We are Good Boys.
We are in the Good Boy Club.
We follow the rules.
We do what we’re told.
We have skin and hearts and livers. We bruise from the outside in. We are cherished by the sun. Our bones are so hollow we could fly away from here. But we don’t.
We live in reverence and envy of Peter, the Best Good Boy. He is so unforgiving. Sliver moons dot our arms from where his nails have dug in. Epiphany seeps from his pores and he has eyes like shiny quarters. His breath turns to white fog on warm days. He sleeps under our beds at night. Peter is the Best Good Boy. Peter was the first Good Boy, then he found us. We are the first generation of Good Boys and Peter is our sentinel.
Peter’s familiar is named Julia. She has hair like copper wire. Her teeth are white and rigid. They remind us of razor-wire. Julia wears jungle jewelry and a brass locket on a long white string around her neck. Peter dresses her in coats and tunics so thick they could be made of carpet. Peter makes her cry because her tears are made of liquid silver.
Peter lets Julia out sometimes, but we never see her without him. None of this is unintentional. The Best Good Boy does everything with intention. The Best Good Boy is incapable of making a mistake.
We don’t know where Julia came from. We came from families, though we forget which ones. We are lucky Peter chose us. We are much safer with Peter.
Peter came from nowhere. He sprang from the loamy earth, his body twisting into shape like a braid of garlic. That’s why he’s the Best Good Boy. Peter loves us, and we love Peter with our whole hearts.
We live on a sprawling homestead outside of a small town. We have a house where Peter, Julia, and the Good Boys live. The farmhouse has large, boarded windows and rotten steps. The inside is full of shadowy furniture and dust dancing in the air, thick enough to swallow. The farmhouse sprawls in all directions.
The library is our favorite room. It is full of texts written by Peter. He is so wise, we think, as we thumb through the thick journals, the pages so dense with writing they are almost black. We did not live before Peter found us, but he lived. We read his declarations and his vows and his anecdotes. We read about his philosophies and his hates and his dreams.
The Good Boys do chores around the homestead. We pluck weeds from the vegetable garden. We tend the goats and chickens. We mow in the summer and rake in the autumn and shovel in the winter. We pick apples and can peaches. Plump eggplants gleam amethyst in our thin arms. We pull bucket after bucket of water from the deep well. We long for a hint of spring, but frost puckers the ground and the world makes us wait. Peter says winter brings a divine silence and we believe him.
When springtime comes, the ground cracks and blooms. Our garden is slowly resurrected.
Peter leads Julia downstairs to eat breakfast. She sits at the head of the big table. Her lip looks swollen. They usually stay upstairs in Peter’s room, where we are not allowed. It is a privilege to see Peter. We yearn to touch his face. We would never disobey Peter like Julia does. We are Good Boys. We focus on our oatmeal and create visions of a town. We see the houses and the town square. We see the crowd and the executioner and the damned.
There is a strange pressure in the air. Peter grows angrier. We work harder. We strain our backs lifting heavy bags of seed for the chickens. We cling to Peter’s love. We hear things being broken upstairs. Sometimes we hear Julia and sometimes we do not. We see them less often than we used to.
On the summer solstice we are sitting on the couches and chairs in the living room, resting after a long day. We hear something being pushed across the floor upstairs. There is a hurried stomping on the stairs, and we see Julia, dressed in a poncho made from a thick material the color of a plum. Julia, of the copper wire hair, stumbles down the stairs and rushes to the front door. We know she doesn’t have a key.
Julia rattles the doorknob, but the lock holds fast. She looks at us, then up the stairs, then back at the door. She raises her hands and hits the door with open palms.
Why is she trying to leave? we wonder. She has everything she could ever want, here, at the homestead.
“You have to help me,” she whispers to us, “he’ll come down any second. Please, I know you have a key.”
We shake our heads mutely. Peter and Julia’s affairs are not our business.
Julia rushes to us and grabs our cheeks with her hands. Her eyes are shiny, animal eyes, they are level with ours. “You think you know Peter, but you have to listen to me. He is a monster. How can you not see that? I blocked his door, but we don’t have much time. You can escape too.” Tears stream down her face when she says this. They don’t look like liquid silver to us.
There is a great crash from upstairs, then pounding footsteps on the stairs. Peter emerges.
“Julia, go back upstairs,” he says. His speech is slow and deliberate, almost patient, like he is talking to a willful child. He is truly splendid in that moment, he radiates power. For a second, we wish Peter would give us so much attention, then we remember that all his actions are correct. If he doesn’t give us attention, we know it’s because we don’t deserve it.
Peter walks toward Julia. He is much taller than she is. Julia inches toward the table with the old, shapeless lamp on it. Her fingers twitch at her sides. Peter is getting closer.
Julia lunges and grasps the lamp, then swings it hard. There is a loud crack as the lamp hits Peter’s temple, and Peter crumples to the floor.
There are several seconds of stunned silence. We serve Peter because it is our privilege and duty. Peter would want us to defend him. We are nothing without Peter.
We spring to our feet and mob Julia. We lift her until she is completely off the ground. She screams, but there is no one to hear. She struggles, but we hold her so tightly.
We unlock the door and it swings open in the windy night. There is nothing to see but darkness, but we know where we are going. We are of one mind. We always know.
Our feet march the familiar path. Julia is still struggling. She eventually goes limp to make herself heavier, so we drag her. Her screams turn to sobs.
The well comes into view in the light of the moon. It is nothing more than a deep hole covered by a sheet of plywood. We push the board aside with ease.
“No!” cries Julia. “Let me go, I’ll never come back! Please!”
We pay her no mind. We are Peter’s. We must protect him at all costs. If we let Julia go, it would be like forgiving her. It would be like throwing away our promises to Peter.
We push her over the edge of the hole. There is a long scream and a distant splash. We replace the cover on the well.
We are Good Boys.
We are in the Good Boy Club.
Delaney S. Saul is a writer living in Bellingham, Washington. She is a long-distance fiction student in University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA program and the Editor-in-Chief of Stonecoast Review. Her work has been featured in Gone Lawn, The Molotov Cocktail, Breakwater Review, and Leopardskin & Limes. Her three favorite animals are snails, flamingos, and lobsters. Her Twitter is @DelaneySSaul and her Instagram is @slimegrrl.