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When They Come For You

by

Daryl Morazzini
2nd Place 2010 Emerging Writer Award

 

 

 
     
   

 

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“WHEN THEY COME FOR YOU,” HE SAYS LIKE SOME KIND OF JUNGLE GUIDE, “YOU JUST HAVE TO GO WITH THE MAN WHO TAKES YOU.” He is no older than twelve or thirteen, a big kid to me.

His is a veteran face. Every tensed muscle illustrating that whatever it is I am doing here, in this basement bathroom, with this boy, concerns a deadly seriousness. He hasn’t moved much, other than to stand up from the crouching position he was in when I found myself tossed into here. Still, the knowing, fearless, look in his eyes, eyes, which have seen some horrors, like me, eyes summing me up, and sizing me down, manage to pass on hard-earned experience. I am not sure whether to be scared of him or to listen to what he is telling me. My danger sense cannot get a good read on him.

“Okay, kid?” he adds.

His mouth pursed, eyelids raised high, showing both fear and intensity. The light red freckles on his face, the early lines of maturity beyond their age, like a treasure map that he followed to this dead end, beckons me to read the destination, of how he got there first, where he has been. He stands in front of the dark brown sink, wearing faded blue jeans and a blue pullover, leaning on the tomb-like cabinets, a seasoned soldier of our dark misfortunes, cocky and cool.

I move forward to check the door. “It’s locked from the outside.” The boy says to me. I check it anyway. “I told you, they have to come and get you,” he restates, with more force in his voice. My heart is racing, loud, I am sure he can hear it pounding. Older boys, I have learned, take advantage of fear.

I try the door again. A hollow, brass-colored doorknob jiggles and shakes in my hand, the door does not move one inch. The older boy sighs. I have to get away from him. The boy taps me firmly on the back, “Kid, kid, don’t let them hear you trying to get out. Don’t make them mad.” I pause and stop shaking the doorknob. A jagged nervous rush tickles down my chest. I let go of the handle. My hands extended, as if the knob was made of glass and I was praying it would not fall from its pedestal.

In the distance, the booming sound of Disco throbs and pounds like tribal drums. The hollow doors of the bathroom tremble with each rhythmic call and response. Everything in this room shakes: toothbrushes in their holders, bottles of shampoo on the tub’s edge, a porcelain frog smiles from on top of the toilet. The small Disney’s Jungle Book sipee-cups, by the side of the sink, jump and dance in their holder. Nothing is still in this room.

A faint shuffling and scraping sound is beginning to emanate between us. I can’t tell exactly where it is coming from. Something is trying to get out, or be unseen, a little of both, so very near to me.  At first, I mistook it for the rasping of my pounding heart. I look at my new friend. “Stupid,” he said, and then kicked the cabinet. I became worried he could see I was scared. I hoped he wouldn’t kick me.

“When they come for you, the man will take you to another room. And do not try to hide. They, the worst ones, like that too much, and you will want to go with someone who treats you nice.”

I swallow hard. My throat is stiffing up. Tears of terror trying to force their way here. “Where do they take you?”

“To one of the rooms upstairs.”

I hear men laugh. Through the Disco music I hear their hyena-like laugh, then a group of other men laughing right behind that, some deep, gruff, roaring. Sometimes conversations sweep past the door, circling like great vultures drawing close and then flapping away. Glass tinkles, billiard balls strike into each other, a chair slides across a wooden floor. I hear everything now, my keen hearing developed over the last two years of my life, a slow suffering acclimation to disturbance, my first line of defense. I listen to the sounds beyond the door, above my head. I sit down on the cedar brown rug, fold my legs beneath me, and wrap my hands around my tight waistline, my brown slacks and striped 70’s shirt from Bradlees, barely keeping me warm.

Someone knocks. I jump. The boy smirks. I look to him for assurance. His eyes are even bigger, he looks staring at the door, through the door, and into me. I start to cry. His brows tightens staring at me. He bites his lower lip, half-smiles, and then bends down to talk to me.

“I still jump sometimes when they do that. I’ve gotten better at not being afraid, you will too someday.”

I can’t imagine ever getting used to this.

Behind the door I hear a man say, “Here, chickee chickee! Here chickee chickee!” Then several men laugh, one of them makes a hungry growl, and then I hear them step away from the door.

“Sometimes they do that too,” the boy says. I hear the sound again between us. The boy punches the cabinet, “You’re being stupid,” he says, although, not to me.

Something is moving inside the cabinet, that is the scratching sound. There it is again. I look at the boy. His home-haircut left him with thick blonde strands of uneven lengths. It reminds me of country kids from TV, from Little House on the Prairie, his voice even hints at a Midwestern origin.

“Why do they knock on the door like that?”

“To let us know they are still out there, that they can take us whenever they want.”

“But I know they're out there!”

“How old are you kid?” he asks, tilting his head to the side.

“nine.”

“I started around your age. I had to learn fast. You better learn fast too. If you don’t learn, there are consequences.” He says this, but the words don’t sound like him, they sound like my stepfather.

This large house out in the wilderness, past Lake George, in the middle of nowhere, this place is new to me. My stepfather brought me here. He told my mother we were going camping. She thinks it’s important for me to have “big boy time,” with him, not to be such a “Momma’s Boy,” with my comic books and sketch pads and Beach Boys LPs. So he takes me camping and hunting and canoeing and teaches me to be a man. He teaches me other things as well, things only for “big boys.” I am a fast learner.

He says, “Boy we are gonna go camping, get your shit.” He packed an old, moldy green army blanket, a Colman cooler, a duffle bag of clothes, and a shotgun. He says lots of things though, none of them are what he really says they are. I have learned the hard way to listen and do as I am told, there are consequences, otherwise.

I don’t know what any of this means, not yet. Nor do I know any the faces that smiled at me as I stepped out of the white Dodge Aspen, my stepfather holding my hand, pulling me ahead. A knock on the door, a handshake, an invitation, and then a blur, in through the thick wooden door, across the white carpeting, the blinding white room, a large parlor covered in the severed heads of animals, elk, water buffalo, several men drinking tan drinks, smile, raise their glasses high, cheer. A spiral staircase in the distance leading up into a dark, amber-lit abyss. We were swept past these rooms, into a hallway filled with statues of nude cherubs, paintings of doctors examining little boys on the walls of the highway, a room with men huddled around a projector screen, the clicking of the reel ticking and chattering over their pulling and tugging. Then another door, stairs descending into a basement, smoke-filled, the walls painted blood red, men sitting in wooden chairs in the corners, some dancing, others playing pool, some are too shadowed for me to see, ghosts. “Wait here with this kid, play. Someone will come back for you in a little while. Daddy has to go do big people stuff now.” This is how I got here. Beyond this, I know nothing.

The boy, sits down next to me, against the cabinet. I look at him, slowly turning my body toward him, afraid to leave the door at my back. He drops his head and begins to pick at the threads in the rug. “First time?”

“For what?”

“For this.”

“What is this?”

He sighs again. “Okay, you’re gonna be fine kid, just listen to me.”

“About what?”

“They call this, Hunt Club.”

“What’s Hunt Club?”

“Something you get used to.”

I start to cry again. He smiles, looks down at the rug then back up at me before asking, “Do you like comic books?”

“Yeah!” Oh, good. He reads comics! Maybe he isn’t so bad.

I hear that scratching and shifting sound again. I look around the bathroom and then back at the door. The boy looks at the cabinet, shakes his head, and then looks back at me. Suddenly, I hear glass break in the distance. Men are shouting. Voices and feet are restless. What sounds like a pack of dogs come running down the stairs. I hear one of them yell out: “Hold him!”

“Who’s your favorite superhero?” the boy asks me.

“Moon Knight.”

“Moon Knight is good. I am a Daredevil kind of guy.”

“He’s good too.”

“He has no fear, even though he’s blind.” The boy says.

“He looks like the devil.” I say.

“Yeah,” says the boy.

“My stepfather wont let me read him. He says Jesus wouldn’t want me to read anything about the devil.” I add.

“But Moon Knight worships, Konshu, the Egyptian moon God. Your stepfather doesn’t mind that? Pagan gods are still of the Devil according to the Bible!”

“He doesn’t know that Moon Knight prays to Konshu. He doesn’t read comics. He says they're for faggots.”

The boy laughs to himself and then says, “faggots…” but his words trail off before he finishes what he is about to say

“Besides, you can read Moon Knight and still believe in God.”

“You believe in God?” the boy asks me seriously.”

“Of course I do. I believe in Jesus!”

“I don’t believe in God anymore,” the boy says, his voice hard and hollow. “I used to believe in God, back when I was a kid, back home, but no more.”

“My stepfather says that Jesus loves us and forgives us for whatever we do wrong.”

“From what I know about the Bible, kid,” he says pointing a boney finger at me, “Some things Jesus don’t forgive you for.”

My mind races over the events of the last three years of my life, the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve done, the secrets I hold. “But, what if you pray really hard….” I start to say as the boy cuts me off.

“How can the Devil be bad if Daredevil is a good guy?”

“Good questions,” I reply, reflecting deeply.

All is silence outside the door. Then a thud. “OH!” A man shouts. “OH!” another one shouts as well.

I crawl stealthily toward the door but the boy puts his hand on my knee.

“Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Listen by the door. If they open the door and you are in front of it they will think you are trying to stop them from coming in, or trying to break the lock. Saw a kid once, real scared, sit in front of that door. They pushed the door in hard on him.” He emphasizes this by tightening his muscles and acting out the rest of the scene. “Then they grabbed him like a pig and took him out that way, squealing and all. I saw him two months later, in the City. He didn’t talk or move but one bit afterwards.”

From where I am kneeling, I hear the men murmuring to one another on the other side of the door. They are dragging something heavy across the floor, then up the stairs.

“What do you think just happened?” I say.

“So why is Moon Knight your favorite?”
Someone shouts, “Sound the horns!” The disco music gets louder. Then there is a gurgling of laughter. I hate this music. I wish they were playing Surfin Safari or Catch a Wave, something beautiful, something about good times and far away places, anything that didn’t sound like being here.

Another voice says, outside the door, shouts, “Bring on the chickees!”

“Chickees?” I ask.

“The other kids. There are other rooms with other kids and other trainers.”

He says this, no longer as a friend, nor as a big boy, but as someone who has been holding a script in his hands the whole time. I am scared of him again. My heart is pounding. I start looking around the room again. The beige toilet, the burnt orange paint on the walls, the large cabinets under the sink, the shaggy rug, the white, clawed tub, the scary-spooky brown wood masks on the wall, there is no place to turn to, to turn away from him.

“So, answer my question,” he says, “Why is Moon Knight your favorite?”  

I answer him honestly, quickly, blurting out, “Marc Spector died and was raised from the dead, just like Jesus! Accept Mark Spector was raised by Konshu. But he was raised so that he could fight evil, and when things get tough, he can call on Konshu to keep him going.” The boy smiles, nods his head, and then adds coldly:

“Daredevil doesn’t need anyone.”

“But, Daredevil doesn’t have a God! Who can he call to when things get bad?”

The boy leans in close to my face, menaces me with a brief, squinted eye look and then says: “He doesn’t need a God. He has no fear! Get it?”

I pause, silent for a few seconds, the boy leans back against the toilet.

The doorknob shakes, the lock is disengaged and with a gentle push, the door opens up, a tunnel of black smoke appears from the darkness behind it. A man with a long chin, large thin teeth, and eyes set far apart on his face, pokes his head around the door.

“Boys.” He is cheerfully-menacing, balding, his skin the texture of alligator leather, brown and cracked, enormous black eyes, bloated and foreboding even in his calm approach. Then, suddenly, he lost his attempt at charm. His face eyes growing wider and wider, his pupils getting full like a large swamp, his mouth distorting, baring teeth, long and jagged. He steps into the room and looks deep into the tub as if divining a future from its emptiness. He looks back at us again and closes the door without locking it.

“I told you.” The boy says.

“What?”

“Not you.”

The door flies open. There are now three men entering the room. There is the one from before who is now smiling from ear-to-ear. Next to him is a man whose perfume reaches my nose before he even enters the room. He is bloated, with thinning blonde hair, a gold crucifix dangling from a series of gold chains, pasty yellow skin, in a white, silk  shirt. The third man, however, was of a different make than anyone else here, for a second, I was glad my stepfather had a shotgun in the car. The man, a large bruiser, with arms covered in tattoos of black panthers, skin black like marsh soil, a shaven head and thick, oily, full beard glared at the two of us as he entered the room. I thought I might vomit, but I caught myself at the last moment. The man reminds me of Moon Knight’s sworn enemy, the Bushman. I notice his right hand has two bloody knuckles on it and there are specks of red on his large green U.S. Marines T-shirt.

The big man shouts, laughing, “Cabinet!” Then he bursts forward, shoves me aside with his foot and opens the cabinet doors beneath. I slide back against the tub and next to the boy. I draw my legs to my chest, still green.

“Thought I told you to train them?” the first man says to the older boy with me.

“I tried to tell him but…” the older boy is cut off as the large man exclaims with a deep voice, “There you are!”

Underneath the sink, inside the cabinet, delicate blue eyes peaking out from the darkness. Slowly emerging from the shadows, an ashen haired, pale white boy with his lower lip quivering. A boy my age.

The burley man reaches inside the cabinet, his fingers tearing under the boys armpits, seizing him, it looks painful. The boy kicks and flails, murmurs a helpless, “No, No, No…” then tries to grab onto the sink’s edge. The man smacks his fingers hard to stop him. The other men laugh behind them. “We have a kicker!” someone shouts. The boy’s nails scrape against wood, the man yanks him harder.  He holds him up in the air like a rabbit plucked from a hole, in the jaws of a desert fox.

The scene reminds me of the first time my stepfather let his friend have me. I went screaming and fighting, at first, but broke quickly: by that point in my life, I knew what was expected of me. If you don’t do what you are told, you will ‘be given a reason to cry,’ and some reasons are worse than others.

My stepfather suddenly appears in the background, smiles at me, lowers a joint from his lips, billows a thick cloud of smoke from his large nostrils, nods his head at me, happy, perhaps, I am not the one in trouble. I mouth the words, “I want to go home, daddy,” to him. He shakes his head from side to side. I mouth, “please,” and make my hands into a prayer posture. He snarls at me, beaming anger and submission to me through his thick, brown eyes and long, curly black hair, before turning away and stepping out of my view.

“This one yours, Maury?” the large man says to the balding man.

“I like ‘em with spirit,” he replies before saying to the boy dangling in the air, “Don’t worry there little guy, I just want to be your friend, I’m not going to hurt you or anything.”

The boy stops kicking and squirming. His face relaxes, his eyes glazing over, alabaster and empty. A trickling sound patters out on the floor, on the brown tiles, in front of the rug. The boy pees his brown corduroy pants, the yellowish liquid staining his crotch black. It runs down his leg and dribbles off his socks. The bald man beams a bright and brilliant smile, euphoric, a thrill, his lips and hands begin to vibrate, “Ohhh,” is all he says.

“He’ll still do?” the big man asks.

“Oh,” the bald man replies, his words shaking with excitement, “He’ll do.”
The boy is lowered to the ground. The bald man puts his hand on the boy’s shoulder firmly, and then leads him out of the room, the boy going along, willingly, as if in a trance. Looking back at us and nodding to the pee, the burly man says to us: “Clean that up.” The door closes. The lock engages. The men outside the door all start to exclaim in mock sympathetic unison, “Awwww!”

“I told him,” he says, his face cold. “Told him that when they come for you, if they find you hiding, it will be worse. You just have to go.”

I watch him speak; he is a hundred-year-old shaman now, sage-like, beyond the door.

“What are they gonna do with him?” I ask nervously.

“Told you already. The rooms. Upstairs.”

“For what? You didn’t tell me what.”

“He didn’t read comics.” The boy responds.

“What?”

“I asked him if he read. He said he didn’t read comics. What more could I do? Had nothing else to talk about, so, I told him what they did in the rooms. That’s my job. This is my station. Stupid idiot went and hid. Now he’s matched with Maury.”

“What are they going to do with him in this room?”

He reaches out his right hand and places it on my shoulder, lower lip over upper lip, urging me to relax my arms and come forward. “First, you should clean that up before they come back for you.” He looks at me authoritatively.

I clutch myself even tighter. “I don’t want to go with them.” I push his arm off of me. He beams me an angry look.

“I told you….”

“Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, help me please….”

“Aint no Moon God gonna save you here, tonight. Certainly no, Moon Knight.” He says, laughing, proud of himself, cackling like a hyena. “Now clean up that pee like they told you to.”

I freeze up in the corner, moving so that the toilet is between him and I. “Why wont you tell me what they are gonna do with me?”

The boy smiles, raises up on his knees, and then leans forward, nose to nose with me and asks, in all calm seriousness, “You ever suck a man’s cock dry?”

The doorknob turns, the door creeps open. The boy looks at the door slowly opening, and then, placing his hands on my shoulders says, “Be like Daredevil, have no fear, see nothing, and you will be just fine.” Then he stands up and steps away from me. 

“Don’t be afraid,” the man standing behind him says, “I’m not going to hurt you.” He bends down, takes a knee, and gently dusts my belly, ticklish. I smile.

Just miles from theme parks and colonial-dressed soldiers, antique canons and Indian legends, places where men fought and died, gaslight villages and families out on vacation by the lake, I was brought for the first time to a house in the heart of the darkness. A heart exchanged for my soul.

There are many firsts in my life. They run together like a missionary lost in the brush: ecstatically horrifying, far from home, seeking meaning and grace at every turn, filled with awe and terror and the false hope of salvation. God be damned! Happy just to be alive. The first time they ever came for me, this I remember well.

The darkness opening into the smoky netherworld outside the door. My stepfather hunched over a corner table, his eyes red and snorting in a fresh line, then looking up at me, nodding, patting with his hands, mouthing, “Be cool, be cool.”

Then, gently by the hand, the thin man in black, a dark specter at first, leading me up and out of the basement, through the decorated hallways, past the movie room, past the severed heads, into the living room, two teen boys ushered through the front door, wild and predatory eyes scanning me as I passed them by.

Up the spiral stairs, deeper still the darkness, fine polished wood, my sneakers squeaking all the way to the top, my fingers tracing the shapes and twists of the banisters, my eyes counting every closed door we passed by, as if I could count my way out of the deep, maze-like hallway. Occasional screams and whimpers, the tunnels of the walls capturing sound, exiling the extravagances beneath them.

An older man, a grandfather, leading a young girl down the hallway past us, her eyes zombie-like, her tiny body dressed like a baby-doll, fancy perfume lingering in the air as we trailed through her apparition.

Then the door to a bedroom with a canopy bed, a white net concealing the encounter for which I was chosen. The door closed so gently behind us. I turned to face my captor. He is handsome, strong, clean, he radiates care and calm. I am happy I did not hide.

Then being lifted high, placed on the quilt-covered mattress, the throne upon which I rest, the scent of pipe tobacco, illumination from an amber glass lamp over a large candle on the dresser. He kneels down before me as if he were saying his prayers and I was his fallen idol. “You sure are delicate,” he says to me.

He bends down before me, smiling, humming a Beach Boys song, In My Room. He says, looking up at me, “Your daddy says you like the Beach Boys? Do you like that song?”

I sing the next line back to him, “Now it’s dark and I’m alone but I wont be afraid.” He joins me on the next words, “In My Room. In My Rooooommmm.” Then he smiles, messes my hair and asks, “So what else do you like to do?” The question is not an innocent one.

“I like to read comics.”

“You have a favorite super hero?”

I open my mouth, and stumble a name, inaudible. He is unlacing my sneakers, smiling up at me, gently removing my shoes, rubbing my little feet, holding them preciously, before looking back up at me, letting out a sigh of pent up frustration, then crossing himself, he raises up, says, “God forgive me,” and unzippers his pants.

A faint thumping nearby. I listen to the sound of m heart and the sound of his belt smacking the poster board. I journey out of my body, out of this house, away from this wilderness to an Egyptian temple where, Mark Spector places the white uniform over his tired body, honoring his pledge to Konshu, becoming Moon Knight, taking to the evening skyline, rooftop to rooftop, he comes to bring judgment upon the wicked, he comes to shine a light through the darkness, he comes to bring vengeance upon the guilty, he is coming to save me, he is coming to rescue me, the clang-clang-clang of the belt, the hum-hum-hum of the man, and through the long, dark night, my hero will soon be here, soon, he is coming, soon he is coming, he is coming, my God, he is coming.

OS

     

 

Daryl Morazzini

Daryl Morazzini has a BA from the University of Southern Maine in Philosophy and History (minor in Creative Writing), an MAR from Yale Divinity in Religion and Literature, and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His NonFiction and Poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Palimpsest, Words and Images, Mighty Mercury, The Gut, National Scholastic, and The Maine Scholar. He is adjunct faculty at both Emmanuel College and Mars Hill College.  He spends his days Writing, studying Ashtanga Yoga, reading Comparative Mysticism, and living a Vegan lifestyle. He currently lives in, Asheville, North Carolina.

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