Blinking, Brandon slowly woke with the realization that something was wrong. Arms were spread, painfully so. He was in his evening wear and tied to a rough tree, one he’d seen a dozen times, if not more. Flexing against the restraints, he pulled and twisted until his muscles cried in agony, begging for relief. Going slack, he looked around to get a better idea of where he was.
He was in a familiar grove, deep in the woods behind his house. The rural homes in Maine were usually spacious with a decent amount of woodland around them, allowing for some cultivation if you were of that persuasion.
Brandon wasn’t. His sister, when she would come and visit, would remark on what a wasted opportunity it was that he didn’t have a garden. Brandon would usually grunt over his tea that he had no desire to garden.
That was a lie, to an extent. He gardened, he just didn’t plant flowers.
Glancing at grown over mounds beneath a carpet of fallen leaves, Brandon couldn’t help but smile. He’d been a busy gardener over the years. The forest flourished under his care.
A crunch of a twig nearby told him he wasn’t alone.
“Are you going to come out now?” He called out, looking away from his most recent additions.
He opened his eyes to see three young Asians, no older than fifteen. One wore a ball cap with pigtails, her long-sleeved shirt keeping her warm against the chill of the coming winter. The other two were twins, wearing similar red shirts and jeans.
“So, children bested me?” He asked.
“Yeah,” the girl said, the boys remaining silent. “Do you know why we’re here?”
“I can guess,” Brandon said, tone calm.
“You took our parents,” the girl said, crossing her arms. “We came to find out why.”
“How did you get me?” He asked, curious.
“We snuck into your house while you slept and merely gave you a shot of powdered sleeping pills,” She replied, looking over her shoulder at one boy. “My brother is diabetic, so he knows where you can safely inject something like that.”
“Clever,” Brandon complimented, flexing against the rope holding him back. “You lack strength, so you plotted with your superior numbers and come up with a plan that will allow you to take me down for a good amount of time. Brilliant. I would be proud of you if you hadn’t crucified me on one of my own trees.”
“We thought it fitting,” she said with an air of superiority, angering Brandon.
Who does she think she is? He thought, grinding his teeth. One twin was hiding behind the girl while the other stood there and gazed at him, a quizzical look on his face.
“So, Chink, what do you plan on doing with me now that you have me? You could have just killed me in my sleep. Why take a risk with all this grandstanding? Someone will notice I’m gone, you know.”
“No, they won’t,” she said with a growing smile. “If anyone comes by, we just will tell them you’re feeling ill and sleeping.”
“Yeah,” one boy, the one standing behind his sister, said. “We’ll tell them we’re your nephews.”
“I’m your favorite niece,” the girl giggled.
Brandon growled deep in his throat but refused to be baited. No, not by a weaker race.
He was Aryan.
He was strong.
He smirked down at her. “Clever enough, but it won’t last forever. If you couldn’t kill me while I was asleep, you won’t be able to do it while I’m awake and staring at you.”
“Oh, we intend to kill you. We just want to know where our parents are.” The girl said. “Michael and Lisa Wong?”
“Oh them. Yes, I was just thinking about them before I called out to you. They were… delicious.”
“You ate them?” The brother asked, horrified.
“Oh no, I’m no barbarian. I merely tortured them until they told each other they didn’t love each other. I made your mother recant her decision to marry your yellow-skinned father, made her pray for forgiveness. It took weeks… but she told him to his face that she never loved him and hated the children she’d had with him. Then I slowly, in front of your father, sawed off her head.”
The boy standing behind his sister cried, his twin still studying Brandon with a calculating gaze. The girl just stared on with a cold glare.
He looked her in the eyes. “She’s buried in these woods. Let me down, and I’ll show you where before I end your miserable lives.”
“Fat chance,” the talkative twin said, crossing his arms. His brother remained silent; head tilted to the side. “We will make you pay for what you’ve done!”
“And how, pray tell, will you avenge your mother and father? Will you kill me? Slit my throat to match your mother’s bloody grin? Shoot me with one of my own guns? How are you going to kill me, child?” He taunted, making the boy quake angrily.
“No,” the girl said, turning slightly. “We will wait for an apology. Then we’ll kill you.”
The girl and the talkative twin walked away, leaving the one who had yet to speak standing before Brandon, tied like an animal to a tree in just a pair of jeans. The boy reached behind him, looking over his shoulder at his siblings as they walked away. He turned back and stared into Brandon’s fierce gaze unflinchingly. He walked up to the tree, where Brandon’s ankles were tied.
He looked down at Brandon’s feet and reached a small hand up, placing it on the size fifteen foot. His hands were warm and frail. If Brandon could kick, he would.
“You must be cold,” the boy said, not bothering to look up. “Let’s fix that, shall we?”
“What do you mean? You and your siblings are just going to torture me in hopes I’ll apologize for cleaning the gene pool.” Brandon spat at the child, laughing to himself at the very thought.
The boy pulled a pair of thick woolen socks that Brandon loved that his sister had given him a few winters ago. Brandon jumped in surprise when he felt a sock being wriggled onto his foot.
Looking down, he watched in silence as the boy slid the second sock onto Brandon’s foot, the soft fabric immediately warming his cold feet. He wriggled his toes happily, wincing only slightly as the ropes around his ankles protested the movement.
“Why?” He asked the boy who had taken a step back. “If you want me to suffer, then you will need to do more than warm my feet child.”
“Oh, I want you to suffer all right. So do my brother and sister, just… my siblings are normal. My sister likes to pretend she’s ready for this, but she isn’t. Not yet. Maybe never.”
“What do you mean?” Brandon asked, flexing his feet. They were warming up.
“I mean they’re not like you. They’re not sick.”
“I’ll kill you, you little shit!” Brandon spat.
“Oh, don’t take it as an insult. It’s just an observation.” The boy said, stepping back to look up at him. “You have a secret that my sister needs. My brother needs closure. So, we have a problem.”
“Yeah, you do,” Brandon laughed. “I won’t tell you shit!”
“Oh, you will,” the boy replied. “Do you want to know how I know?”
“Sure,” Brandon said. “Humor me.”
“I know,” the boy said. “Because I’m sick too.”
Brandon paused, voice caught in his throat. He licked his lips, his mouth dry. “S-sick?”
“Yeah,” the boy smiled. “Just like you.”
The boy pulled a pair of needle-nose pliers from his pocket. They were thin, rusty from extensive use. Brandon recognized them.
They came from his toolbox.
“Don’t worry,” the boy said. “I will not hurt you. Not yet.”
“What?” Brandon asked, eyes glued to the tool.
“I will keep you alive,” the boy explained, “my siblings expect me to get you to apologize. I can only do that if you’re alive.”
“I thought you wanted me dead?” Brandon asked, trying to adjust his arms. They were bent at such an odd angle that he couldn’t find comfort.
The boy shook his head. “What I want is immaterial. What I need is to see you suffer. So, suffer you shall. I will watch you all winter, keep you warm enough that you won’t die. Feed you cold broth to keep you alive, give you dirty water to slake your thirst. Before Christmas you’ll say you’re sorry.”
“You can’t do that,” Brandon said, voice cracking.
“Why not?” The boy asked, turning. “It’s not like you can stop me.”
“I’ll never apologize to you, chink!” Brandon growled.
The boy gave a half-smile. “Not now. But in a week… maybe two? Once you apologize, I’ll begin my work.”
“Yeah,” the boy said, reaching up to his neck. He fished a necklace out from under his shirt, dotted with tiny yellow buds. Brandon narrowed his eyes, glaring at the boy. It took him a moment to realize what was adorning the strange jewelry.
“My father was a dentist,” the boy said with a calm smile. “So am I.”
Brandon felt the first welling of warmth at the corner of his eyes. He was so shocked by the child’s statement that it took him a moment to realize what was happening.
He was crying.
“Oh, don’t cry,” the boy said. He turned and began slowly walking away. “Not yet, at least.”
“I’ll never apologize to you,” Brandon whispered. He raised his voice to a mighty roar.
“Do you hear me? I’ll never apologize!”
The boy didn’t look back. He continued hiking up the hill through the woods until he was out of sight. Brandon fought to control his tears, sniffing as he felt his nose run.
I’ll never apologize.