The Henry Family Secret
by Jordan Marie McCaw
There was nothing much to it; just an impenetrable need to discover the driver of the disintegrating truck. It clung close to the sidewalk as if it were clinging close to life. I watched the vehicle as it crawled, seemingly on all fours of smooth wheels. The windows were grimy with cracks and flattened insects. I watched from the porch of my home, drinking a bottle of cold beer. Surely, it was searching for someone.
Did the driver have a target? A victim it was finding to its liking? I watched in unbreakable fascination. The vehicle came to a stop directly across the street from my home. Its brakes screeched in high pitched tones that threatened my ears to bleed. I felt my heart stop suddenly, then pick back up again, quicker in pace as the perspiration in my body worsened. The driver was that of a man, or so I could tell when he climbed out of the vehicle, dressed in a thin, nice shirt, despite it being well over eighty degrees this evening. I continued to watch as he crossed the street.
“Good evening,” the man seemed to hiss.
I remained seated as he pounded his feet over to my porch. Was he talking to me? Most of my evenings were spent watching cars and people pass by as if I was watching a screen. It wasn’t until his second greeting did I answer. I gave him a simple nod and continued to watch him, wondering what he would do next.
He studied my house as much as I could. Inside my wife was washing the dishes, soon to meet me outside on the porch. Covertly he tried to look inside the house through the screen door; I did not prevent him.
“Do you live here?” he asked me.
I set down my bottle and folded me hands over my stomach. Thinking about what this man most likely wanted to hear, I answered, “Yes, I live here.” There was an indistinct clatter from inside the house that caused both of us to change our attention. “Honey?” I called from my chair. “Is everything all right in there?”
The man stayed where he was, placid and calm. Except I knew he was an earthquake inside, however I did not understand why.
My wife called back: “Everything’s fine! Just dropped a dish, is all. Nothing’s broken.” Her voice sounded so restrained, so perfect, so well practiced. I nodded and brought my attention back to the man.
We stood there for a moment, sharing our eye contact. He was in a button up shirt and a tie. Sweat was dripping off of him in fat drops. It was more than hot tonight, but I could also tell he was anxious. This caused me to bring my guard up, although I knew it was not necessary.
“May I help you with something, sir?” I asked.
He just stood there and stared. It felt like millenniums passed before he uttered a word. Finally, when he did, he said, “My name is Richard Konekney.” He let out his hand. I admired his broken nails and callouss palm, comparing it to my own. Willing my own hand not to perspire, I accepted it.
“Bill Henry,” I replied.
Richard Konekney nodded but did not smile. It was as though he refused to let his lips crack and his teeth show. My goal was to produce a smile on that face, no matter the cost. There was an edge of hostility in his tone, though most people could not detect it. “May I have a word with you and your…wife? Inside, perhaps?”
I was slightly taken aback at his proposal, but knew I must not refuse. To refuse here was automatically paired with suspicion. I was not one of suspicion, nor did I want to start now. I got up from my chair, disregarding the half empty beer bottle I set down and the gradually fading sky. I opened the screen door. “After you.”
My wife had just finished cleaning the dishes. She introduced herself as Adelaide, which I thought was quite original and very unsuspicious. I directed Richard Konekney (I enjoyed the semantics and phonemes of the man’s last name, so I referred to him as “Mr. Konekney”) to have a seat on our springy yet comfortable couch. That edge of hostility in his tone was eventually matched by the very same look in his eyes. A look that knew something…knew something about us.
My wife took a seat next to Mr. Konekney on the couch and I assumed my designated place in my recliner, though I did not recline it at this time––I wanted to appear calm but not too comfortable.
“So,” my wife began in a cheery tone, “to what do we owe this great pleasure of your company, Mr. Konekney?”
“Rich is fine,” he said, then his countenance grew solemn once more. “I don’t like to keep people in the dark when I’m on the job, so I’m going to be upfront with you.”
“We greatly appreciate it,” I informed him. He looked at me and nodded in simple gratitude.
He brought his hands together on his lap, studying them for a few seconds. My wife and I waited patiently; patience was a virtue we knew well. Mr. Konekney looked up at me and said, “I’m a private investigator.”
“Like from the FBI?” Adelaide said without containment. I would remember to chastise her for the outburst later. She immediately saw her failure in conjecture and withdrew.
Mr. Konekney turned his gaze from her back to me. He knew to address me. “I’m not affiliated with the FBI,” he said. “I work for the UAB.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that organization. What does it stand for?”
“Unidentified Aliens Bureau.”
I mocked surprise as I leaned forward in my recliner. I could tell by the look on my wife’s face that she was close to chuckling. Raising my eyebrows (such a funny indicator of surprise), I exclaimed, “Unidentified Aliens Bureau? Do you think we’re some sort of aliens from outer space, Mr. Konekney? Because I can assure you we’re not.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions here.” Mr. Konekney did not completely dispel my question, but he knew not to approach the subject so bluntly. “The word ‘aliens’ has multiple meanings. I don’t want you two to misunderstand me.”
I threw my hands up, shaking my head. My display of dramatics was well rehearsed and I am well pleased, as well as my wife.
Mr. Konekney saw my quickly growing aggravation. “Please, let me explain, Bill.”
“You better explain quickly, because we do not like to be insulted.” Adelaide had her arms firmly coiled around her chest, exposing her slender arms.
Mr. Konekney was sweating profusely, wiping his brow every few seconds. “I apologize for getting off on the wrong foot. I–I just need to ask you and your wife a couple of questions.”
“What type of questions? Like which planet did we come from?”
“No, no, no, please don’t misunderstand me,” he said again. “I’ll just start. When did you and your wife come to the states?”
“Excuse me?” Adelaide said.
“I know you two aren’t from here. You may be citizens of the United States, but you were aliens at one point.”
My wife looked at me. I gave her a stern look and she remained quiet, letting me do the rest of the talking. Later she would be harshly punished, which would give me great delight, and I know it would not all be detrimental to her, either. Looking to Mr. Konekney, I answered, “You’re right, we are not natural born citizens. My wife and I are from Bulgaria.”
He nodded like he already knew. Perfect. “Thank you. How long have you and your wife lived in El Paulo?”
“How long do you think it’s been now, dear? Close to thirty years?”
Acknowledging her queue, she said, “Long enough that we’ve adopted an American accent.”
I chuckled briefly and nodded. “I would give it thirty years.”
“Have you and your wife ever had involvement in any kind of organization in Bulgaria or in the U.S.? At any point in your lives?”
“Yes, we’ve been apart of a few, as a matter of fact. We regularly attend fundraisers for El Paulo’s local Salvation Army and we’ve been involved in a homeless mission back in Bulgaria when we were younger. That was such a long time ago, wasn’t it, dear?”
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” she gleamed. So well rehearsed.
“Do you attend a church here in El Paulo?”
My attention snapped. A fly landed on the window outside. I heard its buzzing wings from my recliner. A church…a local church in El Paulo…My eyes darted to Adelaide then back to the fly. The house seemed to perspire with the sweat of the house’s previous inhabitants. I too was still perspiring but had ceased to wipe the sweat from my brow since we had been inside.
“Yes,” I said too soon; without a source to back it up. “We attend…”
Mr. Konekney’s eyebrows were poised for an answer. I cleared my throat, as was an organic thing to do in such a situation. The fly on the window was the audience quickly being disappointed at my lack of preparation.
“We attend El Paulo’s First Baptist Church,” my wife chimed in, saving the silent seconds that rolled by. Saving our lives. “Bill is an usher at every eight a.m. service on Sunday.”
“How admirable,” Mr. Konekney commented, not really admiring anything about her answer. He turned to look at his truck outside. It was still there, sure to be sweltering in the lowering sun’s light. Clearing his own throat, he turned back to us. Without warning, he asked, “Are you two familiar with the Ekanthropos group?”
That was when I had no choice but to spring on Mr. Konekney, unfurling my long arms on his well-built frame, crushing his shoulders inward. My wife followed without hesitation, wrapping her arms around his midsection, tightening her grip, popping every fat, healthy organ in his body. Blood spilled out of his mouth, eyes, nose, and ears in small trails that turned into thick torrents of red. I licked the blood coming from his nose and mouth while my wife took care of the eyes and ears. As I drank, I sliced the corners of his mouth upward with my tongue, creating the smile I was longing for.
Mr. Konekney had an immense supply of blood, just as all of them had. The splintered, sparse hair grew from our arms thankfully during our feasting, excited to breath and extend. I watched as my wife blinked her blue eyes and opened them to black, porous orbs of soullessness and hunger. We couldn’t help how ravaged we were, how hungry. We sucked the marrow from Mr. Konekney’s bones like straws, enjoying the thick texture, cursing the watery piss of beer that my body had been forced to digest for weeks.
They were sending fewer and fewer investigators to our door. We were growing hungrier as they were growing less interested, or more scared. I decided on the latter and went on to devour Mr. Konekney’s heart while my wife finished off the marrow in his femur. Whether he felt any of this, that was not what my wife and I were thinking. We were hungry tyrants needing to satisfy a deep hunger. We were famished, thirsty, and Mr. Konekney was just what we needed at just the right time. We were unsatisfied creatures, just like the humans, but with a more intense hunger that could only be abated for so long.
By the time we were finished, the sun had finished its descent for the evening. I looked out the window, searching for the first sight of the moon and noticed the fly still clinging to the window, witnessing what we just partook in. I advanced to seize it and smother it, but it flew too soon from my grasp. I knew I would be ruing whatever was to come of that in the morning.
At the moment, however, as my wife swallowed the rest of Mr. Konekney, there was nothing more I could do. We both couldn’t pass for any type of human being at this point. Our wiry, black hair shined thickly in the new moon’s light. We had not one drop of blood on our coats, nor any skin or chips of bone underneath our nails. The only trace of Mr. Konekney were the mashed up remains and DNA of him inside our bellies, soon to be completely digested by morning. My wife and I would not be able to go outside for a number of days. We knew how this went: our metamorphosis was unstoppable and incurable for weeks. It was the cross we had to bear, though we bore it with pride.
I crawled into bed, still sweating, still shaking from all the blessed excitement. I knew I must dispose of Mr. Konekney’s car while it was still dark but it would be fine where it was parked for one day. My wife slid in next to me, her tough, scratchy skin chaffing against mine. We both knew full well that seclusion was the best option for us, but we also knew that was not an option. We needed food, we needed sustenance in order to survive, just like the humans.
My wife placed a clawed hand on my chest, her chin nestled into my neck, showing affection so that I would forget her punishment, however it was not something I usually forgot. I turned my head and looked out the window, only to see that persistent, stalking fly perched on its stoop, no doubt mocking us. “I know what you did,” I could hear it hiss––could hear it buzz through the glass. My heart sank. This time it was not rehearsed but natural. Waiting for the insect to leave, I bared my fangs at it. It removed itself from the glass. Before it flew away, I could hear within its agonizing flight:
“I know what you did.”