From: Dave (seriously guys, don’t embellish your names)
Subject: Night Work Policy Violation
Date: January 7th, 2022
Our rules are in place to prevent needless disfigurement and death.
You can claim not to remember the vagrant who burrowed into Lot 5 before we poured its foundation, but I assure you the insurance company does. He might have gotten himself killed, but he still got himself killed on our site.
Last night, I returned from my supply run to find lights blazing in Lot 9. I figured someone forgot to shut off the floods. It would’ve been a little mistake, no harm except to the electricity bill. But this morning a whole new set of rooms was finished.
Don’t get me wrong, the work is good. The mudding was almost on par with Carlos’. But if the insurance agents discover we have people working at night they’ll shut down Baja Bonita quicker than you can say “Dave, I’m sorry, we know your policies help provide a fun and safe work environment for everyone.”
Speaking of fun, has anyone seen Brenda? It’s not like her to skip shifts, but she hasn’t shown up for several days.
We need to pull together if Baja Bonita is to finally deliver Los Suelos the subdivision our town planned decades ago.
I know we’re a small crew and it’s tempting to take an informal tone, but I want everyone to remain serious. I made these memo-pads to document your experiences, concerns, and above all help you communicate. Especially if you’re going to be absent (Brenda).
We have an opportunity to single-handedly revitalize this community and restore the destiny we lost in the USGS calamity. Many fledgling construction crews have foundered. We will survive!
… if our foremen show up and we aren’t shut down for policy violations.
(Carlos, pick me up around 2pm for a supply run. We need aluminum siding.)
Subject: Go sit on a cactus, Dave
I don’t see the harm in my working at night. It’s cool and quiet and I focus better when that beautiful, black curtain blots out the world.
To “pull together” we must all abide by each other’s little eccentricities. For instance, I doubt Miriam at Pony’s Bar can sell you aluminum siding… yet your truck is parked outside every afternoon while you make “supply runs” on company time and Carlos ogles the bartender.
So, give it a rest. I need to work at night. Life has gotten complex. I do a great job, you said so yourself… Let’s leave it at that.
And while we’re airing grievances, you still need to haul the ever-expanding rubbish pile out of Lot 9. That rebar is a hazard. My keys fell into it the other night. I’ll need a new set on a lanyard.
Also, it’s a crime no one has thought to add basements to these poor homes.
I dug a circular space beneath the newest house. The way the ground surrounds you evenly on all sides. It’s amazing. And that’s only one of the new design ideas I’ve had to make the houses feel homey and confined!
Subject: what the actual fuck
Maybe this’ll become evidence.
Miriam kicked us out of Pony’s after Dave got rowdy. Fucking guy. She’d smiled at me for the first time in months literally seconds before he punched that PhD nerd. I was so pissed. Dave insisted on driving back despite being drunk off his ass and seeing like shit in the dark. I said something stupid like “fuck it, go ahead and kill us both,” and gave him the keys. I regret that now.
It was hella late when we returned to Lot 9 for Dave’s truck, but the thump of a nail gun punched through the night. Dave got huffy about people working nights and swung the truck around, bathing the house in our headlights.
Something with too many arms dropped half a dozen tools and scuttled into the shadows.
Dave freaked out and planted his foot on the accelerator.
Glass shattered. A length of rebar speared Dave’s forehead, pinning him to the seat.
He frowned a final admonishment.
I just kinda stared, the taste of copper tubing filling my mouth. Like the time Dave bet I wouldn’t lick a pipe during the brief freeze last winter.
I wiped my forehead and hard lumps of glass rolled out of my skin. There wasn’t any pain, then… just the gritty sensation of glass scraping bone.
I stumbled out of the truck. The headlights cast deep shadows into the house’s frame. A glowing knot of eyes hung near the ceiling. Teeth flashed, revealing thin lips turned down in a scowl.
I made it back to the office trailer and shut myself inside. It seems stupid now, to be scribbling by moonlight while that thing is outside, but scratching my thoughts out breaks the awful silence. Guess I owe Dave a beer for insisting we carry these stupid, handwritten memo-pads.
Jesus Christ… Dave.
I tried the phone. Dead, of course. Maybe I’ll place this in Dave’s inbox tray. Pretend like I’m communicating with someone.
I can’t get over that mouth flashing in the shadows.
I’ll try to hide until morning, then escape with Dave’s truck.
Brenda Delightfully Brenda
Subject: Come out of the closet, Carlos
Hello, my dear.
Why do you hide?
I need your help tidying up. Dave made a mess. He is a mess. But we all knew that.
I read your note! It might’ve been meant for someone else, but I found it first.
You’re not a mess. You’re the best mudder on the West Coast! You’re a valuable member of the team!
We still have so much to build. I told you about the new basements, right? I’m digging deeper. I want to shuffle the lots around, too. Grids are boring… but a network of concentric circles? Now that’s the way to catch customers!
I’m also thinking about tunnels. They’re great. Down where it’s dark and cool beneath the ground. The crack under this door is like a thin tunnel to the supply closet. To you.
Can you juice a cow? I’ve been on a juice fast, recently. Cows replenish their milk. Would it work the same with blood? We could keep cows in the tunnels and juice them slowly. Do you think they’d thank us each time we drained a little? Or do they just do that at the end?
I have lots of plans. But I need your help. I need you to come out of the closet. And not say anything about what happened here.
Is that too much to ask? Would it burden you to keep this secret? Would you say “thank you” if I took that weight away?
Subject: I’m going to die in this fucking supply closet
I don’t know why I thought our office would be safe.
I left the lights off and made as little noise as possible. But she knew where I’d be.
The window shattered at 2am. She’d thrown a rock through the glass. An entire construction yard worth of tools at her disposal and she used a rock.
I sprinted for the door. It wouldn’t budge.
My only option was the supply closet. I tore it open and tossed out Dave’s roller-vacuum. Glass crunched behind me. I made the mistake of looking back.
Brenda scuttled toward me on too many legs. Manic delight twisted her face, giving her an uncanny resemblance to my tía abuela reaching for a kiss on my sixth birthday.
I slammed the door and locked it from inside. There’s barely enough room for me to sit, legs folded against my chest, a bare lightbulb shining above me.
Brenda knocked politely on the supply closet. When I didn’t answer she skittered away. After an hour of nerve-frying silence I said fuck it and started documenting again.
Eventually, she slipped a memo of her own under the door. I did not find its contents encouraging.
Hopefully someone eventually finds these.
When I didn’t come out of the closet Brenda got real mad. She screamed and pounded on the door, swearing she’d juice me. Seconds later she was calm again, claiming it was a miscommunication and no one would get hurt if I just opened the door.
Another eternity passed in silence. I got excited when I heard a voice in the distance, but it was just Brenda shouting, “Keys! Keys!”
She must’ve gone back to Lot 9 and fetched Dave’s keyring. I hope she didn’t mess with his body.
Dave… I miss you, man. But fuck you for
Shit, she’s jiggling the lock. I probably have secon
21 22 23? fuck/2022
Brenda said she’ll sneak into town and kill my parents if I don’t help her.
We build and tunnel. And tunnel. And tunnel.
I can’t stand it anymore. All the time in the fucking dark, feeling her eyes on me.
The dirt walls are a fist around my throat.
I lied about needing tools from Lot 9 and stole Dave’s memo-pad.
We’re breaking into the main caverns today.
It feels like the end of a project.
Miriam, I’m sorry I carved your number on that stall in Pony’s bathroom. It was an abuse of company power tools and I really just wanted you to call me. Hopefully I didn’t send too many weirdos your way.
Fuck… love you, Mom, Dad.
Dave, you’re an asshole. I’m sorry Baja Bonita couldn’t restore the community the way you dreamed.
I hid a utility knife in my boot.
I wish I hadn’t let Dave drive.
From: Brenda Pour the foundation
Subject: Level concrete, squeegee with stretched intestine!
Hoist the beams
Bone joists, tied tight with tendon
Frame the walls
No doors, tunnels connect the rooms
Hang the drywall
Mud with brain, paint with blood
Braze the pipes
Tubes for suckling upstairs cocoons
Install the roof
Thatch with hair, proof with fat
Construct the lots
Spiral out, more homes, more tunnels!
Featured image by Maria Pogosyan.