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Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In

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Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Snake Stew
(1,247 words)


Ma always said that people weren’t like horses or dogs or cattle, but I saw early that people eat and poo poo and gently caress like everything else; we’re just animals too. Ma didn’t like it when I challenged her, accusin’ me of making unnatural speech about nature and God and the way of things. I was right scared of the priest that came ‘round third Sunday of every month, so I shut my mouth and kept my heretical observations to myself.


I continued to keep my mouth shut for Ma when I was ten and running up the hill with the McGuigan boys in the storm, and our hair stood up instead of down. The light shone brighter than the sun on the clearest day and the pain of fire went head to hip, and afterwards Ma insisted God had protected me. Well for one, I don’t know what God had against the McGuigan boys, ‘cause they didn’t make it. And two, if God cared about my wellbein’, then I wouldn’t have been left with a scar, like a vine, of what that struck me.


After it happened, I took it pretty hard that my handsome mug was done for. Before long I’d resolved not to curse some poor woman to be my wife when I grew up. Who’d want to see my destroyed visage as that of their lover and spouse anyway? Ma insisted I could still find a woman someday, but I dismissed her remarks and kept myself busy with our land.


On my fifteenth birthday, Ma got her stomach kicked in by a spooked horse. She was dying slow-like, and made me cross my heart that I’d try to maintain the couple’a acres and cows and that blasted spooked horse she was leavin’ behind, and that I’d put a bullet in her head that night. One Sunday, the priest had talked a whole lot about never offin’ yourself, but since I’d be doin’ the shootin’, Ma got to trust she was till goin’ to Heaven. I did what she asked.


Eventually, things got bad, I lost Ma’s land, and while I had no family relation in all the world, everyone in my town knew who I was, on account of the scar. I hid myself with a big hat and a kerchief tied round my face, and before long I was playing the part I looked. I rustled cattle, a hanging offense. I was on a two-man crew with a dozen head of stolen cattle when the end came. And I was glad Ma was gone, because I was right- the people and horses and dogs and cattle, all the critters under the sun with hair on em’, they all died just the same.


At first light we saw the cows and horses were sick, and by mid-morning they were all dying or dead. Then Bill got to feeling a bit off, and by noon he was bawlin’ bleedin’ and beggin’ me to give his love to his favorite whore in town for him. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d started coughin’ blood too, and he passed before he realized that I wouldn’t be getting into town that night either. I laced my fingers over my chest, looked up at the stars, and figured it was some kind of poison in the dirt or air or somethin’ to that effect. It wouldn’t be long now, I thought, but I just kept thinkin’ that for the next three days, and then I wasn’t sick anymore. I stumbled my way back to town, and that’s when I knew it was the end.


The horses, the cows, and the people all looked like they were sleeping, ‘cept for the blood draining out of their noses and mouths. But it wasn’t just the death; nothing was right. Where normally the vultures would be hootin’ and hollerin’ over all this free meat, but they were still high in the sky. The chickens waddled around the corpses, the lizards and the snakes began encroaching on the town lines, but nothing took even a bite of those that had fallen. There was no stink in the air, everything just sort of froze where it was, and in the coming weeks, I realized nothing dead would mold or decay back into dirt either. I myself had no appetite for the cows and horse that lay there day after day, ready to eat.


As I walked through town in disbelief, I met my first phantom. In my town, and maybe in all the towns, everyone died, but not everyone died right. The phantoms, pearly and cloud-like, they never hurt me. But if I mistook one of their translucent apparations for a passing fog, I’d be overcome with the memories and emotions of what that person had been.


There was a phantom who’d been a hangman and I felt his memories of dozens of hangings he’d gleefully carried out. If the end hadn’t come, I could’ve easily had my neck in one of his nooses by now.


Another phantom had been a Chinese laundry worker, and she had countless memories of washing clothes in the spring a few day’s ride from my town- she must have had affairs to tend to in my town when the end came. But she also had a memory of a child, a daughter, getting struck by lightning and surviving, just like I had been. The phantom’s memories showed the pity felt for the damaged, now-limping daughter. The daughter was hidden away- the family couldn’t afford a dowry, as was the custom in the culture, and who would want a terribly scarred wife anyway?


I avoided the phantoms at first, but after a while I began seeking them out for some company. On sunny days the rattlers and the birds could witness me running around like a fool trying to stay in range of the drifting phantom’s effects, experiencing friends and family and normal life once again, not that I’d had much of that after Ma passed. I didn’t want to feel so alone anymore.


I find it mighty humblin’ that nature didn’t give a rat’s rear end that everyone just up and died one day, and that the sun and the stars and the rains and the dry spells come just the same as before. One night, during a thunderstorm, I got to thinking about how I’d been hit with lightning, and perhaps that happenstance had kept me alive somehow when everyone else had gone. I wasn’t the only one to have gotten struck by lightning, that’s for sure, but I was the only one I’d known of who had. Except for that girl in the phantom’s memories, that is. I felt my eyes get real wide, I jumped up out of my seat, and I hightailed it to the spring where the girl had been struck in that years-old memory I had witnessed weeks before.


It took nearly a fortnight, on account of all the horses being dead and nothing left to ride, but I reached the spring. I followed the footprints through the meadow and I saw the smoke from your fireplace, there. I’m mighty pleased to see another person, and you have the scar, same as me. I think that’s why we’re still here, and that phantom’s memories brought me to you. There’s a fat rattler sunning himself right back up the road past the spring, do you fancy some snake stew?

Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In

Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

In.

Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

in with fernweh

Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Time is Nothing

891 words

The waves of Agate Bay roll far above me and tiny beams of light bounce in every direction. Time is nothing, and so I exist with you, under the waves, for an unmeasured interval. When I’m awake, there is no light, not like this anyway. I am alone, harsh wind blowing away my cries for help, so that no noise comes out at all. I haven’t been able to more than a few stuttering words, absent emotion, for months. But under the waves, there is no need for a voice.

The water in my dream gives way to real ice water, poured slowly over my face. Daddy looms above me, administering misery with a smile. Around my tenth birthday, Daddy got drunk and said I was old enough to know that because Mommy is so mean to him he can sometimes be mean to me too. I’m old enough to take it, he reasoned, I’m old enough to understand why it’s happening so it won’t really hurt my feelings, and I’d heal. Scars here and there on my body and two badly set fingers testify to Daddy’s warning from years ago. Mommy is just as bad to me as she is to Daddy, but Daddy doesn’t notice or doesn’t want to notice. I never wanted to hurt anyone else, or even myself to pass the time until I felt better. Time is nothing, but spreading around your pain isn’t.

I have no reason to be awake, it’s a Saturday morning, but Daddy is bored and he wants someone to torment. Daddy, I hiss in my head. Daddy and Mommy get their nice names because that is the only way I am allowed to refer to them, despite the fact that I’m going to be fourteen next month. Even in my head it’s how I must think about them. If I don’t say it in my head, then it accidentally comes out wrong when I’m stammering a few painful words to one of them. Mommy cries and screams and then she chooses another medicine to add to my daily routine. She tricks strangers into thinking she’s a willing martyr to my endless medical needs, and this disguise has helped her get me 2 psychiatrists, 2 therapists, 2 pediatricians, and several specialists for her to play with. Throw in a chiropractor, naturopath, or acupuncturist, depending on what’s in style at the moment. She is at every appointment, speaking every word for the poor silent girl.

At home, I am handed over 20 pills per day, from sleep medication to anti-anxiety medication to Vitamin C, and if I swallow everything like a good girl Mommy doesn’t make me sick. In a few years I’ll learn about Munchausen’s by proxy, and I’ll connect the pets and the relatives who took sick or who died mysteriously after spending time with Mommy. Time is nothing, but our body’s experience of it is unfortunately linear in only one direction, so I couldn’t go back and save anyone.

I think it was Mommy’s concoctions of psychotropic medications, and herbal and mineral megadoses that opened me up to you and taught me that time is nothing. Like some lovely witch Mommy tried to create a potion to enslave me, but it freed a tiny part of me instead. I was four years old when you were able to start talking with me and I began to remember you and Agate Bay.

A couple weeks ago Mommy was watching a particularly graphic torture scene on one of her shows and her TV went all static-y and began changing channels. I hate torture scenes. She couldn’t get the TV back to her channel until the scene was over, and she concluded that there must be an angry spirit in the house. This is after your shadow showed up on the wall in the midst of Mommy’s weekly screaming spell and her pile of family medical bills blew all over the floor.

She brought in some self-proclaimed psychic friend-of-a-friend who arrived on a Tuesday evening after dark. I came downstairs to watch the performance, and he spoke briefly and quietly to me before Daddy angrily dismissed me to my room for interrupting Mommy’s session. The man told me about Agate Bay and he told me you loved me. You tell me often that you love me when we’re under the waves, but it was odd having it confirmed by a nervous old man who labeled himself a psychic. Despite what the man told me, he denied the presence of spirits to my parents, and Mommy pouted for a few days. At the end of the week, she dropped several bags of organic dog food on the man’s doorstep as a barter for the session. Not long afterwards, the man’s beloved dog died in its sleep.

Daddy is almost to the end of the glass of ice water, and my face, arms, and bedding are all soaked. I did not try to get away, there’s be no point in prolonging the torment. I am almost fourteen and they’ve tried to steal my voice and aren’t done torturing me yet. It will be four more years until I can own myself once again. I will be slowed by my scars and but I’ll find Agate Bay and I’ll find you too, because time is nothing.

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Bird Tyrant
Apr 21, 2003

THUNDERDOME LOSER

:stonkhat:

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