Posted on: October 30th, 2011 The Cretins

by Ben Godby

The building had used to be city hall; but its vitals had been moved on to elsewhere, and now that place had been converted, presumably, to breed Cretins.

No one could say precisely what the Cretins were, despite everyone having given them a name. They were prone to night-prowling, and it was always noticed only in the morning.

“In the washtub,” mutters the best evidence, “under the sink.”

It has been said that they are friends of raccoons, settling on their haunches in alleys to see what the rodents bring back – not out of real interest, but friendly commiseration. Conversely, their own stalking, which was a lurking, required no movement at all. Theoretically, that un-movement was the Archimedean point of the spectroscopic gaze of Cretinism – which, kundalini-like, first attacked the material, then the emotional, and then the body itself.

A poet, who had spied a fragment re: the Cretins in a discontinued home-and-gardening journal with charred pages he had found in a trunk in his recently deceased grandmother’s attic, described it thusly:

“You awake to find everything gone. The furniture; the affects; the foods. Walls, sheets, and even the humility of floors: all victimized. It seems, at first, rather crass, and you feel guilty to feel anything at all.

“Then, you awake to emptiness. It has no hardness, and yet is gnawing. It is easy to explain but very difficult to understand. This, it is said, is the clue.

“Finally, you awake – and are armless. Or else one leg is amputated, or you find an organ has been donated unwittingly. You leak, you sore, you stare into the own red marrow of yourself; but it is painful, at the last, only because the Cretins do not respond to allegations.

“Oh, and, for the record: if you have lost your mind, you are not a victim of the Cretins.”

But the poet, in this case as in every one, is the exception. Further expert testimony:

1. “I have never seen a Cretin, and I never will.”

2. “It is natural. Horror is natural.”

3. (Offstage, laughter.) “You call that a Cretin?

There is X. X is a Cretin, though a Cretin is not necessarily X. At present X stands on the edge of the water, for the building that was once city hall strides upon a breath of river. The hall and the river caress each other, and pool their love in the wavering ripples of reflected light – architecture in flow – that collect in the warm dark recesses between them, which are X (though not necessarily, in this sense, [a] Cretin[s]).

“How I am got here, I do not know,” says X with a professorial index finger extended. “How I am like this, I know not. But I will say this: there are myriad appetites for Cretins, and objects to satisfy them all.”

The city hall is moved further from its birthplace and the thing spawning there, leaving newly voided architectural bowels in its wake as the guts are moved with earnest reconsideration. Whether new Cretin-factories will fill these places, too, is up for review by a special committee convened by the city council.

Elsewhere, in rows, houses and buildings do not collapse. Meanwhile, a figure stands upon the verge of a river, wreathed in the cut-out of itself against the angular windows and the iridescent glow off the water that will shine always until morning.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

One Response to “The Cretins”

  1. Rezmason Says:
    November 7th, 2011 at 11:47 pm


    Radioactive contamination is often portrayed subtly, to emphasize its inhuman terribleness and the bizarreness of living for decades under ever-present nuclear threat. But there aren’t many instances of radiation folklore, like this.