Thursday, 28 July 2011

-August- Bleach and Blood

We arrived in Austin a little over 48 hours after we left the house. While shifts of three hours, off six hours is usually a lot kinder than what we usually get on delivery, it still wears on the team, so a stop at a motel was necessary.

(Look at me, sounding like Spencer.)

The clerk wouldn't stop staring at me the whole time.

It's okay, though. When Amanda is tired she's about 20% bitchier than usual and she pretty much chewed him out when he said they only had one room with a single left.

Still, I didn't sleep. Couldn't.

So much for being there for each other, huh, Cam?

Rest in peace. The world is a shade duller without you.


We're at an abandoned farmhouse near the Texas/New Mexico border. I can tell Amanda and Sam want to go back home but they're not really willing to raise an argument with me right now.

I'm perched on the windowsill of what used to be an office on the second floor of a flax-colored farmhouse. Most of the south half of the house has been burned to cinders, but the north portion stands eerily intact, and you can stare from the kitchen and see the charred remains of the walls of the guest bedroom.

A spring mattress' skeleton hangs precariously from what used to be the master bedroom. Queen sized. A patchwork quilt used to sit on top with an array of furs and other small blankets. One was stuffed with down. There will pillows as tall as a mountain, and an Indian-weaved carpet on the floors. The floors themselves were hardwood, a deep brown so polished that you could see your reflection. A painting hung above the bed. Fire-Swept Algoma.

The mattress skeleton is home to a family of birds now. The painting's frame lies in ruins on the floor below. Glass is scattered at least fifty feet in each direction.

A paper blows by me now. I catch it. A receipt. Scrap metal. Payment due: well over five thousand dollars. Dated 2004.

Sam and Amanda are downstairs, rummaging through the house for anything useful. They won't find anything. Drifters have scraped this place clean. It's been standing like this for months.

Passed the fields of what used to be corn (now just a mess of tangled weeds with the occasional angry scar of burned, uprooted ground) is a metal building. One of those as-seen-on-TV kinds. Inside there's a combine harvester. John Deere. The paint is rusting with the metal.

There's a warm breeze tonight. It glides over me and makes the scraps of paper dance around the office. Some are newspaper clippings.

"Children missing o-"

"-found dead in-"

"-ocking developments-"

"-no leads, says chief."

There's a common theme.


I grew up in Washington.

My dad was Japanese. My mom, Swedish. My dad worked with his father overseas, and my father was sitting on a massive fortune thanks to his electronics company. My mother ran a daycare for all of the other trophy wives, who went out and got their nails done and banged other, younger men behind their husbands backs.

My dad had a brother who was a little bit... unhinged. Nobody in the family liked him. He was unsuccessful and had dropped out of high school. He came to visit us over Christmas. We should have known something was wrong. His eyes were dark and he laughed at the worst times and it was all wrong, wrong, wrong.

On the third night of his visit, I woke up to my mother screaming. I ran into the kitchen. Slipped on something on the ground. The floor was covered with it. When I opened my eyes, my father's head was staring back at me.

I started screaming as well.

The floor was covered in blood and the cabinets were covered in blood and my father was cut to pieces. One arm was lodged down the garbage disposal. Another was laying on the floor beside his head. The torso had been torn open. Bleach was poured inside. I didn't know it at the time, but I could smell it everywhere: bleach and blood. Bleach and blood.

I still smell it sometimes.

My uncle had my mother by the hair and had taken her clothes off. No prizes for guessing what he intended to do, but he heard me fall and he heard my scream and he turned around. He was grinning, but it didn't reach his eyes.

My mother was screaming. Screaming for help, screaming for me to run, but I only stood there and stared.

And then my uncle spoke to me.

"Merry Christmas."

He took the same knife he had used on my father and lodged it through my mother's left eye. Then he stalked towards me.

You know what I did?

I ran.

I ran as fast as I could. Out of the kitchen and over the piles of presents under the tree and out of the house through the snow and the ice and out of the yard and into the neighbours and rang the doorbell until they saw me, little 12-year-old August, screaming and sobbing and begging for help.

They called the police.

It was all over the news the next morning.

My mother died. My uncle had gone back and finished the job. I went under witness protection and they found me a new home in Texas.

I never went back to school.

My new father's name was Allan. He lived on a cattle ranch and also grew corn. Briar Ridge Acres. That's what the farm was called. Allan was patient and loving. He let me sleep in the master bedroom, where I could curl up under the furs and the patchwork quilt and the down-stuffed comforter and pretend that awful, awful night never happened. He was patient when I didn't speak for almost two months after I joined him. He never protested when I called him 'Allan' or 'sir,' but never dad. I couldn't bear it. I wouldn't let myself forget. I learned how to cook and to clean to keep myself busy. I was trying to forget. I wouldn't let myself forget.

Eventually, I found out Allan was more than a cattle rancher.

Allan Sherwood was a specialist in UFOs and crop circles, and not in the zealot way. Allan Sherwood made and faked crop circles and UFO landings as an extra source of income. He taught me how to make the circles and how to assemble a working UFO. He taught me how to flatten an entire crop in a night, and when the two of us worked together we could create some of the most intricate and beautiful designs.

England had nothing on us.

We sold whatever of the crop we hadn't ruined and the cows would be abducted on a regular basis.

Well, eventually somebody caught on.

The government, who else?

They caught him for fraud and made him give back every dollar we had ever gotten from that business. We were left with scarcely a penny to our names, and it hit us hard. Allan started to sleep less and fell into a horrible sickness. He wouldn't stop coughing. His mental condition was getting worse, and a lot of nights I'd see him out in the fields where the circles used to be, just staring into the woods.

But that wasn't the money's fault, was it?

Turns out Allan had actually managed to find files on Slim and Trim while perusing forums on extraterrestrials. He became fascinated and... well, we all know how that ends.

We kept dogs. Five of them, actually. Three of which were half wolf. They were there to protect the cattle, and occasionally, us.

One day, we found one dead on our doorstep. She had been cut open and stretched out.

Bleach and blood.

Over the next couple of weeks, three others disappeared. The last one, Apollo, was with me the night I heard my father scream.

He was in his office. Apollo jumped up and started barking like hell itself had invaded the house. I barely had my eyes open before he tore off upstairs.

I followed suit, nauseous.

Guess who was standing with Allan in the office?

Bleach and blood. Bleach and blood.

I watched life drain away from his eyes. It was the first and last time I'd ever call him dad.

So it's Slim and Trim and me, seventeen, alone in a room.

A few things happened at once.

The air contracted, a hiss like the sound of a vacuum turning on. I could see the faceless man stand before me, unnaturally tall and alien yet somehow... comforting. Time is moving in slow motion. There is no sound after the hiss. I can't move. My head is in a cloud.

Bleach and blood.

There were ten of those tentacles screaming behind him, flailing and whipping up the papers on the table and the books on the shelves.

I read the headlines as they float by.

"Children missing o-"

"-found dead in-"

"-ocking development-"

"-no leads, says chief."

Silence is ripped apart.

There's an awful roar and a burning as I realize I'm being held by those black tendrils that adorn His back. He is standing there, indifferent, as I scream and, with horror, realize the house is burning.

I'm thrown against a bookshelf and it falls and breaks over me. My head is bleeding and I'm seeing stars, sobbing, mutters 'father allan dad mom oh god i don't want to die'

I can't run. I can't move. He's in front of me again. Slashes and burns like whips and I'm hurled out the window onto the roof. I roll onto the ground and hit with a damp thud.

My vision is gray and darkess is creeping from the corners. It doesn't hurt, but I'm panicking. I can't stop panicking.

Bleach and blood. Bleach and blood. Bleach and blood.

The house is on fire.

The Tall Man is staring at me through the window.

Vision nearly black. I'm picked up again. A woman's voice from behind. Pale arms. I can't see who's grabbed me.

Mom? Dad?

I think I'm dying.

Bleach and blood.

I'm listening through a pool of water. The world is monochrome.

Everything goes black.


I wake up.

I'm in a van, my body screaming bloody murder at me. Burns litter my body. There's a bad one on my wrist.

There's somebody in the front seat. A gray streak is in his hair, but he's far too young to have gone gray.

A woman with the face of an angel is applying pressure to my arm. I gasp sharply in pain, pulling it away, only to hit something in my chest and scream.

"It's broken for sure, boss."

Really? I couldn't tell.

That was the first time I met Spencer and Doc. Apparently, Allan had asked to have some files delivered, and then had stumbled upon me, crawling, crying, begging to be spared.

They took pity on me. Spencer said I 'might be useful.'

How did he know?

Maybe it's not my place to ask.

All I know is I've been working for him ever since. It's been enjoyable, even if the team is... oddball, to say the least. We're a family, and that's what matters.

I wouldn't have you guys any other way.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try and find a hotel.

1 comment:

  1. Fuck, August... I... I'm so sorry. I wish Cam could be here for you.
    I'm so sorry. I know what it's like to lose your parents as a kid. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.