Or

The swarm descends, potent with meaning, golden with symbolism. Leutard thrashes as they penetrate him, delicate blunt bodies aswarm around his waist, spread his unseeing eye and slip inside.

Night fears.

He sweats under a midnight sun, eyes winched shut against that impossible, unilluminating light. His every muscle is tense as a bridge cable thrumming in a high seaward wind. He locks his traitor hands together across his chest, fingers hooked to thumbs, lest they turn against him, tear flesh free, gouge eyes to jelly. His mouth waters.

Church bells.

He runs through the streets, naked as a jay, breath ragged, lips bloody, bare feet aslap against the tar. He feels the stones, the broken glass, the nails, but keeps the pace. Fat blunt body, chilled by the night.

Glass windows, goat horns curled delicately above a prophet’s brow.

He pulls the cross down from the wall, smashes the font to pieces. Crouches in the ruins, licks the dust from the ground, shatters his teeth against the rubble, lifts his head and howls, howls, howls.

Buttermilk

Glass, broken glass, that was easy, floors were everywhere and gravity did most of the work. Glass wanted in, it didn’t wait to be invited, sidling into his feet like an old friend dropping round.

Walls, walls, easy enough. All it took was patience, and he had plenty of that. He loved the strange shapes his fingers made, the unfamiliar lumps that crooked his hands, the ineloquent stuttering of his wrists. Electric fire up to his elbows.

Milk white, veined with red, sweet and acrid as cheese, lemon bloom as he gets his teeth in, copper wash of new blood laving down his throat. Long clean poolside burn of chlorine, unpleasant waxen ooze of soap, hair, frogskin.

Stairs, traffic, bridges, cliffsides, beaches. The ocean purls around his ankles, buries his feet in little stones. A long rope of kelp coils invitingly around his knee. He stands aside and waits for that first, last, only step.

Bright Bile

Fulci’s world is all rough cuts and seams, the red of blood, the yellow of digestion. Meat-crazed: crows ascend, beaks wet, from the bodies left to rot in the street, dogs squabble and tear at each other, laughing children dismember a cat and gnaw rapturously at its legs. He shudders and turns away, whose hand is on the tiller.

He is sick, lately, with planning murder, with arranging death. People are butcher’s charts, easily and necessarily segmented. A profitable trade, at least: the hunger for meat is insatiable, an open throat a mile wide and twenty deep. He could labor another lifetime and still you wouldn’t see his handiwork piled at the bottom.

Riots in the street on the way to and from work. Fulci, dazed, does not notice, not the fire, not the smoke, not the intermittent sound of gunfire, too stuffed with his own deaths to notice others. He wakes, sleeps, works, drinks; plans for a boat trip that never comes, an respite never quite earned.

Centralia

The last bullet stops, the others pause before consummation. Legs broken, lung burst, skull just beginning its final unfolding: the gentle yellow haze of the streetlights halts its molecular shiver. Her book has come undone, glue, spine, pages ripped loose by the first rude volley.

Centralia never falls, never settles. Forever in the act of falling, clothes slipped loose of gravity. Cars do not pass, heads do not finish turning, arms never quaver, sirens never blare.

Fire in the steets, or the shape of fire. Her hair continues to smolder, an unceasing blister, her veins run with heat, her buildings condemn. She will not leave, cannot leave, pinned to these hills.

There is another world, perhaps, before or after this one: she falls, she cools. The shadows lengthen. A street sweeper scours her blood away. Time or justice claim her killers. Another world, but not this one: here the last bullet stops just this side of her skin, here her heart stutters and waits for some final sign, here the choir never resolves.

Saffron

Apocalypse has come like gravity to a rotten fruit, and the old world has burst open. Their grand buildings are ashes, their roads buckled and green; the mighty wander the streets, armed to the gums, sobbing and frail.

Beausoleil loves it. Oh, hates (maybe) the cost they paid, the loss of life, the corruption pulled to the surface, the stupid waste, but in the wide heart of her rejoices to see it all come apart. Nowhere to go but up, and she’s swallowed enough blood for a lifetime: let them choke themselves coppergreen for a change.

She pushes inland, crossing the river. What’s left of the roads is thick with people, owners and slaves both, werewolves and virgins. She wears an army rifle slung on her back, barren of shells, just to prove that she can. They shrink down into the bushes when she passes, stride long and brave as the sun, afraid not of what her empty gun can do, but just to see the world so upended.

Beausoleil walks west. Out there, in the sage and the sky, there’s a town with her name on it, and cattle the color of dawn.