Dallas doesn’t give the kitchen so much as a passing glance as he flies through it; it may as well be a hallway. When his parents told him about Johnny’s demise at the hands of the burglar, they didn’t tell him all of the grisly details – how his head was caved in like a feral caveman swung a wooden club into it, how a bit of his hair was missing and likely stuck on the murderer’s weapon, how he showed no signs of fighting back because he was so piss drunk – only that he died right here on the dirty kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator. Johnny spent a lot of time on that kitchen floor, more time than he knew Dallas knew about. Dallas spent a lot of time locked in his bedroom when the Hinton family lived in this house, but the walls aren’t soundproof. He heard the yelling and the screaming. He heard the hitting and the whipping. He heard the falling, and the kicking which usually followed it, and then the weeping which usually followed them both.
With one foot on the first basement step, Dallas remembers that he was supposed to check for the coaster, too. He turns to go back, then asks himself, “Am I really going to do favors for my dead brother I saw in a weird dream? Is that really what my life’s come to?”
With the coaster in his pocket, Dallas stands up and brushes the dust off his knees. It falls to the floor in clouds – apparently the new owners of this house don’t clean up much. Whatever, not Dallas’s problem. Dallas’s problem may or may not be waiting for him in the basement. Off he goes.
Boxes are stacked from the floor to the ceiling. Unlabeled, partially collapsed cardboard boxes packed like a hoarder packs plastic bags into a drawer, each and every one of the things full of Johnny’s old belongings, plus whatever crap Dally and his parents left behind before the surprise move.
“Jesus, I don’t even know where to start…” Dallas mutters to himself, but it comes out louder than he meant it to. Just loud enough to be heard by the presence at the top of the stairs.
“You can start by getting the fuck down on your knees. Now!” Dallas starts to turn around, then he hears a course “STOP!” slap across his face like his father’s belt across Johnny’s shirted back, usually when Johnny wasn’t looking. “Don’t turn, don’t you look at me! Get down on your knees and put your hands behind your head!”
Dallas stops and gets down on his knees, then puts his hands behind his head.
The man comes down the staircase slowly, exaggerating every step. He walks like he’s at the end of a long journey; each time a foot lands on a creaky wooden stair, Dallas can somehow feel the metaphysical weight of it. A lot led up to this man walking down these stairs on this stormy afternoon, probably just about as much as what led Dallas to kneeling down on the floor.
“I got you now, you son of a fucking bitch. Fourth break-in in a row and you come back to the scene of the second – you must think you’re pretty clever. Let’s see how well your brain works when I bash this bottle against the back of your head!”
“Wait!” Dallas screams out, keeping his hands firmly clasped behind his head. “I’m not a burglar, I used to live here! I’m just… fuck, I don’t even know what I’m doing here. Just… please, don’t hurt me! I’m not trying to steal anything!”
The footsteps abruptly stop. “Turn around. Stay on the floor, as you are, but turn around. Slowly.”
Investing a bit of effort into it, Dallas turns himself around whilst staying on his knees. He sees a silhouette of a man dressed in dark gray sweatpants and an even darker hooded sweatshirt. One of the man’s arms ends in a bottle, the other ends in the hem of the sleeve, as if he only has one hand.
“What’s your name, son?” the man asks calmly as the tension begins to thin.
“Dallas,” answers Dallas with a wobble in his voice. “Dallas Hinton. M-my family used to own this house, my um… my older brother is the one who got murdered. But I suppose you already knew that.”
The man folds his arms. The bottle sticks out of the top of the fold like a cigar out of a seedy businessman’s mouth. “I should, I’m the one who found him. What are you doing here? And don’t lie to me, Dallas – I’m a world-renowned psychologist, I can tell when I’m being lied to.”
After gulping loud enough to send a chill down his own spine, Dallas says, “Well… this is probably going to sound really, really crazy, but I… I had a dream. A really strange, vivid dream on my flight up here. I saw my brother, he asked me to come back here and look for a couple things for him, a coaster and a uh… and a dagger. I found the coaster – it’s in my back pocket, I’ll show you if you don’t believe me – but not the dagger. He said it might not be in the house, but that I would find it.” Dallas sighs. “Whatever that means.”
“Where was the coaster?” the silhouetted man asks, keeping his arms folded.
“It was underneath the refrigerator. I’m not a criminal, Mister, I just…” he sighs again, the air heavy with defeat. “Even before I had the dream I told myself I was going to come back here, but now that I’m here, I’m not even sure why I came. I’m just a kid, man, I’m just a lost kid in a young adult’s body. Until I came back to Jersey today I’ve been coasting by on my parents’ dime because that’s all I know how to do, that’s all they taught me. Honestly, that’s all they know how to do, my mom’s Mom is loaded. After they got married, my parents never had to work a day in their life. I don’t know what I’m doing, man, I… please don’t hurt me or call the cops, okay? I’ll leave, I’ll even let you keep the coaster if you want it, I just…”
Dallas doesn’t continue, as he doesn’t know what to say.
The man doesn’t say anything either, at least not at first. He merely stands there with the lost boy in his shadow, letting his overworked and exhausted brain process all this. Then, “All right. Get up.”
When Dallas looks up, the man’s already climbed two stairs. “Wait, what?”
“I said get up,” says the man without turning around. “Come with me, I think I know where your knife is.” He stops walking. “Your dagger, rather. Now come on, we don’t have much time to waste. Not much at all – if it stops raining before we get there, he might hear us approaching.”
One thousand three hundred and thirteen individual questions swarm through Dallas’s mind like the bees hived up in the attic that the current owner will probably never get taken care of (this is the first time he’s come to this house since he bought it), but he gets up without a word and follows the man upstairs. They walk out the front door into the rain, and then head up the street, passing by Dallas’s car without giving it a single thought. Where these two are going they won’t need a car, not that Dallas knows that. All Dallas knows is to follow this man, and so follow the man he does, his mind as silent as his mouth.
Hello Commons, this has been the fifth subchapter of the fourteenth story from Convenient Incidents, an anthology of fifteen interconnected short stories which revolve around a man by the name of Hilter Odolf Williamson.
Convenient Incidents is part of the Third Spiral, an anthology of sorts called The Here and Now which is comprised of stories told from the various planes of Existence.
Convenient Incidents is available to read for free in its entirety on my website. Click here to check it out.
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If you like Convenient Incidents and would like to help support my work, click here and buy an autographed copy of the book (or anything else!) from my store. Alternatively, you can snag a cheaper (and unsigned) copy from Amazon by clicking here OR you can buy the ebook for even cheaper here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. Be well Commons~