Monday, January 28, 2013


“Where—where am I?” Derek's head ached something fierce. He tried to remember what happened, but all that came were memories of Dylan's party. It occurred to him that maybe he was hung over, but he couldn't remember having a drink. He laughed to himself. Of course he didn't remember having a drink; he was hung over. Then he opened his eyes.

The room was not his own. In fact, it wasn't anybody's room that he could recognize. His first reaction was panic, his second reaction was a self-gratified grin. What lucky lady had been graced with his therepeutic touch? His eyes fell half-shut as he thought about the night. He decided it was the blonde chick. She'd been giving him the eye all night. He nodded satisfactorily. The blonde chick was alll-raight.

But he still had his clothes on. Maybe something went wrong. He frowned. Had he passed out before boobs? Would he get morning-after-action? Would it get around that he had whiskey dick? Oh hell, it would. He was toast. His sex life was finished. He'd have to choose between the corner and a wife to get any. This was it, he might as well end it all now.

“I'm Jacob.” The voice caught him off guard and he leapt back against the wall. He scanned the room, but still couldn't see where the voice had come from. There was too much junk. Heaps of toys and clothes and trash. A TV with its face smashed in against one wall. A stuffed tiger with one eye frowned miserably out from the jagged cave.

“What's your name?” The voice came again, and this time Derek saw the boy's face move. He was nearly buried beneath a pile of clothes, which Derek now noticed ranged from various sizes, child through adult, and both genders. A dirty pair of what were possibly pink at one time panties tumbled away as the boy moved his equally filthy head.

“Uh, I'm Derek.” He offered the boy his hand, wondering if he could get out of the pile of clothes. The boy shook his head and hid back beneath some boxers. Derek wondered (and hoped) whether the smudge on the boy's nose was just dirt.

Looking around again, the room was more than just filthy: it was disgusting. Black piles of sticky gunk clung to just about everything, and flies buzzed around low to the ground, feasting on anything warm and soft. The room was so filled with clutter as to be nearly unnavigatable. Every step Derek took brought down piles of clothes, or slipped out from beneath his foot. It made the already tiny room utterly claustrophobic.

That was when the door flew open. They came in one at a time, boys and girls, six or seven of them, all different ages. The youngest were toddlers, the oldest a little younger than Derek. They were all covered head to toe in black smears and dirt, and their clothes were equally covered and far more torn. Their was glued with grease, too think to sway. Jacob disappeared into the clothes pile, letting the laundry sink in over him.

“Don't think I didn't see you, brat!” A screeching voice scratched at Derek's ears. A round woman came bustling into the room, pushing a small girl out of her way as she moved toward the pile. Unlike the children, the woman, a middle-aged adult, wore clean clothes and had obviously showered recently. Her eyes were deep with fury, and she cast Derek a paralyzing glance before diving into the laundry heap.

Jacob emerged by his ear, and the woman smacked him full in the face. Then again, and thrice, and a fourth time before finally tossing him onto a pile of hard construction toys. He sobbed and pulled his knees up to his chin. The woman kicked him again, telling him to shut up and stop making a scene. Then she fell upon Derek, shoving him onto the bed. He struggled to stand, but she punched his ribs and he collapsed back onto the mattress. Her meaty hands rifled through his pockets, emerging with his iPod and the cheap cell phone he paid on monthly.

“Hey, what the fuck?” A cry that was met with a hard knuckle to the jaw.

“You haven't been here long, so I'll let that go. But I won't take any of your fucking cussing in my house, do you understand me? And you won't be needing any of these either.” She shoved the electronics into her pockets and pushed herself off the bed. “Now I'll be back with some proper clothes.”

Swearing about the state of the room, the woman made her way out and slammed the door, leaving the nine or so children alone. One of the girls ran to the door and tugged on the handle, pleading: “Mommy! Mommy! I have to pee! Mommy!”

“Shut up, you little bitch!” The woman's voice shook the door.

The oldest looking girl sat herself beside Derek. She looked to be about fourteen or fifteen. Her eyes were neither shining with youth nor wisened beyond their years. They were simply tired and empty.

“Where am I?” Derek demanded, sitting up.

“Home,” the girl replied cooly. He noted that her white-blonde hair was not greasy like the others, and actually seemed clean and well-kept despite her skin being as filthy as the rest.

“No, not my home. Where am I? Who are you?”

“Home,” the girl said again, not facing him.

And all at once the girls in the room said: “We're your sisters.”

And all at once the boys in the room said: “We're your brothers.”

“What? No you're not. I don't live here, and I don't know any of you.” He jumped to his feet and looked down at the girl with the white-blonde hair. But I'd do you... “Who's that woman?”

“Mom.” The girl said.

“That's your mom?”

“Yes.” The girl avoided looking at him, instead staring blankly at the floor. “That's our mom.”

“Not my mom!” He snorted. Clothes tumbled under his feet as he waded to the door and tried the handle. It held tight, not even rattling as he tugged it.

“She's you're mom.”

“Open the door! Let me out of here!” Derek hammered the door with his fist, shouting angrily.

“Ssh. Be quiet,” Jacob hissed. “If she hears you--”

“You better quiet down in there!” The angry voice shrieked from behind the door. “If you don't shut your sorry asses up, I'll give you all a real reason to cry!”

Derek, filled with fear, stepped away from the door. Against his better judgment he fell into a laundry pile and despaired. The children circled around. The older ones all had tired, disinterested gazes that seemed to look through him. The younger ones were frightful and wide-eyed.

“So what does she want with us, anyways?” He asked after a while.

“She is a mother,” answered the white-blonde girl. “She wants to take care of us.”

“Ellie thinks she's a witch,” said one of the younger boys. He looked a little older than Jacob.

“She's not a witch,” muttered one of the girls. “She'll hear you say it.”

“She is too a witch!” It was the little girl who had been pleading to use the bathroom. She now faced the crowd of children defiantly, her tiny hands curled tight into fists. “I saw her! She ate Michael! She threw him in the oven and ate him whole!”

“Yeah right,” someone said, tossing a yellowed underwear at the girl's head. The girl ducked away and pushed the other child to the ground. They both began beating away mercilessly until Derek rose and pulled them apart.

“Mom” returned then, forcing the door open with enough force to crack the wall it ran into. She held in her hands a bundle of clothes, ragged and torn with frayed ends. The bundle was thrust into Derek's arms, but before she could say something, the little girl spoke up: “I have to pee.”

“I heard you the first time, bitch. Do you think I'm deaf? Go away.” The woman shooed her into a corner.

“Actually,” Derek stammered, “I have to pee, too.”

“Oh, we all have to something around here, don't we?” The woman through her arms in the air. “You two have to pee, Elvin's got a cold, Sherri doesn't want soup, Michael wanted to play outside. You can pee where everyone else has peed for ages—out the goddam window!”

Derek said nothing. His ribs still ached from before, and he was careful not to incite her fury. Someone else did it for him.

“Look,” said the white-blonde haired girl. She was pointing out the room's lone window with disinterest. “Ellie's outside.”

“What?” The woman stormed across the room, tossing the girl outside as she leaned over the windowsill. “That bitch! That fucking bitch!”

The woman rushed away, dropping Derek's phone as she fled. “Nobody touch that!” She called over her shoulder. “Nobody fucking touch that!”

The door slammed behind her. Derek dropped the heap of dirty clothes and dove for his phone. The other children watched fearfully. “Momma said not to touch that.”

“I don't care what 'momma' said,” Derek retorted. “We can get the hell out of here. All of us. You can have baths. Toilets. Food. Go back home, to your parents. Your real parents. Isn't that what you want?”

The white-blonde haired girl stepped forward. Her usually-blank eyes flashed. “We are home. We are with our mother.” Her voice was threatening and low. She held out her hand. “Give it to me.”

“Hell, no.” Derek clutched the phone tight and backed away. Right against a wall. He glanced to the side, considered breaking out the window. Then he saw the bars. Thick iron bars on the outside. “Fuck.”

“Give me the--”

“Augh!” The woman's screech tore through the bars. Derek glanced out the window once more, and saw that she had fallen. Ellie, the little girl who had to pee, ran out of sight. The woman wobbled on her backside, flailing with her limbs in the air to get up. “Oh my back! My back!”

“Momma!” cried a little boy. “Momma's hurt!”

“Momma's hurt,” repeated his “siblings.” There was something odd about the way they said it. There was an energy to the words that had been absent from before. As though they were all thinking the same thing, and it was something very different from what they usually thought.

“She is, and badly,” Derek said. “We should call the police. They'll bring an ambulance and help her up.”

The “siblings” looked at him. In some of them the blank expressions began to fade. In the young ones, their sadness fled from youthful hope. Then all at once they changed back and loomed over him with menacing glares. They reached for him, pulled him to the ground. They tugged his hair and scratched his eyes. In the mess of it all, Derek felt the phone lifted away.

The mauling stopped, but the siblings held him down. The white-blonde haired girl flipped open the phone and held a half in each hand. She twisted her filthy wrists, and the phone twisted too, sprinkling plastic chips and pointing with warped wires. Then she knelt before him, bringing her face close to his. The broken cellphone hit the floor.

“You can't leave. You're our big brother. We've always wanted a big brother.”

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