I didn’t even know I had an older brother until he showed up outside my school that afternoon.
It was two years ago, after school. I was a sophomore, my little sister Paige was a freshman. The original plan that day was hitching a ride to a friend’s house, where we’d probably team up and knock out our homework as quickly as possible.
That plan changed when we exited the building and someone called my name.
“Parker! Hey, Parker!”
My attention was immediately grabbed and I glanced around for anyone familiar. All I saw was a guy in his late twenties, leaning against a fancy car parked on the street. He smiled and waved me over.
“Parker, over here!”
Double checking to make sure there were no more Parkers in the immediate range, I decided to at least meander over. Paige was practically clinging to my backpack as we walked over, she was a little shy and I was expecting any second for this stranger to look away and find that other mystery Parker.
But he didn’t. He lit up and looked right into my eyes as we walked up to him.
“Wow. Parker. You’re gonna get taller than me, aren’t you?”
I frowned and made sure to take a side step in front of Paige, just to put myself between this stranger and my sister. “Can I help you?” I asked.
He looked a bit sad for a moment, before he sighed and nodded. “Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t remember me. You were only two and Paige here,” He stood on tiptoe to look at Paige, “She was just a lil baby.”
I must’ve looked super confused, because Paul reached for his wallet and pulled out a photograph. “I’m Paul. I’m your brother,” He said, handing me the photo.
It was so jarring. There was my mom and dad, I was standing in front of Dad with a big old smile on my little toddler face, Mom was holding Paige, and there was a boy standing between my parents, about thirteen or fourteen years old, with the same blond hair that both me and Paige had and a grin on his freckled face.
I’d never seen this photo before. But it was real and in my face and impossible to deny. I looked back up at Paul, who was back to smiling. His freckles had faded away with age, his teeth were straighter and whiter, but he still had the same goofy smile. And I could just about tell we had the same shape of our eyes, the same ears that stick out just a bit… the resemblance was uncanny.
Paul reached out and clapped his hand on my shoulder. “We have a lot to talk about. Come on, you like McDonald’s?”
Paige cleared her throat. “We should- we should probably just go home, mom and dad-”
“They’re gonna be at work until what, five? Six?” Paul glanced over my shoulder to look at my, well, our apprehensive little sister. “If they’re still the workaholics I remember, they’ll not be home for hours. We’ll only be a bit. I just wanna catch up. I’ll buy?”
I should’ve known better. So should’ve Paige. But even if we did, we still got into the backseat of Paul’s car, and he drove us to the McDonald’s a few blocks away.
Lunch that day had been pretty garbage, so getting a McDonald’s treat was more than welcome. Paige tried to decline, saying she wasn’t that hungry, but he ordered her an Oreo flurry and like magic her appetite came back.
As we sat in a booth, I stopped inhaling my burger for a moment to confront that elephant in the room.
“Why didn’t mom and dad ever tell us about you?”
Paul was not at all surprised by the question, but he answered with one of his own. “You’re a good kid, aren’t you? Always home on time, straight A’s, chores done without a single complaint?”
“I mean, I have a B in algebra-” I stopped myself before I nodded. “I guess so.”
Paul glanced over at Paige. “You too?” He said. Paige also nodded and Paul sighed, nodding with understanding. “Yeah, that’s about right. Nothing wrong with that, but I was a bit more… high maintenance.”
I pushed my fries away and leaned forward to listen. Paige, despite her apprehension, was looking with just as much interest as I was.
“I guess you can say I had issues? I mean, I was fourteen, but I was already getting myself into heaps of trouble.” Paul drummed his fingers on the table. “My grades were awful, got into fights at school, I’d sneak out at night… I mean, once I got out of there, I figured out I wasn’t like most kids. I couldn’t be parented like most kids. But one day Mom and Dad just… sent me away.”
Paige gasped quietly, her eyes going wide. “They sent you away? Where?” She asked.
“Tennessee, friend of dad lived down there. They took a weekend trip and dropped me off at the door with a suitcase and a note.” Paul shrugged. “I don’t blame them, I mean, I was a holy terror. But man, it does sting a bit that they never even mentioned me to you guys. I’m still family… or at least, I thought I was.”
A wave of sadness and disgust washed over me. Sad that I’d never gotten to know about Paul, disgust that our parents just gave up on him like that. Most fourteen year olds go through phases of being difficult, right? It sounded like he just needed some therapy, some freakin’ support, and our parents just made him someone else’s problem and erased him from our lives.
Paige finally lowered her defenses, reaching across the table and resting her hand on his. “I’m sorry, Paul,” She said.
Paul smiled, reaching across the table to ruffle her hair. “Not your fault. Not yours either, Parker. You were just babies, after all. But hey, I’m here now. Let’s make up for lost time. Don’t waste food, but if you want anything else, let me know. And feel free to ask me literally anything you want. I got nothing to hide.”
I didn’t want anything else, but Paige did get an order of chicken nuggets. We munched and got to know our older brother.
After Paul left the house he was dumped at, he had traveled all over the states. He ‘didn’t want to go home without showing he was worth something’, he said. He’s worked all sorts of jobs, waiter, mechanic, janitor, but it was his most recent job as a manager at a small store that he ran into his girlfriend… well, ‘girlfriend’.
“Do you guys know what a sugar mama is?”
Paige nearly choked as Paul handed us his phone, a picture of himself and a woman that was probably in her early sixties. Sure, she was pretty okay looking for her age, but damn, she was without a doubt older than our mother. “That’s Elaine,” He said, pointing at the woman. “Elaine lost her husband a few years before we met, lung cancer. She just wants some company, specifically, she wants cute company.” He poked himself on the cheek. “And I happen to be adorable.”
I couldn’t stop from laughing as I picked up the phone to get a better look. “Dude, our parents would kill you,” I said.
“Listen, in life, you’re up to your ears in debt until you die, you start off rich, or you marry into the good life. I mean, Elaine and I aren’t married,” He laughed at the thought of that, “But I can do whatever I want and she won’t care, long as I’m home every now and then and ready for some… snuggles,” He gave a pointed look at Paige, who scowled at the innuendo, but I just cracked up.
True to his word, Paul did get us home before our parents, but once we all got out of the car he tossed the keys to me.
“Registration’s in the glove box, she’s paid off and only got a few hundred miles on her. You have your driver’s license, right?”
I was too stunned to do anything but nod.
“Then you’re set. Think of it as the present for all the birthdays I missed. See you soon, guys.” With that, Paul just walked off in the direction of the nearest bus stop.
Course, our parents had quite a few questions when they came home and all of them revolved around the car in our driveway that was easily worth over fifty grand.
I just waited for them to get out all their questions at once before I looked at Paige, who crossed her arms and said what they needed to hear.
“Paul came to visit.”
Their faces were enough to confirm once and for all that Paul was our brother. Mom’s face went white and Dad staggered back, falling into his chair to probably avoid fainting.
Mom took a seat on the couch, taking several deep breaths. “He found us?” She asked.
“Found us?” I repeated, that earlier disgust starting to boil up into rage.
“We moved after…” My mom swallowed, “You’re all right? He didn’t hurt you?”
“Hurt us?!” I snapped. “Are you kidding me? Why- why did you never tell us about him!? He’s our brother!”
My dad cleared his throat. “Half brother, actually,” he stared at our mother, who just looked at her hands, “And you need to tell him to take the car back. When he comes back, give him back the damn car.”
I scoffed. “No way. You can’t afford to get me a car, if you want it gone I’ll just sell it and save the money for college,” I said. “Why didn’t you ever mention Paul?”
Mom’s head was bowed in shame. “Paige, Parker, Paul isn’t- Paul’s not right-”
I didn’t want to hear it. I just stormed out of the room, Paige right behind me. We’d heard all we needed to. Our parents abandoned a kid just because he ‘wasn’t good enough’. And Paul was actually not so bad now… least, we thought so, anyway.
Paul showed up again the next day, at school, not at home. This time he took us to his condo, which was just as nice as you’d expect from a man just giving away luxury cars. We had a Skype call with his ‘girlfriend’, and Elaine really was nice, if not a little eccentric.
“If you’re Paul’s family, you’re mine,” She laughed quietly, “So if you need anything, and I mean anything, just call me. I’ll help you however I can.”
After the call, we ordered pizza and just spent the whole afternoon chilling out, playing video games and just getting to know Paul. He was competitive but never a bad winner, just giving tips about how we could improve. He gifted Paige a brand new laptop, perfect for homework and for playing video games. ‘I’ll get you your own car when you get your license,’ He promised, ruffling her hair and then asking if what movie we wanted to watch.
When Paul dropped us off late that night, he didn’t come into the house, but he did wave at our parents waiting at our front porch. My mom just looked ready to die of embarrassment while my dad… I guess he looked so stern to hide any fear he had. We didn’t talk to them, we just went inside to do our homework.
It went like that for a few weeks. Mom and dad would tell us to stop hanging out with Paul, but since he was always outside school at the end of the day, we just hopped in his car and took off for another fun afternoon. Mini golf, arcades, wherever we wanted to go he’d just plug it into his GPS and we’d spend an afternoon having fun. We even spent a whole Saturday at Six Flags, Paul had us take an overpriced picture and put it in an even more overpriced frame as his souvenir. I got a t-shirt, Paige got a stuffed animal that was almost as big as she was.
Meanwhile, our parents were clearly upset, but we barely talked with them. I had resolved that I hated them both for cutting Paul out of our lives and I was going to do the same to them when I turned eighteen. God, the fact they moved after they left him to be someone else’s problem so he couldn’t find them? It pissed me off. Paige too, her theory was that Dad gave up on him so quick because ‘Paul’s not his kid’. It was so tense at home I wanted to spend even more time with Paul, just to escape all that.
One of the final things we did was go out to a movie. By then we were all best friends, Paul, Paige, and I. We had so many expensive gifts, so many fun memories, we weren’t even a little bit afraid of him. We’d all gotten all the snacks we could carry from the concession stand and settled in to our seats when a handful of popcorn smacked into the back of my head.
I turned around and internally groaned to see some unfortunately familiar faces. Paul glanced over to see the popcorn sticking out of my hair. “What the-” More popcorn flew through the air, followed by some pointed snickering and loud whispering.
“Ignore them,” I said, pinching the bridge of my nose, “They’re just some jerks from school.”
Paul’s eyes widened. “You’re getting bullied?” He asked quietly.
“I wouldn’t call it that, especially since Evan is the principal’s son,” I glanced back at the group and glared at the middle one, who only proceeded to laugh and throw more popcorn, “But they mess with me sometimes. It’s fine, they’ll get bored sooner or later.” I’d gotten a thicker skin from this sort of thing, I was already one of the tallest of my class but I was also the quiet guy who didn’t stick up for himself, so I was an easy target.
Paul turned around and I swear it was the first time I saw that carefully placed mask on his face slip. The look in his eyes screamed murder. “Fuck off,” He growled at the group behind us.
Evan mockingly ‘ooh’d’. “Whatcha gonna do about it?” He asked, smirking like he knew he was untouchable.
Paul responded by getting up and starting to walk back the few rows where Evan and his goon squad were sitting. I don’t know what they saw, but I think Evan realized that Paul wasn’t just going to sit and take it like I was. He threw up his hands and repeatedly whispered apologies. Paul stopped at their row and leaned in close to the boys that looked ready to shit themselves.
He whispered something I didn’t hear, and I think Evan did actually piss his pants a little. Paul straightened up, I heard him mutter ‘enjoy the movie’, and then he returned to his seat. Back to being fun big brother Paul, just like that.
At least I wasn’t getting popcorn thrown at my head anymore, so I brushed aside any concerns I had.
That night when Paul dropped us off, he didn’t stick around long. He said he needed to call Elaine, she had left him a voicemail earlier about how much she ‘missed him’, and frankly that’s all I wanted to hear. Ew.
This time, my parents were waiting in the living room, together. They’d been going at it like cats and dogs for a week now, constantly having whispered arguments and I think my mom was sleeping on the couch.
“Your mother has something she wants to say,” Dad said. Mom just stared at her shoes for several painfully long moments before Dad added, “Or I’ll say it, and I won’t be as nice.”
Paige scowled. “What?”
“You need to know the truth about Paul… so please, sit down,” Mom said, her voice barely above a mutter.
I did take a seat across from them, but I probably looked as interested as I did during Algebra. “What?”
Mom looked like a woman defeated. “Like… like your father said, Paul is your half brother, but that’s not the whole story.” She swallowed before she sat up straight and finally told us that whole story.
“I met him at camp. I was a counselor. Your father and I were on a break,” She glared at him, while he just quietly scoffed, “After he’d cheated on me with his tutor at college. So I was bitter. I was alone. I was… empty. But Paul’s father, he was charming? Different, but charming. After camp that year, I realized I was pregnant. Paul’s father, we- we couldn’t be together, so I just went back to your father, and I let him think that Paul was his… until Paul was born, anyway. It was impossible to hide that.”
Dad shuddered. “You gave birth to a monster, Andrea.”
“What the hell is wrong with you!?” Paige blurted out. “Just because he’s not yours-”
“I wasn’t. Being. Metaphorical.” Dad glowered at Mom, who seemed incredibly focused on the wall rather than any of us. “Tell them, Andrea.”
Mom’s eyes welled up. “… Paul… Paul was born a few weeks early, and he came so fast we didn’t even have time to pack up for the hospital. And when he did, he… he wasn’t right. I can’t even describe- it’s something you’d have to see to understand.”
“Paul looks fine to me,” I said.
“Because he wants you to see him like that,” Mom rubbed the back of her neck, “He can do that. Within minutes he looked like every newborn baby boy. I would’ve blamed it all on the pain and hysteria if your dad didn’t see it too. And sometimes, he’d look like… that, again, if it was only me in the room.”
Paige and I probably looked equally confused. “Mom, you’re not making any sense,” She said.
“I know,” Mom nodded before she looked at me. “The scar on your stomach, Parker. Shaped like a triangle. Is it still there?”
I hauled my shirt up to show it off. It had faded over the years, but it was still visible. “From the time I fell?” I said.
“That’s not how you got it.”
Mom shook. For the first time in weeks, I stopped being angry at her and was now genuinely worried. “Paul was- he was mostly like any other child until you two came along. He was a good boy. But he changed. He changed and I was afraid, terrified,to leave him alone with you. The one time I did… oh my god… I can’t, I can’t…” Mom broke down in tears, burying her face in her hands.
Dad finally interjected. “He was acting up beforehand, but your mom was taking a nap in the room over. I came home from work early and I found Paul in your room. You were just laying there, eyes glazed over, and he had his mouth on you.”
I nearly threw up. “What?” I had to have him repeat it.
“I thought he was just being a sicko and ripped him off, but it- Parker, you were bleeding real bad,” Dad shook his head, “You only started crying when his teeth were out of you.
I looked at the scar again. My head was swimming, I couldn’t breathe. “He bit me?” I asked.
“He was trying to eat you.”
When my dad started to shake, it was with pure rage.
“I nearly lost it. He wasn’t even sorry, Parker. He was just mad I interrupted his snack.”
Paige looked so white she looked ready to faint. “That doesn’t look like a bite mark,” She managed to get out.
“He bit him with his real mouth.” My dad managed to get himself back under control after a deep breath. “What you’ve all been seeing, it’s not really Paul. He’s not human, because his father wasn’t. I couldn’t let him be in the house anymore. I began doing research, and I found someone-”
“I thought you shipped him off to a friend,” I interrupted.
“Not exactly.” Dad finally looked a little ashamed. “I found out more about Paul, and what he could be. And I found someone who could handle him, teach him to get his hunger under control. But Paul ran away from there after a few months. We’d already moved, but I didn’t sleep through the night for years because I was afraid he’d be back to finish what he’d started.”
I leaned forward, trying to wrap my head around this. “How is he not human?” I shook my head. “This can’t be real.”
“It is real,” My mom sat back up, wiping away some of her tears, “I never wanted to give Paul up but- he would have killed one or both of you. We didn’t have a choice.”
After the room stopped swimming, I got up.
“I need to be alone.”
I went into my room and laid in bed for hours, just staring at the ceiling. I knew what I had to do, but I had to wait for everyone in the house to be fast asleep. Even Paige. Even if she was a part of this, I had to do this on my own.
My alarm clock read 12:13 when I finally got up. If my parents heard me start the car, they wouldn’t have been out of bed before I was zipping down the road towards Paul’s apartment. I probably broke the speed limit but I didn’t want to wait. If my parents were telling a lie that was that out there, I needed to let Paul know they’d freaking lost their minds.
Paul’s apartment lights were on, and by then I knew where he kept the spare key, so I let myself inside. It was quiet, but I figured he’d just drifted off to sleep on the couch while binging Netflix.
He wasn’t on the couch though. I walked through the apartment, trying to hear him snoring or something.
As I pressed further into the apartment, I didn’t hear snoring.
I heard this wet, squishy sound like someone was wading through knee deep molasses, and it only got louder as I headed for the spare bedroom. He’d used it for storage, he told us, so I never bothered to check it out. The door was cracked just an inch, and despite my better instincts, I pushed it open.
What I saw… god. What I saw. I still can’t believe it, even though it’s been years, I can’t believe it.
I barely recognized the two corpses hanging by their ankles from the ceiling. Both were stripped of their clothes, completely drained of blood and their torsos ripped open, their bodies empty except for some bits of flesh and bones. The third body was still twitching a bit, and still had some color in the face, but it still took a second for me to place him as Evan. I’d never seen Evan so… blank. There was nothing going on behind those empty eyes.
And the thing next to him… I don’t even want to describe it. It was humanoid, but barely so. It had two legs but only one arm, its gut stretched out so far it looked ready to topple over. Its skin was baggy and all mottled blue and green, and its arm was shrunken, curled in towards its body like a claw.
Its head was pressed up against Evan’s gut, teeth set into his skin as it continued to suck blood and whatever else fluids it could get. I saw its sharp tongue stab into his gut and Evan gasped before his eyes rolled back and shut. His body caved in like the monster was draining a capri sun, liquefied guts spilled into the creature’s mouth and some dripping down its chin. It finally pulled off when Evan was hollowed out.
It turned in my direction, his triangular mouth filled with rows and rows of spines that never seemed to end. Its tiny eyes blinked, and so did I… and then there was Paul, standing in front of me, looking entirely normal except for being soaked head to toe in blood.
“Parker?” He said, so softly, sounding so surprised. It jerked me out of my shock.
I slammed the door and ran for it. I barely got to the living room before the back of my shirt was grabbed, sending me flying onto my ass.
“Parker, dammit, wait a second!”
I looked up, expecting to see that thing instead of my brother. But it was Paul, out of breath and looking like a genuine serial killer.
“Christ, you know how hard it is to run just after you’ve had a big meal?”
I thought I was going to die. I wanted to beg for my life, remind him he was my brother, that he didn’t have to hurt me. But I didn’t have to say any of these things.
Paul crouched down next to me, brushing his red stained hand against my cheek. I flinched, something he didn’t miss judging by the hurt in his eyes.
“I wanted to tell you. But then there’s just so much more to explain, and I just… I just didn’t know where to start. I just wanted to say sorry for what I almost did to you as a kid, so I figured, why not give you something? Something to show I didn’t want to hurt you?”
I swallowed, telling my legs to crawl backwards and away from this blood soaked maniac but I couldn’t move. I was frozen. “What are you?” I asked.
“My father’s child. A son of Beleven.” Paul shook his head, tears welling up in the eyes that looked just like mine. “I’m so sorry, Parker. Back then I was so, so hungry, all of the time. And I just couldn’t stop myself, I couldn’t. And those dickwads in there? The world’s better with a few bullies gone from it, and this way, I won’t lash out at someone else. Someone like you and Paige.”
I shook my head. “You killed them…” I glanced to that room, where three classmates were still hanging like meat in a freezer, “You just killed them.”
“I did,” Paul nodded and I think I saw what my father saw so many years ago, that apathy for human life. “I did, and I did it for you.”
I finally ran. I finally got my stupid legs moving and I fled that apartment, and Paul didn’t try to stop me.
When I got home, my parents were waiting for me on the front porch. I hadn’t brought my cellphone, stupid, I know. They thought I’d gotten myself killed.
I just hid in my room. I didn’t tell them that I was sorry. That they were right all along. I didn’t think I needed to.
Since then, my parents have divorced. I stay with Mom most of the time, Paige stays with dad. We don’t see each other except at school or during holidays when we sneak away from our respective guardian. It’s rough, but we get by. I’ve never told her entirely what I saw that night, only that our parents were right all along and that we needed to stay the hell away from Paul. I sold the car, Paige gave away the laptop. One by one, we got rid of his gifts.
Paul’s just… gone. After Evan and two of his friends were reported missing, his apartment was vacated, he left without a word or a goodbye. The bodies were never found. I don’t know if Paul just ate the rest or dumped them somewhere where they can’t be found. I don’t know. The nightmares from that night are neverending though, the images of Evan just hanging there, letting Paul drain the life out of him without a fight flash before my eyes. Needless to say, I’m a bit of an insomniac.
Why has this all come up now?
Well… because I got a welcome letter for a job I never applied for. Alongside the letter is that picture we took at Six Flags, with the words ‘I’m waiting for you’ written on the back. It wasn’t signed, but I have a feeling who applied for me and who’s the one waiting there. So I’ll be accepting the position.
Next summer, it looks like I’m going to be a counselor at Camp Golden Oak.