Tyrone Joins the Family
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I knew by then, you know, to not trust it when one of the doctors was smiling. The ones who looked at you like you were lower than shit were better. At least they didn't notice you. But some guys? Some guys really liked having a whole caste of people they were allowed to brutalize in the name of science and protecting the world.

Go figure.

“Are you Catholic?” was his first question. I should've known there that this was going to be a weird thing. But, D-Class don't get to say no. We don't really get to. I wish we could. You say no, and you just go in with a collar that makes your head explode or something.

And he was one of the real smiley types, wasn't he? Dr. Cartwright. That was it. Close-cropped, brown hair. Horn-rimmed glasses like some nineteen fifties dad or something.


“Well, that's not going to be a problem.” He leaned forward. “We'll need to get you a haircut. Maybe get you fitted for a tuxedo. Have you ever been to a wedding before? A funeral? A baptism?” He shook his head. “Doesn't matter.” And he stood up.

“What?” was all I could say, but Dr. Cartwright was the type to not really listen to that kind of thing. He didn't hear the mewling of the D-Class. Or maybe he didn't want to.

“Well, this isn't exactly normal, but nothing about this is normal. Normally, we wouldn't put, well, one of you into a delicate situation like this, but it's not exactly a glamorous job.” He walked to the door, hands behind his back. I never realized how ropey Dr. Cartwright's hands were. Like worms under his fucking skin. “You're going to fill in for a deceased member of an elite Mobile Task Force. Before we get a proper member trained. Your job is going to go to weddings, baptisms, and funerals until we tell you to stop. We will be directing you from site to site. If you attempt to leave or say anything to imply your position, a nerve gas agent we will soon embed in your spine will, well, I think you know the rest, correct?”

“Dude, what?”

“Last question. Do you have any history of insectophobia?”

Honestly, it was better than having to tell dudes when you blink and cleaning up bloody shit. Catholic masses are long, sure, but it beat being in real, present danger. Lots of sitting down. Lots of standing up. I had so much communion wafers and wine that I felt like I had to be at least sixty-five or maybe like seventy-five percent Christ in and of itself, you know?

Its name was Cousin Johnny.

They briefed me on what I was looking for. A middle-aged dude. Kind of husky. Black beard, black hair. And he was going to probably be spitting out cicadas and talking crazy shit, or something. I figured I could find that easy, you know? Not a lot of hard work to find some dude that's a bug monster or whatever, right?

All I did was sit in the back and keep my eyes out.

First time I saw him was a baptism. The way he spoke, it was like nothing I've ever heard. Word salad, yeah, but there was a kind of, you know, a cadence to it. And everyone just fucking, I don't know, they loved it. Obviously, you know, this was the guy. And even if it wasn't for the cicada noises he kept making and the way his eyes just looked wrong, I could've probably picked him out of a crowd.

The more I worked there (and it's funny to call it work; I guess what I should is say “when I was forced to be a guinea pig there to save some lives hopefully in the long run”) the more I kind of got a sense for when something was wrong. And this guy just gave it off in spades. There was a kind of heat to him.

After that first time I saw him, it was like he was waiting for me at every fucking church.

I saw him catch the bride's garterbelt, and I saw him eat it.

I saw him feed a piece of his fingernail to a child, who giggled and cooed.

I watched him give teeth to grinning brides and grooms who crunched them between their molars until their jaws bled.

And I swear to God, he never stopped smiling. The whole time, he was so happy. It wasn't intelligent, I think. They told me that. An animal that looked human. But sometimes, it would catch my eye. And sometimes it would look back. And there was cunning there. A whole lot of cunning wrapped up in something younger and fleshier. Something old. And I fucking hated it.

Sometimes, they told me to stop certain events. Other times, they just had me watch it and keep notes. I don't know what happened to those people when I didn't stop it. What happened after.

A kid's face, covered in blood and gore, even if he's smiling, you just know something's wrong with him, right? Something deep in there that got snapped in two, and even if he can't tell, it's there and it's broken, and I don't know if there's really a right way to get it back.

The last time I went to one, Cousin Johnny appeared right next to me in the pew.

One second he wasn't there, and one second he was.

He didn't do anything the whole mass. He stood up, sat down, in that jelly-legged way he had because he didn't have any fucking bones, but the whole time, he stared at me. He didn't breathe. But the whole time, I smelled something. Something like rotten. My neck sweat. Cold. I felt my breath hitch.

When the mass ended, he was gone. In his pew was a clump of hair and two cicada shells.

I told the higher-ups. They took me off. Moved me to something easier. Can't say I wasn't happy. It was easy, sure, but I'm afraid if I came back, he'd sit next to me again. And shit, that's never good, right?

So, the reason I'm telling you all this? Yeah, I'm getting there. Right now, in fact. I'm not trying to waste your time. I know you guys are busy.

So, you guys set me up at Spicy Crust Pizzeria, you know? Nice job. Cushy, for what kind of things I can expect in my life.

But yesterday, this guy came in. And I gotta tell you, he looked just like that Cousin Johnny insect guy. But a little grayer. A little older. Nearly shock-white hair, actually. Maybe he gained some weight, I don't know, but I could tell it was the same guy. And when he came to the counter, I just stared.

It must've gone on for a while, because he finally spoke.

Normal voice. Normal guy. All he said was, “Do I look like someone you know?”

And you know, I say, “Nah, sorry. Goose stepped over my grave,” like my grandma used to say or something.

He's here to pick up an order. Three pizzas. All meats on both. Mediums. I got a good memory for orders, you know. But that's beside the point. I make a joke, you know. I'm shaky, so I try to make things comfortable. I say, like, “Hey, where's the party? Maybe I'll come down after work?”

And this guy just smiles at me, and he says, “I'm going to visit my father. Or my mother. I'm not sure who'll be there. You're welcome to come.”

Which was weird enough, right?

But when he said it, I swear to God, his mouth was full of cicadas. Live, crawling all over each other. Cracking from their shells. But then, it was gone.

And he paid. And then he left.

I wouldn't even be telling you about this, but, shit. When I woke up this morning. I found twelve cicada shells on my kitchen table. I don't know how that got there. I don't, I don't wanna know.

I just thought you guys should know.

Hey! Check out DrChandra’s version of Tyrone and Cousin Johnny’s meet up here.

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