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Chapter 6: I first learned the facts from a lunatic

Elijah didn’t remember much of life before The Ziggurat. Often he couldn’t be sure if the memory was truly his or a delusional product of the many stories he’d been told of La Familia Arroyo. He remembered one thing for certain though, being handed a knife at age five. Of course, he also remembered when The Ziggurat came.

They were at the dinner table. Eleven children, ranging from ages five to fifteen. Cousins and siblings, all of them. Normally the adults would also be present but today they had all been summoned to a meeting, taking place at the gathering hall on the other side of the village. It was winter, the sun had already set as they sat in the large structure they used as a cafeteria. Elijah was seven and buzzing with excitement, his sleeve rolled up to show the fresh tattoo on the inside of his forearm. Normally the children didn’t start the process until they were nine but the elder Arroyo’s had been so impressed by Eli’s development they had taken a chance and begun early. Eli hadn’t cried at all while he was inked, something he was equally as proud of.

As he was describing the process to his wide-eyed younger brother Adam, a whistling came from outside. Long, low notes that brought to mind funereal marches and shadows in alleyways. The room fell silent. Eli felt Adam shiver next to him. The whistling continued. Marco, the oldest at the table, stood up and put a finger to his lips. It wasn’t needed. The whistling came again, four held notes that inspired an unexplainable fear in Eli. He would later learn that the tune was a requiem. Marco silently made his way to the window, hugging the wall as he peeked outside, moonlight illuminating his face. On the opposite side of the room, the door opened just slightly. Eli took Adam’s hand in his. The door swung open slowly. There was no one there. Eli’s grip tightened. The whistling rung out behind them, the children turned as one to face it. Marco was gone. Adam screamed.