there’s an itchy desperation making us all edgy. we rock on the balls of feet with cold sweats breaking out. we live vicariously and we are in need. there’s a pause – he’s taunting us, drawing it out, making sure we will remember how much this pause this suspension this wait hurts. then, furry head and mane dip below silk covers, muzzling white throat. blood spurts and we relax, laughing. a white figure writhes. the wolf head rises brown and grey, thick red teeth licked by a lolling red tongue. we slip into the dark free until the next moon.
A sliver moon like a thin scar rises against the black. Dry wind sits in the tree heads, soughing. Tall grasses brush my legs as I pass from the field into the trees. A thing moves in the darkness then I am alone. After some time I reach an opening where a bare rock sits. Wind quietens, I place the bounty on the rock. Ichor seeps. I wait. Eventually the goat appears; a large barrelled billy, slitted eyes knuckled horns. He approaches the bounty and sniffs. Head rises and teeth are bared in grin. “What do you want this for?” I ask. The goat shakes his head mirthlessly. “It’s a secret,” he replies. “A wonderful secret.”
I take a book randomly from the shelves and open it. Oh look it says you are a miserable bastard who’d have thought it. You return the favor and it says I’m a shit. a fun game. i spit on the next book and look at you out the corner of my eye, smiling. you frown, piss all over the next book. i don’t understand why you’d do that it seems so unnecessary. fuck you. i grab a book and tear it in half. this disturbs you so you set fire to the next volume. i cut the lights while a centipede wriggles up my arm. see you soon.
Grey men in straight armed suits march down the road, all in single file. They are bone thin, faceless, each walking in the isolation of a lone death. They enter a steel grey building with yawning entrance, each disappearing slowly and definitely from sight. A thin stovepipe juts from the very top of the building, letting out a steady stream of smoke. Slightly greasy. At 5pm the smoke stops and the men exit the building in single file. They are lesser somehow, thinner, as though some small part of them has been consumed and will not be given back.
staggering through the graveyard at night we looked for the one grave. after a few hours someone called out a single sharp sound and we clustered round. it was found. we rocked it back and forth until the stone colossus toppled to the ground. one hand broke off but that was okay. i asked for the tent peg and the hammer, and once they were found i handed them to her. as she drove the peg in with the first hammer blow the pain flowed in my thighs but when the stone temple poured blood all potential was gone.
Cutting one wrist he moved between book shelves, found a book on the female nude, opened the cover, bled onto it. After a few minutes he closed the cover and left. Walking through the nearby park he stopped and bled into a fountain. A small boy stared, bit the head off a cockroach he was holding, and held out the body to the man. The man shook his head, waved the bleeding wrist as explanation, and walked off. Later, as he sat dying on a park bench in the sun, the small boy approached and sat beside him. The sun shone down. They felt good.
The daily tedium. The effort of getting up early. Getting ready. Not having time to eat slowly and savor every bite. Out on the road by 9am and in the traffic. Pedestrians kids girls in short skirts dogs bicycles all day the situational awareness required drains a man. I think smoke drink coffee drive watch the girls. It is difficult this life this long life is difficult. No one appreciates the daily challenge. And hardly ever do you see the one. It takes time. And practice. But luck also. Goddammit I see her but she has slipped through the crowd and there’s nowhere to park the moment is lost the electric fades I keep driving driving
He sits in his labyrinth, colossal muscles still in the half light. His broad head turns. He gazes down a stone hallway and wonders if someone will come to visit. He crosses his hooves on the table before him, stares at powerful forearms, watches light glint on gold bracers. Eyes drop to stone floor. He sighs. Hours pass and shadows lengthen and he waits, quietly.
In the night there is the surprise of fire and bright metal, shouts then screams, he is bellowing and blood spills. He stares at the dead and wonders which could have been a friend.
“This is the new student children. Let’s make her feel welcome.” I finished tying the straps around her bony wrists and stood. “Say hello, class.” Their voices rang out in chorus: “Welcome to our class. We are sure you’ll like it here.” I walked to the blackboard and turned, surveyed the ranks of eager faces. The new girl was not sitting correctly. “Please wait class, while I make an adjustment.” I went to her desk, grabbed her skull, and jerked it quickly to the side. I saw and heard the bones in her neck snap into an acceptable configuration. Perfect.
We put them on the galley and pushed it out to sea. After the sun set we saw no sign of the ship and thought the deed done.
In the morning the galley sat offshore against the wind, becalmed in the shallows. We rowed out, attached, and pulled her into deep water. Small hands waved over the gunwales. We set her adrift, returned to shore, and by midnight she was gone.
In the morning the galley sat offshore, gentled in the rise and fall. We rowed out and bored holes below water line. We didn’t wait and we never returned.
So what did he whisper in the night, sodden with alcohol, distracted by lust? Sweet nothings? A declaration of love? Or was it a statement of intent: grasping panting blood penetration? With you demure and pale beside the vein-ribbed muscles of his thighs. No chance.
But one. One moment to smile, be the coquette, pour more wine. Lips eyes promise passion submission. Finally, ragged breathing as sleep enters the pavilion. And you with your slender blade so skilful. A slit here, a drawing there. Then the maid carries your virtue (and the city) away, a weight in a wicker basket.
She climbs into the car, wasps struggling in her hair. The door closes and she stares ahead at the glovebox. I start the engine. She smells of urine and sweat and I can see the cuts on her hands and wrists. I roll the car forward and soon we are on the highway passing broken rocks and dead trees.
“What is your name?”
She half opens her mouth and a new wasp appears, crawls to the edge of her mouth, and shimmers on her ruby lower lip. The wasp is black and perfect. Blood sings.
He dialed 911, skeleton bones clacking. Waited. Someone answered. He explained where he was and what he needed. The person listened, bored, distracted. They weren’t impressed by his emergency, said a few words, hung up. He tapped at the phone like it were faulty, threw it on the sand. He looked about. Desert and a blue-white sky were the world. Overhead a black speck circled. It was joined. After some minutes they wheeled away. He lay his bones down on the hot ground and exhaled tiredly. Some sand spilled into his empty eye sockets. He considered calling again.
What we planted at the bottom of the garden will rise. And it will not live like living men. It may seem and move and breathe, but inside it will be hollow, an empty vessel filled only with loneliness regret and failed dreams. Having fed dark life into it we will have created a monster, and it will play its part well. Brother friend mentor lover. It will engage anger succor and breathe loamy cold into all it encounters. And at the end of its life we shall mourn, tip it back into earth, and wait for the next Spring.
A thunderhead, she looms. Round cupped breasts. A soft half shadow below the belly. Hints of shadow on the inner thighs. A handsome still face without recognizable emotion. Wide destructive wings spread out from narrow shoulders. And she draws the dead from the ground. They rise about her, tiny things beside her unknowable colossus. Jubilant lost despairing relieved. Slowly she lifts her face skyward in crushing silence. She raises her hands and everyone begins their ascent. Screaming laughing trembling calling. She shows no human emotion as she leaves, drawing the dead after in her wake.
I snaked the chain through the handles, slipped on the lock, threw it shut. Faces on the glass beating fists torn mouths silent shouts eye whites. A policeman came to me. Looked at the doors, chain, lock. Looked at me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked.
I slipped the stiletto point into the flesh under his jaw, tickled deep. Blood pumped in spastic bursts. I looked into his eyes as he looked into mine with that sense of mild surprise they all show. Gently, I took his face in my hand.
“What do you think I’m doing?”
Broken light through trees. Shadows and sunshine. Light breeze playing in the leaves. Overhead a plane rumbles distantly, and thin clouds break twist and tear silently. I lay your body in the leaves and straighten your limbs. The woods fall silent. I smell earth and wood and dried sun. Vines weave out of the earth, slide lightly over your body. Dark beetles make their home in your breast, deeply. I watch you crumble the smokeless burning of decay claiming you utterly while vines and beetles begin to wrap my feet in loving embrace.
Under cover of darkness I make the journey into the pines. I stand beneath you, silent and listening to the soughing of the wind in the trees. Above me you swing, a darker shape. Nothing happens for long minutes. I imagine you are here with me, that the warmth is in you. You speak and I run the back of my hand against your cheek. Of course, you are here, but you are not with me, and the warmth has leeched from your body. I turn and leave through shadow. Knowing you are still there, swinging in the breeze.
silence, frowns, fumbling with cutlery. a glass clinked. silence. i cleared my throat. glanced round. nearby, the machine sat in the corner, winking quietly to itself. i smiled. exuded calm and positivity. He coughed once, picked up His wine glass, drained it off, set it down. a little loudly. i smiled with bared teeth, tried to indicate everything was good. but it was not good. He spoke aramaic. i spoke english. the others german, french, greek. in the corner, the machine winked and whirred and none of us knew what the hell was going on.
We branded his left cheek. He squirmed, but remained controlled and did not cry. I turned to the class. “What do we call this?” “Being a team player.” “Right.” I looked at the bright, eager faces. “When we take the field tomorrow we are a team. No one lets the team down, no one shirks the team. We are one.” I picked up the hair clippers and switched them on. They buzzed angrily. I turned and looked at the young faces, the newly branded left cheeks. I raised the clippers. “Who’s first?”
Wasp. Notebooks were waved, pens thrown. It sipped some of my tea. I batted at it with a ruler and it surged into the air. Everyone fanned out around the office. It tried flying out an open window – a mandarin was perched nearby as a lure, they like the color orange – but as it was about four feet long (minus stinger) it couldn’t fit through. Someone grabbed a spray-can but the wasp was ready for that and smacked it out of their hands. Eventually it lumbered into the darkness under a desk, and slept. We returned to work, waiting.
We’re sorry, but the organization has changed and we don’t believe you fit any longer. It’s not that we’re unhappy with your work, it’s just that we are changing. I know it’s hard to hear, after you’ve put your heart into your job, it’s just the nature of things. We’ll give you excellent references, of course. Big J– on the East Side has openings at the moment. Needs knifemen. Seriously, some of his boys made 300G last year for just occasional killing. My wife’s sister’s husband works there as a bagman – I can put in the good word for you.
We hunted them, found them, took them back. They kept escaping. All day we headed out, found prints in dry earth, caught them crouched beneath rattling thorns. We were calm, silent, gentle. Walked back like dead men. No wind rattled bare trees. A white sun lost in a white sky. Eventually we decided to sedate them, complaining, lay them under slow fans, watch the growths turn blacker with passing hours. They died in front of us, each one. But we couldn’t let them die out there alone. No matter how much they wanted it we couldn’t have survived it.
We nailed the lid shut, dropped tools, shoved the crate into the water. Weight shifted inside. We moved deeper. There may have been a deliberate noise from within, but we did not stop. After a few minutes we cast the crate adrift into the middle of the moving water, and the weight shifted again threatened to roll steadied stayed upright. We stood and watched until it faded to grey. That night, around the fire, someone asked a question. Eyes stared unwaveringly at flames. Feet shifted. A log cracked. We tried not to think about the sound we couldn’t have heard.
We shot them at dawn. They had been fishing in the river, strong hands drawing bass with quick tugs of the rods. We watched them from the bushes; drew dry guns; caught hungry breath. When they were done they sat and smoked, feet dangling in water under the willows. The first shots took them, bullets through brow throat shoulder arm elbow. We rolled the bodies over, inspected clumsy wounds, took cigarettes matches shoes. When we had stolen what we could, we left. But only after I pushed the bodies into the water, keeping the bait happy.