No longer restrained by society's boundaries, we relaxed underneath the wooden bridge and made love.

It went quickly though, for the act was losing its novelty. Afterwards, we laid ourselves down and bathed in the placid wilderness, entirely alone save for the mosquitoes.

Our bare toes lingered in the blood-colored river, twitching gently as tiny minnows nibbled at them. The water flowed as if enraptured by time, lazily moving along the blackened meadow's bank. Light filtered down through whimpering clouds, cool and unmistakably autumnal. The light touched her cheek; it kissed her and made her glow like a daughter of the sun. Blonde and tired. Corpselike, yet overwhelmingly angelic. We lay like shoes in a box.

She wasn't looking at me though. She stared past me, and locked souls with the river. Yanked a bluish-black ribbon from her hair and played with it for a few seconds. The wind would have taken it, if there had been any wind.

As we lingered in the field of colorless flowers and cooled ourselves in the nearby river, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was all an illusion. Colors and smells and sounds seemed to blend into an imperceptible mess. Our bodies lay numb and unresponsive. Perhaps it was love; perhaps it was those sparkly obsidian pills we'd swallowed earlier.

Regardless, a smile shoved its way onto her face.

"Why are you doing that?" I couldn't help but ask.

We stared at one another for a short while. "Because it's contagious," she said, "and I love your teeth."

It was an odd compliment, but we were odd lovers. I snarled, obliging her.


The late afternoon came and went, and darkness soon clutched us.

"I need to drink," she said. Her lips were hovering next to mine, and I felt incredible vibrations with every syllable that she spoke. I melted for a moment, and then solidified as my eyes creaked open. I could hardly see her face, for a gang of malevolent clouds had erased the stars and the moon. Her features seemed to blend with the soulless flowers and weeds around us.

"You're lying next to the river. There's plenty to drink," I said, shaking the numbness from my fingers.

"You know I don't want water," she said, distantly.

"Oh sweetheart, not again –"

"Every month," she said, "Until my brother comes back. I have to drink."

There would be no arguing with her, at least not tonight. Wordlessly, I conceded. She celebrated her small victory by rising to her feet – with the grace of a newborn calf – and stumbling off into the muted wilderness of the meadow. Naturally, I followed her.

She slowly made her way through the endless field of grey and black, tripping every now and then on an errant rock or a dead animal. I tiptoed behind the girl, observing our surroundings with veteran eyes – I'd traipsed through this stretch of weeds for years upon years, and every night, the field managed to take on a different form. Sometimes the mosquitoes hummed thick and virulent in the air, so much so that every breath translated to a gunshot. Black, pasty wildflowers might poison the landscape and prick any wanderer that ventured too close. The rotted animal corpses might number in the thousands. But not tonight – tonight, a relative tranquility dominated the black meadow.

She led, and I followed on her heels. We walked for ages, our nakedness making the journey slightly less arduous, and slightly more awkward. As time limped forward, the incessant churning of distant insects began to pound away at my ears; the wicked weeds tickled at my shins; broken glass sliced my toes on several unfortunate occasions. And yet, I stayed magnetized to her hypnotic, cadaverous frame.

Just as I began to openly complain, she stopped walking. Stared at something ahead with incredible wonder.

"Is this it?" I asked, catching my breath and brushing the debris from my sole.

It took her a moment to turn towards me, to tear herself away from the spectacle. "Drink deep."

I looked past her. Up ahead, shrouded in hovering blackness, lingered the vile presence of a God.

It was a constantly-shifting mass of broken, glistening shadows, churning like the endless gears of a world-sized automaton. No larger than a refrigerator box, the creature floated just above a lifeless flowerbed and waited. Eyes, mouth, limbs, hair – none existed on this sinister creature. It was simply a throng of misplaced, loitering shadows, piled together into a wispy physical form.

No matter how carefully I concentrated, the shadows never came into focus. They blurred together, shifting without pause, shimmering without warning. An ambiguous heap of unsure darkness.

It spoke. I think.


"I have to drink," she said again. "I'm sorry, but I have to drink—"


She continued to stare into the jerky shadows, mesmerized by its interesting patterns. Black, grey, black, grey.

"This isn't like the other nights. Something's wrong," I said, latching onto her wrist and becoming her anchor. This wasn't like the other nights at all.

"But I want to drink."

"I really, really don't like this," I said, nearly begging her to stay away.

For the first time that night, she frowned. It struck me. "You're a caricature of a man, sometimes."


"A wailing, helpless infant. I promise I won't be long."


"Don't do it, sweetheart," I said through clenched teeth. "You can drink another night – right now, we have to leave. We're leaving. C'mon!"

"be patient," she whispered in tandem with the shadows, "be patient my perfect, tortured doppelganger. you're my counterpart in all of this, you know."

"But there's something wrong!" I screamed at them, tugging her corpselike arm. Already, the darkness seemed to grab at her flesh – was I too late? "Have you noticed the lack of stars or mosquitoes or death tonight, my love? Doesn't that strike you as odd? Doesn't it?!"

Gathering all her energy, she turned and stabbed me with her hazel-green stare. As if by witchcraft, I let go of her forearm and stumbled backwards, clumsily plopping to the ground. Some unnatural force held me there.

"we shall drink deeply tonight."

I watched her from a crooked sitting position, now. Through slatted eyes, I witnessed the shadows touching her flesh. Kissing her cheek. Embracing her throat. Time seemed to stutter as she fell to her knees and was swallowed up by nature's abortion. A sudden wind raged across the prairie; the weeds rattled and the flowers groaned and the mosquitoes cried and I cried and the shadows ate my love and disappeared, caught by the raging wind.

They were gone, and I could stand again.

Tension built as I realized that I was alone, save for a few lingering mosquitoes. Stomach churned, throat vibrated, fingers turned numb without warning. What just happened?

A tiny rumble seemed to radiate from the center of the Earth. I lost balance as my bare feet shifted with the loamy soil, and I fell once again. The world seemed to churn, and the moon howled from her distant perch. Something beautiful was being torn apart, and Mother Nature could sense it.

A sound like a million children vomiting. The shadows regurgitated my sweetheart to me.

Hunks and pieces of her were launched into the night sky in one fluid motion, accompanied by a jittery torrent of blood. Her broken and disfigured torso, clearly visible amongst the rest of the jettisoned soup, clumsily twisted through the air – the tip of the pyramid! The roaring mouth of the lion! For a moment, it was the most gorgeous thing I'd ever witnessed…

It all came splattering to the ground in a graceless shower of body parts and assorted gore. The black-and-white quilt of flowers and weeds were suddenly introduced to a brilliant red.

I squealed involuntarily as sticky pieces of my lover rained down upon me, staining my flesh and searing my soul. Her torso landed nearby with a sickening thud.

The shadowy specter had torn her asunder with covetous ferocity – a lonely child ripping apart the petals of a dandelion. She loves me not.

Stunned but not paralyzed, I forced myself to stumble across the now-wet meadow. My toes sunk into the bloodied dirt with every succeeding step. Without pause, without expression, I approached her blood-spattered body, fell to my knees and grabbed her little hand. Whispered her name.

But she was hardly aware of my hand clutching hers. Hardly aware that she was bleeding. Hardly aware that she was in pain. For a fleeting moment, I thought that perhaps she couldn't feel anything – that maybe nature had not been that cruel to her. Perhaps she was dreaming now; hopskipping among the amber clouds, laughing at the nothingness of peace, inhaling sweet childhood memories and nuzzling the satin face of God.

The thought was vacant and weightless, and it lingered for a moment before drifting away like a puff from the caterpillar's hookah. Her eyes fluttered slightly, little hazel buttons disrupted by blood and swollen, putrefied flesh. She squeezed my fingers with all of her strength – hardly a thimbleful – and croaked a wet sentiment in my general direction.

Every word gurgled past an ocean of gore, and despite everything, I couldn't help but grin.

I don't remember what she said. It was too beautiful.

I held her until the sun crawled across the horizon. Colors shifted from lifeless grey to pallid, pasty bluish orange. A few optimistic birds sang at the top of their lungs, welcoming the glorious day. Distant shimmers of wildlife scuttled out into the open plain, sniffing the dewy morning and stretching their feeble paws.

One-and-a-half people stared at the newborn sun with sentient, uncaused glares. The day began, a slow and silent symphony, accented only by our uneven breathing and the incessant buzz of nearby fauna. The atmosphere brightened like a soul reborn. I stared at the fading moon until it disappeared from view, back into the depths of the unknown heavens. I turned to check on my broken sweetheart.

No pulse, no emotion, no soul behind her clouded eyes. Her cold little hand still rested in mine, waiting. Blood had become sunburned and brittle against her flesh, clutching her like a winter pelt. That spontaneous blonde mop lay filthy and defeated, twitching gently in the wind. She was an imperfect caricature of a corpse, personified by absolutely nothing but... her mouth. Twisted carefully into a smile.

A smile. It was tiny, but unmistakable. Her red-black tongue was perfectly framed by her


By Alex Moore