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The First Domino
I remember first hearing about what had happened; my grandma called my dad and told him. I could hear him from my room, asking about it, and telling her to be careful.
After they hung up, I walked into the living room to ask him about what they were discussing.
"Grandma's friend, Rita, was attacked today," he answered in a hushed tone.
"What, what do you mean? What happened?" I asked.
"Somebody stabbed her at her house. Damn, shit's getting crazy out there again."
Odd way for him to answer. There are a multitude of strange events that have happened out there, but nothing as crazy as this. He told me that they found her earlier that day, when the van to the senior center pulled up to her house.
I'm not gonna lie: strangeness has an appealing effect on me. That's weird, but it's true.
Anyway, I guess I should add that this all went down two years ago, on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. I was eighteen at the time; fresh out of high school. It happened in a small place called Low Mountain, a small community; not a town, a community. The place only has an elementary; a housing district (built up of twenty-nine houses; I checked online); and that's about it. The houses that aren't grouped together are all spread throughout the small valley.
I wasn't as good to myself back then as I am now; I was battling with anxiety, drug addiction, and alcoholism.
After hearing about Rita, I couldn't help but feel concerned for my grandmother's well-being. So that night I told my dad that as soon as I could I would be on the next ride back there. He protested the whole idea, but a month earlier I'd just turned eighteen and he couldn't stop me. A couple days later I caught a ride home with an aunt.
Five hours from here to there. The drive always seemed to calm me down, and make me feel like life was simpler as one heads towards the middle of nowhere. On the way I thought of all the relatives I'd lost in the previous years: my aunt, Raquelle; my uncle, Norman; my half-brother, Cody; Lorna, Raquelle's mother; and my great-grandmother, Freda. They were all dead and gone. They had all grown up there, just like I did.
I, of course, did load up before I left Phoenix; two bottles of vodka; a couple of pain killers; and a carton of cigarettes. I got home at around 6 in the evening.
My grandma and I were staying with our relatives since our home was being renovated. I hugged her when she came outside. She was getting smaller than I remembered, growing older. When I was a kid she towered over me and now it seemed that the process was in a type of reverse. Everyone welcomed me home and my older cousin Matt said I could crash in his room. He told me that everyone else was going to New Mexico in the morning, to visit other relatives and grocery shopping, etc. That's when I started to meet up with all of my cousins. Kaden, her baby-daddy Tyrell, and their kids Luna, and the baby had just gotten home from visiting their friend. Kaden hugged me; Tyrell teased me about my hair getting longer; Michael said hi; and Trev asked for a stoag. Yep, this was going to be a good time.
The sun was still setting and they had just gotten done cooking. I wasn't hungry and instead went outside and cracked open my small box of cigarettes. The sun setting on the valley was beautiful; the brown mesas and land turned into a glorious yellow, with the sky becoming a light purple, it was unforgettable. This place really was nice and scenic, even if I couldn't get a signal on my phone.
Before she went to bed that night I asked my grandma what exactly had happened with Rita, since I probably wouldn't get up before they left in the morning. She was smiling and happy to see me; she always was. The wrinkles on her face just seemed to give off a sort of calmness. I know how silly that sounds, but it's true.
I sat down and asked what I thought would end in a simple-sentence answer, but it wasn't. Her happy expression quickly grew into one of sorrow, confusion, and fear.
"The other morning, after the van had picked me up, we went across (the wash; a dry creek bed) to pick a couple of others up," her voice seemed to get deeper. "When we got to Rita's house, she was running around outside with no clothes on. Our driver, Lionel, jumped out and ran to her. A couple of us did, too. She was crying and screaming, but she didn't know what was going on."
"What do you mean, she didn't know what was happening?" I asked.
"I don't think so. For a while people have been noticing that she seems to forget things," she added. Her voice choked up a little, "She kept asking where Lester, her husband, was. Lester died six years ago, and none of her kids take care of her. They don't even visit her. Haven't in years."
"That's awful," I couldn't help but feel sorry for the woman. No one should have to go through life alone like that.
My grandma began to quietly sob; she and Rita had been friends for years. Rita always attended her bible studies, and church service, before the church closed.
The pain was beginning to fill her voice, "Lionel ran back to the car and radioed the senior center, telling them to call an ambulance. Judy Ben took off her jacket and covered Rita with it. There was blood running down her stomach and back. She kept crying asking "Where's Lester, Mary?""
She also told me that when she was there she could feel something was wrong, inside the house. There was a peculiar feeling about being there. When she looked to the house, she said she knew that nothing was there, but that she could've sworn someone was looking back at her.
She finally decided to leave Rita's side and walk into the small home. The air inside was ripe and gave off a queer stench; she'd been here before, and it was never like this. Walking around the home she felt as if there was a weight on her shoulders; the feeling of not being alone. Studying the corners of each room before she entered, she was just waiting to see someone waiting for her.
"Mary," she heard a voice come from somewhere in the house. She began screaming, and turned around to run. Lionel was there. She calmed down, relieved. They went outside and waited for an ambulance as the frail Rita cried into her hands.
I sat next to my grandma and hugged her as she broke into a cry.
"I could see them," she said, "the cuts on her breasts; her neck; and more blood running down from her thighs."
She told me an ambulance arrived twenty minutes later. She began to calm down, and told me that Rita had passed away on the ride to the hospital. In a place like that, if help isn't close, then it's a long wait. Before I left her room she told me that I shouldn't have come back, that I should've stayed with my dad.
I went back to Matt's room and opened the bottle of vodka. We both took two shots each and talked about how crazy it was that something like that could happen in a place as small as Low Mountain. I didn't fall asleep until at least 2 in the morning, which was normal for me. Usually, I'd be on my laptop or online gaming, but that was only a luxury out there. I remember hearing something, like wind rustling against the house, but there wasn't any wind that night. I told myself it was nothing, then downed two more shots.
An hour later I heard it again, only this time it sounded a little louder. Matt was already asleep, and he hadn't completely covered the window with his drape. I was lying on the floor, playing an app on my phone, when I heard it. The rustling. The room was dark with the exception of the light of the phone screen on my face, and the slab of light coming in from the street light outside. Completely dark, and completely quiet. I was used to the sound of sirens, cars, and other people. Not the dead silence.
I started thinking about Rita, and how sad it all was. A woman who lost her husband; her mind; and her kids who hardly ever visited her. Rustling again. Someone was in her house with her. Someone did those things to her. Someone.
The rustling noise came again, and I locked my phone so the screen went dark. That's when I saw it, and realized what the sound I was hearing actually was. My shoulders tensed up; my stomach knotted; my chest felt like it had just exploded; and my back felt like it had just been stabbed with a thousand tiny needles. The orange light that hit the window gave it off. The silhouette standing there. The man standing there.
They were footsteps, not a rustling noise. The entire time I was lying there I had heard it, and the light of my phone; they knew exactly where I was lying on the floor. My throat felt as if it had been yanked out. I tried to speak, but hesitated to do so. Who ever they were, they had a hoodie on. It didn't matter, all I could see was a shape.
They stood there, unmoving.
"Matt," I choked out, "Matt." He didn't wake.
I looked back at whoever it was and whispered, "What the fuck are you doing here?"
I don't exactly remember what happened next. At first it felt like a dream, probably because of the shots I took, but all of a sudden it was gone. I was still lying there in the dark, everything was the same, like none of it had actually happened. I started over-thinking the situation. Was I just dreaming? Did that really happen, or was it some sort of hallucination?
I heard a noise come from the other side of the house; someone had gotten up to use the bathroom. Then, that's when happened, Luna started crying, so did the baby boy. I heard the bathroom door open, then the room door. That's when all the dread that had tensed up my muscles filled my bones; Kaden started screaming.
"T! There's somebody trying to get in!"
"What the fuck!" I heard Tyrell yell, "Grab the kids!"
I heard another door open, Michael this time.
I could hear my aunt, Susie, waking up my uncle, "Junior!" she yelled. Then she started speaking in Navajo which I can't translate. Not because I won't, but because I don't know what she said.
"What the fuck's happening, dude?" Matt asked me, getting up.
"I don't know," I quietly answered.
We got up, opened the door just as Susie did. We started running down the long hallway towards the room. It was so surreal, like a scene out of movie. As we ran into the living room we met Kaden and Michael, both holding the kids.
"Matt; Jake; go help T," Kaden's voice was full of fear.
We ran into the room. The screen of the window was pushed in, and just above it Tyrell was holding onto it, throwing punches at its head.
"Get the fuck out of here!" Matthew yelled. I couldn't tell if was angry or scared. Maybe both.
"Matt, grab my gun, it's in the closet," Tyrell commanded.
I looked around the room, looking for anything I could use. My heart was pounding; my back was feeling jolts of some twisted kind of energy; and my feet felt frozen. I could hear my grandma and the others all yelling in the living room. The thing in Tyrell's arm was thrashing around, making a noise as it tried to get free. Breathing heavily, and wheezing it fought with tremendous strength.
I heard a loud rip, and Tyrell started yelling even louder. He was fucking angry, and it was because whoever it was had slipped out of the black hoodie they were wearing. T turned around, and Matt handed him the pistol. In a frenzy he ran right passed me; I thought he would've thrown me to the ground, but he didn't. The smell came after that. Horrible and rancid, coming from the dirty, raggedy, hooded sweatshirt. It filled my nose. My throat seemed to be crushed by the putrid odor.
There's a little, I don't know, myth about these things (or people) called skinwalkers. Apparently when one's near a warning comes. The smell, or rather, the odor of it. Is this what it was?
I remember Junior and Susie yelling as Tyrell swung open the front door and ran out, Matthew right behind him. I looked at the hoodie again. Reddish-brown stains all down the front of it. Whoever was watching me in the other room tried to get in to this one.
I quickly walked into the living room, and was bombarded with questions, but I just ran out, ignoring them. My grandma started yelling at me, telling me to come back inside. There was no one around for a couple of seconds, then the sound of footsteps coming from the right side of the house, and they were running towards my way. I stepped back as Matt came around the corner.
"Where's T?" I asked.
Before he could answer, "Over here," Tyrell said, coming from the opposite side of the house. "Did you see anything?" he asked Matt.
The entire valley was dark and quiet, then I felt the same jolt I felt when I was lying on the floor earlier. This time the fear collected in my heart. I tried to say something, but just ended up mumbling it all out.
"What?" T asked.
I couldn't say anything, the words didn't come together, and my throat felt as if it had been clawed at. I just raised my hand and pointed across into the dark. He was standing there, looking at us.
"Don't shoot," it said.
"Who the fuck are you?" T yelled.
"You all know who I am," it answered. That voice.
"Fucking shoot him," Matt's voice rang out.
I looked back at the front door, everyone stood there, looking.
"No, son," it responded. It took a step forward.
"Stop, right there!" Tyrell bellowed.
The figure was dissipating as he stepped closer into the light.
This time the chills reached my spine, and the fear attacked my shoulders yet again.
"It's- it's Norman," I quietly declared, "It's him."
My uncle who had died a year prior was now standing ten yards in front of me.
Matt started crying, or screaming, I don't know, I phased him out. I'm sure he ran back inside though. I stood there, wide-eyed, mouth agape, looking at a man who only looked sick rather than decayed. Tyrell never fired the gun. I could see the expression on Norman's face as he looked back at me. He looked happy, with a smile on his face, which was pale, with a slight tinge of dark green.
Then I felt the pressure on my wrist as Tyrell yanked me towards him, leading me back into the house.
I ran back into the back room, opened my bag, and took more shots of vodka. My hands couldn't stop shaking, either from the cold or from seeing the man outside. Junior came into the room just as I had hid the bottle.
"Son, come with me," he quietly said.
Everyone was in the kitchen, sitting at the table. Michael took the kids and sat down in the living room, calming them down. They sat at the table, arguing about what was happening, and what to do. They tried telling us maybe it was just someone who looked like Norman, but it wasn't. It was him. I knew his voice; I knew his face.
I slipped away back to Matt's room. I opened the bag, and felt a breeze on my face. It was cool, and very much welcomed.
Then thought hit me in the face, why do I feel a breeze?
I looked up, and there he was, less than three feet away. My whole body felt as if I'd just jumped into a cold pool of water, only to be followed by the strong sting of fire. My stomach knotted once more, my shoulder blades numbed.
"Hey, son," his voice much more serious than before.
I opened my mouth, only to freeze.
"I don't have much time, he'll be here soon to take me back," he went on, "tell your grandma a new one is rising. Jared's dying and he's coming home. Tell her this new one won't be like Jared, or Raymond. It doesn't want a live a full life. It wants power."
I couldn't move. The alcohol had warmed my twisted stomach and calmed my nerves only slightly. The power of dread is much more stronger than shots of even the best vodka.
"I don't know who it's chosen, or if it's even here yet. We thought you should all know," his voice seemed to give off his panicked state. ` All I could manage to say was, "We?"
"Raquelle, and the others."
I felt as if I was about to shit myself.
He seemed as if he was wrapping it all up, "Oh, and tell her we know that this is for sure the last time it will ever happen again. Ned Yellowhorse was wrong," he looked away at the hills far behind the house. I could see why he was, or at least hear. It sounded as if branches were being broken; the crunching of wood could be heard loud and clear. "But make sure they all know, that this one is strong. Stronger than the others." He hurried along passed the window.
I felt the sudden shock as he moved. Staring back into the hills I could hear more trees crunching. All the fear inside me seemed to weigh me down; I fell onto the mattress on the floor.
"Jake, what the fuck are you doing?" Matt's voice scared the shit out of me. He stepped over me and hurried and closed the window, and the drape covering it.
He told me everyone was afraid, and that they might call Calvin, a relative who's also a cop. They never did, and didn't speak about it the next morning. Almost everyone except Michael, Matt, and I left to New Mexico.
I didn't get up for breakfast. I just lied in bed, thinking about what to do. Was that really Norman? What the fuck was he talking about, and what was in the hills that he was so afraid of? I did check that day; there were about five trees, snapped at their bases.
I never told my grandma about what he said to me, and that was over two years ago. They never found Rita's killer either. I haven't been back there since.
Sorry if this story seems rushed. A couple of days ago, my brother Kyle called me, telling me about another murder. I told my dad I'm going back next month in July.
Something's going to happen again this summer. I can feel it in my bones.
I'm gonna get the answers I need.