Memories can come to me sometimes like smoke leaving an oven, not mine, but ours. Ours, and leaking out of a terrible place we connect at the root. We are a nation of forgotten immigrants, me and my brothers. We are a whole country demanding an atrocity stopped.
Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright took us once to see a den of wolf cubs in the woods beyond our town. The rain had started early in the day, and Mr. Cartwright thought that would make the animals more docile; their fear of thunder. If there was thunder, then it must’ve been summer. I don’t know where things start, and it’s possible I don’t care. That’s the day my brother John was bitten, and after he was bitten - his vocal cords destroyed - he stopped talking. We were two or three.
I remember the look on Mrs. Cartwright’s face, a year later, when Brad told her John still talks to him. I remember the look got worse when I told her he still talks to me, too. After that, I’m not sure she ever wore a different expression. She was only trying to survive us.
The wolves took John’s voice, or so we always believed. His voice lived in the howls, and the clattering excitement of the heavy rains. We became made of those things, inside, as he and Brad turned to wolves, as they rushed the length of the barn field in low dusk, as anything becomes anything, if I ever knew where to start.
At night, John tells me that everything looks like, but isn’t, what is described by the reflection of daylight. This is the reason he kills anyone, he says. To understand what they really are, absent the light. I look out over the rooftops of our town gold in the sunlight. None of them are really homes, none of them really containing families. People who have vulgar insides have meager outsides, he says. His voice sounds the way people speak in dreams.
They made me a custodian for their secrets, when they tried to bury me in them, spilling hot and fast from the oven like smoke and I strangled to keep my lungs open. It’s taken me ten days to find a way to say they made me swallow the hearts of a dozen girls.
The woods got fat that summer, and John’s eyes scanned slow the horizon for the leaping deer and where the starlings lifted from the trees. Where the woods moved, Brad followed him to put the hearts of every subsequent girl that had gone missing.
John told me that we were the terrors people fear, before he fought with Brad one day in August. Before their silence grew a blaming rage that took them down to the barn field to howl like animals in the rising dust.
Always until death,