What doesn’t kill you

I wanted to post a story here, about the creepy place I worked with a friend of a friend.
I was a twenty-year-old kid, straight out of nursing school with bills to pay. And Remy Desilva, well, he could spin one hell of a story.

Remy Desilva was in his early thirties but could easily pass for twenty-five. I knew from my BFF, who went on a trip to India with the guy, that he claimed to be something other than human.

‘Whatever,’ I thought to myself as I joined him in a van heading to the middle of nowhere. ‘We’re all just children of the universe.’ Starting out in California there were ten of us. but one by one people left for jobs, relationships, etc, until it was just me and Remy.
“You hungry, Angel?” He had the looks of a young Charles Manson or maybe a sexy Jesus, with the voice of a hippie flower child or surfer.
It was a little creepy when he called me Angel. But I guess it made sense since my name is Angelina Cruz. “Nah, I’m good.”

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Driving through the empty roads of Wyoming, I stuck my head out the window to admire the scenery. Part of me wanted to avoid conversation. However, the wiser part of me realized that I needed to learn as much as I could about the real Remy Desilva. Or ‘Remy-D’, he loved to pronounce it in a way that sounded like ‘Remedy.’  “So, Remy-D, are we heading to Canada?”
“No, why would you think that?”
“You said something about opening a medical marijuana dispensary. This far north, Canada’s the only legal option, right?”
Remy chuckled. “For the uncreative.”
We drove to a remote town in North Dakota where Remy was able to purchase a plot of land using the cash in his bank account. There was already a small house and an impressive backyard. But Remy got to work planning his renovations. “As long as we’re not serving customers we don’t need a business license.”

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“You were planning on getting a business license?” I asked as I helped him clean the front room.
“I have big plans,”  he replied, taking off his shirt in the North Dakota summer heat. “You speak Spanish, right? I figure we can swing by the home supply store and find some help.”
“Yeah,” said with a nod. I was glad he had been planning on getting some cheap help, to make the house looked semi-livable. “But don’t you speak Spanish?” From what I knew Remy had lived all over the world.
“I was kinda expecting you to manage while I was applying for permits, bank loans and the like.”
The way the light caressed his tan skin, the way his sleepy eyes glanced at me with a dreamy gaze; I couldn’t help but smile. “That’ll be cool.”

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“Good, I consider you my partner.” He walked closer. We were both sweaty, and after nearly a week of living out of Remy’s van, we both stank to high hell. But f–k was he sexy.
He placed a hand on my shoulder, looking into my eyes. At 6’2″ he towered over me.
Well, not really.  I mean I’m 5’7″, not exactly short. But when Remy lifted my chin and kissed my lips, I knew it was all over. I was his.
We made love, or at least I think we did. I remember his breath on my skin, the feeling of him inside me as he slammed my body against the wall. But most of all I remember how badly I wanted it, how badly I wanted him.

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Over the next few weeks, Remy brought in armies of day laborers. He seemed to be able to talk people into helping for little to no money, some even paid him. By the end of October, we had a marijuana dispensary parading as a holistic temple/spa/ hospice clinic.
“The bank thinks I moved here for my little cousin.”
“The artist?” I asked as I helped him set up the supply cabinet. Remy had some family in North Dakota; an eighteen-year-old cousin who had been left homeless after refusing to give up his dreams.
“Johnny’s actually coming to visit.”
“He’s staying here?” I asked. The finished facility had three patient rooms, in addition to an upstairs office/examination room, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.
“No, he’s living in a halfway house. It’s part of a church program that gives scholarships to teens willing to go to college for public service jobs.”
“Are you close to his parents?”
“Not really. I mean, if they didn’t approve of their son wanting to go to college in New York. So they sure as hell don’t approve of me.”
At the time I assumed Remy was referring to his life choices. “How is he your cousin?”
“My dad is his brother, I told you that.”
“Oh, yeah. I remember.” That reply brought up more questions the answers. Remy’s came from a military family, born and raised in Hawaii. But somehow he had a farmer Uncle in North Dakota? I figured I could wait until Johnny arrived to ask more family related questions.
Johnny arrived two days later, under the cover of moonlight. He had apparently hitchhiked from a town I had never heard of.
I accompanied Remy to the door to meet him. When the two hugged, they looked practically like brothers. “Johnny, you’ve grown up! Last time I saw you, you were just a kid.”

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Johnny ran his fingers through his long dark hair. He had Remy’s hair, his eyes, even his sun-kissed skin. “Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m grateful you came all the way out to North Dakota.” His voice was soft, with hints of a midwestern accent.

“Did you really hitchhike all the way here? I mean, I could have driven out, man.”
“I-I didn’t want to bother you. I mean you have your business out here and your girlfriend.”
“Nah,” Remy said with a smirk as he put his arm around my waist. “She ain’t my girl. We’re just business partners. Right, Angel baby?”
“Right,” I said calmly. “Johnny, let’s get you set up on the couch. We can talk more in the morning.”
That was when I noticed that Johnny only had the clothes on his back. He sat down on the sofa in what would soon be the waiting room, as Remy seemed to simply vanish. ‘Ok, whatever,’ i thought to myself. I was a trained nurse who graduated high school at sixteen and college at nineteen, I could take watch over one patient. “We don’t have central heating yet, but I have a few blankets.”
“T-Thank you.”  He struggled to make himself comfortable.
“Are you ok? Do you need anything?”
“I-I haven’t eaten for a while. D-Do you have any crackers or chips? Or just a cup of water?”
I volunteered to boil some water for instant oatmeal and tea. “I hope you like cinnamon. Be careful it’s hot.”
His hands were trembling and struggled to wrap his fingers around the cup.
“How badly did they beat you?”
“It was my fault, never take a ride from a trucker with no license plates.” He lifted his shirt just enough to show me his bruised ribs. “I’m lucky all they took was my backpack.”
‘Is that all they took?’ I knew better than to ask such a question. “Are you saving up for a car?” That question wasn’t any better, given his current situation. “Maybe I could get Remy to give you his van, so you’ll be able to get around safely.”
“I actually don’t even have a license.”
“What can you tell me about Remy’s family?” I asked if only to change the subject.
Johnny didn’t ask ‘what do you mean?’ After taking a sip of tea he seemed to have a preloaded answer. “You ever heard of Harry Potter?”
“The children’s book?”
“Well in that book Harry’s mother got to go to the wizard school, but she had an older sister who didn’t have powers. And later when she died Harry went to live with her family.”
“Are you saying…”
“Remy’s father is not a wizard exactly. I’m not sure what he is or was. But my old man used to call him a cult leader, anti-christian, devil worshiper. I mean. I’d never seen him do anything supernatural, but he had kind of a reputation in our family. I attributed it to him being in the service. You know?”
“Experiencing new cultures, outside of North Dakota.”
“Yeah, he was a real inspiration for Remy. Makes me wish I had a dad like him.”  Johnny took a few more bites of oatmeal before attempting to remove his boots.
I got on my knees and started to help. “So, Remy told me his father died of cancer?”
“Yeah, that’s what I heard too.”  Johnny’s feet stank but what was more noticeable were the bloody sores.
“So anyway, what’s the deal with you and Remy?”
I got up and walked to the nearby restroom to grab a pack of wipes. “As he said, I’m not his girl.” I started to wash his feet, feeling like a modern day Mary Magdalene. There was something so sweet and fragile about Johnny.
“So where do you do sleep?”
“I sleep in the van, with Remy. Just until the central heating is turned on.” Wiping off the blood and dirt from his feet seemed to also help with the smell. When I looked up I saw there were tears in his eyes. “Johnny?”
“W-Will you stay with me?”
“Yeah, sure. I’d like that.”
Johnny scooted over, giving me enough room to lay in his arms. I fell asleep to the sound of his heartbeat.
But I awoke to the smell of barbecue. This was strange since we didn’t have a barbecue or grill, as far as I knew. I was on the sofa, along with the blankets. Looking at the wall clock I could see it was already eleven in the afternoon.
“Good morning sleepyhead,” said a female voice.
I turned to see a pretty, petite blonde with pink streaks in her shoulder-length hair. “Hi, I’m Angel.”
“I’m Cindy, but my friends call me Syren,” she said in a perky, flirty voice. “Syren with a Y.”

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“Ok….um, Syren with a Y, where is Remy?”
“He’s outside, with his cousin. The poor kid, I’m so glad those a-holes got what they deserved.” Syren wiped her hand on her jeans, leaving behind a dark red stain.
“When did you get here?”
“I followed Johnny, tracking the human traffickers who beat and robbed him,” she answered in a calm voice as if I had asked about her makeup.
“You knew he was taking a ride with human traffickers?”
“No,” she chuckled. “I just drew that conclusion from their belonging. For all I know they could have been pedophiles that worked with the church Johnny was staying at. I mean, that could make sense; a church that houses homeless teens, even offering to pay for their education, sounds a little too good to be true.”
“But WHEN did you get here?”
“After the men dumped Johnny’s body off the side of the road I got him dressed and made sure to get him back on the right path, so,” she bit her lip as she glanced at the clock. “I got here around 4-ish. It was still dark out, so I was able to get the grill started.” Syren started to walk to the backdoor, leading out to the garden.
Immideadlty I was hit with the smell of burning flesh. Roasting on a crudely made grill were human body parts; arms, legs, even some organs. Frozen in place I scanned the backyard for Remy. He was sitting with Johny, smoking cigarettes. “I-I thought you were vegan.”
Remy doubled over in laughter. “We’re not eating them.”
“Yeah,” added Syren, as she took a seat on his lap. “We’re going to dry the meat and sell it as jerky.”  She was holding a freshly charred skull in her hand. “Wholesome,” she broke off a piece, “organic,” she crushed the skull further, “all natural jerky.”
Johnny chuckled nervously. In the afternoon sun, I could see bruise that had not been fully visible the night before: mainly around his neck. “They stripped me of my clothes,” his voice was breaking.
I watched as he pressed his lit cigarette to his wrist. I could tell; whatever physical pain he was in, didn’t hold a candle to his psychological damage.
“Those truckers didn’t like what they found,” Johnny was laughing maniacally all while tears flowed down his cheeks.
“They thought they’d picked up a girl,” I said in a soft voice as I held his hand. With his long hair, slender build, and innocent eyes, I could him being mistaken for a female.
“They made me lay face down and then they all took turns. I was never restrained, they all just made sure to choke me until I was too weak to move.”
“I was crying for my mother. There was so much blood.” Johnny cupped his hands over his mouth as he cried. “The last thing I remember is them pulling to the side of the road. I was so cold and in so much pain I knew I was going to die. then I saw her.” He looked at Syren with such admiration, it almost made me forget the fact that there were bodies being destroyed, possibly to be later sold to customers.
Remy took a long drag off his cigarette. “I hired Syren to watch over Johnny and once he was safe, I was going to give her a job as our receptionist.”
“Our receptionist?”
“So you could focus on teaching Johnny to drive, so he can get his license and I can transfer the title of the van.”
“You would really do that?”
“He’s family.  Plus you two look cute together.”
I was smiling. The plan seemed logical, even kind. Remy seemed to have everything under control. And then Syren handed Johnny a cup of dark back tea. “What is that?”
“Blood of our enemies.” Syren took a quick sip. The liquid turned her mouth a deep red.
“I thought Remy said we weren’t eating them.”
Syren giggled. “What he meant was we’re not eating them as a food source, thereby maintaining our vegan way of life.”
I was certain that veganism did not work that way, but I kept my mouth shut since I was outnumbered.
Johny held the cup, glancing at Syren. “This smells nasty. Do I really have to drink this?”
“This blood has been blessed.”
“Um, ok.” Johnny nodded and chugged it down in one gulp. He gripped his stomach, looking like he was about to vomit.
Instinctively I held him. “Johnny, look at me.”
His eyes glazed over, as he fell limp in my arms.
Remy sighed. “Syren, help Angel get him into one of the patient rooms.”
Syren cheerfully stood up. “Sure, I’ll grab his legs, you carry his upper body. Since he’s already passed out.” Her level of calm was downright creepy.
We managed to get him up a flight of stairs, into a bed. I promptly stripped him of his clothing to examine the extent of his condition. “Oh, God.” I was on the verge of tears. His body was covered in horrific bruises, that appeared to be pulsating. “Get Remy in here now!”
I carefully rolled Johnny on to his side. His back was covered in lesions and sores. There was no way he wasn’t in pain. I put on gloves and started to examine him closer but as I did, his flesh started to crack open. The wounds were long, deep gashes as if he had been whipped with a sharp object. And then the wounds started to bleed.
Johnny gripped his head, burying his face in his hands. “Please, Papa! Please stop! I’m so sorry!”
“Johnny, there’s no one here.” I gently grabbed his hands. “It’s only me, Angel.” I carefully moved his hands to reveal his now bloodied face. His mouth was cut up, his lips bleeding badly, and his eyes were both swollen shut. ‘What the hell did Syren give him?’
Remy came in the room, looking as calm as Syren. “Hey, Johnny,” he said as he took a seat and held his cousin’s hand, “you’re doing great. This will be all over soon.”
What did he mean by that? Did he expect Johnny to die? “Remy, please, he needs a doctor.”
“I am a doctor.”
That was technically true. “He needs an actual practicing, medical, doctor, preferably in an emergency room!”
“No,” Remy said in a soft, soothing tone as he pulled the thing blanket over Johnny’s body. “All he needs is you.”
“I don’t understand. He’s just a kid, he doesn’t deserve this!”
Remy cupped my face in his hands, forcing me to look into his eyes. “Lay with him and you will understand.” With that command, he and Syren left.
“Ok.” Although it went against every moral fiber in my body I laid in bed by his side.
“Mom?” he asked in a whisper.
“No, sorry.  It’s just me, Angel.” I started to cry uncontrollably. He was young, so innocent, and I had to be the one to watch him die.
“Will you hold me?” he asked in a weak breath.
“Of course.” Fully clothed, with my gloves on, to prevent further infection, I wrapped Johnny in the blanket and held him close. I could smell his flesh decaying. Was he literally decomposing?
“Please, Mommy, it hurts so much. I want to die. I want the pain to go away. Please make the pain go away.”
Having no better ideas I rocked him in my arms, gently. “What did your mother call you?”
“Blue Jay,” he said in a weak whisper. “She said I was her little bird, and someday I would fly far away from North Dakota.”
“She would have let you go to art school.”
“She always believed in me.” Johnny blinked once, as tears of blood streamed down his face. “If I survive this, can I draw you?”
“Of course.” I stroked his hair until we both fell asleep.
Hours later, I awoke to a remarkable sight: Johnny appeared to be shedding his skin. The injured, bloody, skin and flesh seemed to have dried and was flaking off in large chunks. Since I was still wearing gloves I felt brave enough to remove a piece from his shoulder. I was greeted by perfect, unbruised skin. With every piece removed, I revealed more and more beauty, until Johnny opened his chocolate brown eyes.
“It’s over!” he said happily. “I can’t believe it! Remy, I did it!”
Remy burst through the door, with tears in his eyes. “I knew you could do it!” He hugged Johnny, dusting off more dead flesh from the teen’s face.  He glanced at me and suddenly changed demeanor. “Johnny, maybe you and Angel would like something to eat. Could you head downstairs and put on a pot of coffee?”
My mouth fell open in horror. “I can do it. Johnny just woke up, he needs to rest.”
“Actually I feel pretty good.” Johnny sat up, dusting off his lower body. “I should probably take a shower first.”
Remy directed him to the patient shower and the complimentary robes. Johnny’s body was muscular, strong, even a little more tan than before; he looked like Remy.
“Someone’s got a crush,” Remy teased. “It’s fine, he’s eighteen.”
With Johnny out of the room, I slugged Remy as hard as I could. “Did you set this up? How did you know he was going to get attacked by truckers?”
“Because he looks like a girl,” Remy replied with a smirk. “And the kid’s just too damn polite for his own good.”
“And you knew he would survive the ritual.”
Remy only shrugged. “I had faith.”
“Because Johnny is not your cousin, he’s your biological brother.” I was stone-faced. I needed the truth.
“He doesn’t know,” Remy said with a sigh. “But his father sure as hell did.”
“His mother cheated?”
“No, Johny’s mother is the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet. My old man raped her.” He nodded and pursed his lips, clearly apologetic.
“But she kept the baby?”
“She and my Dad’s brother had been trying for a baby for a few years. So she convinced him that this might be their only chance. But ever since the day he first came home from the hospital my uncle made Johnny’s life a living hell. Is that enough truth for you?”
“Fair enough. So what now?”
“You can stay or you can go. If you stay you’ll teach Johnny how to drive, how to have self-confidence, etc. And you’ll have my protection.”
“And if I leave?”
“You’ll be leaving with only the clothes on your back.”
I knew what he was implying; I would be forced to hitchhike back to California, and along the way, I would likely get butchered by Syren and cooked into jerky.  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Click to continue to part 2

What doesn't kill you by dourdan

The adventure continues in Dakota Son, available on Amazon

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