During the summer holidays when I was twelve my neighbour shot his three sons. I was at home with my brother when it happened. We were experimenting with a magnifying glass, colouring strips of card with different pigments to see which would burn first under the focussed triangle of sunlight. I remember the sound of the gun was a huge and deep boom. I could feel the concussive force even through the walls of our house. I heard a shot, a scream, two more shots, and then silence. Three shells fired from a breech loaded shotgun, each containing nine double aught spherical pellets, their destructive force expressed onto the children next door. The boys used to play in the yard. I would see them almost every day. They were all younger than me, twins and an elder, one at school. My mother would look after them from time to time when theirs wasn’t well. I tried to teach them how to play cricket.
It was in the eighth year of her life that Becky truly became obsessed with The Tall Man. His coming, his arrival, was all she had to fear in the world. He could be upon her at any moment. Becky turned her mind away and sat Indian-style on the floor, playing with her dolls. She wondered if she would ever feel safe.
I am a dutiful wife.
It’s Monday. Every Monday and Thursday, I visit Lucas. I always bring new flowers, and since it’s the summer they’re from my own garden. There are daisies and tulips and baby’s breath. It doesn’t matter what I add to the water, or how I snip them, they are always dead when I come the next time. The staff will have ensured there are no dead leaves scattered around the vase on his windowsill, but the stems will remain, withered stalks decaying in their coffin.
21 August 1902 and 2017
When the moon occluded the sun 42,005 days in the future, Lewis Coughland became self-aware in the Legend of Emma Wick. He had known that this would happen, but it was still a surprise to awaken in the mind of the great love of his afterlife as she stood on the deck of a ferry, clutching her sleeping two-year-old daughter, Mary, to her chest.
Thommy Lemolo parks her car in Newtown Cemetery’s small lot shortly before 8:00 A.M. on a Tuesday. It’s a fine July morning, not yet sixty degrees, nary a cloud in the deep azure sky. For two weeks the weather had been uncharacteristically stagnant in the Pacific Northwest; jungle muggy, slick and greasy. But yesterday afternoon a series of wild thunderstorms had blown in from the Puget Sound and gave the region the equivalent of an atmospheric enema. Several lightning strikes had been reported in the vicinity of Torqwamni Hill—especially at Newtown Cemetery. One bolt was said to have hit the ancient oak tree inside the cemetery, yet it hadn’t left as much as a scar. Thommy’s “colleagues” at The Torqwamni Sun didn’t believe it; the pushcart bozos (not one checked up on the claim, mind you) believed that the three independent witnesses had been mistaken. Although Thommy had kept her thoughts on the subject to herself, she is confident that an A-bomb could detonate in the oak and not dislodge as much as an acorn.
‘Turn off the light, Susan.’ It is early morning and the cold has crept into the room through an open window. Susan doesn’t reply and I watch the plumes of her breath as she sighs gently and turns the page of her book. I put my hand lightly on her arm, ‘You must be exhausted, you’ve been reading all night.’ She glances in my direction, a hint of a smile flickers across her face which then twists in confusion. Her mouth gapes and her eyes begin to well with tears that drip on to the book’s white pages.