It is nine o’clock, the crown jewel of the morning. The diamond sunlight glistens blindingly on the rippling matrix of the bayou. It is a millionth carbon-copy perfect day, the air is wine and roses, and every second has been selected by the angels from the shining golden seconds of Paradise.
My partner hands me a coffee in a leaking paper cup, and it is the ambrosia of the gods. I smile at him and wonder if he could paint if he tried to. He takes my hand, and it is soft. He leads me to the body.
There isn’t much of it.
Erin now is talking to the homeowner, for a certain value of home and a certain value of owner. He is very professional. Erin, I mean. The homeowner is in shock, which is understandable when your brother has just ripped the throat out of a Jehovah’s Witness with his bare teeth on just such a very beautiful morning. And then some. In many places you can see clear to bone.
“What happened here?” Erin asks.
“He’s et. Got eyes?”
Erin giggles. I don’t take off my glasses.
Both I and Erin smell the key of it, a sharpness in the air like peppermint underneath the new-penny taste of blood.
The homeowner doesn’t say It, so instead of “a magazine” I say “It’s a pill, or a patch, or sometimes an eyedrop. It makes you feel like a sunrise looks, the way God must feel on a particularly harmonious summer evening, like all your internal organs are lined up like planets and you’ve never been alive for a single day.”
I am almost tearing up, which is impossible, but my eyes itch. I sometimes embarrass myself. I cede to Erin, who is senior and who is more accustomed.
“Lyfe. It’s one of the new drugs, no natural ingredients. Just battery acid boiled in neon or something. County’s had a team on it for a month. They think it’s a ring out of Florida. Or maybe Iran.”
The homeowner swallows. “And it — what? — makes you eat people?”
“Among other things.”
“It makes you eat other things, too?”
“Shut up.” I smile.
“It makes you hungry,” I say. “And since you feel things more it’s more hungry. Maybe too much hungry. Do you know if your brother had pills anywhere?”
“I saw him take something. Could have been that. We can ask him.”
And he wasn’t kidding, the brother was right in the kitchen, in a terry robe, drinking bourbon with coffee in it. He’d showered but there was still Witness in his hair and a little inside his ears where too many people often don’t lather thoroughly enough.
We got his statement but it wasn’t a statement. He didn’t even know we were there.
“I didn’t think. I couldn’t think. I didn’t have a brain. I didn’t have anything. I was just a big mouth. Like — ”
“Like Pacman,” said his brother — the brother’s brother.
“Just a mouth. And I was more hungry than I’ve ever been, more than hungry, empty, it was like a vacuum pulling in. It hurt.”
We take him to the cruiser and put him in the rumble seat so he can see the sky. He’s stopped speaking, to himself or anyone. I remember how it was. The brother, the brother’s brother, is still there.
The man is moving oddly.
“Don’t worry,” Erin tells him. “We have everything under control now. Have a blessed day.”
“What should I do now?”
“Hah. Given the circumstances, I would call the police.”
“Ain’t you cops?”
Erin explains the world to him while I plug my ears. When it’s all done, all of it, I help him with the mechanics.
The brother meanwhile is admiring the burning nullity of the sun, staring and staring as if he has never seen beauty before, or never seen before at all. I point it out to Erin. A feeling is like pride, but with nothing to the self, only the world.
The hunger is long gone by now. Forever, possibly. No one really knows.
“We’re doing the Lord’s work. Do you know that?” Erin nods. He gushes less than I, but I know feels similarly. Must. I see it in his shooting.
We can take our shades off by now.
We take the man in to us and we give him coffee and more of the drug. He is confused, but that is a matter of mind and will pass. He does not realize but he is more now, not to say too much. The feeling will never go away, although it fades in and out like hunger of a normal kind. He does not even notice what happens to his brother. There is nothing left but paperwork, and the presenting of his uniform and badge and weapon. He is dazed, like any newborn. And his eyes are like the sun.
Daniel Galef has been an actor, a teacher, a door-to-door poll taker, a dictionary definition (Merriam-Webster, “interfaculty“), and probably some other things he can’t remember right now. His very short fiction has appeared in the American Bystander, Nanoism, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He also writes other stuff.