Blood Stains

by Iskander Khan, age 12
Blood Stains Iskander Khan is a creative, funny, and entrepreneurial 12-year- old. He is currently a 7th grader at the Salk School of Science. He loves running and plays the piano. He is also the co- founder of a soap business and is trying to write a musical. He aspires to become a better writer, especially in short stories and novel writing.

“Pierre Gusteau was a different child. Not in a bad way. He always wanted a legacy. Everyone wants a legacy. Everyone wants to be remembered. But Pierre. Pierre lived for a legacy.”

Pierre Gusteau was a different child. Not in a bad way. He always wanted a legacy. Everyone wants a legacy. Everyone wants to be remembered. But Pierre. Pierre lived for a legacy.

In school projects, while others collaborated, Pierre would work alone. He wasn’t antisocial. He could make friends very easily if he tried. He just didn’t want to have such burdens. He just wanted a legacy. He wanted to be remembered. And he wanted to get full credit for his work. So in the late hours of the night, when no one was up, he would turn on the candles and hunch over his desk like a vulture. And he would furiously dab his pen into the ink pot. His face was inches away from the paper, and every so often, he smiled. He was playing a game with himself. He was trying to squeeze as many words as he could into one line. As a child, he had always stayed at school later, helping around the classroom. After about an hour of slow-paced organization of school supplies, Pierre would decide to walk home. As he entered, there would be silence, and if you listened closely, you could hear the suppressed sobs of his grandmother. Sobs that wanted to be released but were held inside. And there, on the creaking bed, lay Pierre’s mother. She had died of the disease known as Tegrofy. She looked like a scared infant who hung coldly and loosely in a fetal position. Pierre, who was crumbling with disappointment and sorrow, didn’t know how to show it. As he lay down next to his mom, and as he wrapped the grey strands of her hair around his finger one last time, he made a vow.

He promised himself that he would find a cure to the disease that unjustly stole his mother. He only studied the sciences from that point forward and treated it as the only thing of importance in his life. It was the only thing he lived for. His grandma was always asking questions about his relationships. She tried to be sneaky about them, but it was apparent that she wanted him to marry a nice girl. At the mention of marriage, however, Pierre would merely roll his eyes and softly grunt, which was a sign that he couldn’t be bothered.

Grandma finally found “the perfect girl,” and they were married in a humble ceremony at the local  church. For the first time in many years, Pierre smiled. He smiled as the sun beat down on his face. He smiled as he saw his wife-to-be. He smiled as his wife-to-be became his wife. He smiled at his uncle’s repetitives jokes. And at the end of the night, he smiled one last time, remembering how great the day had been. But the smile quickly faded as he remembered his mother. How he wished she were here. And then, again, his urge for making something of himself overtook his life, and he started wondering about what he would do tomorrow in the lab.

He explained to his wife, Amelie, that he was working on this cure for a disease. And he explained how this meant everything in the world to him — to help the lives of people similar to his mother.

And so, every day after the marriage, Pierre locked himself in his study, which had become his lab. As he closed the tall brown doors to his lab, he felt a sense of pride, and he stood a little straighter. He worked alone, by himself. He always daydreamed peacefully about unveiling his cure before a crowd of people. He dreamed of being surrounded by wealth, and by glory. He dreamed of winning awards, and he wished for people to clap as he waved to them. He wanted fathers to bring their children up to him and, with a kind smile, say, “Son, this man is a hero!” He worked alone so that he wouldn’t have to share the glory. He didn’t want to have to share the award. He wouldn’t consider himself selfish, though. He would argue with passion that it was human nature to want the best for yourself, and that it is only natural that some people were better than others.

Meanwhile, his wife had nothing to do. Amelie had come from a modestly rich family, so her father provided enough money for the two of them. Amelie had nothing to do when she wasn’t meeting with the ladies of her club. And so, she made it her duty to clean every inch of the house in the morning hours. So, after a breakfast of oats and eggs, Pierre would lock himself in his study, and she would clean the house. She especially enjoyed cleaning the smooth marble tiles of the kitchen floor. She would crouch on the floor, with rags, and would wipe the floor. Every few minutes, her knees would start aching, and she would have to switch positions. She took each piece of dirt by vigorously wiping the crevices in the tiles. One day, her husband decided to go on their honeymoon, even though it had been two years since they had married. They both took a break from their work and enjoyed it. Pierre was laughing again. But often, he thought about how the break would soon end — and he was for the first time scared of the work that lay ahead. He decided that relaxing breaks were not for him.

However, in that time, his wife became pregnant, and nine months later, she bore a pair of twins. They were two baby boys, with wide smiles that stretched across their faces, and they had such dense patches of freckles that seen from afar, darkened the entire pigmentation of their face. And so the children grew up, their freckles disappeared, and they no longer shook when they sneezed. Amelie, now much older, still cleaned with all her strength.

And Pierre was on the verge of the cure — though he didn’t know it yet. The work had taken a toll on him. Deep wrinkles were now engraved in his forehead, thanks to all the reading and writing he had done hunched over a candlelight. And his skin was sickly pale. Often, late at night, when his family was asleep, he would take midnight walks, where he shivered in the cold, and where he kicked trees to take his anger out. If only my mom hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be obsessed with this stupid disease, he would think to himself. He beat himself up for the time he had wasted. He beat himself up because he could no longer remember where his uncles lived. Or whether “the uncle with the repetitive jokes” was still alive. But he hoped he was.

Amelie now had a purpose to clean every morning, because by nightfall, thanks to the boys, the kitchen was in careless ruin. With all of this work on her plate, you could find Amelie on her knees, wiping with her dirty white rag from morning ‘till sundown. The boys had no supervision, and the family was not wealthy enough to afford a nanny. So after school, the boys would do whatever they pleased. They didn’t become bad kids, but they became more daring. Every few days, they would both get a mischievous look. Their eyes would stare off into the distance, and a sly grin would slowly appear on their faces. With no words spoken between the two of them, they would run off on their next adventure. They would not return until nightfall sometimes, and if Pierre noticed, he would get quite angry. That is what kept the boys in line — the fear that their father might catch them. Even though, most of the time, Pierre was so consumed by his work that he forgot the faces of his children. At night, he would look at their sweet, innocent faces in bed. And he would smile, and try to make a picture of his children in his head that he could remember. He would kiss their cheeks five times each before leaving, but by the next morning, his work made him forget his kids’ faces once again. And so, the cycle repeated.

One day, when Amelie was meeting with friends, the boys brought a friend of theirs over to play. They decided to use knives to replicate the sword fights they had read about in fantasies. They used the kitchen knives, and started slashing the blades in the air. They started fighting each other slowly, and then the fighting became faster. The sound of the metal knives clashing in the air was like a gong, and with each hit, their senses awakened even more. Pierre heard the fighting from downstairs, but decided not to be bothered, as he had found something interesting in his test results. And as he examined the test results, one of his son’s knives was thrown off course and plunged into the chest of his other son. The other son froze for a moment, and in that split-second, the knife of their friend plunged into his stomach. The boy joined his brother on the floor, and they limply lay in the puddle of blood. Their friend, angry and distraught by what he had just done, balled up his fists and ran away, sobbing.

And as the last breaths escaped the clutches of the two boys, upstairs, in the study, there was a joyous scream of, “Eureka, finally, finally.” He ran down to show the test results to his family, but only found a streaming flow of blood coming from the kitchen. And as he saw the two boys on the floor, he dropped his papers and ran to them. He picked their flaccid bodies up into his arms and whispered, “I should have been there for you…”

He let the bodies slide back onto the floor, and he kissed each of the boys’ foreheads one hundred times, to make up for the times he wasn’t there for them.

As Amelie returned, she, too, was filled with sadness and wished she could have been there for her children. She stopped her cleaning for a few days as they prepared for the funeral. Pierre looked to see if he could find the address of his uncle to inform him of the loss. He found it, but was informed that his whole family had died from Tegrofy, like his mother. If only he had worked in a lab with more people, instead of just himself. Maybe he could have saved them earlier.

Days passed. Pierre became famous, but once again, he felt empty. He didn’t know what he needed. But he lived every day with regret. He was regretful that he saved everyone’s lives — but he let his own children die.

And Amelie, after falling into a deep depression for months, once again picked up her cleaning rags and continued her unfulfilling life. She would clean every single inch of the house — except for one part. She let the blood stains dry onto her beautiful marble tiles. And from that point on, she no longer enjoyed cleaning the kitchen. She cleaned around the bloodstains. As a reminder that both of them paid for a legacy.

 

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