PART 13

She asks in that rehearsed tranquility; that silver voice, that comely voice in control of the drumming song of the hummingbird heart, because she’s the immovable rock. She can still be the hero.

What’re they gunna do to him?

And with the wet-blanket heat and the soft strangle of anxiety that makes the swollen edge of her nose trickle with an oval of sweat and imperceptibly tame tears tumbling down one-by-one from her smoke-burnt eyes that she can blame on the crushing stench that’s becoming insistently more putrid; she is that immovable rock. She is that silver voice in the simmering, nervous night.

They already hurt him, so now they eat him so no one can find him, the little girl says, But no hands and feet, that’s bad luck, you don’t eat that.

Can you untie me?

Mmmm, no, the little girl says in that childish way kids do with moony, large eyes, and she moves back to sit on her haunches and rocks back and forth for an absent comfort; she’s jumpy, but she’d untie her with the right coercing, or at least try to. The night is starless and peerless to all other dark nights and the little ones sunken-eyed stare bleeds out into the rest of it, making her look like a tiny, swaying skull.

The chanting and crying of the other child is loud, but there’s another shimmer of a noise quivering faintly close by. It rustles in cold-blood fully alive on nights like this and it curls, watches from somewhere. The detective says, stay still, there’s a rattler.

A snake? It won’t bite, it’s a toy, wanna see it?

No, don’t touch it. It’s not a toy.

Trust me, I play with it. It was my toy. I think it just came to life now, i’ll find it.

The little skeleton stands with difficulty, must’ve stood too swiftly, because she crashes into a brief lean onto a tree and breathes before darting out, and vanishes into a curvy palisade of shadows and thick-thighed oaks.

You just had to be the hero, the broken corpse of her father says, shaking his head, tsk tsk, from the ground where he lies.

No! Stop! The girl shouts, the detective can can hear dull thudding against thin skin, stop biting me!

The chanting dies for a moment, long enough for howling to raise itself up between the distance of it, and of her, and she looks back again even if it hurts her head where the shock had once shunned the reality of the wound, which began painfully to throb along with the gallop of her pulse.

A nude man walks down an aisle strewn with miniature bones, could be avian, limping familiarly from the right hip, wearing a paper mask similar to Baby Mikey’s, but his is a bigger dog–a wolf, with a scarlet streamer for a tongue that affords it either more primitive an appearance or sinister–yet it has antlers reaching up. The worshippers swoon to the ground and bury their faces and fingers into the hot earth, smearing their loose hair with it, bowing to him. He raises his hands up to the sky, says something that sounds more like a gurgle, but she can hear the words, lord, hear our prayers.

That’s when the gunshot strikes him in the chest.

TO BE CONTINUED…