by Kelly Dulaney
The horned pater god stitches himself into the night sky. The future is there, in a fissure of the cosmos; it is an ancient lust-puzzle and the pater god’s grief is a quake maker: brittle stars shiver and their axes open. The pater god moans. She will never love me. He summons a star and encircles the earth, the fetid almost-flavor of vestal blood in his mouth. A gap-tooth girl bathes by fractured water. Her clothes crumple on the bland grass. He sweeps down in a slab of light.
Favorite, the pater god says. If you fall hard—
She serrates his face with her fingers, glorious in the gouge.
His anger is a rot flower; it bursts from the furrows of his face. I want you to love me, he says. He fetters her with red rope and lays her down loud. He makes her moon-round until her belly rends and babies and shame spill into the sky. She keens and says to the pater god that she hates him, she hates him, that she will never love him.
The pater god burns and sees the shape of his emptiness. Death laps at his hands and he breaks her neck to quiet her. All his love-tokens crumble on his tongue. He takes her liver for a trophy and lodges it in his throat. He turns up earth with his horns and kicks her into the shallow pit. He says no words. Fire unfurls in his palm. He rides its yellow billow back into the stars.
Under the earth, the gap-tooth girl unfolds her cold angst and it gives her second life. Her lashes split into spider limbs. She produces two stones and makes for herself a dark space. She says, I am the begetter god. This was only the first of births.
The bibliophage awakens to the sound of water: the cave is collecting it in small pools. Husk-haired girls roll their hands in the wet foam and their ovaloid eyes blink at their catch: a plump, artificial eye-jelly. Then they watch the bibliophage. She sits up, opens a gunny sack. It is packed with thin and gnawed-upon pages. Look, the bibliophage says. Aren’t you hungry?
Dark whorls that stink of blood glut the gunny sack. The husk-haired girls squall and splash. The whorls wind tight around the pages and the bibliophage cries out, her throat a canker of horror. The husk-haired girls thrash away through the crevices in the cavern walls. The old eye jelly spools across the cave floor. It echoes with ache and pops like a pustule, a cannon colored stone at its center.
That black stone is smooth and it glistens. It whispers, too. The bibliophage snippets it and looks at it with her right eye. But the stone is strong. It flashes and berths there, and the bibliophage rolls into the white mess of paper pulp. Ghosts snarl out of the gunny sack, sticky with spit, and their white heads wear the same flat face. Do you hear the quiet, say the ghosts. You are a vessel. Forget, forget, forget.
The bibliophage snails to the gurney sack. Tell me if she is still alive, she says. The girl. Rakel! Tell me!
The ghosts chatter into laughter and chant-lists. The bibliophage does not hear them then, and she does not ask again. She pulls pages from the sack and the pages part between her teeth. Ink runs like rot, and the white rinds of the pages distend into the type. The words fade, fade and forget.
Kelly Dulaney began in the deserts of Arizona; now, she lives and works in Denver, Colorado. She earned her MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder and is coeditor of The Cupboard Pamphlet. Her work has appeared in Springgun, Titmouse, Caketrain, Abjective and The Albion Review. Ash is a novella in flash forthcoming from Urban Farmhouse Press in 2015.