“It's Percy,” Biff Latchman said over the phone; he sounded scared, and more than a little drunk, “He's back.”
“What are you talking about, man?” Thad Gladdox said, looking over to the clock on his cable box, and seeing that it is 3:34 in the morning.
Percival Higgins was not a subject they ever talked about, and it worried Thad that his friend was calling him about their former classmate at all, never mind that he was doing it in the middle of the night.
“He killed Mark!:
“What?” Thad sat straight up in bed at this, “What do you mean he killed Mark?”
“I just got off the phone with Lara; Mark's dead. She said she woke up to him yelling at someone, and then it sounded like he fell. She got up to see what happened, and found him at the bottom of the stairs with a pair of scissors sticking out of his eyes.”
“So he fell down the stairs with a pair of scissors, and you think it's something to do with Percy,” Thad asked, still trying to clear the last of the sleep from his mind.
“She said he was saying that he was sorry, that it was an accident. Who else could that be to?”
“Maybe he was sleep walking,” Thad suggested, “Maybe someone he had pissed off broke in; someone he had screwed over at work or something.”
“It has to be Percy. I'm scared, man.”
Thad sighed, “Okay, I'm coming over, just stay put and don't do anything stupid.”
* * *
Biff, Mark, and Thad had been best friends since freshman year at college; all the other guys in the frat called them “The Three Bromigos”; a name that had seemed clever when they were 18 and stoned. Percy had been sort of a fourth member.
Percy was most certainly not a Bromigo; he was not Bromigo material. He was smart enough to tutor his brothers, and laid back enough to generally not get in the way of their fun. He was a good guy, but he would never be cool.
The Bromigos almost always allowed Percy to hang out with them. They thought it only fair trade. The helped him learn to be a little more cool, helped him get a girl way out of his league, and in return he helped them with whatever papers they needed to get done to keep their grades at a level that would keep the parents sending along a steady stream of money. They never imagined that they would get him killed.
It had been during spring break of their senior year: the Bromigos and Percy had headed out to Goblin Valley State Park for a few days of drinking, getting stoned, and riding their dirtbikes around. It wasn't that Utah seemed like an awesome place to go, but the name “Goblin Valley” has really stuck in the Bromigos' imaginations.
They were quite disappointed when they discovered that the “goblins” were really just rock formations; a fact that Percy had tried, and miserably failed at, educating them on well before the trip ever happened. This did not stop them from drinking, smoking, and generally acting like idiots though.
It was the idiotic behavior that got Percy killed while Thad recorded it.
“What are you doing, bro?” Thad asked, focusing on Mark as he shoved at one of the large boulders balanced precariously on a mound of dry earth.
“I'm gonna slay me a goblin,” Mark crowed, laughing.
“Kill it, Mark, kill it,” Biff cheered him on.
“Guys, don't do that,” Percy's voice, high, almost feminine, could be heard on the recording, but at this point he was still out of frame, “It's against the law.”
“So is underage drinking,” Biff said, holding up a half empty beer bottle, “Who gives a shit?”
“No, really,” Percy protested, and he now stepped into frame on the opposite side of the rock formation, “This is millions of years old; you're destroying a piece of history.”
“This thing is dangerous, Purse,” Mark said, being sure to use the nickname that they always used when they felt Percy was being uncool, “It could fall on someone at any time. Some kid could walk by, and it could fall on them.”
Percy put his hands on the rock, trying to push back against Mark's efforts to dislodge it from the thin tower of compacted dirt, “It has been stable for millions of years, Mark, just leave it alone.”
“Kill the goblin,” Biff cheered again before draining the last of his beer, and throwing the empty away as hard as he could. The sound of breaking glass could be heard on the video, “Save the princess!”
“Get out of the way, Purse,” Mark warned, “You're gonna get squashed!”
“Guys, you need-,” were the last words Percival Higgins ever said. The large stone broke free from its home of 170 million years and rolled over the nerdy young man on its way to the valley floor.
The rest of the video was composed of the Three Bromigos freaking out. They screamed at Percy to wake up and say something before the camera was finally turned off.
After a short, but extremely expensive for the Bromigos’ parents, trial the boys were found to not be responsible for their friend’s death.
Mandy, Percy’s girlfriend, reacted badly to the verdict, and was extremely vocal about her disagreement with it. Despite being the cheerleader/prom-queen type of girl, she had genuinely loved the young man. She went so far as to try and get the Bromigos expelled before they could graduate.
A couple of weeks before graduation, Mandy had been found fully clothed in a bathtub at her sorority house. She had taken drugs and drowned when she fell asleep. It had been ruled a suicide.
* * *
The Bromigos, Percy included, had spent a good chunk of one summer at the Latchman Estate, and Thad still remembered the gate code. The property had belonged to Biff’s parents then, but they had died shortly after graduation when their private jet went down during a flight to Hawaii. It now belonged to Biff and his sister, Buffy.
Thad parked at the bottom of the porch steps and went up to the door.
The door was unlocked so Thad let himself in.
“Biff,” Thad called, “I’m here!”
Only the ticking of the grandfather clock at the top of the stairs answered. Thad considered it a real possibility that his friend had drunken himself into unconsciousness; he would have to look for him.
Thad kicked off his shoes, and put on a pair of the white slippers kept by the front door. There were no shoes allowed on in the Latchman house; a rule started by the late Evelyn Latchman after a trip to Japan. Biff still enforced this rule.
“Biff,” Thad called again as he started searching. He checked the game room, and found a pair of empty bottles sitting on the pool table, but no Biff. The kitchen, dining room, and parlor were similarly uninhabited.
Thad checked upstairs, first looking in Biff’s bedroom. The room was a mess; it looked like Biff had started grabbing things and throwing them at the door to his bathroom. Biff had always been a little closer to Mark than Thad had, but this seemed a little over emotional even for Biff.
The bedroom of the late Mister and Misses Latchman was immaculate and uninhabited, as if waiting for them to come back from their trip at any time, as was Mister Latchman’s office. Buffy’s room was also empty, her having left for college a couple of weeks earlier.
The last room Thad looked in was the library. Reading was more Buffy’s thing than Biff’s, and he almost never went in there in Thad’s memory. Tonight had apparently been different.
It took Thad a minute to realize what had happened. It looked like Biff had pulled down one of the big bookshelves, spilling the old books all over the floor. This would have been an impressive accomplishment since Thad knew they were well fastened to the wall; he had seen Buffy climb one the past spring to get homework that her brother had placed up out of her reach.
It was in the middle of that reminiscence that Thad noticed hand was sticking out from under the overturned bookshelf. He recognized Biff’s watch on the wrist.
Thad was not able to even shift the bookshelf by himself; it was easily 700 pounds of hard wood and old paper lying on top of his friend. He called 911.
Biff was declared dead at the scene. During his interview, one of the police officers told Thad that Biff had probably been killed instantly when the shelf and books crushed him, as it had taken three firefighters and two police officers to move the shelf.
Thad wanted nothing more than to leave his friend’s house, but he didn’t want to leave the police there with no one home, and he didn’t know how to reach the housekeeper. He had already called Buffy who was still settling in at college, and she would be home the next day; he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be there when she arrived or not.
Eventually Thad decided to stay. The forensics team was too busy swabbing, scraping, and shining funny lights on anything to pay any attention to him, and the police officer with them seemed reasonably disinterested so long as Thad stayed out of the library and Biff’s disheveled bedroom.
Thad thought about trying to sleep in one of the guest rooms, but decided that sleep would not be coming for him tonight. Instead he took a bottle of something dark and strong from the bar in the game room, and took it up to the balcony outside the master bedroom. It that overlooked the front drive. He could see his own car as well as Biff’s, a police care, and two SUVs with the words “Crime Scene Unit” painted on their doors.
Thad sat at the table where Missus Latchman would take her afternoon tea, a habit began after a trip to London, and drank straight from the bottle. It was warm outside, and eventually sleep, or at least the inebriated equivalent of it, claimed him.
“Thad,” A voice said. The voice was fairly high pitched and familiar. It wasn’t Buffy though, and even in his drunken state, he didn’t believe that the forensics people would call him by his first name.
“Thad,” the voice said again, as if trying to wake him gently. He kept his eyes shut until a mist of water hit his face. It was as if someone had flung out a soaked towel in his general direction.
His eyes sprung open, but Thad didn’t see anyone there. It was still night time, and the crime scene vehicles were still down in the drive.
“Hello?” Thad asked, but no one answered.
Thad stood, wobbled slightly, and stagger-walked towards the open door to the master bedroom. After a couple of steps he noticed that his feet were wet; water had soaked his slippers.
On the floor there was a trail of water leading into the house. Past that he could see what looked like wet footprints on the otherwise pristine carpet leading towards the master bathroom.
“What the fuck,” Thad asked, lifting his right foot to look at the soggy slipper, and almost falling over as a result.
“Do you know what today is, Thad?” the voice spoke again. It burbled like the speaker was gargling mouthwash.
“Percy?” Thad asked, “Is it really you?”
“Do you know what today is?” the voice asked again.
“It wasn’t my fault, Purse… Percy. It was Mark, man, he’s the one that pushed the rock over.
“And what did you do to stop him?”
The television mounted on the wall opposite the bed flared to life, on it was the video from Goblin Valley. It wasn't the first time it had been on TV; someone leaking it during the trial, and had been posted on a site called Our Rotten World. From there it had made it way around the internet: it had made the front page of Reddit, been a meme on various Chan imageboards, and just generally circulated around the parts of the internet where the maladjusted hang out. He didn’t know why it was on TV now though.
“Kill the goblin!” Thad could hear Biff yell.
“You did nothing,” the disembodied voice said.
“It was an accident,” Thad protested.
“Today is the day you killed me, Thad.”
“What? No, Percy, you died in spring,” Thad's mind raced, “It was spring break, remember?”
The image on the screen changed. It was a point-of-view shot; someone carrying a body. The body was a woman, young looking, but her blond hair obscured her face. She wasn’t moving.
The person placed the woman into a bathtub and turned on the tap. The bathroom looked familiar to Thad.
The person on the TV looked away from the woman as the water rose around her, and into the mirror. He was wearing a ski mask, but Thad knew those eyes, as well he should since they were his.
“You killed me,” the voice said, and between Thad and the TV, a woman appeared. It was the woman from the video; pale, bloated, but the clothes and hair were the same. Water poured down her as if it were flowing from the top of her skull and dripped onto the carpet.
Thad's eyes grew wide, and he started backing away, “You wouldn't stop,” he cried, “You wouldn't shut up about it. You were going to get us expelled! You were only dating Purse because we asked you to, but you wanted to ruin us!”
“I was dating Percy because I love him,” Mandy's ghost burbled, following Thad as he backed towards the open balcony door, “I may have started dating him as a favour, but he was a really great guy, and he treated me better than any of you assholes ever did.”
“Mandy, I'm sorry,” he almost fell over backwards as his slipper caught on the threshold between the bedroom and balcony.
“Yes, you are, which is why I’m here.”
“Please, don't-” his butt bumped against the railing and Thad pinwheeled his arms trying to keep his balance. The waterlogged woman pushed her hands against his chest.
Thad slammed headfirst into the windshield of his car, breaking crushing multiple vertebrae, and paralyzing him. He couldn’t even feel the cool metal of the hood on his back. As his vision faded, the last thing he saw was Mandy smiling down at him from the balcony.