The Butchers FRONTCOVER_ACT1.jpg
Chapter 1

Meet The Butchers

Meet The Butchers

It’s 11:55 P.M. on New Year’s Eve 2017, and the fog is lifting from the cold air outside of the Butchers' home. Arthur’s face has a focused expression. He’s running fast through frosted lawns, breathing heavily. BAM! Arthur tackles his double, Alex, who looks identical to him from the dirty blond hair to his facial features. The double’s face smashes into the grass. Arthur flips him over so that they can look into each other’s eyes. My father taught me this. 

The terror in Alex’s blue eyes only lasts a moment as Arthur plunges a knife straight into the center of Alex's rib cage. The double cringes, and his blood splatters Arthur’s face a deep red color. Arthur’s double bleeds out and dies in agony. 

 

Arthur looks at his double, who’s beaten, bloody and dead. I fucked up.

Arthur hears his parents nearby. He glances over his shoulders and sees them behind him. His father, James Junior Butcher, towers over a severely stabbed woman missing an arm. He kicks her into the pit. The body lands with a loud thump.

Arthur’s mother, Lily Butcher, approaches his father, limping with only one red heel on. She holds two glasses of champagne in one hand and a red heel in the other. She proudly says, “Well done, dear.” Her voice is sweet and lovely like her near-perfect housewife appearance with her wavy gold hair and a slim figure.

The deceased woman resembled Lily. It’s apparent that Arthur’s father killed his mother’s double. James Junior has the most satisfied expression on his face as he stares into the pit, basking in his glory. He finally notices his wife beside him. His thick, brown eyebrows lower and his blue eyes soften from an intense stare as he looks at Lily and takes one of the champagne glasses from her. 

Lily slips the red heel onto the foot that is bare. Even in heels, she only reaches James Junior’s nose. She’s a small person compared to his strong build. Lily wipes the blood from her small, thin face, smearing the red lipstick to the side of her cheek. She plants a kiss above her husband’s strong jawline and then taps glasses with him. 

My mother’s instincts tell her to kill, but she’s not all there. Arthur turns away from his parents. My father is a strategic killer, and very aware of his own actions.

Arthur sees an older couple from the corner of his eye. My grandparents, Emma Butcher and James Clint Butcher. They’re a pair that think alike and kill alike, without reason, brutal, and reckless. They live for the thrill of the hunt, family, and tradition.  

Arthur’s grandparents, their hair silvered and faces freckled, assemble on the edge of the pit with fresh bruises, champagne flutes, and a bottle of champagne. They’re both tall, thin people, a perfect match for each other. 

Arthur drags his double through the grass; it sounds like scraping sandpaper. Damn, he’s heavy. Arthur looks at his double’s face. What was his name? Adam? Aidan? He pulls the double to the pit and thrusts the lifeless body over the edge, adding the corpse to the other dead bodies below: a total of six in one mass grave ten-feet-deep. Each of them bears a strong resemblance to the members of his family. 

Arthur exhales, looks up, and finds his entire family in clear view. His suit is torn in multiple places, and his knuckles are bleeding, but he sustained fewer injuries than the rest of the family. 

James Junior looks proud as he takes the bamboo tiki torch from the side and tosses it into the pit. Fireworks explode in the distance showering the night sky with glittering silver sparks. It’s too far away to enjoy. 

BOOM! The sky above them bursts into a flower-like aerial pattern. It’s a chrysanthemum firework. Another one shoots into the sky like a comet, followed by a third. 

“Right on time,” says James, clanking glasses with Emma.

Cate Butcher, Arthur’s twin sister, meets him, and passes a glass of champagne to him. Arthur takes it without looking at her. She stands beside him in a torn cream dress that’s soaked in blood. They’re not identical, but their facial features are strikingly similar. She’s a few inches shorter than he is and has light blond hair and an angelic face. 

The last of the three chrysanthemum fireworks flickers and dies in the cold air over the Butchers' property.

“Lovely. Let’s have a real firework show next year. What do you say, dear?” Lily asks James Junior. 

“I’ll put in the new plans,” says James Junior, agreeing with her. Then he cheerfully announces, "To a new year!"

“To the Butchers!” adds James.

The Butchers toast over a pile of burning bodies while Arthur holds the drink in his hand, lost in a contemplative daze. I can never get used to the smell of burning flesh. His mind racing with random thoughts, as the fire reflects in his eyes.  

Cate notices Arthur’s strange expression. Her brows crinkle inward; she’s never seen him like this before. She leans close to his ear. “You killed your double. Either you’re showing off, or you hate yourself.”

I often disagree with my sister, but Cat may be right. Arthur flinches. Do I hate myself? The blood on his face hasn’t dried yet, still trickling down his numb and blank expression. For the first time in Arthur’s life, he feels deeply unhappy. Disturbed, even. I have a problem. 

Chapter 2

The Lost Butcher

Flashback…to 1985. Two American scientists are led by a group of local villagers deep into the Amazon Jungle. 

If trauma can be transferred between generations, then so can the traits of a killer. James and Emma Butcher are my grandparents, born and bred like prized horses. On holidays they hunt for sport. Before I was born, they hunted in Africa and the Amazon forests until they lost their four-year-old son, James Junior Butcher, my father. I’d heard this story a few times growing up, and each time I hear it, I learn a little more about why my father is who he is. 

 

Rustling noises sound through the area: wild boars. It startles the scientists and they grab their weapons: a gun and a hunting knife. The locals use their hands to calm the scientists, gently patting them on the shoulders. Animals are running around the surroundings, making the scientists grow more nervous. 

The loud, high-pitched cry of a boar rattles the men. The villagers slowly creep forward with their weapons in hand, machetes and guns. The sound of chopping scares them. There is surely someone out there, dragging something heavy towards them. Every man raises his weapon, ready to take down whatever is coming at them. 

Then every jaw drops. The scientists let down their guard at what they see. The villagers look to one another, confused. 

Standing in front of them is a twelve-year-old boy, James Junior Butcher. His messy, dirt-filled hair is long and golden brown, sticky with wavy locks. He’s boney and thin like a stick. His skin is tan from the sun, but his blue eyes give him away as a foreigner. The American scientists notice the resemblance. The boy’s strong odor causes them to cover their noises. One of the scientists vomits at the sight of the decapitated boar. The animal’s head is hanging on a rope and its bloody body is dragging behind the boy.

An isolated tribe raised him for eight years. Uncontacted people, wild, savages. So savage my father became, and so savage I am. 

The scientists and James Junior appear on a live broadcast, on a box-shaped TV. People walking down city streets stop in front of shops to watch the news in front of glass windows. 

It’s suddenly all over the news, all over the world. 

The entire world stops for a moment to watch this special story in workplaces, bars, and homes. The segment starts with two news anchors sitting at the news table, Bob Whitehead and Michelle Roberts. 

“Good evening. I’m Bob Whitehead,” Bob introduces himself. 

“And I’m Michelle Roberts," says Michelle.

Bob announces, “Eight years ago, James Jr. Butcher went missing in the Amazon jungle when his parents, James and Emma Butcher, were there on vacation.” His head of hair is the biggest thing about Bob. His curls are so fluffy and thick, the whole thing looks like a wig. 

Michelle reports, “Kevin is with James and Emma Butcher now. Let’s hear from them.” The only thing big about her is the size of her breasts. 

People loved watching Michelle Roberts in anything—at least, that’s what grandfather used to say.  

The screen cuts to Kevin, live with James and Emma, the most narcissistic-looking couple. 

I watched the old videotape of the news clip; they didn’t look concerned or the way normal parents would appear when they’ve just found their missing child after eight years. My grandparents were younger then and loved the five minutes of spotlight. They’re more private people these days.

Chapter 3

Bloody White Rabbits

It’s January 1st, 2018. The shadow on the time dial strikes noon. The sun is high in the sky. It’s a clear day compared to the night before.

James shouts, “Last arrow!”

Arthur draws back an arrow and releases it in the open field. The arrow tip flies into the air and falls over a white fence filled with white rabbits. The poor creatures are tied with red ribbons around their necks. They’re all dead, pinned with an arrow to the ground, except for one scared white rabbit frozen in place. Arthur’s arrow stabs the last untouched rabbit. 

The family drops their bows. They head toward the white fence with bandaged limbs, bruised faces, and layered in expensive designer clothes. Everyone gathers around the wounded and dead rabbits. 

James picks up the arrow with his initials engraved into the side: JCB. He takes the red bow from the rabbit’s neck and reads the name, “Emma Rose Butcher.”

Emma pecks James on the cheek. The rest of family members reach out for the arrow with their initials, along with the bleeding rabbits. 

Emma reads the red ribbon in her hand, “Lily Butcher.”

“Wonderful, Emma,” says Lily. 

She didn’t mean it, Arthur could tell. They have a mutual hate for one another, but I’ve learned women are good at hiding their claws. 

Arthur catches his father clutching the red ribbon tightly in his hand. This meant two things: anger or excitement. 

James Junior holds back his emotions as he reads the name, “James Clint Butcher.”

Father secretly wanted to find grandpa’s double for years now. 

“I trust your judgment, son,” says James, confidently. 

Lily looks at the name on her dead rabbit’s red ribbon and says, “Cat Emily—”

James clears his throat loudly. 

We all call my twin sister, Cate, Cat. It’s a nickname that stuck since childhood. She used to have a cat; it was the first thing she killed. 

Lily properly announces the name, “Cate Emily Butcher.”

Cate quickly responds with, “Lovely, Mother.” Then she reads the red ribbon in her blood-stained hands, “James Jr. Butcher.”

The voices drown out for Arthur as he stares at the bloody white rabbit in his hand. It’s still alive and twitching. His hands can feel the life fading from the small creature along with its faint pulse at the neck. He suddenly feels all eyes turn to him, waiting on the name in his hand. I see the name, and it’s a bad sign. “Arthur James Butcher.”

Cate just has to remind everyone, “Seems fitting as you killed your double last year.”  

Arthur sees disappointed faces everywhere he looks. My father is superstitious.

James Junior immediately tells him, “Trade it, Arthur.”

Therefore, the rest of us are also superstitious.

 

Lily extends her ribbon to Arthur. “Here, dear. Trade with me.”

Arthur makes the trade with Lily. “Thanks, mom.”

Everyone carries on. 

The rest of the family goes back to being cheery. Emma proudly unveils a table of drinks and fancy sandwiches from the side, and then she brings a drink over to James.

Grandpa says what he normally does.

James says, “Let it be our best year yet!”  

This entire day is predictable and boring to Arthur. He zones out, while Emma and James wish each other happy birthday in the background. Rose perfume comes Arthur’s way. It’s Cate. 

And in a moment, Cat will attempt to flirt with me. My own twisted sister, but I can’t deal with her right now. 

Cate reaches Arthur and hands him a mimosa. Arthur takes the drink without making eye contact. She takes the opportunity to brush her fingers on his, causing him to look at her in a disgusted manner. 

“Make sure she’s as mad as me,” Cate smiles wickedly.