They came to town, one riding a lawnmower, the other carrying a leaf blower, their hair shorn tight and crisp like hedges. And their teeth: white, too white, so white they were blue. Flashed those teeth at everyone they passed as they wandered around our town. When our mayor Archibald saw them, he nodded and walked them to our town’s only auditorium.
The one rode onto stage on his lawnmower, the other carrying his leaf blower. Archibald shook their pale hands and said, “I have an announcement to make: They’re taking it from here.”
At first, that didn’t seem so bad. The one just mowed the grass at our parks and fields, while the other followed him, spraying around leaves and mulch.
We weren’t wary enough of their stiff, sharp hair, their ice-blue teeth, the way that lawnmower gobbled things. The way they never stopped working.
Gordon said he’d been walking his dog at 3 a.m. and saw them at Mrs. Neufeld’s, the one whirring around on his lawnmower, the other blowing debris out of her eaves. Said their eyes were white like flashlights. Said he could see them grinning.
In no time, they cleaned up our town—the whole thing, even our yards.
But then things went missing. Houses vanished, one by one, and cars, and parks, and buildings, and streets. And people.
One day, they knocked on my door, and said, “We’re taking it from here.” Before I could reply, the one on the lawnmower smashed through my door and proceeded to ride through my living room, crashing into my couch and bonking over my table, spraying bits of wood around the room like confetti. He kept riding, soon bashing through my rear wall and turning back around; the one with the leaf blower followed him, shooting air at the drywall and dust, causing the detritus to swirl and spin and then, without notice, disappear.
I raised a finger to the one on the lawnmower as he crashed back and forth through my house like I wanted a word, but he just flashed that smile, clean and clear like a siren’s song, and the next thing I knew I was standing in front of these colourful, curved things, these technicolour turtle shells.
Rows and rows of tents, each with a little head peeking out of it, and right next to me, in front of the first row of tents, a sign. It said, “Here.” I turned around and saw our town: west of main looked as it always had, dotted with trees and parks and houses, but east of main looked barren, erased. In the distance, I saw the lawnmower crashing into a car, buzzing right through it like a saw, and the leaf blower flinging the shards of metal into the ether.
As I picked my way through the tents, looking for an empty one, I saw Gordon, I saw Mrs. Neufeld, I even saw our town’s mayor, Archibald. When I passed him, he said, “They’re taking it from here,” and everyone nodded.
Over the next fourteen days, I watched from my tent as the two guys broke down and blew away the rest of our houses and cars, playgrounds and trees, razing everything like they were giving the town a perfect buzzcut, and as they did, people wandered into the tent village and slipped into empty tents. To each person, Archibald said, “They’re taking it from here,” and we all nodded.
Lately, though, there have been no newcomers, no one to say these words to. We’re all here.
And yet Archibald can’t help himself. He still says them.
Actually, he screams them.
Sometimes at night, with my head poking out of my tent like a gopher, watching as the two guys shear and dust the already desolate landscape of our former town, I hear Archibald scream out in his sleep, “They’re taking it from here!”
Recently, right after he screams, I’ve peeled my head back into my tent and whispered, “They’ll take it from here.” Sometimes even twice. “They’ll take it from here.”
I like the shape of the words in my mouth; the way they taste off my tongue.
I don’t think they’ll ever stop working.
Josiah Nelson is an MFA student at the University of Saskatchewan, where he’s working on a collection of short stories. His work has appeared in Exclaim!, the Culture Crush, and the Rumpus. He lives in Saskatoon.
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