Once Were the Fowls Full of Human

He came walking up, raving about bird sandwiches, about how he’d walked all this way because “the shiny-eyed fuckers” couldn’t tell one lake from another. They’d put him down all the way out in Boone county and he’d not a bite to eat all damn day.

We hadn’t see Teddy Two-Knuckles since he’d set up a “human versus one hundred mallards” night at J.J. Jolly J’s. They said he’d been approached by a couple of guys afterward with an extra dimension to their movement, sporting webbed shoes and gorgeous headdresses.

This wasn’t the sort of town where you went asking questions. Answers crawled from the sewers, fell from the sky like toilet ice. So we ask much explaining out of Teddy this time, even though he smelled as if he’d been sitting in pond scum smoking jet fuel. We let him in, of course, let him sit on a leaky wooden chair and offered him coffee and marijuana. He refused both.

“Bird sandwich. I need cannibalism right now. The only thing that will do.”

“But Teddy, you ain’t no bird.”

The cracks in his head formed from the inside. Instead of answering, he fused his mouth together with melted skin and let the pecking turn to quacking as his brain emerged beak first, wet with skull drippings.

“I ain’t I ain’t I ain’t,” proclaimed the newborn duckling as it fell to the ground by gently rolling down Teddy’s slumped corpse.

“Who ate all the bread?” came the question from the kitchen. The duckling watched as I drew my bread knife from its scabbard.

All of these questions in the air and none of the answers.

One day, however,

Jimmy sold salted worms at a day camp for children whose parents were too religious to put up with their shit all summer long. They stood there in knee-length, anti-sexual blue shorts (knees sweating and tempting the breeze to tickle them and confuse their loins) waiting for Jimmy to dig around in his dirty, plastic bag for his latest catch.

Every other time, he had taken a dozen or so night crawlers (big fuckers fit for a back road bait shop) and covered them in salt in order form a paste before molding them into some edifying shape. He brought out crosses and moons, pentacles and unicorns, holy virgins and sacrificial doves.

The adults knew. He knew they new. It didn’t stop him. And they never interrupted. There was an angel smiling through Jimmy’s eyes, they would say to each other, the kind of angel that knows things and takes blood for milk. So they let him play at his morbid sculpting, knowing that most of the children would be taken for imaginative liars when they returned from camp and told their parents.

One day, however, Jimmy dragged three bags from this cabin and set them on the big rock by the sewer.

“Hey, what are the other bags for?” asked Michael, a braggart and bully.

“Well, my brothers and sisters,” began Jimmy, “there is a poison in this land. It takes God’s creatures, great and small, and turns them against one another, tooth against flesh. And I deem to purge it. I have been foraging all summer for the ingredients to this sacred balm.”

“How ya gonna do that, weirdo? You can’t even kick a ball!” asked Sally, a complainer and snitch.

Jimmy held his hands in front of him, “It is not I that will anything.”

“Get on with it! Lunch is almost ready,” said Tom, a glutton and sadist.

Jimmy took two of the bags and up ended them. From out fell stones of various size and shapes. A few quart crystals blinked in the sun. Jimmy began to hum as he took the third bag in his hands. The piles of rocks at his side began to give off a heat so great that the front row of spectators were forced back by it. Jimmy continued to hum as he pulled from the final bag a worm the size of a tree branch, which wrapped around his arm with a sucking slurp. His humming turned to chanting, words none of the children knew, and the worm unfurled until it stood straight and towered over the screaming crowd. From its belly, a crevice began to unzip and out stepped Jimmy, now with blue skin and yellow eyes, with six arms all clutching knives, skulls, and satanic wands.

He stood for a moment, breathing in the humid summer air. And when he spoke, he said:

“See? Don’t you feel better now?”

Indeed they did not.


Veins like Sentences

They want the story to be human: filled with blood, dried lips, mucus-summoning coughs, blind spots, assumptions, whispered threats and screaming pain when a fire gets near. They want a story to pick lint from its pubes with whiskey on its breath and piss into cold toilet water before the sun back-lights the dark, grey sky into a shade of silver like bullets being poured from teeth in a barn as the wind and wolves howl. They want a man to cry over doughnuts and a woman to bleed from her fists, smiling. They want me to make a golem of words and set it out in the hills one night to see if it finds its way home.

I know it won’t. It will find its way to your window, and it won’t be as human as they want. Something will have interfered, filled its head with alien memories, given it dog tongue and lizard tooth, told it about candy without giving it a taste. Try to write me a human and what comes out has too many eyes, not enough skin. Voice like a radio tuned to a local station in the middle of a gas attack. Try to write me a human and all that pulls itself from the word-slime is hunger and asshole meat.

Days Get Dark Early

33 stone-winged ravens fell from the tree outside of his home, a small wooden structure set back on the hill above the creek, dry this time of year though often full of deer, searching. He counted each paralyzed bird without touching a one, grabbed his thick book of notes and sketches from where it sat on his porch and, crunching frost-bitten leaves under his feet, set up a small path leading farther upwards. There was a stump he preferred for this sort of thing. His eyes began to sweat before he arrived. Something pulled at his bootlaces, something he thought to be thorns. He glanced down and his stomach fell into his guts.

Fingers as long and twisted as oak roots closed upon his ankle, holding him in place. Tucking his book into his long jacket, he withdraw a buck knife and, blinking away sweat, set to prying himself free. The fingers jumped back into the earth as his knife separated their flesh from his leather. Calming his breath, he looked down to where he had left the ravens, hoping to record their pattern before the world twisted once again and he was simply an old man, living in the woods alone. But they were gone.

He folded up his knife, took out his pipe, and, fumbling for matches in a pocket too big for such a small thing, and sat on his stump.

Skinless Body Removal Specialist

They took their skin off and ran it up a flag pole outside of the post office in the middle of town. Five skins, untethered, billowing and spritzing the lawn with blood as the afternoon turned blustery. Their corpses crawled upon the stairs and the people with their packages had to go up to the east side entrance, which was a longer and more narrow route. They, of course, complained, but the employees had their jobs and no one had been hired to remove skinless bodies.

They posted application opportunities on their website, but by the time the interview process was finished and the remaining applicants were rounded up for final analysis, the flies and skunks and sewer children had stripped the flesh off of the corpses and the job description had changed from “Skinless Body Removal Specialist” to “Skeleton Disassembler” and they had to re-post the job and start the process again.

They forgot about the skins hanging from the flagpole. They had been too busy to look up.

U. F. Meat O.

“It’s the ones with the removable heads that you have to watch out for. Not so much a problem that they can remove them. Big problem that they can put ’em right back on and start yammering at ya and ripping through your bags with their greasy teeth.”

Bearded and wet, the man casually swung the nasty edge of his axe through the epidermis of a massive wall of flesh that told the valley where madness began and order halted, shaking in its fancy boots. It had come from the sky, they said (them that saw what they did), and careened off a mountain side, screaming void gibberish and dying, right there. In death, it began to grow heads and push them out of its flesh like mushrooms, except that when mature the heads and their wiggly skin stalk would fall to the ground and thrash around wildly, clacking their teeth and eating anything in their mouths.

To maintain the illusion of the stability of their civilized lives, the townspeople paid a few weird, dirty men to live in the woods and crush the heads with axes and trim them where they grew. The trees grew high around the massive abomination, hiding it from sight in the town (if you never looked past your feet or your neighbors’ knees.)

“Yeah, just watch your ass. And by that I mean your calves. Things are awful sneaky for being so stupid. Bite ya right on your leg and holler disease at your bones up close. That’s how I lost my last partner. One leg, then the next. You sleep okay in that tree, did ya? Your eyes look glassy.”

The axe made a sucking sound when removed and the wound from which it hung dripped grey, fetid blood.