The build up
Outside the air was hot, a tropical wind blowing a hair dryer in my face. Wendy’s caked make up melting like a wax mask off my face. Sirens in the distance creeping over the shoreline, a sudden feeling of impending brain fart looming.
What could I do except throw myself on the mercy of a barrage of police questions with only my cute girl routine to fall back on. ‘It wasn’t me Mr scary police man, it was the one armed man’. I don’t know what disgusted me more; the thought that I would actually have to resort to that or that it might actually work. Well good looks don’t last forever.
My number one priority right now was finding my aunt/sister and boyfriend and getting as far the hell away from here as possible. With Wendy more or less dealt with that only left her little commandment breaking brother, Denny. Although I struggled to think which if not all the commandments he’d broken, surely he didn’t honour his father nor his mother. Incest and drug taking were apparently just a given.
I thought it would be pretty slick to escape out of the back fire door since doubling back through the main hall might run me back into Wendy’s path. Considering she wasn’t buried under a tonne of chipboard, which seemed a likely resting place for the wicked witch of the west coast. Or even worse; an awkward conversation with my aunt/sister over a dead cop. Also I couldn’t pretend to hope Denny hadn’t heard the shots. Or for that matter seen the waves of startled human cattle stampeding into the parking lot and disappearing into the night.
It was a good bet that he thought he was well on his way to enacting some kind of bloody revenge on my hapless aunt/sister at home. For of course ruining what could have been a lovely evening for his demented sister and possible lover. Or option two he was waiting with his hand on a large knife or gun waiting for either me or his sister to come out. So they could then ship off to aspen in the middle of the night and blow Orange County a kiss from the slopes with new names and probably new noses.
This being in the front of my mind leaving through the rear exit was my best option. I opened the fire exit with a mechanical clunking noise followed by lots of banging and scraping and a distinct smell of week old garbage. The back of the lazer arcade was a tight and cluttered alley opening onto a strip mall behind the arcade. The sirens were getting louder, so if he was still there he’d have to be getting more nervous and trigger happy by the second.
I looked at down at myself, at the silly pink prom dress I was borrowing. What was it I was planning to do exactly? Teen movie him to death?
A grave scraping like death’s scythe in the dark around my feet sent icy shivers up my bare ankle. Followed by a bitter mocking chuckle from the dark back seat. I breathed out and reached down to pick up whatever the hell I’d almost tripped over. The moonlight lifting its lidded eyes a slant to shine down on this unholy implement. Ok it was just a pipe, some kind of gas pipe maybe, don’t ask me I’m not a plumber. All I knew is that it was heavy on one end with a gnarly looking gauge or something sticking out.
Clue it is.
Who did that make me? Miss Scarlett or Madame Peacock? Was there a pink clue character?
This will do nicely, the thing inside said not in so many words. It’s teeth bared behind its leathery wings sending a rush of blood through the tips of my fingers. Making me feel magnetized, electric, like I was sticking to the walls. Like I was Spiderman crawling unseen above everyone’s heads as I traced through the dark in my ridiculous pink dress- ruffles and all. Quietly, I worked my way along the side of the lazer arcade, back around to the front.
The alley leading onto the strip mall was cramped and smelled like old hamburger meat and was most likely filthy. But the darkness was kind to it and to me as well as I peeked around the side of the pastel coloured building at the now more or less vacant parking lot.
But for one stretch hummer.
The parking lot was pretty well lit but the moon had given me a few dark pools in which to wallow. There was a large billboard on wheels facing out towards the road and a few trucks dotted about. They probably belonged to the furniture store on the other side of the arcade.
With the pipe in hand I hiked up my skirt like lady Chatterley about to descend her carriage or walk over a puddle, skittering along the ground as low as possible. I came up behind the billboard and peeped out for a closer look.
There was no movement. Although the tinted glass and the inherent clash of the dark and the bright parking lot lights made it impossible to see inside. I smelled axel grease and looked down at my hands and dress to see that I was covered in it. Looking at the pipe, the obvious culprit making a silent yuck face and then slipping back into the dark mask.
My body was starting to feel loosely coiled, the feeling of letting go mashing against the rising tide of ultimate control. Dark powerful waves tossing tiny boats aside like they were in the bath tub of Cthulhu’s baby brother.
Slinking low I made it around the back of a white truck edging closer to the limo, the sound of the sirens were getting closer but not close enough. I wagered I had time, but for what? Was I going to play with him right here and now before the cops could come and whisk me away to the local funny farm? A quick tap on the head and I had all the time of probably twenty minutes to deal with him but no time to escape? Escape? Why would I do that? I was a hero wasn’t I? I dropped the castle on the wicked witch and I was about to get the butler with the lead pipe in the parking lot. It would wrap up nicely, a neat little bow, not exactly how I expected it to go but it was definitely a memorable evening.
I slipped quietly around the truck trying to keep the rustling noises to a minimum. As I got closer to the limo I could hear music and now I could see around the other side. I could make out that the driver’s side door was open and the music was coming from inside. Some obnoxious salsa music was blaring from the front seat but there was still no movement. Maybe he was taking a nap or stepped out to take a leak. Was it even remotely possible that he didn’t even notice the stampede of teens in the parking lot?
Maybe heroine turns you deaf. He could have just been dead on the front seat with a needle in his arm, that would have been neat, I edged along the driver’s side of the limo. I was low but kept my eyes on the wing mirrors to see inside. It was too dark to make out anything interesting or hear anything above the mariachi music and my heartbeat.
The heat of the tropical night gave way to a cold shiver from the pit of my stomach. A loose tittering of pronged chicken feet pricking my skin as the dark one wrestled into the front seat and pulled me closer to the door. I was scared but it pulled me closer, I couldn’t hope to resist, I was on rails, a twisted passenger on a ride in Dahmerland.
I could almost feel the steel, the paintwork. I could taste the due on the limo, smell the interiors, all the hairs on my neck raised and licking the air, feeling the vibrations. The night, pricks of light dancing on the head of a pin, so clear and sleek not black but a luminous detailed grey.
Keeping my eyes on the wing mirror I could see him, he was just sitting there bolt upright not moving. Creeping closer, the wings at my back, a righteous wind making my foot fleet I closed the gap quickly and quietly keeping flat against the limo. A slight snag ripping a piece of lace asunder but it didn’t elevate any higher than the sound of the sirens or the music. Peering in at a low angle I could see one of his sneakers under the uniform, a splotch of what looked like cranberry juice on it.
My chest was heaving now, a cool burning sensation radiating out through my core. I lifted the pipe around head height and swung around the open driver’s side door making some sort of coughing laughing noise like a demonic ‘Aha’. My voice with an underlying different tone made it sound strange and deadly, like a whispering echo. The voice was powerful and calm like a sheet of hard sleet.
I breathed deep and hard until I could feel a numbing good sensation of pain. Like my bones were rubbing together as I stood over the still figure sitting in the driver’s seat. Time slowing as I felt my muscles firing a sinew at a time in a cascading waterfall of effortless force.
The pipe ricocheting off the door frame and smashing the driver’s side window into a million dark pieces.
I stood bowed, deflating with righteous mirthless power and I looked into the driver’s side window to see what could only be Denny, sans head.
His lifeless, decapitated body posed with his hands at ten and two on the steering wheel waiting for us to come out and surprise us with his weight loss.
I looked about the cab and his head was nowhere in the vicinity, I let it slip for a moment. The cool night mask slid and as I tried to make sense, tried to reposition it, that’s when I felt that oppressive feeling again, that pressure.
That divine pushing force making my bones feel soggy and heavy. Frozen in place, my legs blocks of granite, powerless at the sound of the passenger window opening a crack.
A snakelike hand slithered out through the crack and pricked me.
My head instantly felt light and lurid colours flitted past my vision. A school of luminous invisible fishes swimming past me as I slowly floated to the ground one heavy limb at a time. My eyes lolling in my head. The big black sky with its sickly orange starless glow unblinking watching as I sunk deeper and deeper into the crack in the earth. Soil falling on my head, getting darker, sinking deeper a scratching like rats in the walls, nails on the inside of a coffin. Large clods of blackness falling heavy onto me. Covering me pulling me down making me feel like I was drowning, paralyzing my lungs. No parts moved, none were connected, each in its own box miles away from each other.
I tried to will my feet to move but I couldn’t even move my head to look at them. Just the sky, the moon with its bright gnashing teeth leering down at me as my eyelids got heavier and heavier and then nothing.
Drip, a dripping noise. A muffled sound of a girl talking.
“You didn’t have to, why her?”
“I did it for you and ******”
“No, who will take care of us now?”
“No you’re not!”
A bump shook me awake, it was dark, we were moving, the sounds of sirens were silent now, only the night air and the incessant sound of crickets.
I could feel plaining tires, a smooth silent ride and the occasional bump, the sounds of thickets or long grass scraping against the bottom of the car.
The limo rolled to a stop, the night was dead calm, only nature sounds and the engine cooling. No horns, or gunfights, just the steady metronome of the crickets and the occasional frog, the smell of peat, cool night air, grass and trees. The driver’s door opening and slamming shut and then my eyes closed again, I felt myself sliding back.
The little boy was there again, covered in blood.
I could see the room now, it was a child’s bedroom, toys neatly put away, dolls on shelves, two sets of bunk beds and a shelf in the middle.
I remember looking up at it and seeing them, those faces I recognised.
I looked at him the child covered in blood, I knew him, he knew me and he was smiling.
My eyes opened slowly to nothing, it was dark. I could feel all the sweat of the hot night on my arms sticking to the leather seats. I felt the drool on my face and the caked makeup sliding off. It was starting to feel cold, morning was coming on cracked heels and I’d have to do some sort of walk of shame, the morning after the night before- if I lived.
But it was still dark and the hum of the crickets was still pleasantly deafening. The air inside the car was dank and warm but smelled coppery of blood. I could taste it. I sat there for a moment too afraid to move, it was so quiet I could hear the sound of the leather creasing under my skin and something else. A crinkling noise in the dark.
There was something else, something watching me, sitting in the dark, unblinking eyes staring at me, waiting. Waiting for what?
“Oh come on, now you’re just faking” The voice said.
“You think I can’t tell when you’re faking?” It was a man’s voice, I thought for a second I recognised it but it was different, it took on a more natural tone, the voice was calm and almost jovial. I almost thought like someone might pop up with a camera and this was all some elaborate reality show. He sighed and patted his knees “I was waiting for you to wake up, I wanted you to be fully aware of what was happening-“
“What’s happening?” I asked, knowing full well, my teeth almost chattering, tongue spasming. The dark watcher breathing heavily, heaving, it’s dark wings rustling.
“Well, nothing yet, not if you don’t want it to.” He leant forward with an exasperated sighing sound and I flinched. He flicked the interior light on in the limo cab and a bright light filled the small space blinding me.
I squeezed my eyes tightly shut but tried to peak and get a glimpse of him before he sat back down in his dark corner but it was too quick. He fell back to his corner now shielded by the bright light, a dark figure cast against the back of the limo.
That’s when I realised it.
My hands weren’t bound, my arms and legs were still there and most importantly my head was still attached.
“Well?” He said “What dya say?”
“What do I say to what?”
He breathed deeply through his nose but said nothing but I knew he was looking at me.
It says a lot to my waking stupor that I didn’t notice it the minute the light came on. It was probably because I was still snow blind or the fact they were laying so still. Maybe it was such a strange sight my mind just blotted it out to save for later.
But now my attention was drawn to it there was no way it could be ignored.
The limo was top of the line, Wendy had of course spared no expense on buying the largest luxury vehicle she could find. I felt oddly at home in it, after all it was pretty much the same as Paul’s dad’s car -only longer- and with a strip club inside of it.
My mind was reeling as I tried to process the interior of the hummer, my eyes darted all over the place like I was trying to overthink a seeing eye puzzle. The dots refusing to come together to become a sail boat. I saw the strobes, the minibar, the table… the table.
Try as I might I didn’t seem to remember the long black cushioned table covered in streams and streams of plastic wrap. In fact as my eyes adjusted to the light inside I could see the low blue strobes coming out from under more plastic. Until suddenly I realised that he’d laminated the entire interior of the limo.
“Took me a while, I hoped you’d appreciate it” He laughed a little “Sure beats a dumpster anyhow.”
Now you’re thinking can I read your mind?” He laughed again, an odd mechanical thing like a coin rattling into a coke machine. Like he learned to laugh from a friends rerun, a canned audience laugh. “You put it in your blog- it’s funny- people put whatever they want in their blogs. Their dreams, their inner most thoughts and they forget about it, that’s kind of what they’re for I guess. You thought yours was anonymous, but no one’s anonymous on the internet, not really.”
I looked down at the table as he laughed again. That studio audience laugh, and I saw what he was laughing at, the table, what was on the table, who, whom* was on the table. Wendy was strapped naked taped in place with reels of plastic wrap, her body pressed down flat like a bug under glass. A vacuum sealed steak, her fake tits forming little pert hillocks of plastic like they came in a blister pack. But that wasn’t all, there was more. Beyond her strapped tops and tails, her feet in his face was Paul truced up the exact same way fighting for space on the thin table.
They both looked so peaceful, like they were dead already, maybe that was the prank. I’d start cutting and the blood flow would have already stopped- ha-ha good joke.
Their mouths were taped shut, their eyes weren’t covered, so I assumed it didn’t matter.
“Who am I? I think you know, I think you’ve known for a while, maybe you don’t remember my real name but- you know me.” He paused for a second, waiting, waiting for me to say something, for the coin to drop.
He leant into the beam of light over then and I saw his face, his brown soft parted hair and his boyish face. Under that a khaki long sleeve shirt with a button neck and a butchers apron.
“Yeah you can call me that, it doesn’t matter about that now, we both get new names, the old ones don’t matter.” He smiled, a smile so fake and practiced it looked like it was on a mister potato head, like he learnt it from a mannequin.
“The old ones”
He came around the side of the limo and sat down next to me and ruffled his hair sighing.
“I’m sorry we had to meet like this but I’ve been looking for you for a long time- and I had to know.”
“Had to know- what?”
He smiled that pretty boy smile that would make a normal woman melt, that loveable rogue smile that was oh so clinical. So practiced, so charming but so plastic. A killer Ken doll.
He sniffed and said “If you were like me”.
I felt a shiver from the dark backseat. Everything falling into place and then shattering again. The boy from my dream, the boy in blood.
“If my baby sister was just like me”
He smiled that sears catalogue smile again and nodded.
“Well half-sister, you know how these things are, we had the same mother, but we’re not all so lucky as to have a father like yours. Our father, our real father, What do you call her here, ‘Mary-Anne’ was it?” He snorted before readjusting himself “A fat girl’s name”.
“Our father my “bio-dad” was a drug addict and a fiend. He’d come home night after night on god knows what and Infect our darling soft hearted mother with all sorts of crack house diseases and then proceed to beat the piss out of her. This was before you were born but it went on for a while until one day he turned his attention to us and that was more than our mother could take. She kicked him out and I’m pretty certain he died in prison.-
That’s how it was for us”
“How it was?”
“You know, how it happened- how it got into us- Got into to me . He tortured us, our own father, our real father and something inside us called to it and it answered, my ‘shadowguy’ I call it, do you have a name for it?”
“I call it D” I whispered shyly.
He smiled and said “That’s cute, like an imaginary friend, I like that, D for…?
That night, it was…
I tried so hard to resist, for so long but it was so – hungry.”
And then I saw it, my aunt’s head, my real aunt, Aunt D we’ll call her, her head on the toy shelf next to four others, our nanny and a few others I didn’t recognise. Just staring at me unblinking and he was there smiling that same smile surrounded by the tatters of his previous life, born anew. A devil god reborn in chains and blood.
“At first it was just animals, bugs, you know we were kids. I killed the neighbour’s dog because it wouldn’t stop yapping, she just watched – ‘Mary-Anne’. We were so – directionless. I could barely string a sentence together and she was just as damaged. But then he came into our lives, our night father, our dark daddy, dark daddy ‘D’.
He was like us, I could tell from the moment I met him. See the shadows peel off of him like he was peter pan, behind that warm normal smile was a dark brother.
But he was different his Daddy taught him well. He was a cop and he knew about people like him. So he taught him- how to hide in plain sight, how to get away with it, to kill people like him only and leave the innocent alone. He gave him the most precious of gifts a father can give; Purpose.”
“Purpose?” I said dimly following along.
“Our father, our new father, he promised he’d do the same, he’d teach us, mould us but life got in the way as it usually does- Then you came along.” He slunk back in his seat “He- died.” Brody sighed “And we were on our own again and by that time our mom had her head bashed in by some punk. Some psychotic trying to get to get at him so we had no one but his sister, our aunt. And she was just like her father, a cop through and through, maybe too much so. Her father saw the necessity of people like us, he saw the system fail so many times and let the wrong guy get away with it. He just snapped but she wasn’t like that, too by the book, too rigid.
She chose not to see us, she chose not to guide us, for whatever reason. Maybe she thought we’d grow out of it. She just wanted to be done with it and instead of walking in the footsteps of her own Patriarch she let us slip through the cracks – and slip we did.”
-I did, that night. I couldn’t resist anymore, my shadow was like a big hungry dog I couldn’t stop myself feeding. Animals, neighbours, nannies, and then our father’s sister. She was the last, I put their heads there for everyone to see, on the toy shelf.” He leaned back and smiled like he was talking about surfing. “It was days before her work reported her missing. We spent all that time together in her blood eating nothing but cereal and whatever else we could find. You were just a baby, barely able to walk. And then eventually they came looking for her, brought by the smell.
That’s when they split us up. I went away to a juvenile facility and you and Mary-Anne went into the foster system. You two had a second chance, you were forever changed but you had a future, I was a monster through and through and they knew it.
I was there for a long time, but it didn’t leave me, they poked and prodded me with their specialists and nothing seemed to work. They couldn’t understand why, they could never get close enough and one day they stopped trying. Until one day, he came, the man with the claw for a hand.” He said smiling that boyish smile and raising his finger like a pirate hook.
“He’s pretty memorable” He laughed. “He got me out, gave me a new name and a second chance.”
“A second chance at what?”
He let out an exasperated breath and touched his face “We can use these things inside us to, to- help people.” He stopped and smiled like he almost believed it. “Get rid of people like them.” He looked back over at Wendy who was still lying unconscious next to Paul. “We can see them”
“We’re not like them, we can be different.” He smiled and reached for my hand and I let him take it. He put a chrome handled fillet knife in my hand and said. “We can choose”