I'd love to put an author's name up there, but only Lemex and the author know who it is until/unless they come forward. Family Genes, a well written grisly tale has won the runoff. Family Genes [~1,677 words] My return from Fiji was greeted by a large dinner, organized by my parents, at their mansion in southwestern Ohio. I protested that I was just returning home and, regardless, wouldn’t be staying long. Ohio State had set my move-in date in less than a week. I didn’t need a large dinner. My parents, however, revealed that the dinner would also serve as my full initiation as an adult member of the Hills. For reasons I could not describe, I felt there was something deeper to the dinner than my family was divulging. My younger sister was not invited, as she was not yet an adult. I knew my family probably had secrets, what rich family doesn’t? Perhaps my great, great, great, grandfather once bedded the queen of England? Maybe one of our ancestors was at the signing of the Magna Carta, knife at King John’s throat. My curiosity devoured theory after theory as I walked up the marble steps of my parent’s mansion. As I saw my mother, though, garbed in her typical house dress, I began doubting my absurd thoughts. “John! You look like you’ve grown!” My mother announced as she swept out of the doorway, embracing me on the veranda. “Don’t be foolish. Hills men never grow past eighteen. We’re quick growers,” My Dad laughed. My father towered behind my mother, his large hand making a deep clapping sound as it smacked my shoulder. My mother, over a foot shorter than I, remained clinging to me. “John, are you sick?” She asked, pulling away from the hug. “I get much bigger and I won’t be able to play my position,” I joked, ignoring the question. My position is that of a Tight End. In fact I happen to be the best high school tight end in Ohio…ever. I broke the state record with 2,105 receiving yards, and 28 touchdowns. I also stole 90 tackles, 15 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles on defense, but my primary position was as a tight end. I was the first tight end in my high school to start on the varsity team as a freshman. If you’re a sports fan then you’ve heard of my family. My father is a hall of fame quarterback who retired several years ago. His father before him was a pitcher who still holds the single season record for the most strikeouts while he played for the Cincinnati Red Stockings. My family boasts a long line of male and female athletes. Even before sports became a way to make a comfortable living, my family was known as fierce war-fighters, which was frighteningly the sport of the era at the time. I’ve always excelled in athletics. In grade school, boys hated me for my talents. My skills exceeded the others in such a way that it became glaringly obvious that I wasn’t normal. After pitching a few perfect games in high school, breaking the school record for most points scored in a basketball game by one person, and obviously for my state record setting in football, it became clear to those watching me that I was exactly like my father…a genetic freak. “Well come on in, everyone’s waiting for you,” My father said. The dinner was set and the guests seated. My uncles, aunts, cousins older than 18, and of course grandparents, awaited me in the dining room. The eating began immediately, and to my family, with the men so large, eating is a serious affair. I punctuated the clash of knives and tears of bread with questions. “What is this initiation all about? Did my great great, great, great, grandfather bang the queen of England?” “No,” My father laughed in reply, “But if he did, and we kept it secret, we wouldn’t exactly announce it to everyone.” I shrugged and continued eating. “How come I had to wait ‘til I was 18 for this?” I asked. “Tradition boy, this practice has been going on in our family for centuries,” My grandfather croaked, old but still giant and able. “Centuries? Exactly how old is this dinner practice?” “Ancient,” My father said. I knew my family could trace lineage all the way back to Wales before emigrating to the Americas, but I had no clue our knowledge went back further than that. My grandfather turned the conversation over to Fiji, and asked how my summer was. “John,” my mother inquired, “where’s Ashley?” I swallowed a gulp of mashed potatoes and gravy. “I broke up with her,” I announced to my entire family. Fighting the red creeping up into my cheeks I stared down at my plate and picked around my food. “Why?” My mother asked. “Because of college. We’ll be too far,” I replied. My mother made a, hmmm, sound in reply. “Young love,” My father announced. I kept my eyes on my plate. “Well it’s not like the boy will have much time for the girl at Ohio State,” My grandfather said,” He’s the best damn tight end in the country. He can run a 4.81 second 40 yard dash. I mean…who his size can do that? At his age eh?” “At six foot five and 290 lbs he shouldn’t be able to do that,” my father laughed. “John, is something wrong?” My mother asked. I massaged my temples. “No. I just have a headache.” “I knew you were sick,” She said. “It’s nothing,” I reasoned. “Let me get you some aspirin at least,” She demanded. “No!” I replied, “I’m fine. Really.” We ate dessert , hot fudge cakes, and finally finished the meal. My mother stalked off, keys chiming, saying she would drive over to her friend’s house while we conspired. I received a peck on the cheek as she left. My grandfather lead my family out the back door of the mansion as my father guided me, bring up the rear of the procession. I followed my family out into the expanse of our garden and into the pit where my father had his practice green for putting. I expected a present. Instead of a present, putters, and golf balls in the pit though, was a small girl chained to the ground. Around her stood candles, blazing in the dusky light of the evening. She was wimpering and crying out. Her wails were useless as our family owned the entire wooded area for miles around the mansion. I let out a cry of terror. “What’s going on? Release her!” “No John, this is it. The secret,” My father said. “That you kidnapped a girl? Let her go!” I screamed. My father grabbed hold of me and shook me. “Calm down and listen!” he yelled. I quit struggling and looked at my father, confusion etched on my face. “Dad…” My father said. My grandfather pick up his call. “For hundreds of years our family has enjoyed being better; Financially, physically, mentally, socially. It is no accident that we happen to possess freakish physical ability and mental capacity far above normal. Since before the memory of our family, we have enjoyed these abilities. Although the original story of how our family became this way has been lost to us, we do know that we have The Old Gods to thank for this.” “The Old Gods?” I asked. “Before the Romans brought their own gods upon us, before the Christian God, and even before the heathen Germans invaded our lands and forced their Nordic gods on us, our family worshipped the old gods,” My grandfather continued, “We do not know much of the old gods, as far as names and duties. But we do know the most important part.” “Our pact with the old gods needs renewing with the coming of age of each family member. When the excessive strength and power of that family member must be harnessed and renewed through the taking of a young, innocent, and weak life,” My grandfather gestured to the crying girl. “You’re insane,” I said. “Far from it. If you do not kill this child you will weaken into the state of a normal human being. Far from the athletic prowess you enjoy today.” “That’s ridiculous. We’re just lucky is all. It has nothing to do with fake gods or anything.” I said. “Oh? Didn’t you say you were feeling fatigued?” My father asked. “I’m just sick,” I said, confused. “Have you been sick since right around your eighteenth birthday?” My grandfather asked. “No, I—“ I paused. My condition had started around my birthday, worsening with each passing day. “You’ll slowly get weaker, slower, and dumber until you take the life of this weakling,” My grandfather said. “That can’t be…this is—murder!” “It is not murder. A lion does not take pity on the antelope,” My father said. “The Old Gods allow us to take their lives for our good,” My grandfather said. “No…no. We’re just normal humans. We’re just lucky, like the other great athletes out there.” “Oh? A man running 28 miles an hour? A woman who can jump clean over a full grown man without a running start? These are normal humans? No boy, they’ve made the same pact we all have.” I stared at them, mouth open. “You’ve all done this?” I asked. Every single person nodded their head. I suddenly felt sick. “If you don’t do this boy, you’ll never be the same,” My father said. He handed me a large knife. “And neither will your sister. She’ll begin to feel the effects too,” he added. I jerked my head at her mention. “Pity,” My grandfather said, “And she was a favorite for a starting position on the Olympic women’s soccer team.” Knife in my hand I looked about at my family members, meeting their gazes. Each one begged me to kill the girl. “There must be another way,” I pleaded. “There is no other way,” My grandfather replied. I looked around once more, but my gaze met only the eyes of lions. With tears in my eyes and a cry of desperation, I raised the knife and plunged it into the innocent.