Posted on: April 24th, 2011 Fool

by Steven R. Stewart

Moths dotted the back wall of the house, clinging to the faded siding in spots where the heat that escaped from indoors was strongest. The weather had grown cold, the trees were ablaze with orange, and the deadly birds were already flying their way south. With the danger gone and winter on its way, the moths hung tight to the wall, reflected on their lives, and waited to die–all but one.

“You, my friend, were aptly named,” said Gray.

Fool didn’t waste his energy getting upset. He concentrated on keeping his wings against his body, imagined the heat inside circulating, keeping him alive.

Gray persisted. “You’re planning not to die, is that it? It’s already been sixteen days, buddy. We’re only supposed to make it fifteen. If I were you, I’d see if I could find a desperate female and do a little last minute fertilization.”

“It’s too late for that,” Brokenwing said, his small body shaking. “Isn’t it? I could b-be wrong.”

Nearby, a moth fell lifelessly to the wooden deck. Fool didn’t look. Gray pretended not to notice. Brokenwing stared for a long time, back legs nervously combing over the crooked place on his left wing.

“Look around,” Fool said. “Even if I wanted to do that–and I don’t–Brokenwing is right, it’s too late.”

“I wonder what my babies will look like,” Brokenwing said. “Their mom was b-beautiful.”

“A lot like grubs, I’d bet,” Gray said.

“They’ll be beautiful,” Fool said. “You did good, Brokenwing. You too, Gray.”

Brokenwing smiled weakly.

Gray looked away. “It’s so stupid. I’m never even going to see them, but I still love the shit out of them, you know?”

Another moth fell off the wall. Then another. Fool wondered how many of the ones still clinging to the wall were alive and how many were already dead.

“That’s what kills me about this whole thing, Fool,” Gray said. “You’re the coolest guy I know, and after this, your line just stops. When you die, you disappear. Your genetics go up in smoke. And for what? For some bird? For some pretty predator?”

Fool fluttered his wings, once. “Don’t call her that.”

Gray fluttered back. “She’s an oriole, Fool. They eat us. Your crush isn’t going to change that.”

“You’ve seen me with her,” Fool said. “It’s not a crush. She loves me.”

“Well, she scares the hell out of me,” Gray said.

“That’s part of the attraction,” Fool said. “She’s big and wild and dangerous, and she treats me like I’m the most important thing in the world. It’s like kissing a flame and not getting burned.”

“She can’t love you,” Gray said. “They don’t know the meaning.”

“When we promised to be faithful to each other, that was a sacrifice for her too. You didn’t see her, Gray, crying over her unfertilized eggs.”

“Why?” Gray said. “What the hell are you both sacrificing for?”

“Love,” Fool said. “Just love. Metaphysical, eternal, bigger than genetics and nature and the goddamn winter cold.”

It suddenly occurred to Fool that Brokenwing had stopped shivering. He climbed over and nudged him. Brokenwing fell, twirling to the ground like a leaf.

Gray turned away, his body trembling. “Shit, not him.”

“Go to the earth, old friend,” Fool said.

They were silent for a long time. A few scattered snowflakes began to drift out of the sky. Fool watched one pass so close it refracted the light and broke the world into pieces.

“That’s why you’ll make it,” Gray said. “All the way through the winter, and into the spring. Because you have something to hope for, something bigger than just making grubs and dying.”

“That means a lot, Gray. Thank you. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t make it. That I’ll never see her again.”

Gray shook. “You w-will. In the spring.”

“In the spring,” Fool agreed.

“I want to be quiet now.”

“Okay. Let me know if you want to talk some more.”

A few minutes passed. When Fool finally nudged Gray, he didn’t respond.

He wanted to wish Gray farewell on his journey, but couldn’t find his voice.

Fool scooted himself into a crack in the siding and thought about the warmth in his body circulating, like it had in his cocoon so many days before. He wondered if his oriole had flown somewhere warm yet. He hoped she wasn’t cold, wherever she was.

The curtain of snow thickened. Fool clung to his life and waited for spring.

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Posted on: April 10th, 2011 White Snake

By Kyle Hemmings

Upon my travels through Asia, I stumbled upon her—White Snake—whose other name was Ahi, who earned a livelihood by fascinating tourists. Her arms and legs were long and elastic, capable of wrapping around and mercilessly constricting. Her body was scaly, but she had the hollow-eyed face of a woman of human misfortune. Along with human teeth, she had erector fangs.

I paid her owner a moderate sum of money, as I was a promoter of freak and magic shows. In another life, I preformed over a hundred botched abortions upon women too poor, either morally or financially, to afford a new life. I was and will always be a quack of some kind.

On the voyage back to England, Ahi made few if any recognizable human sounds. But what struck odd was that she duly regurgitated most of the food served by the steamship’s foul-mouthed cook. An idea struck me. I paid several of the cabin boys to go below and see if they could fetch some rats and mice. They did, and Ahi swallowed each one whole. The secret to winning over a cold-blooded woman, as my father once told me, was through fine dining.

As an integral part of our traveling show throughout Europe—The Wicked Alice Wonderama—Ahi became a popular attraction, amazing people from all walks of life. Then, over the course of months, I found myself envious of Ahi, her ability to take the spotlight away from me, her trainer and master. A strange attitude developed among her female admirers. They treated her as if she were some sort of goddess trapped in a freak show. Soon I was besieged by hate mail and angry cries—Free Our Sister! She Has Other Lives to Live!

Hating Ahi, and perhaps myself more, I entered her cage one evening. Her dark unblinking eyes met mine as if we were both crippled lovers. I drew a sword and began to hack away at her legs and arms, as if each a childhood memory of being bullied, tormented. But each part grew back again, and then for the first time—I heard her voice. Please Master, I love you!

I ran from the cage.

I gave up on show business and returned to my old flat in London’s East End. With the savings accrued from White Snake’s act, I spent money recklessly, on women of the night, offering them extra gratuities for biting into my flesh.

And during this time, I obsessed over Ahi, as if I had swallowed her venom.

One night, alone in my room, a woman’s head burst through the door, then the freakishly long arms and legs. She stood before me and said: Why did you leave me, my love?

With her immense jaws she swallowed me whole. In her body, in that constricting tunnel, I became lodged in a many jeweled chamber where I saw only reflections of myself—bleary-eyed, bulbous nose, hooked lower lip.

A fitting punishment-I would keep my reflections eternal company. So many of me.

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