Fiction logo

Chlorophyngernails

Go Green or Go Home

By Jordan J HallPublished 2 years ago Updated 22 days ago 10 min read
Like

As seen in Mammoth, Massachusetts: A Collection of Speculative Folk Fiction (Levellers Press 2023)

I watched them all summer—lithe bodies, easy smiles—I would have done anything to learn their secret. Since Tabitha and I had split, I’d been feeling the need to explore, and the Horvath boys sparked more than curiosity in me. The pair of brothers seemed never to tire, they practically jogged up ladders, basked in the sun while we took breaks in the shade. What I would consider hoisting, was lifting to them. Packs of shingles were like boxes of crackers to these two. It was my second summer with Mr. Colby, and I learned being a roofer comes with a great amount of stress. Not that other trades don't, just that roofing brings with it a contention with the elements, namely the sun. That ball of fire is really something else, wreaks havoc on your system. Not these two, they reveled in the light. I run five miles every morning and made varsity wrestling as a freshman, but these guys were another level.

They seemed too young for their abilities. The older, Rodney, could pass for eighteen, but no way was Calvin legal to drive. At first, I assumed it was farm-strong, but our boss, Mr. Colby, said the two had grown up being homeschooled on a riverbank. Strong and smooth, just like the current, they carried wares to and fro on the job site. Without falter the Horvath’s worked every day. First on, last off; but they never wanted to hang after shift. Never smoked a drag or took a sip of coffee. I had to find out what their secret was.

The pair preferred each other’s company but by no means were they standoffish. I made a point to get on their crew, but they often shunned additional help. Claimed it ruined their flow. I made sure to stay out of their way and bring water before they needed it. Gophering is one thing I do well. After a few days of cracking jokes, Rodney and Calvin were comfortable around me. I overheard them just after morning break.

“Did you know green is the only color mammals can't create?”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“David Attenborough said it on a nature show.”

“Hold my beer!” they laughed together.

It took another week of self-deprecating jokes for them to understand my sarcasm, but soon we were insulting each other like old friends. I tried to get them to open up about their seemingly chemical prowess, but they were not interested in sharing. I kept at it. The more I hung with them the more they talked.

“Science will set you free.” Rodney seemed to be the right side of their brain.

“Science is just chasing nature,” Cal would say. “It’s trying to gain nature’s secrets.”

“Maybe so,” Rodney said. He loved toying with his brother. “Maybe nature wants to share.”

“Why is she so coy?”

“Because brother,” Rodney said, wiggling his fingers. “Seeking is our job.”

I was getting chummy with them but as for every summer, September kills it. I would go back to school and might never see them again. I kept thinking about what Rodney said about seeking. I thought maybe he was inviting me to investigate them. Regardless, I was out of time, so I confronted them.

“Come on, man,” I prodded. “You two have been amped all summer. Since before the 4th you've been lit—like three coffees an hour-lit.”

“Yeah?” Rodney had a five-gallon bucket of tar in his arms.

“Yeah. You're making everyone look bad.”

“We hadn’t noticed.” Calvin smiled and tried to hide his giggle.

“You two are on something, tell me what it is.”

“I told you.” Rodney laughed hard, almost nervous. “I'm all natural.”

“Alright,” Calvin said, as looked at me with vigor. It was the first time I'd seen anything other than ease in his eyes. “We can't do it here.” He smiled, bringing back all the light. “Meet us tonight at the river. We’ll show you everything.” Calvin looked to Rodney and the older brother nodded reluctantly. I danced on the inside.

“Text me the address!” I blurted out. Cal and I shared a goofy smile and went about our days. After lunch I was sent on a supply run, and by the time I got back the Horvaths were gone for the day. Still floating, I cleaned up the job site and made my way home, whistling the whole time.

I showered, ate dinner, but wasn’t hungry. Too excited. Changed outfits. Changed again. Put on cologne. Then washed it off and put on a different kind. Now I was a potpourri of eau de toilette. Washed them both off and tried to read until departure. After a half hour of rereading the same page, I decided to just go.

The long, overgrown drive was intimidating but it opened to a modest house near a graceful riverbend. Once I parked and exited all I could hear was the river’s susurrus. The crepuscular light had all but given in to evening’s grasp. Instinctively I made my way past the house toward the sound of water.

Between the nearly full moon and the escaping light from the house, the eddy they had carved out beside the river shone bright. A huge natural swimming pool had been hewn from the granite bank just at the river’s bend. It gently pulled the water in and eased it out without disturbing the current. A lighted glass building off to the right glowed a greenish blue hue. Fire sticks were lit at random intervals around the pool.

“Ahoy!” Cal waved a glowing green hand from the left side of the pool. Was he holding something? What made the green light? He was standing on a rock outcropping, then dove into the water. I stepped to the roughhewn steps at the pool’s entrance and watched soft green lights pull him easily under the surface. Watching in awe, goosebumps studded my skin until he emerged at the far length of the pool.

“Glad you could make it.” Rodney's deep voice caught me off guard. I turned to see him saunter up to the pool. He had similar glowing lights in his fingertips. Gloves? Paint? Rodney dove into the near side and swam submerged, like Cal, into the darkness.

Calvin’s greenlights returned and crept up the stone steps of the pool. I could see they were not glow sticks, or gloves. It was his fingernails that were glowing green. I wanted to admire his dripping wet body, but I could not take my eyes off his hands. Soft hues emitted enough light to see his defined muscles twinge as he toweled off his hair.

“Come in the water,” Cal invited with a smile. I said nothing. He knew I was looking at his nails. “I said I was all natural,” he said, and wiggled his fingers as Rodney had earlier that day. Then he grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled me in for a wet, delicious kiss. I melted—just a bit. The burning question of the fingertips would not leave me.

“That's not the only reason I came,” I said, taking my shoes off.

“Why else would you be here?” Cal’s smile was electric.

“I want to know your secret.” I took off my shirt and tossed it on the rocks.

“I just told you,” Cal said, slipping back into the water.

“Not that, your real secret.”

“Ha, you are too funny.” He splashed at me. I stripped to my boxers.

“What's with the fingers?” I stuck my foot in the water. The chill raised the hair on the back of my neck.

“An ongoing experiment.” As he treaded water, the green light underneath was enhanced. Softer. Glowing. Hypnotic.

“So, this is why you don't go out at night?”

“One of the few drawbacks,” Cal said.

I eased my legs and then trunk into the water. An exhilarating chill rippled through me.

“What are the benefits?” I tried to keep my voice full, but the chill of the water brought a yelp. Calvin only smiled.

“Too many to count.” Calvin dove under the water, his green glowing hands pulled him away. Treading by the steps, I inhaled the warm scents of sweetgrass and honeysuckle. A second set of green hands was moving towards me. Rodney emerged and ragged himself off.

“Will you tell me about the glowing nails?”

“I told you, all natural.” He sat on the stone bench near the water.

“Okay, but really?”

“Algae,” he said, holding out his hand for my inspection. It was the first time I noticed he was missing the end of his pinky finger. His hand was heavy, and the nails glowed a milky neon green. Allowing my eyes to relax I stared at his fingertips. Subtle ochers and yellows could be discerned amidst the verdant greens.

“How do you do it?” As I spoke Calvin splashed back to the surface. He swiped the water off his elegant hide and made sure to get some of it on me.

“You make a lot of little holes.” Rodney’s face was firm, he reclined on the stone bench. “Under the cuticle.”

“Like primitive tattoos.” Calvin said, as if it were a good thing.

“Does it hurt?”

The brothers shared a look.

“Yes, but the benefits outweigh the costs.” Rodney sounded like a politician.

“Until now.” Calvin shot a look of daggers to his sibling.

“Even now.” Rodney looked to me and then back to Cal. “I don’t think we can stay the winter.”

Cal gasped, like it was the first time that he considered consequences. He looked deep into my eyes and held my gaze.

“Where will you go?” I knew the answer.

“South. Toward the equator,” he confirmed.

“What’s with the glowing though?” I took Calvin’s hand in mine.

“Bioluminescence,” Rodney corrected.

“Why is your bio luminescing?” His long fingers gave me a sense of assurance. Up close I could see Calvin’s nails had hints of aqua and marine. I couldn’t help but wonder what color mine would be.

“We don’t know,” Rodney said after a beat.

“Like I said, ongoing experiment.” Calvin touched the side of my face with his hand.

“What does it feel like?” I cupped his hand with mine, eager for his answer.

“Like riding a horse, bareback.” His voice tasted salty in my mind. “Exaltation. Sublimity.”

“Extreme focus, prolonged stamina, sharp eyes, smooth joints, strong breath, what’s not to like?” Rodney looked at the sky, perturbed.

“Do you sleep?” I left Calvin’s embrace and lowered my whole body into the pool.

“Are you trying to get in my bed?” Calvin followed me into the water.

“Of course. But also, aren’t you wired all the time?”

“It’s not like caffeine,” Rodney interrupted from shore. “But we do get sluggish on rainy days.”

“Improved eavesdropping is another drawback,” I shouted and turned my attention to Cal. “How did you discover it?”

“Radrod was the first to try. Of course, it would be old Radical Rodney!” he shouted. “He hates when I call him that.” Calvin swam past me doing a light backstroke. I couldn’t help but stare at the glowing lights as I followed. I felt like I was following the white rabbit by way of green nails. He knew I was looking but did not mention it. “Instead of blocking the sun, the idea was to invite it in.”

“Through your fingernails.”

“Yep, and toenails. Rod saw them as pre-built solar panels, just needed some tweaking in order to plug them in.” We swam to the far edge of the pool where I hung to the rock and gasped for air. Calvin continued to tread water effortlessly on his back. “There are a few steps, and it took a lot of trying,” Calvin smiled and wiggled his fingers. “Once he figured it out, he showed me how.” He crawled out of the water and sat on the rock next to me, our bodies glistened in his green glow. I could feel the freedom of his thoughts, the speed of his dreams. I wanted badly to see inside his brain. I leaned in and he did too.

We kissed again; this time it was moist and divine. I paused, wiggled my fingers, and said, “Show me.”

To Be Continued...

READ NEXT: Siren in the Swamp

Sci Fi
Like

About the Creator

Jordan J Hall

I write Historical and Speculative Flash Fiction. Nature and society's underbelly are the focus of my work. Read my debut collection of short stories, Mammoth, Massachusetts and check out jordanjhall.com for more.

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.