A Worn Rent Throat

© 2010 by Dylan Isaac Ravenfox

The caws of ravens echo into the stillness of morning.

A raw, fluid awareness of warmth and slickness spreads over his skin. Laying on the earth he stops moving altogether, thinking nothing but the murmuring babbles of a quiet stream, breathing shallow breaths, then none at all. He begins not to feel his skin. Time opens itself into a mere, fleeting shimmer on the surface of a pool, never able to stretch outside its own reflection. Mirra’s body slowly begins its process of decomposition, and the seems of its mind seep with it into the ground, and into tall grass and the roots beneath, into needles, petals, leaves, stems, veins.

Mirra tries to wake, blinking three times. Not See–See–Not See–See–Not See. Half awake, the dark pre-morning shrouds the surface of him.

His wife and the child in her belly can’t afford for him to get sent back over the border again. Lying in bed, late at night, Mirra decides to take a job at the K.K.Y. Slaughtering and Rendering Incorporated. The image of the Pacific Ocean, pristine and blue, is enough to keep him from thinking for a moment, ever flowing, swelling, waves crashing and splashing, the surface turning to thin glass glinting in the sun and shattering into uncountable shards, falling into itself. Plash.

Mirra, momentarily thinking the thought that after death, souls, as bodies, disassemble into fragments and recombine, sneers to himself. As he casts his eyes on the table he catches a glimpse of a magazine article about the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Someone stands with bare feet on a crate with wires hooked to his fingers, streaming from them. He is draped in a pointed black hood and cloak. In another image someone is curled up on the floor, the collar on his neck leashed to the hand of a soldier in camouflage.  Abe is reading, eating his bacon, forming a bolus in his flabby white cheek.  He rents Mirra a trailer from, and helps make things happen under the table. Abe looks up from the prisoners of the images, and Mirra says that he will take the job.

Only weeks had passed since Mirra became a slaughterer, but the time seemed to stretch endlessly, as if its rhythms were somehow never in a line to begin with, not linear at all, but made of many broken lines like a web or veins branching in all directions, constantly circling around, crossing in and out.

After each day on the kill floor he felt soaked through with their blood and lymph, and always had a nagging thought, incubating in the shadows of his nerves, that it was his own. Their bleating, when hooked by the ankle and slung head down, was constant. It became white noise, a kind of silence. At night, he thought of the Pacific, the rich dark blue, but it would turn red on a dime. Just as he was falling asleep, his breath would catch in his throat and then burst from his mouth with a tight wheez.

The drivers prodded tired lambs off the trucks into a chute. They looked so puny, but then, he could barely look in their eyes. Two conveyor belts in a V shape carried them toward the stunner. The stunner shot the tops of their heads with a captive bolt gun and they were carried along and deposited onto a table. The shackler fastened their back ankle to a chain, which hauled the yearlings toward Mirra, who would open their jugulars. The clanking chain links haul them passing by. They come at impossible speeds, sometimes awake and blinking rapidly. They thrash and wail, swinging their legs through the air as if trying to run.  Down the line on one side there is the man with the bolt gun, but he often misses, so the shackler beats the strugglers with a crow bar. Down the line are the headers, skinners, and leggers, peeling and dismembering.

One night he goes to work and someone offers to sell him uppers. He accepts them to keep up with the chain speeds: hundreds reeling past per hour. He has learned to dance like a fighter protect himself. He gets a big gash under his eye from the edge of a hoof. He tells the foreman that the stunner hasn’t been knocking the animals properly. Sometimes he’d just hit them in they eye, and they’d struggle all the way down the line. He told the foreman one hit him in the face with its hoof and pointed out the sunken cut in his cheek.

–Th– th– the lines are going too fast for us. Some nights half the lambs are wide awake.

– We’d lose this economy, lose our contracts. You know how many I got waiting for your job? If I hear anything more out of your stuttering shit-sack mouth you won’t have work to complain about. Bring a tire iron with you.

–There’s not enough time–

–There’s enough for me to shove my foot so far up your ass you won’t have any teeth or a job if you don’t get out of my office right now.

When he isn’t struggling to keep up with the line, Mirra’s mind floods with questions. He thinks of the state the animals are in when they get prodded and beaten off of the trucks and into the chutes. Every day, the drivers shove electric prods into their eyes to get them to go. The lambs do not want to go. The more we try get them them to go the more they resist. They smell blood or hear bleats, and sometimes they stop dead or turn around. The drivers hurt them to get them to go. Mirra has seen them shove the prods into their eyes, their mouths, their assholes.

He wondered where they came here from. Their urine smelled like fear.

Some nights the lambs would wriggle off the chains and onto the ground, their white wool red and wet. Mirra would have to wait until the line stopped to get them, so they would sit there and watch him work. Sometimes they would run at him and bite him. One came up to him and gently pushed her head into his thigh. He beat her unconscious with a lead pipe and she drowned in the blood that collected near the clotted drain on the floor.

After work Mirra would come home and lie in the shade under a tree behind Abe’s house. He wanted to escape from the thick flesh of the world, from the world of bodies. The smell of the slaughterhouse would not leave his nostrils. He imagined himself in the clouds, a bodiless orb of thought. Here it seemed there was no blood, no bodily fluids, no intestines, no bubbling open throats. Lying in bed when he opened his eyes, the darkness was the same darkness inside the lambs’ open mouths, and the silence became the same muteness that he rendered again and again.

Suddenly he was dreaming, still standing there on the kill-floor, a great silence on one side of him, and a relentless screaming on the other, so he closed his eyes and stood on a cloud. He looked down at his rib. He was naked. He pulled a big rose thorn out of his ribs and there was a fishing line tied to the thorn, so he pulled. It was stuck. He pulled harder until a giant umbilical cord burst out of him. He kept pulling. His mother emerged from between his ribs like a fish diving up into the air. She stood there glistening, her umbilical cord still inside of him. She turned around and walked into the sky. Then his mother’s mother followed, young and wet, her daughter’s umbilical cord still inside her, and hers in his side. Then she turned around and walked into an invisible labyrinth, and his great grandmother came. His whole ancestral line of mothers emerged from in between his ribs, each body causing a terrible pain as it emerged from the fault in his side. They all released themselves, and looked. Each turned around and looked and walked away. This happened for an instant, always raveling, unraveling. Eventually the women turned gradually into creatures that were  inhuman; simians then different creatures. The line was endless. The mothers got smaller and smaller and turned finally into a stream of liquid which flowed from his torn side like a tear. His thought got tangled in the labyrinth of umbilical cord for a few minutes, and then his tongue began lashing around in his mouth quick and sharp.

Mirra opened his eyes and held his neck and gasped for air. He coughed up the memory of a chrysalis. He thought he heard it cracking open. He grasped at his sheets, but there was nothing.

He wanted to quit, but he told himself that it was for his family, that someone else would be doing it and it might as well be him. He could bear it.  His children would eat better than they had in far too long. For himself, Mirra found he ate less and less.

He stopped speaking. He sent everything home except what he spent on rent, food, amphetamines, painkillers.

This night he looked out the window at the tree. In the tree there was no killing, no pain, no stomachs or bowels, no hearts, lungs, livers. But then he saw intestines and skins hanging there. He looked up into the constellations, the zodiacal animal spirits spreading out into glints of light haunted him.

He knew he could not ask himself for it, but how he longed for the end! He became repulsed by everything bodily, revolted by the sausage he saw in Abe’s fingers, by the jiggling hams of people walking in front of him, by curves he once found arousing, but which he could only scowl at with painful and impotent humor. He longed to lay in bed with his wife and turn her name over on his tongue and have her wash all the memories off of him, scrub him while he breathed in the steam of a hot bath. He thought about lying in a field of grass and time slipping by fast so that his body decomposed and sunk into the ground, melted into the nourishment of the grass, releasing himself from his self, from his cage. In his pillow the down summoned a foul, flashing memory of plucked raw duck skin to his mind.

To think of something else, he let a stream of words lull gently through it, enjoying the meaningless lyricism, listening to the enchanting echoes of his ancestors inside of himself from outside of himself, dangling into the fire fangled soil of history and swirling into a seething cyclone which turned into an hourglass and shattered. The grains of sand turned into the stars outside his bedroom window. The dust fell into his eyes and mouth, and he felt parched. The dryness went through him and there was a stabbing pain in his bowels. He was flying above the Pacific Ocean. It was the sea inside the womb of his wife, a child incubating inside of her. She was there, waiting for him. He would be home soon. They were waiting for him. He would stick it out for a while and make enough money to get back.

The blood was thick under his eyes in dark sleepless rings.

Mirra looked out the window as the sun rose. It was broken by the tree. Mirra weakly forgave himself again. He went to the kitchen and got an apple. He let its nectar flow down his throat like the waters of a forgetful river. He felt the flesh of the apple slide into his viscera and become a part of his body. Mirra let a whispering I am that I am that I am that I am that flow down into himself with the flesh and juice of the fruit and out of himself with a breath into the cool morning air. He filled a glass of water and poured it into his mouth, and let it drizzle down the sides of his jowl and maw. Maw, Maw, whushhhhhhhhhhhhh, the sound of a crashing wave,  and he bit into the apple again and again loosing himself in the sweet flavor of its repetition, tangling down the winding dangle of gossamer floating on the wind in the cool breeze blowing into the window and into his lungs. He filled his lungs with cool air and his shoulder blades pressed against the skin of his back.

They swelled and burst through his skin and unfolded into butterfly wings so big that they brushed against the floor. They were blue and yellow with big images of eyes in the center. He ran out the door and flapped and flapped. Each winged movement through the air seemed to say, I am not what I am.

Mirra was at work again, de-animated like the factory machinery, de-animating, killing. The lambs came rushing past and began changing. Their hooves melted into hands. Their bodies twisted and squirmed. The gleam of light in their eyes was human. They looked up at him before he cut into them. He thought he heard his mother. He looked at one face and saw his daughter. Then his entire family rushed by him but he could not stop his hand from cutting open in the same machine like motion that had killed thousands of animals. He could not stop killing and his entire ancestral line passed by him along the chain, down to the aquatics and the other unnamable, unclassifiable creatures, until he was slicing away at a constant stream of prehistoric wound and tear.

Mirra woke up to the sound of a dog barking. He knew that even if the dog could talk, he would not understand it. There could be no why here. No meaning. Not even his own words signified anything but the burnt, hollow shells of what they were. Rough, rough, he repeated softly. Ever since he had taken the job, Mirra found that he became more and more obsessed with all animate beings. He noticed every dog puling against the leash, every bird cutting across the sky, every mouse killed by Abe in the kitchen.

The skin of animals was everywhere. Leather, fur, feathers, wool. It bound the scripture on the shelf. Bodies flowed through the tunnels that ran beneath the pavement of the towns and cities like veins. Bodies overflowed from the kitchens. Bodies were in the bodies of everyone around him. They were in his own body.

He wakes up from a dream that he came home and beat Abe to death. Then he cut open Abe’s body and tore out the lungs. He put the windpipe to his lips and blew and blew until the lungs expanded and filled the entire room, pressing him against the wall. He bit into them and they burst open and flapped like an injured bird on the floor. Out of the kitchen window but a large black faced ram stood there staring at him, lifting his lips and revealing a mouth full of jagged teeth and bleeding gums. The lungs were still flapping on the floor. The boar went to the dead body of Abe and blew into his throat from below, so that non-words gargled out of his mouth. There were tongues everywhere. The ground beneath him turned into slippery, gelid tongues. He looked down at himself and he was naked. He fell into the tongues and they were so cold every muscle squeezed hard and tight. They licked every part of his tight-scrotumed, goose pimpled hide.

He shuddered and woke up, bathed in sweat, his head full of gravel. The blue dawn was thick and clear. When he walked outside he remembered that in his dream he did the same and blood ran from the sun, staining the tree trunks. From the branches hung intestines, livers, kidneys. He could almost see them there. There could be nothing worse than this. He could quite his job, but the memories of the slaughterhouse would never leave him. A man is decay, stench and worms at the end and nothing but a putrid meatsack to begin with. “I’m through!” he called out the sky.

His stomach boiled inside of him. He ran and fell and vomited a hot, acid gush.

He sat amongst tall grass and bushes and leaned against a pine. Big black birds flew into the tree and out of it over and over again while he lulled his head around on his neck to look. His viscera twisted in obscure alarm, without hunger. He moved slowly, less and less. He pressed slowly and deeply into the flesh of his neck with the nails of his fingers. A raw, fluid awareness of warmth and slickness spread over his skin. He lay on the earth and stopped moving altogether, thinking nothing but the murmuring babbles of a quiet stream, breathing shallow breaths, then none at all. He could not feel his skin. Time revealed itself to be a mere, fleeting shimmer on the surface of a pool, never able to stretch beyond its own reflection. Mirra’s body began to decompose, and the seems of its mind seeped with it into the ground, into tall grass and the roots of plants. Into needles, petals, leaves, stems, veins. Into the sky with the ravens who swallowed Mirra’s tongue and eyes.