's 2019 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Samsinater (email)

It is the 43th of August.

The boiling birds have left our hallowed lands, seeking shelter where the sun has gone. Every year their abandonment, though anticipated, excites a nerve.

Our lamps prove insufficient once again. We shut them off, preserving our darkness if not our sense of self. They will be bigger next year. We always find a way.

When the mail bus comes I do not anticipate her howl, but in patterned form it echoes my name. I shiver; so soon? I always forget it is today. Yet a bus's claws are not built to be denied.

I don my raincoat, all bulk and excess. The clouds have yet to lament the sun's journey, but the same cannot be said of our paint and plaster. A drip catches the back of my hand in the hall; I instantly pay the price for not burying myself the moment my door opens. It sizzles, desperate for attention. But father's mother need not know so soon.

No body notices my body leave the house. They are too occupied vibrating about the couch, the sink, the basement. Their buzzing betrays their exclusionist preparation. Uncooked poultry stifles the air, taunting. I am not old enough to join them. I have not been old enough ever since the 55rd of June. The date encroaches further on summer every year. It is unfair.

I do not protest.

Outside, the bus is looking hungry, its passengers triply so. My raincoat is not bulbous merely for personal growth. Its pockets unleash a bounty of prepared meats for my safety. They are sadly still warm. Would that I had cubes to tip the boys, but I burn hotter than my flesh. It suffices.

I retrieve my fluttering package soundly, gooey and soft. It pulses, but not as much as it should. The mail bus's skittering is long gone before I can lodge a complaint.

Another day, another federal crime. I am reminded why my family rarely gives out cubes.

I step back inside, careful to slam the door behind me. The vibrations cease anyway. I am not a good actor. Even the dog could have smelled my annual package with a performance like that.

They crowd around me, bumping deliberately into me, singing quietly amongst themselves as though I am not there. They pretend not to drown me in their shadows, but they are worse actors than I. Some hiss. Their jealousy stings. I keep my prize hidden under the folds of my coat, where my air also holds firm. Their alkaline drool puddling around my socks does not threaten me. I have weathered worse.

It is longer this time than the last time. It is always longer than the last time. I do not count anymore, refusing to sate their hunger even with numbers.

Eventually, reluctantly, one by one they buy my silence. Improper as they are, not even my family is willing to risk becoming a paperboy. For once, I feel safe under the law.

My room is not empty when I return to it. It should be. I dismiss the cat before the carpet can become feral. It will still need a trim.

Or perhaps it will not.

I am not stupid. I know what comes in a parcel like this. I wish I could fathom who sent it, but I will not destroy myself so easily. Not after practicing stillness for this long. I have value, and merit.

The skin is difficult to unsheathe, but my fingernails are difficult to evade. Only two are sacrificed: an acceptable casualty. A scared grey box remains.

The lid opens without much whining. The air inside instantly revives the autumn breeze missing from my windowed room. I can smell the leaves. The leaves gradually forget how to smell me.

Soon, I am smaller. My raincoat is neater. My carpet is softer. Symmetry wakes up, slowly. The paint on my hand abruptly dries, lifeless, and I pick it off with ease. The sculpture on my ceiling discards its shadow, and my room glows yellow once more. I had forgotten what it was like to see color. I am happier for the reminder. My tears are less happy, but not every drop is blue.

The vibrations downstairs almost sound like words now. I wish I could invite them upstairs, inside. I wish I could open my door, share my gift. I know better. I have known better since the 12th of September two years ago. Some scars are better left unhealed.

Even now, my temporary world is fading, the light dimming. It seems to last less and less each year. I put my only towel to the bottom of my door, to keep it just a little while longer.

I know I cannot take this yearly trip forever. A towel is not meant to be absorbent, rectangular, or foldable. Chairs cannot sit on the floor this long. Eyes should not be smaller than hands and less plentiful than fingers. It isn't right.

But I did not choose to be mailed reality. I merely opted not to reject its dying advances.

I am lost in the stillness of my own blood sooner than I realize. It is ended when my door vibrates in the darkness. Bones chatter behind it, and a feathered cane pokes away my towel, solid again.

The sounds of cold meats slip under the door. Dinner is ready. I join the aggregation downstairs. Their accusatory humming makes it abundantly clear they have been waiting for me.

I do my best to be ensnared by the ritual. Maybe this year my height will explode. Maybe next August I can finally join and soak the meats. My bones shiver, and nearly rattle at the thought.

I try to forget what I only remember once a year. I fail until I succeed, like every August.

Soon I forget completely until the next 43th of August. My pieces fit together neater this way.

Soon I forget completely. I fit in my household neater this way.

When the adulations begin on the 52st of June, I am finally old enough to join them.

The August meat fits in my jaws neater this way.