The Shadows of Jason Ryley
Part of the Shadows Collective.
I was five years old the first time I saw him. Something standing in the distance.
My Mother was excited beyond measure for my birthday that year. Something about the number five seemed to excite her. Maybe it was some sort of milestone in her head.
“Jason!?” I remember hearing her calling me as clear as day. I looked up from my small crudely designed LEGO house I was building. The explosions and fighting from the movie I was watching drowned out her voice slightly.
“Yeah!?” I shouted back.
“Time to go!”
I stood up and pressed the stop button on the front of the VCR. The noise of the incendiary violence stopped abruptly and the screen turned blue.
“K!” I shouted back. I stomped my way out of the bedroom and down the stairs. As usual, my socks slip as I hit the landing. Almost sliding into the wall. Which had developed a tiny indent from the countless times I had body slammed it.
“Careful,” Mom said as she entered the living room. She was already wearing her dark red coat. Which incidentally matched her dark red hair. I recall her looking very young. Later in life I did the math and found I was right. She was only twenty seven years old by that point. Being the kid I was, at the time I couldn't have cared less. That day was to be a day of presents and cake!
Jason Ryley, I never understood the truth behind it. But I had my Father's last name instead of my Mother's. I found it written on most of the cards people had sent to me the day before. I wished I could have simply gotten excited about the money inside. Which had piled up to be almost enough to by the Nintendo 64 I had wanted. It came out the year before but no one in our family could afford to get one for me. After spending half my last year at a friends house only to play that system. I decided I had enough, I needed one of my own.
Today was a special day because Mom had decided to take me to one of my favorite places for the day. I braced myself for the hour and a half drive ahead of us.
“Get in the car,” Mom said as she opened the door. I climbed through the back door of her red hatchback. My car seat was on the driver side so she could keep an eye on me through the mirror.
“Can I have my book?” I asked.
Mom smiled. She opened her purse and pulled out a small back book and a black ink pen. This was the tradition during long-ish drives. She kept it for me so it wouldn't get lost or fall on the occasionally wet floor of the car. I grabbed the book excitedly and opened it. Mom closed the door and did whatever she did to start the car and get it moving.
I flipped through the pages of the book. Each one had drawings upon drawings. Each one was of something I had dreamed about. Apparently I had some sort of special ability to remember my dreams clearer than any my doctor had seen before. Which had cause problems because anytime I had a nightmare, I would remember it as if it had really happened to me.
So to sum up. I was a happy, creative, insomniac kid. Every Mother's dream. Despite the trouble she had with me. Mom never let up in trying to keep me happy all the time. Even back then I felt a strong loving connection to her. Something I have to imagine most kids feel, but don't truly understand until their later years. After today however, things were going to get far most difficult for the both of us.
I put it to you, what would you do if one of your child's recurring nightmares turned out to be real?
This time around I planned to try drawing a happy dream. Something Mom and the Doctor had suggested. As the put it. To stick with the positive. I opened to a blank page. Clicked the pen and began to drawn the last dream I could remember.
I wake up in a field of darkness. Illuminated only by an eerie blue glow. Seemingly not coming from anywhere. I stand up. Taller than I'm used to. Gazing downward I notice something is very wrong. Not only do I appear much older than I am. But I'm also not wearing any clothes whatsoever.
A feeling of anger and embarrassment sweeps over me. Because I truly do know the reason I stand here. Although I can't for the life of me remember in the context of my conscious mind. Right now I know. I know exactly. My actions, I realize now, are beyond my control. As before I could notice, my feet are already moving. Advancing forward into the lame darkness. Voices are fell in the air around me. Although I can't understand what they are saying. I hear my name once or twice but that's it.
Despite my efforts to stop, my feet keep on moving. As if robotic. Stepping with perfect timing and precision. Down into the dark before me, something has begun to come into view. At first glance it appears to be a pool. The water inside is a ethereal shade of blue. It's the only source of light in this whole nightmarish place. In the center floats a small boat. In the shape of a swan.
Wisps of darkness start to surround the boat. Flying in circular motions. Forming closer and closer together. I close my eyes. The sound of winds blowing fills the air around me.
“Jason...” Again the fell voice in the air speaks.
“What is this?” I ask. Quietly. Mostly to myself.
“Jason...” Again the voice.
“Jason...” Again the voice.
“Son...” Again the voice.
I gasp. Now more terrified to open my eyes than before.
“Come...” Again the voice. That voice. The voice of fear. The voice of violence. The voice of pain.
The voice of my Father.
I try to open my eyes. Despite my supposed older age. I feel the same fear as a child.
“Open your eyes...” Again the voice.
I try not to, but my eyes begin to open. The circling darkness is still there. Surrounding the swan boat. But now a man is sitting inside. He stares at me with a large toothy smile. His eyes are a terrible shade of gray. Covered over by a broken pair of glasses. He still wore his white lab coat. Although now it is covered in dirt and ripped in several places. He also appears to be much older than shown in the many pictures I have seen of him. Even the most recent ones. From my somehow adult sense I determine he must be at least twenty years older. The man before me is at least fifty-five or sixty.
“See you soon...” Again the voice. My Father's mouth doesn't move from the smile when speaking. “It's gonna be a good day...”
“No!” I scream at him. Determined never to see the man again. Even again in my dreams.
That was it. My dream had ended there. I knew Mom would not be happy about this drawing. Another one that turned out to be scary and negative. And a caricature of her abusive and absent ex-husband.
I looked out of the car window. Somehow I didn't notice just how long I had been working on the drawing. My dread turned into excitement the second I saw that rainbow shaped entrance. My eyes widened at the words sprawled across it reading: RAINBOW VALLEY.
The sign beside the entrance read: HOURS DE OPERATION.
In my mind then I couldn't understand the use of the “DE” on that sign. Looking back now I understand it was actually written in french. We arrive that day around 10AM. Which was fortuitous because the park would be open between 9AM and 7PM.
“Here was are buddy!” Mom said. “Rainbow Valley! You excited!?”
She was speaking so positively. I loved it.
“Were coming up on the castle!” Mom said. All three times we has been here in the last two years she always had said that. She was referring to the parks box office. Which was designed to look like a large white castle. At least it appeared large to me.
Mom and I had exited the car and got to the bridge next to the white castle. I looked around hopefully as Mom took care of the adult stuff to get us in. My mind was racing with just about everything I could remember about this place. The UFO gift shop. Nearby on both sides of the castle was a large lake area. Several guest were riding small two-person boats across the calm water. The sun was shining brilliantly that day. Ironically reflecting off the surface of the water. Someone later on would tell you the irony of that considering Shining Waters. Nothing about this mattered when I was five years old. Unfortunately neither did the fun I was able to have. The fun was offset for a moment when I caught a glimpse of one of the boats. It was none other that the exact swan from my dream. I stopped breathing for a moment. It couldn't have been the same one. Even if it was. It was just a dream.
Mom and I laughed and ran as we got lost in the hedge maze. I screamed with joy as I tumbled down the kiddie slide at the pools area. We happily walked through the picnic areas.
A few hours into the trip we went to what had become my favorite ride by face. Not the Roller Coaster or anything like that. It was simply known as the Dark Ride. I didn't understand much of the Pirates style animatronic adventure when I was that age. But I remember it was set during the rum running era and simulated a journey aboard a boat. Let by a salty sailor type dressed in a yellow slicker.
Mom and I sat together. Hand in hand as the light dimmed and the sailor puppet began to talk. The set started to spin, showing the many different amazingly constructed pieces of both comedy and intrigue. I laughed with everyone, even when I didn't understand the jokes. We came upon a set showing a single man holding a lantern. With his hand pressed on a barrel of rum. Of course he was animatronic. Until I blinked. Somehow his face became real. If only just for a moment. I saw that horrible face from my nightmare superimposed over the puppet. The eyes behind those broken glasses stared me down. Before winking once and evaporating away. Mom looked down at me when she noticed I had stopped laughing.
"Honey, you okay?" She asked. I faked the best possible smile I could and shook my head yes. She smiled back and went back to the show. I stared down to the floor for the rest of it. I had no idea if that really happened or if it was just the influence of the ride.
"Son..." The voice said again in the air. I looked around wildley trying to find it. But I saw nothing.
Eventually sitting down to eat our fries and my hot dog. The Ketchup dripped onto my shirt below my chin. Mom tried to wipe it off, but there was a tiny little spot now stained.
“We should get some water to clean that off,” Mom said. She looked around. Probably trying to find a bathroom. I looked at her face and saw her smiling. She was staring at the lake in the distance. "Let's go on one of those boats."
I sat at the kitchen table that night. My wine glass was nearing it's end for the fourth time. I gasped when I heard the phone ring. I quickly picked it up.
"Hello?" I answered.
"Hey doll!" Joyce's voice echoed. She always called suing speaker phone. No matter how often people told her how annoying it is. I held the phone receiver up to my ear with my shoulder and started to pour another glass of wine.
"Hey, how are ya?" I asked. She immediately began to talk as quickly a she could about her day. Among all the inane babble and incomprehensible storytelling. I caught a question.
"Where's Brock tonight?"
I though for a moment. My first reaction was to lie about it. Joyce would have known right away if I had. She may have been talkative, but she knew me better than anyone else. "He's probably out with her."
My voice shook even as I said that. I couldn't even bring myself to say her name. Joyce continued to talk as I looked into the living room. The crib stood near the couch with my beautiful little baby sound asleep inside. My own personal joy went by the name of Jason. By legal necessity has the last name Ryley. Along with me and Brock.
Suddenly I heard a slamming noise coming from the front door.
"Oh god..." I said under my breath. Joyce frantically asked what was going on but I simply hung up the phone.
"Maureen!" The voice came from behind the locked entrance.
"What!?" I shouted back. Jason was already crying in the other room.
"Let me in!"
"Why should I!?"
"It's my house!"
"What happened to what's-her-face?"
"I told you! She's a damn colleague!"
"Brock if you're going to lie, come up with something more original!"
"You can't keep me out forever!"
"I'll settle for tonight!" On that note I walked back to the table and calmly took another sip of wine. He continued to bang on the door and shout as loud as he could. I knew this kind of crap happened to married couples all the time. I just never in million years suspected it would have happened to me.
Brock had set some lady named Sullivan or something like that. She enticed him to a job in an even smaller town than this one. I couldn't even bother to remember the name of it. Little something. Either way, his long drives to and from that hospital notwithstanding. He had grown very fond of one of the Doctors there. The blonde bimbo who was now my arch nemesis for my own husbands affections. In the end, the only way to win. Yada yada yada...
As my mind was wondering I heard a large crashing noise. I jumped out of the table and ran over to the house entrance. Only to find the door had been broken completely off it's hinges. No sign of Brock. I wandered around looking for him. Ready to pounce if I saw the man. The echoes of the crying baby made it impossible to hear if he was nearby. From a yelp and a push I found myself on the floor. Brock had pushed me down. Despite his small stature the man was shockingly strong. He stood above me, wearing an average looking cheap gray business suit. His brown hair and scraggly beard was combed back and gelled. He looked clearer than he had in years.
"How dare you!" I shouted at him.
"Give me a break Maureen. I'm just here to get some stuff," He said.
"Why would you push me?"
"Wouldn't you have done the same if now worse to me if you saw me first?"
"But nothin'. Now hang out there until I find my stuff."
"What happened to you Brock?" I asked quietly.
"I met a man... An amazing man," Brock stared at the crib.
"A man???" I was very confused. "You cheated on me with a man?"
Brock shook his head, disappointed. "You think this is as simple as cheating?"
I stood up. "Isn't it?"
"I have better things to worry about than the sins of the flesh Maureen. I have met a man. A priest who has shown me a path. Something in my life I can be proud of."
"I don't understand."
"Neither do I just yet," He smiled.
"I just want you to leave..." I whispered.
"Don't worry, I'm leaving. I'm headed to Little Harbor for good."
Brock stepped past me and walked over to the crib. He leaned over and wiped a few tears off the baby Jason's face.
"Don't take this personally little man," He said to the child. "But what I'm doing is far more important than us. When you're a little older you will see me again. I promise."
He stood up and walked past me again. Climbed the stairs up to our bedroom. I ran over to the crib and lifted the baby out. Holding him close to my heart. "It's okay. It's gonna be okay..."
I suppose I was speaking more to myself than Jason, but something was scaring me. I needed to believe I was protecting the baby. Brock came back down the stairs again with a small suitcase in hand. He opened the door to leave the house but stopped in his tracks. Without turning he spoke.
"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe it was important," He said. "I have no intention of returning to hurt either of you. And I will miss you."
He opened the door the rest of the way and exited. I ran up to the door and looked outside. He was heading towards a small blue car. Not his own. Another man was in the driver's seat waiting for him. A man dressed completely in black. His hair was jet black. As he turned I noticed his eyes were a sharp and extremely vivid color of blue. A shiver ran down my spine upon making eye contact with him. This was the priest.
They drove away. I held my baby tight.
What do I do now?