There once was a secretary and a school teacher who loved each other very much, but they seemed to always argue over the children. They were hers, he said. She should do more to take care of them. Yeah, but I’m more busy than you, and you live in my house, which I pay for.
George, who was old enough to drive, and Hannah, who was not much younger than her brother, would listen to their mother and her boyfriend bicker like children in their eyes.
The actual children couldn’t see that their mother worked two shifts at one office, a shift at another office for the same company, as well as weekends at a shelter, to pay off debt. They didn’t see it, because they were at school, but also because they couldn’t imagine their mother ever owing anyone anything. Neither did they see their step-dad, if he could be called that, as worth much. He hated school as much as they did — and all three felt forced to go, the teacher as his job, the kids as part of some stupid rule grown ups had decided before they were born.
. . .
“Let’s run away,” said George, one night.
The grown ups were fighting downstairs with the TV on medium volume.
“Where?” asked Hannah, thinking the same thing.
With no plans, the two climbed out of the sister’s window on the second floor, down the cheap wooden panels, and left in the direction of the full moon.
“How will we know how to get back?” asked Hannah, looking around the forested suburban neighborhood, of winding roads and cookie cutter houses.
George took off a mala-bead necklace he was wearing, and snapped it at the top. “Easy,” he said, letting the beads fall into his hand. “We will leave a trail.”
When they saw a particularly ugly house, they decided to turn off the street and head into the woods.
“Through the backyard?”
They went, quickly at first, then slowly, over fence and thick shrubbery. Every minute they dropped a bead on the ground and planted a branch into the wet earth, to find their way back to the neighborhood. It was fun, and exciting, to be brother and sister out on an adventure.
Although they didn’t find anything interesting that first night, they did hear the sounds of a flute and the smell of an oven baked dish of gingerbread and cinnamon. But it was too dark and too scary to really find it. Plus, eventually the beads ran out.
“Let’s go back,” said Hannah.
George almost refused, but then they heard an animal howl. So they traced their way back home, and promised to go exploring again the next night.
. . .
Unfortunately, they did not go exploring the next night. The step-dad had made reservations for the mother and him at a nice restaurant with a minimum per person. It was his way of showing that he loved his girlfriend. The mother, however, didn’t think it was safe or fun to leave the children home, so she brought them along. Normally the kids enjoyed going out to eat, but now they felt their more exciting plans were thwarted, not to mention it was a total drag to go to a place just to have front row seats to another argument. The worst part, however, was the feeling that the fighting was their fault, for being there. And to an extent it was.
The following night their plans to leave were blocked again. The mother stayed with both of them, to help with their homework, since their grades were falling.
The night after that, too, and the next, and for the next two weeks brother and sister were watched or guarded or imprisoned home for one reason or another. Until, luckily, on the night of a new moon, the TV was on again at medium volume, and the grown ups had brought home an expensive bottle of wine, lit a dozen candles, and were just them two alone downstairs. But all George and Hannah could hear were spiteful remarks, criticisms, and months of trauma brought to the fore.
“Tonight,” said George, poking his head into Hannah’s room.
Hannah, who was reading, put down her hardcover copy of the old Fairy Tales. Her bare legs were halfway under her bed sheets, warm, cozy. So she shook her head, something terrible in her own mind.
George grabbed one of her jean shorts, lying on the ground, and threw it at his sister. “Let’s go!”
“Fine,” said Hannah. And after tying her shoes, and crawling out of bed, the siblings left through her second story window outside.
It was Friday night, so neither of them worried about what was about to happen.
. . .
“Give me a piece,” whispered Hannah, her hand outstretched. Her brother was carrying a long dry sausage, tearing off the salty, outer layer, and biting into the meat with his front teeth. “Where did you get it from?”
“The dinner table,” said George, who explained that the table had been set back home, but that no one was eating.
After sharing a bite, the siblings continued wandering. They had remembered to turn off at the ugliest house in the neighborhood, to dash across its backyard, over the fence, and through the dense woods. But they had forgotten to bring something to mark the trail back home. A hard rain had washed away the beads. But by the time they realized, it wasn’t too late. They had only been ambling for a few minutes.
“Wait,” said George. “Let’s leave pieces of this sausage.”
“That’s stupid,” said Hannah, who knew a thing or two from reading so many books. “Birds might eat the pieces of food we leave.”
She grinned. “Instead, let’s just use branches, like we did last time.”
They did, and every minute or so, tore off from a tree a piece of it, and stuck that twig into the ground, marking their way to nowhere.
. . .
“Do you smell that?” asked George.
“Do you hear that?” asked Hannah.
It was the same sweet oven baked smell and flute music, coming from not far off in the distance. For the trees, however, they couldn’t see anything yet, and had to follow their other senses forward, towards the mystery.
Until they came across an old Georgian mansion, flood damage on all sides, with green ivy hanging all along the Greek columns, fire damage on the Neo-classical window sills, and, most wild of all, amid the swampy almost trench-like garden surrounding the house, they saw various groups of different animals huddled around it. A murder of crows. A clowder of cats. And a mischief of rats and mice. It seemed, at least to the siblings who stared from afar for a long time, that the creatures were all chewing on a part of the house. Sure enough, the house, at least in the darkness of that moonless night, seemed to sparkle as if made of sugar.
And it even smelled sweet, too, gingery, and baked.
“I wish I had brought my phone,” said Hannah.
George clicked a cheek. “Let’s go in!”
Hannah turned towards her brother, who was standing up tall, with her green eyes wide open. “Are you crazy?”
George, full of acne scars and standing straight, didn’t feel afraid. “This is what we came here for!”
“But . . .” Hannah turned back to the house, herself huddled over her knees, watching the groups of animals, and shivering as she took in its columns and the green swamp all around. “. . . How?”
“You knock on the front door,” said George.
“And I will go around back.”
“Just listen to your older brother.”
Somehow that was enough. Soon, George was dashing around the perimeter, arms swinging, and hands balled into fists. While Hannah scared the animals away, with her slow, steady steps towards the tall, dark, front door.
. . .
She knew she had been delegated the role of primary distraction. Nevertheless, she knocked loud enough to distract herself from her brother’s branch breaking footsteps around the way. But no answer. So she knocked again. Still, no answer. She knocked a third time, this time even louder. And yet, no answer.
Suddenly she heard a sharp, shrill animal noise. It jolted Hannah. When she turned, though, she saw a fuzzy cat, all fat and scrunchy-faced, warming its body with one of the long columns. Back and forth, the cat moved, back and forth along the columns round face, letting out another high pitched cries, and quivering.
“The cat’s in heat,” noted Hannah. When the door creaked open behind her.
. . .
The back door looked like any normal back door from the neighborhood, except that slime covered the screen door, and rusty hinges looked ready to pop off. Here, it didn’t occur to George that entering the abandoned house was illegal, except when it speed up his heart beat and filled him with an irresistible sense of naughtiness, as his hand reached for the handle. Swinging the screen door, however, a crooked rat with a missing foot jumped on his skinny leg, and scurried upward, humping its way up like mad.
After a fright, and a vigorous shaking, plus a nice swat to the nose, the rat flew off, and George scared it away, before breathing, putting his hand on the actual doorknob and turning it. The knob was cool in his hand as it turned, almost too cool, while smooth and metallic. Pushing in, the door opened.
. . .
No one had opened the door for Hannah. It was as if it had happened on its own. So Hannah took it as permission to enter. Inside, she saw two long staircases leading to an upper floor. That was the first thing.
The second, following the staircases, were the cobwebs all over, the dripping of water from the ceiling, mold over mold, and empty rectangles on the wall where paintings had once hung. Aside from the dripping, the landing was eerily quiet. She thought she heard a noise, but it was just the sound of her beating heart. But then she heard foot steps on the upper level. There was a door down the hall, maybe she could dash towards it, but no, it was too far for her to reach in time, her instincts preventing her from trying, while helping her swing around fast, when fate presented her a side door.
“Please be a closet,” she prayed, as she turned the knob, and found herself at the top of yet another long staircase. The steps from the other room getting louder, she clicked the door behind her, ignoring the smell of rank dead carcasses, and feces, as she descended.
. . .
George thought it was strange for this big abandoned house to have such a clean kitchen. From where he had entered he had accessed a rather large one, with full sets of knives and utensils. Too clean, he thought, cleaner than at our house. Going back to the knives, he thought of picking one up, but then remembered he was only passing by out of curiosity. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. Although, true enough, he could hurt someone with a thing like that, cut them right up, leave them maimed and slashed, blood everywhere, aching inside. No, George shook his head, he wasn’t going to cut anyone. Suddenly, he turned up. There was that flute music again, louder, coming from the other side of another door.
. . .
Down, down in the basement, only silence. Hannah turned the corner at the bottom step, before landing in a dank and humid room. The air was so wet in there, you couldn’t light a match. And her nose stung from the stench of yeast and indoor toadstools.
By squinting, then relaxing her eyes, she could make out a workout bench in the corner, the shiniest thing in the basement. Next she saw a water heater, but not hung up nor operating, just lying on its side, a puddle of still water around it like the blood of a murder victim. And in the middle, there was something that gave Hannah such fright she had to cover her mouth to not gasp too loud.
In a king-sized wooden bed, no legs, no backrest, just the frame and matress, creaking softly, there appeared a beast breathing hard and heavy.
Hannah could not but tip toe forward, a humming in her chest between her small breasts, an audible thumping so loud, she could not even hear herself swallowing her dry spit in her own mouth, as she approached.
It wheezed, as it slept. It was massive, limbs splayed out towards the corners of the bed, almost covering it all. There was room only enough for a tiny body, one as tiny as Hannah’s, she thought, as she came to the edge of the bed, and looked close at the thing.
It wasn’t a thing, or a beast, but a man. Ash blond hair. Hands the size of her head. And lips more full than hers.
The next thing she noticed was how good he smelled. Not foul, not musty, but heady, fragrant, like sweat after a long workout. Did Hannah lean in closer, to get a closer look? Did Hannah flare her nostrils, forgetting the smell of the basement as she got a sense of the man? Did Hannah get so close to his face, she could feel the heat of the creature half asleep?
His eyes shot open, blue as steel, and penetrating. His teeth fanged, white as paper, and sharp. Hannah would have jumped backed and screamed. But his broad chest full of hair muffled her cry, while massive arms, disabling any resistance, brought her to bed.
. . .
Candles. Silverware. And two napkins folded in the shape of swans. That’s all George saw, before seeing someone seated at the head of a long wooden table, with long straight hair running down to her shoulders, and wearing a thin-strapped silk dress the color red, narrow at a waist he could not see. Nor could he see her full face, for a large glass of wine veiled her grape-stained lips and pearl teeth and pointed chin. So entranced was their shared, locked stare that George ignored the music which had lured him there, ignored the massive Baroque canvases hung along the blue walls, ignored the wild boar in the center of the table with a green apple in its mouth and lemon wedges tooth-picked to its body.
The woman stood up, as if expecting him, and with her palm invited George to sit at the opposite end of the table, where a place was set for him. Not one fiber in his body could resist the invitation, no matter how confused this made him, because all of a sudden, he realized just how hungry he was with only that half-eaten sausage for dinner.
The chair felt upholstered with feathers, because it crunched as he took a seat. His pants too tight. His mouth too dry.
Carrying a bottle by its neck, the woman stepped forward, gracefully, letting her fingertips run along the side of the long table, not a speck of dust on that table. It was so long that George noticed the narrow waist he had missed earlier, noticed also the sway of her hips just below, noticed this woman was barefoot and pedicured well in a violet that held his eyes on it. Then he looked up and past the prominent bust, saw a smiling face look down at him, which felt familiar.
His insides turned, as tension rose, and his chest grew weak and heavy at once, as he stared at parts of this woman who didn’t mind those parts being stared at.
“You look thirsty,” said the woman, in a low voice.
George didn’t reply. Instead he grabbed the glass of wine being handed to him. The glass was heavy at the top, he felt as he held it, just as heavy as this woman was at the top, as he beheld her.
Just then, surprising George, she ran the tip of her tongue along the rim of her bottom lip. And whispered something he would never forget for the rest of his life.
. . .
They made out, wet, slobbing, groping and rubbing their bodies together, one massive, the other tiny, this wolf man and this lost girl. Hannah could hardly breath, his hands were all over her body, all at once. Squeezing her tight behind, making her small breasts ache for a touch. While her arms, folded at her sides, were restricted by swollen arms. This animal man, his nice smelling fur crackling with the friction between them. His tongue unlike that of the boys’ back in school, who tried their best, but gave more excuses than kisses. But breathless, she was breathless, and so was this man, losing himself in her, she could tell, going mad and wilder with every turn of his mouth, like cracking the code to a combination lock, but with lips turning.
Her skirt zipper came undone. She was lost in a feverish dream. She trembled and moaned, but could not even move any part of herself, for his gripping embrace left not an inch of space from his straight, tough body.
A coocoo-clock went off though, maybe it was midnight, and Hannah opened her eyes to the steel ones of this stranger. His face had grown more hairy. His face was more narrow, his nose wet like a wolf’s. Then her breath came back to her, just for a moment, long enough for her to whisper one hot single word:
The beast man raised his brow. Then he listened to Hannah, as she spoke again.
“Feed me,” she said. “I am hungry.”
The man lowered his brow, then furrowed it at the next set of words.
“After,” said Hannah. “After we come back.”
She didn’t have time to gasp, when she was swept off the bed, and raced up the stairs.
. . .
There was something odd about her, like too much makeup, too much plastic surgery, her forehead too high, her nose too long, her hands too wrinkled, but ah what the hell, thought George. Her breasts were the closest any had ever been to him, at licking distance they were, as this woman poured him another glass.
“What do you say?” asked the woman, her warmth breath giving George’s face a tan. “What. Do. You. Say?”
“Thank you,” said George. He had never been drunk before, nor had he minded his manners in so long, smacking his lips before his repeated: “Thank. You.”
Pork stains, bones chewed to the marrow, and pieces of carrot and lettuce littered the table cloth. George felt full, but content. This woman smacked her lips too, as she dropped to her knees in front of young, jaw-dropped George. They were now at eye level, when she put her hands on his thighs. Had he not been wearing pants, his eagerness would have pointed at the woman who now held her head just before George’s, still on her knees, scooting in closer, and closer. The air from her nose tickled George’s face.
“You should stop tearing your pimples,” said the lady.
George nodded his head.
“You would look a lot more handsome,” she added.
George lunged for the part of her that criticized him, reached for the part that made him hard.
For a second she welcomed his hands and tongue, let him feel how plush and plump she was, gave him her veiny yet taught neck to lick and leave childish hickeys. But then she rose, and pointed her tummy to him who was sitting.
He motioned to stand up, but she held him down lightly, as she shook her head, No.
“I want you to kiss me . . . here,” she said, raising her red dress slowly, effortlessly, with only the tip of her fingers, the right index pointing at the place between her pubis and her navel. “Kiss me here,” she said, again.
And George did, first gently, then recklessly, while his hands rubbed the cool side of her body, and she made noises.
With one arm he lifted her up, while with the other arm he knocked down everything off the table, and she laughed. But no, not there. He brought her to the floor, tore off the thin straps of her dress, and she giggled. But no, not that either. Something was holding him back, something was wrong, but he didn’t know what.
“The bedroom?” the long nosed woman inquired.
George grunted his assent, picked the woman off the ground by the hand, and ran to the hallway with her trailing and laughing behind him.
. . .
Thunder clapped outside. Everyone was in the hallway, the woman, the man, the boy, and the girl.
“Hannah?” cried George.
“George?” howled Hannah.
Sister saw her brother swaying in the darkness, saw how slumped over and losery he could be, looking douchey with lipstick prints all over his face, and this butter-face, busty witch in his hand. Fury filled her. Jealousy poisoned her.
Brother noticed how bestial his sister had become, such a bitch in heat, scratch marks down her neck, and sweaty hair, arm in arm with this werewolf asshole. Lust confused him. Jealousy struck him.
Meanwhile, the siblings were not alone, as man and woman, husband and wife, flew at the other’s throat. How could you cheat on me, how could you be with that teen, you don’t pay attention to me anymore, blah, blah, blah.
This gave the siblings just enough time to jet out the front door, and even shut it behind them. But just before they did, they caught sight of this witch and this werewolf rolling on the floor, filling the other’s body, as they fulfilled the other’s soul.
“Freaks,” said George, wiping the lipstick off his neck.
“No kidding,” said Hannah, rubbing the curly, loose chest hairs from her chest and waist.
They followed the branches back home.
Past the ugly house.
Up and around the suburban winding roads, back to their cookie cutter house, with its cookie cutter problems.
. . .
Without realizing it, as natural as coming home from school, though it was almost the morning, a white dawn rising in the east, George turned the front door knob as if he knew it would open. And it did.
The TV in the living room was off. No one had washed the dinner plates, they were left on the table, where those dozen candles had burned themselves completely. And the adults were nowhere to be found.
“They are probably in the bedroom,” said Hannah, almost in a whisper, except that she yawned when she tried to.
George knew his sister was right, and thought he heard noises coming form upstairs, of wrinkling bedsheets and laughter, but he was too tired to really care.
Both siblings tip toed to their bedrooms, minds too full to think.
“Yo,” said George, just before entering his room.
“All this . . . that happened . . .”
Hannah fanned his brother’s worry. “Treat it like a dream.”
“And, hey, George,” said Hannah, just before she entered her room.
She rolled her eyes as she sighed with happiness. “Thank God it’s the weekend.”