Dear Future Me: I haven’t been myself lately and neither have you. I don’t even know if I’ll understand that or remember anything of what happened. TBI—traumatic brain injury—is dicey and unpredictable. Did you know you could fall down a flight of stairs, hit a concrete landing head-first, and after spending a week comatose in intensive care with a subdural hematoma, wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with nothing more than some minor gaps in your memory and a tendency to get headaches in rainy weather?
“What’s with the lawnmower. No one mows this early in spring.” “It’s June,” I reply. “Spring should be long gone.” My twin sister rolls over onto her back, rubbing the afternoon sleep from her eyes with ten long, pale fingers and two long, pale thumbs. I’m lying next to her in our nest of pillows on the living room carpet, holding a book with hands that look just like hers, pale and strange, the extra finger curving into each palm.
Before Edan Westmisley faxed his summons to my agent, my only legitimate (as in you could see my face) claim to semi-demi-fame was the Steppe Syster’s “Love Victim” video where I licked the tattoo of the chest of their lead guitarist, Cody Towers. Yeah, that was me. Not that anyone makes the connection between the big-hair, tits-swaying-in-a-bikini-top, thong-bottomed retro pre-AIDS bimboid slithering up the paint-drizzled riser towards Cody’s semi-desirable, love-handled bare torso, tongue out and lashing against candy-apple lips.
Three potential sacrifices, just as Phoibe’d predicted, blundering through the woods like buffalo in boots. Mormo broke cover first, naked and barefoot, screaming, with the boys following after, whooping and hollering, straight into the gauntlet, too lust-drunk to see where they were going. Pretty little thing, that Mormo, with a truly enviable lung capacity; the best lure they’d had by far in all the time Gorgo’d been attending these odd little shindigs.
There was nothing to look at once they were away from the town, only a long road stretching ahead, bare fields on either side, beneath a lowering gray sky. It was very flat and empty out here on the edge of the fens, and dull winter light leeched all colour from the uninspiring landscape. Occasionally there was a ruined windmill in the distance, a knackered old horse gazing sadly over a fence, a few recumbent cows, a dead man in a ditch—
Here’s everything that happened just before the thud in the basement: Kendra took a snort of blow off the counter and said: “Did you guys know that pet store workers have the highest rate of drug use in the retail industry?” “That’s such a load of horseshit,” Telly said.
David told himself there was nothing to be afraid of, nothing at all. It was, of course, only the delicious sense of anticipation he was feeling and not the fear that he could be mistaken. No. After all these years, all that pain, all that twisting of what he thought he knew . . . mistaken.
I’m telling you this so you know: I don’t remember when I started eating myself. You should remember something like that. It should be a moment, one of those that you carry around forever, a line that you cut across your life to mark before, when everything was one way, and after, when everything was different. I don’t remember discovering it like a secret formula or an equation that explained the universe.
I grew up in the suburbs, in a small bungalow house identical to every other bungalow house on my block. Row after row of these houses, all in straight lines, filled the streets as far as my bicycle would take me. That was why the house across from my own never struck me as strange or out-of-the-ordinary, not in all the years I shared the street with it.
The sin-eater arrived in Zonia Province two days before the death of the great gun fighter, Arryo Salazar. He was a small man, the sin-eater, thin and wiry, a rusting coil. At sixty-four, he had left the tautness of youth behind, and his skin, wrinkled, but importantly still unmarked, sagged and folded when he spoke.