a year in stories::twenty one

No picture today because I don’t feel like searching for one. It’s been a rough couple of days and sometimes I just don’t know how to make things better. I feel frustrated and useless on a lot of different levels right now, which is not ideal.

So it goes.

This was meant to be a comedy but I think it might be horror, which are both things I almost never write. Probably I’ve never actually written a comedic piece, funny as I might think some of these stories are. Anyrate, this one is for Boden Steiner and J David Osborne who challenged me to write a story about eating butts.

In the Time of the Buttmunchers

 

No one knows exactly when the Buttmunchers arrived, despite the recent academic and forensic interest in the subject. Some say around June, other say the mid 1600s while still others contend that there are simply no such thing as Buttmunchers.

The church flatly denies their existence, as do the large bulk of biologists, which brings the Seat of Peter and Darwin finally to agreement, if only about something they both deem quite trivial. Cryptozoologists, of course, have long believed in the Buttmuncher, and even contend that there are miles of proof to back up this claim. Like Bigfoot and the Chupacabra, though, the Buttmunchers are perceived as a peculiar problem isolated in the americas. Buttmunchers are said to be very small with incredibly powerful jaws, able to rip your butt clear off. In fact, it’s posited that most of their body consists of a mouth with short powerful legs and a long thin tail, able to be used as another limb. However, others claim the Buttmuncher exists both in and out of reality, shifting between incorporeality and a large oafish creature, similar to a Bigfoot, which has, oddly enough, connected these disparate creatures together.

Whatever the case may be, I can only speak from my own experience with the Buttmuncher. Or Buttmunchers, because, as I’ve observed, they hunt in packs.

It started with the birth of my little brother, D–. He was a funny baby, with big cheeks and droopy diapers, and for a long time he was never out of my parents’ sight. I couldn’t turn around without seeing him in their arms or slung around their shoulders. Only five or so, I got jealous, but my mother told me that was normal and that she and my dad still loved me all the same.

I believed her because she’s my mother but, while she spoke, my vision kept getting pulled away from her, to the shadows. There beneath the crib, a bubbling, but not of liquid: of shade. The darkness effervesced. My mother hugged me and I hugged her back, her words far away as I stared at the shadows foaming up the wall and into the closet. My mother picked me up and carried me away as I struggled to see the bubbling.

At nights I crept into D–’s room and watched the blackness bubble all around me. Lying on the floor, rolling around, the darkness danced over and around me but I never felt threatened. It was a peace and happiness, a comfort I hadn’t felt since before my brother was born.

When my brother turned one, he began sleeping alone in his crib. At first he cried often and my mother ran to him, held him tight through the night or watched him all along. This disrupted my nightly ventures into the darkness.

They never entered my room, or any of the other rooms. They lived in D–’s room and that was their territory. The rest of the house held no interest for them, I guess. But over that year, I had befriended the darkness. I discovered its moods and even found a way to communicate with it by bending beams of moonlight. At first this terrified them and they shrank away from me, but then it became a game. They danced around the light, bubbling with laughter, and swirling round me, sometimes covering my eyes and blotting out my sight.

They were my best friend. I came to love them and find time to myself with all the curtains drawn so I could play with them. They comforted me when I felt alone, unwanted.

It became harder and harder for my mother to leave D– alone at night until my dad put his foot down and banned her from going to him when he cried. So D– cried and cried. And when he cried and I found that no one was going to stop him, I went.

That first night, he stood in his crib staring at the closet, at the Buttmunchers. I walked to his crib and held his hand. Startled, he turned to me and gasped, said, Ca?

Yeah, baby D, it’s me.

The crying stopped but he didn’t smile. Concerned and afraid, I held his hand and whispered in the darkness.

These are my friends, baby D. They live in your room so you’ll have to share it at night. During the day, in the light, they hide. Just watch.

I let go of his hand and whispered to the effervescent blackness and they came to me, covering me in a roiling shadow. D– cried so I told him it was okay, that the darkness and I were playing, which soothed him. For as long as D stayed awake, he watched me commune with the shadows of his room, and when he went to sleep I asked them to leave D– alone. They seemed to agree that it was for the best.

When D– cried, it became me who went to him and comforted him, showed him that the shadows could be his friends too, and, eventually, they did. He stopped crying but I came each night anyway. I taught him to love the darkness and the darkness loved him back.

That’s what I thought, anyway.

Years went by like this but D– never learnt to talk. Three years old, running and laughing, but still not talking. Mom and dad thought he had a disability, maybe, and they brought him to specialist after specialist who all said the same thing: just wait. They ran their tests but had no answers.

But I watched him at night. I watched the darkness begin to ignore me, I watched the darkness and him become as one. He directed them like a conductor and they spoke to him of things beyond humanity. It’s not that he couldn’t speak or wouldn’t speak, but that he only learnt the language of shadows, and it took over his ability to speak human.

That’s not what I thought then, but it seems possible. It’s what I tell myself when I can’t sleep.

I watched in pain as my mom and dad coaxed him to speak and how he stared past them, aching for the blackness of his room. For shadows.

At night I watched him turn further from us and go deeper into the darkness. To be honest, I was jealous. I saw my brother entering a world I discovered but couldn’t enter. I watched my best friend choose him over me and then ignore me completely, and so I stopped going each night.

Years went by and still he never spoke. In a few months he was meant to start school but there was still no linguistic progress. Instead, he remained in his room more and more, refusing to come out until my mother forced him out.

He was in there sitting in the pitch black, she’d say and dad would shake his head with worry. I tried to comfort them but I was only ten.

We went shopping for his clothes anyway. If he isn’t gonna talk, mom said, We’ll send him to a special school for mutes and he can learn to talk different. She got him all new clothes from all over town, as if giving him things would finally make him speak. After all the toys and movies, clothes were a sad last attempt.

And then the night before his first day of school, the last of summer, I heard him screaming. Still awake, I ran to his room to ask him what was wrong but before the words could be said they were ripped away. From the doorway I saw the moonlight spilling into the room and there it was, the Buttmunchers. A thousand tiny creatures swarming over D–. No longer shadows, but beasts just bigger than a rat that fizzed in electric silver over the blackness of their shadowy bodies. So shocked by the sight, it took me a moment to realise they were eating him. Chunks of D–’s flesh flung through the air, snatched by Buttmunchers who fought over his flesh. D– clawed at the edges of his bed and without language begged for my help. By the time my parents arrived I was pulling him away, kicking at the shadowy monsters, and they watched as his lower half disappeared into the darkness of the night.

I held him as he bled to death in the bed that used to be mine.

There were no explanations, only tears. Doctors, police, forensic specialists: no one understood what happened and the testimony of a ten year old did nothing to convince anyone.

And so that’s what I knew about Buttmunchers, and now hunting them is my life. I’ve been fighting a war for lost children. Thirty years, and it’s always the same. Children struggling with language, dying mysteriously in their beds or yards. Ripped apart as if by wolves, always, for whatever reason, beginning with the butt.

Thirty years of fighting and trying to understand, and I’ve saved no one.

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