Madelyns nephew, p.1
MADELYN'S NEPHEW DOC
To Barbara, Mary, Janice, and Margaret (my aunts).
Cover design by BelleDesign [BelleDesign.org]
Copyright © 2016-2017 Ike Hamill
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and events have been fabricated only to entertain. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of Ike Hamill.
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About Madelyn's Nephew
Excerpt from Madelyn's Mistake - Book Two
More by Ike
She slid the last triangular piece of wood into its perfect slot and stood back to look at her work. It was as good as she had ever done. Like any good science, expertly stacking wood looks like art. She didn’t need to tick off the items on her list. They were all done. The wood had been the last one.
She corrected herself—it was the second to last one.
She was the last task. She just had to decide on how to do it.
Ideally, she would kill herself outside so the animals would come and take her remains away. But she couldn’t do it with pills. The drugs would taint her meat and poison the wolves, or bears, or coyotes. They might even poison the birds. She couldn’t in good conscience leave a gun outside to rust. They were all cleaned, oiled, and tucked away neatly in the cabin. She refused to slit her wrists and slowly bleed to death. She wanted something quick.
If there were any big buildings around, she could jump off of one of those.
The solution was obvious, but completely out of the question. She would never let them take her.
Best not to dwell on the idea. She would sacrifice the little pistol she had inherited from her useless father. It wasn’t good for hunting anyway. For self-defense, it was a last resort weapon. With the decision made, she felt okay about leaving the pistol out to the elements. It could join her father in hell. She went back inside, loaded the thing, and closed the cabin back up behind herself. She walked to the top of the hill.
The clearing was the edge of her civilization. The local predators seemed to understand that if they strayed beyond that clearing, they would be shot. She wondered how long they would stay away after she was gone. Would one try to break into her larder a week after she was dead? A month?
That was a problem for the next inhabitant of her grandmother’s cabin.
She sat on the rock and spoke to the gun.
“You know I’ve never liked you, but that didn’t stop me from taking care of you. I cleaned you and serviced you every season, just like the others. Your precision was never too good, but you made a decent noise, I suppose.”
The gun looked at her with its dead eye.
It tasted like smoke.
Forty years earlier…
“Here's something your father never learned,” the grandmother said. She gutted the fish quickly but took her time removing the scales. The girl looked at the long line of fish spread out on the rock. She had a sinking feeling—the grandmother was teaching; she and her brother would be doing.
“Pay attention!” her grandmother said. She tossed a handful of guts at the boy. It hit his arm and he fell back on his butt. His elbow scraped across a jagged rock and the boy sucked in a pained breath as he looked at the fresh blood.
The girl laughed.
The grandmother looked at the girl.
“You’re laughing at his misfortune? Is that the type of person you want to be?” the grandmother asked. All the cheery lines around her eyes flattened into tiny frowns.
The grandmother flicked the knife and it sank into the dirt at the girl’s feet. The grandmother took the boy by the hand and led him away. She turned back to the girl and said, “When you finish the job, put the fish in the cooler. We’ll be at the creek.”
The girl sighed.
Seven fish sat there. Flies crawled around their mouths and on their eyeballs.
The girl sighed.
She rolled up her sleeves and used her fingers to wipe the guts and dirt off the knife. She picked up the next fish.
# # # # #
“This is the last day,” the grandmother said.
“How do you know?” the boy asked.
“That’s a good question,” the grandmother said. When she rocked her chair, it was always quick. She made the chair squeak as fast as the heartbeat of a rabbit. But when she pondered, she always stopped the chair. It was silent for a few seconds before she answered the good question. “If you sit on this porch, in this chair, aligned just so, there are two times each year that the sun will set into that little crack.”
The grandmother pointed with the stem of her pipe.
“Do you see it?”
The boy shook his head. The girl slid down the porch so she could try to make everything align. From her position on the floorboards, the trick didn’t work.
“Come here,” the grandmother said to the boy. “You, too,” she said, waving to the girl.
They each sat on one of her boney legs and met their heads in the middle. When their grandmother whispered, her breath smelled of mint and roasted chestnuts.
“See the crack in the Sacrifice Rock? See how the setting sun drips into the crack?”
The kids nodded.
“First day of spring and the first day of fall,” the grandmother said. “You know what that means, don’t you?”
The girl felt a ball of hot dread sinking in her belly. She looked at her brother—he was smiling.
“Dad’s coming tonight?” the boy asked.
The grandmother nodded and puffed her pipe.
The girl slid down from her grandmother’s lap and jumped off the porch. She ran down the path, past the old outhouse, and kept going until she stood in the spot where the giant trees blotted out the sky. It was so quiet there—so perfect. She wanted to stay forever.
Through the woods, as if summoned to destroy her wish, she heard the cheerful toot of the horn on her father’s car. It was true. He had come to take them back to the city. He wouldn’t even let them stay the night. He said he couldn’t stand the idea of bugs crawling in his hair. It was a silly notion. He didn’t even have hair.
It was mean of her grandmother to wait until the last second before she told them it was time to go. They had been completely carefree all day, not ever suspecting that it was their last day with their grandmother. How was it possible that three months had passed in the blink of an eye?
It was city smoke. The gun tasted like city smoke because it was a city gun.
She angled the barrel so the bullet would blow a hole through her brain.
She opened her eyes. He had to be a hallucination. First, he was way too old. Second, he couldn’t have snuck up on a deaf person. How the hell had he gotten so close to her without her noticing? Third, he was dead.
Madelyn blinked and wished him away.
He was still there.
She took her father’s city gun out of her mouth so she could talk. She pointed it at her brother.
“What are you?”
He coughed into his hand and then looked around nervously. He took a silent step forward. She raised the gun so it pointed directly between his eyes. He stopped.
“Mac, what are you doing? It’s me.”
“People have names. Say your name.”
“I’m Noah Mason Clarke. You’re Madeline Ava Clarke. At least you were. Maybe you changed your name. You’re the Mac, and I’m the Two by Two.”
He was smart to include a personal detail. Madelyn respected smart.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“It’s my place too,” he said. He pointed at the cabin. “Remember?”
Madelyn looked down at the gun. If he had come a few seconds later, it could have been.
She shook her head. “No. This is my house. You have to go.”
Her brother licked his lips and firmed his stance. “I need you to do me a favor.”
She shook her head.
# # # # #
Madelyn walked down the hill quickly and listened closely for his step behind her. She could barely hear him move. It was no wonder he had snuck up. She had grown accustomed to things that stomped through the forest. She was going to have to brush up on her skills.
She tucked the gun into her belt as she climbed onto the porch. The sun was creeping down the sky.
Madelyn turned at the door. Noah stood at the bottom of the steps.
“They’ll be here in a few hours,” she said. She gestured towards the woods. “They sweep through here for the next month or so. You best be over the hills before midnight.”
“Madelyn,” he said.
She moved through the doorway and started to swing the heavy door shut.
“Mac,” he said.
She closed the door.
In truth, she hadn’t been troubled by any Roamers in years, but he had no way of knowing that. If he had survived this long, he had to know how to get out of harm’s way. He would be running for the hills before sunset.
She looked through the slit in the wall and watched for her brother. She could have offered him some dried meat and nuts. She could have given him some of her matches. She had stockpiled plenty of everything, and had no plans to use any of it. Why was it that she was willing to bequeath all her earthly possessions to the next person who happened along, as long as that person wasn’t her own brother?
Madelyn shook her head and put the metal plug back in the wall. It wasn’t worth thinking about.
She secured the cabin. With everything locked down, there was nothing to do. It was too early to worry about making dinner. She pulled a book, her journal, and a hand puzzle.
Madelyn climbed into her loft and tried to put her hands to use. It was no good. She couldn’t concentrate. Everything was supposed to be finished by now. She felt like she had packed her bag and put on her boots but then decided not to travel. She rolled to her back and realized that there was still a hard lump tucked into her belt. She pulled out her father’s city gun and dumped the rounds onto her blanket.
Could she still go? No. The moment had passed. Besides, she wouldn’t show her weakness in front of her brother. And that’s what it was, when she stopped to think about it. She had wanted to believe that she was decisive and strong—there’s nothing left here; might as well see what’s on the other side. But, truth be told, it was a moment of weakness.
She was lonely.
There was no point in living without someone to share the experience with.
Madelyn pulled herself from her loft and dropped down to the floor below. She straightened her hair and tucked in her shirt. With her chin up and her shoulders back, she unlocked the door and stepped out onto the porch.
Noah was in the dooryard, setting up a tent. It was a stupid place to put a tent. He wouldn’t have visibility or hear what was coming from the other side of the house. He should have picked a spot up near Sacrifice Rock. He was in the tent, coughing, as she approached.
She should have known.
Noah crawled out of the tent and stood before her.
He looked her in the eyes.
“I’m dying,” he said.
# # # # #
Madelyn rolled her eyes and let out a frustrated grunt.
She turned and stomped back up the steps to her porch. She ducked inside to fetch her grandmother’s smoking can and then came back out to flop into the rocking chair.
Noah brushed the cobwebs out of the other chair before he sat.
“I didn’t expect you to rush to my side or anything, but I thought you’d have a little sympathy,” he said.
Madelyn smacked the pipe against her armrest before she began packing in a fresh wad of Cherry Apple Blend.
Her hands stopped when she looked up at him. “Of course you’re dying. You were always doing something horribly cliché and dramatic. Like that time you fell in love with that girl and she turned out to be the daughter of dad’s bitter rival.”
“That was a movie,” he said.
“Or that time you paid the popular kid to be your friend so you would be considered cool, but it all backfired.”
“That was also a movie.”
“That’s my point,” she said. She puffed the pipe as she held one of her matches to the bowl. The Cherry Apple smoke smelled sweet. “You can’t even do anything original. You have to show up here and announce you’re dying? So predictable.”
“I didn’t come here to live out some movie trope,” he said. “I came here because I’m dying and I wanted to come to the last place that meant something. Honestly, I didn’t expect you to be here.”
She pulled the pipe from her mouth and looked at him, a little stunned. “Where would I be?”
“I thought you would be dead by now,” he said.
No words passed between them for a dozen or so puffs of the pipe.
“Listen,” he said. “I need to ask you a favor.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “You didn’t know I was here, so you couldn’t have come all this way to ask me a favor.”
“If you hadn’t been here, I wouldn’t have needed to ask.”
She looked at him. It wasn’t worth trying to figure out what he was saying. If it was important, he would say it again. He always did.
“Your tent is stupid,” she said. “You can have Grandmother’s room.”
“No, thanks,” he said.
# # # # #
Normally, Madelyn slipped into sleep easily. She put her head down and then opened her eyes again at dawn. That night, sleep was elusive. Madelyn tossed and turned like she had a fever. The same dream played again and again through her mind.
When she was a little girl, her father had taken her and her brother to a wedding reception. While her father was dancing, Madelyn had found the buffet. She had gorged herself on warm shrimp that were floating in a pool of melting ice. All night long, she had vomited.
While her brother was outside in his stupid tent, Madelyn dreamed of vomiting warm shrimp. She woke up stinking of acrid sweat and feeling nauseous. She dropped to the floor of her cabin and put her mouth right to the faucet to drink until her stomach felt like it was going to burst. Full of water, she used the toilet and then finally got cleaned up.
She took her tea out to
She looked at her brother’s stupid tent and sighed. He was still inside—sleeping late like he had done when they were kids.
“Hey, Two by Two, rise and shine,” she said. Madelyn walked down the steps and approached his tent. She took a sip of her tea.
She kicked one of the poles and the whole tent jiggled for a second. It brought a smile to Madelyn’s face. It didn’t last long.
“Oh, no,” she said, as the premonition took shape. She threw her mug of tea behind herself and bent for the zipper on the tent’s door.
She knelt as the fabric drifted down to reveal the inside.
He was in there. She saw dried vomit on his face. His chest was still.
He was dead.
Madelyn fell back to her butt.
# # # # #
It took her almost an hour to dig up the square patch of sod and winch the big slabs of stone out of the way. When the sunlight reached the bottom of the hole, she took a minute to reflect on the bleached bones and dust down there. They weren’t people anymore. Bodies went in, were burned up, and then the memories wafted back out the next time she opened the incinerator.
She dragged Noah from the tent and looked at his waxy face in the sun. She used a damp rag to clean away the vomit.
It smelled like warm shrimp. Of course it did.
Madelyn took his tent down and dropped it in the hole.
She walked back over to Noah and looked at him for the last time.
There was nothing more to do.
She grabbed his feet and began to pull him towards the hole. His body was much too light. He wore such baggy clothes. She hadn’t noticed how thin he was.
Madelyn stopped. Someone was watching her from the woods. She let one of her brother’s feet drop and reached around for her gun. Her hand remained empty—she wasn’t wearing a gun. Why would she be? She dropped her brother’s other foot. Madelyn ran for the cabin.
She slammed the door, slid the bolt, and ran for her guns.
Madelyn started loading the scattergun and listened for sounds of someone trying to get in. The male was young—he would likely try to bash his way in. That would bring a lot of noise. Either from the young male or whatever his noise attracted, she would need the scattergun.
Young males had quick triggers and turned violent.
Madelyn's Nephew by Ike Hamill / Horror / Science Fiction have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on17 votes