The Daleys' quiet, monumental home was far from the workers' village. A mile north of the house was a cliff overlooking a canyon with a stream snaking through its floor of sand, rocks, and low, dense bushes. Oak trees spotted the wide fields around the house. There was an oak tree at the edge of the canyon cliff on which Alan Daley made a swing for his sons when Tracy, the oldest by a year, was nine. The swing still hung from the old tree; it carried people beyond the edge of the cliff; sitting on the swing the boys looked down in exhilaration at the cool floor of the canyon forty feet below. Now twenty-four, Tracy continued to use the swing when he was upset about things.
Tracy was moody and inconsistent. Sometimes he fell prey to ennui and sat for days in front of the television. Sometimes he vanished periods of up to two days then returned, exhausted, with scratches on his pallid face and his body. He spent almost all his time in seclusion at their estate, which they called the Range.
Lisle took trips down to Los Angeles to see movies, go to clubs, to throw himself like a spark into unfamiliar circles of people; he would befriend, embrace, use, and offend them. These pilgrimages satisfied any therapeutic needs he had; they were exercises in indulgence.
After one of Lisle's trips he brought back to the Range a doctoral candidate from UCLA named Hannah. Hannah took to the Range right away; within days her demeanor hinted that the house was as much hers as it was Lisle's and Tracy's.
By this point their father Alan was in a state of unconsciousness interrupted only by brief periods of delirium. A mouse-like, nearly invisible nurse lived with him in an isolated section of the house. It was expected that he would die soon. Despite its ever more concrete certainty, that expectation had escaped fulfillment for four years. Lisle and Tracy found visiting their father uncomfortable; Tracy because he loved his father, and Lisle because he loathed him.
Years ago Alan Daley would wake up screaming; his scorching voice reverberated throughout the house until the nurse drugged him. But for the past two years he had been quiet; sometimes his drained voice muttered soft nonsensical poetry, but no one heard it.
Lisle was away during the day. He enjoyed the crude business operations of his father's estate and spent much of his time with the foreman, gradually taking over the job of the old, trusted friend of Alan Daley.
Hannah did not miss him. His non-sexual company was a limited stimulus. The appealing thing about staying at the Range was being away from the toxic urban world. And at the Range she had sex every night, didn't have to buy her own food, and had plenty of peace and quiet in which to work on her dissertation.
But after the first couple of days Hannah found herself distracted. Her dissertation began to seem trivial, while the country around the Range with its pathless purity was dazzlingly idyllic and made her feel primitive. Fully alive. Hannah found she was actually on vacation. And then there was Tracy.
Hannah had deliciously light conversations with Tracy, whom she adored. Tracy -- like his brother -- could not handle challenging discussions, so they talked about plants and animals on the Range, television shows, politics, and so on.
Tracy took walks for hours every day. Hannah once asked Lisle where he went. "Damned if I know. He's probably building a treehouse or something. Who cares?"
Finally Hannah felt comfortable enough with Tracy that she could ask him. "I don't go anywhere, really. I mean I go...well I go places. But, you know, there are things to do and all that. Nowhere in particular."
"Can I come sometime?" Tracy was surprised.
"Can you come with me, you mean? Oh, no! I mean, you wouldn't, you'd be bored. Anyway, anyway, it's, it's...no."
Needless to say, Hannah's curiosity was heightened by Tracy's staggered reply.
Alan Daley's nurse stared down at the old man's lips. They moved but brought no sound to air. For the first time in two years, Alan Daley looked directly at the nurse and she became tense. Afraid that he would begin screaming again, she removed a syringe from her bag and prepared a tranquilizer.
Daley's voice rose like a fossil breaking out of stone: it issued wandering, unintelligible tones. His eyes became enlivened, and his stream of vowels became civilized by consonants. He spoke to the nurse as if he were conscious.
"Nurse, nurse...I need to talk to Tracy. I need to tell him about his mother. I lied. I lied..."
"Relax, Mr. Daley."
"No, no...I need to talk to Tracy. I just need to tell him about his mother. I just need to, I -- oh, Jesus --"
Seeing his excitement growing to a dangerous pitch, the nurse gave Alan Daley the injection.
He would never be conscious again.
Tracy, Lisle, and Hannah were never together at once because the two brothers avoided each other. There was no open hostility between them, only institutionalized silence.
Lisle became uncomfortable with Hannah's fondness for Tracy. He knew that Tracy -- with his enigmatic personality, his Martian consciousness -- was more interesting than he was. Their father never disguised his favoritism towards Tracy.
Lisle didn't know how to confront Hannah, but he was jealous; Hannah became mirthful and lively when she was with Tracy, but with him she seemed blase, perfunctory, disinterested. Their only quality contact was sexual.
Why the hell was it that everyone was so fond of Tracy? For Lisle, being with Tracy -- a rare occurrence -- was like being with an animal; being with a non-human.
The question about the destination of Tracy's daily excursions was soon answered. Lisle went with the foreman of the estate to the workers' village one afternoon and, at a distance, saw Tracy walking out of an immigrant family's hovel. Tracy left the village without noticing Lisle. After Lisle finished his business, he visited the house. He found it peculiar that his brother was socializing with one of the immigrant families; all their lives they had stayed separate from the workers.
Lisle introduced himself to the family and was welcomed in. The purpose of Tracy's friendliness became clear: standing by a window at the back of the main room was the family's only child: a stunning young woman. She was wearing earrings and clothes that were bought outside the village; her parents were aware of her beauty and were spending most of their money on her. The woman's name was Lucia.
Lucia. If he wasn't involved with Hannah, Lisle thought he might consider her. Matter of fact, if Hannah and Tracy got much friendlier...
Lisle decided to go to L.A.; he was uncomfortable with Hannah and he wanted to visit an old girlfriend. A trace of instinct told him that if he left for a few days and Hannah still valued him, she would begin to miss him, and all her original infatuations would be renewed upon his return -- at least briefly. But if she did not react with reborn joy at his return, the relationship was over. Lisle went to find her to tell her he was leaving.
She was not in the house. Lisle went outside and scouted the terrain.
From the site of the swing, he looked down at the stream forty feet below and saw his brother and his girlfriend standing together, watching the stream and talking.
That evening Lisle and Hannah ate dinner in the kitchen.
"I'm going to L.A. tomorrow." She looked up at him.
"You are?" He nodded, not meeting her eyes.
"Well, I haven't gotten any work done, so I don't really have any reason to go to UCLA."
"I wasn't asking you to come with me, Hannah."
She put down her fork and looked at him. His head was still tipped down. "Why are you going?" Lisle paused. His head jerked up.
"Because I want to get the fuck away from here for a few days." They were both silent. She brushed a cluster of hair behind her ear then folded her hands on her lap.
"Are you upset about something, Lisle?" His lips trembled.
"I want to visit an old friend, all right? I want to get out of here. Look, you're not going to be alone -- you're going to be with Tracy, I'm sure you have no problem with that. I'm tired of this goddam place."
They were silent.
After eating dinner with Lucia's family, Tracy sat with her on a bench at the threshold of a field just outside the workers' village. It was nighttime, and she looked at his face under the light of the full moon; he looked blissful, but he did not look at her; he was staring at the sky. Although she had never been to a school Lucia was sophisticated, and Tracy's shyness was irritating as hell.
"To think my mother warned me about you, Tracy!" He turned to her; he looked serious. "You've said a total of about twenty-three words this evening, nineteen of which were 'uh,' you've made eye contact with me twice, you --"
Tracy leaned over and kissed her. The kiss lasted; his other hand joined hers on her lap. She forced herself up from the bench in mock alarm. When he stood up she spun around and ran into the field. After several seconds she looked back and found him chasing her. The night air rushed past her and she laughed.
Lisle noticed that Hannah had gained weight since she arrived at the Range. It was a tiny change; as they lay in bed, he moved his hand across her compact breasts and over her ribs, her belly; she was more solid. They had had sex without exchanging a word. He looked at the dark shape of her face. Her body was pure passion; if only she wasn't such a willful girl.
"I found out where Tracy goes, Hannah."
She was asleep.
When Lucia reached the oak grove at the edge of the field she turned around. Tracy was nowhere to be seen; the full moon threw blue incandescent light upon an empty field. How could she have lost him out in the open?
She took a step back towards the field, then froze; in the impenetrable shadows of the oak grove behind her there was a sound. She felt somebody there. Cold tension reached out from her stomach. A hand clamped over her mouth and an arm passed around her waist. She screamed into the hand, then laughed. She spun around and kissed Tracy.
They knelt on the ground and broke through their clothing into the company of darkness; he pushed her onto her back and laid upon her. He moved into her and she gasped, then kissed him again. She closed her eyes.
After several minutes, his breaths began to sound like a steel shovel scraping against a cement sidewalk. She opened her eyes in alarm.
The strong moonlight behind Tracy's head created a silhouette; she could not see his face. "Tracy, are you OK?" A cloud passed over the moon and in the moment that the light was distributed evenly around them his face became visible: his eyes were puffy and bloodshot; his cheeks had become densely hairy; strands of drool strung down from his mouth, where she saw on each jaw a pair of long, white, glistening canine teeth. Lucia felt the drool spill from the creature's jaws onto her breasts, and she fainted.
The colored stage lights slashed violently through the atmosphere of the nightclub. Lisle was preoccupied, and this annoyed Shelly; she had not seen him in two weeks and now his presence was fractional.
Shelly took a tube of lipstick from her purse. "So did you talk to the lawyer? Are you going to inherit the Range?"
"I don't know; they wouldn't let me look at the will. I fucking doubt it, though. Tracy is Alan's prince; as long as he's around I won't get anything. The best I can hope for is that Tracy will keep me on to run the fucking place." Lisle paused to light a cigarette. "It's so degrading. I hate that guy."
"Well...my lease expires at the end of this month," she said, alluding to a promise he made before he met Hannah to let her move in with him. Lisle was embarrassed. He became angry.
"Shelly, I want to fuck you; let's leave."
Lucia awoke with a jolt at dawn. Through bleary eyes she glanced around her in the oak grove. She was alone. There was dew on her body; her clothes lay several yards away. In panic, her thoughts collided. She remembered how passionate the night was until...had it been a dream? Lucia launched off the ground, dressed, and rushed back towards the village.
She felt imbued with purest energy as she strode across the field; she had never felt so refreshed after waking up. She wondered if it was because she was so scared; or was it that when men came inside you and you didn't become pregnant, you digested their semen like food? Or had Tracy -- the creature -- cast a spell on her? Another thought exploded in her mind: Maybe she was pregnant with his child.
Who would she tell this to? Her mother was a good friend of the women's shaman -- Ginash Indians had different healers for men and women. The shaman would be able to tell her what to do, and whether what she saw just a vision.
Hannah was awakened by the engine of Lisle's car. Lisle had sabotaged his muffler to make the engine louder. Hannah got up from bed and went to the window. Seeing the car surge down the driveway and disappear, Hannah felt relieved.
Hannah's boredom with Lisle was overburdened the night before by his moodiness; Lisle wasn't worth maintaining a relationship with; the stylishness which initially caught her attention now seemed contrived. Besides, he was an ignoramus. Tracy, on the other hand, was something interesting. Hannah She took a shower, dressed, went down to the kitchen to make breakfast and wait for him to wake up.
The old woman blew her nose into a handkerchief, then leaned back and closed her eyes. "Lucia, the first time you told me this story, you made it sound like he raped you. Now you're making it sound like you were as willing as he was. Did he rape you, or did you want him to fuck you?"
"I wanted him to..."
"What did he look like when his appearance changed?"
"Like he was turning into a wolf..."
The old woman was not a true shaman; she had left her instructor in Mexico when she was only a neophyte; and much of what she was taught she had forgotten.
Nothing this bizarre had come to her before. But the notion of hallucination was totally foreign; there were visions, but visions were meaningful. Something had to be done about this. The old woman improvised.
"You have its baby inside you. You have to kill it. You have to kill both of them. I will give you a drink to kill the thing inside you, but you also have to kill the creature that impregnated you. I will give you a knife."
Lucia shook her head. "No. No, it was just a dream! God damn it, I had a great time, I would probably -- "
"This creature you met, its father must have been a man and its mother an animal; that doesn't happen naturally. This is some sort of curse."
The old woman explained that for anything in nature to work it has to complete a cycle. To complete the cycle started by the creature's father, she told Lucia, "You have to castrate this creature and feed its organs to a female wolf."
The morbidity of the assignment overwhelmed Lucia; the whole situation, the chaos, the unreality. Lucia began crying. She cursed herself for having told the old woman.
When Lucia left, darkness fell over the old woman's sagging face. She had no idea whether she had given Lucia the right advice. She blew her nose again, and hobbled to a cupboard. Inside she found a stack of disposable dust masks and more than a dozen tubes of model glue. Holding one of each, she moved laboriously back to her chair. She squeezed glue inside the mask, then held it over her face. She leaned back in her chair and breathed deeply.
The blinds on Tracy's windows were closed; beams of sallow sunlight penetrated the cracks, and particles of dust swam through them amoebically.
Tracy awoke with a start; he had no recollection of having gone to bed the night before; the last thing he remembered was running in a field with Lucia. A feeling of dread consumed him. He had suffered black-outs before. As he searched through his memory for fragments that might tell him what he had done, he examined his body. Sometimes he woke up with scratches and gashes on his flesh; some of them seemed to be from branches or nails, some seemed to be dog bites; some were unidentifiable.
Not a shred of recollection came to him; no fragmentary visions, no memories of tastes or smells. After other blackouts Tracy recalled stray impressions -- images of nighttime forests and fields, usually illuminated by the moon; the taste and feel of icy running water; images of the dark interiors of strangers' houses; the taste, distinct and slightly metallic, of blood; sounds of dogs barking and howling. But most disconcerting was the emotional residue of the black-outs; the haunting, vague feeling that he had done something terrible.
It was an after-image from one the black-outs that led Tracy to meet Lucia. He struggled with a memory of the insides of an unfamiliar house to perceive a clue that would enable him to figure out where it was. The structure seemed primitive and temporary, and there was nothing high-tech in it. Through the window Tracy could see, illuminated by a full moon, the outline of one of the two stores in the workers' village. Tracy found out which house it was and tried to discover by talking to the tenants why he had a memory of their house. He learned nothing from the owners of the house, but he met their daughter, Lucia.
Hannah looked for a stereo in the house, but could not find one. She watched television until a nagging feeling of guilt impelled her to shut of the TV, go to the living room, and subsume herself in her dissertation notes. Scanning the pages with a wandering mind, she fought a war with distraction for several hours -- until Tracy appeared in the doorway, smiling. The war was lost.
"Good morning, Hannah!"
"You look really busy, maybe I should..."
"I'm so bored; let's do something."
Lisle woke up and for an instant could not remember where he was. He reached out and touched the body beside him. It mumbled something, and he looked at his watch.
"Shelly." He shook her gently. Shelly mumbled again. "Shelly, come on, I have to leave. I need some breakfast."
Shelly looked up through her tangled hair. "Are you going home?"
"I thought you were going to stay here for a few days."
"I have to take care of something. I'll be back here tomorrow."
"Lisle, what's going on?"
He looked at her. "Do you still want to move into the Range?" Her eyes widened. He went back to the Range to finish it off with Hannah.
Hannah and Tracy walked slowly upstream; they were flanked by the orderly splash of water on the left and the tall stone cliff on the right. Tracy asked Hannah to tell him about her dissertation.
"It's on prehistoric art. About a year ago I saw a bunch of cave paintings of animals and people, and I had a couple of ideas. I sometimes get this feeling of being able to reach back into history and touch the past. So I had this thought: how far back can our sense of history go? Can our sense of history go back to the souls of the cave people? I think it can. And what if you're one ofthe cave people? How far back in evolution can your sense of history go?
"My great dud of a theory about cave paintings was that they were motivated by the cave people having a sense of history that reached way back into the point on the evolutionary scale when the highest life form was the bison, or the antelope, or whatever -- the animals that they painted. I thought the collective unconscious was carried like a torch by the cutting edge of evolution; that the collective unconscious, for lack of a better term, determines our real identity, and since this collective unconscious never really dies, in a sense we are animals.
"A more watered-down theory was that these drawings were messages being sent to their dead ancestors; they were being drawn in rock because rock is the earthly substance that comes closest to being eternal.
"Well, after doing research on evolution I saw that it couldn't work. And besides, no one has proven that a collective unconscious exists. Then I came up with a sort of weird reversal of that idea; that the cave people were not trying to reach into the past, they were trying to reach into the future; that they were trying to send future people a message. I thought these people were trying to tell something to us. Or maybe people later than us; maybe that's why we can't understand the message, we're not evolved enough yet. And maybe the cave people weren't even aware what they were doing.
"Anyway, I mentioned that to one of my instructors and she said that if I ever suggested something like that again, she'd throw me out of grad school!"
"That sounds really neat."
"Well, I used to like thinking about it. I used to sometimes feel, looking at photographs of those old cave paintings, like I was somehow right next to the artists. That I somehow experienced them."
Tracy squinted. "I think I sometimes get a feeling like that with animals." Hannah looked up at him. "What do you mean?" They stopped walking. Tracy stared into the rushing water. "I'm not sure," he said softly. Soon the sun would sink behind the wall of the cliff; the last rays of direct sunlight were upon them. Hannah looked at Tracy's face; with its combination of stillness and inward searching, it looked beautiful to her. She moved beside him, and put her arm around him. He looked down, then kissed her.
Lucia was given a strong, dark tea; she was told it would kill the embryo inside her. The taste was terrible, and she threw up repeatedly. The old woman insisted that she keep drinking more of it until she kept some down.
As soon as her body began to digest the drink it had a tranquilizing effect on her, and a hallucinogenic one as well. She fell asleep, but several minutes after she began dreaming.
"Hannah!" Lisle waited for a reply. None came. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. In the cool electrified air things in plastic wrap and foil gleamed up at him. He closed the refrigerator and discovered a cake on the counter. He cut a piece and took several bites before he was distracted by a sound.
"Hannah?" Lisle looked through the window above the kitchen sink. A tiny, tiny sound -- a cry, a scream of pain -- passed faintly over the fields. From where? Lisle dropped the piece of cake on the counter and raced out into the yard.
In the middle of the night the door of Lucia's small bedroom swung open, but no light entered from the main room of the house. There was no light at all. Lucia heard the door thud against the wall as it swung to its limit, and she sat up and stared. She could not see anything, but the air in the room was moving. Something was making it move.
She heard the first sound rise out of nothingness: like a slow, dull scratching sound that went on for two seconds, then stopped; then resumed for another two seconds, and repeated. When the rhythm established itself she realized it was breathing. The tea had put Lucia into a fever, and the tranquilizing effects of the concoction still held her. She could not sit up any longer; she was too tired. She fell back upon the bed. But inside her body of lethargic muscle, inside her alternately burning and icy febrile body, her heart was pounding. She felt sweat dripping from her forehead and matting her hair.
She heard the second sound as she stared into the darkness. It was a voice, and the voice spoke her name. "Lucia..." Adrenaline slashed through her veins and her head began throbbing. She did not recognize the voice; she could not tell whether it was a man or a woman. After several seconds she wondered if she had actually heard it.
"Who's there?" Lucia whispered.
She felt a tiny breeze and then the door clicked shut. But whoever had spoken was still in the room with her. Lucia tried to determine where the breathing was coming from -- which side of her, what part of the room -- but the harder she concentrated the more her head throbbed. Her body changed temperature; her veins turned to icicles, and she lost the ability to focus any effort. She could sense, and that was all.
Lucia was on the verge of blacking out, she thought, when the blanket was lifted from her body. Her chilled body began trembling. The blanket was dropped at her knees. She heard a deep inhalation near her, but she did not have the strength to look.
Lucia felt a flow of warm breath against her chest, and she felt several strands of hair fall upon her skin. Abruptly, she felt a pair of lips embrace one of her nipples. They were warm and dry. They rubbed the tiny firmness of her erect nipple gently -- then teeth introduced themselves to her flesh. Lucia's nerves were quavering, and if the acute sensations in her breast did not chain her attention, she would have blacked out. Through the sub-zero veil on her body she felt tears condensing in her eyes. She whispered at the body consuming her, "Who are you?"
No response came. Lucia felt a weight placed on her sweating body, upon her stomach, and then it relented, and the mouth on her breast went away. She sighed faintly, then felt her legs pulled apart. Something grabbed her clump of her pubic hair, and a thick phallus crushed into her.
The hallucination, or the dream, faded, and the darkness of the room mirrored Lucia's consciousness. Opaque sleep held her for a day.
Lisle followed the cries. As his distance from them diminished, he could hear them better. They were not cries of pain; they were cries of ecstasy. Lisle felt boundaries of emotion shatter inside him; anger like countless poisoned teeth whirled in his heart as he approached the edge of the cliff.
From the site of the swing, Lisle scanned the bed of the canyon below. Sunset was half an hour away; in the darkening atmosphere of the canyon he saw Tracy lying on top of Hannah upon a bed of sand by the stream. Her arms were wrapped around him. Tracy had stolen their father's affection from him, and now Tracy had stolen his lover. It hardly mattered that Hannah was not important to Lisle; everyone who knew them liked Tracy more.
An idea that occurred to Lisle more than ten years earlier came back to him as he stood beside the oak with the tire swing. Lisle began sprinting back to the house.
Lisle found a Swiss Army knife in his room, and rushed back to the cliff. He climbed the old oak and began cutting through the swing's rope just below the knot. Lisle would not cut all the way through the rope; the rope was already quite old; he would only cut through enough strands that next time Tracy sat on the swing, his weight would cause the rope to break. The fall was forty feet.
When Lisle finished with the rope he left the Range. It would look like an accident. He would get Shelly to say that he left the next day. Hannah would never know that he was there. When their father died, there would be no one to inherit the property but him.
After taking a shower and putting on clean clothes, Hannah and Tracy went into the kitchen to make dinner. On the kitchen counter, Hannah found a piece of cake with bites taken out of it. "Tracy?"
"Yeah?" Tracy was searching through the refrigerator.
"Lisle was here today." Tracy's head jerked towards her.
Just before midnight, Shelly was sitting on her couch watching television when a fist banged against her door. Instinctively her hands moved to cover herself; her night gown had slipped open.
She grabbed a coat -- the fist banged some more -- and stepped up to the door.
"Who is it?" The voice from outside didn't sounded broken. "It's Lisle."
"Ever since Lisle and I have been young we've had nothing to do with each other. When we're forced to be around each other, we just fight."
Hannah and Tracy were lying in his bed, which they had just made. There were no creases in the blankets. Between them were two glasses of brandy.
"What about your mother? I've never heard you guys mention her so I assume she must have died, or..."
"Lisle and I had different mothers. Lisle's mother left when...well, right after he was born. Actually I'm not sure if she left, or if Dad forced her to leave."
"Why would he have done that?"
Tracy touched his glass. "I think because...she would've favored Lisle over me, and he didn't want that."
"What about your mother?"
Tracy's face darkened. "I don't know. I don't think I ever met her. She might've died in childbirth. I don't know."
"You must've asked your father about her...?"
"The first time I got him to talk about her I was like sixteen. He told me that he met her on a business trip in Boston; he said she had long, black hair, that she was the prettiest woman he'd ever met."
"So what happened?"
"He said that a few days after she gave birth to me, she went for a walk to some store or something, and never returned. The police never found her. She just vanished, and no one knew for sure whether she was kidnapped, or just decided to leave.
"It took me so long to get over that. I just couldn't deal with it. I asked my father to tell me about my mother again two years later, and I guess Dad forgot what he told me the first time; this time he said that he met my mother in Chicago, where she was a waitress."
Hannah stared. "It's strange, isn't it? For some reason he refused to tell me the truth."
"Did you confront him?"
"You mean, tell him he was contradicting himself? No, I didn't."
"Because he was already sick by then. The doctors told us he was going to die, and I was afraid I'd upset him."
Hannah reached over and hugged Tracy.
"Hannah?" She let go of him and they faced each other. "Look, I think Lisle will be back tomorrow. You'd better leave. We've never really confronted each other before, but I don't think you should be here. Can you take my car and drive back to LA?"
"Will you call me tomorrow?"
"Hello?" Tracy answered the phone. Lisle felt a flicker of surprise; he had never heard his brother's voice over the phone before.
"This is Lisle." Shelly was sitting in the other room, but Lisle knew that she was listening. It didn't matter; he confessed everything to her the night before. He even confessed that he loved her. Naturally she felt the same way.
"Tracy, I saw you fucking Hannah yesterday."
"Wait, wait a minute --"
"Tracy, I don't care. She's a whore, Tracy. I bought a month of her time, paid in advance."
"You don't believe me?"
"Of course not."
"Oh, I know that she thinks you're cute; she told me a couple of times how she'd like to screw you. Hell, whatever you think, it's fine with me. Just make sure to get tested soon." Lisle hung up the phone. What the hell; he didn't have to be convincing, he just had to be upsetting. Tracy would go on one of his therapeutic walks, and as always, he'd use the swing.
Lisle said goodbye to Shelly, and began the drive to the Range.
Tracy went for a walk. Around the house the fields rose up in hills to meet the sky, then fell away; the atmosphere kept them apart.
Years living together, motherless, seeing their father disappear into an interstice between life and death -- amounted to nothing in his relationship with Lisle.
At the canyon cliff, Tracy looked below at the steam. He thought of Hannah, and how reluctantly they separated that morning. He would call her as soon as he cleared his head.
Tracy sat on the swing, and pushed off the edge of the cliff.
Lucia awoke an hour before sunset. Her fever had begun to wear off, and although she was still weak, she could not stall any longer.
Lucia found the knife the old woman gave her; a thin, aquiline blade. She left her house and began walking towards the Daleys' house. She had never been there before; she only knew its direction.
Tracy had the sensation of darkness being slashed open by light; his eyes opened onto a chaos of blurs. At the same time silence became deformed into sound: a shrill, piercing ring, and then the slow, regular thud of a heartbeat. Despite the sensations Tracy was not conscious yet.
As a vehicle for thoughts assembled out of oblivion, the colors in Tracy's sight became more defined, and began taking on shape; depth assorted them.
He was staring at the bed of the canyon from an angle he had never seen before. Rocks were level to his eyes, and even low bushes were taller than he was.
There was another strange thing in the scene: standing about fifteen feet away from Tracy was a large, grey and black wolf. It looked at him.
The last dimensions of sensation broke open: Tracy could taste blood in his mouth, and his body was entombed in one, single sensation: a dull throb.
The wolf walked slowly over to Tracy. Its eyes were focused on his. There was something compelling about the its eyes. He had seen them before. They were the eyes of every mirror he had ever looked into; they were just like his own.
The wolf's muzzle was inches from Tracy's face. It did not move, but Tracy heard an even, impassive, barely feminine voice. It spoke his name.
"Tracy. Get up."
Lisle arrived at the Range just before sunset. Approaching the canyon cliff, he saw that the rope was no longer dangling from the tree. His heart pounded.
At the cliff, Lisle breathed in deeply. He held his breath as he looked over the edge. On the sandy, rocky canyon bed forty feet below was the swing; there was no body.
It had occurred to him that perhaps the rope would break before Tracy swung over the edge of the cliff, but if that had happened, why would the swing be on the ground down below?
Tracy must have survived. Forty feet? Falling down to rocks and sand? He must have survived long enough to crawl a few yards, perhaps behind some cover.
He had to make sure Tracy was dead.
Lisle retrieved a flashlight from the house, and began walking back towards the cliff; Tracy's body would have to be somewhere by the stream bed.
Sunset was swallowed by darkness, and just as Lisle was about to switch on his flashlight, he saw a dark figure across the field to his left.
Lucia could not find the house. Her hand was sweaty around the handle of the knife. Her calves were streaked with cuts from the field's long blades of grass.
Her forehead was damp -- her fever was returning. It began to seem to her that she was walking in circles.
Out of the corner of her eye Lucia saw a person. She held the knife behind her back and froze; the person was staring at her.
It was a woman, standing still. Lisle turned on the light, and began walked towards her. He passed the flashlight over her and saw that it was Lucia, the beautiful young woman who his brother had been courting. She was wearing a short, olive-green dress. Her hands were behind her back, and her hips were thrust forward. She looked frightened. Lisle was once again aware of how sexy this woman was. He approached her.
Lucia could not see clearly in the darkness; she assumed the person was Tracy. Her hands trembled on the knife behind her back; she was afraid that she would drop it in the grass and not be able to find it.
Lucia's mouth was dry. She felt no emotional energy at being in his presence again and she was disappointed by this; she had believed that she loved him. But now Lucia felt desperate and ill. It occurred to her that this was really just another task.
A flashlight went on in his hand, and he guided the brightness to her face; the light punched a hole through her eyes and made her dizzy. She felt nauseous. She wanted to get this over with.
The light in her eyes prevented Lucia from seeing him clearly. He stepped closer and stared at her for several seconds. Lucia lost patience; she stepped towards him and fell on her knees, surreptitiously dropping the knife by her leg. She wrapped her arms around his waist.
She had expected a familiar thrill at being close to him again but there was none. She unbuttoned his pants, and he turned off the flashlight. Her icy fingers slipped under the band of his underwear, and impatiently slid it down. She kissed his pubic hair, rubbing his skin with her tongue. She moved her head down and embraced his flaccid member with her lips. She felt it harden.
He moaned softly. His penis was rigid in her mouth, thrusting into her. She moved her left hand to his testicles while her right hand picked up the knife.
Alan Daley was breathing his way through an endless maze, his inhalations and exhalations stumbling upon each other like disoriented shadows. His listless heart tapped inside the echoing curves of fingerprints. For years his body had mimicked its own past behavior meaninglessly; his brain was as reflexive as stone. On and on, his flesh had sustained itself in a futile partnership with chemicals.
Without causing the slightest change to his psychic inertia, Alan Daley's throat constricted. In several seconds his life was gone.
Lucia stumbled back towards her village. Her dress was sprayed with blood. When it occurred to her that it could take her hours to find the village in the dark she fell to her knees and vomited. His scream had made her ears ring. He did not try to escape; he fell to his knees and she cut him a second time, across the throat.
Lucia vomited and chills swept through her body. She threw the pieces of Lisle Daley across the grass and fell forward. With her face resting on the earth Lucia blacked out.
At dawn the next morning Lucia woke up, and found her way back to the village.
When the nurse found Alan Daley dead, she rested a sheet over the body. She went out to announce the death with an expression of satisfaction.
Finding no one, she called the morgue herself. Later that day she found Lisle's body in a field near the house, and called the police.
When news of the murder erupted in the workers' village, the old woman called Lucia to her hut.
"I thought you said the wolf man was Tracy Daley. You killed the wrong person, Lucia: you killed Lisle Daley."
Lucia's eyes widened. Her heart pounded.
"No," she said, "You're right; it was Lisle Daley who I met with, not Tracy. I just got his name wrong; it was Lisle Daley."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," she lied, "I have no doubt."
The old woman stared at her, then gestured her away. Lucia left the hut intoxicated. He was alive!
The radio newsclip stunned Hannah. There were several suspects of the grotesque murder from the workers' village, but the disappearance of Tracy Daley pointed to him condemningly.
Hannah did not believe that Tracy would kill his brother; that was unthinkable. But why did he disappear? She drove down to the Range to see if he left her any clues; any signs on where he might have gone, or what might have happened. After that she would have to go to the police and tell them everything she knew, though she feared everything she could tell them would only further impugn Tracy's innocence.
In the middle of the afternoon, Hannah drove into the Range in Tracy's car. She found police padlocks on the house's doors. Otherwise nothing was different about the Range; the grass in the fields around the house was undulating under the wind; birds were singing in the oak trees scattered around the terrain. She walked down to the stream. There were no footprints in the sand. In the water she saw a crayfish dart between shadows of rocks. Upstream she saw the place where she and Tracy made love, then looked around at the monumental canyon walls and the low, dark shrubs bursting out of the rocky ground. For a moment she closed her eyes and listened to the rush of the stream.
She opened her eyes, and froze: she saw Tracy's body half-concealed behind a boulder across the stream. She could not move.
"Tracy. Get up." The wolf watched his face, resting in the sand and gravel.
Tracy moved his lips and felt the blood in his mouth. His eyes felt like ashes.
"I can't, mother." He lost consciousness.
His eyes opened several times as the wolf dragged his body by the arm across the floor of the canyon towards the water. At one point Tracy heard her emotionless voice intone words that were like dark birds in an empty sky. "Your father is dead, Tracy."
He felt overwhelmingly sad.
"You own the Range now. You have to get up."
He heard his heart beating. It was too slow.
He whispered, "I can't."
"Drink from the stream, Tracy; just a little farther."
Tracy's heart stopped. With his sleeve in her mouth, the wolf stared at his body. She let go of the sleeve.
The night she learned from the old woman that she had not killed Tracy -- that he must still be alive -- Lucia went to the oak grove where she slept with him. She waited there for hours, staring out over the field.
When her feet became tired she sat down on the field. When her eyelids became tired, she closed them. When she woke up, it was morning.
Everyone in the village was talking about the news: fearing retribution for the murder of his brother, Tracy had jumped off a cliff near his house and killed himself. Lucia looked into the eyes of the people repeating this story. They were convinced it was true. She was alone.
Copyright © 1992, 1997 Lip Think Press. All rights reserved.