's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Gabriels "

Submitted by Irene Vallone

The first Gabriel will die after being hit by a truck.  It will be a beautiful Saturday morning, and he will be playing in the backyard when his soccer ball bounces into the street.  He will chase after it.  He will be struck by a speeding driver.

The first Gabriel will linger for several days, but the internal damage will be too great to repair.  He will die on a Monday in the rain.  The medical company will regret to inform his parents that their son has died, and that their policy will pay out within the week.

His father will be angry.  He will try in vain to locate the driver.  The driver will never come forward.  The driver will never be found.  The driver will never be punished.

His mother will weep.  She will lock herself in the bedroom for days on end, refusing to answer her husband’s pleas.  She will sob and claw at her face, and she will wonder what she—what her son—did to deserve this.

She will try her best to remember the first Gabriel.  She will remember his love of soccer.  She will remember his love of comic books, and of macaroni and cheese, and of those little games where you control a little man shooting little aliens.  She will have never understood them.  Then it will be too late to understand.

A funeral will be held.  Gabriel’s teachers will express faint condolences.  His school friends will fidget dimly, barely understanding, as their parents offer vague sympathy to the parents of a dead child they barely knew.  Words will be read on the topics of Gabriel’s life, and what better place he may reach after, and the first Gabriel will be lowered into the ground and the funeral will end and everyone will go home.  

Appearances will be kept up.  Nothing will seem unusual.  No one will notice the men in rubber suits climb over the cemetery fence in the early hours of the morning, distant streetlights reflecting on their rain-slicked navy blue bodies.  No one will notice them insert a long probe into the soil of one single grave.  No one will want to notice these things.  The status quo will be maintained.  The policy will pay out.

The second Gabriel will arrive on his doorstep on a Friday afternoon, dropped off by a blue truck emblazoned with the logo of the medical company.  He will knock on the door.  His parents will silently accept the second Gabriel into their home.

The second Gabriel will be the same as the first.  He will go to soccer practice.  He will come home and read comic books.  For dinner, he will ask for macaroni and cheese.  On weekends, he will play his little games, controlling a little man, shooting little aliens.  This time, his mother will try to understand.

His father will not try to understand.  He will grow distant.  He will grow frightened of his second son.  He will notice the small things.  He will notice the way Gabriel will eat, more slowly than before, as if savoring each bite of a new favorite food for the first time.  He will notice the way Gabriel will read, eyes blank and devoid, passively accepting.

Gabriel’s mother will try to ignore this.  She will try to ignore her husband’s fears.  She will try to ignore her son’s obvious changes.  He is her son, she will tell herself.  That is all that matters, she will tell herself.

The second Gabriel will not fit in at school.  His children will know he is different.  His teachers will be unsettled by the slight changes in his behavior.  The second Gabriel will not care.  As far as he will know, he will have been the only Gabriel.  That is all he will be.

The second Gabriel will live for seven months.  The second Gabriel will play many soccer games, and do well enough in school, and live a short, happy, lonely life.  The second Gabriel will die after being hit by a truck.  It will be a sad Wednesday afternoon, and he will be helping his father take out the garbage.  This time it will be instant.

His mother will grieve again.  His teachers and the parents of former friends will do their best to console again.  His father will not attend the second funeral.  He will leave the mother.  People will try in vain to locate him.  He will never come forward.  He will never be found.  He will never be punished.

Gabriel’s mother will extend her policy.

More men will climb into the graveyard.  Another probe will be inserted into the soil.  The policy will pay out. 

The third Gabriel will arrive on his mother’s—and only his mother’s—doorstep on a Sunday morning, like a little angel.

He will try to read comic books.  He will try to play soccer.  He will try to control the little men and shoot the little aliens.  He will not remember why he enjoyed these things, but he will remember that he did, and that he must continue.  He will struggle.  He will strain his eyes trying to read, his little forehead crumpling like tinfoil.  He will kick the ball in random directions, angrily and brutally, not comprehending the goal.

His mother will be concerned, and she will try to love him.

The third Gabriel will burn himself out.  He will die within three months, exhausted and angry.  

His mother will extend her policy.  Men, climb, probe, soil, pay.  The fourth Gabriel will arrive.

The fourth Gabriel will exist in a dense cloud of angry confusion.  The fourth Gabriel will not understand comic books or soccer or video games.  The fourth Gabriel will resent the world for being incomprehensible to him.  He will shovel macaroni and cheese into his mouth, struggling to remember a time when he enjoyed it—a time that must have existed, a time that he must have been present for.  

He will die quickly.  His mother will grieve.  She will grieve in everyone else’s place.  She will descend into a permanent state of grief that never quite leaves her.

Probe, soil, pay.  The fifth Gabriel.

The fifth Gabriel will be unable to read.  The fifth Gabriel will be unable to feed himself.  A copy of a sample of a copy of a sample.

His mother will try to take care of him.  She will read to him, and homeschool him, and feed him by hand.  Nothing will stick.  The strain will grow too great.  The fifth Gabriel will die.  His mother will wash her hands in the kitchen sink.  He will be buried in a dumpster behind the superstore.

Probe, soil, pay.

The sixth Gabriel will have too many fingers on one hand and no fingers at all on the other.  The seventh Gabriel will have a single eye and a crushed grape of a cranium.  The eighth Gabriel will have a twisted spine.

His mother will run out of love.  She will have nothing left but self-pity.  She will want to know why she deserves this.  She will want to know the cause of this.  She will want to know where her son is—her perfect and beautiful son.  Maybe, she will reason, he is somewhere inside.

The Gabriels will be unable to speak.  Some of them will be unable to even cry out.  Their mother will close their mouths just the same, will ease them gently shut with fingers pushed against their chins, will cover them with cloths.  She will search through their bodies for her son, stripping away obfuscating organs and bones, scattering smokescreens of blood.

Each death will be reported.  The medical company will not care.  Money is money.  A son is a son.  A child is a child is a child is a child.

Probe, soil, pay.

The well will begin to run dry.

The twenty-seventh Gabriel will press himself against its mother’s leg like a cat, his folds shuddering with every elephantine exhalation.  His thin-fingered flippers will peek out from beneath his bulk and wrap themselves around his mother’s ankle.  His mother will be angry at his presence.  His mother will demand to know where her son is.  Is he in there?  Is he inside you?  Tell him to come out this instant.

The money will run out.  The policies will stop paying out.  The proper authorities will be notified.

The proper authorities will conduct interrogations on the teachers and the parents of former friends.  The proper authorities will be directed to the perpetrator’s address.  The proper authorities will kick in the door.  The proper authorities will ascend the stairs to the bedroom.  The proper authorities will discover the twenty-seventh Gabriel lying dead, barely more than a puddle of skin and blubber and skinny chicken-like bones, as his mother sits in his body and weeps, praying that her tears will wash away the blood.