Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Angelic Tendencies by Jordan Anderson

Abigail wishes for the protection of angels after being sexually abused by her uncle, but when the angels come they are not what she expects; by Jordan Anderson.

There was a small hole in Abigail's favorite blanket, towards the end that she kept at her feet most nights. It was near the side with the worn paper tag and she often woke up in the mornings with one of her toes poking through. It was still night, however, and as her big toe wiggled in and out of the tattered hole, she stared out of the window to her left above where she lay into the clear midnight sky.

Uncle Reed was going to visit again tonight like he had every night since Aunt Cheryl had gone, leaving on some trip for work a week prior. Abigail remembered her aunt telling her that, when she got back, they were going to go together to the elementary school in town to register for second grade. She hadn't remembered exactly how long Aunt Cheryl was supposed to be gone, but Abigail had stopped hoping for her return after the last few horrific nights.

The first night he had come to her, she had awoken to him sitting on her bed, stroking her face with his calloused fingers. They were rough but he was family and she assumed it was meant to comfort her. And it did, at first. When his hand had moved down to her chest and stomach, she still did not think ill of his touch. But then his fingers were inside of her and that's when the pain had started.

Even now, as she stared out the window to the backyard and the forest behind the fence, her bottom and privates were sore from what he had done to her last night, and the night before, and twice the night before that. She slept lightly as she had grown to expect the creaking of the hardwood floorboards outside of the spare bedroom. That's when Uncle Reed would come and visit her. Sometimes, he wouldn't come into the room, though. Sometimes, Abigail would hear the old wood floor groan and time would stop as fear and tension coiled themselves around her gut while she waited for him to open the door. Sometimes, it didn't open and Abigail would find herself wide awake for hours, waiting and listening and imagining what he was going to do to her.

Abigail had lost count of the days since Mom and Dad had gone to heaven. She wasn't even sure what heaven meant. She remembered sitting in the car, listening to her parents murmuring back and forth to each other from the front seats. Dad's hand was crawling across the center console toward Mom's legs, and Mom would bat his hand away and laugh a special laugh Abigail only heard from her when Dad was around and thought no one was listening. She remembered giggling and Mom's face turning back to smile at her before saying...

Her memories go dark after that moment, no matter how many hours in the middle of the night she spent trying to remember what her mother had been saying to her. She had woken up in a hospital after that, without either of her parents, covered in tubes and sticky wires with machines all around her that beeped and whirred and blinked multi-colored lights. There was even a device that made an intermittent hissing noise and it sounded like a snake the first time she had heard it, scaring her enough to cry out for someone. When the nurse had walked into the room, her athletic shoes screeching against the linoleum as she stopped in front of the bed, Abigail explained the noise and the nurse reassured her of the machine that was making it. It was not a snake but had something to do with blood pressure. Abigail hadn't been sure what that meant, so instead she asked where her parents were. The nurse's face had gone a little pale and, instead of answering Abigail, she said, "Let me get the doctor for you," and quickly walked out of the room, her shoes screeching once more.

The doctor had been tall and broad, and Abigail thought he looked like a giant. The color of the papery clothing under his white coat was the same color as her favorite crayon from daycare - Seafoam Green. He had snapped the stretchy gloves off of his hands and into the trash bin near the door as he entered, a barely visible residue of powder floating in the air afterward, and he wore one of those heart-listening things that plugged into your ears draped around his neck, like the doctors on TV. Hello, Abigail, he had said, grabbing the chair from the desk in the corner of the room and rolling it over to the side of her bed. She remembered the croaking sound it made as the man's weight sat into it, and that he had thick black hair on the backs of his hands, but she couldn't remember much of what he had said. Her memories only held onto bits and pieces of what he told her before he left seemingly as quickly as he had come. There's been an accident, and that something had happened on impact. She remembered him standing and clearing his throat, then saying You're lucky to be alive before walking out of the room.

Several days later, Aunt Cheryl had told her that, "Your mom and dad are in heaven now." But it didn't fit... The story didn't fit and Abigail's mind couldn't process what she had been told. What good was heaven if she couldn't be there with Mom and Dad? Why was she lucky to be alive if they weren't here with her?

She just wanted them to come home and take her away from Uncle Reed, who, when he had come to pick her up from the hospital with Aunt Cheryl, had told her that everything was going to be alright. He told Abigail that he loved her, especially when doing those things to her at night when they were alone, but she didn't believe him. He was saying that he loved her, like Mom and Dad used to, but he was causing pain in areas that had never been touched before, both physically and emotionally, and she could feel the numbness growing in her bones. Life felt heavier by the day.

Abigail had little concept of God or of the cosmic, but she had heard of this place called Heaven one other time before. At the daycare she had attended, before the accident, a boy named Shane once told her that angels were nice people from Heaven, and that they had big bright wings that protected him from bad guys, or so Shane's mother had told him.

She hoped with every ounce of her being that the angels were listening now. She hoped that they wouldn't be so busy with protecting Shane from the bad guys that they couldn't hear her plea. She missed her mom. She missed her dad. She didn't want to feel the pain of her Uncle Reed's visits anymore. The looks on his face when he touched her were monstrous, and he said things to her, whispered things that seemed hollow but hungering, like she was Little Red Riding Hood and he was the big bad wolf. She no longer felt whole, and every time he touched her, a piece of her soul broke off and fell into the emptiness that was growing inside of her.

Abigail blinked and tears streamed down her cheeks as she lay staring into the distant sky outside her window. Thousands of stars twinkled in the abyss and, through her watery eyes, she saw a shooting star, soaring across the endless backdrop of the galaxy. She raised her hand to the window and pointed at the moving light, trailing its trajectory across the dewy glass with her fingertip. After the light continued past the halfway point to the horizon, it stopped dead in the sky. It sat there for a moment, flickering multiple colors - red and purple and green and gold - then zipped back the opposite direction.

Abigail sat up in her bed, wiping the tears from her eyes. She watched with astonishment as the light stopped once more in the sky, then moved in a circle, twice, and stopped again. Abigail pointed her finger at the light, and then pressed her hand against the glass, cool against her palm. Could it see her, staring up at it from the little window?

It could.

An angel finally visited Abigail that night. In fact, multiple angels did. They didn't talk using mouths, but instead used their thoughts. Abigail was frightened by the mental intrusion at first, but after hearing their voices resonate within her mind, she felt nothing but gratitude for them and welcomed the soothing sounds of their communication, which sounded like a mixture of buzzing electricity and the gentle clinking of wind-chimes in a breeze. They did not show themselves to her, but talked from the forest beyond the backyard fence, channeling from the darkness into her own thoughts through the window.

Using her own mental will to communicate, Abigail stared back through the glass into the dark woods and told them everything; she told them about her parents, what her dad looked like and how he used to laugh. She told them about her mother, about how aged yet purposeful her hands were, and how beautiful her eyes had been. Abigail told them about the doctor with the hairy hands and told them about the car accident - and she was grateful that they could see her thoughts, too, as she hadn't been able to find the words to describe what little fragments of memories she remembered from that day. She told the angels about her excitement for third grade, about her friend Shane from daycare...

And then she told them about Uncle Reed.

Abigail let loose memory after memory, draining from her mind like water from the tub, seemingly outside of her own control, and the angels analyzed every one of them. When she had finished, she realized she had been crying again and the angels collectively spoke into her mind, promising that they would make Uncle Reed's visits stop. Abigail had been afraid of clinging onto that promise, but they reassured her and told her their plan for making everything better. She just had to listen to their instructions, and follow their wind-chime voices into the night.



Abigail had been as quiet as she knew how to be, after the angels told her to get her shoes on, to grab her blanket and to meet them out in the woods. It hadn't taken long for her to slip into the little white sundress she wore the day prior, to buckle the straps on her matching white sandals, then to wad up her blanket and slip out of the open window above her bed.

As her sandals touched down onto the beauty-bark below, she felt pieces of it prick at her toes, and then she heard the creaking of the wood floor inside, just beyond the bedroom door.

Uncle Reed was coming for her again.

The autumn night air was cool in Abigail's lungs and there was a faint breeze whispering through the grass around her ankles. Adrenaline began to pump through her tired veins as she left the window and made her way out of the beauty-bark and onto the lumpy lawn, heading toward the gate in the back fence that led to the forest beyond. The cold fear was growing inside of her, but she held onto the promise from the angels.

They would make this better.

When she was halfway across the lawn, Abigail heard the faint sound of the bedroom door opening through the window behind her. She knew that it was only moments before her uncle would see the open window and look out to see her. She imagined his face, distorted by the shadows of night, his eyes burning into her back, and she shuddered before she started to run.

Even after anticipating it, Abigail jumped when her uncle's voice called out in a harsh whisper through the window at her.

"Abigail, what the hell are you doing? Get back here!" he shrilled quietly.

As she moved closer to the fence and the forest beyond, the grass grew damp with dew and it licked at her toes as she ran. The gate was carved wood with frayed splinters at the top and it was much taller than she was but, standing on her tiptoes, her longest reach was able to undo the lock and pull the latch back. As she stepped through the precipice into the dark of the woods, she looked back toward the house.

Rolling black clouds hovered in the distant northern skyline beyond the house and the city, but the rest of the sky was clear above. The full moon still rested low in the east, rotten yellow and glowing with a sickly light that shone down on the roof of the house. There were no neighbors for at least a mile, out here in farm country. The house and backyard appeared like a moonlit painting and the house stood dark and ominous.

Just inside the sliding glass door, her uncle was standing, watching. The lights in the house were still off, but his carnivorous gaze was illuminated enough through the glass for Abigail to see, and her heavy heartbeat thumped in her ears.

He looked like a monster.

As she closed the heavy wooden gate behind her, the latch clicking into place, Abigail heard the back sliding glass door of the house roll open and close, and then heavy footsteps thudding across the lawn.

He was coming for her.

The forest ahead was black as coal, barely lit by the moonlight through the holes in the thick evergreen canopy above. She stepped quickly, moving down a thin trail that snaked between the dark trees ahead, then broke off to her left, away from the trail, and hid under the massive exposed root of a particularly large pine. Her hand lay on the rigid bark of the sentinel and her eyes followed it up, searching for the angels, but she couldn't see the night sky, blocked by countless intertwining branches of needles. If she couldn't see them, did that mean they couldn't see her? What if Uncle Reed found her before she could find the angels?

The angels said they would meet her out in the forest, out in the dark.

Abigail waited silently, her face buried into her blanket. It smelled like her old bedroom, from where she used to live with her parents - her real home. She wanted it to consume her, wrap around her and float her off to her real bed, far away from here, far away from her uncle.

The hinge on the fence gate let out a creak as it opened, screeching into the night. A moment passed, then the same sound marked the gate's closing. Damp twigs and fallen branches cracked under heavy steps that moved slowly into the forest. Even though it was cold and her legs were prickled with goosebumps, Abigail's blood was on fire, her heart pounding in her chest, and she was sobbing quietly into her blanket.

"Aaaaabigail."

The man's voice sung through the cold air of the woods. It quavered with a type of intensity Abigail had come to know over the course of the last few nights. It sounded like he was either about to scream or maybe cry, it was an intensity he did not show around other people, and it scared her. During the day, he acted as a normal uncle would be expected to. In the dark hours of night, though, he transformed into something that looked like Uncle Reed but smelled and acted differently. This other being fed off of Abigail's pain and off of her fear.

Fresh tears streamed down her cheeks and a small whimper crept from her lips, faint but audible in the silence of the woods.

The boots stopped.

Abigail could feel her uncle's gaze peering into every shrub in the silent dark, crawling up every tree trunk and rock like some decrepit snake, slithering this way and that. She held her breath and pushed her face further into her blanket, hoping against everything that he wouldn't see her and would leave.

And then the boots were moving again, the stomping getting louder as it closed in on the root she was under.

Abigail lifted her eyes, a yelp erupting from her mouth as her uncle's face appeared in front of her, shadowed by the night but still visible. The saliva on the wretched teeth of his smile glistened in the distant yellow moonlight, as did his eyes, which sat fixated in a violent stare.

She buried her face in her blanket again as she crouched, her shoulders rocking while she sobbed quietly. They promised to save her. They promised they wouldn't let Uncle Reed hurt her or put things inside of her again...

Where were the angels?

"Aw, Abigail," her uncle said. "Sh-sh-sh-ssshhh."

Her body flinched as large rough hands gripped her shoulders, pulling her up to her feet. She still held her face in the wadded up blanket, her little body wracking with sobs. Even with her eyes covered, she could feel her uncle's mass crouched in front of her, the warm breath of whiskey and cigarettes pouring over her with each of his tense exhales.

"Why would you run from your Uncle Reed, sweetie?" he said. "Huh?"

The cold of the forest was beginning to creep up through Abigail's legs and her uncle's hands provided no comfort. They were tense and chilled, exuding only a malicious energy she found no warmth in - they were compassionless, and feeling his fingers wrap around her arms sent her thoughts tumbling through the memories of the previous few nights.

"Abigail."

She lifted her watery eyes from the blanket, reality misshapen from the tears.

He wasn't smiling anymore, only watching. Sweat was glistening on his neck as he sat in the rotten moonlight. His eyes appeared as black pools of violence, staring directly into hers. The dark is where this thing that once was her uncle came from, where it hunted. Or, had her uncle always been this creature? It didn't matter now. The thing had her in its grasp and, out here in the dark, this was its territory.

His grip tightened around Abigail's arms and her body shook. "What," he started in a low tone, "the fuck makes you think you could drag me all the way out here at this time of the night?"

She cried from the pain in her arms when her uncle squeezed them to emphasise the words he spoke. She tried to bury her face back into the blanket once more, but he stopped it at halfway. She clung to the cloth, but he ripped it from her little hands, tossing it behind him into the blackness of the woods. Abigail's fingers throbbed from the yanking force and she cried out.

Uncle Reed's grip softened. "Ah, sweetheart," he said, letting go of her arms. "Abigail, sweetheart... Sweetheart." He sighed and looked at the ground, glancing at her sandals, then slithering his eyes up the rest of her. "You know I just want to take care of you, right?"

She didn't believe him, and as he stood up, she wanted to run. In some instinctual corner of her young mind - in the dark recesses of genetic fight-or-flight - she knew she needed to run, but her feet felt like they were made of thick tree trunks, with knobby roots burrowing into the ground underneath her.

Why would the angels have lied to her? Had she done something wrong? Did she not follow their instructions correctly?

Her uncle reached a tense hand up to her shoulder and traced down the flesh of her bare arm, the callous on his index finger scraping her skin as he did. Abigail's eyes were watery and blurred her vision, but in the dark blurriness, she could see his other hand fidgeting with the zipper of his pants, shaking with a savage impatience.

She had been here before and she knew what was going to happen next. The angels weren't coming for her this time, just as they had never been there any other time. They had tricked her and now Uncle Reed was angry and she was terrified.

The zipper of his pants was undone now and he reached behind her. His sweaty palm slid to the center of her back, then snaked down further and lifted her dress, reaching into her underwear.

Abigail closed her eyes and sobbed into her hands in anticipation of what her uncle was about to do. He was going to put things inside of her again - things that scratched and stretched and tore at her insides.

Heat washed over her as he crouched down in front of her, his sweaty face creeping close to her ear. A grizzly cooing leaked from his lips like grease. "Oh, Abigail. You shouldn't have run off like that." His nose brushed against her cheek. "You wouldn't want Uncle Reed to tell Aunt Cheryl about how you've been a bad girl, would you?" He sniffed her neck, then lapped his tongue across the trails of tears on her cheek. She could hear him suck his tongue back into his mouth, a guttural growl billowing out of his throat.

And then he stood up, a large hand grabbing Abigail's hair to the scalp, and she whimpered as he pulled her up against him.

"Now you listen to me and you listen good, you little bitch." Venomous words oozed from his mouth above her. "Don't you ever fucking run like that again, or I'll make you wish you died with your parents. You understand me?" His grip on her hair tightened and he leaned down to her ear. "This could've been much easier. You are the reason this is happening. This is your fault!"

He threw her to the ground then, and she landed below the large exposed root she he had hidden under before. Her elbow scraped against the damp dirt, accompanied by stinging pain that shot up her arm. Behind her, Uncle Reed's belt clinked and rattled as it was being undone. She heard him spit, followed by a repeated slick sound. She had grown to despise that sound as it was always followed with him putting something painful inside of her.

They were supposed to be here.

The angels were supposed to save her.

In that moment, she wanted to be back in the car with her parents. This was a nightmare from which there was no escape... What was the point in living if her life had been reduced to a constant suffering at the hands of a supposed loved-one? Where was she supposed to go?

Abigail lay on the ground, her face buried in her bare arms. The scraping of one of her uncle's rough hands moved from the calf of her left leg up to behind her knee, then up the back of her thigh. She felt the mass of her uncle's body hovering over her, and when he began to reach once more into her underwear -

Crack.

In the black distance behind them, a branch snapped somewhere near the forest floor. Abigail heard her uncle's movements freeze with a sharp intake of his breath, his hand slowly sliding out from under her dress. She could still feel him hovering over her back as he remained still.

Mmmmmrrrrrrrrrrrr...

A bizarre sound, like a moan or a hum of some kind, creeped out of the dark of the woods. Abigail felt the mass above her move back, and she went silent. A moment later, she glanced up from her arms.

Her uncle was scanning the dark behind him like an owl in the night, silently stuffing something back into the front of his pants. His hands quietly zipped up his jeans and he cleared his throat.

"Who's there?" he called out.

There was no answer but a silence that seemed to last an eternity. And then there was a shuffling in the bushes to their right, on the other side of the small trail that led back to the gate.

Her uncle's eyes snapped toward that direction.

In the deep recesses of her mind, Abigail felt an echoing of some kind; a small static tickle beyond the perception of her physical senses. It was a gentle communication and she felt an airy presence all around her, next to her or inside of her. She wasn't sure where it was coming from. And then she heard a voice deep in her consciousness.

Don't be afraid. Let's go up, okay?

It was the voice of the angels. She had heard the voice before, when they had visited her bedroom window. She hadn't been able to see them before but could hear their collective speaking, a chorus of barely audible wind-chimes singing together. They didn't speak the language her parents had taught her, but she understood the angels nonetheless. There was a feeling to it that she picked up on as easy as picking up on a catchy show tune or a new board game. And now they were doing the same thing.

Still lying on the damp ground in the dark, with her uncle standing just a few feet away, distracted by the sounds in forest around them, Abigail nodded her head, unsure of if the angels could see her doing so.

And then she was staring down at her uncle from above.

Abigail's feet were dangling, the cool night air caressing her them through her sandals. She glanced to either side, feeling bark under her hands and legs, and realized she was sitting on a branch, high above where she was just a moment before. Her stomach lurched with vertigo from the transition, but she remained calm even as a few more tears streamed from her eyes.

To the right, on the branch next to her, was a black amorphous mass. Abigail couldn't make out much of the details in the dark, but, against the dismal yellow moon beams coming through the canopy, she saw its form gyrate and manipulate and bend in each moment, constantly moving in waves of contractions and protrusions. One such protrusion slowly extended out, like an arm or appendage of some kind, and rested gently against her back.

We won't let you fall. Don't worry.

Another slight nudge rested on the left side of her back and she turned toward a second formless entity sitting on the branch to her other side. Somehow, she knew they spoke the truth. It was an instinctive recognition by some deep-seated connection she couldn't describe. Everything in her blood told her that she could count on them to keep her safe. They had no wings, nor did they appear like people, but Abigail knew she had found the angels. Silent tears pooled in her eyes and she wiped them from her cheeks as they fell.

There was some more scurrying in the bushes at the base of one of the trees below and Abigail's attention returned to her uncle. He was standing still, his head moving in hawk-like motions as he scanned the dark ahead of him. Moonlight was now stabbing through holes in the canopy above and there was a breeze picking up from further off in the forest, rustling thousands of distant needles against each other.

"Who's there?" he questioned the dark again.

There was no response and Abigail watched in silence as her uncle turned back toward the tree root that he had thrown her under.

"Abigail?" he called out in a harsh whisper. "Fuck!"

He took a step toward the trail that led back to the house, crunching twigs under his boot. And then Abigail noticed that the few moonbeams that served as the only light through the canopy above went dark. Something was blotting out the moon's light from the sky. She felt something massive, a type of weight, hovering over her, somewhere in the dark above.

There was a small nudge from the protrusion resting on her back.

Can you close your eyes for a moment, Abigail?

The wind-chimes were beautiful and Abigail nodded, closing her eyes. At the exact moment her lids closed, a flash of light cracked beyond them, as if someone had just snapped a picture with the flash on. The smell in the air turned immediately from pine needles to something like smoke or electricity - an unearthly musk that assaulted the senses.

A shrill guttural moan came from the forest floor below. Abigail's eyelids slowly parted to see that her uncle had fallen to his knees, grasping at his own face and eyes.

"Oh, god. My eyes... I can't see!" he cried. "Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck."

Her uncle sat back on his calves, rubbing furiously at his face in an attempt to wipe away whatever had happened to his sight, whimpering like a child. His hands were shaking and there was desperation in his frantic movements.

"Abigail!" he cried out.

In the dark below, Abigail could barely see shapes, not unlike the angels that sat next to her now, materializing from the dark depths of the surrounding forest. She counted seven of them, and they formed a circle around Uncle Reed, the darkness making them appear to be shape-shifting and roiling in place like living pools of oil.

Uncle Reed's whimpering had stopped and he was blinking rapidly, his eyes scanning through the darkness around and the ground underneath him. Abigail wasn't sure if he could yet see again, but as one of the formless shapes pooled through a small bush to complete the circle, her uncle stopped and squinted out into the darkness toward the noise.

"Wh-who's there? Abigail, is that you?" There was panic in his voice now.

A low hum crescendoed in from the corners of reality, laying low on the spectrum of sound, barely audible. Then there was a light from above. It appeared like a spotlight having just been turned on and directed toward her uncle, as if he was the star of some circus show and she was sitting up in the dark cheap-seats. A bright circle of light lay on him, stretching twenty yards in all directions. The angels below stood just beyond the precipice of light, in the black of the forest, and were all but invisible in contrast to the lit forest floor surrounding her uncle.

He looked up, his eyes squinting between the fingers of his raised hand. Abigail glanced up as well, toward the source of light.

An orb or circular aperture sat perfectly still, floating in the darkness above, with a visible beam emitting down at her uncle below. The light was yellow-gold and, above it, Abigail could not see the stars through the canopy. The light was attached to something massive. It was attached the weight she had felt earlier, hovering just above the trees.

Abigail watched as her uncle rose to his feet, mumbling something as he looked back to the ground. he placed a careful step toward the trail that could be seen at near the edge of the spotlight around him. The knees of his pants were soaked and dirty, and he snagged his shoe on a twisted fallen branch, stumbling, but managing to stay on his feet.

"Just... Just head back... Just head back," he kept mumbling to himself as he took his slow steps. His gait was rigid and his hands were shaking. Abigail wasn't sure who her uncle was talking to.

The circle of light shrunk in that moment, collapsing to a small circle around him and his steps ceased. The beam focused directly on him, shrouding the rest of the surrounding forest back into darkness. His eyes looked up once more toward the source of light with an expression of desperation and fear.

A second source of light flashed. Abigail smelled the electricity again and watched her uncle fall onto his back, face up, still barely surrounded by the tight spotlight. His chest was rising and falling rapidly and a wheeze of desperation rode each breath he took. The beam of light pulsed and wavered, growing in intensity as her uncle's wide eyes stared up in a type of horror Abigail had never seen before.

There was a mechanical grinding from above, and the spotlight expanded back to its original circumference.

Standing in a circle around Uncle Reed were the angels.

Now that the light exposed them, Abigail saw that they were no longer black amorphous shapes. Instead, she could see their true forms. They appeared like bulbous brown sacks, skin like wrinkled dark leather, with no facial features. They were in the shape of upside-down tear drops, each of them a large orb coming down to a point at the forest floor, almost floating like sagging lumpy balloons. Underneath the wrinkled skin, things moved and churned like bones and muscles, rolling just under the flesh and, even up here, she could hear the sounds like knuckles cracking and liquids gurgling from the ones sat next to her.

Something pinched the back of Abigail's neck in that moment and she recoiled. When she reached her hand back, her fingers barely felt something burrowing into the skin of the back of her neck. Tears welled up again in her eyes as she glanced toward the angel to her right.

We're sorry, Abigail. You have nothing to be afraid of. It's just so we can find you again later.

And then she was back down on the forest floor, back under the root she had hidden under before. She was just outside of the circle of light that her uncle was lying in, surrounded by the other angels. The transition was instantaneous and jarring, so much so that she fell back onto her behind holding her head.

"Oh, god!" her uncle managed to shout out of his paralyzed mouth. It shook Abigail from her daze and, when she looked back to the circle of light, she saw that the angels were dancing. Each one of them was swaying side to side, their wrinkled brown skin coiling and undulating. Up above, at the source of the light - whatever thing it was attached to - the hum from beyond the canopy grew louder and, along with the hum, a slight breeze picked up, rustling needles and branches in the surrounding trees.

mmmmmmmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

The angels below all swayed in unison. The wind's whisper morphed to a howl with the branches and leaves of the shrubs just around Abigail beginning to rattle. Uncle Reed was still lying on his back on the forest floor. His arms were outstretched in such a way that he appeared restrained by some invisible force. His eyes were moving from angel to angel, and he was sobbing heavily, shaking his head back and forth.

"Oh, god. What the fuck!" he cried, teeth gritted and saliva spitting. "What the fuck! No, no, no!"

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

The hum was growing louder. Abigail could feel the vibration in her bones.

And then there was a loud mechanical click, like a great metal switch was flipped, and the light from above turned to a deep red. Uncle Reed, the dancing angels and the forest floor were lit with a burning spotlight. Abigail could see the glistening tears streaming down her uncle's face, a mammalian fear contorting his features into an expression she had never seen him use. The angels had gone perfectly still, floating on the wrinkled tips of their tear-drop shapes. Their masses were dark in the red light, ominous and silent, and fear was crushing Abigail's bones.

And then the light went purple, accompanied by another loud chunky mechanical sound. The damp leaves of the forest floor made visible by the light glistened with a beautifully harrowing glow.

Click! And then green.

Click! And then blue.

Red.

Purple.

Green.

Blue.

Red. Purple. Green. Blue.

The kaleidoscopic strobe pulsed and the colors changed in succession one after another, over and over, and the loud clicking sound was happening faster and faster. The hum in the background was reverberating, pulsing in sync with the shifting colors.

MMMMmmmmMMMMMMMMmmmMMMMMMMMmmmMMMMM.

Red. Purple. Green. Blue. Red. Purple. Green. Blue.

And then Uncle Reed was standing, or hanging, as if being held up by an invisible rope attached to the center of his chest, feet underneath him resting limply against the ground. His arms were shaking at his sides, his face toward the lights above. The rolling colors reflected in his frightened eyes and the veins on the sides of his neck were bulging. His body was tense as if he were resisting the unknown pull, and Abigail could only imagine what dark miracle or magic was causing her uncle to float like that.

And then the lights stopped. The mechanical clicks and loud humming from above ceased and, once again, her uncle, the angels and the forest floor were bathed in a deep red.

Only the gentle breeze could be heard. The angels were floating still and menacing. From where Abigail sat, there were two angels in front of her but, in between them and across the circle of light, she could see one of them directly on. Abigail watched from the darkness, just outside the light as something was beginning to happen on the other side of her floating uncle.

A slit appeared in the skin of the angel across the circle of light from her. The slit extended from the very top of the bulb to the base of the wrinkled point below it, as if some invisible knife had carved down the front of it. Out of the center of the cut, something was wriggling - black glistening digits that wormed their way out of the sack - and pulling the flesh open.

Abigail's heart sank in horror.

The folds of exposed pink flesh flayed back, and rising out of the mound of gore was a hideous creature: two large black eyes, like puddles of oil, sat in a crested skull of bone, with a hollowed nasal cavity underneath and rows upon rows of brown needle-like teeth underneath that. A slick layer of effluence covered the entirety of the creature, the same substance that coated the inner walls of the pod, glistening in the red light from above. Boney, rigid arms unfurled out of the slick heap, fingered with black burnt appendages. They splayed out in the air above the creature, like some sort of signal, and then began to sway back and forth.

Slits appeared on the other angels and each one of them unraveled themselves in their birthing processes. The brown sacks were not their bodies - they were vessels of some kind, like the stroller Abigail's mother used to roll her around in when she was younger. All of the angels in the circle had unfurled themselves from their sheaths of wrinkled skin. Each one of them had raised their dripping, skeletal arms and joined in a synchronous dance once more. Abigail watched in horror as they swayed silently in the red light, and the moment seemed to stretch forever.

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM -

The horn-like humming returned, shattering the silence. The leaves and branches of the shrubs and bushes were being windswept once again and then her uncle was floating off of the ground. There were no strings or rope, no platform raising him from the forest floor. A force Abigail could not see was carrying him up into the source of the red light. The heat of the beam was intensifying, and she could feel the warmth against her skin from where she stood. She watched her uncle's eyes turn a blood red, and she heard a sizzling noise as the skin of his face and neck began smoking.

Over the roaring hum, another grinding mechanical sound screeched from above. As her uncle got closer to the light, a hole opened up in the center of the orb of red - an orifice of some kind. Abigail was reminded of an eye - the red light around the black center hole - as she watched her uncle's head disappear into its pupil, muffling his suffering screams. Then his shoulders were sucked in, his arms, hands, legs and finally his feet disappeared into the red eye.

Accompanied by yet another metallic grinding, the black center of the orb shrunk, condensing into a dot before finally disappearing. The red orb glared down, whole once again.

Abigail cried into her hands. Only for a moment had she buried her face in her palms before the humming stopped. She sobbed heavy breaths as the sounds of the forest faded into nothingness, and then she returned her eyes ahead.

The red spotlight was gone and the wind had stopped. The angels were nowhere in sight. The electrical smell was fading and the forest was not as dark as it had been. Beams of moonlight peered through the canopy once again and only the rustling of the very tops of the evergreens could be heard as a massive weight above Abigail faded into the sky beyond.



The sliding glass door slid to a close and Abigail locked it behind her as she made her way back into the living room, then into the dark hallway towards the spare room that she slept in. All of the lights were off. The house was silent.

She reached the spare room and the floor creaked beneath her step. For the first time in what had seemed like a hellish eternity, the sound didn't scare her. It seemed to roll right through her and she was left without the anxiety of the impending abuse from her uncle.

Images of him floating in the red beam of light flashed in the dark of her mind.

Abigail shut the door behind her, tossing her damp blanket onto the bed. She slipped out of her sundress and shook the sandals off of her feet, scooting them underneath the bed before laying down. As she draped the blanket over herself, she pulled the fabric up to her chin and turned to face the window. Her hand reached back to the nape of her neck, where her fingers glided over the bump in her skin that was sensitive to touch.

Abigail's big toe nudged out from under the sheet to once more find the hole at the end of her blanket. Outside the window, the black trees of the woods beyond the fence appeared like jagged rips in the starlit night sky. The yellow moon sat high above and the distant stars behind it twinkled in the heavy abyss. Her eyes closed, her hand still on her neck. She could still hear Uncle Reed's screaming. In her mind's eye, she still saw the nightmarish faces of the angels and she could still hear their voices, the gentle wind-chimes tinkling with one another:

It's just so we can find you again later.

7 comments:

  1. this is an extremely powerful story and the subject matter handled very well
    it´s impossible to imagine what goes thru a child´s mind when they´re victims of abuse, but this is dealt with very well here. Abigail clung onto the only thing she could think of when her uncle came again and it helped her and would so so again.
    really well done

    Mike MMcC

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    1. Thank you very much. That means the world to me.

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  2. A compelling story that has the courage to brave heart breaking and disturbing terrain with sensitivity and empathy for the child's point of view.
    Thank you,
    Ceinwen

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  3. Fascinating story. The superb amount of detail in the writing allows the reader to experience the author's vision with little effort, without overdoing it. Quite a relieving-but-ominous ending.

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  4. A compelling piece of magic realism. Sumptuous literary equivalents of CGIs and skillful use of word sound. A reign of terror brought to and end; thank goodness! ...Hope the angels don't need that homing node!
    B r o o k e

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  5. A very well written story that sees the world through the complicated and unexplicable view point of a child, a challenge to any writer. Jordan pulled it off. But ominous, indeed.

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  6. Gorgeous piece of work, with a MOST satisfying conclusion!

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