wolves feeding

Today at a zoo I saw a grey wolf go from demurely begging for treats to scaring the piss out of a small child with nothing more than the subtlest shift in body language. (I also took a step back.)

Wolves vs the human hindbrain man, yeesh.

Arkansas Gothic

Arkansas, the natural state,” they purr soothingly in the commercials.  You shudder as the words burrow into your ears, eager slop to be gulped down by the touring masses.  Why do they only air in state? You think to yourself before you stop to do otherwise.  You know why there are only local license plates mobbing the streets.

You hear the trains, screaming into the night, lonely souls without a home.  You don’t live near the train station.  They are not the only screams you hear.

“Mosquitoes are awfully bad this year…” they say each spring that ushers in a summer full of vampiric predation.  They are everywhere.  You hear them whine as they flit past your ear, laughing before they perch on your limbs and feed, silently.  They hide amongst the fireflies, invisible wolves, feeding on the flickering sirens’ catch.  Some days you get lucky, spot one on your skin and bring your wrath upon it.  When you raise your hand there is only blood.  Your blood.  An offering to old gods, un-appeased.

At night, when the sweltering furnace of summertime is at its coolest, and the sun has sunk beneath the treeline, you hear them sing.  Chirping light songs, lungs strung like harps whisper soothing melodies into one’s ears.  When the haunting beauty is not enough, the sirens unappealing, cicadas bark through the still air.  Each a braying Cerberus from the trees, wings beating in veinous time with the pendulum of the void.

Deer.  They are everywhere.  You feed off of them, hunt them, hear countless stories of cousins and twelve point bucks.  They have manifested themselves among the oily, grimy inner workings of Arkansas life.  They are spotted, white tailed, jaunty things, ever so innocent and bedazzling to the passing motorist.  They hide in the bushels, forests, and bramble of roadsides, peering out at the metal monsters that belch foul smoke and pass them by.  But those are the creatures of the far reaches.  Others, unfrightened by man, creep into city limits, stalking cul de sacs and neighborhoods.  You look outside your bedroom window and see them, their light steps leaving no indention in the Bermuda grass.  Their eyes stare, unblinking, past headlights and glass, into cars and homes alike.  They glow knowingly, sensing your presence, your smell, your worthless soul.  They smell the venison on your breath.  Soon they will smell the warm stench of your rended flesh, disappearing down their herbivorous throats.  For what?  Revenge?  Reclamation?  Surely not sustenance, mayb-Perhaps for pleasure.  The unblinking glow of their eyes sees through you, and continues to stare at the pulled blinds as you wet your pillow.  They lick their noses at the salty smell of your tears.  

Endless bodies of forests stretch along roadsides, losing pine needles in the fall, giving their lives and leaves to consume (to reclaim) the asphalt.  They run alongside the car, branches waving in the wind, weighted by the damp air, grinning down at you with a certain sadness.  You forget what the city looks like.  But the trees are so tall!  So large, friendly giants among common man, they seem!  They invite you inside, beckoning with sways of the breeze, twitching softly as pinecones and gumballs fall, warnings of the dying and wounding presence that resides in its core.  You feel yourself pull over, punching the console to blink your hazard lights, slowing the vehicle until it is parked neatly behind a roadsign.  WRIGHTSVILLE, 35 MILES, YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!  the white text screams in a sea of envy.  You unbuckle from the safe grasp of your seatbelt, and slip out of the Honda, slipping, step by step, into the sweetsmelling seas of pine.  The needles prick hungrily at your ankles, dragging you down as the trees whisper untold stories, ever so shyly.  You look up as the dead forest floor consumes you, a final skyward gaze, longing for the embrace of the sun.  You see nothing but the canopy, grinning back at you.  There is no sadness in this.  Only hunger.  Then darkness.

Creeks murmur alongside trails, water stumbling over mossyrock and other natural quirks.  They are innocent things, hiding none but minnows and childhood memories.  The rivers are sinister, writhing things that grasp at limbs, greedy gluttons who leave only tattered ropes hanging from tree limbs.  You see dead logs and tree trunks peeking from beneath the clear, sinewy surface, anguish wrought in their pale bark, eroding away in the clutches of the current.  They beg you to stay away.

You wring sweat from your t-shirt as you mop the warmth from your forehead, stinging your eyes and panting sullenly.  The thermostat says 103, and you shake your head in the muggy July air, each movement dragging and slow.  You hear moans, complaints, all the same.  Passerby and tourists collapse onto benches and sizzling sidewalks, flesh sears.  You have grown used to the sweet smell.  Like candy, almost.

You look up, tossing a shirt over your head as you make for the door.  The forecast calls for a sunny day, 65 in the afternoon.  You do not smile.  As you return home from the day’s errands, thunderheads cloud the sky, cracking damnation from the heavens.  There is a tornado warning, they say.  Your family huddles around the television, there is panic among the house as the sirens wail, and a heavy rumbling fills the air.  Your mother screams at you from the tornado shelter, begging you to get off your couch and come along with your siblings.  You solemnly stare back at them, the vortex drowning out the weatherman repeating to take cover immediately.  I love Sunny May Evenings, you think to yourself as the roof is pulled from your home, the walls shake, but your heart is still.

Krogers line the neighborhoods.  They appear, suddenly, usurping Sam Walton’s throne.  Rebellions screamed unto the sky in blue lettering.  There are missing letters.  ‘Krgr’ ‘KOR” They are demonic chants, incantations unto Walton.  People pass through the self-checkouts, unsmiling ghosts of grocery shoppers.  Nothing swims in the dead seas of their eyes.  They are as empty as the carts they push forth into the night, bathed in blue light and dead dreams.

Welcome to Hope, Arkansas! BIRTHPLACE OF BILL CLINTON!  The sign screams forth, proclaiming proudly to all who pass.  He is all, ethereal, haunting history and classrooms alike.  Bill Clinton, the prodigal son, the Father, all kneel to the great leader.  Never forget the glory, never mention the scandal.  I remember an old friend who did once.  I still see his head perched on the wrought iron fence, anguish painted upon his face, and blood gleaming down the black metal, dark in the torchlight.  

Wild River Country and Magic Springs stand above the trees, gleaming Meccas, demanding summerly pilgrimage from all who pass.  They gleam, ivory towers, filled with summer fun and wet excitement.  You pass through the gate, your freshly printed summer pass in your hand, though this will be your only visit.  Lockers slam around you as you store your valuables, giving false hope and instilling the notion that nothing will be taken from you in this place.  Lines of people stretch across the terraces, soles burn against the scorching pavement or reddened wood of stairs, unrelenting as you bear the weight of your four man raft, all of you slaves constructing great rubber pyramids.  The wave pool is a congealed mass, bobbing bodies in a cloud of urine, chlorine and desperation, escaping the heat but conceding to the sea of flesh.  You try to escape, but rafts and moaning people block your way.  You see the ladder, within arms reach, as well!  If only the man with peeling, red shoulders and a baseball cap, sunglasses resting on the bridge of his nose could twist his raft away.  Then you could throw your aching, gasping body upon the burning pavement, thankful to feel the nerves screaming rather than the churning body of the beast that rolls the waves.  The lazy river circles eternally, you see the same bodies, young hands linked in holds of one another’s rafts.  Gleeful faces turned up in laughter and joy, wet locks of hair gleaming in the sun.  Old, bloated men, unwilling (unable) to escape its circuit.  You stare into the ever vigilant cyclops’ eye of Sol, beating down upon you, it tells you you will remain here forever.  You believe it.

The Ozarks, guardians of Arkansas’ secrets, roll softly, covered in a thick fur of forestry, glowing and vibrant in the spring, but dead and menacing in the fall.  An omen of what’s to come.  Titans of earth and root, they open, tearing like flesh to beckon lost souls, tucking them away in mountainside townships, sending collegebound kids to Fayetteville, a party school filled with none but empty faces staring out of dorm windows upon gloomy streets.  They safeguard the capital to the south, a stinking mass of oil, smoke, and concrete, Little Rock stands on the Arkansas river, taking its innocence and polluting it with sin and foul intentions.  The peaks still watch, screams echoing from the hills, lost hope filling the spaces between the trees, oozing from the bark like a dark, bitter sap.  You fall to your knees, your eyes wide to the horrors before you.  The forests and hillsides are faces.  Mocking in grimaces of pain, of horror, weeping masks of tragedy bathed in deep green.  The sun and the stars cycle, faster and faster, burning holes in your irises, colors blending from the heavens.  Tendrils fall from the dying skies, you scream, but your throat is filled with a thick, black, viscous pus, leaving your lips with thick gurgling.  The caricatures hidden in the mountainfaces laugh, now masks of comedy, grinning viciously with teeth like wolves’ as you choke upon your screams.  The heavens (empty as ever) tear apart, and you feel the slimy grasp of its appendages around your limbs.  You vomit ebon filth as you are torn into bloody pieces, black and oozing, rotting as they detach from your body.  Black tears pour from your eyes, rolling over your blind pupils as the mountains fade, their laughter roaring silently in your ears.  A mockingbird cries solemnly into the sky.  Then there is nothing in the air but scents of pine and a soft breeze.  The sun hides behind a veil of clouds.  It will rain again.