The Boy rode by the porch with wheels still running hot and smelling of burnt rubber. The spoke card – a mustached-joker – bent and ripped. The Boy breathed heavy.
“I gotta show you something.” He said.
“What is it?” His Friend stared, arms rested on the wooden railing in that casual wear for warm weather; the sagging shirt loose over his bony body, the too long shorts. A hose in one his hand, the Friend drizzled mist along the plants at the edge of the guard rail just like his mama had asked of him. He set his cap on and rolled a sour hard candy in his mouth.
The Boy looked around. His eyes skated edge to edge. His shoulders high, his voice low and quiet. An old man tripped over his German Shepherd in the neighbors yard. A homeless man, radio tied around his neck, gripped his shopping cart tight as he went over a crack in the asphalt. It was by all means a normal neighborhood in sunny Havenbrook, California.
“I can’t tell you what I saw here.” The Boy said. He was still catching his breath.
“’Cause… I just can’t.”
“Is it naked women again?” The Friend looked deadpan. The hose drizzled. A potted plant tipped over, the water pooled to one side. At the rim. A drowning cactus.
The Boy scratched his head. He fixed his glasses higher up his nose bridge.
“No.” He said. “It’s something else.”
“You trying to get me to go into that sewer again?”
“No. I don’t know what I saw. But I need to show someone.”
The Boy’s fingers ran as if he were playing piano. He squeezed his bike handles and did circles on the street. The metronome dragged behind his back wheel, often close and often far as the Boy did laps. Crows croaked perched on a black wire up on the electric poles. Poles slanted and crooked since they’d been born thirteen years ago. It was a normal day, a boring one. So why not?
The Friend switched off the hose and threw the length off to the side of the rail flaccid like a broken neck.
Alright. Let me get my bike.” The Friend said.
They must have rode up for two hours, ripping through the city asphalt and up San Joaquin Trails.†1 The falling sun behind them and a seeping blue to remind them that the day was passing. They were sweating even into the evening, the ridges of the mountain line lined red. The Boy pinched at his shirt and fanned his abdomen. They went past civilized streets, past cracked-black roads, past and into the dirt roads of the mountain trails. Littered with footprints and beer bottles and condoms like the shed of snakes, a cloudy tube film they trampled over up the mountain. The yellow grass scratched at their feet.
“Where we going?” The Friend asked.
“There’s a house. Off to the side, it’s like a cabin.”
“This isn’t just off the side. This is like on the other end of the mountains.”
“We’re almost there.” His voice broke.
It took thirty more minutes. Thirty aimless minutes that neither could protest. They were too tired to protest. Too tired to complain. They stepped off their bikes and breathed heavy, one running his forearm against his forehead. Their bodies sticky, clingy. Night had come fast. But they could still make out the silhouette of the house. And they could still trace the crooked zig-zag path up the mountain. The house rested against the mountain. Joshua trees grew above and shaded the ruins. A water tower rusted to the side, half devoured. A meal picked out but too dry even for carrion. The plates of the water tower were removed, laying on beds of crushed crash. The Boy took a deep breath and walked. A loose bolt rifled out from underneath his sneakers.
The Friend stared, the burning nausea now grew in him too.
“What?” The Friend said. “You’re going in there?”
“It’s what I wanted to show you. Yeah.”
“Come on. You need to see it.”
The Friend looked around. Maroon and dark blue and a weak wind that could not make the grass shuffle. He swore he heard snakes. He swore he was too tired. Or maybe too sick? Too late? Mother would hate for him to be late. That. Yes. Of course it was just that.
“You coming or what?” The Boy asked.
His Friend breathed heavy. He stuck out his chest. He inhaled.
Both cxame to the door frame. It hung by a single hinge, collapsed into the house. Both took a wide step up and around the door and walked into the hall.
The skin rose up the backs of their necks. Their eyes turned to every small sound. And what a house of noise it was. All that creaking. All those scattered small steps.
“I didn’t know who to tell.” The Boy said. He stepped into the living room, past the should-be foyer. The beams were fallen down, both of them moved in between the wood and dry wall broken into.
In the living they could not see much but old VHS tapes, the ripped ribbons cut and dragged. Some beer bottles too. An adhesive coming off a metal tin, dripping from the edge of a crooked book shelf. Some blood. Some tattoos. Some needles. Fossils of those decades past.
The Boy paused in the middle of the room. He looked towards the bathroom. His friend looked to him, then to the dark of the bathroom. The Boy raised his pointer finger.
“You gotta see it. And you have to tell me what I should do.”
“I’ve put up with it for now, but I’m sick of this shit. It ain’t funny.”
“This isn’t a joke.” He said. “Go on. Go in there and tell me its a joke.”
The Boy stood still as his Friend walked in. The form of the fourteen year old, apparition-like as he went into the dark of the hall and into the restroom. A mounting dark seeping into the holes, as much as any light could or would. Darkness always here, bidding its time in primordial goop. Cosmic Id in waiting.
There was a shout in the dark.
“Holy fuck.” The Friend said.
THE HUMAN STATUE – CAROLYN FLORES FOUND DEAD – MUMMIFIED IN CONCRETE
|↑1||1. Named after the catholic priest San Joaquin, who led a group of twenty seven pilgrims to find a new cathedral in Havenbrook. Some say they were retreating. Others, that they were being hunted. Some even claiming San Joaquin was an expensive bounty leading his troupe. What we do know is that they never survived the trip and died partways to Havenbrook.|