“Over and over, track on repeat. There’s something wrong with me…” Icon for Hire
In our world, disappearing is considered a good thing, and is almost expected. These people are thought to be lucky. The higher powers, even above our town, have chosen them. We are not sure what they are chosen for, we just know that they will never return. We realize that anywhere is better than the world that we belong to. It is to our benefit to assume that they are in a much better situation that is the poverty that is all we have seen. A few hope that they are set to better our community. Most of us know that they cannot.
When a person does disappear, the family is given a check every month. As if ‘x’ amount of dollars could compensate for the possible death of a loved one. Those higher powers figure that we will just go along with whatever they do to us. And we do, because we have no other options. We have lost so much already, that even the thought of striking back makes us weaker. Even we make ourselves weaker.
A few weeks ago, in the bakery around the corner, two men started a brawl over the last loaf bread. A brawl that resulted in one of them no longer needing bread. They didn’t need air either. Nearly a dozen people sat back and watched. Not one person made any movement or notion to end it. I’m sure most hoped both would kneel over, and they would walk away with it. We have dragged ourselves past the point of desperation. Yet, there is barely anyone left to know, much less care.
Hey, at least someone escaped this town.
The last person to pull a disappearing act, it was the first time that anything drastic had happened to try and locate the missing person. He was the mayor’s son, and we searched for days- for anything. Even something as simple and as small as a piece of his hair that had not been there before. When we –of course- found nothing, our mayor went ballistic. There were times when we questioned our decision of electing him to a council position. Still, there was no one else who wanted the position. We all know that the stress isn’t worth it. There is little to no profit in being in control of a town that cannot pay taxes. Every penny has become sacred to us over time.
Our town is full of ramshackled homes that have been destroyed as long as any of us can remember. Most of our roofs have been torn off, and then patched quickly, and sloppily. There is only dirt on the ground. In other places, there are rumors of a rare gravel they called ‘roads’. The idea is a big metal device and ‘drive’ on them. Here, we are lucky if we have glass on our so-called windows. Several people have rectangular holes with no filling.
I walk down one of those dirt paths now, my bag of candy tucked in beneath my jacket. I had to save up for a year or so for something as delectable as candy. The only things more pricey are house repairs and chocolate.
It is then that I pull a sucker out of my bag of gold, and pop it into my mouth, that a house to my left begins to cave in. I lift my eyes to glance over at it. I’m surprised it managed to last as long as it did. The walls were already ashes, the roof was rotted everywhere, and anywhere you looked. It has not had windows since long before I was born. All that is left is a powder so white, it looks as if the walls have been reduced to snow.
I stop in my tracks, running my sunburnt and damaged hand through my equally as damaged coppery hair, flinching when my lacerated hands snag at knots. I stare at the building for a second, a small stab of pain digging at my chest. I can feel ordinary pain. A scrape, a bruise, or even slaps to the face, obviously yet I cannot feel even the slightly heartache. When my mother was suddenly gone, I felt a slight pinch, yet I felt mostly the alarming feeling of nothingness. Not the nothingness of denial, but the feeling of not caring. I can imagine her bright blue eyes that always had a sort a glimmer to them- same as my own. Yet I do not feel pain. I can that I should, but even when I do all I can to force myself to try, I still cannot feel anything.
I cannot recall any feelings of terror, nor abandonment. It is impossible to conjure up the memory of a time where I have felt happy, kind or even excited. I have never been surprised by anything, despite a dozen or so of attempts. I have never felt the reassuring feeling of anything- much less love.
There is something wrong with me. The thought causes me to flinch again. A heavy weight of a reminder that despite knowing how the basics of every emotion feel, and how badly I want to feel them, these emotions evade me. I get a taste of everyone, yet a taste will never be good enough to me.
I shake my head, and suddenly can feel my mind tearing itself back to the moment it so desperately craves to remember. Despite anything, and everything of me trying to avoid it, it returns far too often.
To the last conversation we had together.
Erik was staring at me, his eyes darting faster than any human could. He would focus on an object for a fraction of second, and then his eyes would dart away again. I don’t remember him being like this often, far more often than not, he was normal. Yet for some particular reason, he was concerned that day.
“Erik, are you okay?” the words were tentative, as if not wanting to upset him, yet some part of me needing to know. Something was wrong, and he hadn’t automatically told me. Something extremely un-Erik-like. His eyes flickered to me for a fraction of a second, before bouncing away again. His hands were set palm down on top of the grey and white table between us, yet they practically shook the cheap plastic.
He nods, roughly, and then continues his darting act. Every time someone would come near our table, his eyes would watch them, only to flick away as soon as they were no longer near. As if he were evaluating them, determining whether or not he could take them down if it were to come to it. He sighs, his eyes flickering again to me, and then rebounding automatically, opening his mouth to speak, but then closing it.
“Erik, you can trust me. I’m safe, you know that!” I try to tell him, his eyes stay on someone to our left for a moment, glittering in the blue, green, and yellow flashing lights around us. He doesn’t look at me when I talk, “We’ve known each other since kindergarten, or even before that, I’m not sure. But you can trust me.”
He nods, his hands shaking a bit less, but then shaking again. His entire body starts to quiver slightly this time. “I know I can trust you, I just don’t feel like I can trust anyone right now.”
“Why?” I snapped, but when he flinched, I put my hand out to lay it on top of his, “Why couldn’t you tell me about your concerns? I’m here for you.”
“Because, if I tell you, they might start to close in.” he muttered, I expect him to elaborate, but he doesn’t. He just continues to let his eyes flicker around the room for a second, before he sighs, yet nothing else comes out of his mouth.
“Who’s going to close in?”
“My dad’s men.”
“He’s been having me followed, only this time, they’re more fierce and pushy. I’ve seen them more than usual. With a knife, or-or a gun, or something other than that. I’m afraid this time, someone even more dangerous is after me.”
“You’re a teenage boy. What would someone want with you?”
“A few towns over, the mayor needed dad’s help, as well as the town’s help. Apparently they’ve been having disappearances for a few years now, and they want it to stop. They asked dad to send a few of us over to help with the problem, insisting that they would help us back-“
“Help by what?” I demanded, cutting him off, “We wouldn’t be any help! All we have are a few skinny and worthless people less. We’re not even help to ourselves-“
He cut me off right back, ignoring me, as if I had never spoken, “When dad refused, they threatened him, told him that he was going to lose everything he loved. At the time, I didn’t think they meant everything, but now I’m starting to believe that they meant everything… including me. And now dad’s having me followed so that they don’t catch up.”
“Erik that’s ridiculous.”
“Fine. If you think it’s stupid, maybe I’ll just leave.” Erik stated. He stood up, throwing his hands against the table and stormed out. At the time, I didn’t even try to stop him, I just let him go.
Now, looking at the ruins of a place he once called home, I know something that I didn’t know before. They really wanted to take everything, Erik, his home, his father’s job, and even his mother. Ruthlessly.
I never see him again.
I stare at the building in front of me, my eyes alternating between focusing and losing all control I have ever them. I take a step towards it, my heart hammering in my chest. Erik was found of his house. It was so beautiful back when it was still held rock-solid to its foundation. It’s a shame our mayor let it go to waste after he was gone. It had so much potential, and his wife loved it. She loved her life here. She loved everything about San Antonio.
A sudden rush of exhaustion washes over my body, so I stop where I am, and sit on the ground. I tuck my feet under me. There have been times where I have nearly broken down over him being gone. Until this sudden, eerie feeling of calm washes over me. This relief I now know isn’t the relief of it not being me, but the relief that he is finally where he belongs. Confusion, one of the emotions I have always felt in full, shrouds Erik in its air.
As I am sitting there, thinking through everything, the sun takes a sudden dip behind a cloud. I glance up, but it is still glittering above me. A hand slams over my mouth, and stupidly, I attempt to scream despite it. Of course, nothing comes out. I struggle as long as I can, until something slams into the back of my head, and the scenery around me spins for a sickening moment.
I never see the person, yet it will not be long before I know this person better than I know myself.
And Houston, we have a problem!