Heh. Heh heh. Oh, have I got a story for you.
We've all had to move, right? You know the story, the parents want to change jobs, or maybe neighbourhoods, so they scoop up the entire family and toss you across town. I mean, not that I'm complaining, it's not like the new neighbourhood was bad or anything, it was your standard upper middle-class slice of life, but all of a sudden, my friends had to go out of their way for several hours just to hang out, so yeah, my social life has just gone out the window.
My brother, oh yeah, he was the one having trouble adapting. Of course, Jack was your standard industry older brother. Annoying, smarmy, and somehow infinitely better at everything than I am. Better at sports, better at acting, better at dating- seriously, where do they get guys like that? Anyway, anyway, not important, the thing is, once we moved, he started getting, well, squirrley. For lack of a better term. He stopped sleeping, and would instead stay up all night just pacing the new house, and even when he did sleep, he would wake up screaming in the middle of the night. I tried to help out, tried to get him to calm down and accept that the move wasn't that bad, but you know how older brothers are. He punched me and called me a dick. As usual.
Mom and Dad, meanwhile, were just having a ball of a time. Local park, friendly neighbours, plenty of local restaurants with all sorts of pleasant reviews in the local papers. Good for them, I guess.
You know when you first move in to a new house, and you're still finding all the stuff that the last people who lived there? Well, I made it my personal goal to find all the crap I could find. Lessee, I found boxes shoved under the stairs, filled with all sorts of old stationary and winter jackets. Which, interestingly enough, the sleeves had been sewn shut. At the time, I just figured the previous owners were just amputees. Which is... a tad depressing, I'll admit. Um. Okay, moving on.
I also managed to find linens, a whole collection of scratchy blankets that nobody would miss. Or, hell, maybe they left them here on purpose. I found a laundry chute, leading from the main floor to the laundry room, which I didn't even know they made any more. And then, once Mom made me stop rummaging around the house and finally start unpacking after a week living here, I found a hole in my closet.
It didn't lead anywhere in particular, it was just a tiny nook carved in the back of the closet, nestled in the insulation between the floors. I slipped some rubber gloves on, in case the hole was filled with spiders or millipedes or anything else wonderfully unpleasant, and pulled out a small hunk of wood with singed edges. I rolled it over in my hands, admiring the peculiar heft to it, before I noticed the carving in the wood.
Yeah, good luck trying to research that. I ran Google Searches on that phrase for hours, and all I got was stock footage of people in hoodies walking around and whistling.
I tried asking my Mom, of course, and she just slapped my hands away and made me go back to work. Dad, meanwhile, just told me that it must have been an old art project the previous owners left here. And when I asked Jack, he just started laughing and laughing, but it wasn't his normal laugh. He usually had a broad, full laughter, the kind that makes you want to laugh along. But this time, it was a high pitched, keening laughter, like a hyena, and his voice started to crack as he forced himself to keep laughing.
That night, after a rushed dinner with the family that ended awkwardly as usual, I stashed the wood in my dresser and went to bed.
I can still remember the bright sheen of my alarm clock when I awoke with a start at 3:12. It's almost as though it's stuck in my memory. And outside my window, I could see the orange light from the street lamps shine through the night and blazing through the shrubs.
And the shrub moved.
Not a big, over exaggerated movement, of course, it just... moved.
Like it just stepped to the left.
I tried to peer through the gloom and figure out exactly what I was looking at. Some kind of big... broad shape? Like... oh god, it's a man, it's a fucking man, there's a goddamn man standing outside my-
The last thing I remembered that night was the shrill hiss of a tea whistle.
When I woke up, I was still half groggy. Not a morning person, see. It took me a minute to remember what happened last night, until I saw somebody standing outside my window. And I, in diplomatic terms, lost my shit. I was halfway out of bed and fully out of my goddamn mind before I realized it was Jack. Apparently first thing in the morning, Jack decided it would be a great idea to start tearing apart the shrubs outside of my window.
I pulled the window open, and demanded to know what the hell he was doing.
“... Gotta get rid of them.”
“Um. Okay. Any particular reason?”
“I can't let it get you. I can't let it get you. I can't let it get you.”
“... The shrub?”
Suddenly, Jack shook his head, and started swearing up a storm as he realized what he was doing. Yeah, seems he was sleep walking. I tried to ask him what the hell he was talking about, but as it turns out, he was just as confused as I was.
I really wish I could say I spent the next day trying to research what the hell the “whistling” meant, because that would have been the more respectable and cooler thing to do, but yeah, I spent the entire day playing video games and masturbating. Um. Okay, moving on.
Considering what happened last night, I didn't really want to go to sleep that night, and I stayed up as late as I possibly could. I think I made it around three, before I was ready to risk falling asleep. It was then, thankfully, that I heard it.
A soft whistling.
Not like a tea kettle, I mean, not like last time. It was... like a wind chime. Like a soft tinkling song, like a nursery song I only half remembered. And I wish, I wish, I wish I could say I had the balls to get up and find it.
But no. I wrapped the pillow around my head, and hid myself in the gloom of my room, trying desperately to ignore the soft whistling. And no, no, it wasn't just that. After every whistle, there was a dull thud. Not loud enough to wake anyone else up, but simply... there.
Finally, sleep took me.
The next morning, I woke up like every generic morning, and managed to put the whistling out of my mind for the moment. I slipped on my pyjamas, and pulled myself out of bed and staggered over to the kitchen for breakfast. And when I passed Jack's room, his door was open. I could still remember his strange laughter, and the shadows that seemed to be growing under his eyes with every day, so I decided to stop and check in on him.
Jack wasn't in there.
No, wait, scratch that, nothing was in there. There was no bed, no dresser, no Black Sabbath poster on the wall, absolutely nothing to show that anybody had ever lived in there.
“Um. Mom?” I called out as I made it to the kitchen, my heart shaking my whole damn rib cage with every beat.
“Yes, honey?” She was setting up the table for breakfast, with a plate of pancakes for me, Dad, and herself, but nothing for Jack.
“... You're kidding, right?”
“Wait, wait, I've got this. Is it a boyfriend of yours?”
“N- no?!” My head started to throb, and the room began to spin. “Your son! My brother!”
“Um. Honey, you don't have a brother.”
Oh, no. No no no no no no no.
That conversation continued with pretty much everyone in my extended family over the rest of the day. I called all of them. Every aunt, every uncle, every grandparent, every cousin, and not a single damn one could remember Jack. I called Jack's friends, Jack's girlfriend and his vast collection of exes, I checked Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email- hell, I even tried to hunt down his birth certificate. And there was nothing.
My brother had never existed.
I'm not too proud to admit I started crying.
My parents, of course, were very worried about their psychotic son who was now claiming that he had a brother (hah hah hah hah), and tried to get to me to a hospital. I denied that I was crazy, and tried to convince them that I was just playing a vast practical joke on them. Not sure I convinced them, really, but the two had to go to work, so they left their hyperventilating son sitting home alone all day.
The first thing I tried was rummaging through Jack's old room, trying to find anything that could explain this. Not that much could, mind, but I tried anyway. There was nothing.
Except for a small hole, carved in the wall where Jack's bed had been. I reached inside, and pulled out a small shard of singed wood.
I spent the rest of the day, holding a steak knife and hiding in the corner.
That night, thankfully, passed by without incident. And I should know, I didn't even try sleeping. And the next morning, I continued trying to convince my parents that I was totally normal! Don't have to sent to an asylum or anything, don't be ridiculous, hah hah hah.
I think I'm starting to hate them.
I hopped on my bike and rode to the library, hoping to get some research done. And lemme tell you, there is no way to convince a librarian that you're not crazy when you're sitting around, asking her to research holes in reality. Which is a shame, she was cute.
No good, by the way. There aren't any books for “case studies of entire world forgetting somebody”, which, in retrospect, I guess I couldn't be too surprised. If the entire world has forgotten about somebody, how would anybody know it had happened? It could be happening every day, and nobody would even know. Heh. What a pleasant thought. At this point, I even tried to give the mythology books a read, looking for anything about some kind of Whistling Man or Whistling Thief or Whistling Jackass or literally anything about whistling to try and find out what the hell was going on.
Also a no-go. Only, on the last book I tried, I found something carved in to the cover.
I reported it to the librarian. She made me pay for it. Hah.
When my parents got home, I tried to ask some sly questions about the previous owners. Did you ever meet them, did they ever seem weird, did they whistle at all, the usual. But all Dad could tell me was that the man who lived here had very little to pack up.
“Wait. Wait. One man?”
“Yeah, what of it?”
“This is a five bedroom house. Why the hell would only one man own all that?”
“I dunno, people are weird like that. Besides, we bought the house, and we're only using two bedrooms.”
Two bedrooms. Five bedroom house. I wonder how many siblings I used to have. Heh.
Night came, as you'd expect, and after I found an excuse to avoid having to interact with my friends when they called me, then I went to bed. Not to sleep, mind. Because I can't hold a knife when I sleep.
Don't ask me what time it was when I finally heard the whistling again, I wasn't in any right mind to pay attention. It was... almost pretty.
It was right outside my door.
I tried to scream, but it got caught in my throat.
My door slowly slid open, and I got to see it.
I don't know what, I don't know what, I don't know what it was, is, always was, whichever verb you fucking want to use. It was huge. Massive. Taller than the door, and twice as wide. Not fat, it was just bloated, twisted, insane muscle that seemed to twist and bend under his own skin. Heh. Butcher's apron, I don't know why, just a goddamn butcher's apron, coated in black ichor. And oh god, the legs. Just below the knee, it's legs were gone, and all it had were hollow brass tubes, riddled with holes.
Like a wind chime.
I can't, I don't, I can't even remember what I was doing, I just, I just, I just stopped. It's face, with the wrinkled and twisted and skin, and it's bottom half was covered with tight leather, drawn across it's skull and stapled in to the skin and hah hah hahah oh god the eyes almost as if they were lenses, plunging out of the skin and there was nothing there-
I tried throwing the knife at it. It just sort of... bounced off. Not even sure if it stabbed him. Not even sure if it would have mattered if I did.
It ducked and whistled it's way inside, and I got to see oh the hands. It's left one was thin and boney and it snapped and cracked and bent and seemed like it could never stop moving and the other one was just brass and gears and steam-
I jumped at it, and I tried to tear in to it, kill it, hurt it, make it scream, and the Whistling Man just stopped me.
Slammed it's insane brass hand in to my chest.
It went through me.
I tried to cry, honestly, I did.
But I just laughed.
It grabbed me, flung me over it's shoulder, and just whistled it's way back. Whistle. Stomp. Whistle. Stomp. Whistle. Stomp.
I considered singing along.
Not entirely sure where we are now. I think under the stairs. Heh. There are so many others down here. That's the really funny part. They have no hands. Not even stumps, they just end. I think Jack is down here. He's laughing too.
I'd tell you to watch out, but there's honestly very little you can do. He can tear your entire family down and you'll never know. Maybe he already did. Ever have a memory you're not sure where it came from? Maybe an empty room? Some clothes, a knick knack, anything you can't really remember?
Just listen for the whistling.
He whistles when he walks.