P10: The Same Disease.





The man calling him on the hotel rotary seemed hurried. His name was Tom.

There were hints of sediment the timbre, hanging by the vowels, as if he were congested, needing to dislodge something. Or perhaps, he’d just not spoken to any living creature as of yet this morning aside from Rob, which is customary of the coroner’s field, and the laboratories associated with them. They hardly speak to anybody alive, except amongst themselves, his partner once said. And since they conduct their meticulous work quietly with microscopes, and strange instruments made of German grade stainless steel, with even stranger names to them, when they finally do end up speaking, their voices always seem distorted by an insecure shock. As if they had either never heard themselves speak before, or had forgotten what the sound of their own voice was like.

It wasn’t her, the voice had said, ahem, clearing the gravel in his throat. Tom worked in a lab much farther away than Santa Fe, in a sterile, sick-smelling backroom. He’d told Rob about a new technique that sorts out DNA, and how they’ve opened a sector up on the premises dedicated to the ongoing study of it. It was unveiled a few months back, he’d said, when a doctor had come upon its usefulness during another criminal investigation, and so they’d employed the techniques with Ashley’s case. It was already cracking open cold cases, and creating new ones.

Everyone had come to the likely conclusion that the young body had been Ashley’s, because everything else had matched up: a hand-poked tattoo on the bony ankle of a Zia sun symbol, an earlier extracted, and therefore missing, right back molar. The face had been unrecognizable, but when diligently repaired resembled Ashley. Among the several others they’d all given up on ever finding, she was the only recently missing Native American woman who fit the bill.  Someone had made it look enough like her, knowing no one would pry into the body’s personally identifying marks, how a lover or a mother could, because it was unauthorized. Ashley’s family didn’t live nearby. They were in Gallup on a big ranch with western diamond backs, and a few German shepherds, too drunk on ancient depression to pick up the line when anybody had called to inform them of their daughter vanishing.

Good thing they hadn’t.

Robs chest went cold in that trice of knowing the truth, as if the thing that had been missing there had returned all of a sudden, like a vapor that smelled like the plastic peony of her shampoo, some diaphanous memory seething back underneath his skin.

So she’s alive, Rob said. He remembers instantly feeling guilty for losing his desire on the case, because he’d wanted to find the living girl instead, but they’d never let him chase a personal harmony, not with an America full of other, louder monsters. How could he have been so stupid? It wasn’t as if he were the only one who’d thought it was her. Someone had known what they were doing when they’d set this up, and they were damned good at it. Because even in its sweet putrescence, the corpse had smelled like Ashley, but analyzing why that was, was above Robs head. The others could figure out what kind of esoteric shit was behind the illusion of it, because he was just a detective. A detective in a clandestine unit that investigated the more interesting cases in the west, not somebody holding all the answers. Of course, his disease gave him an advantage, and that’s why he was chosen, but it would never be an answer, just another looming question mark in his long life.

Was that a sip through a straw, on the other line? The siphoning sound of a fountain drink sucked through seams of ice, and up through a straw, and down a thirsty, gulping throat? Tom had attempted unsuccessfully to stifle his belch, and he’d breathed out the words, She could be, and he’d said that they had known whom the body belongs to, and that they had the local PD calling her parents, because she was another missing girl from around the same time, and isn’t it a pity, all these vanishing girls? Tom had said, and then he’d said, I suggest you find out why someone went through all that dog and pony show just to make everybody think she’s dead, and then he hung up.


But his boss didn’t want him doing that. He needed him somewhere else. Somewhere with a few bodies that had near prominent puncture marks on the neck, leading people to whisper halloween stories about things that aren’t supposed to exist in this world, but do.

Rob would spend the rest of his life tracking Ashley down, sometimes forgetting, sometimes giving up, but always coming back to it like a tomb in a graveyard, because she never got to know that they had shared the same disease. If she had, would she have stayed? It haunted him that he had the same secret, and that she’d never known, and that his was hidden just in the corner of his mouth when he would kiss her. That the wolfs curse was teeming within him, too, and that luckily they’d avoided the blood-curse, since both werewolf and vampire are a white mans disease, which they brought over with them on the shores, erected up in their starving colonies, but the wolf is at least more impressive and sacred, useful.

He’d even found the sloppy man again, some years down the road, but no matter how much Rob intimidated or bribed him, he never gave up Ashley’s whereabouts, because he didn’t know himself, and because he was loyal to the people he’d helped. Rob found the characteristic annoying and admirable. If someone wants to vanish, let ‘em, the sloppy man had said, and for decades, Rob did let her vanish.

But he’d found her, when he was old, and with his body failing.

He’d asked his daughter to drive him out to the place that he believed Ashley was holed up in, in a trailer near a highway hardly anyone frequented. Hiding out as their kind do, they were only free under a dreary full moon like that night, because as you age the wolf controls you less, and you end up being in control of it. His plan was to see her aged face as a woman, because surely she’d learned this control. But he neither ever got to tell his daughter the reason why they were going there, nor did he ever get to see Ashley’s face.

They got into a car accident a bit before dusk, and he’d died soon after as his daughter saved the other people involved in the wreck, but he was right about Ashley. She was there, just not as that changed, beautiful face he’d known, but as the prowling being, shifted just beyond the dark road.

That night, his daughter had gotten what she’d always wanted... his worst fear come true, to share the same disease as her father.


“Daddy, I wanna be just like you.




the end




Ice Frozen Miscarriage


Sometimes I imagine myself not plummeting,

but falling slowly,


uncontrolled into the black;

the nonentity is dizzying and cold like outer space,


I’m only a miscarriage of

wishes and wisdom,

ice frozen,

looking for a comet

to start my heart—ignite some

fucking passion.


My brain feels itchy,

like heavy wet wool.

I’m not crazy.

I just want to




attached to my skull.

Open the hatch.

Get rid of the blanket.


I hate the day you were born.

The absence of you crushes me.

© 2019 Kindra M. Austin

P9: Everyone.


Knock knock knock.

Ashley’s hands are an itchy scarlet and cracked at the knuckles and fidgeting, coarse from icy desert gales and over-washing. This unclean thing simmers underneath the skin and counts the waxing hours down to the full white face of an apathetic moon. Her eyes are lost and witching like the sidereal realms of the outer dark of the night and she is burdened with the creeping stress and blanched like some forlorn drowned bride. She had become desperate with no answers for a cure and come back to the man who’d initially refused to help. She cannot ask her family and she is alone and she’s desperate and at the bottom of the world.

The sloppy man feels bad for her that much is obvious with his firebrown puppy eyes in the early days columns of light and heavyhearted behind the grease-smudged, thick lenses of his aviators. His potbelly had answered the door from the seam before he had.

If I help, there’s no going back, he says, I make people vanish… ain’t no comin’ back from that. You’d essentially be dead.

She thinks of gone moments smiling and the afire twirl of the warm sun through the skinny, waving arms of mesquites in the morning breeze, because those are the moments that felt the most real, but she would see them again, just never here. Wouldn’t she?

Make me vanish, she says.



[ ‘Girls That Vanish At Night: New Mexico, 1986′ is the continuation of a short horror series told episodically by Samantha Lucero. To catch up on series 1, go here. ]



P8: Howling.


The drone of the petite voice is unfamiliar and he turns to face it.

The ghostly woman is fretful and weary, fiddling with a red-beaded necklace that encircles her wiry throat twice, her wispy spider-leg thin fingers ghoulish pale and jittery. Her lengthy black hair trickles down from a middle part and shines with an oiliness and musky tang his keen nose can corral, dripping over her shoulders like a silken blanket of shadows. His narrow eyes, sun-blinded, browse the bright jewelry for a missing piece, but he can’t tell for certain if it’s a link to the one he’d found earlier on Ashley.

Yes, he answers in the shape of a puzzle piece, hoping that what she will say next fits into his daydreams; everything he needs to know, a lead, a finger pointing in the right direction of a case swiftly dying, collapsing into cold.

She came to my prayer group, scratched up on her face to all hell like, animal or who knows, and uh, she wanted help, thought she was sick, possessed or something. She said we were a cult and left real quick when Jim said it’s not easy to exorcise somebody. We tried finding her after, night’s dangerous here… can be, and the moon was full. It made it easier to see, but we didn’t find her. Drove late as we could, but nothing …just howling in the night. Guess she didn’t show for work either, she says, next day she was dead.

Scratched face.
 Moon full.
 She didn’t show for work.

Where’d you get that necklace? He asks.

Oh, uhhh… lady makes them. Name’s Corrine, she says, Corrine Green.

He grins with recognition.

The dusky man with his worry lines transposing into irremediable creases between his brows excavates a yellow notepad and blue pen from an inner-coat pocket.

What’s your name? He asks.

Cassandra Brown, she says.

Can I see your necklace? He asks, and she lets him. There’s no missing piece.

An hour later, he’s got Cassandra’s necklace in a trouser pocket full of loose tobacco leaves and her phone number on that yellow pad, just in case he needs more answers. He’s knocking at someone else’s decrepit door on a dusty highway.

An elderly woman hardly able to move shambles over toothlessly; he sees her wobbling like a busted toy through the gauzy mint curtains. She arrives out of breath, says nothing when she props open the stuck door that’s ruptured at the hinges.

I need to speak to Corrine, he says.

Corrine gone, the woman oozes, crazy white man at motel take her somewhere, she never come back.




[ ‘Girls That Vanish At Night: New Mexico, 1986′ is the continuation of a short horror series told episodically by Samantha Lucero. To catch up on series 1, go here. ]


P7: Sloppy.


Always hard when a case goes cold, the sweaty man says with his pot-belly big and hard as a boulder, smelling strongly of pabst blue ribbon, endless, wet layers of Marlboro second-hand smoke paining Robs over-sensitive nose, and the un-sanitized, humid flesh of a man who is unmercifully inattentive to his own hygiene. Rob mulls intellectually over the mind of man who can live so happily in the organic outcomes of his self: a sign of depression, of a mind too burdened and brimming to leave room for thoughts of cleanliness. Was this the unique torture of all those who dwelled in centuries past, to be ignorant of their own stench, tolerant of everybody else’s?

The sloppy man, loosening scents behind him of his squalid motel when he’d shift standing as if in chronic agony, also talked too much: was this a guilty mind, or an innocent one over-compensating for being helpless? When he’d smile Rob could detect the faint black outlines of the roots of dying teeth; in his own mouth, Rob skimmed his teeth with his tongue as if being in the proximity of the other man would suddenly rot his own teeth.

Used to work ‘em myself, Texas Ranger way back, and the slobs tongue worms out of his mouth to gather the foam accumulating at the corner of it.

What do you do now, luxuriate alone in motels?

The pig-man scoffs, and then answers.

I travel with my pension, spreadin’ the good word. What else imma do? Ain’t got no family, no wife waitin’ in the wings… Ashley was a nice girl, lookin’ to find herself thru Christ, said she thought she was…. Possessed or somethin’. She approached me in the hotel after she saw my dog-eared bible. Like to stay in fancy ones, sometimes, hotels, then slums like this. Gives me a sense of gratitude. Anyways, she was real geared toward the lord it seemed to save ‘er. Gave ‘er the name of a man who runs prayer group. Recall ‘em tellin’ me she left quick before they could try’n help ‘er. Guess it wasn’t what she was lookin’ for.

He’s standing in front of an adobe-colored threshold with turquoise trim. Thick black brows reminiscent of Halloween cats superstitiously arching, and Rob is uncomfortable in his dusty suit, beginning to itch, thinking too much of what could’ve happened. Rob wears his long, raven-feather black hair down today, and he feels it toyed with by the wind on his back.

But you do have a family; Rob says impassively, not a flinch.

The filthy man looks down, and Rob sees it now: the pathetic sadness, the weary eyes. The man hesitates, but then says, not any that wanna see the likes of me.

He didn’t seem to be lying, Rob thought, able to feel his own cleanliness and loneliness, and so after a few otiose questions, he took his leave, but he keeps him on the list of suspects.

The man named Rob traipses out into the loose gravel. He’d stops in the middle of the motel parking lot, dazedly, taking in the view of the blue skies, the scatter of rooftops, beyond that, sempiternal earth with tufts of Mexican feathergrass. He shuts his eyes against the flaming wheel of the sun.

Are…. are you asking around about Ashley? A woman’s tremulous voice inquires behind him.