Homecoming

Through the walls Allan Kuper can just hear the last guests leaving.

When they are gone, he comes out, picks his delicate way through the empty wineglasses, the beer bottles, the ashtrays, the picked-over trays. All grist; he takes it all down, all the half-finished anecdotes, the abortive flirtations, the infidelity, the laughter and bad singing, down to the carpet. They turned the lights out when they left, courteous to the end, and in the semi-darkness he expands, swells to the dimensions of the room.

It was a success, he thinks. There are still a few stragglers passed out in odd places, wedged together in bathtubs or under kitchen sinks. Heavy with whiskey. He is painless these days, sharp enough at last, honed to an unfeeling edge on the hard stone of many, many other Allans; they are not filling, but they will do.

There was a time, he remembers, when he was stranger, more alien. It is good to be home, good to have a place in the world at last.

And Brave New Lands Await

Allan Kuper and Allan Kuper and Allan Kuper. They had split so many times, along so many subconscious faults; such simple differences as good and bad were absorbed and discarded long ago. Each gained something and lost something in the dividing, but the hunger remained. Always the hunger, Allan Kuper lusting after Allan Kuper, heart calling out to heart, flesh to flesh.

The poet Allan Kuper was full of laudanum when they came for him. The opium dulled the wanting, but not the need; his teeth were sharp as starlight. They came for him, three Allans together, and pulled him down. He sank his teeth in one’s throat, drove his favorite knife deep in another’s thigh, but the third—the subtle Allan Kuper—was behind him.

His poems settled down around them, white paper on three bodies. Allan Kuper bent to gorge.

Cerecloth

Something knocked on the door loud enough to yank one of the Allan Kupers awake. He lay there in a cold sweat, waiting for his heart to slow down before he got out of bed. His hand slipped beneath the pillow automatically, finding the handle of the broad bladed knife that was there. He could just see a sliver of moon through the window. Three o’clock?

It knocked again. It wasn’t a loud knock, but it was inarguable. I am not going away, it said. I can wait as long as you can. The Allan Kuper rolled onto the floor, crouched low just in case, knife searching the air in front of him. It paid to be paranoid; he’d heard stories about Cleveland, and didn’t intend going out that way.

It knocked again. He was standing just to the side of the door, back against the wall. He reached out and let the door swing open toward him, so he was standing behind it. One of the Allan Kupers came into the room, faster than fast, but he was ready for him, and his broad knife was catching the moonlight before the door was more than half open.

By four there was one less Allan Kuper, but he was still hungry. That, at least, was the same.

The Three Allan Kupers

There were three of Allan Kuper. One good Allan, one bad, and one with no personality beyond a raging hunger. Each was but a portion of the complete Allan Kuper, and without the other two was woefully inadequate to deal with the world. The good Allan had run out of the apartment in the morning, chasing the sun into the west, seeking to make reparations for the excesses of the bad Allan that lingered behind him. The bad Allan had crept out of the apartment in the evening, into the moonless, starless night of the city, face twisted and loathsome, a palpable aura of deformity surrounding him. The other Allan remained blankly in the apartment for two days, slumped weakly in his battered brown armchair, hands dusted with cheeto orange tremulously moving food to his mouth. After two days he was stronger and the food was gone from the apartment. He left the apartment on the fire escape in the afternoon, and began tracking the good Allan.

He found the good Allan after a week of searching, far into the western lands, upon the high plains. When he came upon the other, the hunger had grown to a mighty thing within him. The good Allan was sleeping beneath a bridge, his body bright and beautiful even in the guttering light of a tire fire, his hands pale and spotless upon the filthy ground. Allan lifted the rock over his head and brought it down, shattering the beauty and the grace that slept there. There was a clatter and the hobos that had clustered around the fire ran along the river. One of them left a knife behind, a dull hunter’s knife.

Allan took it and began to carve the good Allan open. He had to eat the heart, after all. And the hunger was singing inside him.