California 1985


The child huddled in the depths of the huge tester bed. The room stretched out around him, full of mysterious shadows that seemed to move for no reason at all. Since Mama had gone, leaving him behind without even a goodbye kiss, the monsters had grown and not even the Mickey Mouse night light could ease the fear. Papa said there were no such things as monsters, only monstrous people who ought to be horse whipped. “You have to be a man,” he’d said, “and quit believing in monsters under the bed. Even a mongrel like you can learn to act brave.”

He wanted to believe, but he’d learned to be wary of his father. It was very hard to please Papa. He wasn’t sure he ever had. Papa didn’t like him, not like his Mama did. Mama loved him, she’d said so often and he couldn’t understand why she’d gone away without even saying goodbye.

The creak sounded like a gunshot. He tensed and watched with wide eyes as the closet door cracked slowly open. Why would it do that if something hadn’t caused it? His nurse, Hannah, had gone to her own bed, so what did that leave but monsters? His breath hitched, but he couldn’t cry; he had to be brave, just as Papa demanded.

The shadows moved closer, swelling and shrinking as if to mock his fear. The vast expanse of the room, the high ceiling lost in a blackness that pressed down on him, and the knowledge that he was alone and lonely, almost broke his nerve.

He wanted his mother.

He huddled into the pillows, trying to ignore what his fear told him was true. The monsters were coming to get him. His mama had always sung to him. It was a comfort when he was feeling scared or alone. Her voice was so pretty and she would sing of beautiful castles and brave knights. He knew it was so even if he couldn’t understand the words she used.

As he remembered, he began to hum. He closed his eyes, sliding down until he lay flat and the hum became words, gaining in volume as he put all his concentration into it. The words were made up, special words that brought his mother back. His high, pure voice filled the room and in his mind the knight fought the monsters. The beautiful princess, who looked a lot like his mama, held out her hand and smiled at him.

His song ended in a cry of pain as something grabbed his arm, jerking him to the side of the bed. His eyes flew open. He struggled wildly, sure his song had failed and he'd been captured by a monster, but the monster glaring back at him, red faced and angry, was his father.

“I have told you no singing. Real men don’t sing. You are supposed to be a man, not a puta’s lap dog. You stupid mongrel! Perhaps you need help to remember? Turn over.”


Silencio! I will have silence from you. She tried to make you weak, but she left you, didn’t she? Even she thought you not worth the taking. Do not look at me like that. You are as willful as she and I will not have her look out from your eyes, judging me, disrespecting me. Turn over, as I said.”

The boy began to cry as he slowly rolled over on his stomach. He flinched as his pajama bottoms were roughly pulled to his knees. His breath hitched and he stared blindly at the halo of light Mickey threw against the wall.

Time seemed to slow. Everything was exaggerated. His father’s harsh breathing echoed in the room, the shadow of his arm loomed as it raised the dog whip high.

* * * *

Casimiro Martin gasped as his eyes flew open. He was drenched with sweat, not the healthy sweat of hard work, but the sour sweat of fear. It infuriated him that he still had these flashbacks. Fifteen years and his father still controlled his life. Two years on the run and he continued to look over his shoulder every hour of every day.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat up, rubbing his damp face. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a good night’s sleep. He was tired of closing his eyes and living through the same scene again and again, before his exhausted mind would finally let him rest. Wearily he got to his feet, looking around the dingy room with distaste. For a moment he couldn’t remember which city he was in. Rooms he could afford were pretty much the same, no matter where they were located.

Outside the single window, a neon sign flickered on and off, like some grainy silent movie. He staggered to the wall switch and flipped it up. The bare light bulb had a glare all its own, but it did diminish the nauseating effect of the flashing sign.

Albuquerque, it was Albuquerque. That’s where he was. God, he was so tired, but sleep remained just out of his reach. He might as well do something constructive. He’d wash, pack his few belongings and get on with his travels. Sleep was overrated anyway.

Somewhere, somehow, he’d outrun his father. He didn’t know if the bastard was still looking for him, but Jose Aguilar had a long reach and Cas wouldn’t take the chance. He would lay low and work as he could and continue to put distance between himself and California.

He only wished he could put that distance into his soul.



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