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.
“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.
I used to think reality was made up of choices. A hundred little choices made every day in a row, strung up like a necklace of pearls. You probably think reality is something like this too, each thing that you do could go a hundred different ways, and the only way it goes is the way that you choose for it to go…but that’s not how it works at all. That’s not how anything works. Reality is manipulative, just like people are and it’s manipulating all of us. It’s even manipulating you. You might not think so. Choices are only binary. Yes or no. True or false. There’s no great big gray areas like they tell you.
CALL LOGS I’m not the first one to say it and I won’t be the last: I don’t think Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline is what they say it is. The past few weeks, I’ve been gathering as much information as I can find and I’m good at finding things. Damn good. It’s literally my job. I’m a Digital Forensics Examiner. I can’t tell you my name and I can’t tell you the name of the company I work for — I’m afraid of retaliation and not just from my company but others. For the purpose of this post, I’m going by Maddox. I’m beginning to see that this goes a lot deeper than a call center and a bunch of strange coincidences. This is massive. Global. From what I can tell, something is attempting to shift the path of humanity itself. They’re doing it unseen. They’re doing it successfully.
Part I “Hello!” I said as I approached the bench. The man’s eyes shot up with a start looking up over the thing he held in his hand. “Are you talking to me?” He asked. He looked tired and agitated despite the placid mask of emotionless empty the rest of his face conveyed. I felt my insides lurch, instantly regretting the interaction. I had to keep going so I kept smiling until he smiled back. There was no way he could be like all the rest. If he was, there was no hope. Finally, he did smile and I felt my stomach fall. His smile was exactly like the ones I’d left behind. Fake. False. I felt my heart racing a bit in my chest.
“Let us pray.” “Heavenly father, we are the family of Holy Cross. Bless us and guide us as we pray together in our church. Teach us wisdom and give strength to our community. Keep our family safe and our moral compasses true. We ask this in your name. Amen.” The congregants voices rise in unison to echo off the rafters of the old wooden building off north Main, just outside of town square. “You may be seated.” Pastor Thomas, with his palms up, extended, directs them. His wife Gwen mounts the steps to the podium.
Everyone knows something about these Crow kids. They ain’t sharing whatever memory’s hidden in their stupid collective small-town unconsciousness with me. We’re outsiders. We were accepted until now. I guess. When I needed help and to know what happened to Jenny these past few days, nobody was sharing anything to go on.