Chim crouched down and peeled a bloody strip of flesh from the Man’s side, folded it, and put it in his mouth. He wiped away the blood as he chewed, and licked more from the back of his hand. While he chewed slowly – trying, for once, to taste something – Chim looked at the Man, laid out gray and naked on the floor of Chim’s kitchen. The Man was not only alive but conscious, and his eyes were wide, white and blind. Chim was fascinated by those eyes, those buffed and rounded pieces of chalk screwed into his head. He poked with one long, yellow finger at the Man’s right eye and said, “You feel that?”
“No,” said the
“You feel me take that bite outta you?”
“A little bit.”
“Well, I couldn’t taste it at all. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s something about you.”
“I don’t know.”
Chim shifted his legs – short and bony, with black hair like wire sprouting from his dull yellow skin – so that he could sit, his legs stuck out in front. He planted his hands on the floor behind him. His glasses were still steamed, his dinner-plate eyes trying to look around the lenses. It was still snowing outside.
“You don’t know nothin’,” Chim said. “What do you know?”
“I know a lot,” the Man said. His voice was a defensive murmur.
“Nothin’ does me any good.”
“Well, why should I care about that?”
Chim shrugged, still chewing. But the Man couldn’t see the shrug, of course. All over the Man’s body were scabbed-over patches, red and black and oozing, where Chim had ripped food from him.
“If I’m, if you think I’m so defective,” the Man said, “then why not let me go? I mean you could – “
“All I said was – “
“ – just let me walk out the door. You could go for – “
“I just can’t taste you, is all.”
“You could get anybody else,” the Man finished, raising his voice to be heard.
“Will you shut up?” Chim said. “You think that’s an easy thing for me? To get somebody else?”
“Was it so hard getting me?”
“You looked at yourself in the mirror lately?” and Chim had barely finished the sentence before laughter and hacking coughs followed each other from his throat, doubling him over where he sat. “Kid,” he said after a while, “you were a snap. But how many’a you’er out there?”
The Man had never seen snow, but he remembered when Chim had found him as being a snowy night, with the flakes sweeping against his face, cold and prickling. But maybe it hadn’t been snowing. Maybe he remembered snow because it seemed to him now that it had always been snowing. Every day, Chim came in complaining about fresh snowfall, stamping his boots, and in the early days the Man could feel blasts of cold air and drops of melted snow landing on his face as they flew from Chim’s body. Time was skewed now for the
Man. Remembering was sometimes like trying to
mount icy steps. So it could have been
snowing when Chim found him, or it might not have been. And if he thought now that it wasn’t, then
maybe that came merely from his desire to believe there was something else,
some other time in which he’d lived and could get back to if he could only talk
to his captor, outsmart him. Chim was not smart, it didn’t seem, but he was
skeptical and distrustful, which was almost as bad. The Man was
smart, though perhaps not in the way he now needed to be. However, he was physically strong, or at
least stronger than Chim, who he sensed was very small. So, if the Man could move, he could
conceivably kill Chim. Yet he couldn’t
move except to talk and sometimes eat, could barely even feel, and, of course,
he couldn’t see. All he could really do
was think, and so far that hadn’t done him any good.
Something light, ticklish, someone, maybe Chim, running something small, like a pen, over his chest. All along there was a gentle tug as his flesh pulled free. The Man wished he was deaf, as well as blind, so he wouldn’t have to hear Chim eating.
“I’m goin’ out,” Chim said, and the Man could hear the food in his mouth. “Goin’ out to see Blue Baby.”
“Why do you even bother telling me?” the Man asked. “What difference could it make?”
“It’s just for something to say,” Chim explained, standing up. Again, the door opened, and again the sound of wind coming in, blowing and bouncing off the walls and sailing unfelt over the Man’s skin.
“I’ll be back in a little while,” Chim said. “We’ll talk more then.”
“What – “ the Man began, confused, but the door had closed.
* * * *
Sometimes it seemed to Chim that he was walking a white road that never ended and that was surrounded by silent, starless space, and he could float forever if he just took five steps to the left or right, and left the road’s path. It would be okay if somebody would just flick on a light, but nobody did around here. Or maybe it was that they didn’t open their windows. Blue Baby, he knew, had no windows, but plenty of lights. Plenty of lights to see that fat blue body and all his bottles and other things. But did noe of these buildings have windows? No, they had to; Chim had been inside some of them. There were windows. So open one of the goddamn things, or turn on a fucking light. It made Chim feel like he was it, just him, and moon for light, and anyway, all the moon did was show him the white road more clearly – it gave him no other guidance. If he looked hard enough, stared long enough, then some of the buildings would start to take on half-ghost shapes, but that just made it worse. When he saw those shapes break through the night’s surface, how could he be sure they were just buildings? That there wasn’t somebody in those shadows who didn’t have yellow skin like Chim, skin closer to Blue Baby’s, so they could hide better? Chim knew he was small and could be killed easily by somebody even half as big as Blue Baby, so If somebody came out and wanted him for something, wanted this nice black coat he was wearing, Chim could only run. And he was slow, his legs weak, his back stiff. He would get nowhere.
Even though he liked Blue Baby, actually going to the man’s home, close though it was, was not something Chim looked forward to – it was always something he did late. Late was when Blue Baby was around. If you tried for him in the morning, his little house might be shuttered up, door nailed closed, sorry, place’s been condemned for months. You get there when TV starts running shitty old movies and commercials for sex numbers, then Blue Baby might be there, you might see a light under the door, but he wouldn’t let you in. When there’s not a TV on, or light, and barely even an eye open anywhere in town, except maybe Chim’s own, when the noise from the sewers is all you hear, and now you notice voices along with all the running water, and if you hear anything louder than a whisper then it’s a gunshot, and then boots, and then nothing but whispers and running water again, at that hour, Blue Baby might let you in if he knows you.
At Blue Baby’s front door, Chim knelt with a slip of paper that said ITS CHIM in pencil, and slid that under the door, into the darkness. Dark, but there might be a light on somewhere in there – when Blue was alone, he liked his lights dim. When he wrote and read, he still kept things burning low.
Chim tried to be a little noisy, in case Blue Baby was dozing off. As soon as the paper slipped under, a light clicked on, and Chim sighed; Blue had probably been working at his desk, with his little desk light on. He heard Blue Baby moving around in there, and when Blue Baby moved, everything everywhere seemed to creak. Whether it came from the floor or Blue himself, Chim didn’t know.
Now all that Chim could see was half of a thin, bright rectangle, picking out part of the door’s outline. Then the doorknob turned, and part of the blackness began to shift away, opening up the light, which now outlined Blue Baby, who stood in front of Chim, so much taller and so much wider than the yellow man, his sides almost touching the doorframe on either side. And bald and blue, like a bloated infant getting no oxygen.
Blue Baby wore glasses as well; his – unlike Chim’s, which were square and clunky, awkward, like there were the first ever pair of glasses – were round and rimless, professorial. He wore them rarely, though. Chim hardly ever saw them. He wore them, apparently, only when he wrote.
The lenses were clouded over by finger-smudges that he had not yet bothered to wipe away. Chim thought he must appear to Blue Baby as a thick blur against the darkness and snow outside.
“Lemme in, Blue,” Chim said. He was cold.
“’Please’?” said Blue Baby.
“Please, come on.”
Blue Baby slowly stepped aside. He was wearing a big blue coat that touched the floor and hid his feet. It was buttoned clear up to his throat, but its sleeves were short, letting his great blue arms and blue hands breathe and swing. The hem of his giant coat swept quietly against the floor.
The place was small one room, really, with another little room that Blue Baby slept in, and another where he went to the bathroom and, presumably, washed up, because Chim never detected any objectionable odor from him, or from his home. Which Chim thought nothing short of miraculous. And Chim was also a little fascinated by the bedroom, which was just a floor. Not even a blanket, no pillow. It was so completely barren that Chim wasn’t sure why Blue Baby couldn’t just sleep here, in the main room.
But the main room could get cluttered. There could be jars and shit everywhere, bowls of whatever, green stuff, and red, and brown, and sometimes jars full to the top with mouse heads, or one time just a cat head, eyes closed and sleeping. All types of hair kept in bags; animal horns over his desk, like in the den of a hunter; a dead sheep one time, the whole fucking thing, right there in the middle of the floor. Freshly killed when Chim saw it, cleaned and bloodless, no odor. Blue Baby also kept sheets of skin pinned to his walls, like artwork.
Human skin? Chim had asked once.
Some of it, Blue Baby had said.
And there was artwork, things Blue Baby had created himself: little houses of bones, finger bones, and teeth for bricks, if he was getting really intricate. Little God’s-eye-views of the lives of people who lived in homes, all white and shiny and buffed. At one point in Blue Baby’s life, he had painted pictures with blood – sometimes with his fingers, sometimes with brushes – but that got fairly boring, and he felt the possibilities were pretty limited, so after a time he quit it altogether. Still, he had one almost mural-like work on the wall across from the door. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a mural because it was done on skin, but it still covered the entire wall, and it showed every day life as Blue Baby saw it. It was all very crude, with stick figures and smudgy child-like caricatures of the sun and cars, and cotton like puffs of smoke from the chimneys of square houses. The women in the picture had smeared triangles over their waists and legs – there were skirts. Many of the men had pipes. One of the men, the one buying a newspaper, had eyeglasses. Again, all very childish and crude, but Chim thought that was part of the charm. Although Chim has used that word once, “charm”, while talking about the painting, and Blue had cussed him out good.
Over time, everything in the painting had darkened, and now it looked as though it might have been done in crayon or some strange charcoal, but Chim had been here in the room, sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching as Blue Baby painted it, had seen him dipping his hands into the opened veins for as long as that lasted before moving into the stored jars, warm and sealed. Everything else that he kept, the mouse heads and such, Blue claimed were materials for later works. He just hadn’t figured out yet how to use them.
There was also paper everywhere, and every time Chim had managed to sneak a glimpse at the cramped, ruler-straight writing he couldn’t decipher it. It might have been a whole different language, for all he knew. Well, usually the paper was there, but apparently Blue Baby had cleaned up recently, because the papers were all stacked neatly on his desk, under the animal horns. Chim stood staring at the clarity of the floor and the two chairs set against the wall adjacent to the painting, and nodded his admiration. He liked a clean home, and he knew the struggle of keeping things neat. Esepcially when your home was so small, and you had as much stuff as Blue Baby.
“It looks nice,” Chim said. “You cleaned up?”
“Yes,” Blue Baby said. “I was having trouble moving around. I didn’t want to damage anything, so I thought maybe I should tidy up.”
“Well, it looks nice. I can stand and not feel like I’m stepping on something.”
“Yes,” said Blue Baby with disinterest. “Well, have a seat, sit down. Do you want anything to drink?”
Chim took a seat, and Blue Baby kept standing there by the door.
“So…what’s going on?” he asked. “How’s the new one?”
“Okay,” said Chim, nodding in agreement with himself.
“Does he have a name? Do I know him?”
“No, I don’t think so. I just picked him up a week ago. Just grabbed him at random.”
“He was easy. He’s blind.”
“Oh, I see.”
“It’s fucking weird, though, you know,” said Chim, settling into his chair. “His eyes are white clean through. I have trouble looking at him, he’s so weird. At his eyes, anyway.”
Blue Baby glanced around his room, and, his eyes landing in a random corner, said, “You don’t need the eyes, do you?”
“Not always. So, not this time, I guess.”
“You could give them to me. I could, I don’t know what. But I feel like I could do something with them. I don’t think I’ve ever had blind eyes before.”
“Oh, you must have.”
“Well, perhaps, but not like you say his are. So if you’re not going to use them…“
“No, yeah, sure. They’re yours.”
Blue Baby looked at the melted snow that lay in gray lumps and puddles around Chim’s boots. If he hadn’t just cleaned the place up, who knows what Chim would be ruining with his carelessness. He wanted to go get a towel, make Chim lift up his boots, but he reminded himself that it was just the floor getting wet, just wooden planks, that’s all.
Chim sat there, all huddled up in his over-sized black coat, making his yellow face light up, turn on like a lightbulb; his square, stupid glasses, the lenses shining opaque and white against Blue Baby’s lamp. Blue Baby had never actually liked Chim, though the little cannibal had been the source of some fascination for him. But now the son of a bitch came over too often, like this was where he lived, not back in that dungeon, that basement kitchen, where he actually ate and slept. He came over about three times a week, Chim did, which wasn’t really all that much of an imposition, especially considering that the two of them lived close enough together that Blue Baby could, should the mood strike him, stand at his front door and put a .45 slug in the middle of Chim’s forehead when that yellow head first popped out in the morning. But Blue Baby himself was only home three or four times a week, or at least at this home, so it was like Chim was there every night. And what made it worse was that Blue Baby never knew which nights he’d spend here, so of course Chim couldn’t know either, but he was still there almost all the time, which led Blue Baby to conclude that the pathetic little shit was there every night, knocking on the door, or slipping notes under it, which was his new thing. Who knew how many notes cheerfully declaring ITS CHIM, slipped inside on nights when Blue was away, had been unwittingly shuffled and wadded up with all the other papers on the floor. Again, if he hadn’t just clean up, once Chim left, Blue Baby might have been tempted to dig through and see.
“So,” Blue Baby said, hoping to at least keep the conversation on a topic he might find interesting, “what is it about these eyes again? They’re…?”
“They’re white,” said Chim. “Clean through. They look like I could crush ‘em into powder.”
“Really. Well. That’s odd.”
“I know. Probably wouldn’t taste a thing if I went ahead and an’ ate them, but – “
“Chim, they sound pretty interesting. Why not go ahead and let me have them? I’m sure I could find some good use for them.”
“Okay. Fine. That’s fine.”
“I could come by tomorrow. Take a look at them.”
“Yeah, that’d be fine. You ain’t been by in ages.”
“Yes, it’ll be nice to be by again.”
“Christ, it’s not like you live just down the street!”
Blue Baby forced an apologetic laugh and said, “Sorry, but you know I’m hardly ever around. I barely even see my own home.”
“I know, I understand,” said Chim, and to Blue Baby he seemed to be emphasizing his forgiveness a little too strongly, like he couldn’t bare the idea that Blue Baby might think he was angry about something. Which was probably exactly what it was. This idolization that Blue Baby sometimes sensed passing from Chim to himself was something that he could not understand, unless Chim had some sort of artistic ambitions that Blue Baby didn’t know about, which, in any case, seemed extremely doubtful. Chim had always at least pretended to be fascinated with the countless paintings, sculptures, and other works of art the flow of which Blue Baby seemed unable to discontinue – or so he’d written in his memoirs – but Blue knew Chim to be someone utterly lost in his own somewhat sleazy drive for life. In fact, the very paints and canvases that Blue Baby used to create, Chim used for primitive sustenance, to bar the path of his own death. Chim believed he was, at any give time, only a few hours from death. Considering his body, a clumsy jumbling of discarded chickenbones, this was understandable. Som vague disease of the bowels did indeed appear to be waiting to suck him dry. As if disease wasn’t enough, Chim also seemed to be certain that a stray, or perhaps not so stray, bullet was cutting its way to him, or that a gas truck would suddenly lose a wheel on a sharp turn and then slide over him as smoothly as it would a leaf pressed into the street. To Chim’s credit, he seemed resigned to these possible accidents and acts of man, and therefore focused himself on staving off the treacheries of his own body. But to call Chim’s physical state the result of anatomical treachery was, apart from being wholly unoriginal, also being terribly kind to him, something Blue was not ordinarily inclined to be.
Blue Baby made it a point not to know too much about how Chim had spent his past – his interest in Chim rested solely in the grotesquely monotonous way he spent his present. To know something about Chim’s past might offer up some explanation for this creature’s existence, and that was the last thing Blue Baby wanted. Blue Baby avoided the possibility of hearing Chim’s life story by, if not exactly nurturing, then at least not crushing Chim’s apparent interest in Blue’s own life. By talking about himself, and a little about Chim’s current activities, Blue managed to remain ignorant of Chim’s history, if he even had one, which Blue sometimes tried to doubt. In any case, Chim’s rickety state of decay had to be the result of some hideous and repeated activity from years gone by, and had probably reached a level so advanced that no remedy, demented or otherwise, could possibly make a difference.
This was what Blue Baby though, anyway. The point being that such a man had to be too stupid to be an artist. And if not too stupid, then at least too wrapped up in his desperate fight for survival to spend any time creating anything. Blue Baby had certainly never seen any evidence of any form of artistic endeavor during his very few visits to Chim’s home. The place couldn’t be more drab or spare. The only splash of color Blue had ever noticed was the insectile yellow of Chim himself. Some depraved fools would see that hopeless emptiness as evidence of some quiet artistic genius – anyone that indifferent to outward appearances must be busy conjuring up something glorious. They would deduce that the reclusive Chim was squirreling away his paintings, plays, sculptures, and novels in a secret room, or in the home of his friend or mentor. Or, even better, maybe he destroyed them once they were completed, either our of some depressingly romantic modesty, or a kind of crazed vanity. Either one, it didn’t matter.
Still, Chim was one of a very small minority that Blue would spend time with. He found Chim fascinating. Repulsvie, certainly, but why else would he be so interesting? Not interesting as a person – the man never had anything to talk about – but interesting because of his way of life. Such an animalistic desperation for life, and why? For what? He fought for life so that he could continue to fight for life. It was wonderfully pathetic, Blue thought. When a man channeled his energy like Chim did, that is, when every step and breath was only taken in order that he might continue to step and breathe, he would hardly take time out later to stew over some ongoing creative masterwork.
Well, it was silly to dwell on such things, because Chim hardly knew anybody. Especially anybody in the art world, if you didn’t count Blue Baby, which Blue didn’t, because he had yet to display his work publicly. This was by choice; showing his work around to people was not something that exactly appealed to him. And besides, he had a feeling that, if he ever did attempt to exhibit his work, he would probably meet with resistance.
“So,” Chim said after a nice chunk of the kind of silence Blue had grown used to around him had passed, “what’re you working on? Anything new?”
“No, not really,” Blue Baby replied. “I’m a bit run down at present.”
“Really?” And Chim for a moment seemed genuinely concerned. “Why? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m a bit run down, I said. That just means I’m rund down.”
“Run down? You mean tired?”
“No, I mean I have throat cancer. That’s what ‘run down’ means.”
“Hey, Blue, usually when I come by you’re always painting something, or, I don’t know, mixing paints or whatever. You’re not for once, and I’m just wondering if anything’s wrong. I’m just being a friend.”
“Yes, I know. I’m touched. But I’m fine. Quit trying to foist your hypochondria off on other people.”
“Boy, you’re in a mood.”
Blue Baby shrugged and turned around to his desk, gazing longingly at the stacks of handwritten pages sitting there, waiting very patiently. He would love to plop himself back down in that chair, where he’d been before Chim came knocking, and just let his pencil go. Let the words pour right the hell out, until they grew so lound in his head that Chim’s horsefly whine sounded like a radio playing three doors over. He wasn’t run down at all.
“Well,” Chim went on, “you know what happened the other day?”
“What?” Blue kept looking at the desk.
“Actually, this is – no, I had the new guy. When was I last here?”
“I don’t know. Last night?”
“No, it wasn’t last night. Jesus. No, it was last week sometime. Anyway, I guess it was just after I got this new guy, and I’m out hoppin’ around all the regular joints – “ Blue Baby had no idea what regular joints Chim was referring to; Chim went to Bozz’s, and, as far as Blue knew, that was it “ – and eventually I end up at Bozz’s, and in Bozz’s they got a guy behind the bar who, he’s always done this, he pours the drinks out before anyone even gets there. You know this guy?”
“No, I don’t go to Bozz’s.”
“Well, he’s this youngish-lookin’ old guy, his name’s Creak. And when he gets there, busy or not, he starts pullin’ the drinks. He’ll do like four or five of the complicated drinks that only like one guy drinks, and then maybe eight of, eight martinis, say, then when he’s got all those done, he starts on whiskey and stuff, doing maybe ten shots of each of whatever, then pourin’ a thousand beers. And he’s got ‘em all layed out there on the bar in front of him, like he’s a salesman. But he doesn’t go hawkin’ this stuff. When the bar start to fill up, a guy’ll come up and take whatever he wants, and he’ll leave his money in place of it, or if this guy knows you then he’ll nod when you take what you want, and he’ll keep track in his head. Creak’s always done this. Used to drive Bozz crazy. Used to think they must’a been getting’ ripped off left and right. But this guy didn’t, you know, he didn’t, he didn’t pour the drinks and then go out and get a sandwich. He watched things. It just went quicker, and people drank more, I guess. I guess that was what he thought. So anyway, last night I go in there, into Bozz’s, and there’s Creak behind the bar. Place’s empty. Not, I mean, not even, like, not even a stool cushion’s dented. I say, ‘Creak, what’s goin’ on? Where is everybody?’ Creak says, ‘Naw, it’s nothin’.’ I say, ‘Creak, this place’s – ‘, I mean, Blue, this is Friday night, right? The place should have guys poppin’ out into the street, it’s so crowded. So I say, ‘Creak, it’s Friday.’ At first he don’t wanna tell me. Then finally he says, ‘Well, I got fired.’ ‘Fired?’ I says. He says, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘Finally bit me in the ass.’ ‘What did?’ I says. ‘The drinks,’ he says. He says, ‘Some bunch of motherfuckers got it into their heads they could rip me off.’ I asked if they did, and he says, ‘Yeah, they did.’ These guys come in, Blue, and, like, fifteen of them. And the owner’s there on Fridays, right? And these fifteen guys come in. They all grab an armful’a drinks. Pfft! Out the door. Spilled half the drinks goin’ out, but by then I guess the owner was already busy chewing Creak a brand new asshole. So. But Creak, man.”
Blue Baby wasn’t sure why Chim had just made up this story, but clearly it was all lies. While it was true that Blue didn’t go to Bozz’s, he did know it. He knew all about the city, especially at night, and Bozz’s had never had a bartender named Creak. Their current Friday night – and most other nights – bbartender was a very beautiful woman, in fact, to keep as many men hovering over the bar and drinking as possible. Her name was Deuryde, or something. She’d been there several months. Apart from that, if Creak had just been fired, why in the world was he the only person in the bar? Normally, Blue would guess that such a poor story had been made up on the spot, but he had a feeling Chim had painstakingly planned it out beforehand.
“Poor guy,” Blue said. “Well, he’ll find work.”
“I don’t know,” Chim said. “I mean, this great idea of his that he’s always braggin’ about, now it gets him fired. He doesn’t sound like the smartest guy in the world to me.”
“No. Maybe not. Well.”
Chim rubbed his thumb over his nose, now uncomfortable. Lying didn’t sit well with him, maybe, though this was hard to believe about someone like him. His uneasiness had more to do, probably, with the fact this story didn’t seem to have gone over very well.
“Anyway, Blue,” Chim went on, “I think I’d better get back. The new guy might be starting to move.”
“Okay, Chim. I’ll come by in the next couple days about the eyes.”
“Yeah, that’ll be great. Come by any time.”
Chim got up from his chair, and waved quickly at Blue as he headed towards the door. Then Chim opened the door, letting the cold air back in, and Blue watch his black coat disappear, leaving his head to shine like the head of a candle before the door closed.
* * * *
The Man felt a tingle begin to spread through his legs. It was accompanied by bright spots of pain along his legs, stomach, and chest. He could hear his breathing growing fast and broken, and his fingertips were rubbing over the floor. He was aware that his body was slowly coming back to life.
His fingers soon began to move more freely, his nails scratching audibly across wood, but for the most part his hands were still dead. Yet the more he moved his fingers, the more life his hands seemed to gain. In the blackness of his vision, he saw the veins in his wrists and the tingling life coursing through them. He tried to move it, to increase his control with his mind. Perhaps it was just an illusion, but it seemed to be working. The tingling intensified up past his left elbow, and he felt and heard the skin of his forearms slide across the floor. His legs, he tried to pump this life into his legs, but they wouldn’t move. They just tingled and itched and felt pain. But his fingers, hands, and arms were moving, so soon his legs might be bending at the knee, while his elbows began to pry his peeled body off the floor.
Chim’s front door blasted open and the Man actually felt what seemed to be a mildly cool breeze over his face and chest. He wondered how cold and harsh that wind must really be to pierce his numbness. But he felt it. And as he felt that, he heard Chim stomping across the floor and felt Chim’s heavy boot smash into the side of his face. The Man sensed the shock more than he felt it, but he felt it, too, along with a bright flash of pain.
“Motherfucker!” Chim was shrieking, and his voice was so harsh, high and wild that it sounded to the Man like he was being attacked by something, some snake-quick monster that was trying to pull out his lungs. “Piece’a shit motherfucker! I’ll kill you!” Chim’s boot came down, stomped down square against the Man’s face, and he heard his nose break. The Man opened his mouth in confusion, to ask what was wrong, but he was silenced by another kick, and after that one he could feel some of his teeth rattling around in the back of his throat. The teeth seemed to be swimming, and soon he was gagging, his throat hitching frantically, his mouth bubbling over, his head somehow turning sideways to allow him to vomit out the whole mess. As he did this, Chim leapt on top of him, straddling his stomach, and began pounding his fists against the Man[‘s broad gray chest, each impact making Chim wail in pain. The Man was feeling things better now, unfortunately.
“Jesus, I’m breaking my fucking hands,” Chim blubbered, and he stopped punching.
“God, you broke my teeth,” the Man said. “What’s wrong with you? What happened?” He somehow felt dizzy, even just lying there. His voice was swollen, and he wasn’t sure if the words had actually come out as he’d intended them.
“I gotta get some’a this shit into you,” Chim wheezed, and the Man felt the whisper of Chim’s weight float off him. He could hear Chim rattling around, could hear bottles rolling across hard, flat surfaces, could hear something being uncorked. All the while, the Man was marveling at the movement of his own tongue inside his mouth, over the empty and broken sockets in his gums. He was aware that somehow his hands were balling into fists at his sides. How long would the whole process take? To come back to life? And bounce this son of a bitch off the ceiling?
Chim fell to his knees beside the Man, and what the Man felt when the needle slid into his arm was hardly anything at all.
“Next time,” Chim said breathlessly, “I’ll eat your fucking heart.”
END OF PART ONE