What is a number exactly? Mathematics? The number of steps it takes to get to school? But wait; what about the ones that wear them? Yes, the ones that wear numbers. Some wear them proudly, and some try to hide them. All the same. They’re just numbers. We’re all just numbers. It’s just that the ones that wear them get away with it.
It all happened on a dark moonless night. We lived in a village filled with different homes, stores, and people. It was known as Phoenix Village. I lived in a long and consistently leveled grass field composed of only two small houses made from pine wood a few miles north of the village. Using my father’s help and his hatchet, I entered my home after chopping some wood to start our fire inside. This night was grandly quiet, and on this specific night, our neighbors went to the city. My family and I were alone.
Ah yes... family.
A few hours after entering my house and gathering the firewood under our humongous cooking pot, I sat at the dinner table with my father while my brother and sister were laying down at the other side of the room. We had a very small home that consisted of two beds posted against one side of the home and a small kitchen and pot against the wall that was far in front of our home’s door. My mother was preparing us food. The food had an unforgettable smell to it; sweet carrots and potatoes boiling in a pot of stew. This night was a special one because my father brought home meat which my mother was preparing on the side. I remember it all.
I remember as I was conversing with my father about our plans for the next day on the dinner table, I noticed to my left and to my father’s right where the windows were that there was an emerging figure erupting from the shadows, but this figure came in the shape of two glaring eyes. The eyes were so bright in their hazel-like color that they were impossible not to meet. I immediately looked to my father in front of me in fear as I pointed at the window.
“Father, there’s someone there.”
My father and I immediately looked at the window where the eyes were, but they were gone. My father laughed.
“Son, I think you're beginning to see things.”
He continued to laugh for a few more seconds before quieting down, and then, on this especially quiet night, I heard three distinct footsteps close in around our small home and towards our door. My father heard them as well as his eyes widened in shock. He began looking at the door along with me, and that’s when we heard it. That’s what I’ll never forget. Three aggressive but slow knocks on the door. Immediately, my mother and father froze and looked at each other. My mother pointed at the other side of the room as she turned off the stove, and my father tugged at my shirt and directed me to the other side of the room where my siblings were sleeping.
My mother then slowly made her way to the door and softly answered.
“Who... who is it?”
She was clearly scared, but she was scared for good reason. In our small village of two houses, there was never knocking, for that is what we and our neighbors used to distinguish between ourselves and the outsiders. That’s when the man behind the door replied.
“Oh, that’s not important! I just saw through that little window of yours that you were cooking up something that looked pretty tasty!”
My mother in clear confusion stood frozen without a word to say. In complete fear, I grabbed at my father’s leg and stood behind him. My little brother and sister began to wake up in disoriented manners. The man’s voice behind the door grew louder.
“Come on, let me join you for dinner! It’s been a long while since I’ve had some good home-cooking!”
My mother, in what appeared to be fear, confusion, and disbelief, looked at me and my father with a half-opened mouth when the door suddenly erupted and shattered open sending my mother yelping and flying towards our kitchen pot. The man appeared from the slight smoke that was created from the smash with a smile on his face. That face he made. This man was a monster.
“Come on now! How rude of you to keep a guest outside on this chilly night! What if I froze to death for god's sake?”
My mother began crawling away from the man. I was in complete fear and couldn’t make myself turn to see my brother’s or sister’s reactions. My father gazed at the man with his mouth wide open in disbelief almost as if he knew who the man was or what was happening. The man then aggressively and quickly pulled a chair towards him and sat down at the dinner table where we were previously sitting as he howled at my mother from the floor she laid upon.
“Bring me some of that damn food before I starve to death over here woman!”
This demented man was dressed in a white shirt with what appeared to be sleeves that were ripped off including shorts that were dirty, ragged, knotted in the front, and as brown as a tree. His eyes were unforgettable. They held a light brown color that was lighter than any normal man’s eyes. It was like you could tell he was insane just by looking at them. The man was built like a giant. He held a burly and unbelievably muscular physique that coursed throughout his entire body from his arms and chest all the way to his legs. It was almost as if he was trying his absolute best to hold back his undeniable strength from breaking both the chair he was sitting on and the table he now had his arm rested on. He had short, wavy black hair that appeared to be quite messy and not taken care of. Despite these resounding features that this giant of a man held, the one thing that was most noticeable was a crimson red engraving burned into his right shoulder reading an unforgettable number.
It read, “#1”.
It was almost like he was trying to show it off in front of us as his bulging muscular shoulder pridefully and openly held the number. That’s when my father, out of what appeared to be both desperation and instinct for protecting his family, rushed at this man in an attempt to tackle him and bring him down. But right when my father’s body connected with the man, the man didn’t move at all. Not one inch. He was as solid as a rock and wouldn’t budge from his chair. The man looked down at my dad who was now on his torso. While laughing, wildly, the man then grabbed my father by the head with only one of his palms.
“Hey! Come on now, it’s too late for hugs! And what the hell kind of hug is this? I mean, I’m still in my damn chair!”
The man got up with my father’s head in his hand. My father struggled and made noises to get loose although he couldn’t. Struggling, my father kicked the table aside from where the man was sitting. The man lifted my father up with unimaginable strength while my mother was screaming at the top of her lungs for the man to let go of her husband. The man looked at her in confusion when he came to a sudden realization.
“Oh, I see! So that’s how it is? You want me to let go of him because he was supposed to help you cook huh?”
The entire room went silent.
“Wow, and I thought I was a lazy bastard! This guy was chilling over there with his kids while his wife was making all the food! Now that’s unbelievable!”
He then threw my father into the wall that had a single window to the left of the kitchen table. The glass and wood crumbled upon him as he was now in the wall. My mother was screaming uncontrollably now as she tried to run towards me and my siblings who were naturally gazing upon this whole situation in utter terror. As soon as my mother took two steps towards me and my siblings, the man grabbed her by her hair and pulled her towards him using no effort at all.
“Huh? What’s going on? Don’t tell me you're not gonna finish the food! What the hell woman? And after everything that we’ve been through too! You can’t even feed me? What kind of woman can’t even feed a man when he’s hungry?”
That’s when the man’s face changed suddenly and dramatically as if a light bulb just lit up in his head. He shouted in disbelief.
“Wait, don’t tell me!”
He began making his way to the pot of stew while dragging my screaming mother by her hair as she struggled. He then took a spoon and tasted some of the food straight from the pot as his eyes widened. As soon as the soup touched his tongue, he spat it out and screeched psychotically in anger.
“YOU PUT CARROTS IN THE DAMN SOUP EVEN THOUGH I’M ALLERGIC! YOU USELESS WOMAN!”
He pulled her towards himself and grabbed her throat. He then winded her head back and with monstrous strength slammed her head in the pot of stew sending soup flying everywhere in the kitchen. As she struggled for air, he casually turned on the flame from the stove. As I noticed my mother's legs begin to shake, I turned my head and closed my eyes in desperation. I couldn’t even move a muscle. I was just too scared, but shockingly and devastatingly, I heard my little sister courageously rush the man while crying great tears. She began pounding on his leg while screaming at the man to stop despite the man taking no damage at all. The man slowly grinned. He began laughing furiously.
“What the hell, even the kid is a troublemaker?”
That’s when he shoved my sister with what appeared to be barely any force at all, still sending her across the entire room and hitting the wall. My little brother began crying uncontrollably.
“God damn! You're crying like a little baby, kid! Don’t blame me! Blame your brainless mother who put carrots in the damn soup. If anything, I’m doing you guys a favor! I mean, can’t you kids be even a little grateful?”
After my mom stopped struggling, the man took her head out of the pot which now had a great amount of smoke expelling from it. Right at this point, very quickly and abruptly a dark red aura enveloped the man. The man’s muscles contracted harshly only for a quick instant before the aura around the man quickly faded. The man held my mother up, peering at her face which I refused to look at.
“Oh damn! Now that’s one ugly woman!”