One night, they woke me with their hot whiskey breath. Said they didn’t want my dark dreaming under their roof no more. Said my devil mind infected their brains, haunted them at nights, caused nightmare visions that didn’t go away—not even with the lights on and a chicken bone crucifix in their hand. But this part ain’t true. They just thought that if I lived in the house, the dogs wouldn’t bark when I snuck around ‘cause they’d be used to me. And I’d be able to sneak around nights and cut pieces off their heads and steal their blood to make cakes to eat that would let me ride on the wind like a bird. I wasn’t sure when they’d thought all this up, seeing as I’d never cut pieces off them for anything, let alone flying. At that point, I still thought flying like a bird would be freeing and joyous, instead of sickening and terrible.
The next night, I snuck down to hear them at their cards and saw a man with no cards in his hand, sitting there dead sober. He put all these ideas in their heads, ideas about witchcraft and demon worship and all sorts of other nonsense. Not that I was above trying such. I have to admit, one time I stole his daddy’s daddy’s knife and cut myself and bled a bit on the hilt so that next time he gripped it when threatening me, he’d fall down and die.
And it didn’t work.
I was in the yard, cutting wood. He came out drunk as a whore’s neighbor and fondled me. Course, I threatened him with an ax, and he went for his knife. But he’d never pulled it. He liked holding onto it like a second, more useful pecker.
And I said to myself: yes, this is it; this is where he falls down dead, and I rid myself of his cruelty.
But he didn’t.
He got pale a bit and went away real quiet and never talked to me again. Never touched me. So maybe I killed some of the meanness in him, but it weren’t what I was going for.
And this man, this clean-cut teetotaler, sat there and told these tales and got them dummies’ ire up with his shiny tongue wagging in the smoky air. So, I said, I’ll show him. I went to where the hearth lay cold and rubbed ashes on my face and made myself look a real fright, like I’d tore out of a grave and come shambling. And I snuck around back, rubbed dirt in my hair and called a whippoorwill to me. We sat and waited for the moon to rise. The bird vomited his heart into my hand, and this I ate, and it made my eyes glow apple red and get real big. Then, I snuck around to the window and just stood there, scratching.
I laughed and laughed when they shit themselves. I could smell their mess from outside. Course I ran before they could get their shit stained legs in motion.
They trashed my room looking for me, and I never came back to the house after that.
“So that means we’re all alone out here, huh? I swear I heard a voice.”
That first night in the woods changed my attitude about this Earth severely. Before, I had a bit of the devil in me when it came to vexing those men, but it weren’t like I had signed a blood soaked book or kissed a black goat’s nethers. I saw a bit into the nature of things that they tried to beat out of me.
After that night, however, I knew I wasn’t part of their world. Not really. They had imprisoned my spirit in flesh and set it to do their work here on this planet, but now, I knew that my spirit was free and that my body was a cage, yes, but a cage with no lock. And no door. But open nonetheless.
I let my new eyes navigate the unfamiliar darkness. I had gone down to the gorge, but not just to the fishing hole like usual. I stepped right in the creek and walked with the water and saw that water was only one current in this land and above that was a current of crow eyes like little black specks but shining, flowing over different parts of the earth.
And this path of eyes is how they traveled, those midnight dancers I had met before down there. Quick. They step into the path and their feet take off like spooked roaches while their faces just smiled until they were gone completely.
It was baffling to see the first time, and I think they liked me ‘cause I wasn’t afraid, just startled and a bit confounded of the whole thing. But never scared.
The men put so much meanness in me; I was like a boiled cat ready to rip apart anyone else that came to do me harm. So, I couldn’t be scared out in them woods, and I wasn’t scared that night either.
In a way, it felt like coming home. Like I’d been on a long journey that had nearly cost me my life. And I was back where I belonged.
My lungs opened like night flowers, and the air I breathed filled me up.
I’d expected to find the travelers there, maybe a glimpse of the crow eye path, but my new eyes couldn’t see it ‘cause it wasn’t there. It was a traveling path as much as it was a traveler’s path. Sometimes, it just wasn’t.
I was tired of wandering, so I found a flat piece of dry ground and built me a small fire with some kitchen matches I stole. I laid by it, waiting and dreaming and not knowing which was which, but knowing it was better than what I had left behind.
Goathead “Craig A.” Buckley is an author of the weird. Whether that takes him in the direction of horror, SF, bizarro, or surrealistic meanderings down the twisty bits of the mind seems to be contingent on the whim of a silver leaf praying to the moon for annihilation. He has been published on various outlets of the weird in cyberspace. This is the first manifestation of his thought in the meatspace of officialdom. Buckley lives in Cincinnati.