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en famille

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The last time you see your sister in your lifetime is when the CPS takes her away. Mom's crying somewhere upstairs. Daddy's nowhere. David's standing beside you, cool and remote, holding your hand.

Jane twists around in the back seat of the car and locks eyes with you. As they pull away, she doesn't stop staring, and she doesn't wave. Jay-Jay gets to go, but you and David have to stay. In the end, Daddy had put his foot down and said, Take the girl. But the boys are mine - I know that much. 

In the end, only one of you could be saved.

Remember that, kid.

Here's how it goes: Daddy dies first, and it's all your fault, but Mom thinks it was an accident.

Six months later, you go axe-crazy and stab her in the gut. David leads you out of the house, grinning. "Oh, God," you whimper. "Oh, God."

He grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you like a dog with a mallard. "God isn't real. You hear me? We're the only gods here, little brother."

Later that night, the person that was you dies inside your head, and the killer stands up in your body, and Davey loves him more than you.

You're a new being, a creature conceived of blood and steel, but most of you is still a slow-moving, squishy person. They catch you, and they bring you to the asylum. A man with a wolf on his back scrapes you hollow. 

There's this other kid, some poor twitching freak called Toby. He's brave. Dr. Paxton doesn't care. One day, he drags Toby out of group therapy, and you and Jack and everyone else have to sit there and listen to the screams.

That doesn't touch you. You're a husk being rattled by the wind.

Two days later, Jack gets torn to pieces by a thing called Rake.

Two days after that, you lead Toby out of Hell, tossing the wolf's head back and forth. He looks at you with dead, adoring eyes and names you brother. David is nowhere - he was smart and you were dumb; he slipped through their fingers, but you couldn't twist away. It feels good to have a family again.

Toby conjures up a noodle-white demon in a suit and introduces it to you. He calls it slender, which it is, and man, a filthy lie if you ever heard one. 

You turn away without saying goodbye. This long monster and its broken son could be your people, but you have to go back. You have no heart, but if you did, David's name would be carved on it, weeping black blood.

Oh, hell. Oh, no. 

Davey dies next, and that's when you learn that no, you're not invulnerable. You're the opposite - a being made of hurts, and singed nerves, and a fevered brain. A guitar string, plucked again and again by a mammoth toddler. 

Davey coats you with extravagant bursts of purple blood until his heart folds in on itself. You cry and beat your head against the ground and wait to wake up.

This is your life, though.

You are awake, and you are alone.

Later that night, a smirking cop grabs you and this scowling girl and pushes you both together, real close. He says, "This lil' piece of ass is your sister." 

You remember, and joy swoops you up from the depths of unburied-brother-grief. She hates you, wants nothing to do with you, but you don't care, because "I have a family!"

Two hours later, she breaks you like a twig and blows up the town. She smirks at you, and you die cursing.

That is not the last time.

I would say that this is your life now, but who could call this a life? A corpse may piece itself back together and rise from its sooty grave, but in this world, that doesn't count for jack shit. It can lie moaning in a sewer, crusted all over with beetles, but that's no good. A minor god may make a throne from the bodies of dead women and slouch on it, but it's still nobody's brother. 

A dead man can caper all he wants - and you do, you caper like a cat, you dance with madmen and you dance well. But, at the end of the day, a woman who was his sister will turn up and rip him apart.

Davey, for all you know, still lies in the ruined pizzeria, slowly turning into loam. Jay-Jay found Toby, and calls him brother. Men visit you where you lie and offer you impossible riches, ultimate power, an oakstrong new body to replace this carcass. It doesn't matter.

In the end, you are alone.

The last time you see your sister, it's snowing - a beautiful hushing drift that twinkles and melts in her cat-black hair. She's looking up at you and crying, her tears freezing on her chin.

You tighten the noose and shuffle around on the branch, hoping that it won't break. "Jay, do think you'd have noticed if I'd just disappeared?"

She can't answer that, because she can't lie. So she wails something and claws at the frozen trunk again, trying to find purchase. Her hands are bleeding.

The thing is, she followed you out here to kill you again. The gun lies in the snow, gleaming grey on the cold, fleecy blanket. The irony makes you smile.

"You can't!" she wails. "Don't leave me alone!"

You screamed that at her that night in Spokane, the night David died, the night she blew you to fritters in the dark.

You jump, and are met with the mouth of a great black whale. 

Its swallow is a snap.

Jeff, you can't hear me anymore, but I had to tell you this: Jane put the gun to her stomach and pulled the trigger, and she waited, and when five minutes had gone by and the pain was still bright she shoved it in her mouth and shot her brains out.

Someone will find you both tomorrow, and you'll be washed and shrouded, and someone'll put two and two together and bring you both up to Spokane, where David waits. You'll thump down beside him, one after the other,'ll be a family again, Jeff.

I hope this made you happy.