When I sleep it is dark. Sometimes I dream, sometimes I don’t. But when I glide on my skateboard I dream in the daylight each and every time. It’s easy to do. The thoughts that swirl through my head while I’m skating are countless. ‘How far can I go without money?’ Is one of the most common ones.
My name is Sid Menaham, and I like to say that I live on the board. On the board life is grand, life is good. I tell my little sister about my adventures. Now she wants to ride with me but she’s too young. From time to time she sits on the classic ‘Penny’ and push her while she navigates the board like a sled. The wheels are getting uneven and need repair, so I sell Hacky Sacks and lithium batteries. Dad helps, but mom gets worried. Mom says I ride too much.
I have a few skater friends. We meet on Sundays at the Four Wheel dealership, where my mother used to work. Four Wheel closed two years ago but still has the smoothest asphalt and the grandest staircase. Even though I have known Willie, Kevin, and Steven since we were kids, I still don’t really know anything about them. Most of the time we talk about movies. Now I want to share my story with you. It must be told because it’s true that all good men ride skateboards. I’m going to tell you why.
I was sixteen when I began to see shadows moving. The first time it happened was when I was climbing in the Catskills with a few friends. We were city kids wearing the wrong foot gear for a mountain hike. Kevin and Willie’s parents took the lead while the four of us lingered behind. It was early October, the time of year when the weather is unpredictable, the sun still strong, the leaves slippery. But friends help each other, regardless of the weather and the conditions outside. We spotted a challenging rock formation, and one the adults yelled, “I’m familiar with this climb!” So we ventured up. I followed Kevin because wherever he put his foot, I would be able to put mine. It was safer that way. Wearing skate sneakers with their flat soles made climbing difficult. As active as I am, that rock formation tested my patience. Maybe I was just too much of a city boy; the nature thing wore me out. I saw the rest of the group make it to the top, and Willie’s dad leaned over the rocky cornice and shouted, “You are slightly off the path. Don’t slip.” Of course, at that age I still had a problem listening to grownups, so under my breath I said, “Whatever.” I looked up and it got quiet, as if the group had moved on without me. I shouldn’t have stood close to Kevin. I was at the point where an opening in the gray, jaggered rock split in half, with enough room to take a break. I wedge myself into it. Looking down, I realized we must have been at least three stories up.
Having my back against the split opening, the view opened up, and I suddenly understood why people travel here to enjoy nature. As I turned around, I grasped the flat horizontal ledge over my head, which is more or less a ‘victory stone’ to the top. I heard a sound coming from the darkness within the split in the rock. The shadowy crevices opened up. I turned to look, lowering my body to take a peek. I saw stars as a watery reflection from the star-lit sky. I pushed my body closer in an attempt to understand the surreal sight. Willie’s dad startled me, despite the softness of his tone. “Are you all right Sid?” he asked. I looked up to him, and all I could say was, “Yes, I had to pee.”
“It’s okay, Sid. Are you done? Do you need any help?”
“I’m done. I’ll be right up.”
That was the first time of many that the shadows came alive.
As I rode alone, glancing at the roads for peril, I was cognizant of the fact that even a pebble could be a disaster on the board. But at the same time I was thinking about pretty girls and ways to get some money for snacks. Money was always on my mind. Even my newspaper route was a tough way to earn cash because the company almost always insisted that they hadn’t been paid by all the subscribers to whom I delivered the papers.
On one of those early delivery mornings, it was still dark but my skateboard gripped the morning dew. With half a bag left to deliver, one of my wheels went over a cigarette lighter on the ground. I thought I could handle the shaky wheels, but I couldn’t. I landed on both hands, my face inches from a manhole cover. Before I could stand up, I noticed tiny beams of light poking up through the small holes on the manhole cover. I crouched a little closer. There were men down there walking with what I assumed were flashlights in the darkness. All layers of New York City, from the subterranean tunnels to the topmost skyscraper floors, are bustling with people. Even homeless people, which is something I don’t like to see.
I leaped back on my board and followed each light poking from each manhole cover. I counted twelve, then thirteen, as I continued to push along. The lights became harder to see as the sun started rising.
Eighteen manhole covers! I could barely keep up, but the last one found me in a parking lot, in a place I had never been before. It was an industrial area, and trucks were loading goods on the other side of a dead-end street. I must have been out of my mind because school started in an half an hour. I jumped for one last glance, and even before I landed on my feet a vehicle—obviously an expensive one—stopped in front of me. A man got out and yelled at me. What I didn’t realize was that I was in a strip club parking lot. Frightened, I jumped on my skateboard and made my way out of there quickly. Just then, I caught sight of one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen in my young life. It was just a two-second glance, but the vision was unforgettable. I didn’t know much about strip clubs, but I knew it was no place for a girl her age. It was clear that I had to share this with Kevin or Willie. Or maybe not. Should I keep this one to myself? That’s the decision I struggled with.
What a morning.
When everyone but you gets to go to the movies because you’re fired from delivering newspapers, you feel like a loser. What’s a kid to do when everyone is out on a Friday night skating? I packed my pockets with Little Debbie’s for energy, and an iPod loaded with classic Depeche Mode tunes. But I just wasn’t able to stop thinking about the other day, the lights, the strip club. I had a lamp on my board to avoid cigarette lighters and pebbles, and my parents didn’t know that I had lost my job and that I wasn’t at the movies. Still, my grades were good. That’s what was important to them.
What a day yesterday had been. It was the day that changed my life.
Following those manhole covers, I counted eighteen of them. The area was bustling with even more fancy cars, security people, and valet parking… I decided to go back another night.
“Hey kid, come over here,” said a man delivering heavy metal canisters.
“Who me?” I asked.
“Yes, you. What are doing around here?”
As he was talking, I took a glance inside the building. It was dark. The walls vibrated with music I didn’t like. Sitting on a stool was that girl—the girl of my dreams. She looked at me and said hello.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Do you work here?”
Suddenly someone else spoke.
“Hey kid, don’t talk to her. You’ll be in big trouble.”
In a whisper I asked her if she needed any help. “I’ll be outside,” I said, and she nodded. Slowly, I backed away and hid across the street in the shadows, sitting on my board. I fell asleep and didn’t awake until morning. I knew my parents would be livid. What, I wondered, should I tell them? “Shit, I’m grounded,” I mumbled to myself.
I texted my mom to tell her I was okay. Then I looked at the parking lot. It had been swept clean as if nothing happened the night before. I counted nineteen manhole covers. There was nothing to see but silent industry. I jumped down and sat on a manhole cover pondering life. Then I heard men chatting below, so I put my eye near the round hole on the cold metal disc. A man looked straight at me. It startled me. I climbed back up the wall in a hurry.
“Vicky, come back,” I heard a man shout.
He was talking to her—to that girl, to the most beautiful girl in the world.
“Help!” she yelled.
“Grab my hand,” I said desperately.
I pulled her up as the man who was yelling came closer.
“Don’t get involved, kid,” he said menacingly.
“You better listen to him, or he’ll kill you,” Vicky urged.
“How old are you?”
I started to swing my skateboard at the man as he attempted to climb the container. I told Vicky to jump. The man grabbed the end of my skateboard and clawed his way over to us. More men were coming behind us over the wall, out of the manhole. They looked not of this world. There were three of them, two of whom launched the third into the air. Vicky and I were transfixed by the sight. The man attacking Vicky put his fat ring-studded hands around her neck. I started to stumble off the ledge and fell backward into the arms of other men who suddenly surfaced below. This startled the attacker, but it also made his hands get tighter around Vicky’s neck
“Do something, someone,” I yelled to the men below. A weapon of some sort was discharged. The attacker was down. We all thought he was dead. Vicky was the first to check, and after she did she turned to the rest of us and said,
“My uncle deserves it. Thank you. Whoever you are, thank you.”
“Hey kids, are you ready?” said the tallest of the men who had came to our rescue.
“Ready for what?” Vicky asked.
“To save the Milky Way”
One of the men was taller than the other two, and he was the one the others looked to. His name, as I heard one of the shorter ones say, was Stallion.
“The shadow is closing,” Stallion said.
“I know the shadows,” I replied.
“Is it far from here?” Vicki asked Stallion.
“Yes,” he replied, “very far from here, but with good people who will never harm you or Sid.”
“I’m ready to go,” she grinned confidently.
“What about my mom, dad and sister?” I asked.
“Once you say you will go, your mom will give birth to another Sid Menaham.”
I collapsed, trying to maintain my dignity, and looked up to Vicky as the towering soldiers cast their shadows on me with tenderness.
“Yes, I’ll go.”
“I like this kid,” Stallion smiled.
We entered the sewer. Vicky gently put her hands into mine, while I also held onto my board. At that moment I thought about my mother, and as if they read my mind, one of the men touched his head lamp and out of it came a hologram showing my mom giving birth to a son. My dad was there, too. He was young. I knew then that if these guys had the technology and inner powers to do something like that, then everything would be all right. Stallion opened a hatch a few meters from where we had entered. Stallion told us they were in a battle for control over the sun, a battle to protect dark matter from reaching all the planets that sustained life.
We went through the hatch. On the other side was a beautiful park-like expanse where young children waved at us from a hill. They all had skateboards in their raised hands, and behind them was a skate park where other children were soaring into the sky. Indeed, it was more than a skate park; it was a mountain where people of all different ages coasted down slopes, each one with a backpack on which were affixed what appeared to be solar panels. It seemed to me that the panels were powering the boards. What genius! What ingenuity!
Suddenly I noticed that one of my rescuers had what looked like little skateboards attached to each of his feet, although the wheels never touched the ground. While I observed this exciting and amazing new environment, I felt like I, too, was floating on air. Only later on did I discover that the entire place was covered in unusual, oversized grains of sand that acted as airborne lubricants between the hard ground below and the floating souls above.
We passed the mountain and then entered another great doorway that delivered us into an arena where hundreds of people sat in seats that had upward-facing mirrors attached to them.
“Why all the mirrors?” I asked Stallion.
“They block the view of our enemy,” he explained.
We stood still while waiting for instructions, and were then handed uniforms made of a denim-like material (though it wasn’t the denim I was used to). Finally, we were escorted to another section where we were asked our names.
The man who was taking down the names started to laugh. I asked him why he was laughing.
“Because we had three Sydneys today,” he chuckled. “Three!”
“Well,” I said, keeping a serious look on my face, “when you inscribe my name on my uniform, just put Sid, not Sydney.”
Vicky and I went into separate dorms, one labeled boys and the other girls. It was separated by a round courtyard with a monument fountain in the middle of a man named Ivan Rad, who I later learned had created The School of Rad. When I walked into the courtyard I met a guy named Matthew, who gave me an orientation. First we went up to what was called the Communications Needle, where he told me they searched for threats to life throughout the galaxy. Matthew said that the effective range of defense was the solar system in which Earth and the Earth’s Sun were located.
“What are we fighting, Matthew?” I asked.
“Your average rogue meteor,” he said. “Sometimes civilizations crash and burn, and earth’s light brings then here.”
“What happens when they come?”
“Ever heard of Gandhi, Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein?”
“I’ve met them personally,” he said plainly.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, equally without emotion of any kind.
“How old am I?”
“Slow down, Sid. You don’t want to unravel the galaxy with talk like this.”
“Will I be able to see Vicky again?”
“Yes,” he replied, looking directly at me with a interesting smirk. “Tomorrow you guys are getting married.”
END OF PART I
Robertson Tirado Copyright 2018