Mostly queer horror. Generally NSFW so be warned. Find more at

Fine Rifles: Part 2 A Wicked Pack of Cards

Part 1

CW: A quick drug reference at the end. A mention of death. And generally speaking, this is a trauma dump.

The college year ends and I go back to my hometown. It’s a beautiful place, nestled in between a circle of low, rolling mountains with fields that stretch golden until they abruptly stop at the forest’s edge. From there the woods climb, thickening in growing numbers as they rise in elevation. You can see for miles across the farmland and forests from the right spots. When I was younger, I used to hike trails towards the top of our mountains occasionally (not a remarkable feat, the Appalachians aren't that high or that steep) until a hiker’s body was found along a trail when I was in high-school. They had been mauled by a large cat and left in a tree.

Mountain lions, the wildlife commission reminded us, do not exist in the state.

I don’t see my roommate for the summer. I don’t see any of my other college friends either. I don’t really see much of anyone. I don’t have a car and our school district was larger than Rhode Island in total square mileage. Most of my old friends live between four and twenty miles away. The two friends I used to have who lived within two miles of me aren’t around anymore: one’s in jail and one’s become a nun.

I hope I can fare a little better.

I work thirty minutes away in the city at the same animal hospital my mother does. I ride in with her at the crack of dawn, walk dogs, clean cages, and scrub surgical instruments. I make about enough to cover textbooks for the next year of school along with the occasional movie or dinner not from the campus dining hall. It’s draining work that leaves me with little time for anything else.

My tarot cards are hidden in the center of my box of books. I don’t unpack most of my things. My parents wouldn’t like me having them (they’re late-in-life Christians) and I’m too tired most days to really focus on them. Fortunately I’ve gotten good at hiding things through the years. A little too good if I’m being honest.

I don’t know when I started using them, whether it was before or after being hunted. My memory of most of life isn’t great, a haze of faces and places. I think I bought them because they were an easy thing to pass off as a novelty if anyone ever asked about them. I dealt them out when no one else was around, scooching my keyboard of my finicky and dying PC forward on my dorm desk to just barely make enough room for a celtic cross layout.

Why? Did I expect to augur the future?

No. I needed help just to understand the present.

We always thought you might be autistic,” my parents would say now and again; usually with a chuckle. Apparently this is funny to them. If they thought this, then why was I never tested? Their answer, I assume, would be that they didn’t want me to have to live with the social stigma. That I was doing well in school and had friends, so why ruin a good thing?

The problem being, of course, that it wasn’t a good thing.

I did well academically but I didn’t have any feelings besides frustration and contentedness for most of my life. I had friends, and I liked them and still do like many of them, but our connection was only around our shared, common interests and only went as far as talking about those things. I was isolated in the country and taught to never ask to be invited anywhere or for a ride from anyone. I was left alone to develop the coping strategies of fitting in and being a person, and so much of that was mimicry. My self was incomprehensible static, so I borrowed the forms that others created.

It worked well enough while others were around. I fit in well with all kinds of groups. But it was never me, just a part I was playing. To make others happy, to feel loved, to survive; some, none, all; I don’t know for sure. I just knew that whatever staticy entity existed behind my mask was something people wouldn’t like or understand.

I still don’t know for sure that I’m autistic. My current therapist doesn’t think actually seeking a diagnosis is necessarily helpful. Part of me wants to know, just so I have something conclusive, but she’s right. Getting better is what matters and I think we’re making progress. However, that’s the 2022 present. Back in 2010 I had to find my own ways to cope.

To understand.

To decipher.

Tarot cards are pictorial depictions of scenes representing concepts archetypal of a person’s life. Sometimes they’re laced with suggestive imagery, sometimes not. There are existing frameworks for learning to interpret them and, in most cases, an encouragement to think beyond the rigidity of the framework when you feel comfortable doing so. To use the existing meanings as guidelines for exploring and creating your own meanings for the cards and their pairings.

That fascinated me.

That fascinated me because I could finally start to organize my thoughts. I could finally sit alone while my roommate was off in class and think. I had a filter now that I could use to focus on specific aspects of being and feeling human. I could sift through the static and focus on a humanity not lost but undeveloped. Some days I drew a single card before I left for the day and just focused on looking for things that matched its meanings. Some days I did a full spread and recorded it in a notebook to ponder.

The Five of Cups. Have I experienced disappointment recently? Loss? Sorrow? Have I connected with those? Am I turning my back on what remains?

Exploring even that much was far better than ubiquitous, impotent, aimless frustration.

Six of Wands. You’re riding high, have you taken time to really enjoy it? What victories, great or small, have happened recently? Are they bringing you joy? Peace of mind? Are they too much? Are they going to your head?

The lukewarm contentedness was stretching into a spectrum with definitions. I started to exercise parts of my mind and psyche I had neglected for at least a decade. I was starting to make myself whole day by day, card by card.

The Chariot. Are you lofty and distant with others? Are you indirect in your approaches? Do you stay invulnerable by blocking everything else out? Do you feel pulled along, and not always in the same directions; like your self is splitting apart?

That one… I don’t like that one. That one hurts. I draw it a lot though. I think about it a lot. How do I get better?

I don’t have an answer yet, but for the first time in my life I’ve begun identifying the problem.

I pull them out occasionally over that summer, pick a card from the middle, and think about it for a few minutes before hiding them back away. There’s a lot of hiding away in my life, my self. A lot of things I shoved deep because they’re not supposed to be things one wants to be or that one is or that one desires. But in this little deck of picture cards, I have a hidden thing I’ve learned to pull out and use. Something that can help me find meaning amidst the noise, that helps me genuinely connect with my feelings.

I have my first fine rifle.


Faith granting a god or entity its power has become a well worn trope. To believe is to empower. The demons we conjure, the spirits we battle may only be in the mind, figments of our imagination, but we have created them just there: in our mind. Imagine what havoc can they wreak there unloosed. In the abstract it seems easy to banish them: just stop believing in them. But if you believed in them enough to give them power, then you often find that you can’t just flick off that belief like a lightswitch.

If you believe you can see spirits, your senses start trying to warp phenomena to fit that belief. You’ll see wisps of smoke and shadow that move in ways suggestive of your belief. You’ll hear the creaks and moans of the wind as voices trying to tell you to flee or come closer. If you believe ugly thoughts about yourself or the world around you, your senses will find a way to make you see those too.

Paranoia, self-loathing, overwhelming anxiety.

I’ve conjured a lot of phantoms to feed at my veins over the years, mostly inadvertently. Given them life, given them power. A few I still blame myself for (and a few are probably my fault), but the important thing to uncover is not the blame. The important thing to uncover is that they are a part of me. Not insurmountable bogeymen that creep in the night, but also not nothing. They’ve spawned from trauma and terror and neglect and hurt and can suzerain over me if I don’t learn to control them, combat them, placate them, or defeat them.

Or love them. That is an option too. One that it takes time to learn. More on that later.

Therapy is a good approach towards understanding and confronting these things. Based in research and helpful, proven methods for dealing with trauma, neurodivergence, and mental illness.

I wasn’t allowed therapy and was discouraged from seeking it. “That’s for crazy people and people who can’t handle their own shit.

Medication can help with many problems. Our thoughts and our reactions to them are largely biochemical. Meds may not solve your trauma, but it can help get you in a position to do so.

I was strongly discouraged from any kind of psychiatric medication. “Is that how you want to live your life? Dependent on medication?.

The occult though, that didn’t leave a paper trail. There were no pill bottles I had to get out every day, no therapist I had to ask for a ride to. My parents liked the X-Files, so it was easy to pass off my general interest in the subject as stemming from the broader paranormal genre. I slid under the radar and learned how to help myself. I learned a lot of stupid, useless stuff too; but some things helped.

It’s like trying to cut down a tree with the folding saw on your pocket knife: it’s stupid, it won’t work well, you should really get some better tools; but if it’s all you’ve got then it’s better than nothing.

But back to the past for just a moment more.

When I return to school in fall I start making new friends. I feel like I have an identity outside of others for the first time in a long time. I still rely a lot on mimicry and copying a group to fit in, but I’ve started to interject a bit of myself into the mask. I talk with some of my new friends about occult stuff. Some enjoy it as a novelty, some dabble in practicing. No one does more than dabble though. That would be silly for people receiving a bachelors of science.

My old roommate lives off campus and we still hang out from time to time, albeit very sparingly. We smoke a couple times here and there over the first few months. Then as his birthday approaches he broaches an idea.

He wants to do LSD.

(To be continued.)

Fine Rifles: Part 1 Something Buried

CW: Some drugs, a story of being stalked at night

IF you were fixing to combat them that had the fine rifles, the first thing you would do would be to get yourself the nearest thing to a fine rifle you could borrow, or steal, or make, wouldn't it?Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner

This is less a story and more an auto-biographical recollection of things buried. I don't know what its purpose is, I don't know where it's leading; all I know is that I was once someone else, something else, and I dallied long enough in the world of the mundane to forget that. My memories were like scenes conjured from a book, images associated with words but disconnected from self, as I lived a little life of dried tubers in a respectable career on the sterile path of normalcy laid before me.

Then I told someone of that time, of the simple terror of being stalked in nature, and I saw a life abandoned poking out of it. Like the Sphinx of Giza out of the sand.

I remembered that at one time I practiced magick (yes, pretentiously with the 'k'), initially out of curiosity but then out of terror. I practiced because I needed to combat a fierceness in the world around me. A fierceness perhaps unreal, perhaps constructed solely in the imagination, but felt nonetheless. If reason and skepticism could not counter it, so I argued, then I needed weapons of the supernatural to fight it.

Fight like with like; build, borrow, or steal fine rifles.

I was in college and rooming with a friend from high-school who was lanky, into drugs, and in retrospect probably dangerous. We occasionally smoked, he more than I, weed, salvia, K2; whatever we could get our hands on and had time for. There were large patches of undeveloped swamp land choked thick with trees around our campus that we could sneak into, and when the weather was fine we'd work on assembling a makeshift fort out there from fallen branches and baling twine to lean against while we tried to anesthetize our minds.

One weekend we decided to take a trip to a nearby state park, leaving our car near the trailhead of a gentle sloping path. We followed the markers on signposts and trees, across a few bridges in minor disrepair and then up towards a pavilion that abutted a gravel road. The whole thing was probably a mile of a slow, gentle hike. At the pavilion we stopped for a rest and looked back down the hill where our friend thought he spotted the white flowers of a Datura plant maybe a hundred feet off the marked trail.

Of course we had to go see it; drugs and psychoactive plants were his whole personality.

We tramped down the hill over crunching pine needles and leaves, the sun still warm in the sky, to see the white flowers blooming near a cliff edge. He wasn't sure if they were Datura or not when we reached them. His phone was dead and I was still sporting a old-model blackberry Tracfone because my hometown still lacked cell service. As we turned to leave and rejoin the trail back to the car however, something else caught our eye: a small patchy path of rough ruts, not made or maintained by man but trampled by animals and suggested by crooked lines of tree trunks. Short, verdant arches bowed low over it, three or four feet off the ground.

Of course we followed it. What possible dangers could it hold?

It wound along the cliff's edge, a forty foot drop into a shallow body of water that was too large to be a stream but seemed too small to be a proper river. We ducked under a few more archways of branches and leaves, hopped over a few protruding roots, and found maybe three-hundred feet along an old, abandoned campsite nestled in a small, bowl-shaped valley. The foundations for tents were still rotting in the ground. An old sign, faded beyond decipherability, held together its few remaining fragments on the other side of the camp, facing a road or path that no longer existed (and was hard, by my reckoning, to understand how such a path would exist with the slope of the hills as they were.) We thought we could spy a marker for the manmade trail just over the crest of one of the further hills. Surprising, because we hadn't seen any sign of the camp as we'd hiked in.

The forest-made trail (my friend referred to it as a 'deer trail') continued past the camp and we followed it after five minutes of poking around the wooded ruins. It ended near a rocky outcropping that jutted out over the waters below. Trees ringed the rounded cliff-edge, their roots weaving their way down rock and loose shale. In the near distance were two waterfalls, twin streams we knew we had spotted on our way in from the upper side. In fact, we could see one of the bridges that were part of the man-made trail we'd hiked in on, far away and above us. It was nice to know where we were, at least approximately.

The spot was beautiful and peaceful, quiet but for the steady sound of cascading water. We tarried there for maybe an hour, climbing down the cliff to the shore at the base of the waterfall and then struggling to lunge our way back up the slippery, loose shale. It was so beautiful that we resolved to return there the next weekend with food and drink and drugs and music.

A week passed and the weather held so we returned to the park. We left our car near the trailhead, this time a little further down as the two parking spots at the trailhead were taken. We hoped, this time, that we could spot the abandoned camp on the way in and turn early, cutting through the unmarked woods and sliding down the hill to reach it. Somehow we still didn't see it on our trek in, even though we knew the spot it should be.

(I have since confirmed that this camp exists on maps. I'm sure it's accessible in normal ways and that we were just wrong in where we thought it was or missed it because we were young and dumb. But it continues to strike me as odd that we could never find it from the man-made trail.)

So we retraced our steps from the previous time, hiking to the pavilion then down to the white flowers (that my friend still couldn't properly identify as being or not being Datura), then through the green archways of the deer trails. We made it to the spit of rock that jutted out over the river below and sat against the trees. We searched for some kindling and branches, swept clean a spot in the dirt so no pine needles or leaves would ignite, and lit a small fire to cook over. The meal was nothing special: potatoes, carrots, and meat cooked in tin foil as we smoked and listened.

For music we had brought along an emergency radio that doubled as flashlight with a crank generator. It could operate off batteries, of course, but being cheap college students we never replaced them after they died and the old ones had started to corrode under the panel. The thing was chunky enough that you had to hold it with one hand as you cranked it with the other, getting maybe ten seconds of charge for one second of cranking. I did most of the work in keeping the music going, it gave me a steady something to do while we waited for food and watched the sun sink in oranges and yellows over the tops of the twin waterfalls.

When it was dark, I began to pack up. My roommate, a very bright person when it came to physics and chemistry but not in many other regards, decided he wanted to walk on the coals of the fire before we left. I attempted to dissuade him, but of course he wouldn't be dissuaded. He walked across the coals, let loose a yip of victory, and I doused the hot embers with the remaining water. We hiked back through the abandoned camp, back to the maybe-Datura, and up to the pavilion where my roommate announced he needed to stop.

He had burnt his foot walking on the coals. Of course.

Being dark and with one of us injured, we decided not to walk the man-made trail back to the car but along the gravel road not far from the pavilion. We didn't have anything for light save the emergency radio/flashlight, and we were sure the road would eventually wind back to the car, so we followed it. We followed it a long way. It wound out away from the place we'd come from as clouds effaced moon and star from the sky. I kept the music going as we walked, cranking the radio like a hurdy-gurdy and trying to keep the flashlight ahead of us.

We passed an empty ranger's station, closed either due to the time of night or the time of year, but a sure sign we were on the right road. The gravel curved long around the edge of the woods and back in the direction of the car. We were sure things would be easy from there, a nearly straight-shot to home and rest. But behind the crackling radio music I could hear a rustling in the woodline. As I slowed my cranking of the radio, I felt a tingle on my spine.

Something was watching us.

I let the music dim and then switched it off entirely. I asked, repeatedly, if my friend could hear the jostling of branch and leaves trailing slightly behind us. Repeatedly he told me he could not. Officially it was always stated that there are no mountain lions in the area, but every year someone catches one on video. That was my worry, that a large, feline predator was skulking at the edge of the woodline in the dark, waiting to pounce.

I considered shining the bulky flashlight into the woods to search it out, to know what was creeping in the shadows, but my brain told me that was unwise. To shine a light on it would force the issue of whether it would fight or flee, and the former option would be far worse than letting it rustle through the underbrush. Besides, I told myself, the car isn't much further.

We were still nowhere near the car.

I don't know how long, exactly, it took to reach the car after feeling my skin crawl with the certainty that we were being hunted, but it felt like an eternity. An actual guess would be another twenty minutes, but I don[t know for sure. The entire way this entity in the dark followed us, crashing and snapping just out of sight. My friend finally admitted that he heard it, but said it was probably just a squirrel. A squirrel making that much of a racket and following us for three-quarters of a mile. I did not agree with his assessment.

Finally we reached the car and I scrambled for the passengers seat. With safety in sight, I dared to look at our pursuer. I cranked the flashlight and skimmed it along the treeline where two reflective eyes glared back at me. A deer, not unreasonably large but large nonetheless, stumbled to the forest's edge, reared up on its hind legs as if to shoo us off, and then ran back into the shadows of the woods. I pulled myself into the car and told my friend that we should really get going.

We left and never went back to that place. Not the trail, not the pavilion, not the abandoned camp, and not the rocks near the waterfalls. We never talked about it, and after another year we didn't really talk to each other at all. But the experience stuck with me, haunted me in the back of my mind.

We had been followed, stalked, and hunted by a prey animal for almost a mile. It had, for no discernible earthly reason, cloaked itself in shadow and pursued us. It hooves kicking at us as we left seemed to me a grim warning: Leave this place and don't come back. You will not be allowed to leave if you return.

Occasionally in the following months I would feel that prickle on my spine again, of being hunted on the lonely curving streets at the edge of our college campus. The street lights would flicker out as I approached the apex of the turn and walked by the marshy woods. (I later learned this is a common phenomenon attributed to increasing failures at the end of a sodium bulb's lifespan.) There was never anything more than that feeling of being watched. There was no rustling or crashing through the dark. I wasn't being hunted again, not yet at least; just being watched.

I had already been interested in magick, mostly just perusing some interesting occult books that I could find at the bookstore. But I began to worry that maybe I had angered something. And that even if that something was fictional, constructed only of subconscious terror and trauma, existing only in the unreal; that it still could have life enough to do me harm. Our minds are powerful things and we can conjure our own hells from them. If mine was deadset on doing so, then I would have to learn to fight back on the level not of logic and the provable, but in the world of dream, symbol, suggestion, and ritual.

I would assemble some fine rifles and be ready if danger came calling.

Continued in Part 2

(PS: My friend and I had dwindling interactions over the next year and then drifted apart entirely. There were some stories of him from my hometown via other friends who still lived there, and not very nice ones. Then I stopped hearing about him altogether. I've never been able to find anything about where he lives or what he does now since.)

It's astounding how quickly we became friends.

When we met you assumed that I must be new to the city. I didn't know anyone else and no one else knew me. After a flinching moment of shyness I smiled wide, grey eyes taking you in. Your hand was slick with nervousness as I shook it.

Did you realize then your fate? No. It would have to have been later.

We talked deep into the night, well after every other patron had scrambled out the door. We started off with the normal pleasantries: where we came from, what we do now, what we plan to do on the weekend. My answers were ill-formed and vague, the details mismatching and staticky. But my tone and the tinkling laughter of breaking glass between statements made you think that I was opening up. That I was bearing my soul to you.

I'm sorry to have misled you, but such is my nature.

You rattled off your hometown and were surprised to hear I knew of it. Not well, but better than most who live this far from it. You told me what college you went to and I named a person you vaguely remember. Your sister and mine have birthdays exactly a month apart, have brown hair, and live in Wichita now. At last call we both ask for the quadrupel , from the bottle not the tap.

How small a world, you thought, that our lives should be so nearly touching in so many ways without us meeting until now. But that's not it at all.

I meet your friends and we get along instantly. At the bars I drink copiously to their amusement, always giddy and never becoming belligerent. I talk with them about books they've been waiting years for another person to read, about films and albums no one else ever had the time to watch or listen to. We talk and laugh and cry for hours, plumbing the depths of our collective souls.

But once again there is trickery afoot. You assume a wound must precede a scar, but mine appear overnight. My past is a Rorschach of blobs given form only by the present.

And once again, I'm sorry.

At first it was just little things: persistent fatigue, cloudy days, a few bad nights. Everyone has their downswings. Everyone except me. I stay smiling; the laughing light at the center of our friend group. You try not to resent me for it, but I can tell you're starting to. This always happens.

When I'm not around, everyone you know is asking where I am. They laugh louder and longer when I'm there. There's an electric energy with my presence. Without me you sit around a table, staring at your phones and struggling to make conversation.

You see the light return to their eyes when I stroll an hour late. Suddenly they can't wait to talk. You try to join in but they talk over you to hear my opinion on the latest movie I hated. You recognize them as your opinions too. Ones you had told me just yesterday. Still somehow they're my opinions; no longer yours.

If I apologize again, will it help at all?

Things are getting harder for you now. You're lashing out at those around you, drinking to excess every night. You quit your job in a screaming matching with your boss. People are starting to worry. You can't remember things being this bad because, well... things are getting harder to remember at all.

Fuzzy, staticky, nondescript. You have a sister you think, but you can't remember her name. I remind you that she lives in Wichita along with my sister Heather and has the same color of hair and a birthday just a month apart. I go on to describe her house and car and wife and their new dog with its odd blotchy-black markings. You shudder as I describe her. The twisting in your guts tells you that I'm describing your sister as mine, but you can't remember her clearly enough to be certain.

Thanksgiving rolls around and your friends forget to invite you to their party. They beg me to attend and I graciously ask them for a plus one. You spend the entire time sitting in silence at the end of the table. No one speaks a word to you. I try to include you in the conversation, but everyone else stares through you, puzzled, and then returns to the previous topic.

I really am trying. I don't want to hurt you. But we can't help who we are.

And then you're barely out of bed most days. I bring you groceries and keep the basic necessities of life stocked in your apartment. The cynical will say that I'm just prolonging the life of my prey, but I really do care about you. I want you to get better, to be the one who escapes my pull; but it's looking grim as always. At the very least I can make the end easier.

You always ask me not to leave. You have no other friends in town. You think you're new here, but that doesn't feel quite right. When I'm not around, the world feels like a record skipping. Your reflection in the mirror is hazy, the most noticeable feature being your color-drained eyes. You aren't hungry, but you've never eaten a meal in your life.

And so I sing you your favorite song in your voice as you dissolve into silver wisps of mercury. Your body swirls into oblivion, beads of liquid life sinking into my skin. Another reflection put to rest. I'm sorry; as always. You were so kind, so talented, so interesting, so sweet. You wanted someone who could see all the best parts in you.

Unfortunately for you, I did. And I'm not a person.

I don't enjoy taking away your voice, your friends, your passions, your soul; quite the opposite. If I could take less and still exist, I would. I really do like being friends with humans; their rich tapestries of emotions, their capacity for love and kindness. I want those things too, but they are not natural to me. I have to take them. Don't worry though, I'll put them to good use.

I can already feel your memories starting to fuzz and lose form. I need to make a new friend.

Affinity For Birds

I've always had an affinity for birds.

When I was little I used to watch them out our dining room window alongside our cats. Their brightly patterned heads jerkily twisted as they picked up millet and seeds with their beaks; cracking and consuming.

I wished I could be so brightly patterned.

I filled their feeders when I grew older, watching their thankful forms flit past me as the seeds poured through hollow tubes of plastic. Some days I presented them with bread that had passed its expiration date, a special treat for my joyful avian friends.

I wished I could be so joyful.

As I got older there was a feeling of alienation I couldn't quite pin down. I was the child of Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so, a happy family on paper: well supported and provided for; and yet... My brothers and sister had their friends, formed cliches and clubs of moderate popularity. I, on the other hand, befriended a few other folks drifting on the outskirts, strangers to each other and ourselves, our commonality being that we lacked commonality with the more “well-adjusted.”

More than the maladjusted though I had my old friends and confidents at the bird feeders and in the nearby park. Though they could not understand my words, they understood me better than any human.

Those acquaintances, our council of outsiders, broke apart as we left school. A few joined the ranks of the eccentrics, those who provide enough value to our governing systems for their oddness to be glorified. A few others turned to violence against others or against the self, their reasons varied and often inscrutable even to fellow strangers. Most of us though continued on our own paths; entrusted to our own recognizance and without the shared space of a school room to speak our strangeness in a circle, we set out on our lonely roads to find our own patches at the edges of society. Some literally, some merely metaphorically. I didn't move far.

I couldn't leave my friends, my true friends, who flew down from their trees and statues when they saw me coming. Who had now taken to perching on my arms and shoulders as I distributed bread. Who whispered slowly realized truths in my ears as thanks for my patronage.

They tell me there are other ones like me in their world, odd birds among a brood. Their eggs are noticeably different than the others and they grow faster that their brothers and sisters. Larger. Stranger. They are brood parasites, eggs left by another bird to be raised. But still their new parents raise them, even knowing that they're odd.

Not because they're kindhearted, but because of what happens if the egg or child disappears.

I researched what they'd told me later and found it was mostly true. They've done studies. If a bird leaves the odd egg alone and raises it as their own then eventually the odd child leaves the nest and life goes on. If they try to remove it though, the bird who left it there for them to raise comes back. They monitor where they dropped their eggs and if their progeny disappear all of a sudden then they get nasty. They destroy the nest and everything in it.

It's better for all involved to leave the egg alone. Sure sometimes the brood parasite demands too much food for its foster siblings to get any or straight out kills them, but destruction is assured if the outsider is cast out. It's a calculated risk. Raise them until they realize what they are and they'll leave on their own, leaving your precious brood of normalcy alone and alive.

I've always had an affinity for birds.

I've always wondered why I don't share the features of my mother or father or siblings. I've always wondered why my nails are so much sharper than theirs, why I was taller than the rest of them at fifteen, why I've only once seen another person with my eye color. The knowledge accumulates over the years, the differences add up. The pained looks hiding behind the facades of happiness, the inability for us to truly understand one another, the relief when I finally left the house even if it was only for an apartment a few blocks away.

It struck me as odd for a moment that we could live so close and yet see so little of each other. Then it struck me as odd to think that was odd. They had raised me, but we were not the same. They had done their part and were now rid of me, and we both were glad for that.

There was another kid, a boy I'd met when I was very young. He had those same eyes of yellow with red flecks that I did. We played together in the sand, happily from what I can remember, crows hopping on the timber edges of the sandbox and watching us. Our parents spoke in hushed voices nearby, casting worried looks in our direction.

He went missing a few weeks later.

I'd managed to find old newspaper articles archived online detailing the whole thing. Jonas Traynor, four years old, had wondered off into the woods one night and was never found again. A tragedy by itself the columnists agreed, but it was not to be the only one. The Traynor family house burnt down a few days later. All perished. Foul play was suspected but never proven.

An ugly necessity, but I know I'd do the same.

I wonder how long a cowbird chick thinks it's a sparrow or a cuckoo chick a crow?

At some point they know. Something in their head just clicks and they realize that they've been raised by fearful nest-builders, that their family isn't really their family. They come to understand that they must do the same thing, perpetuate the cycle of hoax and fraud so their species can live.

It's in our blood and our brains. I've accepted all this. I'll someday force a broodling onto a family and they'll know by the color of my eyes, by the way the air ripples as I make them swear their oath, by the cold terror lurking in the primitive parts of their brains that taking in the odd one is a better choice than rejecting it.

We don't ask much, we don't hate the humans; we just see their place better than they do. They stare at at the stars or scrutinize books; chattering with each other endlessly to try and understand where they fall in the universe. Whereas my sort see it so clearly right in front of our noses, the microcosm of the cosmos laid out neatly in the movements of birds.

I've always had an affinity for birds.


CW: light body horror

Yeah last session we just started talking about my constant fatigue and I thought maybe we could talk about that again?



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