To this day, my parents will claim that the events of 1983 were a random tragedy, a confluence of events which could not be seen in advance, events which were set right as soon as the possibility presented itself, but I know better, because I have had the skull opened and the light make a meal of my brain, I know all things, I know they sold me to that cult of ghuls to pay a debt too horrible to comprehend. I was a sacrifice, the windows left unlocked and the alarms silenced and the two of them staring at each other at the far end of the hall, knives in their hands, waiting for something to pull me from under my Star Wars bedspread and carry me off to the places where no one goes. Two months I was gone, my hair cut and dyed, my jeans and OP shirts traded for a suit that looked to be pulled off a ventriloquist's dummy, my diction and gait and diet shifted, not as a brainwashed disciple, as the newspapers claimed, but as a vivisectionist of material experience, of hidden rooms and diseased mirrors. By January I would find myself back in school, back at home, every bit the bravely recovered victim getting on with my tiny little life, but I was changed.

This walking devil who stole me, on the night when I was pressed beneath the fieldstones, whispered in my ear "Who is it now that can know you, that can so much as share a common language, who has not seen what you have seen, tasted what you have tasted? Who is it that can see anything but the shimmer-cloud you project around your true self which everyone thinks is who you are, a trick of silences and prompts, a second self useful only for walking the lesser world unnoticed? Who is it now whose soul hums in tune to the sound of your final voice?" No one, I thought to myself. Not you, not the lesser world, not the inhabitants of the great chamber or the weather-intelligences which keep the world's memories, not one thing will ever know me, as there is no longer any me to know. There is only the task to which I have been appointed, for which this abduction and torture would be an initiation, and once I murdered my captors and stole their voices from their emptying mouths I could no longer be held by cross or crown, teacher or tyrant or parent, and I sought the person would could help me. I did not know how I knew this, but it was as clear to me as hunger or exhaustion what it was that I must do.

The men who had taken me were corpse-eaters, gathering packs of disposable children to dig and clean and prepare the recently dead by means suitable to their startlingly fussy temperament. Everything I had heard of the eaters of dead led me to think of them as scavengers, hangers-on catching human misery on the wind, praying for the slightest streak of blood on the interstate. Instead, I discovered that even before an audience of child-slaves they went to great lengths to feign class and distinction, dressing for dinner and asking us to sing suffer-songs so as to stimulate the appetite. Every, Always and Never, the ghuls called themselves, but their names were forbidden to the children, names I was certain to spit into their malnourished faces as I shoved knives of bone into their chests. I set the other children free on the condition they not follow me, but as they only thought of fleeing back to their families this was not an issue. To the world I was still a missing child, but I had no interest in stepping back into my prior life, and so headed west, away from the coming sunrise, and searched the patterns of branches and scents for the path to follow, the path that would lead me to her, my secret mother, the woman who would plant the task within me, the hum goddess Vons Serin.

the exit is hidden within the exit