As a young child, I was tasked with the burden of being cared for by the most evil woman in the world. And later, with the task of caring for the empty expanse that remained in place of that woman.

My father was... Well, I'll not say he was a scoundrel, I have no desire to resort to overdramatics, so instead I will say that he was disloyal and had no desire to raise a child. He left shortly after my birth, which I understand. My mother cannot really be blamed for her absence either. It was not fully her choice. But both were absent, and so I was sent to stay with my grandmother.

My grandmother, in life, was a wicked woman. I will not elaborate on this, but I will simply ask that you believe me. I have no desire to shock you into sympathy with tales of horrific abuse, and I do not deserve any such sympathy. At the time of this story, my grandmother was alive in body, but not in spirit. Where once her eyes gleamed sharply, they now lay vacant and stagnant. Where once she smiled widely, her mouth now hung half open. She had steadily degenerated from speaking rationally, to ranting wildly, to saying nothing. Understand that if I had believed her to be present in any way, that if I had believed any portion of her mind to still function, I would have left her to rot in her house. But there was nothing left in her but the primal, childlike terror, and the vacant emptiness that allocates itself in the old and mad.

The house was small, and not much to speak of.

The morning broke, and I did the things I always did. My grandmother spoke, which was not surprising. She did that occasionally, mainly vague degenerate ramblings. That day it was almost comprehensible, which was strange. She said that The Stranger was going to pay her a visit. I nodded, unthinkingly.

In my youth, my grandmother would often warn me of a figure she named The Stranger. It was a boogeyman, I suppose. A way to keep me in line, beyond the ordinary ways. I don't blame her for that, up to a point. Small children can be kept in line in a few ways, reasoning with them is not one. But at the point where I was twelve, and still being told that The Stranger would gut me in my sleep for mouthing off to her, I believe some blame can be assigned. He was, perhaps, a re-contextualization of the devil. I don't know.

I left my grandmother's house that day. It was a Sunday, I think. My grandmother did not own a car, but we did, however, have a tractor. A tractor that drank gasoline, but did move at a much faster rate than what is ordinary. The area we lived in was rural but unproductive. The majority of houses were trailers or mobile homes, and we were very close to the Puget Sound. It was a Sunday, yes, that much is clear to me now. I did not attend church that day. I did, however, go to meet my friend Solomon.

Solomon wore women's clothing, and was a woman, I suppose. If not in the technical sense, then she said she was one. I did not understand this, and I did not attempt to. I simply took people at their word. It felt the right thing to do in most situations. She was homeless, and I would have offered to let her stay with me if she had allowed me to. She was homeless by choice, and she had left her home in Seattle and walked here on foot. She told me that God had told her to stay here. She said that God spoke to her often since she had been trepanned as a child by her father's friend. "God spoke to me as I passed this place," she had told me once in her gravelly voice. "He said to me that this must be the place where I stay, that I must sleep here, in the black soil. My feet were bleeding and raw, and I was glad to rest. He has not yet told me to move on." She often said things like this, or she told me about her mother, who had burdened her with the name Solomon. She said that she did not feel that she could take a new name until God gave her one. She told me many things. We shared stories in this fashion, and at times we would share other things.

As I drove to the corner on which Solomon often sat, I looked at the sparse fields of the area in which I lived and thought about a variety of things. At one point, I passed a pair of beautiful women, conjoined twins, craniopagus, joined at the head, facing away from each other. I thought of several shameful things, which I will not relate to you. I hummed the chorus to more than words to distract myself from them. The sky was gray, and a cold wind blew on me. Good. It kept me aware.

It was a lonely day, which the company of Solomon greatly improved. She informed me of her attempt to enter a Lutheran church and her rejection. She had then been granted the title of minister directly from God. When I asked what she would do with her title, she replied that she would heal the sick. I asked her to do so for me. I cannot tell you whether I was healed, but my spirits were greatly improved. It was a good morning.

Solomon informed me of the fact that my grandmother likely needed to be tended to, and I begrudgingly admitted that this was likely the case.

Driving away, I saw that the Twins were still standing where they were before. I greatly wished to speak with them, but I did not. They were standing beside a railroad and throwing rocks at a nearby car. A stone struck the window of the car, shattering it.

I stopped in the parking lot of the Lutheran Church. I wanted to enter, but I did not. I was very tired. I did not know why, entirely. I watched as cars drove down the road beside me. This was what I did at times, to relax. Few cars passed on these roads, but enough did. Enough to compel me to wonder about them. Each car contained at least one person, one rational, thinking person. This was beautiful to me.

I sat there for maybe seven minutes before the rider and horse passed. It was so fast that I barely saw it happen. The horse was white, blindingly so, and it moved faster than I believed a horse could move. The rider was wearing black and a hat of some sort. After the horse and its rider had gone, I began to wonder if I had imagined them. I took it as a clear sign that I needed to move in some direction, which is how I found myself driving home. I was not eager to occupy the same space as my grandmother again, but neither of us had any place to go.

The drive back to my grandmother's house was almost identical to the drive to my grandmother's house. When I look back on that period of my life, it seems to me that about half of my average day was spent in this fashion. Driving in some direction, staring at motionless planes. I think that if I had possessed the correct mindset, I might have made something of it, and might have achieved some sort of zen-like contemplation. Some understanding certainly could have been gleaned from my circumstances, had I worked to do so. Instead, I felt only formless bitterness.

When I arrived at my grandmother's house, the first clear sign that something was wrong was the body of the horse. It was standing upright, somehow, but it was missing an important facet of its body. Namely, it had no head. The head had clearly been removed, somehow, and red drying streams trickled down its white body, which stood at attention, still and unmoving. Something was very clearly wrong.

I entered the house through the garage, which could easily be opened by hand. I had eschewed entering the front door, preferring instead the option of surprising whoever had entered my home. The garage was cluttered, but even in the mess I managed to find and take hold of the 1967 Colt 45 that lay among the various pieces of formless metal lining the room. It was not loaded, but I assured myself that whoever was inside the house did not know that.

When I entered the house, the stench was immediately evident. It smelled like fire and metal. I crept, silently I tell myself, but in all likelihood quite loudly, down a hallway I had walked down many times, consumed with a fear that I cannot explain to you if you have not experienced something similar.

When I entered the living room, the first thing I saw was my grandmother, arms lifted in the air, mouth opening and closing rapidly, soundlessly gibbering the way people her age sometimes do. Sprouting from her chest like a branch from a tree was something long, metallic, and sharp. In her eyes the face of finality was present. I felt warm tears welling in my eyes, and I am ashamed to admit, they were for myself. They were not for her. I was afraid for my own life, and in that moment I felt nothing else.

There was someone else in the room as well, a stranger. The Stranger wore a black sun hat and a matching waistcoat. The Stranger was holding a knife in their right hand, which was gloved. The Stranger was wrapped in layers of clothing, and their face was wrapped in bandages so that I could not discern either their race or their gender, or really any distinguishing features of whoever this was. They also wore what appeared to be a pair of novelty sunglasses, with frames colored like the American flag, and at the uppermost corners, two large LED lights shaped like stars that flashed red and blue colors in rapid succession. The Stranger was speaking, in low, low tones. I could not hear what they were saying.

Had I possessed even the smallest amount of sense, I would have left the house quietly, and driven away as far as I could. But my senses were overwhelmed, and I let out a long cry of terror. The Stranger turned to look at me, and I ran, gripping the unloaded gun tightly in my hand. I ran farther than I have ever run, faster than I have ever run. I ran, and The Stranger ran behind me. They were always just behind me, just behind me, and slowly getting just that little bit closer. And I panted, and sweated, and screamed, and they made no sign of growing even slightly tired. And I passed open fields and broken cars, and rotting houses, and eventually, I saw in front of me the Puget Sound, like an open grey maw. I should have turned and ran in another direction, but I did not. I ran toward the water knowing fully well that I should not. Knowing fully well that The Stanger would catch up with me.

The grass and moss that had previously defined the ground I ran upon broke, and made way for the rocky ground of a pebble beach, with small, cold, wet stones that slowed my wild strides. In desperation, I threw myself to the ground, cutting open my legs.

When I tell you that I prayed then, understand that I did not merely pray. I begged. Internally and externally, cries for mercy racked my body, hot tears rolled down my face. I dropped the gun and it lay beside me.

The Stranger stood before me. The rocks would not hide me. The sea itself would not hide me.

Aloud, I cried the words of the prophet. "Lord," I cried "Please, hide me, Lord. Don't You see me praying, Lord? Don't you see me down here praying?" I received no response. The Stranger stood now before me. I began to cry out again. I begged the Lord for forgiveness. I said that I recognized The Stranger for what they were, God's punishment, His wrath. I was a morality tale, and nothing more.

The Stranger, though I could not see their face, seemed to reflect cold amusement. They stooped down to grab my face gently.

"I am not God's justice. Any crimes you have committed are incidental. I am not here to punish you."

Why, then, I asked, had they pursued me so far, just to kill me?

"You were home"

They reached for the gun beside me. They stood up and placed it so that the barrel was touching my forehead. They pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened, of course. The gun was empty. They pulled the trigger several times. All that came forth was a hollow clicking sound.

In a fit of almost childish rage, they screamed, raising the gun in one hand, and bringing it down across my head twice, breaking skin. I collapsed entirely.

When I awoke, it was very dark. A dry crust had formed over my face. I blinked repeatedly, trying to make out anything beyond the stones below me, and the water before me. I could not. I contemplated the long walk home and began to wonder which direction my house was.

It was a very cold night.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.