|The Taylight Zone - Anthology Seven
04 - Trust Me - Coyote
Zac came running breathlessly into the house, the screen door slamming loudly behind him. His round face was flushed, his brown eyes wild and darting.
"Mom! Dad!" he shouted, his chest heaving through his striped cotton t-shirt. "Mom! Oh, my God! Someone—Someone—"
"Zac, Jesus, spit it out," Isaac said in exasperation, padding into the living room in his bare feet, People magazine in hand. "What the hell's wrong with you?"
"Feeding Zoe, why?" Ike pointed his index finger towards the second story of the house. Isaac's caramel eyes narrowed in concern. "Zac, man, what's wrong with you?"
Zac struggled to slow his rapid breathing rate, placing his palm over his chest and sitting on the edge of the sofa. "Ike, man," he gasped, his eyes boring into his oldest brother's. "That chick just tried to kill me!"
Isaac attempted to regain a serious composure, so Zac wouldn't flip out on him, but it was just too difficult. Ike burst into compressed laughter, placing his hand on Zac's heaving shoulder. "That chick? What chick? How much sleep did you get last night?"
"Ike, I'm serious!" Zac exploded, jumping from the couch. "It was Erica!"
"Erica?" Ike's laughter ceased abrubtly, and he ran his fingers through his dishwater blonde hair. "Zac… Erica lives in Seattle. There is no way in hell she could get down here."
"She did!" Zac was growing hysterical. Two tear trails trickled down his dirty cheeks, and he halfheartedly made an attempt at brushing them away. "She's here… Ike, you've gotta believe me! Please, come on!"
"Am I hearing conversation about that little demon Satan girl, Erica?" Taylor's lecturing voice was heard as he slid down the staircase banister, still clad in his pajamas and a pair of maroon Doc Martens. His Discman headphones hung from around his neck, and Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals could be heard blasting from them.
Zac's chin trembled as Isaac shook his head at his fifteen year old brother's appearance and his choice of music. "Nice get-up, Tay," he muttered, nodding at the black t-shirt, plaid boxer shorts, and ankle high boots Taylor sported.
"Shut up, Ike," Tay spat, sprawling on a recliner. "Dad made me take Wicket out, and I never bothered to take the boots off, okay?" Taylor turned to his younger brother. "So, Zac, what's up? Erica try to kill you again?"
Taylor let out a large, gutteral laugh. "I was joking, man!"
"Well, she did," Zac said softly, bringing his knees to his chest and burying his face in his arms. "She's gonna kill me, Tay, and Ike doesn't believe me."
Zac looked up to the sound of Taylor slapping Isaac a high five. His two older brothers were practically rolling on the floor, they were laughing so hard. They thought it was the funniest thing they ever heard. They didn't believe him, nonetheless.
"Mooom! Daaad! Come here!"
* * * * * * * * *
"Zac, honey, that little girl is under house arrest for three years, have you forgotten?"
Diana Hanson's syrupy sweet, condesending voice was making Zac nauseous. She didn't believe him. Neither did his dad. Zac throught he was going to puke at the sight of both of them. His mother, with his baby sister Zoe perched over her shoulder, and his father, sitting seriously at the kitchen table, the morning's newspaper folded neatly under his hands. He might as well had been smoking a pipe and wearing some house slippers. Zac thought the entire house was going to dissolve into black and white sooner or later.
"Mom, I'm telling you, it was her," Zac said tiredly, sick of explaining himself. "Why don't you believe me?!"
"Zac, hon, it's not that we don't believe you," Diana started. "It's just that... Well, baby, it's just that..."
"You don't believe me," Zac finished for his mother softly, nodding his head with sullen realization. "You think I'm a fucking psycho and—"
"Zachary Walker Hanson!" Walker exploded, horrified at his thirteen year old son's use of language. "You can go up to your room until you have something appropriate to say to your mother!"
Zac pushed his chair away disgustedly. "She's got you on a foot-long leash, dad," he muttered to his father in a low tone, turning towards the staircase. "I bet you're just itchin' for a fire hydrant, huh?"
Zac felt victorious as he headed towards his bedroom, feeling his father's anger bubbling over the cauldron from behind him. Old Walker couldn't do anything, and he wouldn't. Zac allowed himself a smug smile of satisfaction as he shut his bedroom door.
* * * * * * * * * *
"What the hell do you want, Avery?" Zac muttered as he flipped the power switch on his Nintendo 64. "You come to make fun of me like Tay and Ike keep doing?"
Little Avery Hanson shook her head softly, her blonde curls brushing lightly against her shoulders. She gazed thoughtfully at her older brother, the only brother who took time out of his own schedule to play with her. He looked older now, more mature, and yet he looked tired. As if he were older than just a mere thirteen. She saw as he turned to her, his exhausted face bathed in the blue glow from the television set.
"No," she assured him quietly, cautiously sidling up next to Zac on the carpet and laying her head on his shoulder. "I believe you. I mean, why would you lie about something so scary like that?"
"For attention," Zac said harshly, mockingly, quoting what he had overheard Isaac say to Taylor earlier that same day. "At least, that what Ike thinks."
"Ike's dumb," Avie said shortly.
Zac let out a low laugh, wrapping his arm around his little sister's thin shoulders. "Thanks, Ave. That's what I think too."
* * * * * * * * * *
Mackenzie palmed the glass filled with icy tap water before he got a good grip on it, wrapping it tightly within his two tiny hands and padding into the living room.
"Thanks, Mackie," Ike said cheerily, ruffling his four year old brother's soft blonde hair with his hand, carefully relieving Mac of the water. "I knew I left it in there... Great, it's not warm, either!"
Mackie grinned, clawing his way up next to Isaac on the sofa, a rerun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer blaring on the television set.
"Oh, my God," Zac muttered as he tramped through the doorway. "This is from the friggin' second season! What're you watchin' this for?!"
"Duh," Ike said, throwing a glance at Zac over his shoulder. "'Cause Buffy's hot, hello?"
"Buffy does not exist," Zac informed his lovestruck oldest brother rationally. "Sarah Michelle Gellar is a fox."
"And she's about four feet tall," Taylor piped up from the recliner, his bright blue eyes entranced by the petite vampire slayer.
"Oooh, Buffy?!" Avery squealed from the dining room, where Jessica and herself were hunched over a coloring book and a pile of markers. The two younger girls ran into the room, squealing over Xander and Angel or some such shit like that.
Zac rolled his eyes and left the room.
"Ew," Ike suddenly stated during a commercial break, making a face into his water glass. "There is somethin' up with this water... Mac, you spill something in it?"
"Nope. It was just there on the counter."
"Hmm," Ike scrutinized his water for a moment. It looked normal, smelled normal... It just didn't taste normal. Ike definitely had a total case of the "wiggins," as Buffy said it.
Speaking of... Isaac turned back to the TV set in interest.
* * * * * * * * * *
Zac was awakened by a loud shriek from down the hall. He would have just rolled over and assumed it was just Avie finiding a beheaded Barbie doll in the bathroom sink, but it sounded just too panic stricken. And besides, beheaded Barbies were his gig.
He jumped out of bed and headed down to Ike's room, seeing his parents sleepily trudging in the same direction from the opposite hallway.
When he reached the bedroom, Zac found Avery standing in the center of Isaac's bedroom in shock. There were tears cascading down her face, but she didn't seem to notice.
"Avie?" Zac walked up to his eight year old sister, crouching and placing his palms over her shoulders. "What's up with you?"
"I-Ike," she whispered with a shudder, never pulling her gaze from the bed.
"What?" Zac turned slowly to his brother's bed, and what he saw caused him to choke up in fear, horror, and sadness. "NO! Oh, my God! IKE!"
Isaac was on his back, and one would have thought the boy was sleeping peacefully... Until they saw his eyes. Ike's caramel brown eyes were wide open, unblinking, and wide.
"He- He's dead." That was the last thing Zac heard leave his own parted lips before he lost all conciousness.
* * * * * * * * * *
Everything was different now. Zac sat at the kitchen table, facing the blank white wall.
He was gone.
Isaac was dead and no one in the entire world could ever come close to replacing him. Their band was done with, but Zac couldn't give two shits about that. The only thing he cared about was that his oldest brother, his Ikey- Poos, was gone. Mysteriously vanished, and nobody knew how or why.
But Zac knew.
He was murdered. By Erica. She was doing this to him. That psychotic bitch, who the fuck did she think she was? How the hell did she think she'd ever get away with something like this?!
Because nobody believes me.
Zac stared daggers at the plaster wall, gripping the back of the chair he straddled and losing all feeling in his ten fingers. She knew it. She knew that nobody would believe him, that's why he wasn't even going to bother with telling anyone.
Zac glared at the wall for a few more minutes, then deciding to go upstairs and talk to Tay. Taylor hadn't said one word since it happened, only shook his head and nodded to the basic yes or no questions the authorities had asked him. Zac had kept his mouth shut and uttered not a single word to them about Erica. It wasn't worth his time.
"Tay?" he said softly, unsurely, as he stepped into his older, now his oldest, brother's room. "Tay? You in here?"
Zac stood in the center of the room, his chestnut colored eyes gazing at Taylor in concern. Tay lay sprawled on his bed, face down, the thin frame of his back rising and falling with each ragged breath he forced from his body. Zac lowered himself onto the rumpled bedspread, carefully placing his outstretched palm on his depressed brother's upper back.
"You need to talk or anything, man?"
"No." The answer came out slow, but determined. Taylor lifted himself onto his elbows, swiping at the tears the continued to fall down his cheeks. "No, Zac. I don't see what there is to talk about..." He turned his head to the crestfallen face of his younger brother. "What is there to talk about, Zac?"
"No!" Taylor exclaimed, shoving himself off the bed and stumbling to his feet. "Ike's gone! We're not talking about him, okay?! I've just..." Taylor's gaze drifted to his bedroom window, to the starry night sky outside. "I've got to get away from everything and think for a while."
Zac nodded. "Go ahead, Tay."
Zac sighed, lowering himself to the floor and allowing his head to sink into his arms. It was never going to leave. The pain was going to haunt him forever.
* * * * * * * * * *
Taylor huddled within the the roughly cut wooden planks of the square treehouse he had built a few years ago. With... Ike.
Taylor let his crystal blue eyes close, attempting to escape from the sudden hell of swirling pain he had found himself trapped in. His brother, his best friend, he was dead.
Tay looked up, hearing the slight scratch of what sounded like someone climbing the ladder of the treehouse. He waited.
Hmmm, he thought, lowering his head back onto the two-by-fours behind him. Must be the branches against the side of the treehouse.
* * * * * * * * * *
Zac found himself on the front porch at four o'clock in the morning. He could find no other reason except for the sounds. Sounds from the back yard.
He trotted around the side of the house in his bare feet, feeling the moist touch of the dew covered blades of grass seeping between his toes. After a few moments of walking, he felt his foot brush against something on the ground.
Something warm. Unmoving. A leg.
* * * * * * * * * *
Zac laid completely still, wrapped within the chokingly warm comforter of his bed. He hadn't moved for the past three days, not eating, not showering. It all came as such a shock, too much of a shock.
First Ike. Then Tay.
It was like she was trying to drive him insane. Like she was going to kill his entire family and leave him, alone, in the grasps of uniformed officials pleading his own temporary insanity.
He tossed about for another fitful hour, but then finally drifted into the non-hellish bliss of unconciousness. Sleep invaded his body...
It was foggy. Zac could tell he was still sleeping. Was this a dream, or reality? He heard footsteps. His bedroom door...it was opening. Zac felt the cold touch of metal against his cheek.
"Zackie, I knew they wouldn't believe you this time," the soft voice spoke, stroking his tearstained cheek in concern. "That's why I tested them. That's why I pretended to kill you. I didn't look like Erica, did I? I hope not. She's not pretty." The voice sighed, and Zac felt himself drifting away before she spoke again. "See, they didn't believe you last time, and she almost killed you. I didn't almost kill you. It was only a joke, Zackie. I would never do that. But, now I have to." Once again, silence, and another deep sigh. "You're too smart, Zac. You'll find out it was me. Then you'll tell them, and they still won't believe you. Then I'll have to get rid of them, and I don't think I can go through with that again, Zac... Tay and Ike didn't believe you, so I got rid of them."
Avery pressed the knife against Zac's neck, and she smiled. "Don't worry, Zackie, they'll believe you this time... Trust me."