The Fixers do not have faces, only angled shapeless things, pitch-black like the tongues of long-dead dogs that have lain in the sun for far too long. They are impossibly tall, and thin, with joints and fingers knobbed and gnarled and bare, like the branches of oak trees in autumn.
They come to what you would think are the safest places of all. In this case a gated community, where the well-to-do sequester themselves and their material things from a harsh and undue world. The Fixers do not pause for any fence, or gate, or wall built by a man, stepping over them as you would a fallen log. To them our cities are forests, our suburbs like meadows and glades, where a million little stupid things mill in and out of makeshift homes of dirt and wood, where they eat and mate and die.
Nobody could tell you why the Fixers came for Cynthia James. Some in their medieval thoughts suppose they eat children like her, which is ludicrous, for they do not take only young people, and we are all someone’s child. The best guess we have is they come to right some wrong. Their place amounts to upkeep, to tweak and shuffle and sweep away the mistakes of a fallible god. This assumes you believe a just creator would abide such creatures as them, and the alternative is a reason as vague as life.
The Fixers come in the night, because we are creatures of daylight, and in the dark we are in our homes and not on the streets. No neighbors see them as they come, for a curiosity of their being makes it so. Anytime a late-night driver, or someone having a smoke on the porch or getting a midnight snack might catch a glimpse of them, we are always preoccupied with something for just that moment, and they slip by.
Sometimes the Fixers must only reach inside a window and pluck someone out, but in Cynthia James’ case they had to venture indoors. No lock means a thing to them. There were four of them, and two stepped inside, bending down on knobby knees and brushing their heads and backs on door frame. They made their way to Mr. and Mrs. James’s bedroom, where one of the Fixers whispered something calm and ground a seed between its palms. It sprinkled the dust across their eyes, and they would have deep and enthralling dreams and no sound would rouse them for at least an hour. They seem to abhor disturbance and distraction above all else.
When Cynthia James awoke to the Fixers looming over her, sleeping dust in hand, she understandably screamed. Outside, a parked car shrieked its alarm from one end of the neighborhood to the other, ensuring nobody would hear her, as had in the past cacophonies of barking dogs or passing trains or traffic. It is these ways the Fixers use the details of our daily lives to veil themselves as tricks of light, bumps in the night and overheard suspicion.
If you could call it luck that one person did see them take Cynthia James, then feel free to call it that; his name was Henry Mills. A handful of people can see and hear the Fixers at their work, and Henry Mills across the street watched as they went into the James’s house and came back out again. Some people say they walk into the forest, but there are not forests everywhere. Some people say they descend into the earth, and that might be truer. Henry Mills saw them walk on stairs that were not there until they reached the sky.
These people who see them note, while curious or frightened, at first things go as you might expect. Cynthia James’s parents became hysterical, and for a time the streets of this sequestered place teemed with police, and news cameras, and relatives. In this case a man named Joseph Small was convicted of a kidnapping he did not commit. If such motive and evidence could be found to make a judgment of him, perhaps it is better a person like that no longer wanders free.
After a time had passed since the Fixers came, Henry Mills noticed a curious and frightful thing: all trace of Cynthia James seemed to vanish with her. Not just the physical, but the emotional too. The color returned to Mr. and Mrs. James’s faces, and they went about their lives, freer and more purposeful, and if Henry Mills ever asked them how they were, they were as fine as ever; and if he ever asked them about Cynthia, they certainly had no idea who he meant.
Henry insists he never wanted Cynthia gone, but he is sure there is a way to ‘mark’ one to be Fixed. Though he has looked since, he cannot find anything to suggest it is an occult word or ritual, and concludes the answer may lie in simple superstition. A ‘God damn you’ or ‘Go to Hell’, with the proper intent would work just as well as anything else, and it suits that the way to call the Fixers should be as benign as the ways they use to hide their work; but this is all speculation.
If one can learn anything from Henry it is to consider the tiny ways and places the Fixers show their work, and choose with prudence each word you let escape your lips. But take solace in the fact unless you are very fortunate, should you ever be passed over by the Fixers you will never remember it.
It leaves, however, many questions regarding Joseph Small, a man put in prison for a crime he cannot remember, and which no-one ever brings up. Do you suppose the Fixers will come to fix this end as well? And what exactly is the truth Henry Mills should tell?