My pop was a ponytail rider on the outskirts of decency. Not given to fits of rage as his father was, as I am, but certainly given to other unpleasantness in his own way. He would smoke on his pipes, he built them himself from copper tubing, and tell stories to me. They were dark, brooding, bloody tales. They twisted and turned with his mind, meandered about pillars of his experience but never brushed them, took me away to places so beyond the human experience that I was set to reeling in my thoughts at the close of every one. He told them at night as bedtime stories. I never could sleep well in the time he was with us.
Still, it interested me beyond belief. I’d heard from mom and my various extended family that he had gone to school for it, for storytelling I mean. He did so love the written word, reading was all I saw him do when he was inside, which was irregular for him. He preferred the universe of his head and he entered it past the tree line.
Those were dark times, don’t let them tell you they were lighter than these. I play-acted like I’d not heard the rumors, that the earth was going to open again. Everyone’d learned about those slick, amber things, the elders which had opened the hairline cracks in the earth to chasms. Had swallowed up our oil, our magma, left the earth as cold and dead as it was. My pop believed in it like nobody did, he even said he’d had his heart taken out by them and had the scar to prove it.
There had been machines before, that ran on oil. Not like in sardines, the oil we’ve got left, it was a black sort of oil. The amber fathers had come for it, they drank it, and it bubbled up in their olden guts. So my pop said in his stories. He told me that their powers lied in their ability to find the seams in things. In a person, you couldn’t see them, but they could. They knew how to touch you with no implements of war, with their hands, to break you apart.
They broke apart the earth. They pried apart the atoms with their fingernails. They were so, so loud, it made the ears of the children run with blood. So he always told me. He said, if you feel that pain and the rushing down your cheeks, pray to God to take you. Find any way you can to cover your seams. Run in circles, they can’t find seams in a blur. For years, I ran back and forth in the house when thunder sounded outside.
Well, they came, as you know. They slipped between the seams of the border, great blobs they were. In school, we’d learned that they were shapeshifters in their place, that what we saw was an infinitely thin bit of them poking through, that they could make into something like the form of a man.
We were in the woods when they came. I felt that deep pain, the screaming needles pushed into my ears, the sides of my face painted like the doorways of the Passover. The compass went wild, pointing at the wall of erupting sound. My pop pushed his hat back to tug at his hair with one hand and grabbed my shoulder with the other. His bulbous eyes skipped off the trees and back to me.
Mallo, get back, he told me. Run in circles, like I said. I did, I waved my arms. No seams, I kept thinking. My pop yelled, I couldn’t hear it now, he tossed his rucksack and I caught it awkwardly. The compass was swirling around, I could feel the vibrations of the sound in my bones but I could not hear it. Then, they were all around. Breaking apart the trees into mist along their seams. My pop was tugging his hair, face wretched, he hadn’t tugged it so since mom had gone. He screamed, mouthed my name, stopped his stamping to push me away as they came to him.
Their fingers came up like cracks in the wall, broken, twisted fingers with many joints. They touched all over him. It looked gentle, almost, like a loving caress. I ran, as he bid me to do, and when I turned they had found the hairlines. His body was torn to reddish mist. It’s very-most basic pieces. His seams spilled open, I could see the heartless, wet chasm of his chest yawn as they tore him away. Insides flopping on the dirt and misting away.
They were here for eleven minutes, so they say. Taking some, and leaving others at random. They took our wood away as they had taken our oil, to power themselves up I suppose. I miss the wood. God, I miss the wooden handles of axes and the paper dolls. I miss the books, I miss the trees, I hate the grass-grown abyssal plains where there is no shade from the boiling sun. I do as my pop said. I pray to God to take me.