BAD LUNCH.

The night was hungry. There was a man named Sidney Talker. He walked along the border of the flame, and flies drew towards the amber flame in the night, and the flies lofted along the brink of fire like grey moieties of ash, and the flies trilled softly underneath the louder crackles of burning timber, and the grackles were loud over all that, swooping every which way, seeking the warmth emanating from his burning house. It seemed even like they were attracted to the smoke; that, or it disturbed them.

The aural scud of cicadas and hairflies left to murmur on the edge of these larger sounds. All of it, and him too, a measly film over frequencies in the woods. A paste that God plays at.

There was a resemblance in all this to something of Hell. The kind of hollow vicious drone of the flies that mingled with some Hellish crack in the underpinning. The sparked schisms of the wood, the lumber foundations burning quick to ash.

The rims of his glasses and the frames reflected the blaze and each abrupt spurt of the blaze made the bronze rims glitter beautifully as he watched, and the mirror-like frames of the glasses made the fire appear like miniscule animals lain within his eyes. The animals would snap their yellow teeth, before vanishing from reflection, and Sidney’s eyes would again be seen instead.

Futile precipitation hazing the character of the moon. Sidney Talker was smoking a cigarette, and as he blew, the smoke wafted slightly before him, and then dipped fast into the tail of the wind, and then flew off into the dense air like a demon escaped. And Sidney Talker then flicked his cigarette into the jet of the smoke and then he made an oblique doubletake and then yawped.

Sidney Talker tried to fix his eyes upon the demon, but it had gone, and Sidney Talker had little time to think on how or why he burned his house and felt tired.

. . . . . . .

Johnny Beel said: “What in Hell is that?”

His mouth hung open and showed mangled teeth. balanced neatly between two teeth was a long, slender piece of straw, which lazed over his lip, which hung low over his chin, which formed low and hale over the physic of his neck, and made him look neckless, at certain angles neckless. Johnny had something of a loose jaw, and his lower lip protruded downwards, to the chin, making him look stupid.

“I don’t reckon I know,” Bell Beel clutched a rag in both her hands, and the hands were small, and they grasped the cloth sweetly, like a child.

“Maybe we should get Sid out of the shed. We should tell him to bring his gun.”

Bell clutched the cloth and walked inside.

Johnny squinted to where they were, by the grey woods three fourths of a football field away. Looming over them were five large covered wagons, attached to bristled and underfed horses. Around the wagons there were many figures. Hunching like demons, spirited as rats.

“Must be in the blood of sacrament.” Johnny intoned. It looked as though there were twenty of them, circling round a small fire, chanting, vaguely and loudly, they danced, they bellowed curses to the World.

“It sure don’t look like no welcoming committee. Mmhmm.”

Johnny Beel scratched his chin and lip with one hand, and let his hand drop back down quickly, then hocked and spat vulgarly, and Bell called Sidney Talker from inside.

Looking fully upon the caravan, it was as if they were attacking each other. Wounding and ripping apart themselves like wolves.

“Mmhmm.” Said Johnny Beel.

. . . . . . .

“Sid, it’s Bell…oh yes, we’re fine. It’s just—oh no, nothing that bad. Oh yes, I remember—that’s right—” She laughs. 

“Well, it’s just this group, you see. A caravan or somthin.” 

“Caravan,” Sid said. “Whado you mean?” 

“Well, I think they mightn be violent. Very loud. I’m damned if they do not come over to us. Afraid they’re out there perpetuatin voodoo or somethin or even just hoping to sell shill. I hear drums. It’s scary…no, never ever seen this before. A good dozen, I’d say. Yes. Ok.” 

The conversation continued briefly and ended with, 

“Waita minnit, I’ll be out.” Sid hung up and looked at his car.

. . . . . . .

Sid’s axle to his car broke one day. As he was backing it into his shed, he heard a heavy ping rattle around, and Sidney Talker knew he was screwed, and he lost control of the wheel, and the car crashed through the shed, and splintered wood and paint buckets and paintbrushes and tools and everything dashed like hail onto the hood, it was the most terrifying event he had ever experienced. Sidney had managed to get another axle from a buddy in town. He thought about how screwed he would have been if he’d been on the road, or in town. Too many pedestrians. It was uncomfortable to think about. Thank God he wasn’t in town for that one. Thank God he wasn’t hurt. The kids with their Moms. And the moms with their bags. Snuffed. Walking across the street launched a few meters. A bust axle just that.

Sidney Talker remembered mostly that it was the first time he had ever become truly afraid. He had been afraid before, of other things, but not like this. It was a physical sensation more than anything: fear opening up his chest, like a surgeon, a supreme heaviness—it barreled down his throat, stomach, then; it made like it would rend ope his guts if he didn’t scream.

And, as the car strode backwards across the pavement, there was an empty feeling there. A feeling of him being spilt out. A feeling of wind dashing against his ribs, blowing against the chasm of his body. He remembered it as a sort of sickness of being lighter than you once were—as though he had breathed in too much oxygen—so that all Sidney Talker suddenly knew was that emptiness, as he pressed his foot, madly, against the brake, and, yet, the car sank its dead mass further, further.

He realized it with excruciating slowness, though the whole ordeal only lasted moments. That he had no control in the matter at all. To press on the brake or honk the horn or do anything but sit and wait for death would be but powerless gestures towards what was unstoppable yet wholly covert. An invisible force gave substance to his fact, the fact of his powerlessness. It became apparent that Sidney Talker’s life could be liquidated by a metal thing, without his choosing: the car had no notions of life, no brain to fondle gropingly with questions about life, was not aware of Sidney Talker’s existence or its rather important connection to his existence, thus, had no conscious desire to cease his existence: the car still had the power to cease what it could not know.

Sidney Talker then relaxed his foot from the brake. He winced. His eyelashes got stuck together because he winced.

Sidney, thus, walked to the Beel house, gun in hand. The gun was a rifle. The large barrel was tilted triumphantly to the sky; it was stuffed with bullets and weighted down by the bullets. In the cartridge held many iron teeth, filed neatly together like sardines. Sidney Talker had not used his gun in a while, and he kept a finger on insecurity as well as the trigger.

Walking alone brought on a fitful unbroken quiet, so Sidney began to jog to the Beel house, and after losing his breath a strange odor rose in the air. The smell materialized in an ugly fog that escaped from the woods, and the woods were green and mysterious like the fog. Sidney Talker walked off the wide dirt path into the woods, away from the Beel house.

. . . . . . .

“Where is that goddamned boy? What in Hell are they doing?” Johnny Beel stood upright on the old planks on his porch and the rocking chair on his porch rocked wildly in the background and creaked on the planks even though there was no wind.

In the afternoon distance was the attesting echo of a hawk, whose sound rattled brief and determined through the dry acres of the forest.

A bee rested quietly on the steps before them. Johnny Beel cleared his throat and looked forward, eyes pale and unmoving. The wind sprang up then dropped from the old painted rafters, the heat grew. They continued looking. There was light. There was light all over. Saturating the house with light. There was light: it was veiled over the fixed faces of them both, Johnny Beel and Bell Beel. It was as brilliant on their heads as on the impossible source of it. Huge fire, flames, green flames, searing, green, in the forest gullet, the green and filledup mouth of fields.

. . . . . . .

The smell was bitter. Sidney brought his coat over his face as he wandered through the woods, and the air he breathed from inside his jacket was heavy and sour as well.

His glasses were settled meekly on his face, and soon the fog saturated the frames, and Sidney could no longer see. Numbness took him; he became less frustrated. His labored breathing became not so labored. He reeled drunkenly from side to side.

But his brain would not as readily morph into a maladroit pile and was sober and was clear. Sensibility and gravity were soon to leave him, and he did not know this, and soon he would become a maladroit pile.

His hands felt very heavy, and the tips of his fingers had little cavities of feeling that pinched.

Sidney thought of many pebbles collecting in the sacs of his limbs, slowly collecting, slowly gathering into a single heavy rock, weighing down his arms and legs.

His muscles flailed, he watched them flail, he could do nothing.

And then, the feeling came again, but the feeling as something gently awash upon his soul, more like an old friend, this time. The sinking feeling, he called it the sinking feeling, when he was drunk. That feeling of being trumped by the machines of the physical over the mental. The feeling needled into his softening bones. And he walked, and his muscles drooped. Nauseating weariness. He soon began to feel as though he were being contained by some kind of supernatural enceinte on all sides. Barriers that protected him from those who did not understand. Barriers not defined because the fog was not defined but to breathe was a labor and it didn’t feel like Sidney was outside—and, it seemed to be killing him, the fog, the World was a massive coffin it seemed, and yet the coffin protected him. Sidney Talker examined the possibility of his death with detached fascination.

He marched on and everything became thicker, the saliva in his mouth thickened. But then, the ground lessened; the density of the dirt collapsed into mud, and the mud leaked into Sidney’s shoes, and it was like many arms grabbing and pulling him down. That familiar sinking feeling. And he craved to end the long struggle of moving. He fantasized about letting the arms of the mud take him under. Then, mud gave way to weightlessness. Then, the World he knew evaporated: trees, roots and grass, and empty, rusty trucks, abandoned—all gone.

“Where am I?” His legs throbbed, and Sidney could barely heave them forward.

But something still made him endure all this. Something that was still awake. Green mist drenched his coat and burnt his stomach when he breathed in.

He realized, there was something elusive yet watchful about the fog—as though Sidney were as safe as a baby in a cradle. And yet he did not know why he felt so safe. And yet the more he walked the more he felt as though his life had ended. That the turmoil of life, his own life, had been a fire finally quenched, and his abuses let up, and that all that was left was himself to be consumed by the fog and its deranged appetite, the fog that now blurred the lines of the trees, even made the ground beneath him flag into oblivion, Sidney Talker’s body lunged itself into oblivion, ahead of Sidney stood two Phantoms, like stark pillars in the fog, they were black things, imageless, more entwined with the unreal World about him, wherein they had not bulk nor tangibility but were rather an accumulation of something in the fog, Sidney strained his eyes to catch at least a face, or eyes that gazed reproachfully back. He found nothing but blackness. He walked towards them, a dull smile on his face, dull face on his skull.

As he neared the Phantoms, the urge to see a face became more desperate. Even if it was just one of them: just one face, so he could fasten his eyes to something. They wore no cloaks, and carried no swords, and were not any sort of goblin or wraith or ghost and had no features at all.

What amounted at the top of the forms—the supposed heads—was something like a spread of black oils on canvas. A screen of black and nothing else was there. The permanence of this vexed Sidney, scared Sidney, because the figures felt so permanent, yet had no actuality to their forms, no points to recognize, as though smeared in the confused ether of dreams.

He ached for a face, because he ached for humanity. And he ached for humanity, because he ached for what was real, what was dynamic; he ached to be rid of dreams. He longed for the dynamic of noses, the quantity of chances possible to be rendered regarding the human facial anatomy, the angles in the cheek, or forehead—he needed the pursed action of anger or reproach to flex out the morbid shadow. To even lend a nose to these miserable, pateless pates, would be a dream, yes, oh, a dream, he thought, and, yet, he saw nothing, nothing but figures routed by flatness, no choice but black, no nuance but black, no clutter of symbols, merely an eternity of languorous black: each absolute portion staring reasonless. Each portion summing itself into a great black eye.

And one knows, there is oftentimes an identity to things: the blackness was both the primary identity and primary anonymity. Enough nothingness packed to solid.

The Phantoms spoke lowly to one another, and they hummed when they spoke, and, when Sidney tried to hear, the phantoms whirled towards him: for a terrifying second, Sidney Talker thought he saw an eye staring ravaged. The creatures looked at Sidney and hissed. The sound dug into Sidney’s ears, like a snake from the other side of a tunnel, and the sound began to poison him:

Ghosts populated his head. Like flowers in bloom. They whispered out ideas. Ideas that burrowed beneath his skin into realms that Sidney had believed were gone. Of lost wishes, lost loves, lost identity. These ideas arranged themselves across his head exiguously. Like nice things listed, as opposed to lived. Like small wheels fixed to his body—used only for the locomotion of something useless and tired. The fog chafed his movements—the mess—the bugbears—traveling, traveling nowhere, traveling onward, onward, to no such fatherland, he has no fatherland. None, indeed, and, yet, he chugs with conviction, into nowhere, that is the core, the middle of nowhere, the core, like a meatgrinder, he thinks of a meatgrinder: the meat, the precious meat of the matter, plocked onto a plate or tossed into some deranged bucket, and served, one day, one day it will be served, to him, one day, a blessed mess, this, ground into ludicrous blocks, and plocked on a plate—his calves, heavy, heavy, like cement blocks—and, yet—the force of the meatgrinder, yes, braiding out a force, a force to carry the blocks. The force of the meatgrinder is no longer for merely this one man’s casual albeit shortsighted reconnoiter of himself, himself observing himself, a mirror of the meat of the matter of himself—it is for some other mind, bobbing in a solution of muffled anguish, and of inability, the inability is no longer about pushing the pedal of a car, but about accepting the inabilities that his horrid life gives him, and in his mind this is only some alien notion, definitely for another with greater wit, not him, for, how serious about it could he ever, ever be?

Sidney Talker became a strangely humorous wretch of self-pity, and of agony.

And so, he agonized and stumbled and writhed in himself, and when Sidney’s socks and clothes were wet and putrid, when he moaned out candidly,

“My life is useless!” And when his eyes turned red in the fog, he tripped on a solitary root in the ground. He fell, and Sidney knew that the time had come for him to really die, truly, now.

Sidney Talker asked the figures: “Why?” he said. “Why is it now?” They did not reply to him.

. . . . . . .

And yet the sky was sterile and blue and the mountains majestic, and the reeds flapped mindlessly in the fields, and yet, there, a great plume of green smoke escaped into the sky, and a green fire pulsed: and the Beels watched it pulse: and the Beels looked at the green inferno and said nothing, and did nothing but look at what was before them without moving. The paroxysms of the figures were increasingly chaotic, vicious. They shook violently like animals around the green inferno. The gigantic blaze was filled with green murder.

. . . . . . .

The life Sidney Talker led had been wrought of normalcy. Even idiosyncrasies that should have tossed him into a more extemporaneous nature were duplicated and scheduled into that unwavering pattern by which Sidney Talker lived his life: his very existence had long ago simplified into a paycheck and into a beer: the comforting images now formed in his head: the untraceable fulfillment of the paycheck, the cool touch of the beer.

He worked for the Beels, and had for a while, as a general groundskeeper, and helped fund the local bar in town. He now tried to remember the regular barflies there, whom he had countless times deemed friends: as he fell, he could not remember.

They rippled all of them into the same carelessness by which Sidney had lived his life: all the memories suddenly stacked in front of him were illegible and out of focus. All the things Sidney had ever done were out of focus. The choices he had made that had brought him here were benumbed and out of focus, and much less could be said for his actual depth of vision, peering through the fog through glasses.

“I’ve been falling for my entire life,” said Sidney. “And the Beels, they are falling as well. The Beels; the man who built their accursed house; and, the barflies, my God! We’re all falling! People have always been falling!—for centuries, people have lived, and done nothing but try to dignify the nothing of their lives, attaching themselves to nothing, to some glory long ago disintegrated and profaned, and they are and they were falling, and all the while, the clock ticks. What they don’t realize is that it is not the dignity that matters but the clock. All the while, wiling away the centuries that shoving off the years come between the birth and death of humankind itself! It takes death for us to realize our destiny, which is to die—to die, knowingly—to die, knowingly, knowing that they will…like me! To DIE!”—a moment of breathlessness, then—“I must die knowingly! Of course!”

The liberation of discovery coursed through Sidney’s veins. Sidney’s voice shouted in his head and yet eked past his lips. Then Sidney Talker screamed when the steel of a long knife proceeded to break the spring located deep in his gut.

. . . . . . .

Blackness descended on the lofty wheat fields and the mountains. The night was humid, and the miles of fields were enveloped in the thick darkness. The marshes silent and pious yet in darkness more, shaded by a distant sense of upheaval. And the thick darkness twisting air out of the woods, as though the forest gagged itself to listen—and the trees, turning blue and then black, keeping as still as possible, in an effort to catch the patter of some hellhole.

For all was in darkness, save the fields near the Beel house, and they were not shaded but paralyzed in light and in the fury of the caravan, and the light was a green pallor of the green fire. The rankling of too much peace. The hellhole now flashed baldly even from acres away. The hellhole had become a wall of terrific green flame. The smoke conjured from it was a separate, immense body that covered the sky like a powerful hand.

The yelling men made the ground tremble. Caricatures against the green glow. Twisting improper bones to the fervor. The green blaze nipping at the caricatures. Could be seen clear and eerie as the rising moon above—and the brightness of the hellhole, the giant green fire, sparring with the prolific darkness of the nightfall.

Then, Johnny and Bell Beel heard the screams stop, and a sudden, spatial pause coated the dust. A presence was in the Beel house, as if eyes had sprouted from every table and chair, eyes in every lamp or vase. An oppressive silence led into the corridors and into the shadows and into the shadows in the bathrooms and into the closets. Wind agitated the curtains, and the movement sent hushed and broken shadows across the empty floor.

Johnny and Bell Beel waited in their closet as the minutes struck by.

“They’ll kill us,” one of them whispered this. Death was touchable now, touched with the hand. Bell Beel touched the closet doorknob with her hand. “What are you doing?” Bell Beel focused on the stolid face of the closet doorknob. The doorknob was normal. It had a purpose. “Don’t open it!!” Johnny,, 

and,, Bell Beel,, screamed. The screams were stifled under the havoc.

The house began to shake off its foundations and the house howled with the force of the caravan. The caravan enclosed around the square diameter of the Beel house. The twenty members of the caravan shrieked like hundreds. Plaster crumbled off the walls and a group of stacked plates scattered to pieces across the floor. The noise drew shattering and crisp: everything rattled, shattered: the paper thud of books on bookshelves and the frames of pictures chattering on the walls. The shouts beat in time with the seism of the treading of every foot, together. The feet surrounded the Beel house, wild limb to wild limb—a few fists wielded sticks of green flame.

And, so—as the Beels hid like moles, crouched with fear in their closet like moles, hearing the vanity mirror shatter to the ground, outside the closet, and hearing the profligate skreak of the caravan coming from all sides—as the inferno lit up their very rooms in sickening green—they thought solemnly, somewhere beneath the disorder and panic, on who these people were. Why they were here.

. . . . . . .

When stabbed, things became questions. Sidney Talker suddenly questioned whether he was dead at all. For a long time, Sidney had sensed he was in heaven, careening through the fluffy gorges, headed for his redemption and halo. The clouded logic of the fog, the happiness of being finally lost beyond his body’s getting—these deceptive things inched away from his body and replaced themselves with an aching soreness in his muscles, and a fiery pit that sat like vinegar in his throat and lungs and stomach.

He questioned that unit of Phantoms, or those people, or whatever they were, back there, they had dissipated quickly to nothing by now, both of the figures had dissipated into the bleak fog. The bleak fog, too, had begun to dissipate, as if it had done its baffling duty upon Sidney and had shooed off. He questioned the fog, which had been like an old friend, blending the plasma in his blood with a soft, cocoon-like green plasma…now it had gone. And why?

It had deserted him. Like all this anger and fear was a jest. The cruel gambols of the apocryphal. The deceit of myths. Sidney barely even understood that he had actually been stabbed. He attributed the whole scene to perhaps bad lunch.

No jest. The wound was there, making him bleed. Again, sadness tolled. Depression clanged like a hammer: there was the surprising reality of having a choice now, instead of being suspended forever in sweet misty vagueness, existing as little more than blurred shadow, being so out of touch.

Sidney Talker had been ready for the sweet misty vagueness. He had been ready to go out of touch, even to have those strange figures dice up his limbs and head and smutch his eyes to jelly, for the sake of permanently achieving such breeziness of spirit as he had felt—and now, the tangible nature of choice made him plummet back down to the World.

Sidney’s death was a choice, a choice that he had made; this was clear in his thoughts, clear like the emerging lines of the trees. And the tangible burned on him, and the burn was human folly at last recognized.

He collapsed down upon his white knees and clenched his fists into the tangible dirt, and gazed at the ground under him, which clogged up with the fat ooze of dark blood. Sidney’s spine ached with ambivalent pain. His head burst and rung with pain.

He felt his body reduce to candy: so easily corrupted and destroyed, so unimportant, so trivial—

Most pertinent to him was the question of how long it would take for him to die. The blood drained out of him. Death was plain as the dark, voided sky above him and the brown dirt beneath his feet. The sky and the trees could be seen again, and the air flowed freely. Sidney laughed. He opened out his arms on his knees and the blood drained quicker out of him. His shirt was scarlet with blood. Sidney Talker laughed the harder for it:

No green miasma clamped and drifted evilly about his neck, and the figures Sidney Talker had seen judge him were gone. They had given Sidney Talker the answer to life and then had taken his life with this wound in his belly. Sidney laughed and bellowed out. He realized, he did not need that mist, or those Phantoms, back there—what he needed, was to be fearless, because to be fearless of death is to lose the need to dignify life.

He breathed in. Death wreathed around him as like the blood on his shirt. The green ether was gone.

The wound now sent tremors through him. He felt cold. He felt his muscles and insides squeeze furiously and painfully to keep in place around the gash. Sidney trembled, stooped his frail body to pick up his gun, and walked back to his house, liberated. He had to burn. Everything inside, charred to the cinder. From Sidney Talker came the overwhelming need to take action and account of his life.

. . . . . . .

Dawn was a press upon everything. The weeds that erupted out the back of the Beel house cringed in the open light. The beige wheat cringed also, and the yellow fields of corn seemed unused to showing their yellowness, and the corn shifted in the wind without confidence.

Johnny and Bell Beel came out onto the porch and into the sun. Their dispositions were like timid rabbits. The caravan had gone.

“Do you think they got Sid?” Johnny Beel was humbled by the night before and his voice yielded.

“Yes…they must have. I didn’t see him once.” Bell Beel’s voice trembled and yielded. Her tired eyes were not as sharp this morning and swung from image to image. Her muscles were overworked, and her legs moved slowly. Johnny and Bell Beel sighed with relief when, after a moment, they sat down on the unkempt rocking chairs, on their porch.

. . . . . . .

Dawn spread her colors like a psychedelic eagle, and Sidney reared back his head, and with failing vision stared gaping at it. Sidney Talker wept for the beauty of it while walking to the Beel house, bleeding a steady trail that did not idly drip like his tears upon his cheek but poured out onto the grassy dell where he was walking, like a fountain.

Sometimes as Sidney walked, he realized a weight jerking him down, every so often. And his legs would swerve uncontrollably, and as this happened more and more, he began to visualize an eagle’s claw that pursued him, snapping at him; and, the eagle swam in a weird and gaping abyss below him, and the abyss was hidden under the attractive grassy dell. He was in the pangs of delirium. Sidney became afraid of the thing lying below him, and walked quietly, so as not to stir the proverbial claw.

“It’s beautiful,” said Sidney. The words burped up out from his swimming, stinging stomach acids.

As he saw the Beel house loom visible against an early sun, he remembered the gun in his hand. A gentle sedation had spread like fire through his fingers and toes, and now it ate at his spine and his brain. His shirt and pants were completely red, and as he stumbled holding the gun, he resembled a sort of a backwoods devil, consumed by a sort of illformed evil, a sort of laughable hate. Inexplicably, he felt emancipated—the lucky mug he had used dependably, the feeble chair he had enjoyed resting in, the meager house and worn shack he had so prized, had all disappeared. And he was never before so open to the World he would leave so very soon.

Nonetheless there remained business to take care of.

“Business.” Sidney croaked.

A satisfaction tweaked at a corner of Sidney Talker’s mouth, and he prepared himself. Johnny and Bell Beel came running towards him, having seen him from afar, faces pale as angels. He scowled, and an unnamable loathing angered him further.

“Sidney! What happened?” Their shouts dulled to tormented whispers in Sidney’s dying ears. Sidney Talker proved to the fresh wind:

“I don’t need to listen to you. Any…more.” And that also was a whisper, unheard by the Beels.

Now was the time! The time to save the World, somehow, thought Sidney. Now was the time to save them from the destruction their own lives would, have already, put into motion, and that every life will put into motion.

I’ll kill them and get it right, and this offering will be my humble make up for all that fallibility, destruction, and ire they started, thought Sidney. They could never know. They could never know it, thought Sidney. They could never know how they and I and everybody ends up as crap and then from crap into dust. The only reason we move is to keep moving, only the people in the mist can do anything necessary about life.

The rest is just a waste, thought Sidney. Even I have a lot to learn, even I am still green to the wisdom of the Phantompeople, green like the fog, thought Sidney. We are all green like the fog, always all green thought Sidney. Green and stupid.

Just pull up the gun and fire thought Sidney.

He strained to pick up the rifle. His body boiled and his heart thrust forward with what spare beats he had left. His poor body contracted once under a last vital gnaw of energy. The cosmic necessity of killing. The thought: Pick up the rifle.

And yet, his arms, pale, bloodless, barely moved.

“The people in the mist were right.—Back off!” Roared Sidney.

The Beels had run up closer to Sidney to help him, but when he lashed out at them, the Beels saw something in Sidney’s eyes, and they began to back away from Sidney Talker, and their eyes were wide.

“I cannot hide from death just as I mustn’t leave broken things broken. You’re broken because of me! Life can only squash a man down! It’s useless to push something that’s broken! Everything is broken forever! I am broken because of you! I’ll blow them fucking apart! I touched them, I discovered people—in the fog? You see?” Sidney tossed his head to the sky as though addressing God, “I understood you…you killed me for it. They hid from you, rejected you. But their lives go on! What fairness comes from that—? Am I your soldier, or are they? People of the mist! Phantoms! Blacknesses…”

Sidney screamed at the sky as if in the agony of rape.

For a little while after that he screamed, screamed; and the Beels continued to back away, eventually breaking into a run, back to the perennial Beel house.

All the times deferential. All the quibbling brief errands always obstructing his life from living out. In him. As himself. And the Beels. Their simple heads. Filled to the brim with air, ordering him to perform duties just as airless.

A power welled in his bones and brought about a tempest of feeling in Sidney’s head: the primal want to kill, to destroy. But, Sidney barely flinched, and the thought grew less grand, and then he dropped his gun to the ground: leaving his cumbersome body to wallow in the wasted marshes that culminate around the Beel house, next to the clean, sparse fields.

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