I remember a house. An L-shaped house in the woods. Long corridor, small kitchen. One exit, locked. And I remember the two of us, my brother and I, peeking through a door opened just an inch with his head under my chin. His feather-hair smelled like sawdust.
And I remember a man. An O-shaped man under thin yellow light, half-inside the kitchen with one knee on the floorboard. We were supposed to call him Father, but he was Grizzly when we were alone.
And when we were alone, I remember, we were scraping at the back of the L, scraping, scratching, clawing like mice in the walls at night, trying to pry open the heavy pine board where he kept all the food. Grizzly food. Stuffed under, fattening the earth instead of our bones. No matter how loud, or how bitter, or how sweet, or how much we cried, empty and tongue-dry, he kept saying we have to save food, ‘Cause something bad’s gonna happen, something real bad. When he talked, he never turned to look at us. Said we looked like her. The Saint. The Prophet. But I don’t remember her.
But I remember one time, Grizzly was out, prowling for meat, To save us when the time comes, and my brother and I were scraping at the back, fast. Clouds swallowed the wood-walls around us, and all we saw and touched and smelled and tasted was pinewood. Its oily scent filled our mouths.
And I remember my brother’s bony finger slipped in a crack on the floorboard and got slit open by a splinter, and blood bubbled out. While he sucked on the cut, a guttural groan burst from my throat, and somehow I managed to lift up the large, long plank and toe-out something from under, something hard and frozen, like a fish.
I rushed to the stove, opened the gas cylinder, spinning the wheel all the way until it pissed air, and I remember I found four matches in a box and struck one but it broke in two.
Hurry, my brother whine-whispered as Grizzly’s growl approached the door. The clouds around were closing in on me and I struck another match and the flame swelled bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, and I held it close to the stove, and I don’t remember more.
Only the smell of my brother’s feather-hair under my chin. Crisp. Smokey.
Originally published in The Molotov Cocktail Vol. 13 Issue 7.
Cover art by The Molotov Cocktail