Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
 
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Red


by Iain Muir





    The fluorescent lights did the girl no favours. She sat huddled at the plain plastic table, drowned by the denim jacket draped over her shoulders. Her hair was lank, black, caught back in a ponytail by an elastic band twisted around the hair at the nape of her neck. Shadows from sharp cheekbones threw the planes of her face into stark relief. The strap of a cheap k-mart bra was visible through the gap in the front of the jacket, white against her red-brown skin. They’d taken her clothes for forensic analysis.

Jeb Mayweather stared through the two-way glass into the interrogation room. Amy Laughing Deer sat staring at the table, muttering, worrying a strip of rawhide around and around, like a nun telling the rosary. Jeb looked over at the other man in the room, taking in the cheap navy blue suit, white shirt, and thin black tie that practically screamed ‘FBI’.

“What’s she saying?” he asked

“Damned if I know,” said the Fed, “You ever hear of the Code Talkers? Navajo radio operators used in World War Two. They didn’t encrypt anything, just spoke to each other in Navajo.”

“Well, gee, thanks, Special Agent… Smith, was it? Or was it Jones?”

“Smith.”

“Riiiiiiight. No, I ain’t never heard of the code talkers, seein’ as how I’m just a no-account sheriff from a small town twenty miles from the freaking reservation, not an edjicated big city agent of the Eff Bee Eye. Now, d’ya wanna tell me what you’re doing here? I’ve got a couple of gruesome deaths and a little girl traumatised by the slaughter of her family, but I don’t see anything that makes this Federal jurisdiction.”

“Let’s just say that there are aspects to this case which… intrigued me.”

“Well, be intrigued on yer own time. I’ve got to talk to Amy Laughing Deer, and you can sit out here and watch.”

                                                                                                                                                    * * *

The girl didn’t look up when the door opened. Jeb edged around the door, followed by a female deputy, a petite blonde woman in her forties. The dark-skinned sheriff towered at least a foot over her five-foot frame. They closed the door and took seats across the cheap plastic table from the girl. Amy ignored them, staring at the table, muttering, and worrying the piece of leather. The sheriff leaned back and nodded to the deputy.

“Amy?” she asked softly, reaching out and placing a hand over the girl’s where they were constantly passing the worn strip of leather through her fingers. The fingers stopped moving, but the girl did not look up, nor cease her unintelligible muttering.

“Amy? My name is Claire Daniels. I’m with the Sheriff’s Department. We need to ask you some questions, honey. I know it’s been a long night, but if you can just tell us a couple of things about what happened? About...” she paused, “about your Uncle Joe? And your folks?”

The girl flinched visibly, pulling the oversized denim jacket around herself, as if for comfort, or protection. She shook her head violently, an action which spoke of rejection, of denial.

“No!” She muttered, her head whipping back and forth, her eyes focussed somewhere that wasn't in this plain white room, or behind the mirror that dominated one wall.
“No, Uncle Joe! Don't hurt them! They didn't do anything!”

Deputy Daniels leaned forward.
“Amy, honey,” she crooned. “Is that what happened? Did your Uncle Joe hurt your folks?”
“No! No, no, no, no, no, no! It wasn't Uncle Joe. Uncle Joe tried to stop her. Tried to stop the witch! Tried to stop the yee naaldlooshi, but it was too strong!” Amy’s lips pulled back from her lips, a feral movement that might have been a smile, or might have been a snarl.
“It was too strong!” The girl giggled, a bubbling, liquid sound, which morphed into manic laughter, which sounded too close to sobs for comfort.

Daniels looked at her superior, nonplussed. Mayweather leaned forward.
“The what now?” he asked. “Amy, it looked like some kind of animal attacked your folks. What’s this… gnarled Lucy? And where’s Joe?”

Amy giggled again. She ducked her head, and looked sideways at the sheriff.
“Gone away,” she chortled, “Ol’ Uncle Joe’s gone away! No more lectures! No more telling me the Blessing Way is for men, not little girls! Well, we showed him, didn’t we? We sang our song, and it came, didn’t it?” She was almost singing now.

“What came, girl? This Lucy thing?”

“Yee naaldlooshi” crooned Amy, “the one who walks on all fours.” She grinned slyly. “I called… and she came. She came, and everything turned red. Red, and wet.” Amy’s tongue snaked out, and she licked her lips lasciviously.
“D’you want to see her?” she asked, “I can show her to you, if you like!” Her smile was a ghastly attempt at coquettishness, more feral than anything else.

“You can show her to us?” asked Daniels. “Should I get a sketch artist?”

Amy giggled again. “Oh, noooooooo,” she said, “I can show her far better than that! D’you want to see her?”

Mayweather nodded slowly.

Amy grinned again, and knotted the strip of leather around her waist.

“Oh, and sheriff,” she said, her voice becoming harsh and guttural, “thank you for giving me back my belt. Uncle Joe tried to take it away, but you: You. Gave. It. Back!”

Then everything got red. And wet.



THE END


2014 Iain Muir

Bio: Iain Muir is the poetry editor for Aphelion-The Webzine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

E-mail: Iain Muir

 

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