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 …