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How To Be A Doppelganger: Nobody Knows My Name by Brandon Massey
Episode 519th April 2022 • NIGHTLIGHT: A Horror Fiction Podcast • Ransom Productions
00:00:00 00:35:39

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A man discovers a strange ability to convince people that he’s someone he’s not.

“Nobody Knows My Name” by Brandon Massey.

Buy Brandon’s latest book “No Stone Unturned”.

A transcript is available on the NIGHTLIGHT website.

Narrated by Carl Stewart.

Produced by Davis Walden of the Viridian Wild Podcast.

Executive Producer and Host: Tonia Ransom

*****

All episodes are brought to you by the NIGHTLIGHT Legion. Join us on Patreon for as little as $1 per month to help us produce more stories for you to enjoy.

******

Transcripts

Hi. I’m Tonia Ransom, creator and executive producer of NIGHTLIGHT, a horror podcast featuring creepy tales written and performed by Black creatives from all over the world.

This week, we have a tale reminiscent of The Twilight Zone episode “The Four of Us are Dying”.

But before we get to enchanting impersonizations and ancestral rage, I want to take a moment to say thanks to our newest patrons. Thanks to Ash, Alicia, John, soundguysgirl, Barbara, Dominique, Peter, and Anita. Thanks also to Heather, Asiyah, and Marcelina for increasing your contribution. NIGHTLIGHT will be produced year-round thanks to the NIGHTLIGHT Legion, and now, we’d love to bring you new episodes every single week. Just go to patreon.com/nightlightpod to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion and get a shoutout on the podcast. And don’t forget, NIGHTLIGHT merch is available and you can support us by sporting NIGHTLIGHT-branded gear. Just go to merch.nightlightpod.com to get your t-shirts, hoodies, notebooks and more!

Now sit back, turn out the lights, and enjoy “Nobody Knows My Name”, written by Brandon Massey, narrated by Carl Stewart.

****

When Trey Freeman stepped out the back door of his house that Wednesday evening to take out the trash, four policemen greeted him with guns drawn.

“Put your goddamn hands up!” one of them barked.

Trey lost his grip on the garbage bag’s handle. The bag slumped to the patio and spread across his feet, its pungent contents trickling across his house shoes.

But he put his hands up as if reaching for the twilight sky. He was a forty-year-old Black man in America and knew the fatal consequences of disobedience to law enforcement.

ick by racists as recently as:

Trey’s family had lived and owned property in Forsyth, been driven out of Forsyth by armed mobs, and with his return three years ago, had come back to reestablish roots.

The cops surrounding him were white men, between the ages of twenty-five and fifty. Had any of their ancestors once driven his family off their land to claim it for themselves?

“I live here,” he said. “What’s this all about, officers?”

“Shut up!” the shortest one ordered. With his boulder-sized head, pug nose, and stout build, he reminded Trey of a bulldog dressed in a cop’s uniform. Approaching the patio, he leveled a shotgun at Trey. “Get down on your knees, goddammit!”

Trey dropped to his knees on the patio. He placed his hands on his head, too.

He had never been convicted of a crime in his life, but police had rousted him several times, starting when he was thirteen. Back then, local cops had cornered him like wolves, charging that he had stolen his own bicycle from someone’s backyard. He knew the drill.

Don’t argue, do everything they tell you to do. And don’t admit to anything.

“Am I being charged with a crime?” he asked.

“You thought you could get away with it, huh?” Bulldog Cop said. “You fuckin’ piece of shit.”

As always, another case of mistaken identity, Trey thought. Why do they think all Black men look alike?

“Get away with what?” Trey asked.

“Lights out, motherfucker.”

Bulldog Cop slammed the shotgun against Trey’s head.

***

Dropping violently into unconsciousness was like dying.

As the explosion thundered through Trey’s brain, darkness fell over him. But the blackout lasted only briefly. In a flash, he jerked awake and saw a white light somewhere far ahead, as if at the end of a long corridor.

The light at the end, he thought. It’s over.

Then he sensed an ethereal presence near him, translucent as a silver veil. An angel welcoming him to the afterlife?

But the entity looked like his great-great-grandfather, William Freeman. Trey recognized him from an old photo; he and his ancestor looked like brothers.

With a sad smile, William extended his index finger toward Trey. His finger looked as if it had been broken a couple of times, but the tip glowed like a white-hot ember. Trey tried to pull away and found he couldn’t move.

His ancestor’s finger touched his head, above his right eye, with a sensation that felt like a torch searing his flesh.

Trey screamed.

And snapped back.

***

He awoke in the back seat of a police cruiser.

He recognized the metal screen dividing the seats; the crackle of garbled voices on the radio; the squarish head of the officer behind the wheel; the odor of stale coffee.

Trey’s hands were locked in restraints and bunched behind him in the small of his back. His head ached; he had a knot on his forehead from where the cop had struck him.

The strange vision of his great-great-grandfather touching him in that same spot with a hot finger passed like smoke through Trey’s mind, but he dismissed it. It was only his rattled brain serving up a dose of craziness.

His real problem: how was he going to get out of this mess with the cops?

The police car was parked in front of his house, along with two other cruisers. Their light bars swirled, painting the evening in bright colors. Nosy neighbors were out looking, and he wondered which of them had called the cops on him.

Lisa, his wife of eleven years—who happened to be a white woman—was in their driveway standing beside their BMW X5 while three other officers questioned her, including the one who had knocked out Trey. Lisa must have come home while he’d been unconscious, as she was still dressed in her work clothes. She kept pulling her hand through her hair and shaking her head.

“Can I talk to my wife, please?” Trey asked. “She needs to know this is just a misunderstanding.”

“Oh, you’re awake now, huh?” the cop behind the wheel said. He looked over his shoulder at Trey. His narrow green eyes were like a reptile’s.

“Whatever you think I did, I didn’t do,” Trey said. “I’ve never committed a crime in my life. Ever.”

“We’ve had reports of several home invasions in this area,” the cop said. “You fit the description of the suspect, sir.”

Trey knew he ought to stop talking. Lisa was an attorney, for God’s sake; Trey was a director at a fintech company. They would hire a lawyer, and a damned good one, to get him out of this predicament. He had done nothing wrong.

But he couldn’t let the cop’s remark pass.

“I fit the description?” Trey asked. “Normally, people say I’m a dead ringer for Jamie Foxx.”

“Are you?” The cop shifted in his seat to get a better look at Trey.

Trey winced—the bruise on his head throbbed more intensely. As the pain hammered him, he tossed off a thoughtless response.

“Yeah, man. I’m Jamie Foxx.”

He had expected a scornful reply, but the officer flinched as if cold water had been tossed in his face. “Well, shit. Be right back, Mr. Foxx.”

Trey blinked. Did he call me,“Mr. Foxx”?

With haste, the cop got out of the car. Hitching up his belt, he hurried to the driveway to confer with the other officers.

Shit, I’m in real trouble now. Obviously, the cop knows I’m lying. They’re about to book me for sure.

He couldn’t hear what any of them were saying, but he noticed the bewilderment on his wife’s face. She shook her head again.

In lockstep, the four officers approached the cruiser. Bulldog Cop opened Trey’s door and peered inside. He scrutinized Trey.

“Am I free to go?” Trey asked.

“You’re Jamie Foxx?” the cop asked.

The knot on Trey’s head pulsed. The pain was so sharp he winced.

“Jesus,” Trey mumbled. “You guys are kidding, right? You know who I am.”

“This has all been a misunderstanding, Mr. Foxx.” Bulldog Cop offered his hand. “Of course, you’re free to go.”

Stupefied, Trey let the officers help him out of the vehicle. They removed the restraints. Lisa came into his arms and hugged him tight, tears trickling down her cheeks. The policemen apologized, repeatedly, and offered to call an ambulance so paramedics could attend to Trey’s head injury, but he declined the offer.

“I want to go inside and enjoy the evening with my wife,” Trey said. “Let’s forget this whole thing.”

“Certainly, Mr. Foxx,” Bulldog Cop said. “Again, our deepest apologies for this mistake. Loved your work in Ray.”

Lisa stood beside Trey in the driveway and watched the police cruisers roll out of their neighborhood.

“What the hell just happened?” Lisa asked.

Trey touched the bruise on his temple. It tingled.

“No idea, babe.”

***

That night, Trey dreamed about his great-great-granddad, William Freeman. They sat together in rocking chairs on the porch of a stately home. The residence stood on a vast spread of land, abundant with lush grass and summer flowers.

My forty acres, William said in a mournful tone threaded with anger. He gestured with a big hand gnarled by years of manual labor. Was gonna be your forty acres till those thievin’ crackers took it.

Did you ever try to get it back? Trey asked.

William turned toward him, squinting. The right side of his face looked like a leather baseball mitt left outdoors to wither in the sun. Trey felt a lump in his throat and remembered the story of how his ancestor’s home had been set afire—clearly, William hadn’t escaped the blaze without injury.

William raised his long, crooked finger. His fingernail glowed like a simmering cigarette.

Although several feet separated them, William’s finger poked against his forehead, and his touch scorched Trey’s skin, drawing a cry from him.

Why haven’t you? William asked.

Trey burst awake with the yelp on his lips. His head pounded, too, despite his ingesting a prescription-strength painkiller before bed.

Usually, Trey never remembered his dreams, but his memory of this one was so poignant he could recall the sweet scent of the grass on his ancestor’s land.

He shuffled to the bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror, he peeled away the bandage he had wrapped around his head.

It was still tender to the touch, and it looked gruesome—purple and shiny. Lisa had wanted to take him to an urgent care clinic. Trey preferred to pop pain pills and suffer through it.

He still couldn’t grasp what had happened with those cops. The experience felt like something out of a Black Mirror episode.

But his ancestor’s question haunted him.

Why haven’t you?

And Trey understood what he meant: why haven’t you recovered our property?

It took him a long time to get back to sleep.

***

Every time Trey commuted to his job, he passed the land that had been stolen from his family.

Until:

Some time not long after, a new, white resident moved in, paid the property taxes, and assumed “legal” ownership.

Currently, a luxury subdivision occupied the land, with an outrageously offensive name: Plantation Preserve. The twenty custom-designed residences, each standing on at least an acre, were priced from a million dollars and up.

Whenever Trey drove past the entrance, he felt his gut coil. Probably, he should have found a different route to the office, avoided triggering the painful emotions, but it seemed important to remember the injustice that had been visited on his people.

The name of the developer was Heritage Hill Homes. The company founder was an old white dude named Hiram Hill.

Trey had researched Hiram Hill. He was the patriarch of a clan with deep roots in Forsyth County. His real estate company had multiple holdings throughout the county, but Plantation Preserve was the crown jewel in his portfolio.

In fact, Hill lived in the neighborhood himself.

But Trey couldn’t even enter the damned subdivision. A guard booth stood outside the gate, manned by a private security force.

Why haven’t you?

Pain rippled across Trey’s head. Wincing, he muttered to himself and kept driving.

***

Trey was one of only a handful of Black men who worked at Blue Sky Payment Systems. None of them looked remotely alike, but when Trey left his office later that morning to visit the men’s room, someone behind him called out: “Hey, Devante.”

Trey knew Devante, vaguely. Devante worked in a different department, was ten years younger, three inches shorter, and about forty pounds heavier than Trey. And probably two shades darker.

But this had happened before to Trey. He’d probably been mistaken at least once for every Black man in the company, and he was certain it had happened to those brothers as well.

The bruise on his head throbbed as he turned around. A scruffy-looking white man swaggered toward him.

“How ‘bout those dirty birds, bro?” the guy asked. “You think they’re gonna get it done tonight? My money’s on the Packers.”

I’m not, Devante, asshole, Trey almost responded. Get your brothers straight.

But the incident with the cops last night was uppermost in his thoughts.

“What did you call me?” Trey asked. “You called me Devante? That’s my name, isn’t it? Devante.”

“Uh, yeah.” The man squinted at Trey as he drew closer. “What’s up with you, bro?”

This guy’s looking me right in the face and still doesn’t realize I’m not his friend. How the hell is that possible?

“How long have we known each other?” Trey asked.

“We were hired in here together.” The man scratched his chin. “Like, two years. What’s up with all the weird questions, bro? You all right?”

Trey felt dizzy. “Yeah, man. I’m all right.”

“Before I forget.” The guy slipped a twenty-dollar bill out of his wallet. “Thanks for spotting me that twenty last week. I know you’re not a Cash app kinda dude, so here you go.”

Trey took the offered bill. It felt like stealing.

“Go Packers.” Whistling, the guy wandered away down the corridor.

Trey headed into the washroom. His head ached worse than ever.

Bending in front of the mirror, he pulled away the bandage and examined the bruise. It was a deep shade of purple and throbbed like a malignant heart.

***

“It’s like a Jedi mind trick,” Trey told Lisa that night at home. He gulped a slug of beer. “I’m fuckin’ Luke Skywalker.”

Standing at the granite-topped island in their kitchen, Lisa sipped her chardonnay, gave Trey a skeptical gaze.

“This isn’t a movie, babe,” she said. “But I admit, that was a seriously bizarre thing that happened with those police officers last night.”

“I know how crazy it sounds,” Trey said. “But I’ve been experimenting with it all day. After lunch, I took the rest of the day off and explored.”

“You ditched work?” A frown creased her brow.

“Had to do it after a total stranger in the office gave me twenty bucks ‘cause he thought I was another brother,” Trey said. “I did some random stuff.”

“Like?”

“Went to Taco Mac and told the bartender I was Tiger Woods.” Trey slid his iPhone across the counter toward her. “Dude insisted on taking a photo with me. I snapped one with my phone, too.”

“You don’t look anything remotely like Tiger Woods.” Lisa stared at the pic on the screen. “This is insane.”

“Tell me about it, but here’s the kicker: my Jedi mind trick works only on white people.”

“Oh, come on.” Lisa laughed. “It wouldn’t work on me.”

“In the Star Wars movies, the Jedi mind trick works only on the weak-minded,” Trey said. “I found I can pull off my trick on a certain type of white person.”

“I can’t believe we’re having this discussion,” Lisa said, swirling wine in her glass. “But, hey, I’ll play along. What kind of white person does your mind trick work on?”

“It doesn’t work on you because you’re culturally aware,” he said. “You’re married to a Black man, you’ve acknowledged and empathized with the special brand of hell that America visits on Black folks, you’ve studied our history. You see me, not a . . . I guess you could call it, a projection.”

Lisa studied him, sipped her wine.

“A white person lacking empathy is susceptible to your mind trick, then,” she said. “Like my cousin, Nick.”

Nick was a vile second cousin of hers, a shamelessly proud good ole boy who drove a battered Ford F-150 with a Confederate flag plastered to the rear bumper.

“Someone like Nick, yeah,” Trey said. “Also, it doesn’t work if the person actually knows who I am, if I have a personal relationship with them. For example, I tried it with my boss before I left work and he laughed at me.”

“I still can’t believe this,” she said. “I think you’re running into people suffering from some kind of sick delusion. It’s got to be a coincidence.”

“Like those four cops who let me go because they believed I was Jamie Foxx?”

“Well, it makes me uncomfortable.” Lisa threaded her fingers through her hair. “Whatever’s going on, I want you to be careful, Mr. Jedi Knight. Don’t tempt fate.”

“I don’t think fate has anything to do with it,” Trey said, thinking about his great-great-granddad. “But I’ll be careful.”

***

That night, Trey dreamed of his ancestor again. In the depths of twilight, he and William Freeman rode horses, galloping through tall grass.

Behind them, the family house was ablaze, smoke mushrooming through the night. Hooded men clustered around the burning home like pagans at a bonfire, their torches held aloft. Their derisive laughter echoed across the property.

See what they did, son? William asked as they drew their horses to a halt at a safe distance. Figments of foul smoke reached them, penetrated Trey’s nostrils. William pointed at Trey, the tip of his finger flaring like a hot coal. What you gonna do?

When Trey snapped out of the dream, he could still taste the smoke.

He coughed, got out of bed. Huddling in front of the bathroom mirror, he peeled the bandage off his head.

The wound had begun to heal. For some instinctual reason that Trey couldn’t put into words, the prospect of the healing made him anxious.

What you gonna do?

He felt as if time was running out.

Time running out to do what, man?

For the briefest instant, he didn’t see himself reflected in that mirror—he saw William Freeman. Pointing that crooked, burning finger at him. Demanding action.

Trey returned to the bedroom. It was a few minutes past two o’clock in the morning. Lisa was deep in slumber, buried under the sheets. Instead of getting back in bed, Trey got dressed.

***

It was the middle of the night, but there was a guard on duty at the Plantation Preserve gates.

Driving his BMW X5, Trey crept toward the well-lit entrance. He wasn’t sure the luxury SUV would be a sufficient sign of privilege to grant him access to the neighborhood. He needed something more.

He needed magic.

His heart pounding, he slowed as he drew parallel with the guard booth. He lowered his window.

The uniformed guard peered at him. He was a middle-aged white guy with a sizable paunch and the suspicious demeanor of a former cop. Trey saw a firearm riding his hip.

“Are you a visitor?” the guard asked.

Trey’s head pulsed. “I’m Wesley Snipes.”

The guard’s eyebrows arched—and Trey thought, oh, shit, busted. This isn’t gonna work.

Then a broad grin spread across the man’s ruddy face.

“Holy crap, I thought you looked familiar!” the guard said. “Oh, wow. I tell you, mister, late nights, you never know who you might see on a gig like this.”

Trey smiled. “I just got in town from L.A. I know it’s late, but a dear friend of mine invited me to drop in, no matter the hour.”

“Certainly, Mr. Snipes,” the guard said. “Who’re you here to see?”

“Hiram Hill.”

***

Hiram Hill lived in the biggest house in the neighborhood. Lights glowed in wrought-iron lanterns spaced along the wide driveway and flagstone walkway. Adjacent to the property, Trey saw a small lake, the surface shimmering in the moonlight.

He had parked around the corner, in the parking lot of the community clubhouse. He’d walked from his vehicle to Hiram’s place, keeping to the pools of darkness away from the streetlights.

He wore a black hoodie, black sweats, black sneakers. A backpack strapped to his shoulders held his gear.

Ever since he decided to leave the house, he had pondered how he would play this situation. He concluded that with his window of opportunity closing, the direct approach was the only way.

He rang the doorbell.

Hiram Hill, the great man himself, answered the door. Trey recognized him from a photo on his company’s website. He was a tall, broad-shouldered guy in his sixties, with a lantern jaw, a mane of white hair, and hooded blue eyes.

Despite the hour, Hill wasn’t dressed for bed. He wore a white shirt with the sleeves peeled back to reveal sinewy forearms, jeans, and black cowboy boots. In one hand, he held a rocks glass that looked to contain a couple fingers of Scotch; his other hand rested in his pocket.

“The name’s Freeman,” Trey said. He hadn’t intended to use his real name, but here, facing this man at last, his mind slipped, and the name rolled off his tongue. “I’m—”

“I know who you are, boy,” Hill said. He spoke in a syrupy Southern drawl. He pulled his hand out of his pocket and showed Trey what he had been holding: a .357 Magnum.

Fuck, Trey thought. I’m screwed.

Hill pointed the gun’s muzzle at Trey’s stomach.

“Get in here, or I’ll gut shoot you right here on my stoop and dump you in my pond over there.”

Trey froze.

Hill took a step backward, and, with a wave of the gun, directed Trey inside.

***

Trey hadn’t been sure how this confrontation would go, but he never imagined this outcome.

Holding him at gunpoint, Hill herded him into an immense parlor dominated by a stone fireplace large enough to roast a hog. A fire leapt and spat in its depths, feasting on wood planks. The heat made the sweat sizzle on Trey’s face.

Hill ordered Trey to empty the contents of his backpack onto a coffee table: zip ties, duct tape, a lighter, a bottle of lighter fluid, a hunting knife. He relinquished his cell phone, too.

Trey also had stowed a gun in the bag, a Glock 9mm he only ever fired at the range, but he hadn’t expected to use it. Hill commanded him to toss the pistol onto the floor and kick it toward him; it clattered across the polished hardwood.

“Sit, boy.” Hill slurped his whisky.

Knees trembling, Trey perched on the edge of an armchair. Hill remained on his feet.

Trey looked across the room; he saw a spiral staircase outside the parlor, twisting up into shadows.

“No one’s going to hear you and come to help,” Hill said. “My wife, Judy, is doped out of her mind—it’s the only way she can sleep. I can do whatever I want, and no one will be the wiser.”

“People know where I am,” Trey lied.

“A blatant fabrication: no one who cares about you would let you do something so idiotic.” Hill sneered. “My Grandpa Charlie told me one of you people would someday come back for retribution, or reparations, as you people call it. I owe you nothing, and I don’t apologize for what my ancestors did to yours. Those darkies had forgotten their place and needed to be reminded who was in charge.”

“They stole my family’s land,” Trey said. “It needs to be put right.”

“How did you get in here, anyway?” Hill scowled. “My guard is allowing monkeys through the gate, now? This is a whites-only community. Did you bribe him?”

“I told him I was Wesley Snipes,” Trey said. “He believed me.”

Hill laughed. “Christ Almighty, he fell for that foolishness? I’ve got to fire that fat cocksucker.”

“Would you believe me if I told you I was Michael Jordan?” Trey asked.

Trey’s head throbbed, faintly, and he expected the mind trick might work again, but Hill’s eyes shrank to blue darts.

“It doesn’t matter to me who you are, boy,” Hill said, “because I know what you are—your people are the cast-off sawdust from God’s worktable. Grandpa Charlie taught me how to deal with your kind. Now, get on your knees.”

With his revolver, Hill pointed at a spot near the roaring fireplace.

It didn’t require much imagination for Trey to realize what would happen if he obeyed Hill.

What you gonna do?

“No.” Trey shook his head. “You can kiss my black ass. You’ll have to shoot me first.”

Face reddening, Hill drained his whisky and set the empty glass on an end table. He raised the revolver, training it on Trey’s head. He took a step closer. Trey could smell the alcohol on his hot breath.

“You’re trespassing on a white man’s property,” Hill said, his words slurred. “I could put you down right here like a rabid coon and make up any story I wanted, and my trusted friends in law enforcement would back me up.”

“I want you to return my family’s land,” Trey said. “I want the deed. You’re going to either kill me in cold blood, or give me the deed.”

“You’ve got to be the craziest nigger I’ve ever met in my life, I’ll never—”

Trey launched off the chair, swinging his arms to deflect Hill’s aim. He was counting on Hill, by then deep in his cups, experiencing a delayed reaction to Trey’s surprise attack.

It worked.

Hill fired, but the round hit somewhere far to Trey’s left; Trey heard bricks crumbling to the floor. He drove his fist into Hill’s solar plexus. The older man expelled a whuff of air and sank to his knees. He gasped, face flushed crimson.

Hill had dropped the gun, too.

As Hill slumped forward on all fours, wheezing, Trey gathered Hill’s firearm, and retrieved his Glock. Then he seized Hill by the collar and dragged him closer to the fireplace. The older man tried to grab Trey’s legs. Trey kicked him in the head.

Moaning, Hill collapsed to the floor. Trey got on his back and secured Hill’s hands behind him with the zip ties.

“I played the hand I was dealt,” Hill said, face mashed against the hardwood. “You’d have done the same if you could, you goddamn ape.”

Trey pressed a strip of duct tape across Hill’s mouth.

Blood bubbling in his nostrils, Hill lay on the floor of his mansion and glowered at Trey with undistilled hatred.

But whatever emotion Hill harbored was no match for the fury that tore through Trey: the righteous rage of every member of his family over hundreds of years, channeled into a single combustible dose and sizzling like octane through his blood. He was a peaceful man, had never committed a violent act in his life.

But he was ready to visit some ancestral rage on this racist motherfucker.

“You sons of bitches like fire, huh?” Trey grabbed the iron poker from the stand beside the fireplace, opened the grate, and thrust the rod into the hungry flames. His heart knocked as the metal began to glow. “I kinda like it, too.”

Hill tried to roll away as Trey approached, but he was much too slow.

Trey slid the poker into Hill’s left ear.

Hill let out a garbled scream, his face swelling like a giant blister. His boots scraped against the hardwood, leaving scuff marks. As his skin smoked, blood and fluids trickled from his ear canal and seeped onto the floor.

Trey bent to whisper into Hill’s right ear. It was the only good one he had, now.

“The deed,” Trey said. “Or, you know what? Any prime plot of forty acres will do fine, can you dig it?”

Face greasy with sweat, Hill shook his head, gaze defiant. Trey stepped back to the fireplace and refreshed the poker in the flames.

As Trey waited in the shifting waves of heat, he glimpsed what could be only a mirage: William Freeman and a crowd of other people like him gathered in the parlor, watching with great anticipation.

When Trey edged away from the fire, the vision faded, but he felt his ancestors’ attention on him, urging him forward.

He laid the glowing poker against Hill’s throat. Hill bucked and twisted.

“The longer you hold out, the more demands I make.” Trey picked up his iPhone. “Right now, not only do I demand my forty acres—I want a confession from you, on video, of how your ancestors stole from families like mine, and how you’ve knowingly profited from that land for generations.”

Hill said something, his words muffled by the tape, but to Trey, it sounded like a distinct: fuck you, nigger.

“Guess you need to be reminded who’s in charge.” Trey returned to the flames.

When he came back to Hill, the man was trying to scoot away.

Trey lowered the poker to Hill’s crotch.

And let it burn.

***

About an hour later, deed for new land in hand and a video recorded on his phone, Trey headed to the front door. When he heard footsteps creeping down the staircase, he paused.

Judy, the wife. He almost laughed. She sleeps through that horror show and wakes up when it’s all over?

He thought of running, but that would have looked like guilty behavior. Any Black man in America knew that running of any kind, including jogging in your own neighborhood, put you at risk of detainment by law enforcement.

As the elderly wife shuffled toward him in her nightgown, looking comically zombielike—Hill had said she was zonked out on meds, after all—Trey turned on his Benevolent Black Man Smile.

“Hello, ma’am,” Trey said.

“Who the heck are you?” She blinked, as if she believed she might still be slumbering in a drug-induced dream.

Trey’s bruise throbbed, a fading, but perceptible pulse.

“I’m whoever you think I am,” he said.

“You favor that, uh . . . I think he’s a singer . . . uh . . . I think.” She snapped her fingers. “Marvin Gaye? Are you fellas related?”

“Aren’t we all?” Trey said.

Humming the melody from an old school tune, he let himself out of the house.

****

Brandon just had a book come out earlier this year called No Stone Unturned. Be sure to check out the link in the show notes.

Thanks again to our patrons for supporting this podcast. Because of your support, listeners around the world get creepy tales in their ears every other week. If you want new stories every week, the only way for that to happen is to join the NIGHTLIGHT Legion by going to patreon.com/nightlightpod and supporting this podcast. You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal at PayPal.me/NightlightPodcast. If you’re unable to support us financially, word of mouth is the next best way to help. Give us a shoutout online on Twitter or Instagram @nightlightpod, or like us on Facebook @nightlightpod. Reviews are also a huge help, so be sure to leave a few kind words on your podcast platform of choice.

Audio production for this episode by Davis Walden of the Viridian Wild podcast.

And to thank you for listening until the very end, we have a creepy fact for you.

as shot to death by police in:

We’ll be back in 2 weeks with a brand new story.

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