The other shoe.

Here’s the recipe:

One lithium-ion battery, toxic pond scum, 250g of concentrated dog shit and an ancient curse solves the age-old conundrum of how to shake-a-wake a corpse and ruin a sunny day in Saintes.

Here’s how you prepare it:

Guillaume, Violette, and Andres were enjoying a sunny promenade in the year 2018 CE, walking Guillaume’s German Shepard, France, up and down the shore of the Charente. The early June sun beamed down upon them with hardly a cloud in sight, but there were still entire footpaths flooded after the heavy rains of winter. The trio doubled back before they reached the campgrounds, then crossed the pedestrian bridge and continued onto Rue Saint-Pierre towards the Cathedral. Rather than carrying on past the cafés, boutiques and tabacs, the late-teenagers sought refuge from the glaring heat, turning right down Rue Aliénor d’Aquitainetowards Place des Récollets.

France, the dog, was bound by neither leash nor fealty to his master and trod up ahead to the square’s garden. France fully intended on taking an enormous shit on the lawn, right after peeing on the topiary and sniffing the toxic pond scum pooled in the Ancient Roman ramparts at the square’s eastern side. Guillaume, whose moral fiber was as brittle as a sacramental wafer, would’ve readily left his dog’s droppings where they lay had France been any more discreet than dumping them dead center in the lawn. Such was not the case, and the teen skirted the park, grabbed a plastic sac from the dispenser on the opposing side, and sacked the shit. Still, wafer-boy, observing that he was now equidistant from the dispenser and the trashy puddle, opted to chuck his full baggy into the murky, green waters of the stone bulwarks.

Violette and Andres were sitting on the rocky half-wall bordering the park, petting France. Guillaume, seeing an opportunity to profiteer by virtue of the natural sun; the innate beauty of France, the dog; and his friends’ complacency, mounted the eastern side of the square, sauntered up the sidewalk, and hollered over the railing,

“Violette, Andres! Go over by the tree and take a picture with France!”

France had her own Instagram. Thanks to sponsored content and #Francetravels, Guillaume raked in a pretty penny each month that allowed him to buy nice things like the newest iPhone, which he was now using to position his shot from above the Roman ruins.

Now, no one can say which petty god or idle wraith was responsible for the following revelatory gag, but a sudden, profound change overcame Guillaume. The veiled depravity of this system, so long hidden from view to the young entrepreneur, came to light in a single, panic-stricken instant. From his roost above the ramparts, Guillaume’s tortured virgin eyes beheld the arbitrary flow of the river of wealth. He saw, for the first time, the inner-workings of an international, cybernetic economy built on cashing in on chance and milking the twin teats of mere observation and circumstance. He was rapt by the beauty and horror of epiphany incarnate, by this magnanimous vision that played out before Guillaume across the screen of his iPhone, a cosmic glitch riding upon a single beam of early summer sunlight. Guillaume dropped his phone.

The phone plummeted. From Guillaume’s buttery fingers, it fell down into the vat of deceptively fecund waste, resonating like the smacking of a bare baby’s bottom as the phone pierced the opaque surface and penetrated the viscous depths of stagnant filth. Now, normally, this would be about the end of it. The kid would’ve either sulked back home with his tail between his legs or tried to wade through the fecal muck in a vain attempt to recover his precious while his friends filmed future viral gold. Not today.

As that phone sunk, the electrical energy from Steve Job’s masterstroke combined with the magical energy of ancient Helvetian sorcery and France’s dog shit to awaken a curse that dated back two-thousand and eighteen years. Guillaume’s clumsy mitts had unwittingly set the wheels in motion for a two millennium-old contingency, hellbent on fulfilling the wet dreams of a former US Secretary of Homeland Security:

Unremitting death and destruction on foreign soil.

Here’s a quick history lesson:

Witchery in the West, as a serious profession, was shelved well before the trials in Salem. Not to mention political climates and economic realities in the Americas during the coming industrial revolution would soon force the remaining casuals into more vanilla, albeit less dangerous, jobs as factory laborers. The Middle Ages, on the other hand, heralded a witching boom, as people increasingly sought refuge from famine in the arcane. The Roman Catholic Church, despite its intentions, did less to suppress the rise of paganism as seed it and promote its ballooning to a near cataclysmic level. That coupled with the supernatural niche opened up by the death of Muhammad in the East meant the stage was now set of all manner of abracadabra across Africa and the Middle East as well.

But if we scurry even further backward in history, just after the Gallic Wars and the formation of Mediolanum, there weren’t too many real witches or wizards left in the Gallo-Roman Empire. This, incidentally, created a magical power vacuum that would soon be filled by Jesus. But that’s another, much longer, story.

Having said all that, we all know that exceptions exist to every rule, and Geneviève lived to except every rule she ever came across. Geneviève the Bricoleuse, a Helvetian sorceress and Christ contemporary, was well-handy with both a spell and a hammer. She’d traveled the newly conquered land of Gaul from her home with the Helvetii, in Old Switzerland, living off the menagerie of odd jobs her particular brand of mechanical necromancy could procure. In fact, at the very beginning of the Common Era, Geneviève and her resurrected man-slave/consort Dante Alighieri were undertaking some serious sorcery at the bequest of the newly nomadic druid and basement insurrectionist, Mug-Tadgh of Gaul.

“I have literally been to Hell, mind you, and I’ve never seen anything as horrifying as this.”

“I work with what I’m given,” Geneviève rebuked Dante as she sewed the inflated pigeon head onto the metal chassis, binding it at the neck to a taught leather gasket, “My pal, Mugsworth, wants a griffin, then brings me the parts for half a manticore plus change, so here we are: doing the best with what we have.”

Mug-Tadgh, hearing nearly none of this, continued his drunken leaning against a willow tree while he watched the witch tinker. A bottle of eau de vie dangled limply from his fingertips.

“It’s a… It’s a griffin,” started the Gallois, “Manticore’s are just stupid-dumb… nobody ever invaded nobody on no manticore. You… you gotta have a griffin.”

Geneviève had been listening to this spiel on repeat for the better half of two hours, so now she just accepted Dante’s knowing glance and finished sewing up the neck.

“You know I was in Heaven before this? Before you resurrected me?”

“You never mentioned,” she intercepted a wayward drop of sweat with her rag. The full weight of summer’s heat braced itself against her exposed neck and back.

“They’re the king of burrrr — everything,” words continued bubbling forth from Mug-Tadgh, like the steamy gas of a warm, flatulent bog, “They have the head of an eagle… or a falcon… they’ve got themselves a big ol’ bird head. And then, well, then there’s the lion’s body. It’s the king of all the little beasties and I’m going to ride it…”

“Yeah, well, you didn’t bring me neither bird, did ya? No. You brought me a lion and a dead peasant. Then I had to go and shoot down a pigeon with my bow to get the head, front legs and wings.”

“You pulled me from heaven to listen to this,” Dante was pretending to preen his wings. He didn’t have any, but he swore that he did when he lived in Heaven, “Did I complain? No. In fact, I was honored.”

“What did you say about burrrr — pigeons…?”

“I thought, ‘Oh, now here’s my chance to repay the cosmic debt I owed after Virgil rendered me his services. Surely now I’ll be sent down, an emissary of God, to help another find their Beatrice.’”

“How… oup!” The nobleman swayed back, visibly recoiling from the force of his hiccup, “How did you resize the falcon legs?”

“Soaked them in water overnight,” Geneviève, now walking around the crouching war-machine, was having none of what the lads were serving, “I said you could stay and watch me work, I didn’t say you could ask questions. And Mr. Alighieri?”


“Shut up.”

After a final system’s check, the sorceress patted the “griffin’s” broad shoulders.

“Right, so, we’re running off of two leopard hearts and a magic shit-powered engine… It’ll go fast, but it ain’t got a long run, so be thinking sprints not marathons on your killing spree.”

The talk of blood and contextual glory had a somewhat sobering effect on Mug-Tadgh. Perhaps sobering wasn’t the right way to put it, rather, the blood and glory took the drunk out of his blathering druid cheeks and put it right down into his cock. Puffing out his chest, he proclaimed,

“I shall call him Gregorios, a mighty name which shall inspire divine fear into the hearts of all those who bear witness — ,”



“Gregory. It looks like a Gregory,” Geneviève looked the creature up and down, “Maybe even a Greg. Good name.”

“No, it’s Gregorios,” Insisted the irked druid, “As in the watchful and vigilant eye, stalking his prey from above — ,”

“Yeah, except he’s Gregory though, and you better be careful because he ain’t the most stable steed of all time.”

“Whatchu mean, witchy?”

“I mean mentally,” the witch walked around to the beast’s head and gave it an amiable pat, “Look, Mugsy, there’s no easy way to say this, but the peasant brain you brought me was trash. Absolute rubbish — the worms had burrowed all the way through the cortex.”

“I don’t under — ,”

Geneviève cut him off, pacing back and forth, articulating each point with a wild gesticulation.

“Now I coulda done this another way: I coulda rigged ’em up like a nut n’ bolt feather puppet and he woulda been the most ferocious animatronic flesh-tank you’ve ever seen. But I’m a fucking witch. So, what’d I do? What I did was I reached into the future and grabbed a handful of grey matter from a time when there was a surplus of the wrinkly stuff and no one the wiser if any of it went missing. You follow me? I stole future brains and I got this particular sample from some guy named John Kelly.”

“John Kelly… that’s a strange name,” Mug-Tadgh appeared to be tasting the foreign syllables, mulling them over in his mouth, “Was he a Roman?”

“Dunno what he was,” Geneviève didn’t much like discussing the future. The only thing she saw on humanity’s horizon was the illusion of freedoms she had a habit of taking for herself anyway, “All I’m saying is hold tight to those reigns, you don’t want this mad dog getting loose. Discretion was not this guy’s forte.”

If Mug-Tadgh was phased by any of this he did not show it. His eyes were glossy dinner plates brimming with a heaping helping of Gregory, the ill-begotten cyborg chimera.

“Anything else?”

“Yeah, if you pull on the horns just right, he’ll shoot lightning out his ass. Now climb on up there and fuck off.”

“Oh, hah,” A hiccup laugh frothed up in the drunk druid’s mouth as he mounted his steed, “You’re a funny witch. You’re a funny, funny witch.”

“Yeah, I’m a funny witch. Here,” She hoisted up a sac of manure, “Funnel that in while I rev ’em up.”

Geneviève revved the engine, starting a chain reaction of gunpowder and magic, a powerful mix of old wisdom and new toys that shot Mug-Tadgh off like a rocket into the high heavens. Dante looked on while the necromancer starting packing up their effects.

“He really tied one on before hopping aboard,” Observed Dante, “You think he’s going to be O.K.?”

“I just… I just don’t care, Dante,” Sighed Geneviève, “He paid me and I built him the Gregory and now, honestly, I just don’t care what happens to him.”

The fate of Gregory and Mug-Tadgh, though it was of no consequence to Geneviève, read less like the Iliad and more like the accident report for the Apollo 6.

What it boiled down to was, Geneviève, whether intentionally or otherwise, miscalculated the amount of shit necessary to fuel two tandem leopard hearts on a harpy-esque escapade through Old France. Gregory’s motor sputtered out over the Charente and the bionic griffin and his master plummeted into the settlement’s palisades with a splatMug-Tadgh was practically liquified by the impact, while his steed merely shook, rattled and rolled into a ravine. Why? Because Geneviève may have been many things, but a hack she was not: Gregory was a work of necronomic art.

Gregory’s craftsmanship was such that his semi-organic infrastructure withstood the ravages of time, quietly lurking beneath the pond scum and sewage of the ravine while the city around it was conquered and reconquered, invaded and bombarded, renamed and, most recently, landscaped. Mediolanum became Saintes; Gallo-Romans gave way to vikings; vikings gave way to the English; finally, Saintes, the city, belonged to the French.

During all that history, Gregory sat in his well and gathered waste indiscriminately. Human sewage ran over his corpse on its way out to the river, Charente. Pigeons bombarded their undead brother from the trees until the surrounding trees were bowed to topiary, subsequently forcing the pigeons to the rooftops in order to continue fecal harassment of the submerged griffin. Many droughts threatened to prematurely expose Gregory to the modern world, but by then, Gregory the Griffin was so thoroughly caked in shit that its form was unrecognizable to any dubious onlookers. Then the rains would come and the somnolent beast would sink once more into the obscure depths of its stone chateau. In recent years, as pet proprietorship stole over Europe, our hypnagogic hybrid’s palette was introduced to dog poop. Lots and lots of dog poop.

Gregory’s rule over the square, the 20 x 20 square meter Place des Récollets,was challenged only once by a noble champion, a backyard Samaritan on town council who stepped up, advocated for, and later installed, a dog waste bag dispenser in the square. This threat to the Gregorian time-bomb fizzled out in a impotent puff as citizens collectively decided it was easier to simply jettison their plastic dog shit bags into the green pond rather than walk back and return them to the trash bin attached to the dispensary unit. Under the miry mirror, the fallen Valkyrie accepted our refuse gratefully.

But dog-shit-guts and two leopard hearts weren’t going to jumpstart themselves. Gregory, it seemed, was going to need a little help from global consumerism if he was ever going to rise from his rank, rank lair. Thank God for Tom Cook and the lithium ion battery.

Here’s some travel advice:

Travel to France in the early spring time as an American and you risk your allergies taking you straight to town and giving you the business. You’ve got to hit that sweet spot: somewhere right at the edge of summer when the pollen settles, the rains abate, and the tourists are still a couple weeks away. It was precisely under these kinds of circumstances that we join two traveling buds, Johnson and Beans, upon the sunlit terrace of the Garden Ice Café in Saintes.

“It’s an absolute travesty. Total tragedy of the commons.”

“You know, it’s all well and good to talk about charity and doing right, but how many people really ante up and help their community,” Johnson pulled at the filter of his hand-rolled, Amsterdamer packed cigarette and took a double drag of pretty words and nicotine gas, “Honestly, Beans, I won’t say another word about it.”

“I will certainly drink to that,” Beans didn’t know what they were talking about any more, but he loved the taste of affirmation and light irony filtered into tiny French coffee cups. He took a dainty sip, savoring his expresso.

“Oh, Johnson, wouldn’t you believe it? I forgot to order an allongé, again. I forgot to order an owl — on — jay. Now I’ve got this positively adorable shot of coincidence.”

What fun it was, thought Beans, to affect these British accents and smoke rollies over a cheeky cup on the terrace. Johnson and Beans had been on the road for awhile now and, bless their souls, they couldn’t even remember how they’d wound up in this delightful little asylum. Sure, you could be sure the two fellows had a sense of knowing — a general unfounded feeling of past and of future, but here’s a fun fact: if you’d asked either of them, Mr. Beans or Mr. Johnson, where they’d been before or where they were going, they wouldn’t have had the slightest clue. And if you pressed too hard, why, they’d actually cease to exist at all.

“Oh, that is just good fun, Beans,” Johnson leaned back in his chair, thrusting his head backwards and chuckling, imitating a gesture he’d seen somewhere, at sometime on the television, “Wouldn’t it be great to do this all the time. It is such a proper shame that this all has to come to an end.”

“But does it, Mr. Johnson? Why couldn’t we just stay in this town forever?”

“Well, there’s the money, for one.”

“Ah, yes. The money.”

“We can only go so long without having to make more of the money.”

“And then the women?”

“Can’t leave the women for too long, that’s certainly… that’s certainly true.”

Johnson shifted around uncomfortably in his seat. These words were beginning to taste weird in his mouth… money, women, and work… they were so this way, and not that way, and he much preferred to say things like intersectionality and systematic racism. His tongue felt swollen in his mouth, and he considered taking something to ease the inflammation.

He mouthed the words white privilege and felt a little more reassured, and his chair softened to cushion his pale behind more readily.

Beans, having succumbed to a similar attack of mal à l’aise, had just finished instagramming a photo of their aperitif he’d taken not twenty minutes before and now breathed a sigh of relief as the likes came pouring in.

“I believe we were saying…,” Began Mr. Johnson, pausing briefly as he was rudely interrupted by a faint disturbance, coming from somewhere down the Cours National,

“… that the sorry state of affairs our poor, afflicted nation finds itself in — Beans, do you hear something?” Inquired Johnson, breaking from his feigned accent for the first time since they’d sat down for coffee.

“You know, I thought I did,” Replied Beans, still unshakably in character, “But I reckon it’s just a pigeon cooing or a fine, French demoiselle singing au bord de la Charente.”

“Come off it, Beans,” said Johnson, feebly grasping for a sincere tone of voice, but that damn British accent was just so charismatic, so infectious, and just so hard to shake, “Still, whatever it was… whatever it may have been…”

“… was probably an absolute travesty?” Prodded Beans.

“Yes… Right. One might even call it a tragedy of the commons.”

“Well said,” Beans nodded in approval. The wheel started to turn.

“It’s just, well, we spend so much time talking, and how much do we actually…,” Johnson let his voice trail off as two things occurred to him: the first was a most peculiar sensation of déjà vu, and as for the second, there was definitely something going on down the main avenue. A flock of birds had flown from their roost at the sound of broken glass, perhaps a wine bottle, Johnson suspected, dropped by an SDF.


Johnson returned tentatively to the terrace, still guarding that faraway look in his eyes,

“… Do. Beans, do you think there’s something afoot?”

“Well, that’s just it, isn’t it. There is definitely something afoot,” Began Beans, “Our government, a beacon of democracy in the free world, is threatened by its own ballooning ego. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our educational systems are vastly underfunded and the only thing we’re concerned with is the size of our 600 billion dollar military pecker. Bombing civilians; funding religious, anti-abortion racket; nixing healthcare for the plebs — I tell you what, Johnson, I feel positively criminal just paying my taxes these days!”

“What are we doing here?” Johnson wondered. Commotion and clamor were mounting in the East. A siren wailed down the way.

“Climate change threatens the mere continuance of our species,” Beans continued, now visibly spitting, his hands waving around frantically. Two receipts, one for his coffee, one for his cigarettes, took flight and ventured down the pedestrian street, unnoticed, “I mean for all we know, Johnson, tomorrow we could all be squashed under the other shoe!”

What are we doing here?

Johnson wasn’t sure if he’d actually asked the question aloud, or just felt it resonate within him. A definite scream pierced the spring air.

“You think it’s going to smell good when all the collective shit of humanity hits the fan?” Beans, disturbed now by the rising hubbub on the main road turned in his chair and shouted, “I say! Will you please keep it down over there!”

There was a definite happening in the plaza. A jogger cartwheeled through the air, caterwauling all the way until she landed with a disappointing, aluminum thud on the hood of a parked Renault. In a maelstrom of talons, teeth and flying fur, the beast soared up the boulevard and checked a banker through the window of BNP Paribas. From the sidewalk to the air, Gregory alighted upon the top of a passing car, tearing off the roof, and hurling the driver onto the Palais de Justice’s courtyard.

“Really, Johnson, we came here to get away from the riff raff. What is the world coming to when a couple of working class bohemians can’t — ,”

With the calculating cruelty and roughly-honed sociopathy that could only come from the White House Chief of Staff’s frontal cortex, Greg descended upon the Garden Ice Café and tucked in, wetting his gargantuan pigeon beak with the blood of tourists, lawyers, bankers and anyone else unlucky enough to be enjoying a cheeky cup n’ smoke on the terrace that fine afternoon.

Johnson would receive the brunt of the impact, as Gregory pinned the American up against the glass window, which subsequently broke, letting in all of the chaos and mania that had reigned in Outside Land, and giving it dominion over the café interior. A barista was skewered by Greg’s wing tip. Several tenants were knocked unconscious by the magnificent entry. Johnson was lying in a mat of broken glass, reconciling his now shattered vertebral column, before the mismatched mythical monstrosity came down on him like a righteous mallet of justice. As the avian nib pecked at the insides of Johnson’s freshly opened ribcage, now spread open in a blood eagle, the man executed a final, nearly whimsical act of defiance: he pulled the beast’s horns.

White lightning burst forth from the lion’s rump and found a staggering, newly concussed Beans standing in the silhouette of the broken window. The force of the lightning strike lifted him up off his feet and carried the man forthright to his deathbed: an alcove housing Crédit Agricole’s two automated tellers. The force of Beans’ body’s impact was enough to bust those money nuts wide open and shower the young man in a colorful casket of paper banknotes.

Meanwhile, in the café, as Gregory’s twin leopard hearts slowed to a dull, intermittent, thwump-pump, the Frankenstein brain took in the scene. The peasant half, so far gone from two millennium and eighteen years of hosting rot and maggots, couldn’t understand anything about this strange, new world. Nor could it comprehend the immense carnage it had just brought into it. Yet, as the final beats of his bionic hearts rung out, Gregory lay down, amidst the fire and flames, and the other part of him smiled.

Upstairs, one of Epicurus’ secretary angels, charged with the task of tallying up the two lads’ lives in terms of general usefulness would later write in the margins of their divine ledger, the most useful thing either of these two clods ever did was die.

Written by Zachary D. Turner

The next big thing.

In the summer’s heat, after the rains had abated, and the flooding had receded, and the paths had all dried up, they unchained the picnic tables and brought them down to the banks of the Charente once again. Three days later, Alabama Turk would run by and see, for the first time since midwinter, his favorite spot under the willow tree was uncovered and untaken. Slowing to a halted canter and finally a bedraggled saunter, the young man popped down on the bench for a good sit.

This particular picnic table, peeking out from within the confines of a billowing willow, offered the best skyline anywhere within or without the somnolent French town. Saint-Pierre burst forth from the bulwarks and market square, blooming over the town like a stone perennial, a gothic sentinel tasked to watch and protect its citizens from unrest and malignant hoodoo. Fun fact: inside the cathedral, Alabama had even found a postcard picture taken a few feet away from his favorite spot. Another testament to the merits of said view.

As he watched the water flow lazily on either side of the bifurcated river, Alabama Turk came to terms with a simple, sour truth: he was nearing the end of his magnificent adventure abroad. With soggy eyes, he thought of Tenor Abernathy and the Resonant Beast, the twin titans who had dueled upon the Gelded Gully. He remembered ridding himself of the stinking Grimoldge, that filthy gunk-critter living in his bile. Alabama smiled as he thought about the wedding reception, after the marriage of Pallow Brarro and Alowa Skybrindle, the pair of whom subsequently rode off into the sunset in their decorated Minnie Winnie. How was he supposed to return home with a bleeding heart so thickly laden with nostalgia?

Mr. Turk awoke from his daydream at the moist plodding sounds of an approaching behemoth. The man, if he was indeed a man at all, lurched forward on the offbeat as though his melted, mushy brain-bag was set to a coked-up, crooked metronome. One after the other, his legs would manifest themselves from within the many folds of his portly personhood. His petulant, putty face was riddled with blisters, glistening in the summer’s sun as his saturated, oily dough-skin fried orange in the heat. Boiled and braised, his flesh strained under the immense tension, looking ready to peel away layer-by-layer until gargantuan pustules erupted, turning his body into a baking, vacuous lagoon of vulgarity. It should be no small wonder if anyone had ever written this sorry sod a clean bill of health.

Alabama watched the goober lumber over and present itself at his picnic table with a wet belch.

“Would you like to take a seat?”

The creature sat and the bench groaned morosely in protest. His overlong tie lay impotently upon the grass, sliding like the sorriest sausage in the slaughterhouse between his grimy, muck riddled suit lapels.

“What, ah…,” Turk was trying to look the beast in its eyes, but kept getting distracted by its gaping, fetid mouth hole. Teeth roosted sparsely along the cavern walls like furry bats in a grotto, “What brings you to Saintes?”

Whether the monster belched or flatulated, Alabama didn’t know, but between gaseous emissions the gargoyle conveyed that he was indeed a foreign diplomat.

“I… ughhhh… I’m the best, most bestest even… uhm… lord, uhm, uh, president that my people have, hm, have ever seen. Um. Yes.”

He had garnered the favor of his fellow countrymen apparently by appealing to the inner cannibal in all of them. Riding a wave of high-protein, zero-ethics nationalism, this cellulite-in-a-suit rose to power and lead his nation into a fear-driven frenzy. Among many other things, Alabama picked up a distinctly Anti-Muslim sentiment from him.

Alabama was not the least bit perturbed by Cannibal President’s apparition. Should the fiend have shambled over a year ago, sure, the lad would’ve run screaming in the other direction. But a year of odd characters and magical happenstance had weathered Alabama into the seasoned veteran of the abnormal he was today. Now he recalled the day that Farabella Fagglebonk appeared before him, recruiting him for battle against the villainous warlord, Magna-Kmar Everlasting. For that quest, he’d traveled three continents and a couple higher dimensions to track down the criminal scourge and drive the feathery brillow through Magna-Kmar’s gaudy mane.

Cannibal President smacked his lips and lolled his sluggy tongue around his mouth to wet his terrific maw. He stood; his tiny, meaty mittens still poised upon the table as he sniffed the air furtively. Catching a delicious whiff on the wind, he lumbered off down the lawn toward a family of four. The parents were laughing and cooing over a five-inch display trained on their youngest nugget rolling around in the grass with a puppy.

Alabama scratched the back of his neck uncomfortably. Surely they saw him coming, right? But, low and behold, they did not, and Cannibal President scooped the boy up in his paws by the scruff of his neck and sunk his infected incisors into the nubile flesh. The couple stared in abject horror at their screen as the carnage unfurled. In sumptuous HD, they looked on as their highly rendered child’s limbs were gnawed on, the Cannibal President looking to lap up that sweet, sweet child marrow. At a truly awesome 60 frames per second, they watched at least 240 frames in which the ogre gargled their baby’s blood and flossed with a mat of his hair.

The whole scene was awfully upsetting, but after half a minute of gratuitous violence, Alabama got up from his bench, dumbfounded, and wandered around the ordeal to the sidewalk for a better sideline view. The parents were wracked with grief, the wife having fallen to her knees, barely able to hold up her cellular phone between trembling fingers. The increasingly crimson glow of the screen reflected in the father’s waterfall eyes. Still:

The bright red stop-record button glared, unpressed, on the righthand side of the screen.

On a personal note, Alabama noted they were filming landscape. These people may have been monsters, he reflected, but they weren’t charlatans for God Sake.

A six year-old kid tugged at Alabama’s sleeve.

“Hey,” said the kid.

“Hey,” Turk said dismissively before suddenly double-taking, “Hey, wait a sec, isn’t that your brother over there?”

“That he is,” sighed the child, rocking back on her heels, “Getting a little face time with big Donny. Do you have any water? I’m dying in this heat.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure,” Alabama unscrewed the lid on his bottle, moving to pass it along to the kid before pausing, “Hold on, who’s Donny? And — ,” he added, after a moment’s pause, “ — why aren’t you freaking out about all this?”

“Oh, are we still in character?” The girl was asking me, the author, by way of Alabama Turk, the character, “Look, I’m not on camera right now, and I don’t play games for free. Can we both just be professionals for ten minutes while running this featurette? Besides, anyone that’s reading and didn’t get the ‘Trump-as-a-cannibal’ gag can stuff it. It’s 2018, what else is anyone writing about?”

She’s probably right, so we’ll go ahead and put a pin on this whole third-person narrative for a minute while we unveil the rest of the story. Buckle up.

I relented.

“I guess you’re right. I don’t know if conventional forms are gonna cut it in this day and age.”

“You’re still gonna try?”

“The form will always fit the function. We’ll figure it out, but in the meantime, let’s Q&A this pony.”

The kid shrugged, “Weird turn of phrase for this day and age.”

Across the lawn, we were accosted by one loud Sweet Baby Jesus!, as the mother called up in agony to high heaven, while still looking down her nose at her phone screen. Simultaneously onscreen and a couple meters away, Cannibal Prez was twirling a femur around like he was lead color guard in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“So… tell me about this whole situation,” I said, indicating the girl’s parents, still bawling at their digital baby’s death while the real one was still fighting tooth and nail to save it’s remaining two and half limbs.

“Well, I was born first, and that was three-hundred likes,” she took a quick breath and another swig of water, “Not a lot, but it only takes a spark to get the fame train rolling. By the week’s close, I was swaddled in a comfortable following across three platforms. A month old and we were dealing in the thousands each post, getting reposted, releasing sponsored content, and getting big name guest-post features.”

She was nodding to her own beat, the soundtrack of memories gone by played over her brother’s massacre. While her brother’s carotid artery was opened up like 4th of July fireworks, she related:

“I think I peaked somewhere between my first-steps livestream and the potty-training tweet. By then, Mom and Dad were pulling in substantial royalties each month, but by three they saw my numbers weaning and got busy cooking up my baby brother over there.”

“Huh,” I nodded. I wondered idly which social network was watching the young star’s entrails cascade form the cannibal’s mouth in real time. Snapchat? FB livestream? InstaStory?

“I still make cameos, though,” continued the girl, “I was scheduled to reenact my first bike ride next week. I mean, I’ve been pedaling around the neighborhood since last fall, but they bought this poor bastard a puppy ‘round the same time. That’s when you know you’re on your way out — when they start getting gimmicky. It doesn’t match the brand, but it’ll hold the ratings till they can get a permanent fix.”

The child star in question had lost the remaining half limb, rounding him down to an even two appendages. Donny had concocted a new solo blood sport involving some of the boy’s vital organs and was now trying to best his latest PR. The boy’s mother and father carried on, doing the same useless shit as before not ten feet away. From their fruitless wailing, I picked out the boy’s name: Mango.

“He would’ve started preschool in the fall, so as you can see, Momma over there’s already got another A-lister locked and loaded. Baby Bogart probably started feeling the heat once the tummy-timelines and ultrasounds hit Instagram.”

We sat down at a bench a few feet away with a good view of the now surfeited murder scene playing out in front of us.

“You got a cig?”

Asked the kid.

“You smoke?”

“I’m mostly retired, and I’m only six,” she shrugged and raised both her palms toward the sky, weighing two imaginary possibilities, “Either this planet is going to find a cure for cancer by the time I can rent a car or it’s going to be halfway underwater anyway. What is that, Norwegian shag?

“Uh-huh, can you roll?”


I lent her a lighter and she took a couple long hits before launching back into it. She was totally cloyed by the wall-to-wall, non-stop stimulation of post-millennialism and yet she still seemed to feel something for the poor kid. She emanated a sort of general mourning, not for the spectacle at hand, but for her brother’s very existence.

“He’s had a tough go of it,” she admitted, “Being born a boy didn’t do him any favors: Steve, our social media analyst, estimated that that’s a 15% lifetime like-reduction right off the bat.”

“So, that’s why they named him Mango?”

She nodded and bobbed back and forth while conceding, “It was a smart move, I suppose. Probably offset that 15% for at least a year, between the claims of cultural insensitivity and an unexpected boost from the feminists,” she’d softened her gaze, looking past the bizarre carnival of gore towards the gently whispering water as she mused, “I mean, the rents were banking on the cultural appropriation claims to catapult them into the limelight, but as fate would have it, they also caught that gender neutral naming tailwind. With #MeToo on the horizon and feminism gaining wider acceptance, they would’ve landed on Ellen if our handlers played their cards right.”

She shook her head and pushed out a long, weary exhale.

“Honestly, this is probably the best thing for him. He’s going out in his prime.”

At a certain point, entropy had its way and Mango resembled a sort of uniform, reddish-brown paste. Big D, having eaten his fill, waddled off to the stream to do whatever he was going to do. Honestly, there was no use speculating; everything was reactionary with the Cannibal President, so who knew what he thought he wanted to do. He certainly didn’t. You’d have had more luck asking Mango’s puddle.

“What’s your name, anyways?”

The little girl took a long, pensive drag off her rollie.

“Coconut,” she said, without a hint of irony.

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah. I go by Coco, but on official documents it’s Coconut Brown.”

“That’s quite a name.”

“Sure, for a crayon. Sounds more like a colorful description Conrad would’ve used to describe the savages in Africa.

“You read a lot of Conrad, Coconut?”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Time lapsed, minutes banded together and formed hours, the flies descended, and odors rose up from the bloody mire. The sun lit the water on fire as it tucked itself in for bed.

“Before we wrap this whole thing up, can I ask you a question, Coconut?”


“Where are we going? I mean, where is all of this…,” I gestured at the poor, dumb giant, now hunkered down by the banks. He watched as the bloody tendons trailed from between his fat, varicose toes and giggled simply. My waving hand encompassed him and the two monsters now editing the video of their child’s death, trying on different filters and writing, rewriting captions, “…going?”

“The scene? Or…?”

“No, not the scene. I’ve got a handle on that, just, like, the ubiquitousness of technology, the nonstop filming, the incessant, minute record-keeping… what’s the endgame?”

“I’m not sure I follow. I mean, I am six years-old, but also, what are you getting at?

“I dunno, I feel like we’re leading up to something. Like, we’re standing on the shore, with our feet halfway in the water, about to take off. About to move on to the next big thing. It’s like, here’s technology: so miraculously advanced and adept, infinitely powerful and nearly universally accessible. And then here’s us. Here’s what we’ve decided to do with it.”

Coco raised a shoulder halfheartedly. Eh.

“It might just be us letting go.”

The Charente babbled quietly on.

“Can I ask you a question, Zack?”

“Go for it.”

“What do you think you’re going to change by writing this?”

“To be honest, Coconut, until I get through a few more years of this, I don’t think I’ll know. I don’t know that writing is ever going to change any of this, any of this real world business. When I look at Meyers, Colbert, Noah, SNL, Glover… I guess I’m just cashing in like everyone else? Preaching to the choir. Maybe that’s all that you can do, and then maybe you make some money off it, and also maybe you can do something with that money. I don’t know that we’re ever going to art our way out of this situation. But, you know, I’m new at this.

I’ve got to try.”