Who saw the Farmer’s Wife fall facedown on her bedroom floor, crushing her Sunday hat? Who watched her shake and bubble up like skillet bacon? Who then saw Farmer McKidd himself approach his fallen wife, like she was some ornery goat, the way she kicked out at him with her hind legs and her gurgling wheeze, which sounded so very barnyard. Farmer McKidd got kicked several times by his wife that day, until he finally retreated into the kitchen to figure out how to fix his wife. He opened the fridge and didn’t find any answers in there. Just a little leftover ham. He ate some to help his thinking.
He stood in that kitchen, chewing that ham and listened to his wife kick over her lamp and then trample her prayer stool. He tried not to listen to all her foul language, but it was hard. She was so articulate. He stared out the kitchen window for strength, just in time to see his newborn calf fall dead in the field. The heat was getting everyone. Farmer McKidd rushed out, leaving his wife to curse God and cook up to a fever of one hundred and eight.
Who saw beyond the farmer’s field, in the forest, a herd of deer standing in a perfect circle, communicating their thoughts telepathically? The deer, though shy at first, were finally able to express to one another their true horror of being caught in the glare of headlights, and the keen yearning they had for their now-dead mothers. Then they wondered about what it was about them that made people shoot them. Their ability to talk to each other this way was a gift, but they weren’t used to it, and it tired them out and then they all drifted apart out of telepathic range.
Could anyone have seen further in the forest, they would have seen a man in a suit made of mylar and polymers, now burnt and frayed. Who witnessed the appearance of this man on the forest floor, a man changed by centuries of travel performed in an Earth’s instant? A man lying there, rippling with stories of the cosmos; those stories told by viruses and bacteria that colonized distant worlds and then destroyed them? Who could see that the man was neither dead nor alive, but was warm with the blood of the thousand worlds he had visited?
A tick. A tick saw all this happen. The tick that made its way to the spaceman and pulled out the blood. Then moved onto the deer. Then finally to the Farmer’s Wife where it now sat, bulging with blood, in the nest of her hairline. The Farmer’s Wife was getting the benefit of telepathy too, and suddenly knew all her husband’s thoughts that he’d never dared speak aloud. But she was also tasting the fall of Europa. First comes the kicking and the squealing. Then her flesh will peel off and wander away and attach itself to the nearest rock or tree.
The tick would climb off the farmer’s wife before that happened. It would find a nice warm cow or the neck of a sheep dog, and would pass along the messages from those strangers in the cosmos.
Mary Crosbie howls from Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Gross and Unlikeable, Blood Bath LitZine and Space Squid. Follow her on Twitter or her website: Www.marycrosbie.com