And then they died.

No wait. That came later.

Sunny farm. The house was two storeys high. Old, quaint, smelled like wet dog and nicotine. The walls were brown and they bled brown when you got them wet. It was funny, I would throw wet washcloths at the ceiling when I bathed, to watch it bleed. It didn't matter; the bathwater was already tainted. Everything that came out of the faucets in that house was beige, at best, and something foul-smelling and mud-colored at worst. You had to draw the tap a few times to see if you could get something a little less tetanus-tasting, and if you couldn't, you had to settle for something out of the broken refrigerator to drink.

Like I said, it was sunny there, but in a cold way, like when sun's about to set, or when it's 4 PM and there's a thin gray film and the light is pale white and cold, and the sun looks like a molten copper penny and not like the sun should look. Even on a cloudless blue day, it was cold. This was summer. It shouldn't be that way.

Behind the house was a junkyard. I don't remember it much. I remember spikes; spiky, shining, blade-like appendages hanging out of the piles of rust like doll's limbs sticking out of the toy box. Pointing at the sky, pointing at passersby, claws and a mouth half-open and ready to bite. That's what it looked like, in that junkyard, and I suppose it should have looked like any other junkyard but it never looks like that in my memory. It wasn't the place a little girl wanted to play in and see what car gears she could find and build a Gothic dollhouse out of; I've been in some places with junkyards fun like that, and this wasn't it. It was as dead inside as everyone...

Wait, sorry. Sometimes it wanders. My mind, that is. It's like a penny, spinning round in those dry basins at the mall with the hole in the center. It's always moving towards the middle, once it falls into the pit in the first place. Sooner or later I was going to lean all the way in and let it take wouldhurt lessand the eye i would forget the way it looked when the vultures empty socket looks at me

We should have known. The sickness had already gotten to the rest of them. Did I tell you about the other people who lived there? Not in our house, of course. There was a half-moon of RVs and trailers encircling the house, pointing at it, like worshippers, like the crown of an Aztec god whose endless smile was the winding road, whose eyes were

oh god

I was sick. A lot.

Wait, I was talking about them. The people. What was left of them. I saw them, sometimes, but I don't remember faces. Or voices. I try to picture them I can't, I see empty trailers pointing accusingly at us like the metal claws climbing out of the abyssout of the junkyard. I see a woman with windswept black hair holding a windswept black cat standing there talking to us about how he lives in the barn, and I never see her again. I remember a man telling me that the pictures I drew on my paper planes changed their speed. The flags make it go faster, he said. Drawing the flag of Japan on their wings makes them crash. And, oddly enough, it did. A single red dot for the Rising Sun and the little planes, though built as well as the American or British planes, crashed themselves into the dirt, took a ninety degree turn while still at eye-level and smashed into the grass. The ground pulled what it saw as blood down towards it.

I remember the two children.

I don't remember their names. Did they have names? I don't remember. They were nice at first. We played together. He was afraid of my beetle. Did I tell you that the younger one was a little boy and I had a toy beetle that was half a foot long? It was realistically sized. (There are beetles that big.) The boy was afraid of it because he thought it was real. Maybe on their side, it WAS real. Maybe I'm the only one who didn't see it.

The girl, the big sister, showed me her baseball card collection. They showed me around their house. It was dark and brown in their house, and quiet. The television was on, but in my memories of it, it was always quiet. They introduced me to their Grandmother. Grandmother sat there in the chair in front of the quiet television with her hands hanging over the sides of the brown chair, and she never moved. I tried speaking to her, and she never answered. Where were their parents? I don't know. "Mom's away on business," the girl always said, "So I'm in charge now. I make the rules."

(Once the boy went weird inside (I think he got replaced (no one lived in that house (the parents were the first to go) anymore) by something older) and he asked me to do naughty grown-up things with him and I said 'no'.)

Then the girl got weird. She switched places with THAT BAD PERSON every day. She was nice when she was still herself. Then the ground ate her when no one was looking and put someone else in her body. Then she was mean. Meaner than I am.

"I'm in charge now," her mouth said widely, "And I say he can't play with you."

"Grandmother?!" I called for help as I hid under the table in their dark brown house. The hands hanging over the chair arms did not move. I called again and there was never a response.

"I'm going to feed you a knuckle sandwich," the girl's mouth said as the girl's body loomed over me. The fist of one arm pounded the palm of the other. The face was veildraped in shadow and the teeth grimaced at me in a snarl. I crawled and struggled my way through the winding maze-house until I escaped and I never came back and soon I never even saw them anymore.

The silver car parked in their yard had never, ever moved. ("This is my mom's car. But she's gone right now," the girl said.)

Every house was dark brown. Everything was dark brown like old dried blood. The wallpaper peeled back in the bathroom to show the old dried blood.

One day I was crying in the orchard in the cold air. I did that a lot. Before I told myself "its okay i have so many friend after all!!"

The animals were sick, too. There were twenty stray cats on the property. Yes, they seemed healthy, at first. But then you noticed they were all afraid. Thin. When I followed them in the orchard sometimes, I saw them going about their biological business, and the stool was blood-soaked. Sometimes it was nothing but blood. It looked like a smashed red cherry. They never even tried to bury it but it disappeared anyway. They just left it in the orchard grasses, where they apple trees grew. (On reflection, we shouldn't have picked and eaten those apples. They were delicious and sweet; I have never had an apple so good since then, and I always long for those exact apples from those trees again. But we shouldn't have eaten them.)

Once, a stray kitten wandered into the area. It became sick, soon. It had uncontrollable diahrrea that it didn't even seem to notice. Then it disappeared.

There was something of a greenhouse for the cats to rest and eat in. There was food and water there. The landlady, an old lady, a stereotypically crazy old cat lady, came to take care of them. I couldn't stand going in there. It smelled like death in there. It smelled like a period and old, bad milk. It smelled like a rat had crawled into a bowl of oranges and died there behind the cat food. The cats never seemed to mind.

We had two cats of our own, and they got sick after we moved there. Our cats were healthy before we got there, but once we moved into that pretty little farmhouse, the cats got sick. The fleas, I hope it was fleas, took hold of them. The reaction was bad. The cats' skin was chitinous with scabs from the uncountable bites all over them. Their stool became bloody. We tried every flea remedy we could and it never worked.

sometimes my toys disappeared from under my eyes

So we took it all with a grain of salt, but I was getting sick too. I remember staring at that ugly bathroom wallpaper for what felt like hours, holding my stomach in pain, producing nothing, never getting better, just waiting for it to end. Just staring at the off-white wallpaper with the leaves and vines, old and peeling, showing that death-smelling brownness underneath, praying to God under my breath for it to finally end. Sometimes I just curled up in the floor in front of the toilet and fell asleep there.

My nose bled, constantly, without provocation, in the best of weather. Great, heavy, gobs and drops of blood welting there on the floor, pain in my nose, crying in fear because I used to still be afraid of blood back then.

One day
I took photos of my toys
before they disappeared.
If you dropped a toy
It was eatennever coming back.

Bugs eyesso many eyes they have more eyes than people and they saw what I almost did were everywhere. There were lots of bugs. Big fat barn spiders, dust-colored spheres for asses, peppered the outer walls of the house. Fleas infested the house and sometimes I caught them crawling on me and drinking my blood. Luckily I wasn't allergic. I was already allergic to everything else (I woke up with my entire face swollen down over my eyes, my skin purple as if I'd been beaten, and I couldn't see but for a small sliver as thin as a thread. That was my tiny viewing plane of no dimensions into my old bark-colored blood-spotted room.)

Once, millions of ladybugs covered the house. It looked like the roof had been dipped in bloodstrawberry sauce yum!

The fleas disappeared in the wake of the ladybugs. Like wheat after a locust plague. The water ran too but no eclipse yet. We had plague. It couldn't get all the way through anymore. The mess was blocking it. The junkyard plugged the center of the concentric circles of tombstones and the trash in the bottom of the well kept THAT ONE down inside. I wanted to lean in one day I was going.

One day
a sour scent assaulted us. (The house, we learned, was downwind from everything.) Vultures circled the area. But they did that already. Someone had caught a skunk in a cage in the barn. They shot it and left the stinking corpse behind. No one ever came to clean it up but it disappeared anyway. I don't know who shot it.

One day a cow got out of the field and fell dead in the junkyard. It wasn't injured, they never were.

I think the ground got hungry. The junkyard pulled the animal into it to die. I told you that the half-circle of trailers point inward, but they're pointing as much to the junkyard as to the house. It's the focus point of the darkness. It's where the animals are drawn when they die. You feel a burning hot repulsion until it wants you. The center of the pit where the penny goes?!

We found out that something big had died out there when the big dead scent blew up against the house. We tried to ignore it, but it pretty much ruined every dinner for us (there were already things rotting and talking under the kitchen though). Finally with my child's innocence I became too curious. I asked to go see it. My mom obliged and took me out to the body
and the skin was moving.
She bent over onto her knees retching soundlessly as she watched the squirming stinking flesh tongue of the beast hanging out I stood over it mesmerized by the motion like a rolling ocean of white rice. The smell had blasted me so hard I didn't even notice it anymore. The body wiggled and buzzed.

Maggots.

We left and never came back. No one came to clean it up. itdisappearedanywayThe maggots cleaned it to the bones.

I found a severed head of a mole on the back porch and the body on the front porch. I took a razor blade to it. I didn't start to feel anything until I realized how soft it was. The intestines spilled out like orange noodles in a tangled wet pile. Its mouth was hanging open. So was its stomach. On opposite sides of the house. I cried and stopped looking at it until I started looking at it again every day until it was gone.

It felt good to draw blood. Killing the mole gave me a sense of GRATITUDE. The land was thankful for the sacrifice. I felt drawn towards the inside and I had to find it. So I asked my mom to take me on a walk. We were going into the fields. Further. Where it called me if we could called my name with its eyes

THAT BAD PERSON made the cattle run in fear
THE FIELDS MADE THEM FALL DOWN DEAD
not even the vultures could eat them was it really maggots that ate ?? Nothing left but Bones BLOOD ON THE GROUND IN THE WALLS ate nothing allowed to eat it belonged to the pit all of it belonged to the pit under the land in the walls
just growths like warts why it looked like blood and flesh inside why the floor ate just growths out of the land the house was a wart
Everything belonged to the pit and nothing was allowed to eat what it killed.

It was night when the stampede came. A woman appeared to corral them up and I never saw her again.

Once the food spoiled. The fridge was broken. A woman gave me fresh milk warm with borrowed warmth from the cow's teat. I got sick with the sickness of the cows. Not even the vultures eat them.

One day THAT PERSON THAT ALWAYS SAW WHAT I ALMOST DID told me to go find the middle of the pit. The junkyard blocked the flow. That's how the maggots got the body. The junkyard kept the land at bay. It couldn't stop the maggots. I asked my mom to go on a walk with me!!

It was sunny out. Hot, for once. We had to surpass the gate on the electric fence. I made it by the fence safely. It shocked my mom. Just an accident, right? We went along the path of dust carving through the tall yellow grasses (which soon turned green in a broad, bright field). I think there was a pond but sometimes it was on our left, sometimes far ahead. Sometimes it wasn't there after all.

The vultures were wheeling overhead. There were dead cattle lying without injury in the field. They were fresh enough not to smell. Fresh enough to bleed.

I looked over at one of the bodies. It was lying on its side peacefully and missing its eyes.

The bright red socket stared at me as I went by. As I looked back into it, a single line of fresh blood trickled like a tear, leaving a streak of crimson down its white face. Like a length of red yarn. Like running mascara. The socket, empty, bleeding, crying, staring, one single line of red on its face, no wounds, just no eyes.

Don't turn back. I was crying and my mom was comforting me and keeping me from looking over into it again. I made sure she knew I didn't want to go back. We continued on.

We finally entered a dark and musty forest, dark sea-green fog and moss, peaty wet ground. We had to tread carefully, keeping to the spots of high ground like we were frogs hopping on the lilypads in a pond. The ground sucked and pulled at us if we touched it where it was too low. Walking was challenging but I refused turn back.

Half-mired in the in the marshy muck, yet still pristinely gleaming, were bones. Dozens of individual bones of cattle (and more?) laying everywhere. Ribs, legs, spines, skulls, some with flesh still clinging to them (and I felt like I was walking downhill, you know how it feels when you go downhill where it gets easier the faster you go, easy to go down, to go in.) It didn't frighten me. It pulled me in. How far down did it go? I leaned in as I spun around the basin towards that hole in the center like the penny (but who tossed me in?)

It pulled me to where nothing was blocking it anymore.

I woke up in the mud. A bull's jawbone was clenched in my tiny hand. I could just barely smell blood over the thick stench of dirt and algae-green water smeared all over my body. The ground squelched like an aching stomach, pulling at the blood, cleaning me.

Gratitude.

More.

It was just like the mole (but didn't the cats kill the mole?) only better. I don't remember
except screaming soft thunks travelling up my arm as my hand fell again and again and again with approving eye the Aztec god smiles the ground drinks right up!!!

I walk away from my mother's bones. She walks beside me, her mouth smiling and talking.

My mind buzzes. My fingers tingle. I lick my face clean of mud and blood. We push open the gate. It shocks her again, and a blister forms and pops on her face. She pushes her skin over it again to cover up the open sore. We continue on and make it back to the house.

My mom's body greets my dad long enough to uphold the illusion of her continued existence. They kiss, and when she walks away, I see him make a distasteful face. I peek into the room where the body had walked into, which was the bathroom. It was slumped in the corner, ghostly (heh) white, bloodless, inanimate, rotting. The approving eyes look at me. But they're empty like that cow's empty eye sockets, I know. But I meet them and look into them and I know what I need to do. What I needed to provide was more.

I go back.

More. More. Moremoremore.

"Of course," I responded serenely.

"What?" my dad asked in confusion.

"Nothing," I said and I raised the jawbone and my hand fell and fell and fell and fell and fell and fell and fell and the vultures were never allowed to

I leaned all the way in. I let go of the buoy and sank into the sea. The open pit let me fall into it and I shared a body or five with the voice of the hungry ground and dragged my dad's body out into the woods and fed him to the land. It told me how grateful it was, speaking through his mouth.

Gratitude.
and so like I said
She was never as mean as I am.