Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Disappearance of Rothko Ladhiffe: Chapter One

I’ve been a detective for ten years now, and no matter what case I take, I always go back to my first. I’m embarrassed and depressed about having never found Escher Bradley. The pain is only amplified by the fact that I’m likely the only person on the planet who knows he ever existed. Not even his parents can remember. They ended up having what they believe to be their first child. A girl this time, named Hogarth. I suspect the loss of their first child continues to tarnish their souls, though, ultimately preventing them from being completely happy. Their memory loss, however, also prevents them from understanding why. In the end, their marriage suffers for it, and shortly after their daughter’s birth, they divorce. Hogarth takes her mother’s name, and moves with her to Topeka. When she’s older, she starts to visit him once a month.
I sort of trick Tyler Bradley into becoming friends with me. He has no recollection of our time together looking for his son, so I just place myself in the position to run into him several times. The coincidence brings us closer, and we start hanging out on the regular. I don’t particularly like him. No, actually, I don’t like him at all, because he never really fought for even joint custody of Hogarth. He could have easily moved out to Topeka too, but chose not to. If he had left, I would have made friends with the new residents of that house, because I need access to the empty lot-slash-invisible house next to it. Not that it matters all that much. As profoundly supernatural as the building is, there aren’t any answers there. If I had a therapist, and I managed to convince them that the house was real, they would tell me to just let it go. Though this is only a hypothetical therapist, I imagine them saying this every time I see them, and start trying to persuade myself.
At the moment, I’m watching the game with Tyler. I’m a football guy, so I don’t care about this baseball game. And when I say football, I mean the real football that they play ‘round the world; not this rugby-wannabe bullshit where they hardly ever use their goddamn feet at all! I take a break to take a piss; upstairs, because that bathroom is cleaner. I pass by Hogarth’s room and notice that she’s not in it. When I go back down, I ask Tyler about it.
“Who?” he asks, eyes still glued to the screen.
“Umm...your daughter?”
“Fuck you talkin’ ‘bout, man?”
I close my eyes, hoping that the world will wake up right when I reopen them. “Please tell me you’re joking. You really don’t remember your daughter?”
“Of course I remember my daughter, retard. She’s with her mother.”
I cringe at that word, but ignore it. “No, she’s not. This is your weekend.”
He lazily takes a look at his watch. “Nope.”
I take my PDA out of my pocket. Yes, I keep track of Tyler’s movements in my calendar. If I don’t remind him to breathe...he’ll suffocate to death. This is definitely his time with Hogarth. I make sure I’m here for it, because she’s kind of not in the best hands with him. She may never eat. Though he might be a terrible father, he’s not so bad as to forget such an important event that only happens a dozen times a year. This must be something weird. This must have something to do with time...and that place. Without another word, I slide out of the house and walk through the lawn to the invisible house, which is now fully visible, and waiting for me. I wish I had my sidearm with me, but of course, I always request time off for Hogarth’s visits. Besides, I’ve never met any actual opposition in the other dimension, or the house, for that matter.
I kick the door open, not because I have to, but because it pisses me off, and I want to get my aggression out. I take a careless sweep of the first floor before moving onto to the second. Here I start going at turtle speed, dreading seeing the elevator again. It hasn’t shown itself to me in years, but if Tyler’s second child is anything like his first, it’ll show up now. It’ll take me to that other dimension, and whatever I find there won’t be what I’m looking for. I gulp and wipe the sweat from my brow, knowing that Hogarth is gone for good, and it’ll be my fault. Just like before.
I hear a strange scratching sound on the other side of the bedroom door. Fearing some kind of awful time demon, I slowly push the door inwards and prepare for a fight. What I find there is a joyful carefree little girl drawing on the closet elevator door with a pencil. “Piglet!” I cry out, happy and relieved.
“Hi, Kal,” she says, not removing her focus from the random lines and loops she’s drawing.
“You can see this house?”
“Of course I can,” she says. And...yeah, of course she can, she’s here.
I get down on my knees and turn her towards me, keeping her shoulders in my hands. “Hogarth. I need you to do something for me.”
She’s confused, but not scared. “Okay?”
“This house is dangerous. It’s not like your house, or any other house. People go missing in here. It’s...basically alive. You have to promise me, that when we leave here in a minute, you will never come back. This isn’t one of those times where an adult tells you not to do something, and you do it anyway. If you ever come back here, you may die.” It’s not a normal thing to tell a six-year-old, but I  have to make her understand how bad it can get. If she can see the house, it means the house wants her to see it, and if it wants her to see it, then it wants her, and that I cannot allow. “Do you understand me?”
She nods, a little nervous about what I’ve said, but still not afraid of me.
“Now come on,” I say in a much kinder voice, taking her hand in mine. “That’s a beautiful drawing, by the way. What is it?”
“It’s a map,” she answers.
Just then, we hear the sound of vehicles outside. A lot of them. A lot of really loud ones, and they’re all converging upon this house. We walk into the front bedroom and look out the window. A number of trucks and construction equipment have descended upon what they all probably believe to be nothing more than a patch of land. “We need to get out of here now.”
I take her down the stairs. As soon as we reach the bottom landing, the house disappears for us as well, leaving us surrounded by the trucks and heavy machinery. A man in a hardhat approaches us. “Did you just...were you...?” He pauses, possibly out of having seen us magically appear out of nowhere. “Where did you come from?”
“She was lost,” I reply simply. “I’m just taking her back home next door. What are you doing here?”
He smiles proudly. “I’m building our dream house, for my fiancée.”
“How did I not know about this?”
“My father’s in the middle of a big business deal with the city. This is just a footnote in Harken news.”
“Harken news?” I ask.
He extends his arm. “Paul Harken. People just call me Hark, though. I bought this lot. It’s gonna be perfect. I assure you, I have all the required permits.”
I take my badge out of the back of my pocket, feeling the need to let him know that I’m not just some nosy neighbor getting into his business.
“Detective. Bran. Kallias Bran.” I shake his hand. “Listen, I’m not sure if this is the best place for you to build. There’s something wrong with the soil, that’s why they didn’t use it when they were building the rest of the neighborhood.” I’m not lying. I looked into why people think there isn’t meant to be a house here. Back when they were expanding the city, they found something strange in this soil, but only in this small section. The science goes beyond me, but I’ve always assumed it was some evidence of the other dimension. The house that actually is here either created the disturbance—and now people don’t remember it; ultimately justifying the lot through some more believable means—or the disturbance was always here, and the house’s condition is merely a product of that.
“Yeah, my scientists looked into it, and they think we can still build. We’ve made a lot of advancements in construction still they first tried this in the early 20th century.”
“Still,” I begin, hoping to come up with some other excuse, but failing. I don’t want him to build a second house here, because I don’t know what happens with the first one. When it comes back, is it going to cause an explosion of some magnitude? Afterall, two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. Best case scenario is just that the house never returns, but since when have I been that lucky?
“I appreciate your concern, detective. But I’ve been assured by the smartest people in Kansas that nothing will go wrong if we take the necessary precautions.”
Before I can respond, we hear a woman yelling from down the street. “Help! Somebody please help me!”
“Take her back to her father’s,” I order Paul Harken. I then run off to meet the screaming woman halfway.
“Please, you have to help me,” she begs.
I show her my badge. “My name is Detective Kallias Bran. What is the matter?”
“It’s my son. I woke up this morning, and he was gone. I thought he had snuck out of the house for this stupid unauthorized senior lock-in, but I’ve talked with the school, and no one was there. They didn’t do it, I guess. But then I guess I talked with the other parents...” She wasn’t able to finish her thought.
“Tell me what happened,” I say.
“It doesn’t make any sense, I know those people. I know their children.”
“I don’t understand, ma’am.”
“They have no clue what I’m talking about. They don’t think they have any children. Or if they do, they’re too young to have gone to the lock-in.”
Yeah, I’ve heard this story before.
“I’m the only one who remembers my son,” she goes on. “Please, you have to help me find him.”
“Okay, I will. Let’s start with the basics. What is your son’s name?”
“Rothko. Rothko Ladhiffe. But he loves those Goosebumps and Fear Street books. He pretty much only answers to RL.”

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