A cool orange-scented breeze slipped into the room--lined with yellow striped wallpaper that peeled near the ceiling and filled with the tools and toys of a young boy brown-haired boy, Mitch. He listened to his mother talking to his aunt downstairs, the one comforting the other in turn. He imagined them touching fingers periodically, and sipping coffee, waiting up late at night for the reports. They would dread a phone call. He would dread a phone call. The reports from the TV were late.
The closet rattled. Mitch assumed his baseball bat fell to the side, but couldn't reason out why. He drew his knees up under the cover. The breeze grew stronger and colder. The closet rattled again and Mitch sat up bolt upright. The breeze stilled and Mitch became suddenly warm under the blankets. The voices below continued. He stepped out of bed and tiptoed barefoot to the closet. It rattled again. He thrust his hand out and threw open the door.
All of his shoved in toys and clothes were gone, replaced with the inner workings of a grandfather clock. The pendulum swung slower than it should, from side to side, knocking the wood paneling at each side of the closet.
"What?" asked Mitch quietly.
There was a hiss behind him and he spun around. A figure loomed over him, a person, perhaps, in a NASA spacesuit. The heat shield on the helmet was black in the relative darkness of the room.
"Dad?" he asked, his eyes welling with tears.
The figure did not move.
"I didn't mean to," said Mitch. "I didn't mean to run away before you left."
The suit hissed but Mitch couldn't tell if it was trying to communicate with him. The pendulum hit the wall again, but Mitch could tell that it was slowing down.
"I'm sorry for what I did," said Mitch. "It didn't matter, and I know that now."
Mitch reached forward and touched the suit.
"You're real," he said. "You're actually here."
The suit hissed and at the same moment the pendulum hit again, more softly this time.
"I won't tell mom," he said.
He pressed his face into the coarse white fabric. It smelled of heated steel.
"What is infinity like?" he asked, looking up at the faceless visor.
The suit raised an arm and pointed to the clock. Mitch turned around. The pendulum was stopped.
The phone rang downstairs, and the voices stopped. Mitch turned around and the suit was gone, replaced with the orange breeze. He wiped his cheeks and closed the closet door. He crawled back into bed and listened to his mother sob.