Newman’s Shelter

Newman’s collection had grown over the years: reds, blacks, whites, yellows, browns; some more leathery than others or freckled. A few were even wrinkled.

Skin was his currency and there was a lot of goddamn money in it. He put two brats through college with his collection. Kept his withering bride docile, content.

As a contractor for a regenerative medicine firm, Newman had access to skin graft shipments going to and from the firm. Increasing the supply coming in meant putting skin and money in his back pocket. Then resell it, nobody’s the wiser.

But he liked to keep some. For his collection.

One morning, Troy, his son home from college, changed everything. The morning started out like any other. A few meaningless wake-up thrusts with his aging bride and a steaming shower.

Like every other morning, Newman then stood in front of his bathroom’s full-length mirror and turned to display his calves. Reddened scar tissue coated them, congealed to look like a parasitic organism using him as a host.

He grimaced his teeth and gritted through the usual memory of the two 7th grade hooligans that thought it’d be fucking hysterical to burn the hair off his calves. Instead, they melted off the skin.

Unlike many a burn victim, he denied the use of skin grafts. Much to his grandmother’s chagrin.

Troy and his other son, Broderick, growing up thought it made Newman look bad-ass. It was the ultimate trump card in the fervor over whose dad would win in the ultimate fight of dads everywhere.

And the friends were never shy about wanting to see his legs. He obliged because why not; stupid brats.

That morning, Newman went down to his nuclear fallout shelter, the archaic lifesaver from a bygone era, and the shelter he kept padlocked against the prying eyes of his children or bride.

She never asked, but Troy and Broderick would, occasionally. He’d assail their curiosity as invasive and tell them, maybe when they were older, he’d show them. With, of course, no intention of doing so.

As they got older, their curiosity compounded, but then they were off to college and Newman stopped worrying.

And that arrogance led to carelessness. He left the door to the nuclear fallout shelter open. Troy, back earlier than expected for the weekend, noticed as he slid out the taxi.

His young, wild-eyed curiosity reemerged and he went down the concrete steps to see what his dad had hidden from them for so long.

Troy didn’t know that his dad was a skin graft collector. He also didn’t know he sometimes killed to get the skin he couldn’t let go by. Skin to pure to let age and decay. Preservation meant everything.

Unfortunately for Troy, he also didn’t know his dad was willing to kill to conceal his secret. Even his own son.

After that, Newman added a skin he knew all too well to his collection.

Soon, his burned calves joined in the search for his missing son.

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