By Chef Kingslayer111
//Original Title “My Church-Going, Doctor Dad Started Acting Weird and Mentioning Strange Lights” Changed for brevity.
Now that I think of it, my first indication things were wrong is that day when we heard dad shouting loudly upstairs. “Bad. Dog. Bad Fucking Dog. Stop looking at me you stupid mutt. Stop it.”
My sister Jill and I were glued to our phones, Ma was reading her finance books as usual. The three of us looked up in surprise. Upstairs, the yelling continued, increasingly harsh, as dad threatened to kick the dog.
“Who’s he shouting at, mom? Sparky’s right here.” I patted our Labrador. He licked my hand and whimpered. As far as I knew, dad was alone upstairs.
She shrugged, and went back to her books. “Go back to where you came from you mangy black dog-” He was yelling.
He started smoking too. Which was weird because he’d never done it before. “It was something he did in college.” Mom told me when I asked her. “Sometimes he has one or two when he’s stressed. Don’t worry about it.” Stressed about what?
Once, I found him sitting on our staircase, dressed in a suit and tie, with Bermuda boxers instead of pants. Smoking.
“Dad… are things ok?” Maybe he’d had a videoconference? That’d explain the lack of pants.
He patted the space next to him, put an arm around me, and took a drag on his cigarette. Then he offered it to me.
I’m 15. All my life, Dad’s been the super conservative, church going, loving dad- uncomfortable even allowing me to go on dates. Not to mention, he’s a doctor. Doctors don’t smoke. They certainly don’t allow their kids to smoke. I took it, and just held it, then without knowing why, started to cry a little.
“Shit. TJ. I’m sorry. Really.” He took out his hanky- I think you know a guy is a dad when he carries these huge cotton, blue bordered handkerchiefs everywhere with him. Instead of wiping my tears, he wiped off his own. “TJ- remember our last vacation?”
“Yellowstone.” I smiled, sniffing back my tears. “It was beautiful. Completely covered in snow. We saw bison packs roaming with snow masking their face- and that lone elk, breathing hard with a wound on his neck… poor thing.”
“Remember the wolves?”
“Magnificent weren’t they?” We’d needed a pair of binoculars to properly see them. They were almost mystical, blowing gusts of air through their snouts, shivering off the snow flecked on their black fur. I’d pretended I was a caveman, thousands of years ago, watching them as they hunted.
“Do you remember the light?” He asked.
“The bright light. The overpowering bright light we saw above us?”
“I didn’t see any light. What are you talking about?”
He held his breath, then looked at me. “You didn’t see them?”
“Dad you’re scaring me.”
“And the ants? The white ants?”
“What white ants? What are y-”
“These.” He put a hand into his suit pocket and brought out a white ant. It scurried about, travelling purposefully, but just making an infinity loop over and over on his palm.
“Do me a favor.” Dad said. “Shut your eyes.”
“What do you see?”
“Nothing. The usual. White snow with a few weird floating squiggles.”
“Are you sure?” He sounded excited. “White snow? Not-”
Mom appeared right then, and freaked out. I mean, she’s a quiet kind of woman, but she took one look at the cigarette in my hand, and the ant in dad’s- and kabloom. I ran upstairs to hide, dropping the smoking stub behind as she railed him out.
Mom and dad started having fights over and over. I’d cower in bed, hearing the two of them go at it, only able to hear fragments. “… isn’t working for me anymore.”
“… the family has to stick together, Tom- I don’t care what you…”
“We have to tell her the truth.” Dad said.
When I came down for breakfast, the three of them were sitting at the breakfast table. White plates on a white counter, white walls behind them.
Jill was crying. I took one look at her and my heart sank. The skin under her eyes was almost blue black- like she’d been crying for days. My sister, the tough punk rock girl who never cries.
Mom’s skin looked so pale it was almost transparent. She was shivering as she sat, as if trying to control herself, trying to brace herself for what was going to come next.
Dad sat smoking, perfectly calm. That’s how it is for doctors. They’re trained to stay calm in emergencies.
“TJ. We’ve got something to tell you.” Mom said finally. “Sit.”
“You’re getting a divorce, aren’t you?” I asked, tears welling up.
“TJ, baby.” My mom was hesitant. “You know the kind of person I am. I believed that no matter what, families have to stick together.”
I nodded, preparing for what was to come next.
“Your dad and I have had a long talk about what’s best for you. I kept arguing that sticking together was important but… in the end, he convinced me to do what’s good for you. To stop being selfish.” She took a deep breath.
“TJ, we want you to get out.” Dad said.
“Get out.” Mom said firmly. “You can’t be with us any more.”
“We’ll see you around sometime.” Jill was crying. “But for now, you need to get out.”
“What are you talking about? Are you mad, all of you? We’re family. I belong with you.”
“No. You don’t.” Dad said. “You deserve a good life.” He knocked on the table. “Not white ants.”
I looked down, and leaped back horrified. The table surface wasn’t white plastic. It was a dense, chaotic mess of infinitely looping white ants. The ants started moving up my family’s arms, and then slowly covering their necks and faces.
I woke up screaming, right where our car had skidded off the road. Yellowstone. White snow everywhere. My family’s frozen bodies beside me.
The counselor keeps telling me it was a dream, one my reeling mind made up as I lay comatose. Maybe it was. I just can’t stop hating them for doing this to me. For making me go away. I was happy with them and I don’t think I ever will be again. Not when I’m so alone.