I don’t bother with my family much.
To put it bluntly, I had a shitty childhood. My mom is an alcoholic who never gave a shit about anyone but herself. My dad screwed around the town, so he was never home. My older brother, Peter, was the one I was closest to, but even he had his problems. Peter was one of those kids who liked pulling the wings off of flies, kicking dogs…usually he was a nice enough kid, but sometimes he acted a little funny. A little mean. Still, we got along overall. We actually had something of a prank war going on for a while.
Anyway, for the most part, I just don’t bother with the rest of them.
Although Peter and I occasionally Facebook each other, I haven’t actually seen anyone in my family in over three years.
So I was pretty surprised to get a letter from Peter last Tuesday. At least, it was from his address, but he hadn’t added his name. It was a lackluster manila envelope that was just a little crinkled. No postage. Weird.
I sat down on my couch and opened the envelope, spilling its contents on my cheap Ikea coffee table.
Pictures. Pictures of Peter.
One of his arms had been hacked off, and not cleanly. It looked like someone had taken an axe to him. His splintered bone poked out of shreds of bright red flesh. I felt sick. His eyes were both gouged out with the eyelids shorn off. Long needles stuck out of his feet and peeked out from under his nails. His knees were all smashed in. And finally, the flesh on his throat had been skinned clear off.
I ran to the bathroom and was sick. In fact, I was sick a few times.
Once I’d managed to calm down and wipe the vomit/tears from my face, I marched back to the living room and grabbed my cellphone. I dialed 9-1-1 and had my hand poised over the call button as I looked through the pictures carefully. They were all the same picture… except for one.
This one was a picture of my mom, passed out on the couch, as per usual. On the back of the picture, in Sharpie was a message: “No cops.”
I stood paralyzed for a moment, wavering back and forth in my mind. Time ceased to exist. Do I call the cops anyway? Do I call my mom and see if she’s okay? There were a million options, but at that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to choose any one of them.
Turns out, the choice was made for me. My phone buzzed wildly and I actually physically jumped. A text from an unknown number.
I tried to call, but no one answered. I swore under my breath, sweat pooling on my upper lip.
“What the fuck do you want, you sick fuck?”
Damn it, this guy was crazy. I was shaking so hard. My heart screamed at me to call the cops, but my brain told me to hesitate. I needed to fully consider the consequences before I did that. I thought of my mom on the couch.
So I texted back cautiously: “Okay. What are the rules?”
An instant buzz. My heart thumped up through my throat and I vomited again, this time all over my floor. “Task 1: Find your whore mother.”
I was in my car less than 20 seconds later, speeding the two hours back to my hometown. I made it there in 40 minutes.
On the way, I tried calling my dad to ask where she was, but he had changed his number since I last bothered to contact him.
Thankfully, our shitstain of a house was still where I’d left it. I ran into the house, but my mother wasn’t there.
I tried to calm my growing panic. Okay, okay, calm down, Michael, calm down. Mom is gone. But she always wanders off when she’s drunk. I thought back to my childhood, when Peter and I would always have to go out and drag mom back home. When she got really, really smashed, she always went to the same place.
I jumped back into the car and headed for the small graveyard on the edge of town.
I don’t know why, but whenever mom was trashed (which is most of the time), she liked to go out to the town cemetery and scream at her father’s grave. She’d broken so many bottles his headstone that it was in pretty bad shape now. I’m sure there’s some tragic backstory and all that, but I don’t know enough about my mom to really look into it. As I was speeding towards that gravel road, I realized that I didn’t know my mom at all — well, not really.
I turned into the cemetery and slammed on the brakes.
I could see her, spread out on her father’s headstone. I mean that quite literally. She was thrown over it like a ragdoll, her torso cut open and split apart. Her innards draped down to the ground in a mess of gore and puss. She almost looked angelic, in a strange way, with her arms thrown open and her skin as white as snow.
Again, I threw up.
Again, I received a text.
“How’s the game going?”
I called and called and called. No answer. Another angry text shot off: “You sick fuck, I’m calling the cops, I don’t give a shit what you said. You’re fucking crazy.”
I gripped the steering wheel as my knuckles turned white. My breathing was ragged and heavy and I felt like I would faint. No, no, get it together, keep it together. My phone lit up, a sinister glow on the passenger’s seat.
“No need. Task 2: Find your father!”
Shit. I had no idea where he was whoring around tonight. After a moment’s thought, I turned the car around and went back towards the house. Maybe he’d returned already. If not, I could try to find something, anything that would lead me to him. His new phone number, the number of one of his whores, anything.
Unfortunately, when I arrived at the house, the police were already there. Along with an ambulance. I saw one of the officers sitting outside with his head in his hands, shaking. A few other officers whispered together conspiratorially.
I was completely and utterly numb. I turned around and drove back home.
It was 10 at night by the time I reached my house. One day. It had taken one day to lose my entire family.
As I switched off the engine and headed towards my front door, I thought about Peter. I’ll admit, I was most upset about my big brother. Weird as he was, I really cared about him. Sure, it was hard seeing my mom like that, and knowing what happened to my father. But Peter was my real family.
So imagine my shock when I walked into the living room and there he was, sitting on my couch, eating a pizza and watching a horror movie.
“You… you…” My face went white. My vision swam. I thought for sure I was just going to stop breathing and never start again.
He grinned up at me. “Hey, what’s wrong, bud? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” He laughed as though he was the cleverest fucker in the world.
“You… but… the pictures…”
“Oh, those?” He waved his hand dismissively, but I could see how secretly proud he was of himself. “Come on, there’s a million tall guys with black hair in the world. It wasn’t that hard to pick one out who looked a little like me…”
“So… this is…”
He got up and walked towards me, a strange glint in his eyes. He leered at me and then shouted:
“I got you! I got you, you little shit!”
Suddenly, I was on the floor laughing. Peter, fucking Peter, man.
“Shit, you did! Oh for fuck’s sake, you got me good! Is this payback for Theresa?”
Theresa – my last prank. She ended up strung up in the closet. He really believed she killed herself for at least a week before he figured it out.
“That and then some.”
I laughed some more, wiping the tears from my eyes. Well, I’ll be fucked. Peter really did get me good.
Clapping him on the back, we headed for my car.
“Alright, alright, you got me this time. I’ll buy ya a beer.”