Chapter 1 – Slaughtering Day Monday, November 20th, 2023 Father says that being thankless is a sin–the worst sin, but I haven’t found much to be thankful for this past week and I’m trying really, really hard. I promise I have been and I’ve been praying too. Zygomar is usually the loudest so I started by invoking him–this all started in his name after all–and when that didn’t work I even prayed to the lesser gods Yogtroth, Trula and Vaneshka for help or guidance. For bravery, retribution or wisdom anything at all they might bless me with too, but I haven’t heard a single one of them since all of this started.
I don’t know how to begin. It might not matter where I begin. You might not even believe this. I don’t even know if I do. It’s been almost two days and I’m still hoping this is an awful nightmare and I might wake up. Any minute now I might wake up. Please, please wake up. This all started yesterday. I brushed my teeth when I went to bed the night before. They were all there. I didn’t count them or anything but they’re my teeth, so what I’m saying is…have you ever chipped a tooth? You know when it’s happened. Almost immediately.
Some nights I wake and everything is just as it was the night before and I’m still okay. Some nights I wake and it’s there. It’s never stopped; not even after all of these years. Decades. I wonder how many people grow up to find that they’re still surrounded by every single one of their same high school friends even twenty years later? It’s probably not a lot.
Part I A little over a week ago is when Kariann Rose Nathan went missing. In the photo they used, she’s holding a stuffed giraffe and smiling wide. A towheaded girl who’s hair is a vibrant yellow, almost white, cascading messily down her shoulders. Adults with teeth missing tend to smile with their lips pursed together but Kariann is beaming, the dark gap of a lost baby tooth in the top row on proud display in that way only children with missing teeth can do.
We look the same and we always have but we couldn’t be more different from each other. I think that’s the best place to start with this. Some identical twins have a lot in common. They like the same foods, the same things on television, some even spend their entire lives dressing in the same clothes, but we were never those girls. For as long as I remember, it’s been hard for even our own parents to tell us apart were it not for our very different personalities. Our own mother can’t tell the difference between our voices over the phone to this day. We even have the same laugh, but after that we diverge. I’m extroverted and would much rather be outdoors than inside where she is bookish and reserved. As far as personality traits go, Lily and I have always shared very few.
The first week of October signaled the end of hurricane season. Or at least it should have. We were passed over by nearly every storm before Hurricane Patty hit us. That’s what Hayden said it was called. I never saw the reports: I wasn’t allowed to watch the news. Only Hayden was allowed to use the TV. “She’s a big bitch,” she told me. “Bigger on the radar than the state of Texas. Shit, that’s almost as big as you, Emma-Jean!” “That’s very funny, hun,” I said as she laughed.
Then that tall thing in the darkness interlaced its fingers and flexed them until its joints snapped as loud as firecrackers. It proceeded to crack the others in its overly-articulated fingers one by one. Shadows cast by an unknown source of light on the far wall seemed to show those hands like the legs of an impossible boney spider wrapping itself delightfully around a fly caught in its web. My feet were gritty and frozen. That’s how I found out it had taken my shoes.
“Thank you for coming,” he said, “I didn’t think you were going to.” “I almost didn’t. You’ve been in a spiral and I was afraid of what you might do to yourself. You sounded really out of it on the phone. I’m worried about you.”
“How’s she doing?” The concern Jake had for Kyle’s wife was genuine so it was always the first thing he said as Kyle mounted the steps to Jake’s porch in the afternoon. “Catch,” was the next thing he said as he tossed Kyle a beer. He and Jake had developed a sort of tradition these past few weeknights.
Part I “The day I first saw you, I knew that my life was forever changed. It was love at first sight. Life was always so hard before that, and in that moment that I first saw your face, I knew that things were about to be different. It’s hard to explain. If I didn’t know you as well as I do now, I would never have admitted it at the time. It was like magnetism. I was drawn to you.”