Elson Meehan

 
 

Lamia

When on mornings I return home and the adjunct is awake, he is always sitting at the desktop computer in the dining nook reading periodicals online. He thinks it makes him interesting to have so much to say about the world, but when I come home and try to tell him about my night, he tells me to shut up. In his lap he holds a child’s breakfast: Life cereal in milk. He draws back the hem of his boxer shorts to reveal on his thigh the swollen, red depressions left by teeth, and a green-brown bruise. I’d rather he were a whole person, but he wouldn’t be in any case. I shake my head and go directly to my bedroom where I read silly things until I almost fall asleep. But the adjunct follows me in. He feels comfortable opening the door to my bedroom while I am dozing because this is his apartment and I am sleeping in the room that was his home office, on a futon mattress on the floor. He says, “Hey, Wulfgeof. I’ve got to go at nine. Come on, get up.”

“I’m tired,” I say. “Please leave me alone.”

“You’re tired because you haven’t eaten.”

“No, I’m tired because it’s morning.”

He grunts and lies down beside me. “Come on, I need this,” he says.

“If you need it now, you’ll need it later, too. Go away.”

“I might not,” he says. “One day I won’t.” He sniffs my hair. “Who fucked you last night?”

“Nobody,” I say. This is the truth. “Why do you care? You’re the one who says I’m so terrible. If you really believed that, wouldn’t it only make sense?”

“Was his dick bigger than mine?”

“Yes, obviously. Even a phantom dick is bigger than yours.” I don’t want to see him anymore. I roll over and cover my face with my arm, but he grabs my wrist and unrolls me. “I’m sleepy,” I say. “You’re bothering me. Please leave now.”

But he stays. He bares his neck, his arms. He grabs me by my face. I pretend to have fallen asleep. He pleads. He reminds me that I have a comfortable place to keep all day because I do this thing for him, devouring him until he is a ghost. He says, “I’ll hurt myself if you don’t. I’ll get my gun and put it in my mouth.”

“You always say that,” I say. “Now let me go.”

But he doesn’t. I think, is this how you treat your girlfriends? They won’t like that. I don’t. When he puts his fingers in my mouth, I bite down and he draws them away. “Not my hands,” he says.

“Then why did you put them in my mouth?” I say. “Maybe I’ll remove them when you aren’t looking. How will you write your papers then? Get out. Stop touching me. Go away. Stop it.”

He says, “You’re a fucking cunt, you know that?”

I say, “What did you expect? Stop insulting me and let me go to sleep.”

The futon mattress shifts beneath me when he pushes himself up, and little gloomy light enters the room when he leaves. I don’t care for him very much; unlike the adjunct, I am above conflating food with love. When he is gone, I cry into my pillow, but only because I really like his apartment. When I sleep I feel I am being strangled by my hair.

On these days I wake from time to time to have a snack or play solitaire on the bedspread and I think to myself, this is the only time that I have ever been happy. Here is the only place that shelters me in earnest; the only place that isn’t a self-made illusion, but a true home into which I have been invited by one who accepts me as I am. The apartment nestles within a newly built complex that sits at the edge of an older neighborhood near North Carolina University at Moth Mound. Convenient then, for my bitter adjunct. Not yet tenure tracked and already so old! Well, the job market has gone downhill, he says. He grows vegetation in hanging buckets during the summer, but during all seasons he seduces recent graduates and then frightens them away.

I love his apartment because unlike us, it has no history. Even the robberies and the blue-green auto-glass smashed in the nighttime, even the man found face-down in the creek, even the red plastic cups left on the cul-de-sac after a weekend, and even the adjunct’s litter—the cellophane wrappers from cigarette packs and plastic alcohol bottles and paperboard cereal boxes: all of these things and more are cleaned into oblivion by the complex’s heartrendingly thorough maintenance team. They come every Tuesday with a leaf blower outside my window.

And the apartment itself! I never have to think, how will I get rid of all these flies? Because the windows all have screens, as does the door, and they admit no entrance to winged insects. All of the grime in here is new—even the mildew at the base of the shower curtain is new, a fact which fills me with wonder. The carpet is spun of polypropylene fibers, so long divorced from the ancient oils, the ancient algae and plankton that rotted into this textile that they become like strangers. The processed air smells like lead, and the walls are not a color but an eggshell void. This is what I love: the context-less newness of this place. The blankness of every day I spend in it. I have for years uncounted sought a nexus of temporal on-rushing and geographical blankness, where the clocks come unsprung, the gears pop out, and the calendar flattens. Where individual days detach from history and I can live inside each one as if in a Tupperware container with nothing on the outside.

And it’s almost good enough, this apartment out of time. It almost quells the crackling length of history. But the centenary oaks at the edges of the complex loom with crushing intent, and when the soil is turned over for a new building, up comes evidence of former habitations, the clay shards and iron fragments that halt construction, the memories of the world that stop time. Clay vessels are no good; they always shatter. Plastic is better. It lasts longer than most things. This is what I say when the adjunct announces: here are the burned bones the Catawba huntsman leaves after dinner, and here are the logs where the farrier’s cabin stands. The yellow sweet-smelling candles are alight on the long blue-black nights of midwinter, candles as straight and bare as leafless trees in their home-smelted iron holders. Meanwhile, outside in the barn one man kept in bondage with the cows is warmed only by their beastly respiration and the residual heat of the foundry. And me, I am outside. In the cold. I am sleeping in the creek and bothered periodically by the ghosts of the wood, the restless female spirits of the water and the air, who dance incessantly and keep me up when I am cold and I am hungry and I am tired of waiting.

 

On nights when I wake up and the adjunct is at home, I am like a pet who waits for him. When he is out all day during the winter he turns the thermostat down to sixty because he thinks that I don’t care, but I am shivering and I curl myself beside him on the couch. He is eating a takeaway pizza while he watches an old episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. This is the program that we watch together. Some crimes are considered especially heinous.

“Delivery?” I say. “I didn’t hear anyone at the door.”

He says nothing, but he chews. He eats so fast that in an instant an entire slice is gone. Maybe he doesn’t chew at all; he opens his mouth like a serpent and gulps.

I say, “I wish you wouldn’t get delivery. What if a person saw the stains on the carpet? It isn’t discrete.”

He stands up, indifferent to my concern, and he folds the pizza box over on itself. “Hey, Wulfgeof,” he says. “Tonight maybe you could stay out for a while? I’ve got a girl coming over. She might call it a night early, but she might stay over, that’s my plan. Place should be clear at around nine, but I’d wait until ten just to be sure. Can you pick me up a coffee somewhere? I liked it when you brought me coffee last time.”

“No,” I say. “Not again. I don’t want to stay out. It’s so cold. It’s not fair.”

“We talked about this,” he says. “Why don’t you just eat something and stop acting like a bitch?”

“I don’t want to.”

He unbuttons his shirt. “You always do this. You won’t eat and then you can’t decide whether or not you want to eat, and then you start acting like a total bitch.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Aw, come on.” He unbuttons his trousers and kneels before me, but I am still curled into the couch’s corner. He inclines his neck, puts his hands on my knees, and says my name slowly. He has a soft accent, laden with gratuitous diphthongs. His vowels take the skin off of me. And me, my accent is lost. I seldom think of how it became lost, of life before the vowel shift, for wretched is the choking smolder of burning turf smothering the dim, musty cruck house. Wretched are my naked chapped fingers wrapped around a stick, cracking the ice atop the pond for water. I tell the adjunct, “Maybe I could kiss you tonight for a while instead?”

He shakes his head and points to his neck. I can’t see his veins by the light of the TV, but I know their location, and if I’m to be honest, I’m starving. The adjunct, he is relentless. I lean forward and taste his skin. He is bitterly sour like an unknown berry: poisoned fruit from a fairy tale. But the poison is me, myself—is the desire for the skin off his bones, the skin and flesh sliding cleanly off his bones, and me sucking the flesh off him as simply as eating chickens’ feet. A destructive, monstrous impulse for sure. And I am sick from it, from years of it, the animal part of me, the carnivore who sits in wait and can wait for a very long time, like an adder among the nettles.

Do I eat him? It makes no difference. Sometimes I do. I think, why does he want this from me, what sense is there in that? I eat him, I start to eat him, and he throws me across the room and calls me a monster. If I decline, he tells me, “Don’t fight your nature,” that it only makes me more monstrous yet. If I say no again? He goads, he coaxes, he rapes. And if I say, who is the monster now? I would rather go to sleep. I push him away, go into the bathroom, floss my teeth, and brush my tongue. For toothpaste, I like Colgate Total best.

 

Before I leave for work this night, I announce my departure. To commute to Triangle Dental Labs, LLC will take approximately half an hour unless there is a sporting event, and then the roadways clot. The adjunct, having finished with his pizza, his drink, his periodicals has gone into the bathroom, and I knock on its door. No answer. The shower is running and his silence frightens me. I crack the door and say, “I’ll stay out if you want.” The steam smells like his shampoo. I say, “Have fun on your date. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.” This is our joke; it isn’t funny. I hate the girls he brings home. He’s nearly forty and they are all of twenty-two and think that because he has a little garden and a scholar’s beard, which he conditions with a product from the health food store, that he will be kind to them somehow. Of them he tells me that he has a formula, “Stare at them all semester and act surprised when they fall in love.” To which I say, that’s almost as funny as winter’s long nights and the increasing pointlessness of days.

No answer from the shower still. I wonder if he has finally murdered himself. I peek in around the door, and I’m almost relieved that there isn’t any blood on the floor, that he turns off the water, that he tells me to get out.

“I’m leaving,” I say. “I’ll come back in the morning?”

“You know,” he says through the door, “I think it might be better in the long run if you didn’t. Wulgeof, I’ve been thinking. Probably we should call it quits. If you can’t pack up now, you can come back for your stuff tomorrow or whenever. Whatever works.”

“I don’t want to,” I say. In the hallway there’s only the wall to lean against, and no place to sit down except for the floor. “I like it here.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, “But that’s somewhat irrelevant.”

“That’s very blunt! Explain yourself: why must I go?”

“Why?” he says. “Go ask yourself why. There are cockroaches in the office. And the living room. I saw one on the DVR yesterday.”

“Really? You should clean the kitchen more. I can’t be solely responsible. You have all of those cans on the back porch and never take them down to the recycling. That would attract insects.”

“Wulfgeof,” he says. “I found mealworms. There are mealworms in the office. I found a load of mealworms. Seriously, what the hell.”

“You said it was okay if I kept snacks. They’re in a Tupperware.”

“But the mold,” he says. “Spots on the wall. That room — I don’t know, it needs better ventilation. Maybe if you’d left the door open sometimes. Or cracked a window.” He opens the bathroom door and exits amid grayish steam. A towel is wrapped around his waist and he has grown so thin, so withered and sour. Poor adjunct, I think, he won’t last through the summer. “Look,” he says. “We had an alright time. But now I need my place back. I’ve got a real thing going with this girl.”

“But I like your place.”

“Come on, be a good sport. Did you think you could stay forever?”

I shake my head. “No, but I wanted to.” Stay is the worst word because no one ever means it, and in an instant I see my claim to this place vanish. All eras are ruined in an instant. In a puff of time they flee. “What will you do without me?” I say. “You can’t make me go. I won’t.”

The adjunct goes into the kitchen, and I follow. He takes a short knife from a wooden block and presses it against his breastbone.

“What are you doing?” I say. “You can’t do that. It’s much harder than it looks.”

“If you don’t leave here, Wulfgeof, I swear to god I will end myself.” He has dropped his towel and stands before me naked, holding the knife’s handle with both hands.

“Oh,” I say. “Is it me or is it you?”

“You,” he says. “It was always you.”

“You as in me or you as in you?”

“You as in you. Jesus, you’re a fuckin’ cunt sometimes, you know? If you’ve got an ounce of humanity in that lizard heart of yours, just get out. Please. Look at me. I’m a wreck.”

“This isn’t fair!” I say louder than I mean to. “Don’t make me go. You promised I could stay. Why do you make these impossible promises only to break them with a paring knife between your ribs? I thought that in my measure I could save you, and I know you thought you could save me, too.”

“Save you from what? From what you are? I never thought that. That’s insane. Is that what you wanted? Is that what you thought this was?”

“I thought that was why you took me in.”

Let me tell you about yourself, he says. About your origins. He says, I know what you are, what you’re about. I know from where you’ve come.

I think, you know not one jot.

But he tells me what he thinks he knows and some of it is true, and I almost believe him when he says, “You’re selfish, you’re depraved, you’re never happy with what you have.”

“Not true,” I say. “I’m very happy with this apartment.”

He shakes his head.

“But what about the moth hour? What about our hour together at the end of the day? Didn’t you like that?”

He rolls his eyes: a devastating and childish gesture.

“Fine,” I say. “When you’re gone, I’ll gnaw your bones to spite you, but it won’t make me happy. Not at all. And I am going to keep that car. It’s mine by rights, and I will have it.”

“I don’t care about the car,” he says.

This is when a knocking is heard at the door and we both turn to look and see who it may be. The adjunct says, “Oh Jesus,” drops the knife and jumps into his bedroom, clutching the towel over his naked bottom half.

“Do you want me to get that?” I say.

“No,” he says. “No. Go out the back.”

But I open the front door. There stands on the stoop beneath the porch light and its wreath of frenetic lepidoptera, one milk-colored girl, slight of frame. Her hair is blonde and soft and silky and clean and it falls like the hair of a child over her shoulders. When she smiles, her teeth are perfectly flat: the teeth of a ruminant. “Hi!” she says. She extends her hand. “I’m Lil. I’m sorry—am I at the right place? Does Professor McAdams live here?”

I admit her entrance into the apartment and give my name. I assure her that the adjunct will be ready shortly. In the meantime I ask, would she like a drink?

She wrinkles her nose. “What’s that on the carpet?”

“These bachelors,” I say, winking. “They always make a mess.” I give her one of the adjunct’s beers. I take one as well, and I make myself comfortable on the couch. She is still standing when the adjunct exits his bedroom fully clothed. “Wulfgeof!” he says. “I thought you’d gone.” He takes the girl Lil by both hands and explains me to her: “Wulfgeof is just visiting—a conference. At the department. Last minute! There was a flood at her hotel. She’s leaving tonight.”

I smile and nod; I admire how he lies. In a sense, what he says is even true.

“That’s so exciting!” she says. “Had you met before this weekend? I love to stay with strangers. I couch-surfed in Milan and it was amazing. A really magical, fun adventure.” She talks at length about her amazement and her adventures in the old world, and she concludes, “Was Dr. McAdams a good host? Did you get a good sense for things?”

I say, “The adjunct is a most excellent host, who furnished me with a comfortable futon and grew only mildly irritated when he found that I was keeping food in his office, which I understand is off-limits for snacking. Be forewarned.”

She laughs. I had not meant it as a joke. I say, “I only wish that I could stay here longer.”

“Why can’t you?” she says. “I’ve set an intention—next year will be the year of yes. The year of yes and yoga. This will be the year that we commit to all of our dreams. I say, if you want to stay in Moth Mound, you should find a way.”

The adjunct is standing behind her. His hands are on her shoulders, but he is looking at me. I say, “I never dream.”

The girl, Lil, she tells me then, “You have to have a dream.”

I shake my head and shrug. She frowns. I say, “There’s no point in dreaming because nothing ever changes. Everything is always ending, or engaging in the process thereof. Furthermore, even if you’re hungry and you eat something, you’ll only be hungry again later, and this sort of thing goes on for a long time.”

The girl sways. She turns around to the adjunct, who says in a bleached voice, “Well, I guess we should think about heading out.”

“But what about something to believe in,” she says. She looks to me again and says, “Like a dance party. I honestly believe in the goodness of dance parties. We’re going to a dance party tonight. You should come! It’s at Hell.”

This girl is like a mayfly: a pretty, gossamer, pathetic dying thing. When she becomes an adult her lifespan will be very short indeed. “Hell?” I say.

“A bar,” says the adjunct.

The girl smacks the adjunct on the arm and chides him. “You should have taken her.”

To please the adjunct I say, “If it’s only a bar, I won’t go.” But I think I might sneak in, if only to see her struggling to believe in something so profane as the pounding of her feet against the floor.

The adjunct says, “Are you ready to go?”

“In a minute,” she says. “I thought you wanted to pregame. Make a drink, let’s put on some music.” For some reason he does as she says, and she dances fitfully, as if to demonstrate the value and goodness contained therein. She attempts to draw the adjunct in and he humors her for one song. I do not think I will be leaving the couch tonight. I will remain here forever watching her strange, manic, lonely capering.

“You really should be careful,” I say. “If you keep dancing like that the wilis will take you. They take a lot of girls from the sororities, the heartbroken ones and the ones who don’t eat enough.”

She throws her arms up and looks at me out of the corner of her eye. She has obviously decided that I am deranged and not to be talked to anymore. Exactly the adjunct’s kind of girl. He is standing near the door with his arms crossed. He says, “I thought you wanted to go out.”

“I do,” she says, and she picks up her bag and coat.

“Well, Wulfgeof,” he says. He opens the door and cocks his head towards it.

“Well,” I say. “You have a wonderful apartment.” Next to the TV, a brazen cockroach puts its feelers out and paces across the top of the entertainment console. Noticing this, the girl shrieks and jumps up and down.

“It’s only a palmetto bug,” he says, taking her arm. “Because of the woods. And the creek. I’ve been meaning to complain, but they’ll die off for the winter anyway.”

“You’re wrong,” I say. “That’s the American cockroach. I’ll take care of it.” I stand up. “Just let me gather my belongings. I’ll leave the key under the mat or in a plant pot if you like.”

“Really?” he says.

I nod and smile.

 

The dentures never chatter in the backseat; they are always muted by the soft boxes in which they are encoffined. And me, I am steering my car again into the parking lot of Walker, Young, and Edwards DDS PA. This car is used, bought with cash, registered for me by the adjunct. A 1997 Izanami Concord. I keep it very clean, very unlike the state in which he keeps his own car, full of empty Marlboro packets, cans of Diet Coke, discarded student papers, old issues of The Economist. So full even to the point where, when he picks me up on the first night, there is no place for me to sit.

Where are you going? This is what he says on the first night. I say, do you want me to go with you? He says, I hate to think of you wandering the streets alone. He says, come into my apartment, come in from the night and the water and the graveyards where you stay. I say, you won’t mind having me? You won’t mind if I leave bones on your synthetic carpet? He says, it doesn’t matter; I’m a mess like you. And he says, you’re fucked up like me; let me tell you about yourself. And he says, you can stay for as long as you like. I would have stayed until his death.

I park the car and get out yawning, I think about hunger, and I pluck a nettle from the median that divides the lot in two. I have known a cottage where nettles grow after the people in it die. There are flies in the shade where I sleep amid the nettles. They sting my bare stomach. Flies and midges and nettles—all are in the cool air, biting. In the deep midnight unlight the parking lot is the color of dark seawater. I should stay nearer water so as to swim away when things get rough. In my coat pocket I have a borrowed keyring. One key unlocks the drop-box beside the dental practice. Within the drop-box lie outgoing cases, molds of strangers mouths, and paperwork. I replace them with the new dentures and pull my sweater up over my nose because my chin is so cold, and I am always cold. So cold. I smell my own rotten breath when it heats up and dampens the wool covering my lips.

After the box is locked again, I go behind the building to sit on a dew-damp picnic table. Adrift in the nighttime, adrift in the cold, adrift in the starlight on the hardening winter grass there stands a swing set. Where the swings hang inert, the hinges are silent. In a year that is past I meet a photographer of children and he tells me that when he looks at children, he sees the sorrows of their future, the ruinous people they will become, and in their parents, the single-minded avarice and hostility of their children. I would have eaten them alive.

But me—I’m eaten alive, too. They’re not the only ones. I don’t mean to make it about myself, but me, I’m ruined, too! The blade of time whittles me down while I gnaw the living flesh off the adjunct’s bones. History devours me and I hate what I become, this brute for whom money counts as all. But money is the difference between comfort and discomfort, and money is the difference between the living and the dead. I ask myself: why continue to deliver dentures now that his home is lost? Why not abandon this striving and encamp within a churchyard as in the days of old? I answer myself: two day weekends. Centralized heating. To wear a dress made out of rayon instead of finger-biting nettles, homespun. But money isn’t the only thing. It proves its uselessness daily, for money will furnish an illusion and it will buy a grave, but it will never buy this monster a home. So. After this night, I will quit, drop back, start again, die off for the winter like every frightful thing. And I will find a creek to sleep in until another jogger offers to deliver me from the wood. And if perchance I should abandon the Izanami Concord in a parking lot downtown, it will be towed tomorrow and the adjunct will be billed. What feeble vengeance I have wrought.

I get into the car and I drive it into town, pounding my fist into the roof until it dents. I park it in a public deck that tows at dawn, lock the keys inside the car and walk away. Whenever I feel sad, I think about vines overgrowing this place or that place, these people or those people, the adjunct and his childish girlfriend. Wisteria binds them, breaks their bones, weighs on their dwelling places, crashes through the ceiling and smothers them in purple blossoms. It will bloom again in April in her year of yes. Vines will overgrow them both because nothing ever lasts; everything is always ending. The roads here crumble like old Roman roads, pock-marked and dusty. And all of this at once. All eras are ruined in an instant. But then I will think, I miss this place or that place and I’d like to go there again. Only I can’t—there’s no there to go to anymore. And this is the hardest thing: the world haunts itself.

It isn’t time for bed yet, so I walk into a neighborhood where all along the paths are chrysanthemums in the dark. By the light of the street-lamps I can tell that my fingers have turned blue, and the fog is rising. It’s cold enough that the damp seizes, and the mailboxes and shrubs and lawns are already crusted pale with frost. The time—I don’t even bother to think about the time because by now the adjunct is either dead by his own hand, or asleep beside that girl, or dancing with that girl in the darkness of a bar. That dull, milky, earnest girl who believes in dance parties, yoga, and yes.

I want to see her again. I want to say: Ask me again what I believe in. When he says, “Stay as long as you like,” I believe in transformation. I believe in how, like in a fairy story, the adjunct takes me and transforms me into this thing for which money becomes everything when I see the comforts of his home and know they can be mine.

Maybe I will go back after all, I think, and I start in that direction. If I cannot find them at the bar, I will go back and watch him having cigarettes on his stoop beneath the fallow hanging planters, the winter moths, his deadly crown of smoke. Just to see him just once more before I find a place to sleep. Two girls pass me on the pavement, lurching on high heels, smelling of musk, pink liquors, and flushed skin. How do they keep warm on nights like this with the frost in their curls, when me, my teeth are chattering and I am even wearing socks.

The streets cannot run on forever, because nothing ever lasts, and I am near the adjunct’s neighborhood again. I think, I’m so hungry, and it’s always a mistake not to have him when he wants me. But should I return, I’m certain that he’ll telephone the police, point to that stain on the carpet, and call me a monster. He won’t remember how much I care. He won’t recall how I have loved him. I am not always above conflating food with love. That’s a hard thing to do, to be above that, and I think, this is close enough. This is far enough. The past, it disappears. Goodbye adjunct, goodbye apartment. He won’t last through the summer anyway, not with the way he wants things to be.

The men leaving the bars now walk home in groups of two or three, and they follow the tripping intoxicated girls. The men assist these girls somewhat wolfishly, placing a hand below an elbow, a jacket around bare shoulders, all but swaddling them in carnal intent. These are all the adjunct’s girls. They will fall into deadness on a spit-stained pillow and won’t know their bodies anymore. I think, I would like to be obliterated. Become a part of their insensible drunkenness in a place where time collapses and life sleeps in an endless shade. Like the mead halls, like the ghosts of mead halls. And I am walking still, even when the pavements empty, because all of this place will be emptied. I wish to return to the adjunct’s, where he will tell me, “I hate to think of you wandering the streets.” And I wish for time to collapse, to fall down with me like a girl who is tired of dancing. An exhausted girl who falls in a heap on the lawn and looks up at the eternal stars, anodyne in her dreaming, though offensively content. Stars are always dying. Like flies.

Me, I miss walking by the river! Me, I want the past to be gutted and bull-dozed. There is no past, but his history, and that—a false representation. A story he tells me about myself. An illusion. A flickering dream. Me, I am walking, I am thinking, really thinking, without a care for my surroundings, when like the drunken girls, I am stumbling too. I flail, reaching for the air. My left foot catches, my forearm meets the pavement, then my hip. Behind me something smells of blood. A dead girl on the sidewalk, or maybe she is only drunk. I sit up, stand up, lean over her, and say, “Are you alright?” I prod her, a shoe against her shoulder. She groans.

Okay, this is not for me, I think. But by now I have recognized her and the fall of her long, soft child-like hair. “Well,” I said, “The wilis very nearly have you after all. If you like, I can drag you to the creekside and you can join the Rusalki instead. They have a much nicer time.”

In response, she wheezes. I smile a bit. Who’s the monster now? On her face and on her hands there is blood that under streetlights is the absence of a color. Someone will find her soon and help her, and if I help myself, no one will know. Someone else has already has. Someone has mutinied. On account of situations such as this, all of this world will be emptied. And If I eat some of her tonight, who will tell the difference between the wounds that I inflict, and those that she already bears. If I lean over her some more, what nighttime passerby would know the difference. So. When I leave her, she is breathing, and me, I am yearning for a counterfactual existence wherein I am able to deliver justice to those whose kindnesses to me are borne on flesh and hearts’ blood.

And me, I am alone again, and cold again at dawn, and in the eastern sky pale color is crowding out the void. While I am napping at the creek-side, fog arises from the water and blankets me in freeze. So, I wait for the sun, and I wait for a long time. A winter, a season. And while I wait, I sleep. And while I sleep, I dream of a past when the world is new. The morning sun is cool and from a prospect atop a gorse-covered hill, the fog as it lifts from the valley below resembles a white emptiness spilling over and consuming all of the land. And down in the fog, in the rotted tall brown grasses I lie side by side with the adjunct, and he is my brother. And though we have lain as innocently as aurochs calves in the whited diffuse northern light, we both are overcome by desolation.
 
 

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