The Boy who Built the Body Ship
He walked along the path littered with both natural and unnatural debris, the wind rustling the branches like the arc of inhalation as a vault is opened. The town up ahead past the overhanging foliage was quiet, motionless. He looked through the windows as he passed by and each building was empty.
His mind cobbled together white noise to fill in where there should have been a black cacophony. Ahead at one of the street corners he spotted a tall ostrich standing upright, its long neck curving upward with a tiny pale hand connected to the top of it. There were no cars on the road.
He followed the bird as it disappeared around the corner. He took the right down a side street and headed towards the lake, down another path to where the air was crisp, down where the bird trotted.
Act 1: He Lives
The beach was made of pebbles and other tiny rocks, covered with driftwood and seaweed and trash. He passed by the bird and looked up at the palm as it opened wider to face him. It was covered in dirt and dismissible lacerations. Sidewinders of reek slithered into every orifice. He quivered and continued on.
Every step landed with a loud crunch and a bit of a slide. His attention was overtaken by the two massive ships that had apparently beached themselves to the left of him. The one furthest looked to be made of wood and iron, with great masts reaching into the sky, some buckled at 90 degrees. The one closest looked like it was all rusted metal and covered in ugly splotches. He approached using the navigation of a dream state.
Out there in the surf stood a young boy who was staring straight back at him. The water frothed around his waist and eased onto the shore. As the man approached so did the boy who held a long, thin knife at his side. He was wearing a red flannel coat and dark jeans. The man was going to ask him about...
As he approached the undeniable hook-lined wall of stench
hit him; the boast closest to him was covered in gore. The water around it ferried clotted blood and pus onto the rocks. What looked like branches at a distance
were in fact severed limbs and loose piles of flesh. Deconstructed bodies were
reassembled like a puzzle, shin leading into an opened jaw that connected to a
ribcage. A ray of sunlight peeked through the tiny opening of a cracked femur
jutting out from the first mast. The ship was made of death.
The boy was within shouting distance by the time he noticed the grim tapestry of faces and skin that covered the hull of the ship. The ship which was, all things considered, built as an exact clone to the wooden one at its side.
The boy dropped the knife to the ground, “who are you?” The man pulled his gaze away from the ship and replied “I came into town, then I followed the bird.”
He introduced himself as Xi’Alik, standing there at the average height of an 8 year old and staring up with bright blue eyes. “Did you parents give you that name?” asked the man. “No,” he replied, “this boy’s parents are dead. They’re over there.” He pointed a chubby finger at the ship without breaking eye contact. “I’m using his body right now.”
The man asked how old Xi’Alik was; “I’m two thousand years old. I’m using his body right now. Do you see?” The man surveyed the landscape; they were alone all along the shoreline in either direction. “What are you?” asked the man. “I came from hell. I came up to build this ship because I need to sail out to sea, this was the only way I could do it. I had to use this one because I needed hands.” Xi’Alik held his tiny hands up, covered in dried blood and sinew.
The man asked him “how did you pick this one?” He lowered his hands, “I kept his future in my pocket for one hundred years, it couldn’t have happened any other way, not the way I saw it. The probability was too great.” And that was all that was said on how the decision was made.
“What’s hell like?” asked the man. The boy began walking back to the ship and he followed. “It’s brighter and colder. It’s different atmospheres that intersect, all the colours and tesseracts. It’s different than up here. You never really embraced the concept of spheres.”
Xi’Alik trailed off and grabbed the ankle of a severed torso, dragging it across the rocks, the top of the spine snagging some along. The man continued “is this the town, then?” motioning to the ship. “It’s the town and then some. There wasn’t enough to make a boat the size I required. I’m going out into the open ocean.”
Act 2: He Dies
The man sidestepped a swarm of blackflies that lingered in the air like the memory of a lowered chandelier. Xi’Alik drops the torso at the edge of the water and wades out to the ship, the man in pursuit. He keeps his distance as the boy walks up to a very much alive man who had been sewn into the sip by the shoulders and arms, the rest of him swallowed up somewhere in the static churn. “In hell everything is stretched, here everything is collected... We only speak the language of reality and action, we don’t make noise like this.”
The man on the boat hung his head low and muttered continuously. Xi’Alik listened to him for a moment, then drove his left thumb into the man’s eye. He slid a knife out of his back pocket. A length of string fell out and disappeared into the water. He drove the edge of the knife into the skull and began peeling away the scalp, revealing a metal plate beneath. He points the knife at the wet steel; “you see?”
He pocketed the knife, drove his other thumb into the eye, yanked at the head until it dislocated. He pulled with vigor and hacked at it with a knife he pulled from his back pocket. The head released all smooth and tense like it were emerging from a cocoon. He returned to the shore with the head and tossed it with other discarded parts. “He was saying what I told him to say when he was a child. He thanked me for everything, right up until the end. You don’t understand this suffering as you should. But you will.”
The man looked back towards the tree line, back to where he left the bird which had vanished some time ago. His eyes wandered up the trunks and up towards the sky where he meditated on the thick pillars of smoke mixing in with the clouds and dimming the view. Broiling funnel clouds humming dirge, standing sentinel and lording over some chaos hidden from view.
“Why are you here?” asked the man, swallowing consistently to maintain his composure. Xi’Alik was gazing off into the distance, into the ocean. “I’m here to find the Toxic God.” The man walked closer “what’s that?” The boy’s eyes were wide and distant. They began to dry and well with tears. He blinked consciously to correct it. “It lives in the furthest depths of the ocean, somewhere out there. I know where it is, and it will be easier to find as its power grows. We calculated the end of the world a millennia ago, as we calculated everything. I have seen enough to know it was correct. You’ve seen it.”
Xi’Alik walked past the man and retrieved the knife he dropped earlier. The handle was wrapped in black electrical tape. As he returned, his blinking was irregular by half-measures, with one quicker than the other. Each finger moved with a purposeful rhythm, every movement surgical.
Act 3: He Lives Again
“The Toxin God is moaning now, loud enough for us to hear it. Its Horns flake away and send tremors so loud we can hear it. It’s made itself known, you know what it sounds like.” Xi’Alik slid the knife in his belt adorned with bright cartoon characters. “I spoke with a lot of people as I was building the ship with them and they mentioned the moon, and I came to understand that the Toxin God is a lot like your moon.” The man cleared his throat, “so you’re like an astronaut?”
“Someone who leaves the planet and goes to the moon, or around that area.”
“I suppose so!”
The boy took the man by the hand and pointed at the ship. He guided his finger up the mast and settled on a clot of carnage with a hair halo. “That one said he saw the moon landing. It didn’t make sense the way he said it, but I understand now. That’s so...”
He watched his eyes blink in unison. He remembered the hollow barks from beast and man that rang haunting like a rape in a cavern following him until he found the path. He remembered the end of his life as he watched the sun turn purple behind a thin membrane of hate that slid across the sky to cause society to writhe until inside-out. Dead things jangling subtly from the darkness like guttural poems. The grids of civilization made fallow and fertile for the darkness that crept from every orifice.
He blinked, enraptured by his own mission. “I want to get out there until it all comes down, I want to see it. I want to see it come to life and reveal itself. The fog that wraps around the toothy spines, the ooze held in place by pillars covered in craters, I’ve drawn it out so many times. I want to see it crest and...”
The man hoisted himself onto the deck of the ship, onto the surprisingly hardened planks of death beneath his feet. The sun shines bright to the left of him and the smoke of suffering encroaches to the right. Between the two, the open sea. “I’ll never see the moon like you,” he said. The boy pulled on knotted intestines punctured by nails and thorns, raising masts of crudely stitched skin. The ship shuddered then quaked.
“They didn’t think I would make it this far, and there’s no way for me to go back. It’s a one way trip. I’ve been dreaming of this for so long.” Xi’Alik walked over to the ship’s wheel and adjusted the course. The ship lurched forward and groaned. Peering over the edge he saw loose arms and legs walking them out into the water, plunging into the sharp rocks and arcing like a caterpillar. Naked slaves deep in the guts of the thing.
The boy walked back towards the man. There were screams in the wind but they seemed like light years away, plucking at the air like dying embers that he refused to accept. Up high, the clouds mingled with the antler-shaped smoke trails of exploded airliners.
They boy removed the knife from his belt and raised it to his side as evidence, saying “I can show you a new world, like I showed the rest of them. I can let you see what I see, but I’m going to show you with this knife.” He held it out gently as if it were a piece of fruit. The man stood there without breathing. He looked down. Then he nodded.
“See, you do understand!”