Cerebral – A Short Story

brain_drawing_

ce·re·bral [suh-ree-bruhl, ser-uh-]

adjective

1. Anatomy, Zoology; of or pertaining to the cerebrum or the brain.

2. Betraying or characterized by the use of the intellect rather than intuition or instinct: His is a cerebral music that leaves many people cold.

3. Phonetics. retroflex

 

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy

Less common than Spastic Cerebral Palsy and more common than Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, Athetoid Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the cerebellum or basal ganglia. These areas of the brain are the ones that process the signals that enable co-ordinated movements and body posture.

A child born with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy usually develops involuntary movements, especially in the face, arms and parts of their body. It interferer’s with speaking, feeding, reaching, grasping, etc. It can also lead to trouble speaking and swallowing, drooling and slowed speech.

i

 

He knew the evening would be interesting when he saw the body in the garden.

Cedric tried to tell his mother about it, but as usual, she wasn’t listening. “There’s a man in the garden.” This is what he said. What came out was: “I want to play with fire truck.” Fuck, he thought. Lets try that again: “I’ll make it go around the room.”

Mother fucker, he thought. He was often perplexed by the relationship between his tongue and his brain. It often didn’t let him do what he needed or wanted to do. When he wanted to change from his chair to the couch, he couldn’t move his body very well. When he wanted to speak, to shape a phrase, something else materialized. It was all very disturbing.

He pointed at the window hoping that his mother would get the hint. At least that part of him worked fine: right arm and left leg. He could point and gesture at things – he hadn’t been denied that movement. He had learned quickly and wondered, not for the first time, why he had to resort to pointing at things – everyone knew that pointing was terribly rude.

Sometimes, however, pointing didn’t work. This was one of those times. Cedric’s mother Helena stopped scrubbing the dishes for a moment to stir a pot and gave him a glance. It wasn’t a mean glance, more a motherly look just to check that he was there.

“There’s my button,” she said – and promptly resumed stirring dinner. “Who’s Mommy’s cute boy?”

Cedric sighed.

It was going to be a long night.

ii

 

Elena, Cedric’s older sister came into the kitchen. She had a quick smile for him before grabbing some cereal from the cupboard. His mother looked at her sternly.

“You’ll spoil you’re supper if you eat now.”

“It’s just cereal,” Elena says. She holds up the box. “Look, it says whole grain, right there on the box. Aren’t you always telling me that whole grain is good for me?”

His mother scowls. “Honestly, why we ever taught you to talk at all, I’ll never know.” She goes back to stirring at the stove, humming something to herself. She hummed tunelessly. She was lost to him.

Cedric motioned to the window. He made one of the noises he knew he could make, a soft, urgent sound. He used it for feeding, changing and fright. He tried to tell them things, attempted the right words; but they would always come out wrong.

“There’s a man in the garden and it looks like he’s been there for a while.” What came out was: “I drew some drawings at school today.” His other arm pointed at the fridge. “I put them on the fridge.”

Cock sucker, Cedric thought.

She sat down beside him at the kitchen table and poured out a small handful of cereal onto the tray of his chair. He didn’t mind his chair; it gave him the mobility he lacked. He just wished that it would line up with the table and he didn’t have to use a tray at meal times.

Elena ruffled his hair with affection and gave Cedric one of her smiles. They never failed to warm his day. “Hey squirt,” she said. “You had a good day at school today?”

Cedric nodded and made a grunting sound that signified ascent. He wanted to say “Yes, I had a great day”, but the word ‘yes’ was denied to him. He loved his sister with all his heart and he couldn’t shape the sounds of her name.

“There’s a body in the garden,” he said to her. That’s what he said. What came out was: “I painted pictures today.” Shit balls, he thought. He pointed to the window with an urgent sound pitched low in his throat. Cedric hoped that Elena would take the hint when his mother would not. He was not disappointed.

“What’s the matter, Ced?”

He pointed to the window again and made another urgent sound. Something in its tone must have alerted his mother because even she turned around to look at him. “Elena, what is it?”

Elena went to the kitchen window and looked outside. Cedric’s heart beat quickly in his chest, hoping that she would understand, that she would see. “Mom?” Elena’s voice was unsure. “Mom, there’s a body in the garden.”

Finally, Cedric thought.

iii

            His mother came to stand next to his right and Elena was on his left. All three of them looked outside at the shape that lay amongst the dirt.          Cedric’s mother let out a sharp gasp. “Why, I think that’s your father. He was supposed to be home an hour ago…” She let the sentence trail off and Cedric heard the shrill whine of fear in her voice.

“Is he alright?” Elena asked. Her words were like sharp whispers.

“I think he’s dead,” Cedric said. “He’s been there since this morning. I couldn’t tell it was Dad, he was facing away from me.” He said this. What came out was: “Daddy.” Fuck it, Cedric thought.

“I’m going to go check on him,” Helena said.

“No, Mom, I think there’s blood,” Elena said. “Is that blood?”

Cedric looked closer and did indeed see a red smear that dotted the dirt of their backyard garden. He guessed that the gray mush beside his father’s head was what was left of his brain. The top of his father’s head had been cut clean off – he had been fine only and hour and a half ago; that was the last time he had seen his father alive. It was the blood that disturbed him. He had never liked the sight of it and had seen too much of it in his lifetime.

He would think of that later.

He knew that he should be dismayed, but he was more terrified, truth be told. Terror froze his emotions. Blood had congealed on his father’s head and formed a line into the ground.  Cedric tried to still his heart and reached for Elena’s hand. His mother gave his shoulder a brief squeeze. “Elena, watch Cedric.” She looked at her daughter with wide eyes. “And stay in the house.”

“Mom, what’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” Helena said. “I don’t know, but I need to see if he’s okay.”

“I think it’s quite clear that he’s not,” Cedric said. What came out was a low guttural sound of fear. The words were there, but he could not shape them.

“Stay inside with Cedric,” she said. “Just make sure that he’s okay.”

“Mom, don’t be ridiculous. Whoever did that could still be out there.”

His mother turned to look at his sister with a steely eyed glare. Cedric knew that look well, the one that said she was not negotiating. “That is your father,” she said. “I need to make sure he’s alright.”

Saying nothing further, she let herself out the kitchen door, closing it behind her. Cedric watched as his mother squared her shoulders and walked with careful steps towards her husband’s body. When his mother reached his father, she knelt down beside him and felt for a pulse. He knew there wouldn’t be one. Cedric heard his mother let out a loud sob, the sound echoing through the kitchen windows.

The smell of something burning filled the air and Elena and Cedric both looked at the stove. Dinner was smouldering away in the pot, an acrid smoke billowing out of it. Elena went to pull if off the burner. As she moved away, Cedric watched as a dark shape materialized behind his mother. When he saw the gleam of metal, he made another sound of distress. “There’s someone outside!” He screeched. “Mother’s in danger!” What came out was another guttural nose that, for once, matched the terror that coursed through him. Elena ran back to him, they both saw the shadow move closer to their mother.

“What the fuck is that?” Elena said. “Who the fuck is that?”

She moved to open the kitchen door and yell a warning to their mother, but Cedric knew it was too late. The man, for Cedric saw that it was a man, raised his blade above his head and swung it down in one long arc.

Even through the window, there was the wet squelch of blood as the axe blade sliced through his mother’s skull. Cedric saw her eyes, blue and wide with fear, before she toppled over her husband, blood pouring into the ground to merge with his. Elena took Cedric’s hand in hers and was squeezing it; the pressure became stronger as the man reached down and ripped out some of her mother’s brains from her open skull and shoved them in his mouth.

“Oh my god,” Elena said. “Oh my god.”

“I don’t think god can help us now,” Cedric said. What came out instead was a loud wail. The man with the axe heard the sound and looked up, his eyes locking with Cedric’s. The man’s eyes were dead and dark – there was nothing left there but madness. When he started towards the kitchen door, Cedric wailed louder.

Fuck, Cedric thought.

iv

            Cedric watched as Elena moved to the door and engaged the deadbolt. She also put the chain across and then backed away. Their assailant was already there, slamming his body against the kitchen door. It was made of heavy wood, but Cedric knew that it would not hold for long.

With a grace that surprised him, Elena went to the kitchen counter and pulled out a sharp knife. It gleamed like their attacker’s axe. Then she returned to him. “Put your arms around my neck, Ced,” she said. “I need to hide you. I can’t move you in your chair fast enough; you need to hold onto me.”

Cedric nodded and hooked his right arm around Elena’s neck and his left leg around her waist. Though he was fourteen, he was small for his age, his growth under developed because of his Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. There was the sound of breaking wood behind them. “Its okay, Ced, I’ve got you,” Elena said.

He held onto his sister tightly as she moved through the kitchen to the living room. She checked to make sure the windows were locked and moved to the front door. As she turned the deadbolt, there was the sound of breaking glass from the kitchen.

“Shit,” Elena said. “Shit, fuck, shit.”

Cedric could hear the terror in her voice and wished it wasn’t there. He could feel her heartbeat thudding in her chest and its rapid tattoo matched his breathing. Elena moved towards the basement door. “We have to hide, Cedric. Do you think you could play a game of hide and seek and not make any noise?”

He nodded even though Elena didn’t wait for a response. She went to the door and opened it. The stairs loomed downward in the darkness. His sister flicked on the light and Cedric was momentarily blinded by its brightness. Elena stepped down the first step and pulled the basement door closed behind them, locking it. Cedric knew that this was an almost useless measure. If the man wanted to kill them, he would. No door would stop him. However, the click of the lock engaging was comforting nonetheless.

Holding on tighter to his sister, they began to move downward.

 

v

            As they reached the bottom of the basement stairs, there was a loud sound from above them. The man was now inside the house. Cedric was sure those were his footfalls they were hearing now. He moved quickly and Cedric heard him go upstairs first, assuming incorrectly that a family would choose to hide in their rooms. The thud of his footfalls was ominous. He clutched his sister more tightly.

“It’s okay Ced,” Elena whispered.

No, it was certainly not okay, Cedric thought. What the fuck do you think is going on here? Were not on some fucking holiday. What came out was: “Scared.” He was surprised to find a word that summarized what he was feeling in so few syllables. For once his mind and mouth had worked together.

“I know, Ced, I’m scared, too.” Even whispering, there was a note of bright fear in her voice. “But you have to do what I say, alright? You have to do what I tell you. I promised Mom I would keep you safe.” She lowered him into a corner and put a wooden crate in front of him. “Cedric you have to stay here for me and, whatever happens, don’t move, okay? You can’t move from this spot.”

“No, you can’t,” Cedric said to her. “You can’t leave me.” What came out instead was another low sound, deep from his gut, one of fear and terror. He held onto her all the tighter. “Don’t go after him, don’t, he’ll take you too.” She didn’t hear this part of course, Cedric knew this. However, he hoped that Elena heard it all the same.

Instead of staying, his sister pulled away from him, giving him a kiss on the top of the head. She was always wilfully brave – it was a quality that he admired in her except in moments like now, when her bravery could get her killed.

She turned away from him and started up the stairs. He knew that she hoped to catch the intruder, that she meant to keep her home safe, to avenge their parents. He got that, he knew that. Instead, Cedric was just worried that his sister would have her ass handed to her on a platter; or perhaps, in this case, her brain.

Elena reached the bottom of the stairs and had put her left foot on the first rung when there was a thud closer to their heads. He had abandoned the second floor, Cedric thought. Shit fuckers, Cedric thought.

vi

 

            The footsteps were coming down the hallway. Cedric hoped that his sister would look back, that she would come to him, but she wanted to go out fighting. She would go out her own way. “What the fuck are you doing?” Cedric asked. “Are you fucking stupid or something? We need to hide and stay safe.” What came out was his sister’s name. He had never been able to speak it before: “Elena!”

That stopped her. Her right hand, which had been poised to grasp the banister, stopped in mid air – then her arm fell to her side. Turning to Cedric, she looked at him, her eyes wide and somehow bright despite the shadows. There was a gloss of fluid over her  lower lids. Tears leaked down her face. “It’s okay,” he said. “It’s okay to be afraid of the dark.”  What came out instead was a nod and a motion with his arm as if he were hugging her, pulling her closer.

As the footsteps neared the front of the doorway, his sister ran back to him, pulled him closer and grabbed another forgotten thing to hide them, in this case an steamer trunk with flaking leather and a potted plant. Cedric sighed. Not the best of defences, but it would have to do.

Curling into his sister’s arms, Cedric closed his eyes when the door opened. He had to admire the man’s thoroughness, despite the present circumstances. He had checked every room – he had done this before. Cedric thought of all the books he had read via audio cassette, all the voices’ mysteries he had heard and taken in. He can’t say that he had ever pictured himself being a victim, not in this sense of the word, anyway. Cedric didn’t like irony one bit.

He was all for literary word play and similes, even the occasional dose of sarcasm, but irony bothered him. He wondered how anything in life could be so cruel as to teach you a lesson. For Cedric, it just made him want to prove them wrong. He would not lie down; he would not step into the shadows and hide.

With a shift inside of him as he closed his eyes and let himself slip into temporary darkness, hoping that the killer would not find them, that his eyes would somehow pass them by, Cedric knew that, if it came down to it, he would do everything possible to make sure that Elena lived.

Come and get me, you son of a bitch, Cedric thought.

vii

 

            Cedric could hear the man’s footsteps. They descended one  at a time, dust falling down from the basement staircase. There was a slight shuffle on the steps as the man knocked the light bulb out of his way. Even with his eyes closed, Cedric experienced the light moving. Though he could not see the man, he could feel him. He was malice, he was dangerous. Every nerve in Cedric’s body said this.

The man reached the basement floor. There was a whispering sound of cloth and quick footsteps, scratching in the dust.

The man slid into the basement shadows. The ground shook under them and, despite her fear, Elena let out a small shriek beside him. She was too afraid to be quiet, He thought. Cedric was pretty sure that he had wet himself by this point, and that he would need a change of clothing if they got out of this alive. He normally hated baths, but this time would look forward to one.

Elena let out another loud shriek when the man grabbed hold of her arm. She tried to pull back from him and he pulled her forward, pulling out a long, serrated knife and slicing her right forearm open almost to the bone. A plume of blood flew into the air and landed on Cedric’s face. He opened his eyes.

As the man yanked Elena by the hair, Cedric saw his chance. His sister kicked the man in the shins as he dragged her back towards him. Grabbing one of the edges of the wooden crate with his right arm and pulling with his body weight, Cedric broke off the edge of the frame. He slinked forward, hidden, as his sister was dragged backward.

Pushing with his left leg, he focused with all his strength and pursued them to the stairs. He had never moved so far on his own before. His sister screamed again as the man reached around with his other hand and grabbed her by the throat. He meant to kill her right away than, he would have no time to prepare. Their attacker raised his hand to draw the blade of the knife across Elena’s throat. As Cedric moved with a speed he didn’t know he had ever possessed, his only thought was: Fuck, an axe, a knife, this guy has everything.

He reached around his sister and drove the wooden spike into the man’s side. As Cedric was at a lower position on the ground, the wooden piece slid up into the lower right side of the man’s abdomen, missing his sister’s back by inches. Cedric had broken the wood at a sharp angle and it sliced into the man, his weight as he moved in to cut his sisters throat giving the push enough of a thrust.

Blood rained on him and spluttered against Elena’s back as she moved away from the man and held onto Cedric. His face was bathed in the blood of two people. He thought of his mother, of his father. That would be two more. It’s a good thing they didn’t have more children, Cedric thought.

Elena wrapped her left arm around Cedric, even as the man fell. Blood pooled from their attackers wound, splattering the floor and their skin. Cedric would remember the sound of the blood forever – they would match the beat of his heart.

Crouching beside him, Elena let out a small scream when the man fell, hitting the ground with a wet slap. His life continued to pour out of him as both of them watched, gurgling onto the floor. Elena wrapped her left arm around him tighter, bringing Cedric even more close. “You saved us Ced,” Elena whispered. “You saved us.”

Nodding, Cedric held onto his sister. He nestled his cheek onto her shoulder – it was sticky with blood. “I love you Elena,” Cedric said. And for once, he said it. He had said the whole thing. Despite the uncertainty of the future, brightness filled him.

“I love you too, squirt,” Elena said. “I love you, too.”

 

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