By Drew Thomas-Nathan
BUMFUCK, WY — It was a sunny, hazy afternoon when a red Ford pickup truck pulled over beside the ol’ highway and out stepped Michael McBrianson, 46. A veritable man’s man, McBrianson clomped his ‘gator hide boots down in the mud and took a deep breath as the leaves rustled before declaring definitively, “Something ain’t right.”
McBrianson was an alcoholic ex-cop with a five-o’-clock shadow’s shadow and an equally dark, forbidden past. He had rolled into town in search of his estranged adult daughter Faith, who makes ceramics, hoping to reconnect after 25 years. Like her father she’d gone off the grid, but it was nothing a buddy from the force who just so happened to be a private eye couldn’t solve.
When Michael McBrianson arrived in the small town’s small town where Faith was last seen, things seemed off. The few rural families present had been here a long, long time. They gave McBrianson a bed of hay to spend the night and some pig’s trotters for the road, but the way they all silently watched him drive off into the horizon? Yeesh, spooky stuff.
By the time he’d pulled over his truck, Michael McBrianson had already noticed a circle of vultures hovering over his vehicle, five dying roadside elk bleating for mercy, and nineteen dusty wooden posts with “Danger! Stay away!” scrawled in muted red. He didn’t need P.E.M.D.A.S. to see that the signs were adding up to something… fishy. Something mighty fishy.
It was clear that after McBrianson noted something wasn’t right a twist would come, but what? Would a cult of children with grey and brown armadillo masks emerge from the woods? Would he discover that his daughter never existed and was in fact a dream? Maybe he would learn that he was really a character… in a video game?! What if we told you that all of those are true, but also none of them are true. Makes you think, huh?
(A movie adaptation of Michael McBrianson’s story is currently in production starring Brad Pitt.)