I have a condition called “dermatographia.” It is what it sounds like: you can “write” on my skin. It’s not as bizarre as it looks. All it means is I get scratches very easily. If I run my fingernail across my skin, I’ll get a raised, red trail. It doesn’t hurt or bleed and it goes away after a half hour or so. Still, it’s pretty noticeable.
Kids used to make fun of me at school, as they’re wont to do with anything they find new or weird. It wasn’t too bad, though. Nothing traumatizing. I’m grateful for that, because as I got older I realized how great a bar trick it was.
Maybe that makes me a little weird. I’m okay with it.
I’m going to dispense with the backstory because I need to talk about what’s been going on lately. The other day, I woke up with a word on my stomach. It said “soon.” Continue reading “Dermatographia”
Our new house was an old house. We spent tons of money on renovations and upgrades before we could live there. The basement was particularly heinous. After a while, it started coming around, looking less like the pit of despair from when we bought it and more like the man-cave I dreamed of. Once everything was done, we finally moved in.
One of the kids was poking around in her closet the other day and discovered an old dumbwaiter. I never knew we had one of those. It led down into the basement, but apparently the compartment had been bricked up before we even moved in. When setting up my man-cave down there, I just plastered over the brick like any of the other walls.
My daughter was pretty disappointed when I told her I wasn’t going to break down the wall and make the thing functional again. She wanted to send me little presents from her room while I was watching the game in the basement. Still, she liked hanging out in her closet and pulling the thing up and down. I figured there were worse things she could find interesting. Continue reading “Dumbwaiter”
Dawn is my little sister. When I was 11 and she was just a tiny baby, I hurt her really badly. I didn’t know what I did was going to cause so much trouble. I just wanted to do something nice. Something that would make us happy.
My parents made me go away for a long time. I didn’t understand why everyone was so angry. I missed my sister terribly. Even worse, I felt betrayed by the people I’d expected to understand me.
After six years of hospitalization, I got to see her again. My parents had passed away in a car accident while I was gone and I went to live with my aunt and uncle. Both were psychologists. Both understood the problem I apparently had. Still, they believed I’d learned to cope with it over the course of my rehabilitation. And they were right. I would never hurt anyone again. The mere thought of it was abhorrent. Continue reading “Dawn”
The Craigslist ad wanted a male companion for 6 hours. No sex, nothing illegal, and, get this: it paid $10,000. Who wouldn’t jump at 10k?
We met at his house. His handshake was firm. He seemed solidly middle-class; modest home, basic decor, nothing ostentatious. A suburban bachelor pad. After our hellos, he asked if I’d like something to drink. His fridge was stocked with microbrews. Good stuff! I grabbed a Dogfish Head 90 and he guided me to the basement. “That’s where we’ll be working,” he said.
I didn’t understand. I had those floaty things. My teacher said everyone did. An artifact of our eyes developing, or something like that. I guess he’d been told the same thing, but it did him little good. His parents were concerned, of course, and they brought him to ophthalmologists who were all in agreement: his eyes were fine. When he denied the experts’ claims and doubled down on his insistence that something was wrong, his worried parents got him into therapy.
I guess the therapist helped him a little bit. Malcolm’s paranoia seemed to diminish somewhat and his anxious habits like twitching and blinking weren’t as pronounced. That was good – a lot of kids made fun of the way he blinked. He told me it helped push the things out of sight for a couple seconds.
This city is on no one’s map. If it had ever been, those people have long since died. As have their children. And grandchildren. And great grandchildren. And great-great grandchildren. And so on.
Nonetheless, here the city stands. My source was right. My money was well spent. These ancient structures are black tombs. We’ve set up our camp on the outskirts. The city is far too cold.
September 10th, 2016
Charles kept watch while I slept. He claimed to see no signs of life, but sounds kept him constantly alert. Soft sounds. Soft, wet, and unimposing. Sounds which drifted in and out at the limits of audibility, as if they were whispers, but windblown and damp – redolent of dying breaths and last words.
I heard nothing. My sleep was as black as the structures ahead of us. No sounds penetrated the dreamless morass. For a brief moment upon waking, I believed to have been dead.
The bloody pacifier I found hanging from my tree belonged to Alyssa Harris, who went missing from her crib two nights ago. I figured it had to have been Alyssa’s when I saw it, but while I waited for the police to arrive, I realized it could’ve belonged to Matthew Roman. Or Muhammad Ahad. Or maybe even Hailey Davis. Over the last four years, they’d all vanished.
Hawthorn Lane developed quite a bit of notoriety in 2015 after Matthew and Muhammad disappeared on the same night. The Romans and the Ahads lived four houses apart, and as far as the detectives were able to tell, the children were abducted within minutes of each other. Both houses were securely locked and there was no sign of a forced entry.
As far as I’m concerned, though, the notoriety and brief rush of attention from the national news wouldn’t have happened if their disappearance hadn’t been on the anniversary of the 2012 abduction of Hailey Davis.
Hailey’s case was special, if it could be called such a thing. That’s because on October 1st, 2013, exactly a year after she went missing, pieces of her were found stuffed in the mailboxes of every family on the street who had, or were expecting, children. A swarm of investigators, both local and federal, descended on our quiet, suburban lane, and worked around the clock for months before admitting defeat. There was no evidence.
No fingerprints. No hairs. No mysterious DNA.
When the media came to town in 2015 after Matthew and Muhammad went missing, the rumors started. Rumors and threats. People from all over the country decided to get involved. They felt it was their duty. They began sending harassing letters and making threatening phone calls to the single adults who lived on Hawthorn Lane. These were people who’d lived here for years; people who had grieved alongside the parents and families who’d lost their children. But that didn’t matter to the crazies, who’d been thoroughly brainwashed by cable news into believing the abductor had to be someone from the neighborhood.
In December of 2015, a Georgia man named Alvin Stovall drove 300 miles up the coast, parked in front of Jose Partida’s house, and shot him to death when he came home from work. Alvin was certain Jose was the murderer of Hailey Davis and the abductor of Matthew Roman and Muhammad Ahad. He’d heard from a cable news anchor that Jose had a criminal record. That, as well as Jose’s name, was all Alvin needed to justify his action.
What the anchor had neglected to mention was Jose’s record was from 1977. And it was for nothing worse than being a passenger in a stolen car. Jose did his three months, got out on his 22nd birthday, and had been a model citizen ever since. He was my friend.
After Jose’s murder, the local police were ordered to keep a tight lid on any information pertaining to the disappearances. When Alyssa Harris was reported missing two days ago, it was printed on page four of the local newspaper. So far, there hadn’t been anyone from the major media outlets poking around. I know it’s only a matter of time, though. Yesterday morning, someone who looked like a reporter was tailing the police cars when they came to investigate the bloody pacifier. For the rest of the day, my phone rang and rang. When I answered, whoever was on the other line just hung up.
That alone was enough to make me worried. My name is Luis Goncalves. I’ve been on Hawthorn Lane for 40 years. I’ve lived by myself since Robert passed away in 1999. Jose Partida was my next-door neighbor. While I appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement officials, they weren’t able to stop Alvin Stovall from murdering my friend. They aren’t able to stop whoever is taking the neighborhood children. I’ve resorted to keeping my pistol holstered to my side all day, every day; even in my house.
I know that may sound paranoid, but look at it from my perspective. Someone is abducting and killing children on my street. An innocent man was gunned down because the news media has convinced a large group of people that Latinos are dangerous criminals. And yesterday morning, hanging from a small branch on a tree in my front yard, was a pacifier dripping with a child’s blood. I can’t take my chances.
All that said, there’s one more thing. I’m reluctant to talk about it, because it’s something I saw when I was experiencing a dizzy spell from my blood pressure medication. I’d blacked out from the medication before, so this could’ve been nothing but a hallucination. Still, these days, with everything that’s going on, I think it bears mentioning.
I was washing up after a midnight snack. The sink is in front of a large picture window that overlooks the front yard. Since it was dark out, I couldn’t see anything but the reflection of myself and the kitchen behind me. I was already feeling dizzy from my medication, but it wasn’t severe enough for me to have to sit, so I kept cleaning.
As I washed the last dish, the overhead light blew. The kitchen went dark. It took a moment for my eyes to acclimate, but I could now see the neighborhood outside. And there was something across the street, opening the Richter family’s mailbox.
A wave of dizziness went through me and I gripped the edge of the counter to steady myself, but I’m certain, despite what I’m about to write, what I saw was really there. It was a pale, nude man with freakishly long legs and even longer arms that protruded from his hips, rather than his shoulders. Despite him being bent down, it was obvious he was tall enough to peer through a second-story window.
He paused with the mailbox half open, then abruptly stepped away and turned around. In two, long strides, he crossed the street into my yard. He gazed through my kitchen window with massive, gray eyes. I stared back. A toothless mouth opened, stretching wide enough to fit a basketball. I reached for my pistol. Through the glass, I heard the sound of infants screaming from deep inside his throat. His mouth shut, then twisted into a grin. Then his long, spindly legs carried him away, down the street, and into the woods.