Coda for a Killing – Reese Avery

Gunshots go off like fists hitting pavement. The first one that falls is outlined hours later in the beams of cop flashlights and hauled off to be cut open in a state building so that the bullets can be put in ziplocs for court time if ever there is any. The other falls that same instant—fumbles limp over the cut incline and down into the dry city reservoir, body and head flailing and cracking on the concrete in the descent. When his outline is drawn it is a mangled shape indecipherable as that of a man. After injections his limbs are pressed back into place by the coroner, hands at sides like attention almost, returned to a proper model corpse there on the cold flat steel.

The man who shot them places the gun back inside the folds of his coat and looks down at the pale shapes resting stagnant in the shallow water. The moon gleams from a gap in the grey above and casts a sheen on the bleak wet expanse. The man thought the dead seemed like nothing in all this—all this water and life gleaming with moonlight, rippling in the steady fold of breeze like the pulse of some immense creature. By morning the reservoir would be dried in the sun and their blood would be a washed silt mixed invisible with the dust of baked mud. Their expressions would be the same though, faced down and emaciated.

The man walked along the straight rim of the reservoir with hands deep in pockets. Clouds swallowed the sky with dark and rendered it starless. He walked on until the thin sheet of water beside him grew to a deep river flowing and spiraling in thick turns of current. His breath and body were held stoic but his stomach gave a dim growl in knowing that day approached.

This man was a meat eater and craved of it not just every kind but every part. Days of rib or flank from cow or pig hardly satiated. In the textures of elk tongue on his own he found a kind of orphic knowing, a dead intimacy with the animal like that of a devouring kiss. Revelations in the cuts of intestine and other innards splayed and cooked without spice. He thought when eating these of its twisted irony, to turn to food what prior had turned food to fecal. He laughed when it was churned and shit out of him. Brain lent to him a mad sight before flavor—the pigment of it turning myriad when fried or flayed, differing species whose craniums bled pink and tenderized or those who simply cooked down to a grey oily mush… it made no real difference to him. He felt his thoughts mingle with theirs when he chewed and digested. Meat then was a medicine for him, a purpose. He would eat these heavy meals by the window of his loft in midday with the sun searing into him, would lap the last bits of it from the plate or bowl and then descend into a sleep firm as coma and awake every night in the hour before dark feeling rested, readied for his work.

As night descended so did his psyche turn to the quiet seriousness of his occupation. This mood always seemed to befall him… a kind of bleak desire that had lived within him always, consuming his every memory. A possession by some demonous whim that has existed since long before him, eons ancient, eternal… or so he thought in his brief meditations between jobs. He had seen much since his start and had come to know the work’s curious minutiae, that which comes in the taking of lives.

No body fell the same way as another. True, he took many as they lie lost in the vapors of sleep yet he had seen enough of death in every position there was and to him the fall was the most salient. Often it was a kind of impacted stumble though other times they simply went flaccid and crumpled to an ill structured pile of flesh and yielding muscle. Spasms were a near constant as was excretion. Soiled bodies would sputter to a carnal finish—spurting blood from vital veins in small fountains that would trickle to thick steady flow. It was as if the body was emptying itself in its aftermath, preparing itself for a new unliving caste, that of only meat.

And wasn’t that what he loved most of all.

The gape of the reservoir grew wider and his pathway turned from cement to a mottled stone causeway. Wind rose against him at the precipice of where soil gave way to an endless depth. Whitecaps rose and parted in that dim blackened ocean that seemed to him always an ululating beast. He pulled forth the gun again and held it there in a neutered gesture until the heat of his palm warmed the metal in his grasp. He wiped it with a pale cloth and then hurled it as far as his toss would allow into the water. Amid the waves the splash was consumed undetectable. Beneath the dark expanse there lay an arsenal he had accrued in abandonment throughout his years, yet undetected. They served as unseen tokens clearly pictured in his mind, mementos of jobs well done.

And even beneath the blissed callous folds of his brain it seemed miraculous—this teeming vastness of hidden primal life draining from him not just his instruments but the very fluids of his prey… the last trickle of blood and the wetness of final breath carried by current to the salted deep and absolved in its immensity. Like a baptism, he thought.

His time was ending. The skyline unstilled and shone with traces of light and he turned from it, walking back on the same path as before. As morning rose so did the fog conjure itself from low wisps to a shrouded totality and he walked the shoreline like a revenant back into the anonymous hold of the city. The glimmering lights of the towers ceased with daybreak and somewhere within them he would be feasting and resting again as the bodies were being outlined and carried into the coroner’s realm, eviscerated and then stored away. In his odd thoughts he would figure himself exonerated with the daylight, cleaned and transformed as his prey was with the night and water, themselves now part of that black stygian ocean as he was with the city of the multitude, mythic and seething and itself filled with meat.