trigger warning: mild body horror, violence, mentions of hunger/food
Once the wind enters your ears, it never really leaves. Like a virus, or maybe a parasite, drilling down with its single hollow, conular tooth until it passes through your brain, reaches your eyes, squeaks out through your nose and between your teeth. Remember when we were younger, when we got our first MP3 players and we finally had a soundtrack for our walks to school, or rides home in the rain? Now, my every move thrills with dissonance. As if the wind is not a memory at all, but rather the sound of the present air through my webby, crumbling bones.
It started with us camping off the shore of one of the Great Lakes, I can’t remember which one. I don’t know why we thought it would be romantic. Trying to unzip each of our sleeping bags and line then up together, make a bigger one, but they wouldn’t stay straight and we kept ending up on the lumpy canvas floor, freezing cold and too sweaty in the places where we touched. I couldn’t sleep like that, and even once we gave up and turned our separate ways, it was too loud; my brain wouldn’t turn off. I tried to find music in the raucous waves and the rattle of tree branches, but it was no use.
You fell asleep somehow, and then your snores joined the messy tapestry of noise. My eyes stabbed with exhaustion. I tried to crush my sleeves against my ears, plug them long enough to slip off, but the wind had already found its way inside of me; there was no use trying to block it out.
I don’t know when I first heard her. I don’t think she can be defined by time quite like that. Once the wind wound deep enough, I realized that it had been her voice all along. The shock hit me like the skin of the frozen lake, and I was cold and hollow and grasping at the slippery nylon of the sleeping bag, the teeth of the zipper grating my fingernails.
I couldn’t close my eyes, or she would slip inside the tent. I couldn’t keep them open, or I would see her.
She was shaped like a question mark, semicircular spine and rawhide skin and thick barrel ribs all hiked atop a too-thin pair of legs, some ungodly miracle of gravity. Her arms had too many joints, or else they were bent the wrong way, or both. She smiled when I saw her. Wide, wide, wide smile stretching back to below her soft ears. Her eyes were very small, very red-rimmed in the sunken whiteness of her broad face.
She was hungry. So hungry. I was so hungry.
When you’re that hungry, it isn’t about emptiness. It isn’t even about food. It is about the warm and the cold, and we were in the middle of a snowy forest, and when I looked down I saw that the skin had already turned pale and melted away from my fingers, and I knew that my face was already nearer to hers, and when I looked over at you, soft and sleeping, flush and distant, I was hungrier and hornier than any human had ever been in their life.
We ate you together. Maybe we talked about it beforehand, but I can’t remember how. My teeth were sharper than I knew. She was not so frightening when she was full. Nor was I. You tasted like home, like our favorite restaurant, like the fast food we were going to buy to celebrate the end of our trip. You were red and orange and loud and bright and perfect, the opposite of the snow.
We couldn’t stay, she and I. I rose up and let my spine fold over and it was so, so much better. The snow was hot on my blue-bitten feet. I ran to escape it. Left ashen prints behind. Ran faster and faster. She spoke or sang and I cried or replied.
We gallop, fly. It is too gray to see the stars. The forest rips in our ears and our lungs, and I know now that there is no use trying to drown out the wind. It is so much easier to laugh along.