Friday, April 9, 2010

The Screech

He walked forward into the woods until the vines strangled the path so that he had to duck and dive through briar-littered lengths of new growth, and dying leaves fell from the sky in slow lazy pirouettes, and the world lost all luster, and the grey bark of towering trees threatened to overtake the horizon, and deer leapt past him and ignored him, and the sun set behind the hills, and it grew dark, and the brook burbled, and frogs splashed as they jumped into cool depths and out of sight, and there was a screech on the horizon he could not place – was it some strange breed of owl or mountain lion? – and he did not know, nor did he care, and the world went on and on and on without him, and the world did not know anything of him or that he was missing from the cradle of civilization, and his boot tracks were a twin trail behind him sunk in wet red clay, and he kept walking forward on a trail long overgrown, and the briars scratched and ensnared his tattered clothes, and he ignored the tiny cuts, and the trail turned upwards, and, despite the chill, sweat beads rolled down from his forehead, and his shaggy hair plastered to his clammy forehead, and he breathed heavily with his exertions, and the sky grew a pale salmon then a deep purple then faded to black, and stars peeked out of the blackness overhead, and a pale orange moon smiled down on him from between the boughs overhead, and he lost himself in shadows, and he heard another screech – this one was closer – and he looked around and tried to make some sort of sense out of the nonsensical ideas which filtered through his head, and he remembered bogeymen and vampires and werewolves and zombies and men in masks carrying machetes and other oddities remembered from the television screens of his fractured childhood, but then he remembered who he was – what he was – and he smiled, and he touched the blade of the knife sheathed in his pocket and found it sharp and hungry, and he walked down the hill and towards another quiet little suburb of another sleepy town just waiting for a wake-up call, and he could see the lights through the windows where silhouettes of families dined together, and he imagined how they would react to his sudden entrance, and he laughed, and he realized that the screech had only been the echoes of his own twisted laughter all along.


  1. What a vivid, horrifying picture you paint here TJ! Super read, but personally, I think it would read much better without it being one long sentence, (though I realize that was an experiment); all the 'ands' seemed to take a bit away from the brilliant story. If you take those out and make them short sentences, I think it would pack an even bigger punch. Take all that with a grain of salt of course.
    Thanks for the chilling read!

  2. Thanks, Deanna!

    You're right. It may work better with traditional short sentences.

    All the same, I tend to like this one as is for the purpose of a Southern Fried Short. It was a (brief) homage to the last chapter of Ulysses and Chapter 4 of Faulkner's "The Bear." Sometimes I write run-ons like this just to see how long I can keep them going. Sometimes they tend to build a cadence, almost like a prose poem, sometimes they don't work at all...

    This one felt almost like a story ;)

    Sometimes, I wonder what James Joyce's and Faulkner's editors thought when they turned in their manuscripts --- Maybe it went something like this: "Uh...Mr. Joyce, you do know that you forgot punctuation and capital letters and anything resembling a traditional plot line, didn't you, sir?" :) Wouldn't you have loved to be that guy's editor?

  3. Scary! Like the way you come back to the screech, and also this:

    and his boot tracks were a twin trail behind him sunk in wet red clay

    and this:

    he touched the blade of the knife sheathed in his pocket and found it sharp and hungry

  4. Thanks Francesca!

    I was partial to those lines, too. I often talk about knives as "hungry." Not sure where I got that from, but I like giving inanimate objects some measure of humanity, I guess. And, living where I do, I know all about red clay.

    Growing up on the Coosa River, I used to dig it up from the shore and make little mud men that I would set out to dry in the sun. There's plenty of it in my yard now, and it's good stuff -- holds a lot of moisture. My pair of peach trees, raspberry bushes, and flowers tend to make it through pretty dry summers with minimal watering.