((Permission from Volt Turtle and Bikriki))
And upon that lonely town carved of the dust of the desert Gods eye briefly turned blind, for all His plan was to lay his Earth fallow, to allow his children to run amok and trample beauty to ashes and dust, by their own providence.
So it was down to this.
Mark did not give a fuck. Or was it something like
gave all the fucks, specifically in the form of his middle fingers setting the dead desert sky alight?
It was his first time out to Kingman in his life and the town was every bit the hellhole hed imagined it would be. Just a casual walk-a-bout of the streets, all casual-like. Mother, Father, his sisters had all tried to sell it as better than it was for how many years now? Since their lord and savior j,h.christ had invented time? He couldnt have had the wool pulled over his eyes. He was just too much of an asshole for that.
Hed re-read all of those emails Lucilly had sent on his flight over. Every single one, using the laptop hed borrowed from a friend before the flight out. Shed tried so damn hard in every single awkward word of every single awkward letter to try and convince him that the parched asshole of Arizona was worth his time. Seeing it in real time Mark couldnt imagine how she could have ever found it in herself to care.
That had just been her thing, he guessed.
He didnt fucking know.
Alien streets blurred together into a slurry river of molten- seriously, it was sweat out his hair follicles hot and it had to be midnight already- concrete under his feet. He navigated by the dim light of the moon bouncing off the dull witted light of the streetlamps. None of the houses stood out from each other but he was looking for one, and when he found it he stopped with a casual lean to his slouch and two hands shoved into the cramped pockets of his hoodie.
Broken glass and scorched earth. He knew hed found what he was looking for.
Dinner in the Peterson household had been something. Something like a family minus a heads and minus mouths. Maybe one eighth of the dinner Mother had prepared had been eaten. Father had tried to set an example by making a show of forcibly stuffing his face but for once nobody was biting or obeying. Hed given up on his pretensions for maybe the first time in his sons adult life. Victoriya had restlessly drummed her thighs against the cloth of her seat, and for once in everliving memory Mother hadnt been on her case. One by one theyd all drifted away from the table and towards who the hell even knew where.
Mark was alone despite being surrounded by family. Doman hadnt come with him, the fucking coward. He hadnt even had an excuse, hed just honestly admitted he was too something to face his family again. That something was grief-struck, or it was angry, or it was scared, and Mark didnt know which. If he had known he would have been able to figure out why he likewise felt consuming trepidation in his own home.
Mark had found his way up the unfamiliar rigidity of the stairs at some point, he couldnt remember. Every panel of the stairs was inflexible, unforgiving to his attempts to climb. He didn't know if he was even allowed to be barefoot. He managed to find the room he was looking for the moment he spotted the innocuously shut door. He didnt know it from any other damn door, it might as well have been a door to Willy Wonkas factory, but the moment it creaked open before him he knew this was where he didnt belong.
A spartan bed, a simple Excel spreadsheet of a blanket with a flower motif. Sunflowers, abnormally bright petals tensile like rays of light. No points for guessing the hinted-at biblical motif. A polished tan wooden desk with bare surface, and a chair Mark sat himself in so he was right next to the desolate spread of the bed.
First time hed ever set foot in Lucillys bedroom in his entire life.
The first drawer was randomly open and Mark could see a few neon colored journals sitting quiet and pretty. Spines still delicately spun, surfaces still glossy as if the journals had only just been bought. Mark cracked one open with a finger intrusively displacing the dust, the spread of the page was filled out with prose in neatly immaculate penmanship. Unfamiliar for a good second, and still only an eerie watermark of a life hed once maybe sort of known the second after.
Lucilly had once sent him a sample of one of her works once. Hadnt even been any good, really. Lucilly had seemed to think writing was copy pasting passages out of damn scripture and adding the occasional reference to an iPhone.
He was able to confirm that her writing was continually still rather lame. Two whole pages of proof to expand his pool of evidence for that hypothesis.
The walls slowly closed in, shuffling up beside him like strangers of a crowd. How long was he sitting there, he didnt know. He couldnt track time through the singular existent sensation of his ass getting cold in a seat that would never be sat in again until Mother and Father got the courage to donate it to charity.
Also cant sleep?
His ears woke up like the dead from the grave and he turned his head back. Hed heard her voice once in living memory, Sevilla had a sort of serenely massive voice, evocative of booming echoes from the altar. Her father- their father- in the tiny quivering throat of a twelve year old girl.
What time is it?
Its ten oclock already. Three hours since dinner, since Mark had stumbled up the steps like a drunken man ready to make a home out of a strangers bed for the night. Mark roughly shoved his ass off the chair, gestured for Sevilla to take it. She hesitated by inaction, and ultimately stayed put. They were both standing then, just the two of them and the forty-five degree angle between them and the unceremonious meeting of eyes for the first time in years.
And some time passed. How much, Mark couldnt say.
She kept a picture of all of us in this room until last year, and that was how Sevilla chose to break the silence. Her voice cracked the air like a bullet. Right on the desk.
Mark didnt understand how Sevilla still sounded so strong, so beautiful. When had she even ever been allowed to grow up? She was supposed to be too fucking young to know a world like this, a world where her older sister was gone. Mark hurt for Sevilla, he really did, a hurt that clenched around his stomach and chest like a fist and didnt let go. She moved it into her locker at school when school started last year and we havent gotten it back from the police yet.
... Alright. Mark was staring at her too intently, he couldnt help it, he didnt even know it. The fingers of his hand spontaneously became a fist through conscious thought, clenched tight, and were immediately undone. He didnt know why hed done that, but it had something to do with the unsettling feeling taking roost in his body.
Sevillas lips twitched a bit at the corners, maybe an attempt at a smile.
We can probably pick it up soon.
Maybe now, Mark offered. I could go pick it up myself. Well, he didnt know where the police station was. But he was pretty sure he remembered the photo, they must have taken it back when Lucilly had still gone to Sunday school. He and Doman had been assing around in the back row, and their faces had been obscured by Uncle Jacksons broad shoulders. That dude had probably been Uncle Jackson. Mark vaguely remembered the damn photo because Victorya had been making some kind of political statement, ripping her diaper off to the dubiously photogenic shock of Lucilly and Mother. He tried his hardest to remember that photo, as much as it hurt to.
That would be nice, Mark.
And some more time passed, and this time Mark was almost ready to mumble something in plain gibberish that might have meant goodbye, or I love you, until Sevilla had said something first again.
This is, uh
Did you, you know
Mark didnt reply initially, and he was pretty sure at some point he stopped looking at anything that wasnt the hieroglyphic geometric patterns of the carpet.
Mark? She sounded timid, scared, ready to retreat away from that ashen, dusty room shed once called her- their- sisters. Mark might as well have been holding a gun to her head.
I saw. No point in lying. Every bit of it, and
I know who the girl who killed her was too. I checked Lucillys yearbook
While I was here. Hed found the yearbook right on the coffee table that was next to the living room sofa for some reason Mark didnt know. Sevilla nodded slowly, her head threatening to fall off her neck every single time a gentle tremor rocked suddenly rocked her body.
More time passed and Mark was vaguely aware that he didnt know what else to say.
You should get some sleep, Sevilla. The pronunciation of her name seemed to come out all wrong, a tongue twister from a book in foreign language.
I will, she murmured softly, and that one got her to smile. Mark almost didnt recognize the smile, he needed to dig for the memory. It didnt sit right on her face until Mark could dredge up the memory of how it did. For just a second Mark was able to remember that his younger sister prided herself on being a cheeky asshole. For just a second, and then Sevillas heartmelting smile melted in turn, like a candle snuffed out. I will, dont worry.
... Yeah, okay.
You tell yourself that. Mark wondered why he sounded so stoic. He wondered when hed started bleeding emotion like Lucilly had bled blood on the rooftop of that hell on earth.
Hmm! I dont know what youre talking about. And Sevilla was once more trying to smile but it was once more not happening. Mark could finally see the way her lips tried to fold when a smile was coming, or even when it was dead on arrival. Ill be going to sleep at a reasonable hour. Maybe Mark could trust her.
Some more time passed, and no one went to sleep. Marks emotions continued to fester, into an unknown stench that bloodied his senses.
Was her room always empty like this? Mark felt something then. Felt something like a shitstain on earth for not knowing how his sister had once lived.
Yeah, Sevilla nodded in that creaky, forced way again. Cabinets for clothes and school supplies. Desks for her writing and her Bible. Machines in the garage. When it was family time shed be the one to bring the machine and the textiles out to the living room. Like reading off a list, or maybe Sevilla was reading from Lucillys own diary or soul and Mark was the one just hearing the rivets and bolts of words on an assembly line.
I see. Mark devoted as much of his memory as he could pathetically nurture to memorizing every syllable his sister had just offered him, but that odd sensation in the pit of his stomach continued to gently smolder and it turned out his memory wasnt so good because of it. But still he could still fucking envision it. Square meter by square meter, the life Lucilly had once lived in inches and footsteps. Until it evaporated from thought, and Mark was once more alone.
I see, he repeated for no damn reason.
She cared so much about keeping things tidy, I guess.
And some more time passed, and that unknown feeling continued to curdle Marks blood.
She cared so much
Sevillas quiet tremor mutated into a hug, one Mark was a stranger to because it was his sister alone, her own arms wrapped around herself because he was somehow insufficient. I had always hoped
That shed stop caring for once? Mark merely nodded, Sevilla continued,
I dunno, I guess I thought shed realize that she couldnt really
deny herself? For our sakes.
It was all stupid anyways. Marks voice was heavy enough to sink into the earth. She was gay and she should have allowed herself to be.
But it was all about what she believed in, Sevilla smiled and it was a smile that told a story of some burdensome sadness. Marks eyes turned, first away from, then back towards her. But the smile remained a variable.
But what she believed in was bullshit. And both you and I know it. Who was to say. Not Sevilla, she stayed silent. For some time, and that time too passed away like others before it had.
I understand. She spoke so timidly despite the godgiven strength of her voice. Mark felt a twinge of desperation, or maybe it was that emotion he still didnt know.
I wasnt trying to say anything else. Marks steely eyes melted away to something soft. I just
wanted you to get some sleep. You know. He meant it. Tried to mean it, at least. Maybe it was that he wished he meant it.
I said I would, didnt I? However long ago, yeah. She was looking at him simply, innocently, and the last time shed ever looked at him like that must have been when Mark had still called the roof of his fathers home his own. The look stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and Mark wilted under it, his shoulders drooping, lowered into the Earth for burial. What are you going to do after this, Mark?
I should sleep too.
You dont look like youre going to be able to sleep. And it was true, Mark just hadnt known it was true until told otherwise. He inclined his head. That mysterious feeling continued to eat away at him, and he wondered if Sevilla knew what it was better than he himself did. The innocence on her face refused to die as innocence was wont. Maybe her innocence had yet to die in her youth. Maybe not. Definitely, Mark did not know. Hmm. Maybe youll go out?
Maybe. For a bit.
Where do you think youll go? Mark didnt know. Or maybe it was just another case of him not knowing despite being confidently, painfully sure as that unnamed but obvious feeling continued to erupt and spew like a volcano in his heart. Maybe just for a little walk, perhaps?
We will. Her smile finally appeared again. Marks never had. Her smile hurt, but Mark welcomed it, as he would have a stranger into his own home. He welcomed it with a slow, careful, creaking forth of his body as he sought out something, was it her arms, her hair, her god-given voice to say something more, to impart onto him wisdom and forgiveness? He didnt know.
Their hug was abortive, it was brief, and Sevillas body might as well have been a mannequin in his desperate grasp.
She said good night and so did he, as if they were both shouting in whispers across a chasm. She was swallowed up by the foreboding caverns of the home, and Mark was cast away, still burning like a man put to the cross for reasons he didn't understand.