Brooks and Abigail: Arizona, USA
A collaboration between @DinoNuts
Brooks absentmindedly thumbed the laminated photograph of his latest target. It was a group photo of some middle school sports team, with one girl circled in red Sharpie. He had been sitting in his car for upwards to an hour by now, quietly mulling things over and planning the best method of extraction. He rubbed his face and sighed, staring at the photograph again.
He folded the photograph up, pulling down the sun visor above him and stashing it there. Flicking the tip of his nose with his thumb he reached for a deteriorating baseball cap and a large plastic bag. He got out of his car and started roaming around the neighborhood, collecting piece of glass and empty bottles, nearing closer and closer to his target location; a lone trailer van amongst many. Once he found the familiar license plate he made sure to keep his distance even though it was unlikely anyone in the trailer park would recognise him.
He continued collecting bottles and scraps, covering his face with the baseball cap as he left a wide gap between himself and the trailer to prevent its owners from recognising him. He did this for thirty minutes, then took a twenty minute break on the curb, before repeating the process. It didn’t take too long for a fat, elderly gentleman in a stained vest top to come out and sit on a lawn chair with the day’s paper in his hands, fumbling for his packet of cigarettes as he settled. The gentleman didn’t even so much as glance in Brooks’ direction, his movements slow and deliberate with decades of routine behind them.
Brooks started to move away, instead deciding to scout out for the basic layout and escape routes leading away from his targets van, a shortcut to the woods by the trailer park and the fastest way for someone to get -in- to the park. It wasn’t too complex of a layout to memorise either; the roads needed to be open and empty for moving vehicles and, like most American structures, it was arranged in a grid-like format. The main road cut from north to south, and the woods - if one could call them that, sparse and dry as they were - were to the west of this road. Squat in between these two geographical landmarks was the eyesore of a trailer park, and his target’s RV was parked closer to the western side. Brooks spent another hour looping around the trailer park collecting glass to better acclimate himself with the surroundings to prevent any confusion during the extraction. He then went back to his car with the bag and sat back inside it. He waited for the inevitable.
A general commotion of shouts and yells could be heard far off in the distance. Brooks grunted, rustled, started to rouse himself out of his nap. Various streaks of purple light reflected off the passenger window as he coughed a few times and checked his pockets, making sure he had his keys as he popped open the driver door and got out...
For a while, silence. The car remained dark and unlocked. Then two figures could be heard walking briskly through the grit, breathing heavily. Two people got back into the car. Brooks slammed the keys into the ignition and, driving fast enough to get some distance but not so fast that he’d attract attention, he peeled out of the trailer park and down the main road. Turning on the engine made Woody Guthrie crackle out of the radio, cheerily singing. The girl in the passenger side started to cry. The car started to smell like burnt meat.
“You’ve got a lot going through your mind right now but at the very least you’ll be safe. You’re going to start forgetting everything and everyone you knew about your old life. Everything.”
The girl didn't respond; she simply cried harder. She was holding her forearms in a very awkward angle, taking great care not to let them touch anything. They were covered in blistering burns but the flesh underneath was beginning to bubble and fill out again with healthy skin and tissue.
There was a moment of silence from Brooks as he focused on the road, never having been sure how to handle this part of the job. “There’s uh… there’s some sweets in the glove box.” he politely offered, shooting her a few sideways glances to gage her reaction.
After a long and painfully awkward handful of minutes, the girl finally stopped bawling and trailed off into a few miserable and intermittent sniffles. She reached out with trembling fingers and opened the glovebox, watching little bags of candy spill into her lap. Each movement was slow and carefully made to protect her forearms. She opened up a packet of m&ms and crunched them down one at a time. Finally, she started to speak. "What-... happened, to me?"
“Same thing that's been happening to everyone else these past few years.” he lowered the radio. “About what exactly it is you’re doing, I don’t know. But those burns don’t look too bad, we can treat them once we’re at the cabin.”
The girl stared down at her arms. "They're getting better, I think. I'm Abigail, by the way."
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been waiting for this to happen.”
"What you mean by that?" Abigail kept her tone airy and polite as she subtly checked to see if the door was locked.
“I mean the people I work for told me that you would turn.”
“And who are those people? What you plannin’ to do with me?” As the conversation continued, Abigail’s tone became increasingly more guarded. She ate a multitude of hershey’s kisses with what could best be described as nervous anger.
“Help you start over. Make sure the FOE don’t get you. You’ve heard of them, surely.”
“Who are you working for?” Abigail repeated.
“Group called the Violet Underground. They hired me a few years ago to help out people in your situation. Get you before anyone else does.”
“Oh.” Abigail looked down at her knuckles, and her patchy red arms. A quiet look of consternation passed her features, glazing them over as she delved into deep thought. Whatever she found in the recesses of her brain was enough to scare her back into the present, and she asked “who are you?” in a desperate attempt to distract herself and keep the conversation going.
“I am Brooks.”
"I used to have an uncle called Brooks," Abigail mused. She continued to panic eat her way through the stash of confectionery. "At least, accordin' to Meemaw. I only ever seen pictures. He was an army vet…said he left to find a better life but Pops said he's prob'ly dead." Abigail waved a hand dismissively. "Since life's throwin' me a pretty fast curveball at the moment I'm gonna throw in a bet that he was abducted by aliens."
“Yes… anything is possible,” he commented, uncomfortably squirming in his seat and deciding he’d rather have the radio turned back on a bit. The conversation died down after that, gratefully sinking under the dulcet tones of country blues. Brooks focused primarily on the road, but his gaze kept flickering back to Abigail with restless concern. For her part, Abigail's adrenaline was starting to evaporate. The shock melted into confusion and exhaustion. She stopped eating, her movements became drunken and sluggish. With one irritated sweep, she pushed the sweets and wrappers into her footwell.
"I don't feel too good," Abigail groaned, pushing herself back into the seat.
“We’ll be there soon. Have some water. Stop eating.” Brooks shot her another glance. Abigail nodded wearily. She struggled to get the bottle open until Brooks distractedly groped for it and cracked the lid for her. Even then, Abigail only took a few half hearted sips. She folded her unblemished arms over her stomach, breathed through her mouth and tilted her head back. Her eyelids fluttered as she straddled the boundary between wakefulness and sleep; her mind drifted into its own world, far away from the gentle rumble of the car and the anxious gaze of its driver.
The vehicle continued to split the desert and the horizon, gliding upon the black ribbon of tarmac towards an unknown destination and leaving a plume of dust in its wake.