When Dan approached me with a request to read and review The Things That Come I was very excited. It’s so very important to portray diversity in literature und Dan’s book promises quite a lot of diverse characters.
I had to dnf their book pretty soon though because the self harm is not glossed over. A few weeks ago I managed to read a different book featuring self harming aspects, but Dan’s portrayal hit to close to home for me.
But I still feel like The Things That Come has the potential for being a great book, I asked Dan – who was very understanding about my issues – if I may publish an excerpt. Obviously I got a yes, so enjoy:
The Things That Come
David never wanted to hurt anyone, but he didn’t ever think he’d ever be made to choose between his own mutilation or someone else’s life. With a threat like that hanging over his head, he returns to his hometown and reconnects with the one person who might believe that the things that come to visit him some nights aren’t just another hallucination.
Between his current predicament, an active serial killer, the still-unsolved murders of his classmates in high school, and trying to make his life livable again, David isn’t headed down an easy path. He’ll need all the help he can get and with a past like his, it isn’t easy to ask.
Lucky for him, an old friend and a new one join together to help David keep himself, and others, out of danger. Or, they do the best they can while trying to stay off the radar of the police, FBI, and whatever it is that’s been making David’s life a living hell.
The Things That Come
As he ate and waited for Zhané to text him back, he wondered for the thousandth time why these things didn’t just kill him. They wanted bodies but not to make them, though they seemed to have no problem taking pieces. Maybe they were like the doctors who had bought cadavers from body snatchers; hungry for specimens but not wanting to get their hands too dirty.
His phone buzzed and it was not a text, but a call. He answered, “Mom?”
“We went by your apartment.”
“Where are you?”
“I, uh, went on a. For a drive, you know. A trip.” He had not expected his parents to stop by anytime soon.
“The landlord says you didn’t renew your lease.”
He sighed. “It’s month-to-month, I don’t have to renew if I don’t want to,” he said, “I figured maybe I’d find somewhere nicer.”
“I’m, uh, I’m in Connecticut,” he confessed.
“Mom, it’s not a big deal, alright? Besides, it’s not, like, you know, it doesn’t matter how far away I am. We don’t visit.”
“We visit you.”
“No, you check in on me. Visits involve coming for dinner or staying to talk, not just seeing if I’ve filled my prescription and checking the fridge for heads.”
His phone made a sound and he looked down to see that Zhané was trying to call him.
“Anyways, I’ve got to go,” he said and hung up without a goodbye, switching over to Zhané’s call. “Hey.”
“Hey, I saw the news. About the boy, right?”
“Did you look at everything?” she asked.
“Uh,” he said, thinking about lying. “No, I’m sorry. I kind of passed out.”
“How’s the leg?”
“No, uh, the other stuff. Weepy, I guess is the word.”
“I still think you should go to a doctor.”
He diverted, saying, “So are you gonna get this kid’s autopsy report, too?”
“I’m gonna try.”
“I didn’t know coroners were this easy to bribe,” he said.
“Bribe?” she said with a laugh in her voice. “Try blackmail.”
“Look over those papers.”
“Anyways, I gotta go, my shift is starting.”
“Shift?” he asked, not aware that her line of work called for shifts.
“Yeah, at this animal shelter, I volunteer to walk the dogs and pet the kitties,” she explained, “You know.”
She had, as long as he’d known her, said that her ideal job would be hanging out with animals and he was glad to know she’d found a way to make that happen, in a roundabout way. “Have fun,” he said.
He tossed his phone on the bed and brought over the documents she had given him. He looked at the crime scene photos again. Nothing stood out, no matter how long he looked at them, so he turned his attention to the reports. Each body was missing something, but something essential, like the lungs or heart or, in the case of Mara Copeland, her entire spinal cord. He wondered if something had been taken from the Duran boy.
He glanced down at the bandage on his thigh. From the bodies, they took things people could not live without, but they hadn’t killed him to get one of the essential organs they were after. From him, they had only taken bits.
He set aside the reports and picked up his phone again, googling alien abductions. Again. Aliens were the only thing he could think of that manipulated technology and took organs and the like from people, but he had not come across any aliens that looked like the things that came for him. There were grays and goblin-like monsters, and the cartoonish little green men, but no beings made of indistinguishable dark shapes.
Maybe, he reflected, the problem was that the lights had never been on. Or that he had been attempting to flee or struggling to be released.
He got up and went to his duffle bag, rooting around for the notebook he had started when he had begun to suspect what happened to him and what had happened that summer could be related.
On the first page, headed ‘2011’, were the dates that Becca and Nicki had been found and the date that he had found Jim. On the next page were the dates that he had gotten calls and the dates he had gotten visits. Eight weeks exactly between calls, three days between the calls and the visits.
He took the pen from the spiral binding and copied down the things that had been taken from each body, then started a third page that said ‘2015’ and wrote the names of Mara Copeland and Kevin Duran.
He pulled up the calendar on his phone and gave up before he figured out the exact date he would have to expect his next phone call, but it would be sometime in July. At least, he thought with no real enthusiasm, he knew he would not have to do this on his birthday; on June fifteenth, he would be free to get his first legal drink, instead of debating between murder and mutilation.
Zhané seemed to think something could be done about this, and in the summer of 2011, he had thought that, too, but that was when they had thought it was some perv killing girls.
He turned the page again and jotted down all the types of go-bump-in-the-night creatures he could think of that might be responsible, though he didn’t really believe any of these monsters were the right kind of monster. At the bottom of his list he added, ‘or something else idfk’ and added some question marks. Beneath that he drew a very rudimentary sketch of the things that had come, which given that they were nothing more than dark and humanoid shapes to him, came out fairly accurate.
He dropped the pen on the page and took off his glasses and, like an idiot, dropped them onto his lap, then gasped in pain, momentarily seizing up, unable to breathe or think. After that, he gobbled a handful of pills and wondered how hard it would be to find a drug dealer. He reread the label on the bottle, wondering if his liver could handle this.
He microwaved a shelf-stable meal that tasted significantly better than he had hoped for and then lay down, his glasses next to his phone. He didn’t sleep but didn’t feel very awake either; he was not quite content to lie and do nothing, but he had nothing else to do. He did not have friends anymore and did not want to talk to his family, which was to say, his parents. He did not have any siblings or close cousins.
He was entirely alone in this world, or at least it felt that way.
You reap what you sow, his father always said that. David had sown nothing. The closest human contact he’d had was with the orderlies he’d screwed around with, a few patients and with his psychiatrist. Though, as his time at Mansfield Behavioral Health Center had stretched from months to years, he had begun to assume that his therapist must have graduated with a shitty GPA to work in such a place. Sure, he’d gotten David on meds that worked and talked out a couple things with him, but all in all, David did not feel that he had reaped the benefits of going to counseling.
It wasn’t that he thought therapy was a crock. He had respect for people who could do it well, but Mansfield Behavioral Health Center had been a small place tucked away in a rural town. Some of the patients had been frequent fliers, coming in and out with their nervous breakdowns and substance abuse; others had been harmless and sweet, but unable to care for themselves. He had met a handful of attempted suicides who wanted nothing more than to be at peace, he’d made friends with a lifer named Harley whose sister had left her there once she’d gotten married.
It had been Harley who’d pushed him to get out, Harley who had squeezed his hand and said, “Don’t let them make you useless, David.”
“I’m not useless,” he’d said, offended.
“No, but you will be if you spend much more time in here. And if you can’t take care of yourself when you get out, you’ll find yourself right back here,” she’d said. “I’m fifty-four and I had five months on my own.”
“Oh, David, it was wonderful,” she said, “And terrifying. Suddenly, everything that had been done for me I had to do on my own. No one showed me how, no one checked in until I had to go crawling back home at thirty-six.”
He had thought of the weekly laundry collections, the food he’d never had to cook served on plastic trays, he thought of the janitors that kept things neat for him. And he’d thought of the bedtimes and snack limits, the rules about how patients could spend their time together, the need for chaperones.
“Children,” he’d said to her, a moment of clarity coming over him. “We’ll always be children.”
“Because it’s easier to pay someone to do it than to teach,” she’d confirmed. “Get out while you can, okay? You’re a healthy young man, David, you should have a life.”
Freedom hadn’t worked out so well for him, though. He’d killed someone. He’d killed a human garbage heap, but still, he shouldn’t have done it. And he should have felt worse about it. He would not do it again, that much he knew; he didn’t have it in him to be some vigilante who struck down abusers and rapists, nor could he ever take the life of someone like Zhané.
What a rotten situation to be in, he thought again. He did not want to live like this any longer. Maybe he could kill himself. Maybe he could turn himself in and go to jail. The things had not come for him at Mansfield, maybe they wouldn’t come for him in prison.
He didn’t know what to do, but he did know that lying here on this musty bed was not the answer. He put on his glasses, made himself get up and shoved his phone and keys in his pocket. He did not bother with his wallet, as he had nothing in it.
Review Quotes for Previous Dan Ackerman Books
“Quite the charming gem… I obviously loved the endearing vulnerable character that is Kato.” – Boy Meets Boy on That Doesn’t Belong Here
“This book was unbelievable. It had such an amazingly well-executed premise and just the concept of this book had me so hooked… the author tops it off with some amazing characters, perfect in their imperfections.” – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words on That Doesn’t Belong Here
“If you are looking for something a bit anomalous or sui generis then this is the book to read. While this was put forward to me as a GLBT M/M Romance it is much more and far more and away from any kind of that sort of book I’ve ever read.” – William Bitner Jr. on What Everyone Deserves
“I was too engrossed in the story to highlight or note anything other than the brilliant pieces of dialogue that made me melt. Because that’s what this book did. I came in a little nervous, unsure of what I’d get, but with a whole lot of expectations. The story made it all pointless. There was nothing to be nervous about. And my expectations? Blown away! It was absolutely nothing like I’d thought and everything I didn’t realise I’d wanted.” – Divine Magazine on What Everyone Deserves
Dan is a writer and educator who has lived in or around Wolcott, Connecticut for their entire life. They received their BSED from CCSU in 2013 and has written their Master’s thesis on representation of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema.