By Michael Luo
BY MICHAEL LUO
Short Fiction: A sandy alternative to sweetness.
“Did you get it?”
“I think I got something.”
“You probably missed.”
“We’ll see about that.”
RJ wanted to come, but I told him to stay. Then I forgot he was my brother and not my dog, so he came along anyway.
For all the rational thinking we could’ve done, rationing our food was not one of them. Now, we were dependent on ourselves to hunt. Thankfully, those archery lessons in War Corps. were worth something, if naught for all the cute boys I never impressed.
We approached our prey at different rates. RJ sprinted up, grossed himself out, and then acted like nothing was wrong.
“Oh, not bad. I could’ve done better,” he called back.
As I got up to see our pre-cooked meal, RJ gently positioned himself behind me with his head poking out from my side.
“What, scared of death?”
“Nah, just making sure the zombies get you first.”
I took one glance that became a gaze.
It was almost smiling. A crescent crease swiped across its dried, tender scales with cerulean-tainted eyes, looking like matte marbles stuck in time. Lying limp on its side, the beast looked comfortable, as if to say, “Do not disturb. Just casually dying.”
Staring at a dead lizard was not worth my time, given the lack of food and water, but for reasons unknown to my injured spirit, I decided to kneel down and acquaint the creature. RJ stood his ground. He didn’t ask, so I didn’t answer.
For something that had just skipped across miles of sand for who knows what, it had deceptively short legs. The bent in its knees depicted a run lost of purpose. Maybe it was looking for family, for adventure, or for food like us, but just so happens, on an arbitrary day when the sun still chose to rise and gravity still thought to come to work, a calculated, steel arrow had found the fortune to pierce its abdomen. Tough luck. Out here in the desert, there was a queen somewhere, and I had to make that point clear.
The pierce wasn’t even that good. All hunters know a shot well placed doesn’t leak blood. For Mr. Dead Lizard-soon-to-be-dinner, trails of life drained out from where my hunger had found its cure. I once heard that a desert lizard could change color depending on its mood. Tan must’ve meant pretty dead.
It just lied there, like an idiot, with its scales flopped back and a tail curled down. I almost felt sorry, but I didn’t. If it had run any faster, the bastard wouldn’t have felt sorry for me. Its sneaky snout still pointing up as if I owed it some post-mortem respect.
Screw you. The desert is dry, hot, and rarely friendly, so if you want a funeral, you’re not getting it. Remember the time RJ let the rabbit go? Or when he told me the cow had told him that the chicken had been on vacation and that’s why we didn’t have any eggs for breakfast? That was when we had a farm. Now all we had were hunger and motivation, and believe me, Lizard, those two aren’t working in your favor.
I had stared at this passed-away reptile long enough. Picking it up by its tail, I pulled my arrow out like any good Samaritan would. There was a prolonged shtick sound, matched by an “ughhhh” from RJ as I watched some of the lizard come along with the pull. That was rather unfortunate. Now my arrow smelled of sulfur.
In my left hand, the rotting body unrolled like a string puppet held by a single limb. Its four legs swung while its head bobbed in the desert gust, imitating a metronome at mercy to the sway of its tail held by me, and the draught of the dry, hot air prescribed by God.
He was supposed to be dinner. But something about the asymmetrical hole in his chest caused by my own doing made me lose appetite. Had I really killed this beast? All six inches of the last descendant of dinosaurs that once dominated my planet? Now in one hand I held a weapon of my choosing forever stained with killing while in the other, a memory of how death was committed in hopes of life.
Involuntarily but not out of passion, I dropped the arrow as I took a seat into the sand, one leg crossed over another. Placing the cold, scaly lump into my lap, I unfolded his retired talons and brushed closed his frozen eyes to artificially make peace out of murder. Treating him like he was a toy, perhaps one that belonged to RJ, I violated his being by bending his corpse into as natural a position as I could imagine. He looked almost comfortable. Without his consent, I tucked his body into the desert, tail first like any mother would. The ceremony wasn’t quite complete, but I decided to leave it at that. The rest was up to wind and sand.
“C’mon, let’s go,” I said to RJ.
He didn’t respond, but I know he followed.
Michael Luo ‘16 ([email protected]) last had a rice krispie with a side of Lamont for dinner.