This short story was written for a submission call, t’was rejected twice. Hope you like it nonetheless.
The first time I noticed Samson was growing horns, he was in the bathroom, gazing at the birth of his baldness. Outgrowth were mere bumps back then, all crackled and black as some recent burns. Did you know horns are usually made of coagulated hairs?
My big brother, he was losing those by the handful, half bent over the sink, staring straight at the mirror. It was as if the protuberances mattered less than his shiny skull, as if he was already accustomed to this. Oblivious.
That is, until he saw me watching him and slammed the door shut in an angered fashion.
I was in the 10th grade, although I should easily have been on the 11th. Walls of my room were littered with obscene rare bands and naked chicks. Parents didn’t mind, they had more pressing matters. See, they had paid Samson’s business school, a gargantuan amount of money, in order to turn my sibling into the next Wolf of Wall Street out there. Big brother had been good at it, mostly.
He lived far away, on his own, got a job from what I could get and left some messages on the house answering machine every once in a while, begging for money. Decent student. Fairly good grades. Forgotten parents in the countryside. Business attire.
Despite my big brother being but four years older’n me, we were never that close. From a young age, he’d prefer to stay alone and quiet, and some nights he would go out and kill some neighbour’s rooster. Or a dog. He would then come back before morn, his bare feet covered in moss, smelling of humus and musk.
Habit eased a bit when he befriended Roger.
Samson met his best friend during grade school. Thanks to the special classes the parents paid to get him into. Allegedly it was for smart kids. I won’t say Roger drowned the voices in my sibling’s cranium, but at least he was a friend to hang around with. Also, he always refused to go out and kill neighbourhood’s chicken, even when my whole drunken family pressured him into it. Decent guy. Swear he would have loved dating me. I don’t know.
Truth is, it all turned sour when Roger got expelled for substance abuse. I don’t think Samson ever really got over it. T’was when he became very silent and studious and broody? Helped him get into his private school, too.
Until he disappeared.
Can distinctly recall the day my big brother went missing, although I would not bet on the exact date. I was in my room, growing bored with the silence, growing bored with the music I was listening to, thinking about war. Went to the kitchen and swear I could hear my mother’s sobs from the top of the stairs. She cried all day long. Outside, dad was yelling into his cell phone as if his anger could be somehow carried through the wavelength. “Samson’s disappeared,” was all I could ever get out of the woman who had carried me for nine months.
After that, me and my father travelled to the city, I think he genuinely hoped he would find his prodigal son. Car was lukewarm and always made my throat ache. Flat was empty. And small. Empty walls, empty fridge. A student’s loan. In the bedroom lay the remnants of a campsite.
It was a small circle, ten inches wide, of stones surrounding a nucleus of ashes. Fire was gone, although we would have to change the tiled floor before we would get out. I’m sure this was my dad’s first thought. Not ‘How uncanny!’ but ‘This shit’s also gonna cost me.’ Yet, it was weird seeing a campfire in between a neat, prepared bed and an empty cupboard. No posters. A place to sleep, a place to put clothes in, a place to get warm and smell like ashes. T‘was all.
Samson, my big brother, the ex-trader, he disappeared for slightly over three years. Those were decent years. You could wake up and not find any moss or blood on the stairs which led to his room. Mom cried a bit, at first, but as the months drew and the medication took hold, she became calmer. Quieter. There were no animal killings back then, and I somehow survived grade school. Although I had to learn that fantasizing about your science teacher’s butt wasn’t a girly thing.
I grew up and kinda lame.
At night, through the damp walls, I could sometimes hear my parents, blindly whispering in the dark. About Samson, his whereabouts. They didn’t care as much as they liked to think, for if they knew, really knew their own son, they would have thought to ask Roger. Missing or not, my big brother loved his best friend. I never gave the genitors any clue either.
Samson came back one evening. Just like that. Overhead the dusk was painting slacks of clouds all grey and purple and pink, and there stood my big brother. Hairy and dirty. Big holed-up trousers, a torn jacket. The flea-ridden dog he brought was missing a leg. Left hind one. Name was Ava. I never asked about the missing limb.
It took my sibling over three months before he would shave and I saw his horns. Three lengthy months through which life became an ordeal. You could not make any sense of half of whatever came out of Samson’s mouth. Always along the lines of him having found the true meaning of life. Having talked to God, “Deep in a well, underground, where unscaly snakes crawl through entrails with eyes all golden like headlights.” His words not mine. According to my homeless brother, in order to survive we all have to devour other’s lives, be it through banking, talking, mass consumption. Economic cannibalism. Chronic anthropophagy.
The horned Samson, he said he’d left to test his theory, to see if there were any other landscapes, or social classes, who did not survive by killing others, be it halfway across the globe. He said, “You see phones everywhere, yet if you possess a battery, right here, right now, in your pocket, there’s probably some Congolese miner, or children who’ve died in order to bring forth the matter that makes it work. You consumed this unknown person’s life through consumerism.” He could go on for hours on end, as the sky turned dark and full of void and dilettante stars, smoking a blunt on the garden chair. Plastic ones. A blanket over his knees.
We all devour one another. Always beginning by the weakest.
After shaving his head, my brother started to wear a washed-up beanie all the time to hide his horns. Picture the terrified eyes of my mother staring at the damned black thing as if she could see through it. Red veins up her milky whites. At first, she tried to take it off a few times, but then dad got her institutionalized.
Samson never got better, although my father prayed for it on the rare nights he was there. Most mornings the genitor would just come back smelling all womanly and shit. Even I could scent it, despite my newfound tobacco addiction.
By the time the dog disappeared, I got to be the one cooking. For me, mainly. Samson never ate, so I was feeding myself most of the time. Also, the dog. Long story short would be me waking up on some dust-filled morning to discover the sad beast was gone. The truth would be admitting I never liked the way my big brother latched upon the canine every once in a while. Truth would be admitting my big brother sometimes had manic episodes.
I sometimes wonder whether my dad could not really see Samson’s horns. At one point those things were huge enough I swore they would break every light bulb and chandeliers around the house. My father, he never addressed this. Never. Addressed.
Woke up one night to the sound of someone else’s laboured breathing in my room. The time it took me to fight the darkness all around, I could discern Samson, sitting in a chair, to the left wall. Horns so big you could picture a stag beetle able to swallow the sun.
“Here’s a hunger that’s gonna devour us all,” said my brother in a breath. Surgically, Samson turned towards me. His eyes were the shine of a flashlight on frosty nights. “We predators. They teach us to kill others and feed upon their flesh, feast upon the earth and the sun and the rocks. ’Til nothing is there anymore ‘cept for wildfires and coughing babies.”
My big brother — the beast that once was him — crawled on all fours to my bed. His hands were skeletal and cold and wet when he grabbed my naked arm. Only his sharpened eyes and crooked teeth shone on the world. “They wish you to be like me, Emily. You don’t let them. It’s too late for we all dying soon. You do someth’n you like.” And just like that, the stiff hand, the frost of wildlands and business made of glass and steel was gone.
So was my brother.
Police officers came by the house a few days later. I thought they’d discuss the chicken or the dog thing. Missing pets. But their first question was, “Is Roy Albadur your father?” They said he’d hit a tree, half drunk, half asleep. Neither had to say it, but I could picture him, all around a birch as some obscene snake. The police officers, they had more questions.
For they said someone had chewed through the brakes of my dad’s car.
Next week, I’ll explain the first step in my filmmaking saga!