The Fall

📅 Published on August 21, 2020

“The Fall”

Written by Nick Carlson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 19 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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Spring and summer are Daddy’s favorite seasons. He loves the smell of freshly-mown lawns, the stroke of sunbeams on his face, the songs of crickets at night, and the painterly bloom of plants…mattes of green studded with spots and streaks of white, pink, yellow, blue. Those warmer seasons always draw him out of the house. He breathes in the clean air, shuffling his feet through the grass, and he looks down and tells me what a wonderful time of year it is, in so many words and variations. Rebirth, reckoning, activity, he says. The perfect time to pump the life back into his creative muscles.

Daddy works with bones. I don’t know what exactly he does for his day job, the one that brings the bread home. Something in an office, I think. But when he has the time, he ventures out and comes back with…gross things. Dead things. Animals, mostly. “See this?” he asks. He shows me something ragged and bloated in a trash bag. “This was once a raccoon,” he tells me.

“It still is,” I correct.

“Half-right, kid,” says Daddy. “It was a lot of things when it lived. A kit. A father, or a mother. A nuisance, a pest, a rabid beast, perhaps. But now? No longer.”

I don’t respond, but mostly because I fear if I take my hands away from my mouth, the odor will make me throw up. Daddy smiles and lugs the bag to the yard. I follow him with restrained eagerness. With Daddy’s hobby, the bad parts are over with quickly.

There’s a hole dug in the woods out back. The pile of dirt is moist and studded with white beads. I plug my nose harder as he overturns the bag and dumps the body into the hole. Then, with calculated diligence, he shovels soil back into the hole, and the awful sight and smells are swallowed by earth.

“Give it three weeks, and this’ll become something more than just dead,” he says. I nod, thinking back to his special room in the basement, adorned with a veritable army of skeletons: squirrels, possums, cats, snakes…there’s even a deer in there, a young doe, its once-benign black eyes now dry, empty sockets. All had been scavenged from the forest or the road, their meat cleaned off, and brought back to new life as bony memorials.

It’s the coolest hobby a dad can have, I feel. And he even lets me in on it.

“Is it time?” I ask him as he pats the last scoop of dirt onto the hole.

He leans thoughtfully on his shovel. “Hmm…I guess we can take a look now.”

I can barely contain my excitement as we move a few yards down to an older patch, distinguishable only by the relative lack of vegetation on it. Daddy begins digging again, more carefully this time. At a point he’s chiseling tiny licks of dirt off, as to not damage the prize resting below.

Finally, he gets on his knees and sifts his fingers through the loose soil, working around the buried prize. He lifts it out of the ground. A few tiny black beetles fall down, but the thing in his hands has been nearly perfectly cleaned.

“I’d say it’s just about ready,” he says, handing it to me.

I’m in awe. Daddy said he wouldn’t keep it for himself since it’s not a complete skeleton, but the head of a muskie is wonderful enough. One might mistake it for some prehistoric lizard. The top of its skull is a fragile framework of crannies and dents, almost arcane in their intricacy. The teeth are the show-stopper, serpentine fangs for spearing fish and snagging ducklings. Of all the bones I’ve collected for myself, it’s certainly the neatest.

“Remember what it was like when I first showed you?” Daddy asks. “It was this hideous, evil-looking thing. Half-rotten and gross. But look what a few weeks in the ground did to it. A mighty big improvement, I’d say.”

I rotate it in my hands. “It’s beautiful.”

* * * * * *

The rest of the year, fall and winter, doesn’t bode well with Daddy. He stays inside, holed up in his study. He gets short-tempered and snaps at me easily. I looked up what he has; it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly shortened to SAD. Something about not getting enough sunshine on your skin. Every year I always encourage him to get outside and at least take the edge off his condition. And every year he refuses, with mean words and threatening gestures. He doesn’t hit me. He’s come close though.

If it weren’t for him I’d like fall and winter just as much, if not more. It’s a time of rest, to reflect on the quiet moments of life. I only like spring and summer most because Daddy does. Because he’s himself during those times.

It’s September now. I try not to think about what’s coming next. The leaves will catch fire and drop, the cold breezes will barrel through, and the world will become soaked in gray. And Daddy will retreat to his hole and turn mean. I hang onto what we did together, and what little we still can do.

Fifth grade is a new challenge for me. Middle school feels just around the corner, and everyone around me is gearing up for the big kid years. I feel like I don’t know anyone anymore. All my friends are different people inside now. They hang out with kids they never even acknowledged before, talking about rumors and fashion and naughty things. I’m just hoping I can keep moving from one grade to the next. There’s more to life than what’s around at the time. Daddy’s skeletons teach me that.

Thankfully it’s a Saturday. I’ve taken to sitting out on the back deck, observing the specks of red among the green treeline. Sometimes I see individual leaves detach and flutter to the ground. It’s one of those quiet moments of the changing seasons I have to enjoy in private.

The gate swings open and I see Daddy lurch into the yard. He’s dragging something behind him, something heavy in another black bag. I jump to my feet, wondering if he’d brought back a mate for the lonely doe in the basement. He often comes back from his trips empty-handed, so it’s always thrilling when I see he’s got another one.

He notices me, and stops. His eyes are wild, I can see them swimming from a distance. His balding forehead glistens with sweat in the afternoon sun. He drops the load next to him and beckons me forth. As I approach, the familiar smell of roadkill hits me again, and I pinch my nostrils shut.

“Hello there, sweetheart,” he whispers, out of breath. “Daddy found something incredible. He hasn’t found one like it in a very long time.”

Despite the stink, I crane my neck to peek into the bag. “Can I see?”

“Not yet, honey,” he softly chides, stepping in front of the bag. “Some things are very personal to Daddy…special, you know? Some things, I have to savor for myself. Do you understand?”

I nod, thinking about the falling leaves. “I understand, Daddy.”

“Good.” He stares off into the distance, his eyes gray as winter trees. “You might want to head inside for this one, honey. If you thought the other stuff smelled bad…well…let’s just say that you’re still young and innocent and we want to keep it that way.”

I smile and run inside, the door shutting behind me. But I’m almost immediately up in my room, where I can spy on him from my window. The trees obscure my view, yet I can tell whatever he has takes a very long time to bury. I catch flashes of something that appears the color of hide; he almost definitely has found a dead deer on the road. Maybe a buck, a twelve-pointer, even…wouldn’t that be a sight to see! I know it would have to wait though. The beetles in the ground can only eat so fast, and with the weather getting colder they’ll slow down the more they work…if they can finish in time.

I guess I’d hate fall and winter too if that meant my hobby had to be put off due to forces I couldn’t control. I think I understand Daddy a little better now.

* * * * * *

A few weeks pass. Daddy hasn’t made any more trips since. He’s back in his room, sulking and depressed. More leaves continue to fall, little frozen embers upon the yellowing grass. They’re the only reason Daddy comes outside this time of year, to rake. And even that’s a rushed, sullen endeavor.

Fifth grade continues to suck. I think I’m starting to get SAD, too. The pressures of school force me to retreat into the lonely corners of my bedroom, to decompress and let those dark thoughts ooze away like sap from a tree. It’s all a part of growing up, I try telling myself. It doesn’t work. I love Daddy. But I don’t want to end up like him.

There’s only one way I know of to reach him.

When Friday evening rolls around, I make my own venture out to Daddy’s usual honeyholes: the highways that surround our subdivision. I can only imagine what passing cars might imagine as they see me on the side of the road, a lonely ten-year-old girl dragging a wagon loaded with plastic trash bags Perhaps I’m the subject of some new-age juvenile delinquent rehab program. But the judgmental gazes only last a split second; they’re soon gone from my sight at a speed of fifty-five miles per hour.

It doesn’t take long to find my first subject.

At first I think it might be another deer, the size and color seem right. But as I draw closer, I see that its tail and head are wrong. It’s a golden retriever, barely a year old, freshly struck by the looks of it. Its flank and muzzle are dyed faded crimson, its ribs misplaced underneath its skin, its tongue dried and trailing from its jaws. My heart sinks. We’ve never owned a dog before, but attachment towards them is a part of being human. It’s upsetting, like bile in my throat. Dogs ought to be running around their homes with their placidly serene expressions, unburdened by human imperfections…

But I think of Daddy, cooped in his room, the only grown-up in my life who’s ever loved me, and my heart sinks even further. I have to do something, I have to break him from his rut, to show him that someone out there cares for him, loves him for who he is.

Only then as I work the dog’s broken corpse into my wagon do I hate the passing cars’ looks. They don’t understand what we have. It may seem ugly now, but what I’m doing will make it better. I’m going to make it something more.

* * * * * *

As night falls, I knock on Daddy’s door to try and get him to come out. But he’s not answering me. He’s whispering to himself. Something bad, I imagine. I decide not to bother him.

Just like he does it, I grab the shovel and lug the wagon through the backyard to the rugged spots among the trees. I find an untouched patch and begin digging. It’s slow work, and despite the coolness of the night it’s enough to draw sweat from my pores. Daddy always makes it look so easy.

The moon gives me ample light to see, and I think the hole’s deep enough. I wheel my wagon to the edge and crouch down, using all my strength to tip it over. The body rolls out with a sickening flop, and I can immediately tell the hole’s inadequate. Its stiff paws stick out the other side, its head torques upward, staring at me with scrunched eyelids. I choke back a sob and immediately shovel dirt over its face. My arms tremble as I continue the burial, and my meager pile is almost gone by the time I see it isn’t going to be enough. It looks like the ground is midway through devouring the dog.

My eyes, irritated by sweat, sting further with the arrival of tears. All I wanted was to show Daddy that I could take up his mantle, to give him a little light during his dark times. The moonlight is gone; I can barely see my hands in front of my face. Downtrodden, I turn back to the house, using a lone light through a window to guide me.

Something growls in the night.

I halt. From all around me comes the dribbling of wetness on dry leaves. A muted cry busts through my throat, now seized up entirely. Daddy told me about bears, what to do when one shows up…but all I can do is remain still, frozen in fear…my muscles shudder like window panes from the noise. I can’t pinpoint where it’s coming from or if it’s moved at all. Silence descends on me, however. It’s disappeared…or it’s taken to watching me…

I step forward. The sound of my foot on the leaf litter is all that greets me. My hearing seems heightened, picking up the tiniest noises from the furthest lengths. I continue walking, the orange glow of the distant lamp tantalizing. If I could just get up to the back deck…

Another growl emanates – this time, higher-pitched, as if from a different animal. Then, the darkness around me simmers with noises…rustling footsteps, snuffling breath, snapping branches…the soundtrack of predatory anger.

My nerve breaks and I run, and an unearthly shriek explodes from behind me – some horrible primeval curse, screaming despair and suffering onto me – I throw the back door open and slam it shut, and the beastly sounds outside instantly quell.

I can’t help the tears flowing forward freely. I should have left that dog where it was, maybe its owners would have found it and given it a proper burial…they would have made it better than anything even Daddy could have done…

I shamble upstairs to bed, uncaring towards my muddy hands and sweaty hair. Normally I sleep with my blinds open. Not tonight. I want nothing more than to blot out whatever evil is brewing out there in the woods.

* * * * * *

The next morning it takes Daddy a full ten minutes to notice me downstairs in the kitchen. He draws the curtains, he puts a pot of coffee on, he hastily stashes some dirty plates in the dishwasher, before he turns and sees me at the table.

“Good morning,” he says sleepily. Then he does a double-take. “Whoa…are you alright, sweetheart? You look like you haven’t slept all night…” As he approaches me, his nose crinkles. “You smell like death…were you outside last night? For God’s sake, there’s leaves in your hair…” He plucks a fragment of leaf from behind my ear. I shiver from his touch. “What happened? What did you do last night? Tell me!”

Clamminess creeps under my skin. I can’t meet his face. “I…I tried making bones, like you do, Daddy…I found something yesterday…and I tried…burying it, like you do…”

He bristles in the corner of my eye. I expect him to get mad. But the mounting stillness he gives off is somehow more dreadful than an angry outburst.

He sits down across the table from me. “…Did you see them?”

I finally turn to look at him. His face is worried, yet lit with something like anticipation, unusual for him this time of year. “See what?” I ask, trying to sound innocent.

“Don’t lie to me,” he says. “I know little girls lie, but you can’t hide something like this from me. No, you probably heard them, it being so dark out. You partook in the beautification…now you’ll be able to perceive them.”

“Perceive what?” I ask.

“I don’t want you staying outside, sweetheart,” he responds. He circles around the table, genuflecting and wrapping me in a hug. “Now that the leaves are falling, you won’t find peace outside anymore,” he whispers. “At least, not until the leaves come back. You stay inside with me. You and I…we’ll share in our oppression. Maybe…we’ll help each other out. Maybe it won’t have to be so gloomy and gray…”

He delivers a quick peck on my forehead. My heart overturns with confused emotions…elation that Daddy seems to have found that spark again…but in the face of something beyond either of us, something terrible, out there in the woods…

“Whatever they were, they scared me last night, Daddy…” I lean my head into his shoulder. “What’s out there? Please, tell me…”

He hesitates. I can feel his pulse jumping through his neck.

“…ugly things,” he finally says. “Things that ought to let go. They’re unappreciative and bitter. Just remember above all else…you and I, we’re trying to make them better.”

I nod. “I’ll remember, Daddy.”

I get one more hug from him, before he pulls away and starts preparing breakfast for us. I’m glad he’s back, despite what I had to go through. Whatever’s out there, we can withstand it, together. I know it.

* * * * * *

I heed to Daddy’s word and stick around inside with him. He stays in his room still, but he lets me in and we talk, talk about school and life and worries and woes. He only goes outside to retrieve the raccoon he buried what felt like way too long ago, and presumably finish the job I had botched myself.

I ask him when his “special” project will be ready. He tells me, “In time.”

In art class, over the next few weeks, we learn about Roman architecture. Of all the statues and sculptures we see, one catches my eye especially so. It’s the Fountain of the Four Rivers, a towering obelisk centered through a marble menagerie of coral, birds, horses, and the outreaching figures of water gods. It almost reminds me of a layer cake, the men situated out and above, superior to the animal life below them. I don’t know why it speaks to me over the other architecture we’ve seen, but I love it.

The bus ride home is the only time I can enjoy the changing seasons. The leaves have almost dropped entirely, leaving the trees colorless and naked. The nippy weather is a welcome jolt from the summer heat. I sigh as the treeline zooms past, hoping that whatever troubles have descended upon us will pass. I want to stay outside and savor it.

I get off the bus outside my house and head for the front door. The driveway is empty, Daddy hasn’t returned from work. As I approach, I can’t help but notice the side gate is open, swinging slowly in the wind. I hesitate…none of us have used that gate in months, and Daddy’s always getting on me about keeping it shut. Someone else had to have opened it. Regardless, I rush over to latch it again.

The barren woods out back call to me. It’s my first opportunity to see the trees up close, to smell them, to feel the fallen leaves crunch under my feet. Daddy’s not due back home for another hour…it can’t hurt to just take a little peek.

I shuffle my shoes through the leaves, stopping at the edge of the woods. I love how I can look up and see the branches, twisting and spiraling together, a quiet, artistic elegance to them. I can almost see shapes in them. If I concentrate hard enough I can trace them with my eyes. Circles and triangles and squares and eyes…eyes that seem to glow as the afternoon sun passes through them…

There are hands, and spines, and ribs…there’s the entire body of a massive skeletal dog, swirling upward into the canopy, glaring down at me with those sunlit eyes.

I feel like I’m sinking into the ground. There are others too…snakes, rats, crows…surrounding them, flailing in motionless agony, a mass grave of bones in the trees. And towering above them all, like huge, deathly spires, are the arboreal skeletons of people.

I can see the rage in their faces. I can see their wooden limbs tapering down to grab me, their worn teeth gnashing together, their rib cages stretching with bated breath, ferocious excitement, eager to rain down their wrath…

The growling wells up again. It’s not from some invisible, nocturnal carnivore, it’s the trees themselves. And the growling is joined by vengeful whispers…high-pitched and breathy, laced with venom.

“You too?”

 “Our blood on his hands.”

“We’ve been raped.”

“Desecrated.”

“Avenge us.”

“Or betray us. We’ll take you, regardless…”

The sunlight shifts. All of them are looking at me now. The wind picks up and their spindly fingers flex with throttling motions.

I can’t find the urge to run. Instead I whimper and retreat to the back deck, my body shaking as if bombarded by bats from within. Safely inside my house, I slump to the floor, the shadows inching across my curled body.

Daddy doesn’t get SAD. He hears the voices. Constantly. They wake up when the leaves fall and show themselves in the trees to haunt him. They can’t get him if he’s inside. But they can speak to him. Tempt him, threaten him, torment him. And now I’m sharing his curse.

I can still hear the whispers by the time he pulls up in the driveway. He walks through the door and sees me cowered before him. His silence tells me that he knows.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” I murmur, rising to my feet. “I went outside, and I saw them…and they saw me…I’m so sorry…”

“I told you not to linger outside,” he reprimands.

I nod furiously. “I know, I know…I’m so sorry, really, I am…what do I do now? What do you do?”

He sighs. “I get past it. And I don’t even think about stepping in their presence and provoking them.” He shakes his head, striding briskly past me. “Now you’re gonna have to do the same.”

“No!” I cry. “I don’t want to hear them! I want them to go away!”

“Then get out!” He snaps back towards me, his face contorted with anger. “Leave this place if you think you’re too weak to deal with it! You chose to accept the repercussions of my undertaking. Now it’s time to grow up and own them!”

He leaves me hurt and despondent in the kitchen. As his heavy footfall fades away, the whispers sneak back in.

* * * * * *

For the rest of the night he shuts himself in his room. I do the same, my pillow clamped over my head to block the voices. They swear at me, they make promises, they tell secrets about the pains of the afterlife. I don’t understand most of it, but they get into my head and gnaw at my brain like ravening wolves. A peek out my blinds renders the trees into a scrambled pile of bony death, just like the Fountain of the Four Rivers. They beckon me and leer with their hungry stares. I can’t imagine how I’ll be able to “endure”…I’m just a little girl…

It’s midnight when he throws my bedroom door open. I’m still awake, my eyes cried dry, huddled underneath my sheets. “Come with me,” he says.

I slip out of bed, my legs freezing from the night air. “Now,” he growls. I pick up my pace and trail him guiltily as he leads me downstairs. No moonbeams break through the windows, but I can follow his imposing physique through the hallway, and to the door leading down to the basement.

The stairway down is even colder; I can barely keep my legs from collapsing underneath me. My lungs feel like ice, my beating heart a jagged chunk of ice. But the creaking steps behind me force me to finish the descent.

Daddy flips on the light, and I’m blinded by the blazing bulb overhead. Blinking my vision back, I can see all the animal skeletons, mounted in natural, lifelike poses, very much unlike what I saw in the branches. I can still hear the whispers, like television static from upstairs.

“You remember what I said about making things better,” he says, walking out in front of me, admiring his skeletons.

I nod, too cold and scared to speak.

“Death is horrible, and cruel,” he continues. “It robs the living of the very things they hold closest to themselves. And it’s almost never pretty.” He takes a deep breath. “Those TV shows you watch, with the dramatic music and the soft light, the last words and the peaceful expressions…lies. All lies. I’m so happy for you, honey…so happy you didn’t have to watch your mother die.

“Her final moments with me were ugly. She looked so much like you…except, yellow in the face, eyes red, convulsing like a goddamn worm, and spitting up foam while her jaw locked shut. She died in pain. Mentally incapable of processing the consequences of her passing. I tried telling her I loved her. But she didn’t hear me. And she dragged our happiness down with her, to wherever the dead go to fester.”

Daddy turns to me, his eyes watery too. “But no matter who we are, there is beauty within. Our bones…they’re marvels of design. And I, with my shovel and my yard, can turn the ugliest, most fucked-up scrapings of roadkill into…perfection. That’s why I do what I do…to remind myself that death isn’t all bad. And maybe, just maybe…to bring back the love that I once held.”

He paces in a slow circle. As horrible as it is, I silently urge him to keep talking. Better him than the ghosts outside. “The voices didn’t start until I had moved beyond animals. Stronger souls could manifest more clearly, and further amplify the beasts. And they only got worse with each new addition. But in time, I know all that won’t matter.”

He kneels down and digs his fingers into the floor; a hidden panel suddenly lifts up. He gestures inside it. “…Because, it’ll all be worth it.”

Against my will my feet carry me over to him. I’ve already guessed what could be inside the hatch. But the sight of them almost makes me throw up again. Three human skeletons, packed underneath the floor like sardines, their bones jointed with screws and bolts and glue.

“Do you know what these men were?” he asks lowly. “They were vagrants. Lost, sad, sorry folks without a hope or dream left in their minds. They died wallowing in their own filth, barely enough left in them to muster one last lick of regret. Now look at them…I cleaned away their ugly shells, and put them back together. Now they’re shiny and ivory and pure.

“And my ‘special project’…you’ll appreciate this. I found a woman. A young woman, dumped in the gutter, a bullet hole in her guts. Probably a sex worker, by her attire. I’m sorry honey…do you know what a sex worker is?”

My lip quivers. All his words are like ceaseless blows to my skull.

“Anyway,” he continues. “In life she was a nasty person, selling her precious assets to the highest bidder. But she’s in the ground now, the meat of her sins decaying away. And when she comes out, she will be the beautiful woman she was meant to be. For me. …And for you.”

He looks down at me with something like affection. “You’ll know for the first time, the feeling of a mother’s love.”

“No…” I shake my head. “Not like this…”

“Honey, I’ll never love another woman’s face again,” he says. “But this way we can all remember what your mother was like, without the imperfections…”

“Not like this!” I protest. “These…they need to be given proper burials! They need to be given respect! They’re out there trapped in our trees with nowhere to go because you’ve ruined them!” Fresh tears sprout in my eyes as I back away from the hatch. “I can’t believe I thought this was beautiful…that I thought what we were doing was…good.”

Daddy’s face falls. He stands, wearing a mask of disappointment. “You know what? …I can’t believe you found it beautiful too. I should have guessed. You’re too young, too ungrateful.”

The corner of his lip twitches. His gaze turns narrow and shrewd. “You know the thing about these skeletons? They don’t gripe. And they don’t talk back. They know their place. Not like those sour spirits outside. Not like you.”

My eyes widen. “No, Daddy…I didn’t mean…”

“I don’t want you to share my misery, little girl.” He advances towards me. “I never wanted you to. You’d never understand. And now those voices have filled your head with lies. I can only think of one way to curb their manipulation…and still keep you around, as my little girl…”

I turn and flee.

The cold air around me is an afterthought. The indignant blood in my veins sets my muscles ablaze and I power forward, the fastest I’ve ever gone, mindless and quick.

I know it’s not enough. Daddy’s behind me, he’s not even trying; he’s taking loping, casual strides, keeping me in his sights. I’m not in trouble in his eyes, I’m just confused, and he wants to make things right with me…

The moon has reemerged outside; it casts his twisted shadow across the walls, reaching for me as I turn corners. The house is a maze with no escape. The hallways are endless circles, any room is a dead end. There’s only one place left to go.

I barely manage to unlock the back door and burst out onto the deck before he can catch up. Shafts of lunar blue illuminate the backyard and my misty breath as I dash across the grass.

Daddy curses at me. It detonates in the night and echoes like a gunshot, setting off dogs down the street. I emit a choked cry in response, scrambling for the treeline. The whispers have returned. They’re egging me on, wishing me to go deeper, parched from blood.

Daddy can hear them too. He stops halfway across the yard, his moonlit face flicking up and down. “Little girl,” he rasps. “Get your ass back here.”

“No.” I take a step back. The whispers and growling become excited. I steal a glance up. Their eyes are the color of moonlight now, their limbs a hellish black.

“You get over here.” His tone is calmer now. “You don’t want to stray into their grasp. They’ll violate you.”

“They won’t hurt me. They know I’m not guilty.” I know that’s a lie, even as I take a step back. Their words are all too clear to me.

“Come here, child…”

“Let me indulge…”

“Flesh and blood of the bastard man.”

“So young…”

Daddy moves forward. “Please don’t do this. I love you…I’ll always love you, no matter what…”

I clap my hands to my ears. To block him out. To block out the ghosts. “I’m not listening!”

“You will listen,” Daddy spits through gritted teeth. “You will listen to me, goddammit -”

I turn and sprint full-force into the woods. The whispers turn to screams, and thorns tear and scrape me, tangling in my bare skin – “NO!” Daddy bellows behind me, and he gives chase – the forest around me roars and creaks, and in the moonlight I see a cascade of branches rain down and snag Daddy’s clothes…he yells and swipes at them, breaking twigs and ripping bark, but they’re lifting him up, and for a moment he’s suspended in the air like a pallid, ragged phantom…

Skulls and teeth descend upon him in the canopy, twisting his body, crunching bones, raining down fat droplets of blood. His final scream is cut off as branches drive through his flesh, stringing him up in the treetops.

Clouds pass in front of the moon, and the activity above ceases. Even in the low light, I can make out his head lolling to the side, a twig running through his neck and out his mouth.

I finally fall to the ground, sobbing openly, not caring about the dirt or the blood or the cold. I can sense ghostly eyes watching me with wicked grins. But I have a feeling they won’t hurt me for the rest of the night. They resort to silent taunts, lobbing them at me until I succumb to sleep for good.

* * * * * *

Morning is just as cold as midnight. But it brings about an electric sense of wakefulness within me. My hair is a knotted mess of filth. I’m covered with a dried layer of mud. My wounds underneath burn with reckless intent.

Shivering, I stand shakily and look up to where Daddy was. He’s joined in the treetops by burly black vultures, their undulating necks reaching forth and digging into his body. I sniffle. I remember that vultures eat bones off a carcass too. There’ll be no memorializing him after they’re through.

The voices are still there, like an itch or an ache. Present, but able to be ignored. Regardless, I think it’s time to do something about them. The right thing.

I limp back to the house, grabbing the shovel and dragging it behind me to the basement. I don’t know if putting them back will make a difference. But I have to try. To do the opposite of what Daddy did.

I’ll make them beautiful again.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Nick Carlson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Nick Carlson


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Author's Notes: N/A

More Stories from Author Nick Carlson:

Star Snot
Average Rating:
10

Star Snot

Colony Collapse Disorder
Average Rating:
10

Colony Collapse Disorder

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