By J.R.P Judd
It started with a family game night, but it would end with murder. Dad wasn’t home, and nothing had been set on the large hardwood table in the family room. Max was getting high in his room, Pamela was fucking her vibrator in the upstairs bathroom, and I couldn’t find the eight-sided die for the new board game. It would have to be Monopoly, after all. 1985 was a good year for family game nights; Reagan was in office, the Iran Contra scandal hadn’t hit, and the economy was humming along fine as far as the Johnson clan was concerned. When I got things put together for the first round, our family was finally coalescing.
Mom burst in from the kitchen. “Samantha, how could I do this without you, honey?” she cooed. “Thank you for setting up the first game, and you’ve put the rest together as well. Did you find that eight-sided die?” I shook my head, and she snapped her fingers in mock frustration, giving me a knowing smile. Mom liked the classics; every new game that made its entrance into the game night arena was met with her indignant sigh.
Max had thankfully found the eyedrops and was fingering his gilded shoe piece for what would be a vicious, no-holds-barred competition for property and liquid assets. Max was insufferable when it came to bankrolling property trades and ruthlessly advancing his hotels across the board.
Dad finally rolled into the driveway around seven o’clock, as Pamela was passing go and grabbing her property card for Marvin Gardens. He was bloated, red-faced, and whiskey drunk.
“Well, well, well, aren’t we all being good little capitalists? Now, where would Daddy’s silver bicycle be?” he slurred. Mom abruptly left the room; she hated it when he came home like this.
Pamela got up and eyed him with a curt, “Damn, old man. Can’t keep it sober for our little weekly get together?” She topped it all off with a combination chortle-sneer and followed Mom into the kitchen.
“Fuck it,” Max breathed out. “I’m too damn stoned for this shit.” Slinking past the kitchen and through the rear passage of the family room, he made a surprisingly careful exit for a degenerate burnout. Then it was me, with Dad. He was still teetering when he took his chair at the table, sitting with heavy resignation.
“Boy, I know how to clear a room,” he half-sobbed. I was making a move to comfort him when he took hold of my shoulder and torso, leaning close to my right ear. Dad was a brutish man of hearty, Irish-peasant stock with ruddy cheeks, wide lips, and an upturned nose. Yet, he was somehow gentle and kind, as if by nature. What he whispered to me, then, in that empty family room, I’d never forget.
“They’re after me, Sammy,” he gasped. “They know where the family is…where we are, now.” After uttering these enigmatic words, life momentarily left his heavy lidded eyes, below inert, bushy brows. I shook him to find more words, searched his face for answers, but he just murmured something about the whiskey sours being too strong at Hogan’s. It was up to me now to rally the troops. I had already amassed a small fortune in Monopoly bucks and wasn’t going to let family game night go the way of family movie night and taco Tuesdays.
“Fuck that,” I said under my breath.
When I stalked into the kitchen to confront Mom and Pamela, things had already taken a strange turn. Some horrible light was flashing against the windowpanes, washing a pale incandescence into the kitchen, while cans from the pantry came tumbling down with inexplicable force and momentum. Mom and Pamela were visibly shaken. Horrible phantom shadows played out across the back lawn where earlier me and Pamela had been sunbathing.
Some black mass was sliding toward the back of the garage as the lights and shadows intensified. We three women moved silently to the dining room in stunned horror. Accessing a better view to the back lawn, we saw Max running in his basketball shorts and hemp-fiber poncho towards the source of the entity terrorizing us. With bong in hand, he let out his war cry. “Fuck you, fuckin’ Roswell motherfuckers! Don’t mess with the Johnsons!”
The black mass was suddenly on him, bound to his hair, his clothes, his flesh, as he screeched out and shattered his glass water pipe against its other-worldly, shapeless form. Next to me, Mom groaned and Pamela sank to the floor with whimpering prayers for salvation. Max was gone. One last crunching of bones and tearing of flesh echoed across the lawn. Only the black mass remained, tossing about amidst its laser light show from hell.
It was Dad’s turn next. We heard him run down the hallway to the backdoor, then a crash as he barreled through its flimsy netting. He had bottles of what looked to be bleach in both hands. He quickly threw the lids on the ground and began hurling the liquid at the mass. Mom suddenly came to life, rushing out after him. Pamela and I ran out next, hot on her heels. This really would be a Johnson family affair. With hose in hand, Mom shot cold tap water straight at the alien entity while Dad rocketed more bubbling toxins at its amorphous extremities. When the chemical fumes filled my nostrils, it was all I could do to not pass out from the stench. The last thing I heard was Mom demanding to know how they had found us.
When I came to, Dad was cradling my head on his knees. We were all on the freshly wetted back lawn; the sun was coming up over the horizon. Steam was rising where It had been, where Max had bravely struggled. I was asking Dad about Max when my eyelids began to get heavy again. All he did was moan and shake his head.