Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Egg

Happy Flash Fiction Friday! I'm back, and feeling much better than I was this time last week. I hope you enjoy this week's story. :-)

“Mom, have you looked at the egg today?”
I’m barefoot and sweaty, scrubbing the dickens out of the hard water stains in our cramped shower stall. Ronnie is supposed to be washing dishes, but she has the highly developed procrastination skills of a fourteen-year-old.
 I will not yell, I will not yell, I will not yell. I try to push my bangs out of my eyes with my forearm and repeat my mantra instead of responding to Ronnie’s question. It’s only 10a.m. and it’s already been one of those days.
“Mom!?” Through the Plexiglas shower door, I see Ronnie’s distorted image, but it’s the tremor in her voice that makes me pause. I blow my bangs away from my eyes and step out of the shower.
“What happened to washing the dishes, Veronica?”
“I think you should see this, Mom. The egg is doing something.”
Ronnie has gone pale around the mouth and her eyes are wide so, instead of giving her the this’d better be good look, I rinse my hands off, and follow her to the living room.
Ronnie discovered the mottled, rust-red egg three weeks ago when she offered to make omelets for breakfast. It was sitting right in the carton next to the regular eggs, and its mere presence was proof that, not only had my daughter failed to check for cracked eggs when she picked the carton up, but she’d lied about it when she met me in the dairy section and I asked her if she’d done the check. I’m not the strictest mom on the block, but lying is the one thing that Ronnie knows will get her instantly grounded. I restricted her for a week over that little incident, but something about the egg had captured Ronnie’s imagination and she hardly bothered to pout over a missed slumber party and being banned from social media.
While the egg was the size and shape of a chicken egg, it weighed much less. We’d both assumed that it was a beautifully dyed, blown egg, but even with a magnifying glass, we hadn’t found any holes. So, we’d been entertaining ourselves, and each other, the past few weeks by making up stories about our mystery egg. Ronnie’s stories had mostly revolved around baby dinosaurs, dragons, and the occasional snake hatching out of it, while mine featured a pysanka artist who had lost, or given away, the egg which had subsequently been on numerous adventures leading up to its arrival in our shopping cart.
As Ronnie and I approach the end table where we’ve been keeping the egg, I see what has alarmed my daughter. The egg is vibrating, making a rattling sound against the decorative glass plate it’s sitting on. Earthquake, is my first thought. I glance around our home, but nothing else is moving. The wind chimes on the window ledge are still and silent, and the sun catcher hanging above them is motionless. I turn my eyes back to the egg, and gulp as it begins to glow. All of my maternal instincts kick in, and in a heartbeat, I am between my daughter and the glowing egg, forcing her backwards, towards the door.
“Out, Veronica! Now!”
“I think it’s hatching, Mom,” Ronnie squeals and tries to pull us back towards the egg.
“It’s a bomb! Outside! Go!” I’m dragging my resisting daughter, now, and I feel like I’m in a dream. The kind of dream where the air is as sticky and viscous as syrup, and I can’t get my arms and legs to move fast enough. I lean back and manage to pull Ronnie slowly towards the door. I know we don’t have much time. I am expecting a blast at any moment, but I won’t leave my kid behind.
The egg glows brighter, like a spot light, illuminating even the usually dim nooks and corners of our house.  We inch closer to the door, each second lasting an excruciating eternity in which I struggle against my daughter, terrified that we’ll both be killed. Now, I’m close enough to open the door. Ronnie is crying and I can see the tears running down her cheeks. I dare to let go of Ronnie’s arm with one hand, and reach for the knob. Impossibly, the egg glows even brighter, and as I turn the doorknob, Ronnie wrenches her arm from my grasp. Time speeds up, now, and Ronnie leaps towards the glowing egg as I fall backwards into the door, my arms wind-milling. The last thing I see before I hit my head and black out, is the egg cracking open while something, with massive wings like strobe lights, bursts out of it.
I wake to Ronnie shaking my arm. “Mom? Are you okay? Mom?” The walls crowded close around us are snowy white, and I blink at my daughter, still dazed, and wonder if we’ve both died. I’m laying half on my back, half on my side, with my knees up in a fetal position. Ronnie is leaning over me and, as I clear my throat and mumble her name, she starts to cry so that her tears fall down on my face like rain.  
“Shhhhh. It’s okay, honey,” I say in a hoarse voice.
“Are you hurt Mom? Should I call 911?”
We’re not dead, I decide, and push myself into a sitting position. My back and shoulders hurt, like I’ve strained some muscles, but nothing worth calling EMS over, so I shake my head. “No, don’t call 911.” I remember the egg, the brightness, and the wings. “What happened?”
Ronnie wipes her nose with the back of her hand and takes a deep, shuddering breath before answering. “I heard this big thump and when I came in, you were just laying here.” She wipes her nose again, and I glance around, trying to figure out where “here” is.
“Are we…are we in the shower?”
Ronnie nods.
“Do you think you passed out from the fumes, Mom? From cleaning?” Ronnie is sliding, backwards out of the shower, holding the door open as she goes.
“Cleaning?” I echo.
“You were cleaning the bathroom. Don’t you remember?” Ronnie holds her hands out to me, but I wave her back as I climb to my feet.
“Wasn’t there some kind of explosion? Something with the egg, the way it was vibrating and glowing?” My back hurts more, now that I’m standing up, and I roll my shoulders trying to loosen the muscles.
“What? Did you hit your head, Mom? Are you really okay, or should I call someone?”
My head doesn’t hurt at all, but I’m dizzy. “Maybe I should sit down for a minute.” I let Ronnie help me to the toilet to sit down, before I ask her again. “So, there wasn’t any kind of explosion…with an egg?”
“Nooo.” Ronnie looks at me warily. “Why are you asking about eggs?” I can see her wondering if she should call for an ambulance after all.
“Let me just sit for a moment and collect myself,” I say and pat my daughter’s hand.
I take some deep breaths and roll my shoulders again while Ronnie goes to the kitchen to get me a glass of water. By the time she returns, I’ve decided that I’ve had some kind of hallucination, so I drink my water and decide that I won’t mention any of this again. Who knows, maybe it was caused by fumes.
I send Ronnie for another glass of water, drink it down, then stand up to follow her out of the bathroom. As I pass the bathroom mirror, though, I see bright, flashing lights from the corner of my eye. I turn and face my reflection with a gasp.
“Mom?” Ronnie turns back towards me, her face filled with questions.
I move my shoulders back and forth and examine myself in the mirror for a long moment, then crook my finger at Ronnie. She comes to stand beside me and we lock eyes with each other’s reflections.
“I need you to tell me the truth, Veronica.” She nods, not breaking our eye contact. “Do I look different to you? In any way?”
My daughter steps back from me, and gives me a long assessing look, the way only a teenage girl can. “I think you look exactly the same, Mom. Unless, maybe, you trimmed your bangs a little and I didn’t notice?”
“No, I didn’t trim my bangs.” I look at my reflection again, then flex a muscle in my back that I’ve never flexed before. I watch my reflection; watch my wings flutter as they shoot brilliant flashes around our tiny bathroom.