Hey, welcome back! We’ll start off the post with yet another birthday of a random spare, cause why not.
This is Jeyna, Sam and Dorah’s youngest. They pretty much all look just like Oscar, so nothing too spectacular here.
Anyways, last week Briony found a new home and Rylo peaced out. Let’s see how that’s working out for them.
When Briony had first stepped onto the porch, the woman, who Briony now knows to be called Carlene, thrust a broom into her hands and upended a bucket of water onto the floor. Briony was instructed to “scrub until all the water’s gone” and left alone.
When this is completed Carlene instructs her to carry in two basketloads of wood to start the cooking fire for dinner. The first two loads are both deemed “not enough”, and Briony is directed to make the trip twice more, nearly toppling over from the weight.
Rylo spends his afternoon trekking resolutely through the forest, straining to find the familiar sounds of birdsong and leaves blowing in the wind. Both seem to be absent on this still afternoon, and Rylo is acutely aware of the deafening ring of silence in his ears.
Briony is then shown to the pantry and told to whip up some dinner. This is something she knows she’s good at, and thinks back to the spiced dishes she would help her mother make.
This family has next to no spices, but Briony is nevertheless able to make a slightly flavourless but filling potato-based soup. Not quite tall enough to reach the oven, she teeters on a spindly old chair, nearly tipping over into the fire a few times.
For his dinner, Rylo scrounges for more of the brown mushrooms that Briony had shown him. As he eats he realizes he must have acquired a taste for them, detecting a note of creamy sweetness he hadn’t noticed before.
Once her soup is ready, Briony serves the family. They say nothing to her, and in fact hardly seem to notice her.
She retreats into a corner, leaning against the rough log walls as she eats her dinner alone.
Meanwhile, Rylo builds his fire for the night. The air is chill and damp, and it takes some time for the dewy logs to hold a flame.
Having finished eating, Aaron and the boys head off to their respective bedrooms for the night. Briony looks questioningly at Carlene.
Carlene: Wouldn’t want the dishes to sit out dirty all night.
Briony knows it’s best to take the hint, and sets to work clearing the table.
Inside the tiny kitchen she finds a bucket of water already waiting for her, and begins scrubbing the tower of dirty dishes. By the time she’s finished her eyes are heavy and her back is aching for sleep. She’s just finished replacing the last bowl in the cupboard when she feels a hand grab her arm and yank her backward.
Briony can only comply as Carlene jerks her across the tiny room. The pantry door opens, and Briony is shoved in.
Her head slams against a shelf, and she brings her hand up to feel for blood. The door shuts, and she’s left in the dark.
Satisfied that she isn’t bleeding, Briony scrambles to escape. She hears the click of what can only be a lock, and settles back down on the floor.
Lying on the hard ground, Rylo waits for sleep. The stars above seem to bore into his eyes, keeping him wide awake late into the night.
For Briony, sleep comes with her head cradled between her knees and the wall. For long stretches she sits awake in the darkness, listening to the creak of the house in the wind.
Morning is announced suddenly, with the door being wrenched open and light searing her eyes.
Again she is dragged by the arm and ordered by Joshua, the eldest son, to get breakfast on.
Rylo huddles by his fire, trying to soak in the last waves of heat before he has to move on for the day. It didn’t rain last night, but Rylo feels soaked to the bone.
Over the course of the next few days, Briony learns the entire chore list that is expected of her. In addition to cooking and cleanup, she spends every second morning washing the family’s clothes. She works submerged to the elbows in some mixture of water and a harsh soap that Carlene makes herself.
She’s also responsible for the general tidiness of the house, and has to make beds and pick up dirty clothes left out by the boys.
Her least despised task is caring for the garden. Carlene only seems to have been able to grow cabbage, potatoes, and one weak tomato plant, and Briony relishes the challenge of bringing some life back into the garden. She builds up her courage to suggest to Carlene that the garden might benefit from ladybugs to combat pests, and perhaps even bringing in more fertile soil and replanting. Her advice is met with a cold hard stare, and a reminder to stick to her own chores.
While Aaron is silently grumpy and completely ignores her, Carlene seems to become more and more ornery towards Briony. She seems to speed up as she walks past Briony, often coming close enough to knock her backwards into a wall.
Joshua prefers more direct harassment. When he’s not cutting firewood or killing the zombies that get stuck on the walls, he jostles himself up against Briony, stepping in front of her to block her path. When she finally gets by him, he seems to enjoy the fact that it’s only because he allowed her to.
Kane, who seems to be a few years younger than Briony, goes days without even looking at her. That’s fine with Briony, as she knows she’s too old to play in the dirt like silly children anyways.
Rylo goes days without seeing any meat that isn’t rotting off a zombie. Finally, on the fourth day, he gets within a spectacularly close range of a red fox. It doesn’t seem to have noticed him at all. He inhales slowly, holds the breath, and releases his arrow.
It sails high over the fox’s head, and the fox bolts. Rylo stands up in confusion.
Frustrated, he takes aim again. He inhales, holds the breath, and stops.
Rylo drops his bow to his side and watches the fox disappear.
He walks for a time, and hits a lake. It stretches widely across the horizon, taunting him with the impossibility of continuing in this direction.
Rylo considers his options. He could choose a direction, and follow the boundary of the lake. Or he could turn back.
His feet make the choice before his head fully understands it, but as soon as he starts he knows it’s the right choice.
In a few hours, Rylo is crouched behind a stone wall, peering through a gate at a little girl loading firewood into a basket.
Briony stacks the wood carefully, flinching at every aggressive crack of the axe behind her. With the basket as full as she can manage, she stands up to begin the trip into the house.
Briony drops the basket and whirls around.
Joshua: My mother told you to bring in wood for a cooking fire. Not candles for a birthday cake!
Briony stands frozen, until Joshua steps forward and starts kicking wood at her.
Joshua: Go on then, load up!
Briony rushes to fill the basket while being pelted with split logs.
All the while, Rylo watches.
The basket is nearly overflowing, and as hard as she tries, Briony is unable to lift it. She looks pleadingly at Joshua, who stares back with an ugly look on his face.
Joshua: You lazy little shit!
Briony falls back as his hand cracks painfully across her face. Disoriented, she blinks tears from her eyes and scrambles away through the dirt.
She hears it before she sees it. There’s a whoosh of air, and then Joshua collapses with a hole in his throat that definitely wasn’t there before.
Rylo vaults over the wall and hurls himself towards Briony who is staring wide-eyed at the pathetic gasping boy.
Rylo wraps an arm around her and sweeps her onto her feet as the air is cut by a high, piercing scream.
The cry brings Carlene and Aaron rushing out onto the porch. Carlene gasps as she discerns her eldest son clawing weakly at the blood bubbling from the gash in his neck.
Rylo hoists Briony up onto the fence, and she tumbles over onto the other side. By the time Rylo is over she’s back on her feet, running full tilt beside him.
The last Rylo and Briony hear of the family is Carlene’s furious shrieking, interspersed with Kane’s loud sobs.
Man, last week you guys really outdid me with ideas of freaky shit this family was gonna do to Briony. Locking her in a pantry was pretty tame compared to cannibalism and forced wifey stuff. Stay weird, everybody.