It was my fault.
They were all dead.
He killed them.
All of them.
I should have stopped him. I could have done something, anything. I knew what he was doing, what he had done for over sixteen years. It was only supposed to be a game. And at first, it was just that. Caleb’s game. He made it up when we were young. I was a child then. I could not see what this “game” was doing to him. I did not realize until it was too late.
Caleb was a monster!
I should have stopped him, but I was afraid. I was powerless to stop him. He was twice my size and outranked me in physical strength. Should I have tried reasoning with him? I would have had an easier time solving M. C. Escher’s Relativity. Caleb’s mind was not a place any sane person could enter. It was dark, twisted; a foul, festering void. Calling him sick was an understatement. There was no cure for what possessed him. He was simply a monster.
And I was his victim.
How was I supposed to stand up to my big brother?
I remember the first time the monster appeared. I was six years old. I fell and hurt my knee. It hurt terribly. Blood and gravel had coated my brand new stockings. Caleb took control; he took me to the basement. It was kept behind a secret door. Only a few knew where the key was hidden.
The wooden steps creaked under our feet. I remember I was shivering, my breath coming out in puffs of white. It was so cold, even before we would reach the basement. The steel door blocked our path. Luckily, Caleb had grabbed the key from the kitchen knife drawer. It unlocked with an unnerving click, but the door was heavy. Only Caleb had been able to open it.
Inside was worse. Ice could have coated the walls. I thought my skin would turn blue. Caleb said there was some sort of special cooling generator installed to keep all the meat inside fresh. We would have to walk through to enter the chopping area. It had to be warmer. Meat was hard to cut when it was frozen.
Chop, chop, chop!
Caleb loved meat. There was no other way to describe it. He wanted to become a butcher so all day long he could chop up meat. It was the family business after all. The glint of the light off the metallic blade just before he drove it into the tender animal flesh fascinated him. What he truly adored was the sickening sound the meat made when it was cleaved from the bone. He called it a symphony. Sometimes, he even splintered the bones on purpose just to heard the awful crack. Then there was the meat itself. All stained in red. Thick or thin, meat would be tender under his touch. Caleb enjoyed hacking it up the most. He would say that was the best way to make the blood splatter, so he could see that red color. He loved red.
Caleb loved it all. Yet, something was missing. No matter how often he wielded a blade, nothing felt right. Cutting up birds and cows did little to appease Caleb. He craved something more. Something forbidden.
I should have realized it then, but I was too frightened of that room.
I must have blocked it out.
I could still tell you every detail of that horrible place. The cobblestone floor and cement walls made the room completely soundproof. Hooks hung from the ceiling by steel chains, sharp and stained with blood. Most still carried large masses of meat. I hated seeing the hanging corpses swing around us. Many were stripped of skin. Some still had their heads.
Then there was the back of the room. A refrigerator that housed hearts, livers and necks, things too small to hang from a hook. An oak table with a marble slab top. The back wall that supported an arsenal of butcher’s cutlery. When we entered, there were many tools lining the cutting table: knives honed to carve the toughest hides, an electric saw meant to cut through bone, and others that are too horrible for me to talk about.
We were told not to play in there. It was too dangerous for children. Caleb sat me on top of the counter while he rummaged through the horrid looking weapons. I looked down at my knee. The cold had stopped the bleeding, but there were still several small stones embedded within the wound. Caleb returned to my side with a small carving knife. He said it would hurt, but the room was soundproof, so I could yell all I wanted.
I never screamed.
Tears pooled in my eyes when he dug the blade between my skin and each little stone. I bit my lip so hard it bled. When it was over, Caleb would not stop staring. I know now that moment was the beginning. It had all started with my tears and my blood.
My pain would become his obsession.
After that, Caleb would take me down to the basement to play his special game. He called it, “Don’t Scream.” The loser would loose a limb.
Chop, chop, chop!
The first were rats. There were traps that had been set, so the furry creatures were already dead. Sometimes Caleb brought a squirrel. As we grew older, he would buy mice from the pet shop. Then he went looking for strays, though he would spare the young ones. Not challenging enough, I suppose. When he finished with the animal, he went after me with his pocketknife. He never left a scar. He did not want to damage my perfect skin. I would quietly watch him run the blade over my fingers, hands, and arms. Once he had cut my wrist. The blood stain still marks our carpet.
Drip, drip, drip…
Red rivers coursed slowly over plains of white.
I wanted to stop.
I wanted to scream but my lungs burned in my silence. Caleb only cut the skin. He never took it from me.
Not like the others.
I could never be with someone special. Caleb would grow jealous and demand a challenge. Always there would be a scream even before the blade came into the light. One scream meant something would be taken. There was no one who could beat Caleb. No one could win.
Fingers. Toes. Arms and legs, a nose and once a tongue to silence a persistent scream. He used his favorite knife for that one. Then he took out the eyes.
Caleb liked it when I watched him work.
He would tie my wrists together with twisted rope and hang me on one of the hooks. Sometimes the ropes would be so tight that blood would run down my arms. Caleb would take hours or minutes. It would depend on what mood he was in. That was when he chose the best way to cut the meat.
Chop, chop, chop!
Why did I never runaway, or tell someone? Why did I never go to the police?
Did you think I enjoyed it? That I relished in watching each one of those poor souls being brutally mutilated before my eyes? I knew he killed them after I would pass out. He would scold me for it, then he would cut me. Caleb hated when I cried. He would hit me, then apologized the next day if I had a bruise.
I wanted to tell someone. I wanted to get Caleb help.
Do you think I never tried?
He owned me! He owned my bones, my skin. My life was his from the moment I drew breath. There was no one I could go to without Caleb finding out.
I was alone.
Caleb used to be so kind. He was a loving older brother once, long ago. He always looked out for me. At night, when I was frightened by the dark, Caleb would come to me. He held my hand and sang a song.
“You Are My Sunshine.”
He told me he would always keep me safe. I believed him once. Before my eyes opened to the truth. Caleb would hum the song when he cut me.
The one joy he felt was in pain. Something about it fascinated him. It was in the eyes, how they grew and shrank when filled with true terror. Chopping the limbs to bits. Blood splattering everywhere.
Chop, chop, chop!
Caleb brought me to the basement when I was bad. It was usually after I brought a boy home. I would be strapped to the table then. Iron coldly pierced my bare flesh. The pain was unbearable.
I wanted to hate him. For everything he had done, for the pain and all the suffering. For every life he stole to fulfill his twisted desire.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not hate him.