Right now, in this interrogation room, I feel like I’m in someone else’s body. My muscles and bones don’t seem to fit and I have to make a conscious effort to satisfy basic urges, like blinking and breathing. The arresting officer, Jenkins, massages the bags under his eyes. He’s rattled. I wonder what he saw. How bad it was. He slurps coffee from one of those novelty mugs where the clothes disappear when you add hot water and tells me again how much he hates being stuck in here with me.
“Your kid sister,” he says. “For Christ’s sake, she was only eleven.” My sister, Jess, is dead, and he’s annoyed because I haven’t confessed yet.
It was the third night in a row I’d gone to the cinema to watch the horror double bill and the whole thing was beginning to feel like a recurring nightmare. My dad had been giving me a hard time since I lost my job at the pizza restaurant, and I couldn’t bear the sight of him and Jess all curled up on the sofa, Jess snuggling into the crook of his arm the way I used to when I was her age. It was horrible. I had to get out.
I never expected to meet anyone at the cinema but there she was: Natalya, with the pearlescent skin and east-European accent. I watched how she fluttered from one shadow to the next, not realising that she’d already settled on the chair next to mine. Later she said she was drawn to me because she saw darkness in my soul. She asked questions about my family, and I probably should have been suspicious, but I’ve always found it hard to think straight around pretty girls. As the clock hands fell from the midnight hour, we left the cinema, and she followed me home.
The police dragged me from my house around 4 AM following an anonymous tip-off. Jenkins said I was half-crazed, like an animal in a trap, clawing and biting at anyone who came near. It took three officers to put me in cuffs and two more to get me into the patrol car. He said I threw up when I saw the flashing blue lights.
“Does any of this sound familiar?” he asks in the interrogation room. It does, but only because he’s told me this story about half a dozen times already. “What about the painting on the wall?” he asks. “Whose blood was it?”
I don’t know anything about a painting. The last thing I remember, Natalya was on top of me, the bed sheet spread between her outstretched arms like a pair of wings. She leaned towards me, leaving crimson kisses on my chest and neck, and asked if I wanted to be free. I closed my eyes and felt like I was flying.
“And what was it supposed to be?” asks Jenkins. “Some sort of butterfly?”
I don’t know about butterflies either. I couldn’t tell you the different types or what they eat or how long they live. The only thing I know for sure about butterflies is something my dad used to say: they start out earthbound and then God gives them wings.
Jenkins wants to know if the painting is a gang sign or cult symbol. I shrug, and he thinks I’m being cute.
“You didn’t see it?” he asks. “Let me show you.”
He hands me a photo of the crime scene. My dad’s on the bed, grey-skinned and awkwardly-posed, his eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. Jess is slumped over him. I know I should feel something but I don’t.
On the wall above them is a painting about the size of a grown man’s shadow. Crimson palm prints and little finger lines. The creature on the wall has two antenna; ruler-straight and perpendicular. They’re joined by a third, diagonal line connecting the tip of the left hand antenna to the root of the right. It looks like sloppy handwork, but it isn’t. It’s an “N.”
And it isn’t a butterfly. Butterflies are daytime creatures, feeding and basking in the sun. The painting on my dad’s bedroom wall is a moth, a creature of the night, and finally I understand. I was supposed to be caught. Being arrested is part of my induction into a new way of life. Natalya has given me wings, now I need to learn how to fly.
“Your father and sister were exsanguinated,” says Jenkins, slurping his coffee from his naked woman mug. “What happened to the rest of their blood?”
How should I know? Maybe Natalya took it. Maybe she drank it. The thought of their warm blood on her lips is strangely appealing.
Something stirs inside me. An acceptance of who I’ve become, of the monster Natalya created. I lean closer to Jenkins, close enough to see the veins throbbing in his wrists, and utter my first words since I was arrested.
“I want to paint a picture with you.”
Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren’t triplets. In his spare time he writes dragons into people’s basements and monsters into the plumbing. His stories have been published in The Molotov Cocktail, Aphotic Realm and Calendark: The Infernal Almanac. Follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings.