“What do you think of that, eh?” I leaned back and rippled my fingers impatiently over the arm of my chair.
“I think that I don’t believe a word of it.” My companion poked at the fire on which his gaze was fixed. I would have scorched his soul with the pain in my eyes if he’d have just turned his head.
“It’s true!” I wailed, “You have to believe me!”
He turned fiercely to me and spat, “Well now, what do we know about the truth?”
I stammered my confusion.
“That’s a poor start indeed, but I’ll forgive it.” He narrowed his eyes and slowly, malignantly, opened them before he bestowed upon me the old saying he’d just invented: “The fire of interrogation will burn up the lies; only truth can remain.”
The desperation that had been propping me up sharply from the inside retreated in the face of weary despair. I hadn’t a chance.
“What do you feed it?” he demanded.
“What? I don’t feed it; it just—”
His face bulged in triumphant outrage. “You monster! Perhaps it’s a bit out of line, but to starve it? If you’re going to lie you could at least do it with some decency!”
I tried to defend myself, but it was like trying to save yourself with a shield when your guts are forming a lost-and-found pile on the ground. He turned his back on me and alerted his extensive network of paranoids what kind of a person I was. Read more
Every day he looks out that window and most days Chops looks back at him. Chops is short for Chop Suey which is a nickname for Susan which is an acceptable name for a cat, he thinks. Chops is the neighbors’ cat and he doesn’t speak with them very much and has never asked them what Chops’ real name is. That would be an interesting conversation.
“Hello, I know we don’t talk much, but I was just wondering, what is your cat named?”
And what if it wasn’t their cat? What if Chops belonged to the people one house over and snuck into the Walkers’ yard every day without their knowledge? Either way, such an inquiry would make him appear very silly and the name wasn’t so important after all.
Anyway, he feels like he and Chops have a special connection, which is a comfort to him when his work is going poorly. Because, yes, after he looks out that window he has to sit himself down and get to work. He spent the first 14 years of his life not getting to work, and look how that turned out, he likes to say to himself. He also likes to remind himself that talking to oneself is the first sign of insanity, but he doesn’t really believe it, or else he wouldn’t say it. Read more
“So I walk in and there’s Reggie, right? Just sitting there with his eyes closed and that stupid Reggie smile on his face. He’s got his legs crossed and his arms spread out like he’s meditating, and he’s doing this sort of a low, weirdly continuous hum on one note. He takes breaths now and then, obviously, but whenever he does he just starts right back up again and acts like he was humming the whole time. But, you know, this is all classic Reggie, right? What else is he gonna do on a Thursday night?” Ed and I chuckle a bit at that, and he takes the opportunity to finish off his beer before continuing. This is also, of course, an intentional move on his part to increase tension in his audience (me) before cutting into the meat of the story. We both know he doesn’t give this much build-up to a story unless it’s really something. Read more
Sometimes little children will go out and meet in the woods with the great, shambling beasts left over from the old days. Only yesterday, in fact, a little boy was shambled to bits a mere thirty feet from my doorstep in the middle of the night. You never hear them scream, but the beasts tend to let out slow, low victory howls which make it clear there’s been a shambling. Now, if you don’t come from around these parts, you might be getting the wrong idea about shambling. You may think it similar to a mauling or a shredding, but believe me when I say the word “shambling” is better fitted to its use than it may seem. Read more
A short trunk, accompanied by an assortment of flailing limbs, tumbled rapturously over the vacant greenness. Its head bobbled greatly, leaving a faint trail of song behind it which fell slowly to the earth when it was ready. In this head was a brain, in the middle stages of development, and presiding over this brain was a keen mind whose edge glinted dangerously in her eyes.
The greenness came to an end, as did the tumbling. The song found itself dampened, but not extinguished, and with lips barely parted the little girl absorbed the horizon. A harsh, endless line had been drawn in the earth, and beyond it a potential hemisphere of scorched and broken ground with only the sparsest of vegetative punctuation presented itself proudly to her, delighting secretly in its inconvenience. Seeing that she was turning away to go back the way she had come, a lizard sprouted at her feet and forced a thin stream of words through his narrow throat. Read more
“I am heart!” he cries wearily, “Follow me and all will fall into place.” His bloated, swollen body waddles its way gently forward, the outer sides of his arms sliding reluctantly along the well-greased walls whose proximity forms a long, narrow alley. Those who, waking momentarily, observe his immensity emerging from the shadow will most often feign remembrance of an important detail and turn back to pursue another route, or they will lower their brows carefully over their eyes as they awkwardly duck and shuffle sideways past him.
Today, however, we observe a much rarer path being taken by young girl, perhaps in her mid-thirties. She stands, feet spread just farther apart than one might expect, arms crossed, in the very center of the approacher’s path. She looks hard into his eyes and tosses her head as a futile signal to the wisps of hair dangling before her face to make themselves scarce. When the man is within just a few paces of her, a distant smile swims sluggishly onto his face and he stoops to his knees to put his head level with hers. The effort that is required for a man like him to perform such an act is great enough that whatever the girl had been planning on saying topples over in embarrassment. Read more