April 1, 2017 orangeq2017

Poisoning the Ant Queen

Timothy James Brearton

 

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing a dead body, they look nothing like on TV. Or maybe “look,” isn’t the right word—they certainly don’t feel, not to your mind, not to your thoughts, the way they do in real life. The first one I saw was when I was fifteen and it was down at the end of town where the last gas station was, before the park and the hardware store and the animal shelter that you could always smell just by walking past. There was a fence around the perimeter of the gas station in back. Back behind there was the train tracks and a whole bunch of things I didn’t know about, if maybe the village was storing large construction items back there, or some businesses were piling things up in makeshift junkyards, or what, none of us kids really knew. It was just this whole stretch of train tracks and dirt roads crossing back and forth over the tracks, and dry, brittle honeysuckle, and the smell of the sun baking the dust. The train hadn’t come through for forty years.

The body was over by the headed-downtown end of the parking lot at the gas station, on the other side of the perimeter fence. There was phone booth there on that side. The body was leaned against the fence, in a half-sitting position. I stood with the gallon of milk that summer morning at seven a.m. and I looked at the body—saw it before anyone else did.

There was one person who should have seen it before me, though it was sort of tucked away from plain sight, partially hidden by the phone stand and that generally obscure perimeter with the onion grass and occasional car stealing an overnight in the lot. That person was Marla McGinty, I remember her clearly—she was there for her third summer at the gas station, she was a college student and had blonde curls which fell over her shoulders and I had a major thing for her, which is why I got up so early for the milk. She ought to have spied it when doing some sort of morning duties. But her shift had started at five—I don’t know to this day why she didn’t see it, or anybody else hadn’t seen it, because the word came around the next day, from the coroner’s report, I imagine, or maybe it was just talk—that the body had been there since at least midnight the night before. Died right in that spot against the fence, in fact.

It was a man, early fifties. He had graying hair that was sticking up like he’d been to the beach. But there was no beach around—not unless you count the little 65 foot stretch of municipal dirt on Lake Folger which always has someone’s dog’s turd lurking in the grass just beyond the edge of the wet, grainy, sand, sand that’s more like cous cous than the way beach sand should be. It was like the man was a surfer with salt water in his hair, I remembered thinking, but then I found out he was homeless. They found no identification on him. His face was the color of ash, but at the same time he had this peachy color to his cheeks, only it was the peach color of some bad ceramic dish a kid makes in art class, kind of pastel and lop sided. His hands were a different story. They were clasped together on his lap in the most obscene way—like he was a country boy sitting under a frigging apple tree, missing only the stalk of straw clutched between his teeth, having a dandy old time. That bothered me, seeing his hands like that. There was a lesion on his forehead—that’s what they called it, a “lesion.” I thought it was a gunshot first. That little bit of skin cratered out around the edges of a wound seeping cherry-syrup-type blood was only my imagination, though. The real wound was not bleeding, just a half-healed lesion in a paisley shape, or like a lenticular cloud, a long, smooth ellipse. And there were bits of dirt around his ears and nose, I remember that. Like he’d been sleeping for a while on the ground, face first. Some homeless guy, wandering up from those train tracks, abandoned for nearly half a century. Maybe he’d been waiting for a ride. For some reason he chuffed up the hill behind the gas station, probably pulling his way up using tussocks of grass as handles, grabbing at little cairns of rocks, coming up upon the gas station, seeing the fence, and giving up. Society’s last slap on the man’s face. Keep out. So he sat down, folded his hands on his lap, and punched his clock.

I often sit and wonder, as I’m driving along the long dark stretch of 75 in the middle of the night, doing my routine between Miami and Tampa Bay, if seeing that body was how I got to be where I am today. If seeing some homeless guy propped against a fence, dead, when I was fifteen got me into this life. Because it wasn’t like you see on TV, it wasn’t how that makes you feel like, “Oh, that’s some dead character or other, let’s be entertained for an hour finding out who sodomized them and tossed them in a lake,” no. I remember how I felt. You can’t experience that on a flat screen. It’s different than a funeral, too. You can literally feel the death at a funeral—that poignant absence of animation—but coming upon a corpse at random is very different. Because there’s no nicey-nice world of people in crisp clothes and wearing cologne and priests murmuring thoughtful homilies about the afterlife when you come across a body in the real world. It’s just you, and him, and a few flies alighting on his nose. And he pulls on you, like a weight.

I’ll drive for a long time thinking about this, and sometimes I’ll look at the fence along the Tamiami trail, the one that runs for more than a hundred mile stretch on 75, keeping the alligators in the swamp off the road. I had plenty of time to think about it one night in particular, the one I’m going to tell you about, when, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of night, in the middle of that goddam Cypress Preserve swamp, with those alligators rolling in the splashing dark, just on the other side of that little chain link fence, I ran out of fucking gas.

**

There’s two things I want you to understand. First, I’m not just some dumb Florida bumpkin, I’m a bonehead northern goon. I was born in New York, grew up for a time in Upstate, and then came to college at FSU. I graduated with a degree in philosophy. First Romano in my family to ever even graduate, but did my father congratulate me? No. My father wondered what the fuck I was going to do with a degree in philosophy. That’s because my father is a modern-day sophist; the expression of the sophists today can be found in secular humanism. Just because I went to school for philosophy didn’t mean I made a habit of running out of gas. And this wasn’t my fault, I’m telling you.

The other thing is, I never intended on being a criminal. Not that any of those guys up there in Starke, where Ted Bundy was executed, ever intended it either. I just mean, you know, some guys fantasize about it, they do. And some guys seem to just accept, somewhere in their youth, that it was going to be inevitable for them. Not me. I was middle class – my father was a shoe salesman and I had what I needed growing up. When I talk about that dead body, it’s because I really have to wonder. And I had plenty of time to wonder that long night on the Tamiami trail.

The car, my little Honda Fit, started sputtering when I was almost exactly half way between Naples and Fort Lauderdale. At two-thirty a.m., there’s a little bit of traffic on the road, but not much. As I coasted over to the side of the road and came to a stop, there was one big truck that blew past, buffeting me in its wake and rocking the little Fit on its shocks, and that was it for a while. I got out of the car, which is what you do when you run out of gas, I think, you get out of the vehicle and walk around it and look at it, like it’s the car’s fault, you scowl at it and say “hmmm” as you try not to think about what an idiot you are for running out of gas. I pulled my cell phone out of my jacket and squinted at the screen. I was grateful to see one bar – out there in Seminole territory, there’s not much in the way of coverage, but I had just a bit. So I dialed up Frank Mancuso, and got him up out of bed. The connection was spotty, but I was able to convey to him after repeating myself into the phone a couple of times, that I was in a predicament.

“Wh—out the—nt poison?”

That was the first thing Frankie could think to ask. What about the ant poison? I assured him everything was fine.

“I didn’t get in an accident, I told you. I ran out of gas.” I could tell I was getting angry because I felt like such a boob for letting the car get down to fumes. I even thought someone must’ve skewered a hole in the tank, and started hunting around under the car, poking my finger and looking for holes as I kept the phone to my ear. “I think someone might have punctured the tank.”

“—eally? Why—d—one—a hole?”

“I dunno, Frank. A prank, maybe. Some kids in Tampa with nothing else to do.”

Frank didn’t buy my theory. He told me to stay put. He wasn’t very happy I’d woken him up. Frank had a house just a few blocks in from the Gulf. He wanted one right on the water, but couldn’t afford it yet. This fact seemed to make Frank constantly irritable. He told me, after a few tries and me saying “Can you hear me now? You there, Frankie?” that he would come pick me up, dammit, that nobody was calling Triple A, nobody was flagging down any rides.

“You—eed—hi—ar.”

“Where am I going to hide the car. Frankie?” I looked up and down the long, lonely stretch of 75. The moon was a crescent, and there was just a little bit of soft light. The bugs droned past my ears, and I thought I heard something splash in the aquifer that runs parallel to the road, just on the other side of the gator fence.

“Push it off—ar as you c—“

Push it off the road as far as you can. Okay, I thought, where the hell am I going to push it to? Frank was from New Jersey and even though he’d been in Florida for 18 years, he still imagined that there were woods everywhere, like in Jersey, once you got ten miles away from the East River. Jersey was the perfect place for crime, and for keeping things secret, because you had all the corruption of New York and Newark and all the hiding spots of the Garden State. Florida, or at least this part of it, was not the best place for crime, or keeping secrets. Just ask the guys in Raiford Prison where old Bundy got the juice. I told Frank I would do the best I could. First, he told me, check the ant poison. It’s alright, I told him, but I popped the back hatch of the Fit and I looked in at the suitcase anyway, and told him again, everything was intact. We still had five hours to deliver the package, and if he came now to pick me up, we would make the drop with an hour to spare. This didn’t seem to place Frankie at all, and I told him I would get off the phone.

“—you—ing—hole—“

I didn’t like what I thought Frankie said at the end, and I hung up the phone.

Another vehicle appeared, its lights visible from a mile or more away, and I immediately shrunk. What if someone played Good Samaritan and stopped to help me out? I would have to put on a smile and play stranded tourist, that was what. I would just have to say No Thank You if they offered me a ride to Fort Lauderdale, and tell them I had a friend on the way. It wasn’t necessary anyway – the car didn’t even slow as it approached, and it blasted past in the humid night, and then things grew quiet, and I heard the frogs croaking again, and the buzz of the insects, and, after a little bit, another splash of something in the river along the road.

I walked around the Fit and opened the driver’s side door and put the car in neutral. I started pushing it forward, grabbed the wheel and turned it to the right so that the vehicle started to veer towards the fence. Bits of loose gravel popped out from beneath the tubeless tires. The ground sloped down just a little bit, helping me get it there. Stupid, I thought, pushing a car off the tarmac and into the soft, spongy shoulder. If a cop came by now it would look even worse, and I would have to concoct some story other than running out of gas—why did I push the car further off the road? The good news about Florida, though, and probably why guys like me and Frankie had gotten involved down here and still, to that day, marveled at the fact of it, was that you hardly ever saw cops in Florida the way you did in Jersey or Upstate New York. Up there, cops were part of the scenery. They were like flies on the roads. Down here, you had nothing but that vast flat swamp land, faintly glowing in the moonlight. You could also say that to the guys in Raiford, that while you couldn’t hide a body in a swimming pool, getting caught by the Florida cops meant you were pretty out to friggin lunch.

**

Let me tell you about the ant poison. Frank Mancuso wasn’t all that bright in a common-sense kind of way. When you first met him you’d think he was the type to, well, to try and hide a body in a swimming pool. But the ant poison gimmick was his idea; I have to give him credit.

Frank lived with his mother, who was at the end of her life, and their place was frequently occupied by hospice. Frank had prospered in women’s clothing, though he’d never really known much about clothes. He’d never really known much about women either—he hadn’t ever gotten far from his mother’s grasp, it seemed, and in recent years, with her illness, she’d renewed her grip with vigor. What Frank knew, though, was human behavior. He understood that people always wanted more than what they had. If that made him some sort of a casual Buddhist, I don’t know—you couldn’t talk to Frank about religions of the East; he had no ear for that sort of thing. He just knew people, in his way, knew that they wanted more—or in some cases, less—than what they had.

So, Frank started buying blouses and dresses that were size 8s when the label read 6. And he put slimming mirrors in all the dressing rooms of his store. (The mirrors weren’t so slimming you’d consciously notice, not like a funhouse, but subtle.) The women came in, took the clothes from the rack and tried them on in front of those mirrors. Behold! They were able to fit into that size 6 and they had the reflection to prove it. Sales went through the roof. Frank made over a million that first year alone—and this was in 1974. That he blew most all of it at the dog track over the next three decades is a tale for another time.

The idea for ant poison came from when Frank opened his second store in a Golden Gate neighborhood infamous for its vicious carpenter aunt population. Frank was undaunted by the scourge of tiny the ants. First, he was meticulous. You wouldn’t think a clothing store collected food-related waste like crumbs or sticky, empty soda cans, but, it did. People, Frank said, individually and at home, were typically not slobs. Sure, you had your hoarders and your sloths, but most people bore some semblance to manners and etiquette. But, together in a public place, people were filthy animals. Even in a clothing store you’d find sandwich crusts, apple cores, wrappers, bottles, half-full cans, and once three and a half donuts left in a box of a dozen sitting beneath a spin rack of bikinis.

Everything drew the carpenter ants, and no matter how fastidiously Frank kept after the mess (or, really, barked orders at his two nighttime employees, Elsa and Felicia, two Mexican girls on the payroll) the ants would always be there. Left unchecked, they would climb the racks and get into the clothes. Frank called them a “pestilence.” (He was fond of biblical terms, dramatic terms, likely having root in his early seminary schooling and the nuns, with their minty breath and knuckle-wrapping yardsticks.) But, he had the solution. There was a brand of exterminant Frank found that was called Infiltrix.

Infiltrix claimed to employ a method that was sure to eradicate the entire aunt problem in your home or office. One of the worker ants took the bait and brought it back to the colony. There it would wreak havoc, and ultimately destroy the queen, who was propagating all the new ants.

The queen, in this case, was Fernando Maddox, and he was in Miami. That was who I was on my way to see—the flamboyant son of Columbian emissary Polito Juarez. Fernando was queer as a three dollar bill, so they say, yet completely vicious in maintaining his clubs, boat races, and empire of toot-in-common. Whether sexuality has anything to do with the manner in which the son in a massive Columbian cartel governs the 38 men and women in his employ, keeps track of the books or choses the enterprise with which to satisfy the government (in this case the maintenance of those cigar boats you see out there leaping the waves at rocket ship speeds – two in fact, were in the Michael Mann remake of Miami Vice that Fernando’s crew had provided) is not something I have any idea about—as far as I’m concerned there’s no difference between a rival family member and a gay rival family member. If Maddox wants to put a bullet in you, you don’t get “gay killed,” you just take the toe tag and get killed. All I knew is that Fernando was fond of wearing bright yellow pastel gold shirts, or powder blue, and of smoking cigarettes through a holder the way Hunter S. Thompson is always depicted as doing. Fernando thought that Hunter S. Thompson was one of the greatest Americans to ever live because he rode with the Hell’s Angels. What Fernando likely didn’t know about was Thompson’s campaign for Aspen Sheriff, or the fact that his experience with the Angels lead to a kind of disdain for the banality of their depravity – once the motorcycle smoked cleared, they were just ruthless animals, and not rock stars. These things I knew about Fernando for a fact, and I what I could suspect was that he would have loved to be called The Queen.

I listened to the high sound of the insects and the splashes in the vast bog under the moon’s soft, iridescent light. Some of the noises came from far off, some disturbingly close, and twice my body tensed, my pulse quickened. I found myself walking alongside of the fence, running my fingers against the chain links, thinking of that body I first saw as a teenage kid.

I wasn’t thinking about it for long, because the first gator that had been lurking along the banks of the aquifer just on the other side of the fence crashed into it, rattling the whole thing for yards, startling me so bad I fell back and let out a scream.

Sitting on my duff a second later, I could see the glints in the eyes of the reptile as it recoiled slowly from its strike. I could make out the low, fat body of it. I sat in shock for a moment. There I’d been lost in thoughts on Fernando Maddox leaping though a gay killing spree and the dead homeless man I’d dropped the dime on years ago, and a fucking alligator was smashing itself against the fence. It gradually receded into the water as I slowly got to my feet, careful not to make any sudden movements. The fence was still jostling, the links rattling, coming to a rest. My heart walloped in my chest and my ears sang with a high ringing, my blood pumping fast through my veins, the pitch of the jangled fence resonating in my ears.

“You son of a bitch,” I breathed in a whisper. I stood all the way up and stared at the beast through the fence, under the pale light of the moon. I heard another noise—not exactly a splash, but the distinct sound of a heavy body entering the water as a second gator came out of the bog and slipped into the aquifer on the opposite bank. Two of them. I could make out the dark shape of the second one’s head as it cut through the water.

I started walking back toward the car, and realized I had strayed from the little Fit by about fifty yards. I’d been walking along in my reverie, getting further and further away from the vehicle. I hastened my pace and moved as quickly and calmly as I could back to its safety.

In the back of the Fit was a briefcase. In it was what Frank called the ant poison. The briefcase contained a special document, a forgery our people had concocted per Frank’s idea. The document was a fake transmission from Polito Juarez, Fernando’s father, who had been back in Columbia preparing the next massive influx of cocaine for the past week. Fernando and his father never communicated by cell phone or email, nothing that left a digital or electronic trail for the feds to pick up on. They were one step away from carrier pigeon, using only couriered documents that came by boat. It took longer, but then, word was, anything Polito Juarez wanted to tell his son was important and calculated, and would be timed to be apropos even if it took two days by boat. Our family had installed a fake courier some months before who had earned the trust of the Juarez Cartel since – that was the worker ant. My job was to deliver the document to the ersatz courier, who would then get it into Fernando’s hands. No guns, no bombs, nothing messy and obvious. Things today were done with paperwork. The document was the bait which, with its false message, would start a chain reaction, and take down the queen. That was the theory, anyway.

A vehicle whooshed past on the road. For a moment, I thought it slowed, and instead of this worrying me, this time I felt a rush of relief. I had to quickly brush this relief aside, both because it could still potentially spoil everything to be sidetracked by an interloper, but because I knew the feeling meant I was scared. Out here, smack dab in the middle of the Florida swamp land still owned by the Seminoles, in the middle of the night, with gators on the other side of a fence no more formidable than the one surrounding the parking lot of my youth where the body had been found, you might think it was okay to be scared. But this was all I had, this job, and one of its requirements was fulfilling the assignment at all costs. There were no excuses, ever, which were permitted, and running out of gas and being spooked by gators was high amid the inadmissible lot of them.

Thinking these thoughts, I never considered that there might be a gap in the fence somewhere. Some things, I suppose, effortlessly gain your foolish trust in this life, and fences seem to be among them. Maybe it was the fact that the homeless man from my childhood hadn’t found a way through the fence guarding that gas station, I don’t know—it just hadn’t occurred to me. All I could think about was opening the back hatch of the Fit and checking in on the briefcase again, and the document it contained, prepared to deliver Fernando Maddox the forged correspondence from his father which would bring him down. The aunt poison that would take out the queen of Miami, and, for a time, severely cripple the Juarez family, giving my family the time it needed to get in there and wreak havoc on the operation. I popped the latch and the hatch door drifted up and open.

The gator hiding beneath the Honda sunk its teeth into my leg as soon as I started to reach into the back of the Fit. The sensation of the bite was not so much pain—that would come a little later—but an intense pressure, pressure like nothing I’d ever felt before. The grip of the beast’s jaw snapped the bones in my chin and ankle like dry kindling. I could feel the flow of the blood instantly, but mostly I just gasped from that pressure, the vice grip of the animal something unearthly, something hydraulic, as if the car itself had suddenly dropped onto my leg—something I actually, for a fraction of a second, considered.

Then the animal, tucked beneath the Fit, gave a yank. I flipped onto my back, and the air was expelled from my lungs in a huffing rush so that there was not a cubic centimeter of it left inside my body. My mouth worked as I lay beneath the stars and moon, like a fish, probably, jerked to shore, gasping for air. The animal would typically roll, I thought, but from beneath the car, it didn’t seem to have the room. Instead, it pulled on me, and I felt my buttocks and the back of my head sliding along the grass as it attempted to drag me beneath the car.

You hear about alligator attacks from time to time—you may even see video of one on YouTube. What you don’t ever hear about is the sound the creatures make, or the smell of it. Well, I can attest: They are mostly silent, there is no roar. Instead, tugged halfway beneath the little car, I could hear everything in the immense quiet. The ringing in my ears had abated and now filled with the sounds of the huge reptile’s breathing. Blasts of air expelled from its lungs through the nostrils atop its long snout. It seemed to grunt, the air hissing in bursts and a snorting sound, and the smell—something like an inflatable raft left in the closet for months, taken out one day and inflated, the stink of it wet and rotten. The odor of shit, too, filled my nose as I took that heaping first breath after getting the wind knocked out of me; the smell of waste matter along the furry bottom of a swamp, where bottom-feeders live in the dark.

As the monster beneath the car chuffed and tugged on my leg, the pain grew. My nerves licked up from my lower body like flames sprouting in a freshly ignited fire. The pain was red, the pain was blue—blue fire in tentacles from my chin and ankle and up through my thigh, into my hips and lower back, winding itself all the way through my torso. I reached up and grabbed the rear bumper of the Fit before the animal could pull me any further. Its power was incredible—it took all my strength to fight with it, to hold there. And then, a miraculous thing happened. It let go.

I scrambled with everything I had, kicking with my good leg, digging that heel into the thick grass and pulling with my upper body to slide myself back out from underneath the car. As I did it dawned on me that there were still two other gators—that I knew of—and if one had been able to circumvent the fence, so might they. There was no time to lose. I was able to bring myself up into a sitting position, my legs still beneath the back of the Fit. My breathing was rapid, my chest lurching with short, panicked breaths. My arms trembled so bad one elbow slipped from the bumper. I placed my hands in the stiff grass behind me and slid myself back further. From the time the gator had let go until the moment I started getting up, perhaps ten seconds had lapsed, no more. Terror hit me bright and crisp as I thought of the animal circling around to the back of the car with sickening speed. The thought gave me a burst of strength and I was able to get up on one foot, and then dove into the back of the open hatch. As I did, I heard something—I was quite sure I heard something—and it sounded like the snap of jaws as the gator just missed me, having scrambled its way around to the back of the car.

Now I hoisted myself up and over the back seat. My leg was a symphony of pain. It pulsed and throbbed, and razor strips of pain flashed up and down its length. I felt like there was barbed wire wrapped around my calf and chin, cinched tighter with every passing second, scraped up and down the length of my lower leg at the same time. I fell into the back seat, dragging blood over the upholstery. So much blood—I didn’t quite realize how much at first. But when I managed to turn around in the back seat on my knees, my chest was drenched with it.

Could the gator climb up and into the car after me? I wasn’t taking any chances. With my abdomen pressing painfully into the headrests of the rear bench seat, I stretched and was able to reach the interior handle of the hatch door. As I brought the door down the alligator leapt, its jaws slamming closed inches from my face, hanging suspended there as I stretched for the door. In that split second the gator came so close to biting off my nose, my lips, maybe my eyes, I pulled even more forcibly on the hatch door so that when it came down, it crunched the skull of the beast.

At least, in that somehow infinite stretch of milliseconds, that’s what I envisioned. Instead, the brittle plastic of the little car was what did the crunching, and bounced off of the tough hide of the gator and rebounded back. I lost my grip on the handle as the door swung back up into the air, and I fell forward. With my one arm sticking out, my fingers twiddling the air where they had once gripped the hatch handle, my other arm crushed below my own weight on the seat back, my body’s balance was lost, and I fell forward, pivoting on the fulcrum of the seatback.

The beast’s mouth was still closed and so my face slammed into the top of its head. I felt its hard scales with my soft skin. I could smell the swamp on it, those dead-creature smells, that fecal odor. It was slick with the water and oils on its skin, and my face slid off to the side. I felt my ear graze one of its massive, thumb-sized incisors. At the same time, I brought my right arm down and pressed my palm to the upholstered base of the rear hatch. I shoved instantly and pushed myself back up and away from the gator. And while the hatch door hadn’t had the crushing effect I’d hoped, it seemed that it had been enough to give the animal pause, because as I got myself resituated, the gator slipped out of the back of the Fit. I heard it hit the grass, sounding like a packed suitcase dropped to the ground. I reached up again and took the hatch handle firmly. I swung the door down and shut.

Only because of the damage I’d just done bringing it down on the back of the gator’s head, the door didn’t latch closed, and bounced back up again.

“Oh dear Jesus,” I said.

The creature rose back up. My balance was gone again, and I swung helplessly down, the soft tissues of my face hanging there in the humid air in the back seat of that fucking Honda Fit, my body a trebuchet swinging my dumb face down towards the briefcase which sat stupidly on the floor of the hatch. I saw the monster’s face with startling clarity now; it suddenly lit up the way I figured things do moments before you die. Its narrow eyes flashed bright and murderous, sparkling like obsidian. It’s mouth opened to reveal an interior not pink, but the color of moldered earth, the color of waterlogged, rotted bodies, a sick, mottled peach color, like the face of the dead man from my youth. Its body was shining black and green, the nubs and knobs of its rigorous skin like the scales of a dragon.

And then, the creature vanished.

It took me a moment to realize that the stark clarity with which I’d seen the animal wasn’t because I was on the precipice of death, but because a car was coming to a stop next to mine, its lights on brightly, filling the interior of the Fit now.

I heard a shot. Then I heard shouting. A second later I saw good ole Frank Mancuso standing there at the back of the Honda holding a pistol, his eyes wide, his mouth open in an O shape as he looked in on me. Frank Mancuso, who had prospered in women’s clothes.

“What the hell?” asked Frank.

My leg gushed blood. The pain crawled over every part of my body now, a living thing with thousands of teeth. My head swam. I wasn’t sure who I was, where I was. I saw the body propped against the fence. You never know what a dead body is really going to feel like until you experience it yourself. Was I dead? I didn’t feel dead.

I didn’t feel dead.

 

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