PART 12

RIGHT NOW

Don’t worry, dad said, you worry too much.

But what about—?

Don’t worry!

They said no going outside, no exposing yourself to—

To what, air? Don’t expose myself to air and breathe like a human being just because I’m dying?

You’re not dying wasn’t the right thing to say, because it was a lie, and so instead she said, don’t worry, dad, you’ll live forever.

Nah, I won’t. None of us do. And when you’re my age you realize that’s a blessing. You stop being afraid; you start being ready. You know what’s funny, though? I thought you’d save me first. I didn’t think you’d just let me die… my only daughter left her daddy to die to go save someone else’s kid.

But you told me to.

It doesn’t matter what I told you; it matters what you did. You came back too late, remember? Had to watch your own father die, just to let someone live, you had to be the hero. You didn’t even know them, they didn’t even say, thank you. And then what happened to you? Huh? What’d you become?

She’s been in the dream too long; dad’s face is just as realistic as the day he died in her arms, and she’s there again holding him while he smiles and asks again, what’d you become? The way she can tell she’s been in the dream too long is that it’s taken a turn for the worse. He never said those things. He was just dead when she came back. Everything starts out as a dream and ends up as a nightmare. The troubled mind can’t dream with itself for too long without an unwanted injection of horror.

The eyes are what she saw first, before the height of the thing. They were pale yellow underneath the murky light of the round moon, which darkened its grey fur into a blue, dismal pelt as it prowled quietly to her. The shoulders were broad and half-clothed with a red plaid shirt ripped apart and glistening, the opened maw was wet and dripped onto the concrete as it walked to her on its hind legs, the teeth long and yellowed. It was taller than any dog she’d ever seen, well over six feet, and it was so slow, unblinking.

I don’t have a good feeling about this, she says to her partner, who’s in the backseat of her empty, rotten car. She’s safe here in the decrepit car that’s covered in moss, with puddles on the floor and cottonmouths slithering inside the fluid pooling up around her ankles. She’s watching herself. Watching that thing coming up to her and her dead daddy.

Then why are you going? He asks.

Because I don’t have a good feeling about it.

She wakes up bound behind a tree and breathes as if it’s her first breath; and somewhere deep within her the desire to weep is rattling, but she cages the urge with trying to move, trying to break free. She can’t remember how she got here, because she never left the woods and only remembers the old man’s face, just a nip of it, after he’d hit her with something. She remembers him limping away on that cane of his, him muttering, and her thinking out loud to herself before she lost consciousness, I’m supposed to come back later, when I’m ready.

You’re going to die, but I die first, the little girl says to her with a tiny, shaky voice. She’s not tied up because fear keeps her tethered to this place. There’s a fire burning from behind them and an eerie chanting in a strange language she’s never heard, and a smoky, meaty scent drifting over to them both. She hears the girls stomach growl. The little ones always die first, the girl says, then the older ones. I’m not the littlest one yet, so I’m in the middle.

The detective can almost recognize her as a missing kid from not too long ago, but with the malnourished face, dirty, knobby knees and protruding ribs of the slight body, the shadows of constellations of bruising, the pieces of her scalp missing, it’s difficult to get a positive I.D.

You won’t die, the detective says, you’ll live forever, and the detective cranes her neck as much as she can manage to see what’s happening behind her.

Baby Mikey is being lead up to an altar decorated in a folk piece acting out the Last Judgement. The eyes of Jesus are black beads that flash anytime the flames palpitate, with crayon-blue tears dolloped thickly down a pale paper face. The robes are a collage of greasy newspaper and old painted sheets, the arms are wooden, the fingers broken tree limbs. The angels encircling him from thrifted tree toppers. His halo is tinsel wrapped around rope, and Baby Mikey is naked and crying, trying to take a crudely painted, paper mache mask of a dog off of his face, but he’s struggling, he can’t do it.

Miranda’s mother is leading him toward the altar, nude except for mud and a swamp-crown, her pubic hair decorated with leaves. She’s shushing him, smiling, as the others chant in rows so that she can walk up to the fire and the flimsy image of Christ.

TO BE CONTINUED …

PART 11

Before she died

You’re trickin me, it’s a joke, right? Miranda asked, and she’d laughed briefly and sheepishly like a live stage actor pretending to comprehend a scene she’s never been in before. Her mascara and dark eyeliner had crumbled because of the showers outside and had given her light eyes a flaked and hollow look, making her seem lit from within like a jack-o-lantern when she grinned.

No, I ain’t kiddin’, you’re stayin’ here, they’re out there and they’ll get you, Gabe’s mother had told her, igniting another cigarette with the bitter end of the one she’d just finished. You can’t go home tonight, not through there, she’d added, And Gabe and all the boys is too drunk to drive you home.

I can’t stay here, Miranda had said pathetically in a voice with faint tremor, Mikey’s alone, I have to go back. He can’t be alone anymore! What if he wakes up and I’m not there? I timed it this way. He’ll feel so alone if he wakes up without me. He’ll cry. He’ll look for me and I won’t be there.

For an older, stouter woman, Gabe’s mother was as fast as a high school sprinter. She was never wont to shoving young girls she liked into bedrooms and locking the doors behind them, but she had to protect her. She’d pushed Miranda into the mouth of Gabe’s room, watched her get swallowed up into the dark throat of it, and heard her fall back onto the rickety dresser. She’d heard a few neglected bottles that had once lived there on top vaguely teeter, plummet, and bounce off of the thinly carpeted floor and thankfully not bust open. Then she’d heard Miranda rise up and go for the door before she locked it from the outside and started sticking a stained foldable chair underneath the knob just to make sure she couldn’t get out. Miranda was hysterical, begging, sobbing… and then everything went quiet on the other side of the door.

Trust me, Gabe’s mother said in the seam with a sigh of relief, you can’t leave. We’ll do the wedding ritual another time. Mikey will be fine. Please, just stay here. Wait till the suns up.

The sound of it was a wire in the blood; a noise that sent an electric, chemical signal to the leftover reptilian part of the mammal brain.  The howling was a call and the call sounded through the thick bodies of the trees; the sound reached in, and somewhere in the gut it dazzled, mesmerizing, wailing, tumbling through branches, digging up dirt, rustling the leaves.

Miranda? Gabe’s mother had asked.

But when she’d opened the door the window had been opened. And Miranda was gone.

 

to be continued … 

PART 10

DETECTIVE

The light left when daddy died. The world started to get a grain over it; dimmer and dimmer went her waking life, until the doctor said it was all in her mind. Migraine auras, they’d said, without the migraine part sometimes, blind in this eye one day, blind in the other tomorrow. Get some sleep. Get some help.

Sometimes she’d think she saw something out of the corner of her eye, a loitering figure, a hunched posture, or she’d catch the heavy scent of an unbearable perfume, the kind that festers in the throat, the kind you can taste.

Everything was too loud, everything had a strong smell that made her head hurt, and sometimes she never wanted to leave the dark loam of her room. With all the lights out, she could imagine what it would be like to die.

She understood what it meant now: light of my life. Ever since the accident, she was never the same. She can still see his gasping face from when he was dying in her slender arms, and the hot flashes of the bloodied grin and the trembling sound of the death-gurgling up from deep inside of him; they wake her up at night when she’s alone.

The detective carries herself as if this burden is nothing to her. She is tall and rigid as a classical statue, saving the opportunity to pretend to be lax only for when she’s questioning suspects, with her dusky skin blemished by nothing but worry. The mother was standing outside already as she approached the weathered, molded trailer, that like a wilting flower stooped lopsided as if somebody had kicked the back of its knees and it never fully stood back up again.

Can I help you? The mother asks, she can spot a cop a mile away.

Yes, I’m looking for Gabriel, is he home? I just need to ask him a few questions about the disappearance of Miranda Delano, the detective asks. Her hands in her pockets, relaxed as she advances in her weighty boots that crack the spines of fallen sticks from the scrawly angel oak. She ignores the amorphous shimmering that’s begun in her peripheral; it’s just a migraine, like the doctors said, hormones.

He doesn’t live here anymore, ran off last night, mother says, and she stubbornly crosses her arms in the universal posture of a shut door, clearing her throat with a rattling noise as she loosens sediment there, spitting into the dog-piss grass. She’s stout and tubby and bejeweled, her eyes lined dark with black eyeshadow.

It ain’t that boy! A voice exclaims, and from what she instantly measures it’s come from behind her. The detective turns around to face the limping approach of a feeble-looking, toothless white-haired man. His cane has the image of an open-mouthed wolf on it, and he continues.

It’s them satanists, he says, age making his tone tremulous.

Satanists? So you’re saying you saw what happened? The detective asks.

No, but I heard it. And I’m a good christian man and know a satanist when I seen one, he says, stopping in front of her and leaning on his cane. It sinks in faintly and he glares at her with one bulbous eye, the pores of his nose covered in blackheads. She can smell his sweat.

What did you hear? When?

I heard a buncha howling dogs the same night that girl went missing, and I heard her screamin’ too.

Is it possible you were asleep?

He laughs, no ma’am, he says, I never sleep. You should know. By the look of you, you ain’t ever sleepin either.

What makes you think satanist just by howling?

It’s the loup garou, he says, and behind her the mother clicks her tongue in irritation. They all satanists because they been cursed by god.

What’s a loup garou? The detective asks, where do they live?

A man or a woman who takes the form of a wolf when the moons right, ya’ll call it werewolf, I call it fairytale bullshit, mother says. Ain’t no truth to it.

And where are these fairytale creatures living?

Both of them pointed her into the right direction, told her to go about a mile in, and told her to never come back at night. She wouldn’t listen; she’d be back once the sun sank down, but for now she went to see what she could find in the day.

All there was deeper in: a deer bloated stiff, shredded apart, it’s intestines alive with ants, patches of its fur strewn across the woodland floor and far away behind a thick valley of oaks, a dog staring back at her.

to be continued … 

part 7

TRAILER PARK

 

We heard she had a wedding last night, the female detective drawled bluntly in her fine, dark suit, with her scrawny shoulder sloped against the dingy threshold of the skunky trailer. Her dusky skin glistened with a film of perspiration. The cockeyed trailers’ open-mouthed door couldn’t afford a breath of cool air from the small A/C unit it stowed in a cracked window. It only conferred a single hot breath with decomposing party streamers tied to its teeth, fluttering in a humid gale.

News to me, mother said with sun-baked forearms crossed tight like the beginning of a braid, a tarnished gold bracelet, eyes that haven’t slept in 20 years, withered, bleached blonde hair. She hated cops. Didn’t matter if she did anything wrong or not. Does it matter what she done or who she been with to find my girl? Or all ya’ll care about is gossip, she’d said, baby Mikey was asleep on the soiled plaid couch dreaming of brown rabbits eating carrots, grinning innocently.

Did she have a boyfriend? the detective asked.

Ain’t every girl gotta boyfriend these days, she scoffed, even if she don’t want one? Check the carnival.

For who?

Name’s Gabriel. Come back when you got somethin’, the door shambled shut.

 

to be continued …

PART 6

AFTERNOON

 

A gilded choir of wind chimes continually blaze here at the rear of the carnival, and the stomach warming scent of meat-smoke breathes out from underneath an old tight lipped outdoor cooker.

White-hot sunlight bawled through a cloudless sky, aiming itself down, elbowing through a jagged volley of shards made of broken mirrors. The fragments clung onto the sunlight greedily and dazzled any straying eye with a tiara of sparks that stuck behind the eyelids until blinking blotted them out. The broken pieces protrude up out of weedy soil as a superstitious decor, castled by a motley family of other strange ornaments meant to ward off bad spirits or amuse onlookers. The shut-eyed grin of a potbellied gnome crossing its arms sagely stationed with an array of varicolored plastic butterflies with goofy painted eyes wired onto sun-bleached spokes. A poised, rusty stone cat with no pupils sat quietly, uncannily.

They line the blueglass gemstone path to the moldy 1952 Royal Spartanette with its missile shape and toon windows, as if this sector of the show were a rotting aquarium exhibit, drained of its murky, amniotic waters.

He’d rubbed his nervous hands together sitting straight and leaning in. He was inside of the heavily incensed trailer trying not to sneeze on dragons blood and patchouli, and when he’d sparsely roved his calloused palms over his thighs to give his hands something else to do the roughness of his fingers made a catching sound on the fabric of his soiled jeans.

There were three tarot cards on the kitchen table, which was covered by a resurrected halloween material painted with character cats grinning with their fangs, flying on broomsticks in witch hats, sewn with silver tinkling bells that made a cacophony anytime one of them dared to move.

Who’s Lisa? The fortune teller asked, her eyes moony like those twitchy felines, twinkling in the palpitations of the red votives on the dirty sink.

Lisa? I don’t know any Lisa, he’d said.

Are you sure? Her eyes narrowed, shining like those broken mirrors outside.

Yeah, pretty sure, he’d confirmed with a wry laugh through his nose.

What about Elizabeth? It’s a variant of Lisa, she’d asked.

Uhh, from like third grade, he’d said. He was an easy mark.

That’s her. Did you like her? She asked, passing her hand over the trio of cards as if they spoke suddenly and must be shushed.

I guess so, he’d said.

When you find Lisa and marry her, come back, she’d said, I do henna tattoos for weddings, brings good luck to the bride. That’ll be sixty-five dollars.

She’d outstretched her weathered hand.

 

 

to be continued … 

Part 5

The brightening world blanched before their narrow squints, and their brows clenched with unmendable, burdened lines that worried with curiosity underneath the prying sun. Off the Mississippi came an unbidden advance of that familiar, slithery breath of humid afternoon and it dragged with it the fetor of last nights piss stains blackening and emanating in the heat against ruined walls they’d passed with sidelong scowls. Where along the battered back-buildings revelers had prowled late like strange characters out of place, and out of sync with time, confetti was beaten down by slimy, light rain.

The empty buildings were now behind them, disjointed, leaning like tombs that had dug their heels into graveyard dirt. The old walls blemished with laborious graffiti of jazz funerals; dusky, puffed cheeks blowing into burnished gold making sad music, weeping women in lace blotting the corners of their invisible eyes. The pinching sound of shoes weighing down on sharp rocks had come to a stop, yet still seemed to echo in the silence shared between them with what they all peered down upon.

It’s the palms of her hands and her feet, but no body, the cop said. Lots of punctures, maybe bites, scratches, bruising, likely defensive.

Sounds familiar. Like its been in a story before, the female detective said. She’d kept her arms crossed as she’d approached the paled, shredded fragments bloating alone in their decaying nest. The pieces looked like clearance halloween props; inhuman objects, in some grotesque joke of being human.

The Bible, the cop said, it’s been in the Bible.

Never read it. What’s it say? She asked.

Jezebel was tossed out of a window, and when they’d gone to find her body and bury it they only found the palms of her hands and her feet. Wild dogs ate the rest of her, the cop said, looks like dogs ate this one, too.

Marks are too precise for dogs. How do we know this is her? Stunned by the interjection of the male detective who had heretofore been silent as he’d followed, the cop and the woman pause to stare back at him.

Tattoo she got at her wedding last night, the cop said.

Wedding? Both detectives asked in an unconnected harmony.

 

to be continued…

part 4

12 hours ago

 

He’d raised the toy up to eye level and inspected its cylindrical shape and strange writing and holographic paper stuck around the circle of its body with one eye squinted. He’d turned around the noisy confetti in the kaleidoscope and peered through himself first to test it out, and then took it down to the toddlers eye level and pulled him close lovingly the way a brother or father would.

He’d piped out an elongated Mickey mouse, wooooow! for effect, and his tickling beard wowed with him. He’d patted baby Mikey on his bony shoulder.

Isn’t that cute, Miranda had said, perching her soap-chapped knuckles onto the hew of her hips, he likes you, Gabe.

The sound of keys and the sound of the keys’ metallic intercourse with the door had arrived, and the doorknob was thrust, flopping, in need of repair too long ago. Gabriel was agile and out of Miranda’s window before mom could’ve sworn she’d heard something. Bye bye dada, baby Mikey had said.

Miranda, is dinner ready? Mom creaked in her slurred voice with that bubonic black hair rheumy with the wet of work.

And yet Gabriel dared back through the dirty Disney sheet-curtains thumb tacked over the bedroom window and implored of Miranda a farewell kiss before he’d gone back out into the dusk with a groan.

Miranda had whisper shouted, Seeya later, as he’d run into the firmament of cricketing trees where he was embraced by an intruding dark.

 

to be continued …

PART 3

 

TRAILER PARK

To a child all things rise. Mother rises in the morning when the sun rises. The moon rises and mom and baby go to sleep. Miranda would rise to feed him. The dead girls name was Miranda and she never rose today, and baby Mikey wondered why his sister never trickled in with the sun as she usually did with it thrilling through her saltwater hair like a bright comb.

He faintly recalls a damp kiss on his temple between alphabet dreams, but she never rose with him. He was so hungry now he’d cried and made duck noises and horse noises he’d learned from the toy in his broken bed next to Miranda’s empty one.

Real mother staggered in belated expecting that Miranda had fed baby Mikey.

Where the fuck is Miranda? Mom squawked too loud in her talon-voice, and baby Mikey flinched.

Baby Mikey made a cat noise and then said, bye bye dada, because he’d also dimly recalled his toy making an opaline of harmonious colors and grinning like a kitten kneading fat and seeing Miranda’s friend with a beard; all men with beards are dada, but he’s too young to explain.

to be continued … 

part 2

 

NEW ORLEANS:

Morning rose and the wallowing sun divulged trace litters of a lady’s’ under things and a stringy rip of shredded denim. The evidence was fixed up in a concrete drainage ditch by a humid water line, with alien pale rocks that jutted out circling it like delegates from the moon and carefully placed on top the tatters to keep them from disturbance.

When the nutria scattered after having nibbled at coagulated blood spots dry and sweet to them like hard candy, they’d arrived. A set of shadows, which frowned and overlooked the mystery pile like mourners hovering over a peeled casket.

But where’s the body, one asked, yellow lettering dramatically over the heart of her windbreaker spelled out the words S-T-A-T-E and P-O-L-I-C-E. She shifted and bent her knees to crouch and lean over it thoughtfully, making the chunky coat swish and her arthritic knees click. She grimaced as if the evidence could spring up and shout BOO.

We don’t even know if this is hers, the other one says sardonically in his gloomy suit.

Detectives, a voice asks from behind, come have a look at this.

 

to be continued …

part 1

There’s a girl and a gust of wind and the house she left behind. A pale yellow house with mold in the corners and babies with fevers, and cigarette smoke in her nose and on the walls of her room, in her hair and in her bed sheets, and on the outside in the humid world beyond the broken door she crept out of at 2am.

They looked for her in the pastures and in the nooks, in the neck of the woods that smell green and lush and watery, and they looked up as if she might be in a tree staring down at them, but they never did find her.

 

to be continued …