Bewildering Stories

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The Back Alley

by Thomas D. Reynolds

His color disgusted me,
a greenish-gray stew
edged with black
about the head and neck.

The way he croaked
in halting guttural tones
his Speelex talk
made my stomach lurch.

Even the way he raised
one claw to order a drink
made me hold my head
to keep the bar from spinning.

When I glanced again,
he was staring into my eyes
with unmistakable hatred
and the urge to kill.

Both of us moved to the door
before our fury abated,
meeting in the alley
with weapons raised.

It was over in seconds.
Our fire was simultaneous.
Before I dropped,
I saw him clutch his thorax.

I felt the alley disappearing,
blood draining away,
but held out long enough
to see his green eyes close forever.

When I stretched out my arm
and pulled myself upright,
he was already sitting up,
one wing beating behind him.
  Furious at his resurrection,
some trick of his species,
I rushed madly toward him
ready to crush his neck.

While I advanced,
he remained calm, still.
I charged through him
as if he were fog,

then crashed with a thud
into a foul garbage can.
It was then he laughed,
halting and bitter, a Speelex laugh.

How many times had he rushed
with the same crazed impulse
as I began to stir upon the stones,
only to find me out of reach?

I raised myself to run away
but found only towering walls.
No way to return to the street
or to the bar for my drink.

I’ve sat thus for days,
maybe centuries,
trying to unravel the events
and devise means of escape.

I no longer hunger or thirst,
nor feel pain from wounds.
We sit in opposite corners,
backs turned away.

Still we hear each other
breathe, cough, or sob.
Out of unrelenting boredom
we glance at each other sometimes.

Copyright © 2005 by Thomas D. Reynolds

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