A sword, glum and without sheen. Too ugly to be a display piece, but there it was, above the mantelpiece. Dormant, without its scabbard. 

“Why’d you keep that hideous thing up there, Uncle Vernon?” I ask. He had invited me for dinner, unusually. We hadn’t spoken in years. Not since our argument. He called me a wastrel, pissing away his dead brother’s nest-egg. He wasn’t completely wrong. Two years later and I’m penniless. 

 “There’s an old family legend, lad,” he says over his brandy. “That this weapon must take a life every fifty years, or our house will fall into ruin.” 

 I drain my drink to the ice. “You said this dinner was about a job opportunity, Uncle,” I say with impatience.

 “It is,” he says, unblinking. “Let’s wait for our dinner to go down first.”

Trophy Case

 His hands grasped for memories about the space beneath the bed. Out came a wooden chest more ancient than the room around him, model aeroplanes still tethered to the ceiling on cotton strings. 

 He unmasked his sacred haul. An identity parade of conquests, his penchant for redheads. He leafed through the driver’s licences. Yet something felt off. Everything was not in its place. Not in the order he’d left them. His mother, stretched by the years, lived alone in this dilapidating townhouse home. The boredom since he’d moved out. It felt such a nuisance to have to take measures now. 


 The tree trunk curled across the way. Burnt matchstick roots scattered to the dust. So far up into the mountain that those on the ground shrunk to the size of plastic army men pressed about the sand. It was up here that the boy cycled from person to person, grown many times in size by the curvature of the lens. Black lines intersecting over women, men. Other children. 

 Some cooked. Some cleaned pots in the stream that bent around the sanded field where baseball was once played, presently a place to grow leeks. The barbecue pits turned communal kitchens. Earlier a party he tracked back here came on his camp in the night. They had nearly tripped over him as he had imagined himself a stone. Walked on by. He had not seen their faces then. He wondered if he saw them now. 

 It almost did not feel fair, what was going to happen to the people he watched. Before they had a chance to react. That they would go from content and full stomachs to grief. By then he would already be on the move. Impossible to catch. That they shall be afraid to be outside was no victory, but it would bring him some redress.

Talent Scout

 The act leaves him counting the paper and coins pressed into his palm, that he must spend at a different store. Even though most no longer have the tape for their security cameras, he feels safer that way.

     The act doesn’t change. Come on, come outside. There’s something cool to see. Air hockey. Arcade cabinets. In the poorer towns, a promise of food.  When he was growing up there were words for men like him. Strangers, he recalls. How little changes. How everything changes. 

 He thought the amount would have taken a toll on him by now, but he had found his peace. If he refuses, he will be the next one hooded. Put in the van. All monsters have to come to terms with what they are sooner or later.