McGucket would never know what was it that had scared his child off.
He had been careful when approaching him, all gentle words and smiles, holding the memory erasing gun in the least threatening way possible. A game, that was all. They would play a game, and a flash of light would take away the memory of the bubbling lake and the giant head his son had been talking about.
Tate first, and then himself. They would both forget about anything in the lake that wasn't fish and the occasional log. Maybe they'd go fishing – hadn't he promised him they'd go fishing some point? Had he?
He couldn't remember.
But that wasn't important now, nothing was important but catching up with his boy. Maybe he had said something wrong, maybe the gun looked scarier than he had figured it would, and Tate had taken off running away from him, out of the house and through the woods, screaming his head off.
"Ma! Maaa! MAAAA!"
He had to reach him. He had to make him forget. Everything would be better once he just forgot.
"Tate! Come back!" he called out, his voice tight with sudden panic, because now he was not so sure he'd be able to catch up with him. Tate was only three, and of course he could usually outrun him, but McGucket was fresh out of a car accident, with a cast on his arm and one of his knees still swollen, and running was more difficult than it would normally be.
Since when did he have to chase him, anyway? Why was he running from him like he was one of the monsters that infested that godforsaken town? He didn't look too good those days, true, hair graying and thinning, but surely he couldn't look that scary.
Tate used to come running to him, didn't he? Call out for him, claim his attention by pulling at his sleeve? He believed he did, once.
He couldn't remember.
The boy's cry was cut short when he stumbled on a log and feel heavily on the forest ground. He kept shrieking, but he didn't try to get up and run off again: he held his bloody knee and kept screaming wordlessly while McGucket approached, trying to catch his breath, the gun still in his only usable hand.
Tate was crying in great, braying whoops, face deathly pale where it wasn't marred by red blotches. He looked up at him with eyes filled with tears through bangs of dark hair, and despite the twinge of pain – he shouldn't be afraid of him, he had no reason to be, he wanted to help, he would set things right – McGucket smiled at him as he limped closer.
"It's okay, Champ. You'll be fine. Let's just forget all about this, and then we'll go fishing," he said, and held up the memory erasing gun. "Just like befo–"
A sudden roar drowned out his last words, and Fiddleford McGucket felt something grabbing the back if his shirt one moment before he was flung through the air. His back hit something – a tree? – and the impact forced all air out of his lungs, leaving him stunned for a few moments. He fell face down on the ground, the memory erasing gun a few feet away from his hand.
A shadow fell over on, and McGucket looked up to see a woman towering over him, Tate sitting in the crook of her arm, face hidden against her shoulder. His… his wife? He couldn't remember very clearly, but he did have a wife and Tate just called her 'ma', therefore… therefore…
"That was the last straw," she all but growled. "I don't know what happened, but you refuse to tell me, you refuse to get help, and I've had it with you."
Her hair hid her eyes from sight, but the hard line her mouth was set in spoke volumes of how furious she had to be. But why? He wanted to help, he was going to help his son forget so that he could–
"I'll leave a box with your things on the porch. Find yourself a motel, a caravan, a tent, I don't care. But stay away from us. Stay away from Tate."
McGucket wasn't sure whether it was only his imagination or if the woman's voice had actually trembled for a moment, and he had no time to wonder: she walked past him without another word, taking Tate with her.
Tate. He must forget. He'll be all better if he forgets.
He managed to lift himself on his knees, ignoring the ache that now was everywhere, and reached out. His hand closed around the handle of the gun. He turned, lifted it… and stayed still, watching his wife's retreating back, his son's dark hair as he kept his face hidden against his mother's shoulder, not looking up to give him even one last look. He didn't want to look at him. He didn't want to see him.
I wish to unsee what I have seen.
Slowly, gaze still fixed on them, Fiddleford Hadron McGucket lowered the gun. When he finally looked down at it, his eyes were empty. He mechanically changed the memory erasing gun's settings, held it to his own temple, and pulled the trigger.
His family was too far away to see the resulting flash of light, too far away to catch the smell of burning hair.
Then again, they were better off just forgetting him.