The voice is hard as granite, but a underlyin’ tremor hides beneath the surface, ready to bust up the rock like it’s fragile as clay. Sweat and rottin’ meat flavor the air.
The kids at school used to tell stories about the meat they ate at Christmas. Ham. Turkey. Is this what Christmas smells like?
The backs of my arms stick to the carpet. I open my eyes and try to lift my hands like the man said, but a weight on my chest keeps them in place. Whatever holds me down is lighter across my stomach and heavier on my sternum. Wood and metal. The scythe. I smile. Red glue cements my curled fingers to my best friend. Like holdin’ hands. I’ll never let it go.
A gun points at my forehead. The man behind it looks worried. Maybe even a little frightened.
“You ain’t gotta be scared o’ nothin’, mister,” I say. “It’s just me an’ my friend. The bad people are gone now.”
“What the … fuck?” He shifts weight. Two others flank him. All of them wear caps that say “GBI.” The one on the right keeps the muzzle trained on my head as he reaches for the sickle. I jerk it away and scream, “No!” They all startle and lean into their guns, fingers ready to pull triggers.
“Drop the weapon,” the wide-eyed one in the middle yells. “I will shoot you if you so much as twitch.”
“Don’t take it away!” I beg. “Please, it’s my only friend. I got no one else.”
Another man walks in and eases between two of the gunmen. “Lower your weapons,” he tells them and pushes the muzzles down with a palm. The men obey. “What’s your name, young lady?”
“Is that your momma?” he gestures with his chin to my left.
Clutching the sickle, I follow his gaze across the red-stained carpet. Momma stares at me through dull, lifeless eyes. Some of her scalp is missing. I nod. “That’s her. Thought I left her in the cellar.”
He scans the room as if following a trail. He kneels beside me. “I’m Jim.”
“Are you the law?”
“Yes, Sarah. Can you tell me what happened to your momma and this man here?”
“I killed ’em. Momma tried to turn me in for what I done to Daddy. I didn’t mean to hurt the Lawman, but he was with Momma. He knew what I done. I got scared. I had to protect myself. I had to get out of this goddamn place after all I been through.” I shake my head. “Eighteen years they beat me, Jim. I just … I couldn’t take no more. I’m real sorry. I couldn’t take no more.”
A pity-tinged “Mmm” sneaks past his tight lips.
I sit up. The guns level on me. I let the scythe go. “I just wanted to be … seen.”