by: Austin James
The man managed to find (logistically speaking) the worst possible location in the mud pit; too far from the center to gather any real moisture for rehydration, yet also too far from the edge to avoid getting stuck. I say ‘man’ because whatever it was, it appeared to be male… but I’m not an expert on these things. Mans are
Resting in the sand just beyond the edges of the mud pit, shading beneath a mature sage and congratulating myself on the decision to divorce Eleanor, I watched the man, sun-bleached and wobbly, come out of the desert seeking water and get lodged in the mud. As a younger
I’d been having dreams where I tried to scurry for shade only to find the sand too slick, too deep, and no matter how fast I scuttled I could barely move. Almost as if my thin, green tail weighed as much as a rattlesnake. I presumed the muddy mammal knew exactly how that felt—
Eventually, the man realized that struggling was useless.
As the sun slithered across the sky, I watched as the primate’s hairless flesh shrunk and cracked into a thousand peeling pieces.
The man evaporated until it earned the trust of the thirsty dirt, ironically just out its reach.
Studying the creature led to pondering my dreams. Why couldn’t I scamper? What was weighing me down? Given that morning’s events back home, surely the dreams were my subconscious telling me that marriage held me back from experiencing life.
I imagined the man was capable of complex thought and contemplated the landscape’s origin as it died. It wondered if the mountains were all once massive cubes of rock, melting in the desert sun over thousands of years to form the cliffs and arches.
Its throat and tongue were sandstone. They had to be in that heat.
Plump blisters the color of wood ticks peppered the mammal’s skin. I licked the air and swabbed the roof of my mouth for a whiff of smoldering flesh, which kind of reminded me of Eleanor’s cockroach casserole.
After a while, its eyes slowed and relaxed, accepting the fact that it wouldn’t survive. It
It’d still moan and wiggle a bit on
As the sky changed to milkweed for the setting sun, the primate stopped resisting the mud’s tight embrace altogether. Its breathing became obviously more painful. It made some raspy choking noises and a weak whimper before its squinty eyes closed to unconsciousness.
Once it finally perished, I knew I just witnessed something beautiful and, quite literally, very dirty. In turn, I felt both beautiful and dirty… even my eyes seemed filthy from watching the man’s pre-death cremation.
I tongued my ocular turrets, slurping them clean, and began to dig my burrow beneath the familiar sage.
Austin James has caffeine in his blood, gypsy spit in his spinal fluid, and a collection of his writing called Regurgitations. You can read more of his work at Pulp Metal Magazine, Troubadour 21 (mobile only), Twelve Point Collective (print only), and Bartleby Snopes.
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