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Dreamscapes Fiction

Imaginary Heroes
Dan Heck
Vampires and Push-Ups


            Helga’s cold, pale face reflected warm light from the bedroom’s fireplace. There was something strange about the chambermaid’s paleness. Helga cornered Ricky next to his bed and stepped closer. The Prince wanted to run but was hypnotized by her red eyes.
Suddenly, the castle window exploded. CRASH! A mysterious figure rolled in and rose to their feet. They wore like this green cape and cowl that covered their face. Once standing, they grabbed a wooden chair next to the window. The sad prince often looked out to the stars and prayed for his lost love, the Princess Kiki of Othertownsville, to return.
“That’s a dumb town name.”
“You’re a dumb town name. Anyway…”
The vampire was done with the Prince, for now, so she pushed him to the floor. SMACK! He wailed like a baby, but higher.
Helga ran around the bed in a floating motion. It would’ve been pretty if she weren’t trying to suck blood. Once close, the cool-mysterious person spun around and hit the vampire on the left leg with the chair. BLAM! The chair burst into chunks as the vampire fell. For the first time, the creature was scared.
            The Prince heard fighting, he could help slay the vampire, he wanted to, but all he could do was close his eyes and pretend to be knocked out.
The cloaked fighter grabbed a broken chair leg and pushed the vampire onto her back. The beast screeched in fear as the figure plunged the chair leg into her heart. The vampire went still, black smoke surrounded her, there was a sound like fire igniting, then it and the vampire were gone. All that remained were black marks on the stone floor.
“I know right.”
The prince poked his head up from behind his bed. He was happy the vampire was vanquished, but was now scared of the stranger. Who were they, how did they know he was in danger, and how did they know to stake it in the heart? Something deep inside the Prince told him he could trust the figure. That everything was OK.            
            “Who are you?” he said.
            The figure removed their cloak to reveal the gorgeous dark features of the prince’s lost love, the princess Kiki. The prince threw his arms up and ran to his love while screaming for joy. She tried to keep her tough face but dropped it when he got near. The princess missed him just as much. Ricky held her tight, looked into her warm brown eyes and melted. All was good. Then the princess went up on her toes and kissed the prince on the lips to show how much she missed him. She pulled back to see the confused face of her frien

            Ricky was back to reality. Felt the bright August sun hit his face. Some of the light reflected off one of Kiki’s bright pink hair clips and blinded him if she turned just right. His tummy felt like TV static. Like the feeling his feet got when he played Sonic 2 for too long without getting up. Kiki had always reminded Ricky of Rudy from The Cosby Show. Ricky liked Rudy.

Behind Ricky’s house sat a green electrical box under humming power lines. That green box could transform into a submarine for exploring the deep, a car for getaway driving, a rocket for space travel, a ship for pirate smuggling, or a castle for vampire slaying. Usually to the narration of Kiki who read constantly and was filled with stories and worlds. Ricky and Kiki were the only two people left in their neighborhood that had fun. Everyone else was calloused.

Ricky and Kiki went on more adventures than anyone else in their working-class Virginia Beach neighborhood. All their adventures ended happily ever after. She was nine and he was eight. They both wore clothes that didn’t fit. Their turquoise, purple, and red shorts were too bright for the times but were in fashion four years prior in ’90. Thrift shop clothes were all they knew.

Ricky looked over the faded-brown, dilapidated fence that enclosed his backyard and saw his sometimes-scary dad reclined all the way back in his chair. His dad was outside earlier, setting up jars for sun tea and was hopefully napping with a ball game on. It was confusing for Ricky to watch baseball with his dad because his dad always picked a different team. There didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for who he liked, he just cheered for whoever was losing.
            “I wanna give you something, Kiki.”
            “What’s that?”
            Ricky grabbed Kiki’s hand and took her from the hot green box back to their cul-de-sac. Kiki giggled. Ricky had never grabbed her hand and shown this kind of enthusiasm. She was glad she finally kissed him. The last time he was this excited was when he found a ghost in the woods. It turned out to be someone’s pillowcase that had flown away and got stuck on a branch. Ricky would’ve known that if he’d opened his eyes fully.

Ricky’s run turned into a walk when he reached the front of his off-white town house with faded blue shutters and dark green ivy growing up around it. It looked to Kiki like the Blob slowly eating his house. Kiki’s run turned into a full stop. Ricky didn’t notice until he got one foot up the porch steps and saw his singular reflection in the glass door.
            “What’s wrong?”
            “I can’t go in.”
            Kiki was right. They had been on their bellies in the living room sorting out their Halloween hauls when it happened. They each had a pile of favorites, less favorites, and trash candy. They argued whether Twizzlers were less favorites or trash candy, both agreed not favorite worthy. Kiki was about to make her case for them not being trash when Ricky’s dad walked in and demanded she leave their house. Kiki only ever interacted with Ricky’s mom before and it was never scary like that. Kiki hadn’t been in since.
            “Right.” Ricky tiptoed back to Kiki, crouching, looking out for any spies. “OK, wait here. I’m gonna go in and get you something special. Whatever happens, wait for me. I’ll be right back.” Ricky leaned in and gave Kiki a peck on the cheek. Her smile burned into Ricky’s brain and served as motivation for his dangerous mission.
            Kiki watched her hero vanish into the terrifying, dark, haunted castle to retrieve honor for himself and a prize for her. She clasped her hands together and waited. 

Ricky squeezed the screen door handle as gingerly as possible and let himself in. Once in the small house he eased the door. An announcer called a base hit from the living room. His dad must be asleep after all. Ricky took an immediate right into the brown and orange kitchen, decorated two decades before. He grabbed a small step ladder with Snoopy painted on it and put it down in front of the fridge. It hit the linoleum too hard. Ricky froze and waited for his dad’s yell. Nothing. In the clear. He opened the freezer and reached into the frosty, foggy abyss: working around the wall of TV dinners. They were all his dad learned to cook after his mom left a year ago. Ricky’s hand found the box he was looking for and brought out two Flintstones Push-Ups. A cold push-up will make Kiki feel as complete as her kiss made him feel.

Ricki couldn’t believe his luck, he pulled out the best favorite flavor, grape, but also pulled out the worst flavor, orange. He thought about it for a second and decided he’d give Kiki the grape treat, and take the orange for himself. Anyone that’s ever had a push-up knows orange was inferior to all other flavors. For Kiki, he’d eat orange. Ricky closed the freezer, hopped off the foot stool and turned around into the wall that was his dad. Afraid of what he’d say about not one, but two push-ups before dinner, Ricky lowered his head and tried to stroll around him.
            “We need to talk.”
            He didn’t get far.
            “Yes, sir.” Ricki froze.
            “I saw you playing with your little friend and well, you can’t play with her no more.”
            Ricky’s stomach dropped to the ugly linoleum floor.
            “But, she’s my best friend. My only friend.”
            “Look, I put up with you hanging out with her until now. I saw you kissing her. I can’t have you out there kissing girls like her. It’s not right. I’m raising you better than that.”
            “What do ya mean?”
             “It’s like this; you know that Beth girl in your class? She’s OK to kiss. She’s like us.”
            “They’re both girls. Neither look like us”
            “I gave you an order. Do you hear me?” Ricki’s dad yelled, then unbuckled his belt.
            “Yes sir.”
            The belt stayed on.
            “I’ve been in this neighborhood for 20 years. Back then there was just one family like her, now there’s only one like us. We have to stay strong and not mingle. It’s for your own good, trust me. I know these kinds of people. They have no regard for family.”

His dad grabbed the grape push-up and walked away while his words remained. Ricky refused to hear them, refused their existence. But he couldn’t ignore them. His dad was his only family. All he had left. He was the only real-life hero he knew. The words seeped into Ricky and sucked out the joy of the day, of all past days.
            Ricky shuffled out of the kitchen and retreated to his room, ignoring the open front door. He laid on his fitted Ghostbusters sheets and stared out the window facing the cul-de-sac. From there he watched Kiki. He placed the push-up on the windowsill to eat it once she went home.  Two hours later and the orange sherbet had melted down the windowsill onto the gray carpet. Even in the dark, he could see her bright pink hair clips. See Kiki still waiting. Waiting for her prince to return, her hero. But he was imaginary.

© Daniel Heck (He/Him) 7.1.2024                                                                             
Dan is a writer and Lecturer in Creative Writing at ODU. Dan lives in Chesapeake, VA, with his fiancée , Gabby and son Bruce.

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