Figuring the front door too unlikely a place for the police to leave unlocked, we dashed straight over the side gate and checked the rear windows. One of the neighbors dogs must have caught wind of us, fuckin’ dog started going off like a maniac. I had already been on edge, now.
We stood still, barely breathing, hoping the damn dog would shut up. After a long while we heard the neighbor open his door and call it inside. We eased up and kept checking the windows.
It was so fucking nerve wracking, worse than the other place. Each twig that would snap under my feet would leave me tense and with my heart in my throat.
After we checked all the windows, AP pulled a knife and made to fit it under one of the latches. I signaled for him to stop, figuring I’d give the back door a shot. It was a long shot, but after turning the knob, the thing squealed right open. We both grinned and let ourselves in.
The inside was pitch black. The curtains had been drawn shut to keep peepers away. I pulled out my light and AP his phone only to recoil at the first sight of blood. I say first, because there was tons of it.
It was splattered all over the kitchen walls. All over the chairs, the stove, the fridge. The whole place. The chairs were broken and thrown to each side. The table was split in two, glass was shattered over the floor. It was a mess.
To me, it looked like someone had been chased through the kitchen and into the living room. Chased by something big, or something with enough force to split a wooden table in half. They hadn’t made it much further than that.
The living room was showered in deep red. There was so much dried blood that it looked like a bomb of it had been set off. One spot in specific had a pool that gave away where Sugar’s mom had been left to drain.
I doubt she’d been alive by then.
AP began to gag. I don’t know if it was the strong stale stench of metal in the air, or the thought that that very same stench belonged to a woman who had helped raise him and whom he cared deeply for. I didn’t bother to ask.
I flung my backpack off and put it under his mouth. I had no intention of leaving evidence of any kind here.
“I’m alright. I’m okay,” he said, pushing the backpack away. He stood upright and took a few deep breaths as he tried composing himself. The look of disgust was unable to leave his face. “White criminals always get it right.”
I looked down at my gloves and smirked. I think both of us wished Benny had been there with us. At least to remind us that we were supposed to be the tough ones in any situation.
AP took another deep breath as he tiptoed his way around the blood, careful not to disrupt anything. He nodded toward Sugar’s mom’s room. I opened the door and found something very strange.
Nothing was out of place.
The bed was made, the dresser was in order, her clothes were hung neatly behind a cracked closet door. There was no sign of a struggle or fight.
This was supposed to have been where Sugar had started everything yet it was clear that it had been untouched by whatever else had happened outside.
“This is impossible,” whispered AP. He flashed his phone light around, trying desperately to find any hint of blood, any sign that things had started here and somehow moved out.
“They said it happened here,” he said. “It was while she was sleeping. Right here.”
-You make it sound like he was disappointed.
No…he was scared.
We both were. We were being forced to ask questions we couldn’t even understand.
If it hadn’t happened how they said it had, what did that say about the system we had been trained to trust and obey our entire lives?
-She had still died, though.
Yeah, sure. But not how they said, which meant that they could be lying about anything else.
We checked the bathroom before heading into Sugar’s room. Pristine as mom’s room.
I gave AP a moment to prepare himself before going in. We had expected to find a mess, another sign of his Butter fueled breakdown before he killed his mom, but there was nothing there either. With the exception of some extra clothes on the floor, the room was just as we had seen it the day before.
-So he had come back home.
Looked like it.
-Why wouldn’t his mother have called Austin? Let him know that he could stop looking.
I have no idea. My guess is he came back late and didn’t have very much time before they were attacked.
You know what we did find, though? A gun. It was in a bag he had stashed under his bed.
-Why is that significant?
Because it had never been there before that day. We’d been there every day since his busted leg and not once had we caught a glimpse of it.
-I also doubt you’d been rummaging through his room before while he was in there.
We hadn’t rummaged. Might as well have tripped over the fucking thing. He hadn’t even bothered, or likely had time to, stash it under the bed. Either someone had placed it there to somehow frame him further, which I highly doubt, or in his paranoia Sugar had gone to buy himself one and never gotten the chance to defend himself with it.
-Okay. So what did you do?
We took it.
Yeah. His memory drive too. If they hadn’t found it already then they had no business with it. Besides, they would have just trashed all of his songs anyway. They had no right to it.
That’s right. He was our friend. It belonged to us.
Anyway, the more time we spent in his room, the more sad AP got.
“I called my parents today,” he told me. “I don’t know why. I thought maybe they would come. That maybe once they would make an exception. They were sad, for me and for Sugar. In the end, they said the same thing they always do. ‘We’re with you hon. We’ll be home soon.’”
I’ve never known what to say when people pour their hearts out to me, so I just stay quiet and listen. Everyone always takes it as if I’m genuinely interested in their words, even when I’m not.
I’m not saying I wasn’t with AP, I just mean in general. The more quiet I stay, the more they pour out. I feel like one of these days someone will catch on and call me out on it. So far, it’s never happened.
Is that why you just want to listen?
-No Mr. White. I know exactly what to say, and when to say it.
It was worth a shot.
-*chuckle* Did they come home? Before the…
I guess in a way, knowing your parents are alive and choosing something else over you is way worse than them being dead. At least when they’re dead you can fool yourself into thinking they would always choose you.
It sucked even worse for him because he knew everything they did was supposed to be for him. To better his life, his future. They just couldn’t realize that it was tearing him apart now.
-They left their child to police himself nearly all his life. What did they expect?
Do you have kids?
Then shut the fuck up.
They were trying to give their child an advantage in a world tat has it out for him from the start. They probably figured sacrifices had to be made. That e would be happier in the long run. It’s not fucking science.
-Are you saying that because he’s-
Of course I’m saying that. Take a look around. Ninety percent of black are in prison slaving away. Doing the shit no one else wants to do. The rest are just how Jackson put it; token blacks. Slaves on the outside keeping the rest in check. You think that’s an accident?
-Some would say they do it to themselves.
Some would also say AP and I don’t deserve it as good as we’ve got it. Does that make it true?
No, it makes it fucking idiotic.
AP was a good kid. All of them were. Sugar, Jackson, Benny, the twins. We were all good kids.
I ended up asking AP about Sugar, about how they had mentioned he had problems.
Never would have guessed it but apparently he had depressive episodes since he was a kid. Cocky, cheerful, smooth talking, pretty boy Sugar with the voice of an angel.
“Since I first met him,” AP explained. “My parents would leave me with his moms for a few weeks at a time and I would spend day and night with him. Most days he was fine, but there were times that he would disappear into his room or the fort him and I had built in the backyard. He’d throw fits if I didn’t leave him alone but it would be worse if I ignored him for too long.”
AP tried hard to keep from tearing up. His jaws were clamped tight making the muscle right here bulge, but even that didn’t stop them from coming.
“At first I had thought he just didn’t like me. Thought the nigga just wanted to get is moms to get rid of me. I took it so personal every time. I wanted to leave and go back home, but I had nowhere to go. Mrs. Barnes made me realize how much Sugar actually loved me. She told me about how much I helped him, how much he needed me. I felt so fuckin’ guilty after, knowing that I’d just been making it worse.
“We went to school sometime after and someone came ot our class asking kids to join choir. I remember he was still in one of his moods but I asked him to do it with me and it’s like he instantly snapped out of it.” AP chuckled as he wiped a tear. “We were the only black kids in the choir, which wasn’t much different than the rest of the school, but I could tell we weren’t wanted there. To top it off, I didn’t have a voice. Sugar thrived, though. He loved it. Partly, I think, cuz he thought I did too. I fuckin’ hated it.” AP laughed and I joined him. “I stuck with it though, until I felt he would feel safe on his own. Then, I quit and joined ball instead.”
“Is that why you guys grew apart?” I asked.
“Ha! That nigga quit right after me to play ball too, but I never let him quit singing alltogether.” AP stared at the memory drive in his hands. “We never grew apart. We were forced into different schools is all.”
I was jealous of what they had had. I still am.
“We’re gonna find out what really happened,” I said.
He snorted as if he had read right through me. I stayed quiet, hoping I hadn’t offended him somehow.
“I hope so,” he said.
He got up and stuffed the memory drive into my bag. I stood up as well, ready to follow him out only to freeze mid step as a faint scratching above us began.
My eyes sot up, following the trailing scratching sounds above us. Both of us were dead still, breaths clogged in our throats. AP glanced at me and put his finger to his lips.
Whatever was out there seemed more intent on terrorizing us than causing us harm. The faint scratching grew louder, sounding more like a club with nails attached to it being dragged effortlessly in circles. Over and over it rounded the roof as if it knew that directly below its prey was becoming further hypnotized by the fear that coursed through them.
I put my hand on AP’s shoulder, drawing his attention away from it, and tilted my head toward the door. He nodded back and took a step toward the door. I hugged my backpack instead of trying to zip it so I wouldn’t make any unnecessary noise. I tiptoed after AP only to stand still again as the nails above us fell silent.
I looked back from the door frame, preparing myself for anything. My skin felt cold and my breath shaky.
“Let’s go,” whispered AP so quietly that even he likely wondered if he had actually said it or just imagined it.
I turned toward him. Glass shattered behind me and my hands came up to cover the back of my head. My ears rang as I felt a sudden burst of adrenaline.
My body screamed at me to run, just burst past AP, through the front door and get the fuck out of there without bothering to check what was behind me. Curiosity always gets the best of you, though.
I wish I had never looked. Hell, I wish we would have never…
I just wish a lot of things would have gone differently in my life, but they haven’t. At the end of the day, not looking wouldn’t have made it any less real.
You remember those four legged machines they made back in the day when they were introducing AI robots? They looked like weird deer but shorter and would slip around, jump, or take big tumbles.
It looked nothing like that. It was a million times worse.
It was like a mechanical octopus with long charcoal tentacles that further branched off into thin jagged tendrils. The ends were so sharp it looked like flexible, fluid claws.
I stood in place, my fight or flight response switched over to freeze as I watched this thing contort itself through the small window it had just blown to pieces. Each tentacle systematically took its turn to position itself through, which somehow made it even more frightening. When it finally got through, I couldn’t find a head but there were eyes, and plenty of them. Hundreds of bright red orbs littered over each tentacle, watching every possible direction effortlessly. The same red glow emanated from them when they centered over my own.
It began crawling toward me, like hundreds of spiders climbing over each other, its rear tentacles slithering over the rest fighting to get to the front.
AP pulled me away, snapping me out of the trance I was in, only to trigger himself as he saw it, but his only lasted a split second. The thing lashed out at him without warning, barely giving AP enough time to pull up a metal rod in front of him he had been holding. It stopped the tentacle from reaching his face and bought him enough time to kick the thing back. He swung the metal rod into it but the thing must have learned to adapt quickly because it enshrouded the rod in an instant and climbed over it toward AP’s hand. AP recoiled back but not before its claws dug into his wrist. He winced and stepped away, the thing relentlessly charging after him.
I ran toward the front, ready to hop over the puddles of blood and burst through the door without a care of who saw but was stopped by car lights pulling in. I slipped as I tried to turn toward where we had come in and saw AP slamming a table down that held a lamp. It crashed onto the floor and slowed the thing enough for me to push myself up and charge the back of the house.
I pulled the door open and held it in place as I watched AP drop more furniture in front of the thing as he made his way toward me. The thing tore through it all effortlessly. I pushed the door shut as he stepped through, just in time to stop the thing’s lunge.
I hopped the side fence and bolted. I didn’t bother to check the car that ad pulled up or if the thing was following us. I just fuckin’ ran.
I could only hear the repetitive pounding of my heart and the drag of air each time I took a breath. Even the sound of my footsteps had been droned out. I had no idea where I was running to but as my legs began to tire, my mind triggered back on.
I checked behind me, realizing that I didn’t know if AP had kept up. Sure enough, there he was. Behind him there was only darkness. Not a single trace of the mechanical tendrils with its bright red orbs giving chase. I began to slow, pumping my legs in a gradual halting until they finally obeyed. AP stopped next to me, his breathing just as sporadic as mine.
I took my light and flashed the black expanse behind him. I needed reassurance. My mind needed to make sure nothing was there. All I found at the edge of the light was the hooded figure that followed me around, staring right back at me, but he disappeared as quickly as I saw him. Nothing else was there and thankfully so because I don’t think I’d be here today if that thing had still been after us.
“What, the fuck,” said AP between breaths, “was, that?”
I had nothing to say back and doubt he expected me to say anything. We had both seen the same thing and we were both wanting the same answers that neither of us had. Sometimes, you ask anyway because you hope it’ll clear your mind…
Of course not. It doesn’t stop racing until you give it the answers. Not when you see something like that.
I always used to think that those people who claimed to have seen UFOs or been abducted by aliens and had their assholes played with were a bunch of kooks. Over the years, I’ve come to think that they were in the same boat I was. Their mind racing to explain what the hell had happened and just never getting the answer to put it at ease.
Or maybe the answer were found, but instead of silencing them, they decided to make us think that the abductees were just junkie psychos.
I don’t know.
Why’d you write that down?
You haven’t written a single thing this whole time and you decide to write that. Why the fuck did you write that?
-*silence* Who was in the car?
-Who was outside the house? You said there were car lights from out front.
*deep breath* Torrance.
-The officer that…
He was, close, to them. Family friend of AP’s. When AP’s parents had deemed him old enough to care for himself, they had asked Torrance to check in on him periodically. Make sure AP was keeping out of trouble. He’d gotten to know Sugar pretty well, rest of the boys too.
-So that’s why he was defensive over Torrance.
Yeah, he was like a big brother to AP. The big brother who’s fucking annoying and sucked all the fun out of life but you couldn’t stay mad at him because you knew his heart was in it to keep you safe.
We had nothing to do with that.
-Didn’t say you did.
No, you didn’t, but your tone sure makes it sound like it.
-Unintentional. I wouldn’t be in here interviewing you if I truly thought you, and AP, had killed that cop. Trust me Eric, I believe you.
Yeah, ok. Ok. Thanks, I guess.
Anyway, AP had been the one to notice Torrance’s squad car. He’d already been pretty shaken up. Both of us had, but seeing his car there made it worse. Now he was left wondering if a person so close to him, who he had trusted blindly, might actually be involved in this whole mess somehow. What if it was him who had unleashed that monster on us? On his own little brother.
We hung near my place, talking a little but mainly just thinking. Using every excuse to not have to return to the dull nightmare that waited for us at home. As horrifying as it was, it was exciting too, and I was careful to check over my shoulder each time I felt like we were being watched.
I didn’t know it at the time, not really, but we were.
Just because you’re not being chased doesn’t mean they’ve stopped watching you. Hell, you should probably be more worried when they’re keeping their distance.
We discard the feeling of a looming eye over our shoulder as if it’s simple paranoia, but what if I tell you it’s not? What if each time you feel like someone’s eyes are on you, even in the confines of your own empty home, they are? How would that make you feel?
Maybe not always someone, but some…thing.