.
Feeling low, and now hungry, Hawk plodded on toward what he was sure the house of his least favorite sibling, his brother Eagle. Hawk remembered Eagle as the solemn teen, nearly ten years older. He teased his brother about his high brain-forced forehead saying he would soon be a BALD eagle. Nevertheless, neither insults nor teasing or even good-natured chatter interested Eagle. He locked himself into an equation and didn’t know it was his own prison, Hawk thought to himself.
Surprised when he saw the modern house ahead, Hawk blinked. His thirst and hunger were gnawing at him now. He was use to doing with little in Rio but a couple of days traveling had caught up with him. Anyhow, his life in Rio seemed a long time ago.
“Mon, hope you got some food,” Hawk said, again pushing the buttons to the door. The door didn’t open. He snickered slyly and punched the numbers in backwards. 3421. The door slid open.
Normal. Simple. Hawk looked around pleased that ostentatious money-grabbing material things didn’t matter too much to his brother. A worn leather couch, littered with magazines, even a biography of a historical American sat among soft chairs that were wide and inviting. An impressive bar clung to a corner. Hawk poured himself a tumbler of pricey rum and wandered toward two huge louvered doors guarding what might be food.
Hawk pushed through them. The kitchen was the gut of his brother’s house. Spotless counters and two commercial refrigerators. Pantry doors. Hawk began opening the doors to everything. Steaks cooked and sealed inside, needing only heating. There were fifty kinds of ice cream. Cheeses from all over the world. Caviar and trout. Breads and pastries. Food that Hawk didn’t recognize and obvious chef’s creations.
Hawk went mad with a fervor he had never known. He feasted, gobbled, tasted, and licked. He ate more strawberries and blueberries than he had ever had in his life. He found crunchy bread and tubs of potato salad and boxes of everything two and three deep in the spacious pantries. Hawk gorged himself on food that he had not had for twenty-five years.
Drunk with his own gluttony, he fell asleep on the big leather sofa.
Eagle, his brother came home. He gazed down at little Hawk, the outsider. Then Eagle went to his now-messy kitchen. Looking around, his fat face red as a blood vessel, Eagle swore. He reached into the freezer, picking a 30-pound ham from Bavaria. Turning on his heel, he strode back to the sofa.
Hawk slept like a fool with jam on his chin. Eagle raised the ham high, driving it down, smashing Hawk’s head and killing him.
Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories on behalf of the author