One day I could speak the language hidden beneath my scabs. There were alphabets above the vacuum overhead that revealed themselves to me, but it was like diving after a flea with safety scissors. Almost enough grown to fill a coffin, still using gunshots to count sheep at night, I discovered, quite by fluke, much to the chagrin of the anorexic model whose head I crayoned off, how repugnantly negotiable human beings found love. I needed a denomination of stray to be cast adrift with, someone also awake, bowed out of society, willing to mate, common sense of history notwithstanding, and she arrived, everting her eyelids until sunshine intruded on both of us in stymied, peristaltic waves.
She slithered beneath the rat-damaged wood of my family’s garage, chanting like an oracle shampooed with WD-40. I thought she flicked roadkill into her eyes, thought this was perfume in the future. Snorting Wite-Out, blowing a bubble from her mouth to mine, she said we’d enter blacker holes than birth. Which category of goddess heaved Lamaze while jump roping? We crept back through the stasis that first afflicted us as unsolidified matter inside a pair of jeans and stamped that certificate into speech. Adam and Eve joined forces to seduce the serpent. My name always sounded mutilated by other mouths.
A couple psychos going steady, gorgonized devotees too antsy for school, we snuck to our meeting place and her feet were defied. She issued subliminal suggestions I played out in hopes of deleting my ineligible company from her munificence. Caressing papillae with dead cat magic, poking a degraded thorn of lumber through its tongue, we emulated the feline rictus. Neighbors here didn’t bother burying pets. Even I stopped pinning every cockroach in my bed to the wall for the white noise of their wriggling. She blew my scraps a kiss and, immured in that exhalation, nerve endings became inconsequential. We appeared lost beneath the rifle sight of smokestacks.
A security guard at the hospital down the street sensed my pull toward the morgue. He knew I dreamt of rigging the burn ward with outdoor speakers. The second he and his ordinary ilk stopped biblically stoning me, I anticipated that they would swap victims and snuff out the object of my affection for turning everything further vulnerable with her beauty. Paranoia of cosmic rebuke convinced me to rush home early and peek out the garage’s rat hole into the alley where, indeed, three males stood dwarfing her. I was set to self-sacrifice, but she rehearsed a laugh, mimicking our private cryptophasia. She crawled in and gesticulated under newfound critical assessment. Dubbed the pilgarlic of her expo, rococo jackass honoring duplicitous onlookers, I didn’t buy the panting. How might I have handed her all the turmoil she caused my bowels? It felt ridiculous, anyway, to be understood as having meant one feeling.
My parents stopped loving each other after years of piss-streaked legs across the same bedsheet proved marriage had a plot hole. They both drank and visibly shuddered in my presence, but dad helped construct what devolved into a playhouse. It was far from a lair for sacrificial black masses. The girl would survive, regardless, not because I was incapable of harming her, but because there wasn’t time, before the sun exploded, to enact my revenge. “Cool playhouse” she’d remark, giggling to her clan. It consisted of cheap plywood and rotted in the rain. A perfect, if accidental, representation of our potential. The neighborhood graduated from working class bog to fledgling ghetto, holding up bunny ears on my own decline. State-abandoned mental patients populated the alley. I picked through their leavings when they took refuge in my imitation property. The stench that lingered provided a sizable foundation. I was getting to know my kind through diet.
As if to replace the fourberie of the previous ritual, a man materialized, stained front of his orange peacoat upsetting the streetlamp’s reach. Minor subcutaneous filler was outlined only by an ostensible and never ending nod that made him seem attached, by some untraceable means, to the wall behind. Having learned to take anything appearing to defy nature as a trick at the expense of my emotional wellbeing, I approached him with bravado. He seemed to be in the process of detaching himself from the mold inside his shadow, his countenance transmogrifying against the fetid clutch of plywood, giving voice to the bruises in each corner. A wiry beard, like staples colored by a marker, dotted the chin stuck out beneath newspaper stripping. There was a croon, without accompanying projection from the lips: “This is what you parents put down for a pet to use and my face happened instead.” Relaying to the squatter my boring love troubles, I noticed rattails protruding from his pocket. Perhaps they were his food, alive or not. He interrupted, a startling octave deeper: “Bring her to Warmar.”
I wasn’t sure if my lodger spoke of a location or of himself in the third person, but I decided to deliver the girl. The boldness of my disruption when next we met caught her off guard. I took her hand without warning, the venous coating of her upturned eyelids waxing free in shock. Warmar throbbed from the square foot window of the playhouse. The girl instinctually broke hold, maintaining a distance. I felt her trembling change the air. Such a shame to see her eyes revealed, so jaundiced by their mere humanity in meeting a literal aberration, someone like myself: practitioner of blank appetites. If only she’d scream across this moment forever. Warmar disentangled from the barrier and edged between us. A black cylinder wreathed with slime forced its way from his mouth, plashing onto the playhouse welcome matt. Her hair now appeared spray paint white.
When she dove against her pillow, that face stayed smudged on every vision to follow. The sheltered tool down the block who worshipped spirits had spent his absurd adoration on a threat she no longer found curious. Jolted by the still-captured visage leaking all over the floor of her room, she forced open her eyes and had to spin in her sheets several times, rotating her strained perception, before the effect wore off. Weeping with alarmed frustration, only understanding hours later that this was not permanent, she finally stopped hyperventilating, but the furnace clicked on and the creature shuffled up the vent next to her bed, whispering in tune like an omniscient bellows fouling the house’s oxygen and her own, its breath growing in her lungs. She would have to pass it from her, torn as a prepubescent birth, flattened along in spasms through what felt like sharp cilia attached to her nervous system. Anyone else became another violation. She divorced her thought from her actions, made a rind of the present moment, dissociating her from her.
Her brothers raised her while their mother worked. Cornered by this parody of affection, anything sentimental always took on quotation marks in the cruel lampoon she understood as human relations. If the neighbor’s corny, doe-eyed, Shakespearean fixation with their sister could be exploited to either jump him in as a one of them, or to expel him from the violation of an intent they subconsciously shared, she, by no prevailing opportunity a brother herself, would make use of how her looks worked on people. Her body didn’t matter to her, as long as she could picture it having the strength to challenge any boy. Someone got duped into loving her for biological reasons. Had he the ability to see through it and to love the boulder she thought she was, despite the prank of her existence – but no male would ever be capable of loving himself in her. That love was kept quiet in the family when her brothers developed first. She ignored her size as best she could, but the damage that face accrued in her shattered who she was, fashioned her into her worst nightmare: a frail girl. She hid and resented her lame fixation with animals, but studied them in glimpses while her brothers channel-surfed. A hippopotamus father killed its offspring so it could mate more often. The mother absently nudged her infant’s corpse across the bottom of the pond, unable to process the futility of her repeated attempts at resuscitation. A puma and an elk sat in the high grass, the elk stranded alive all day in its predator’s grimace, bleating unceasingly like something death couldn’t mute. She was fasting through her transformation into a poor symbol of this version of her life and would seek reparations for the inconvenience.
Warmar spat me her whole biography. He had spared her for reasons I found specious. Blinking was a pastime of no concern to me. I could log into the sun by staring up. There I saw taxidermy with gangrene, the depths of a medical journal brought to life, the big fungus who raised me.
“Come closer and I will tell you a secret about the rain,” Warmar shushed. Digested through the texture of the wall, floor humming as I matched its frequency, eliminated piecemeal into the alley behind, reciting my master’s DNA, the girl’s brothers said hello, mentioning how lucky I was to live close to a hospital.
I began showing up in their garage, leaving notes with symbols outside their sister’s window. They realized I’m someone you can’t scare away and brought her out as a peace offering. She hadn’t slept in weeks, was paler and thinner than I thought technically possible, and, most importantly, trembled for me on sight. I explained in plain English that she and I needed to perform a rain dance together. This way Warmar could detach himself from the playhouse and drift free. Their sister’s condition would then be cured and I’d leave her to her mediocrity.
We met in the backyard of an abandoned house a few doors down. The earless and half-starved strays, hatched there and kept as pit fighters, were enraged by our scent. Her brothers flanked her, keeping watch, goading us to hurry. The grass came past our knees. A tiny snake twisted through the girl’s sandal. She thought she was the featured food in a nature documentary. I beckoned her to roll those eyelids up. She stepped forth, quavering, arms proffered skyward, shorts patching because she lacked the willpower to demand privacy. We could all comprehend the additional terror of the first event of womanhood. A capacity for torment should have readied her for a dance that stole everything from me.
Febrile below exploding grass, she was battered between consciousness and a ringing in her ears. Her brothers punched every muscular inch of the escaped pit bull’s body, causing it to lock down harder. They pried the fastening grip upward and out of their sister’s skull until the entire mandible dislodged from the thing’s throat with a soggy clap noise. After they’d carried her home, one of them returned, grabbed a beer bottle from the driveway, and smashed it over my head. I stared back through the bloodstream.
The dog trotted in reverse against a corner of fence, its body wrenching spasmodically, jaw hanging from a vomited thread. Both of us came alive once digested, married in twin defecation. A small storm cloud settled over the playhouse. Warmar was leaning almost horizontally by the remaining strings of mildew connected to his spine, climbing up the rain. He raised his arms and the dog limped down the alley, crawling from the garage, barking through its concave fissure. Warmar popped his fist down the gaping hole in the animal’s head and searched inside. He handed me my beloved’s blood-clotted ear, slick with stomach acid, and levitated above the storm cloud, disappearing hat-first within. I waited hours, until the freak weather dispersed, standing far enough toward the alley to see her at her window, swathed in bandages, and offered up Warmar’s memento, whispering sweet nothings.
The playhouse didn’t buckle until the right angle of wall and floor were disjointed with a sledgehammer, sliding the roof down on top of me, scalp-white revealed. No one came around to be impressed by my wounds anymore. Dragging floorboards to the alley dumpster, a charcoal tsunami, an infinite mischief swirling separate concentric rat king knots stampeding additional carcasses in their flight, obstructed all comprehension. They were graining each other’s hides, dehaired in red thickets, panicking to navigate. Tabulating through the abject fog, I could affix a final image of Warmar, sticking up his middle finger, and saluted in return.
I lost interest in any further interaction with the world. A high school ghost, I only paused next to girls to overhear how well my future bride was taking socially. She should be allowed to live life well, I thought, because time was something I could roll up my sleeves with now. Bullies never looked me in the eye. I did the bare minimum schoolwork to graduate, spending time online, cataloguing survivalist videos and becoming a gradually popular fixture in extremist chatrooms. I typed: we must be programmed against the false logic of our comfort and select what to block out in order to accomplish the atrocities demanded of us.
My notifications tripled in an evening. I gave up gaming, let my guy run into a wall. People sent videos concerning eradication of parasites from the body. One featured an online avatar snatching a writhing, centipede-shaped organism from a person’s ear and referring to it as the icicle he used to help him function, the zygote kicked through his truer being. We contributed memes, studied explosives. Each ritual matured us early. Every supposed cure brought our bodies closer in shared agony. The girl, having decided against tutelage from an early age, embraced a popular and highly functional group of friends. Luckily, her hair entirely disguised the scar. The few who found out were perversely intrigued. Nothing diminished what drew others to her. By always choosing the opposite of what her instincts told her, she consistently came off like the most attractive and docile girl at school. She stayed out as much as possible with friends and boyfriends whose silliness acquitted her oppressive moment to moment thought process. Requiring deeper fulfillment would be ostentatious. Besides, she knew where that led. Her brothers had begun jail sentences. When she saw me in class, it was as if we had never met. She misremembered me as someone vaguely uncomfortable. I saw only her, of course, only heard students or teachers when they mentioned her. They noticed my handiwork in the locker room, but kept their mouths shut. Upwards of sixty lettings a day. My nerve endings acted as a valve I adjusted to extinguish the racket from adjacent heads. I pictured her showy clothes covered in Sanskrit. We’d need a shroud for the honeymoon. She wanted out of the city the moment she graduated. Her friends hooked her up with a job and roommate situation in Marquette. She purchased a train ticket a week into that summer. I and my online associates signed off, divvied by one name.
I preferred surveillance footage posted online by anonymous users over getting to know anyone. Perhaps my bitch envisioned opulence, a neatly medicinal antiquation, and packed light, not caring to taint the new locale with objects involving her past. Stepping onto the platform, searching for the right train, she didn’t see me approach, didn’t notice the crowd turning as I turned. Nourished by the long-stoked expectation that escape was forthcoming, once age permitted, she recognized my face, the staples all across, the snot-damp newspaper, as I went down on one knee, opening the jewelry case, black prune of her ear placed in its center. She replied yes only because she knew that the fun she had had as a teenager was a façade built to domino her into a life of formalities. Noticing the intense weaponry protruding from my peacoat, finally seeing every face as the face that wrecked her childhood, she backed away, and it took such strength of mind, a decade’s hiatus inside the mask, sustaining all the enfeeblement of human relatability, for her to lift both middle fingers and grin.
The pain was only surmounted by how much she depended upon it to guide her body. Almost from birth, she had been gnashing against the common qualities of her gender, practicing excruciatingly to feign the emotive roleplay necessary in fulfilling every expectant potential mate. More so than the vague confirmation of want from others, she wanted her life back, even though she had no clue what life could hold meaning. Gunshots receded from the station as the train shifted into motion, occurring to her as if a pair of dentures had lodged suddenly beneath the skin of her thigh. She talked back to the jokey chatter in her panties, hunched over like a basketball coach enraged by having genitals, trying not to be lulled to sleep, until the man one seat over shoved a dollop of toothpaste into his shorts, perhaps to spoof the nonsense she increasingly believed, and told her she was now his wife too. His general malevolence persuaded her. She had been betrothed and widowed moments before and was coming to appreciate skipping the courting process. People were always struggling to appear so unavailable to one another that they missed out on the number of strangers who might milk them efficiently. Besides, she understood, on a telepathic level, that he would bomb the train if she refused to help him ejaculate. Everything in her life and in the culture validated the image of herself as victim, regardless of relevant paranoias, convincing her to hurry and diminish the impact of this man’s predation by complying before he could institute it. She would submit even if it was in him to let her be. More important than if men were abusive was their potential for fucking every memory of hers into remission. Cocks were too big when they wanted her and too small the few times she wanted one. Living as a piece of carrion without the typical power to exclude even herself felt promising on occasion, especially if she was spared actual dick meat being soldiered through her by allowing some minor frottage while she pretended to be asleep. As long as any sexual completion left her the better person overall, which she considered fair enough, having sacrificed her hymen to a pack of dogs, so that even the piss dots on her toilet paper still resembled an exclamation point. She noticed for the first time that not all of the blood covering her belonged to her. She could have sprung a lifelong leak. Her makeshift husband viewed hours old Wi-Fi footage of the station prior to their disembarking. Due to the ignorance or fleeing terror of the conductor, they proceeded toward Michigan while factions of Warmars, enlivened by some greater onslaught, contagiously activated or were activated by a compendium of like stories across the globe. The title was as unimportant as the revolving story behind it. She glanced up from the costumed image of the boy her consciousness had always willed itself to block as he executed random women against the tracks, doling out knives and shooting those who refused to induct their bodies with lacerations and join me in the killing, halving children on the platform before their withering parents. The city dispersed pockets of smoke. She felt, per usual, like begging everyone’s forgiveness might be in order, but knew that the future picked out for her in homely compliance between fate and self-hatred would keep her a passenger forever, the consensual statuary of the psychopath seated next to her, an airtight shriek within the plaster, wearing his control like a bonnet throughout the new and somehow uglier country and that his use for her would wield a tenacity that might, over time, with luck, abstract her from every municipal standing, or at least leave her his numbest remnant. The man snatched the blood-caked jewelry box from her hand and bit the blackened ear inside like he was testing gold. She got under him worse than any pillow and cleared her throat so he could speak.