A twisting black ribbon glides through the air, its shape changing to the whim of countless pests. Darren wipes his mouth and evicts flies sipping from saliva.
“…I don’t think so. Not this time.”
He impales a shovel into the dirt—sweat drips onto the rusted spade while Darren heaves dry soil over his shoulder. A calloused hand glides across his brow, and then pulls a stalk of rotten corn out of the ground. Sweat rolls down his forehead and drips into his eyes…a blurry silhouette approaches while flies orbit Darren’s cranium.
“Who’s there? I see you.”
Darren pulls back a curtain of flies—the collective hum shoves him to the ground; countless legs walk upon him as he chews and swallows a scream.
A few days later…
“See? Take a look. Didn’t I tell you?” Anthony says while pointing at the dead body. Phil leans closer, tilting his nose upward.
“Ehh…it could be anyone…”
Anthony shakes his head and points at the sun baked corpse. “Come on! Look closer, will you?”
“I am, damn it! What do you expect me to see? Coyotes already got to him.” Phil says. Anthony taps Walter on the shoulder.
“What do you think?”
Walter stares at the body. He saw his share of road kill, but nothing like this.
“…It’s difficult too tell.”
“See? It could be anyone. But if you want to be smart-ass, Anthony, you can be the one to break the news to Darren’s wife. Or should I say widow? She’ll slap the shit out of you.” Phil says.
Walter laughs. “Yeah. Tell her. I dare you.”
On September 27, a dozen people eat blueberry muffins in the back of a church. The bell in the tower rings while everyone shuffles into a large open room. The priest clears his throat and leans toward a podium.
“Is this thing on? Hello?”
Phil yawns as a red locust lounges on top of Darren’s coffin. It unsheathes its wings and flies above the remaining members of Darren’s family. Phil watches the red locust drift toward the glare of a sunbeam. Anthony looks at the family plots beside Darren’s grave—granite faded by decades of rain and wind.
“Darren will forever be missed. Amen.” The priest says.
Phil, Anthony, and Walter walk out of the church and stand toward the threshold of Darren’s farmhouse.
“See? Didn’t I tell you?” Anthony says.
Walter stands on his toes and peeks over the spines of wilting wheat.
“What do you expect? Miranda can’t complete the harvest.” Phil says. Miranda peels back an edge of a white window curtain. 3 people point beyond the farmhouse. She walks toward the back porch—decayed aromatic tendrils haunt her nasal cavity. The living room spins while Miranda rests a shaking hand upon a nearby table. She stumbles toward the middle of the living room while holding her stomach. Miranda collapses into a pile of withering life, a soft breath escapes from her mouth.
“Come on…come on…knock his dick in the dirt…my paycheck depends on it…” Phil says. Anthony leans back in a chair and places his feet on top of a small glass table.
“Did you guys hear about Miranda?”
“No. Why? What happened?” Walter asks.
Phil winces rolls his eyes. “Damn it! Don’t just stand there!”
“The funeral was a few days ago.” Anthony says.
“Ahhh…that’s why Spring Pine Road was backed up. What a pain in the ass that was to drive through, let me tell you.” Phil says.
Anthony shakes his head. “…Right. Did you hear what Miranda looked like when her son Ryan found her? He said that her skin fell off her bones.”
Phil shakes his head. “You know what they say: broken hearts kill. Something like that.”
“I saw her not too long ago. I don’t see how she could have been that bad.” Walter says.
“Does it matter? She’s dead. Probably better that way.” Phil says while a burp rises from his gut.
Phil pisses behind a dead maple tree. He looks up beyond the canopy and becomes lost inside of a silvered band stretching across a starry sky. Phil zips his pants, then chases a childhood dream into a nearby field—his eyes arched to the sky—as he plows through dry grass.
A mosquito sips from his bloodstream. The subtle tingling manifests everywhere that skin is exposed to the open world. Phil notices a motionless shape out in the field. The more he stares, the more it blends into the rest of the surrounding dark.
“Anthony…is that you? Who’s there?” He says while squinting. Euphoria deflates his annoyance into happiness. All sensation abandons Phil. If it weren’t for his weight, he would no longer be bound to Earth, instead floating into that silvered band of light in the sky.
A storm of tiny winged vampires each take turns stabbing him. Hollow happiness grows stale and cold.
The bell rings above the church, signaling another death.
Anthony loosens his tie, and then sits on the steps outside the church. Walter leans against a rusted banister.
“She’s not taking it well.” He says.
Anthony snuffs out his cigarette on the church step, leaving behind blackened ash and a crumbled filter at the epicenter.
Walter packs a single brown suitcase. He places $450 inside of an envelope and rests it on the edge of a dresser, and then leaves his apartment.
Anthony opens his eyes and walks toward the bedroom window.”No…it can’t be.”
He opens his front door—the autumn breeze is laced with the aftertaste of spoiled life.
“Hello? I see you.”
A light turns on inside Mr. Steinburg’s house. The bedroom window opens. “Who’s down there? Anthony? What’s going on?”
He swats at a cloud of winged entities. The swaying grass hisses.
“Anthony…what is happening?” Mr. Steinburgg says while walking across his lawn.
A diminutive groan hums like a summertime bog. The cricket lullaby soothes, and then pierces their ears — a continual screeching of uncountable insects — mashed into a deafening cacophony. Mr. Steinburg’s lungs fill with air as he chokes. Something flutters
in his throat, refusing to be pulled down into the depths of his stomach.
The sting hurts, but only for a few moments. Pain dissipates into unusual euphoria, as the acceptance of fate embraces inner-turmoil. The road-map of veins on his hands engorges into a purple spider web. A wave of mandibles and wings hover above the dancing grass.
Anthony steps backwards toward street. The silver band in the sky glows inside Mr. Steinburg’s eyes. Anthony stumbles into a mailbox while wind trembles the trees.
Mr. Steinburg raises a hand toward Anthony—skin drips from blackened bone, then splatters upon silk pajamas. Molten flesh flows down a gleaming textile of open muscle. A scream stretches his mouth open before the jaw unhinges and hangs from a sinewy threads.
He turns and sees Walter waving a hand.
“Come on! Follow me!” He says. They run down the street while other people venture out of their houses. “Get in.” Walter says, pushing Anthony into the passenger seat of his jeep. He runs toward the drive side and flips the door handle.
“Fuck!” He screams.
Walter pats his pockets, and then slaps the back of his neck. A crumpled mosquito twitches inside his palm. Tingling flows through his shoulders, and by the time it reaches his feet, Walter welcomes it. He’s addicted to it. He can’t imagine life without it. Stepping away from the car, he approaches the swaying grass. Wadding through a world of levitating grasshoppers, Walter pushes them a side like he’s cutting through a biological jungle. Some bite at his intrusion, allowing blood to rise to the surface. The beating of wings deadens Walter’s ability to think.
A clearing opens into peaceful clarity.
There, behind the glow of lunar light, is something that can’t be unseen. Walter feels himself becoming unstitched…his biological threads are fraying. Anthony looking out the jeep window, but can only hears the beating of bugs against the glass. He imagines Walter opening the door. That never happens. He opens the glove department — an avalanche of CD’s to fall to the floor. A spare key rests on top of Crashing Thunder’s Greatest Hits.
“Walter…you son of a bitch!”
Anthony slams the key into the ignition and accelerates south down Harrow Street. He turns on the headlights — unperceivable bits of creatures smack against the windshield like they were snowflakes.
A few miles southbound, Anthony rolls down the window and lights a smoke. He turns on the radio while a fly clings to the frame of the door.
Anthony flicks his smoke out the window, as the road fades into darkness ahead.
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