Meat and Leather
The high-pitched screams slowly faded to silence in front of him. Using his paring knife as a tool of inspection, he checked his work, turning the glistening, skinless torso from left to right as he watched for any spots he may have missed. The small body rolled with little effort since no limbs remained to inhibit the motion; they were customarily removed for efficiency in the skinning process.
Satisfied, Jeremy pressed the blade to the creature’s neck with increasing pressure until the head squished away from the torso, completing the total dismemberment. He picked up the head by its youthful tuft of dark hair and held it at eye level.
“I hope you enjoyed the pain,” he said to the lifeless eyes staring back at him. “In the end, we’re all just meat and everyone’s gotta eat.”
Jeremy dropped the head into a trash receptacle. With swift slices akin to a Rhoad Island wharfsman he stripped off the meat—separating it from the inedibles—and tossed the pieces into the pot simmering on a can of blue Sterno at the end of his work bench. He then scraped the remnants from his cutting board into the trash, saving only the creature’s wings.
He took great care to clean the blood from his hands before raising the wings overhead, examining them one after another under the fluorescent light fixture with meticulous slowness and delicate handling, searching for tears, punctures, or deformities. The rubbery smooth sensation of the bat’s wings sent a shiver twitching through Jeremy’s body. He closed his eyes, caressed it against his face.
Jeremy trapped the bats for sustenance, but the pleasure he received from their wings kept him from branching out to larger more sustaining animals. There was something visceral about the sensation of leather, of smooth animal skin whispering along his human flesh—it took him to another plane of experience.
Just as Jeremy put down the wings he heard the muffled thumping upstairs that signaled another victim in his trap. He smiled.
“My stew’s getting heartier by the hour.”
Chuckling, Jeremy reached for his Lite beer. He drained the can, slammed it down next to the crimson-stained cutting board, and wiped the remaining drops from his chin with a clean area of his apron.
He skipped up the basement steps and continued on to the second floor, the old wooden staircases creaking with each shift in weight. At the top, he walked down the narrow hall to the far door.
When his parents still lived in the house, still lived at all, it had been a guest bedroom. But, to young Jeremy, it was like a historic monument—a perfectly arranged room that endured untouched as if from the high security of a museum velvet rope. His mother kept the room pristine just in case a distant relative or lost traveler would drop in and need accommodations, but no one ever came.
His parents didn’t venture out much, on the account of their excessive weight, so the family didn’t really have friends. And no sane person would just drive up a two-mile driveway in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey to knock on some stranger’s door. So the room remained quarantined—off limits and untouched.
Often, Jeremy would stare at the closed door, knowing that simply touching the knob would warrant the lashings of father’s belt, but when he stood absolutely still some nights after dinner, with the toothpaste dripping from his lips, he could hear the dull thudding of something trapped in the walls and desperately trying to escape.
It was a mystery that never drifted far from his current thoughts. What was it? How was it trapped? What would it be like to thrash about in futility until exhaustion brought Death’s sickle down that much quicker?
His obsession with solving the mystery compelled him to visit the room time and time again, despite the repeated punishments. After a while, the beatings weren’t even a deterrent; in fact, along the way something changed in him and Jeremy began venturing into that prohibited zone more for the leather belt than his intrigue in the room itself.
The same day he put his parents in the ground, he wrenched the knob and shoved his way into the room. Standing there, for what must have been hours, he soaked up the forbidden realm. Staring at the pineapple patterned wallpaper, the tasseled lamp shades, the maroon fluffed carpet, the massive wooden headboard on the four-post bed, but without the promise of leather-bound pain, it was simply a dull, old-fashioned room.
Jeremy shook his head and turned to leave when a sudden flurry of muffled thumping shattered the silence and buried his disappointment. Adrenaline electrified his nervous system like jumper cables bringing a dead car battery back to life. He scurried throughout the room letting his ears guide him to the source of this lifelong mystery. Pressing the side of his head to the walls and sliding in every direction he eventually pinpointed its location—the chimney stack.
Moments later the room was full of plastic lining, heavy tools, and masonry dust. Jeremy hammered his way to the answer he craved.
The demolition revealed an odd bottleneck design to the home’s chimney. It was an unintentional trap for creatures of the night—an ideal resting place during the day, but too narrow for flight on exit. Bats, upon waking at dusk, would feel trapped and bludgeon themselves against the brick structure trying to escape.
Laying on a small ledge in this bottleneck, were several tiny carcasses; one of which was still fresh. Jeremy cradled the corpse in his hands. He could sympathize with the winged mammal’s plight. He too had been trapped by this constricting house. Emotion welled in his eyes.
On the verge of vowing to cement the trap away and close off the entire chimney forever, he stopped abruptly in mid thought. His widening eyes tilted down to look at his hands. Lost in his head, he hadn’t realized his fingers were rubbing the bat’s wings like a child absentmindedly working a worry stone. The sensation brought full understanding to him, not just with what he desired, but the realization that he was now truly free to do as he wished.
Over the next few days he worked hard to enclose the hole in the chimney, but with a new design. He installed a one-way gated trap with an internal door that would allow him access to the captured animal. He tested different baits, from sound frequencies to rotten fruit, luring his winged friends to their doom. It wasn’t long until he was capturing enough of them with regularity to further his own survival and satisfy his unnatural attractions.
Jeremy was on his fourth trip to the chimney that evening. He heard the creature’s thumps from the hall, their frequency diminishing, volume weakening—it was the right time to extract it, to make sure it’d have a bit of life left to feel the blessed pain he would graciously offer. Pain was a gift. He would help his new friend transcend to a better realm.
But before Jeremy could open the door an explosion shook the house, reverberating in the closed room and nearly blowing the door off its hinges. His mind pictured a bolt of lightning striking the old structure and obliterating the chimney. Trembling, he opened the door, pushed past some rubble on the carpet.
Neither the room nor the chimney was as damaged as he’d visualized, but the wall and the chimney stack were bulging into the room with areas of missing brick near the ceiling. Jeremy, inching forward, watched with wide eyes as more bricks fell to the carpet; not as a delayed collapse, but from something moving in the stack. What was a dull thumping before the crash, was now the sounds of confined shifting.
Whatever the fuck it is, it’s much bigger than a bat, Jeremy thought.
He crept onward with an outstretched hand reaching for the trap door. The metal door hung crookedly but was strong enough to stay latched. His fingers danced on the handle until he managed a firm grip. He took a deep breath and pulled.
At first all he saw was darkness. Then he noticed the wet glint of dark eyes just as it started to move again. The shadows spilled out of the opening and Jeremy stumbled backward—his shuffling feet catching on carpet, sending him to the floor.
The dark creature unfolded from the confined space and stood over him.
Jeremy couldn’t comprehend what he saw.
Its two hoofs clumped on the floor as it shifted weight between its furry legs. A forked tail whipped back and forth as the creature eyed him. Two long horns, pronged like antlers nearly scratched the ceiling. An elongated face leaned toward him as its teeth worked up and down. The torn remnants of a bat dripped from the creature’s taloned hand. It snorted and tilted its head.
Then it dropped the bat carcass and screeched at him. The echo was so loud as it sounded through the room that Jeremy’s ears released a trickle of blood.
The large creature stepped toward him and when its massive wings unfurled, Jeremy finally realized the nature of the creature before him.
“Y-you’re real!” The sight of the devil’s wings reaching from wall to wall turned Jeremy’s fear into awe and acceptance. “We’re all just meat, and you need to feed. Take me to a better realm.”
The creature shrieked again and lunged at him.
As teeth tore into his flesh and sharp talons ripped meat from bone, Jeremy clutched to the leathery wings, rubbing them against his face.
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2016 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.