This post is part of the March 2012 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “rainy days.”

Mikey sighed. Maybe the science channel and the encyclopedia had let him down; maybe there wasn’t something unusual and mysterious under every rock. But, darn it, he’d come close and it hurt bitterly to have to go back home, back to Dave, empty handed. There’d been a whisper of truth in all of Elliot and Natalie’s leads–the giant worm hole that was really a drainpipe, the mystery whirlpool caused by the school sprinkler system, the tree shadows that looked like a man–but none of them were even close to the unexplainable phenomenon he’d promised to bring back to his know-it-all brother.

“You don’t think that, maybe we might be able to find some more leads, do you?” he said.

Elliot rubbed his neck. “Maybe later, Mikey. It’s getting kinda late, you know, almost dinnertime.”

“Yeah, maybe later,” Natalie said. “Come on, Mikey, we’ll ride you home.”

The quickest way to Mikey’s house led through downtown—or, more accurately, behind downtown. In small, rural places like that, downtowns were often only a single street, fading into the surrounding residential neighborhoods. There was a wide, muddy alleyway behind the shops, many of which had closed and been boarded up, that neighborhood kids would sometimes use as a shortcut; on an impulse, Mikey darted his bike in, followed closely by his friends.

There hadn’t been so much as a cloudburst for weeks, so the alley was dry and hard packed, save for a damp spot behind the old hardware store. As Mikey sped through, he felt a light dusting of raindrops on his face. Letting his pace slack a bit, he looked up; the sky was as warm and bright and clear as it had been when they left the school.

“Hold on a sec!” he cried, bringing his bike to an abrupt stop.

Elliot and Natalie pulled up behind him. “What’s the matter?” he heard one of them say.

“It’s raining here,” Mikey said. “Feel the drops? Like just before it starts to pour, when it’s all gray out?”

Natalie stepped forward, arms outstretched; her hands came away slightly damp. “Yeah, I can feel it!”

“Me too,” Elliot said, looking up. “And not a cloud in the sky! Where d’you think it’s coming from, Mikey?” he said. “Mikey?”

But Mikey was already running toward the old fire escape, on the back of the hardware store. He charged up, heedless of his friends’ calls. The roof was paved with gravel, and a few rusty chimneys stuck up here and there, but the whole was bone dry. Looking out over the rest of the block, he couldn’t see any clouds, any standing water, any leaking pipes. There didn’t seem to be anywhere that the water could be coming from.

“It’s rain from nowhere,” he said, climbing down. “That’s what it is. We were running all over town looking for it, and here it is right under our noses: water from nowhere.”

“You mean…” Natalie said.

“Look for yourself!” Mikey cried. “It’s not coming from anywhere!” He did a little dance among the light, misty drops. “This is it! We’ve found our unexplainable mystery!”

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Ralph Pines
Lyra Jean
J. W. Alden

“That’s not what I heard,” Kellie said. “I heard that if you’re in Sunset Park at sunset, it lasts for hours. Way longer than it should. But you can only see it if you’re there and never leave.”

“No way,” Randy said. “That wouldn’t work. The earth’s going ’round the sun, so sunset can’t last longer in the park than at school. Doesn’t make sense!”

“I heard it from eighth graders,” Kellie asserted proudly. That put the information firmly into the realm of possibility, if not certainty.

The others whispered among each other.

“Well?” Kellie demanded.

“We’re gonna go check it out,” Randy said. “Tonight. And if it lasts longer than my dad says it should, you win.”

“We call it the Cabinet of Horrors, you know,” the nurse said.

Jeremy’s eyes widened. “You’re making that up.”

“Oh no. It was donated to the hospital by Dr. Julius Rhinehart, a notorious rogue and quack who owned what they used to call a ‘cabinet of curiosities,’ a collection of wierd and deformed plants, animals, and even…body parts.”

“For real?” Jeremy was still and attentive for the first time since he’d been admitted.

“Some say that the ‘curiosities’ in Dr. Rhinehart’s cabinet were stitched together from failed experiments or patients that his vile, poisonous patent medicines killed.”

“They wouldn’t let him get away with that,” Jeremy said confidently, though there was a hint of quaver in his voice.

“Maybe not today, but back in the old days, well…anything went! Dr. Rhinehart was on the hospital’s board of directors even though he didn’t have a proper degree, after all, and people were happy to look the other way if it kept the money coming.”

“How’d the hospital get it, then?” Jeremy asked. “Is all that…stuff…still inside it?”

“Rhinehart eventually died after taking some of his own medicine, and he left the cabinet to the hospital. As for what’s inside of it…well, I’ve never seen it open!”

Jeremy had more questions–and barely even noticed his IV change–but no answers were forthcoming, and the nurse sauntered out with a knowing look on her face.

“Janice, that was mean,” one of her fellows said. “Scaring the poor kid like that.”

“If it means he’s quiet and still, I’ll tell him Dracula himself is buried under the west parking lot.”

Mikey was going to come up with something that his brother couldn’t explain.

During the long, late summer days they often spent together in the house, waiting for their parents to come home from work, Mikey would flit from TV to bookshelf in pursuit of the new and the interesting, drinking in hours of programming on Dad’s favorite channels and leafing through the family’s handsome encyclopedia set. It was an exploration of the rawest kind, filled with new wonders and mysteries, and he would always burst into the living room, where Dave was usually camped with a comic book in the nook of one arm or hunched over the family computer.

“Dave, did you know that there’s a whale that grows a horn like a unicorn does?”

Dave would look up. “Yeah. The narwhal. I touched one of those horns once, in a museum before you were born. Go back and watch your kiddie shows.”

“Dave, did you hear about the lost colony they had in Virginia? They disappeared hundreds of years ago, and nobody ever found them!”

“Wouldn’t be much of a lost colony if they found it, would it?” Dave would respond. “Roanoke didn’t disappear, they were starving. Went and lived with the Indians. Some of them still have blue eyes, you know. Now leave me alone.”

Time and again, some great discover or fantastic mystery would be delivered to Mikey, and time and again Dave would swat it down with a casual hand. There wasn’t a thing Mikey could say that his brother couldn’t grab and squeeze and wring the magic out of. Sitting there, thinking he was so smart and so wise—Mikey was sick of it.

Of course, the play was all just an excuse for playing with the props and costumes. Parents, sitting in the audience, seem to think that their kids sit quietly with their hands in their laps until it’s their cue.

Clearly, they don’t remember what it’s like to be a sixth-grader.

While we kids with bit parts were waiting around, whether it was rehearsal or opening night, we’d break open the backstage stash and engage in a little impromptu roleplaying. The girls liked to giggle and try on various hideous dresses left over from period pieces or long-ago contemporary productions, while the boys were all about the prop guns.

Our school had the great fortune to have put on a lavish version of Guys and Dolls circa 1985, which meant gangster costumes and prop guns galore. Enough fedoras, zoot suits, Tommy guns, and pistols to go around (except for Jimmy, who had to make due with the crossbow from “Wild Geese: The Musical”). Things broke down very much along class lines, with the most popular kids (and therefore the ones with the best roles) doling out goodies as they saw fit.

Many people pick up a pen because they hear the inscrutable call of the muse; they have a story that must be told, one which will haunt them until purged in the telling.

Mikey Kingston was not one of those people.

When he picked up his pencil in third period algebra or during lunch, it wasn’t because of some deep need to tell a story or write the Great American something or other. It wasn’t to write tales of high adventure of the sort alien to Howard J. Crittenden Junior High; it wasn’t to present as an offering to any of the Jennies, Katies, or Jessicas.


Mikey Kingston wrote for revenge.

Not in the mean-spirited way, of course–he wasn’t making a hit list, which he was at pains to explain whenever the topic of literary revenge came up in the post-Columbine era.

Rather, Mikey had realized that, in real life, the savage Magma Men from Interion didn’t carry douches away to melt down for tallow in their Horrorariums deep below the great hollow rind of Mother Earth. In his fiction, sometimes that well-deserved fate was meted out.

At least that’s how it began, anyway.