Leaves crunch under your boots. The air you breathe is harsh and crisp, it stings like a knife in your chest. You cough into your glove. Pull your jacket closer. Birdcalls and squirrel chatter tell you it’s morning. Not that it matters. You’ve been in the dark for years now.
Tapping your cane along the familiar path, you recall that horrible night when you heard the lone wolf outside your cabin. It had been a cold winter. Everything was hungry. Even you. Especially you. But since you were single and alone without handicap, merely jobless, the food bank didn’t seem to have anything left for you at the end of the day. All your traps had come up empty. The wolves hadn’t even left a rabbit to spare …
You had shared a cabin with two rats that had come in from the cold. You’d even named them Mork and Mindy. The nibble sounds they made as they created their nest were comforting late at night as you lay before the warm fire. They, too, were hungry, and would have cleaned up your crumbs … if there were any.
Soon, they had offspring to feed, and you assumed they found seeds and grass outside. After a particularly cold night, you drank your last quarter bottle of whiskey (you’d been saving it for the sixth month anniversary of losing your job.) On an empty stomach, the buzz was a real doozy, and you had fallen into the deepest sleep of your life.
You awoke to the sound of your eyes being eaten. Mork and Mindy had finished your left (you could feel the hollow with your own fingers!) and eaten through half of the right when you smacked one away. You could hear its body thump against the cabin wall. But the other rat, Mindy, you think, wasn’t going to have her children’s dinner stripped away so easily. She bit your finger, plucked out your half-eaten right eye and began to chew when you grasped it by its neck and squeezed until you felt its ribs crack.
Your neighbors, Pastor Abides and his wife, had heard your screams and rushed you to the hospital. When you’d returned, Mrs. Abides helped you apply for government assistance and fed you home cooked meals for weeks. But you’d found Mork and Mindy’s carcasses; you diced their tiny bodies and put them into a pot of stew. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but you prefer it hot.
Your cane nudges against something soft, and you pull off your glove to touch it even though you don’t need to.
You smell its heat, its life.
You’ve set many traps around the woods. It’s how you were raised to survive: catching animals, eating the meat, skinning their hide for coats and blankets. Survival isn’t why you do it now.
Life is easy and uncomplicated since you were handicapped. The government gives you food stamps, medical—they pay your rent and even provide transportation. The nice ladies down at Saint John’s thrift give you clothes and sometimes even a nice haircut. No, trapping deer and wolves give you something far more than the government or a friendly voice can give.
You run your fingers up the doe’s thigh. She kicks. You can tell by the faint twinge that she’s half gone. It’s exactly the way you like them. You run your hand further up her hindquarters, over her belly. Her swollen teats reveal a secret: she has offspring nearby. This gives you a surge of pleasure, it’s the reason why you do this, what makes it all worthwhile.
You graze her spine. Feel up her neck to the top of her skull, her velvety ears, and finally, the eye cavities. The doe closes her eyes and squirms as you run your fingers over her thin eyelids. You press your fingers in, and you can feel her eyeball move rapidly.
The poison you put on the jaws of the trap, shut her muscles down, making it difficult for her to move. But she can still feel. She can feel everything.
You have a variety of knives on the belt you wear around your waist: Bowie, fillet, etc … but the one for the eyes is nothing more than a sharpened butter knife. You pry open the doe’s sateen lid and place your fingertips on the eye. It is large, you imagine the iris a soft brown, and, as always, you wonder what your reflection would be if you had your own eyes back. You pull the butter knife from your pocket and dip it into the outer crevice.
The doe makes a soft moan as you slide the knife all the way under, digging deep, cutting nerves likes plant roots, and finally, there is that gentle give and the eye pops into your open hand. It’s wet and slick like jelly. You slide the little pickle jar out of your pocket, uncap it, and carefully place the eyeball in the vinegar. You tilt the doe’s head to the other side, and you work on her other eye.
You know how the doe feels. A helpless victim lying on the ground while some monster steals your eyes. A single moment of weakness can change your fate miraculously as the praying hands of a religious man.
You pop her eye in the jar.
In your own moment of weakness, when the monsters ate your eyes, you would have bled out and died if it weren’t for the kindness of neighbors. Your fate was revealed to you the night you cut up those rotten corpses for stew. You became the monster. The feeling of power it gives you far outweighs any conscience or reservation you previously may have held. Besides, you go to church every Sunday, and you confessed Jesus was Lord years ago at the insistence of Pastor Abides.
In due time, all is forgiven in His good name. The god that lets the rats eat out your eyes has given you purpose and that is something you give thanks for.
There is blood on your hands, and you forgot the rag to clean them off. It’ll stain your jacket, but that is okay, the nice gals down at the thrift shop will give you a new one. You draw your Bowie and consider ending the doe’s life, but you hear a rustling in the bushes nearby, and you know it’s the doe’s fawn. So instead, you unhinge the claws of the trap, and set it right in front of the mother’s belly. The faun will need to feed eventually. Faun eyes are rare, and you’d be happy to add it to your collection, save it for a special occasion. You wonder if the fawn’s eyes are still a dark brown or if they had lightened yet? It was the curse of blindness not being able to see these things. For every blessing there is a curse, you remind yourself.
You walk home, happy with the morning’s work. The air is still mighty chilly, and you think a cup of coffee sounds good. You pull open your front door, and before you slip out of your jacket you go straight to the pantry. You feel along the long shelves, jar upon jar, six years worth sit on top. Pickle jars sure come in handy, and it tickles you to slip in a pickled eye when guests were over. A little grated on salad, perhaps sautéed with a slice of beef, cubed in soup. Sometimes, the whole thing dropped in a dirty martini.
You smile, and think you’ll have the preacher and his wife over for supper this Sunday. You wonder how the preacher would feel, if he knew his tea was sugared with the eyes of the innocent.
Your face cracks open with a smile as you close the pantry door, and move into the kitchen where you pour yourself a warm cup of coffee and have a seat by the fire.
Bio: When Mav Skye isn’t turning innocent characters into axe murderers, refinishing old furniture, chasing around her spring ducklings, or reading the latest horror novel, she’s editing at the almighty Pulp Metal Magazine. She adores puppies, pirates, skulls, red hots, Tarantino movies and yes, Godzilla. Especially Godzilla.