The second looks like the first: the anus and genitals -- missing. Tongue and lips are gone; teeth wrap around her face in hideous laughter. The eye sockets are blank. White cavities sit on an otherwise normal head. Again there was no sign of struggle.
When I started out, I didn't think I'd go so far. Slipping through the strands of barbed wire, I could feel it in the body; I had been sleeping poorly. I had a headache, the kind that wraps around like a tight turban, squeezing, pushing behind the eyes.
When I left the house I hadn't intended exploring so much new territory. Striking off into the morning through the field of flushing timothy, I had a curiosity about the low rolling hills that blocked the view beyond the pasture. The walk into the hills was labored with head throbbing; each footstep vibrated in my skull. Thinking it would do me good, I climbed the nearest grassy knoll. Reaching the crown, I overlooked the house and its unkempt yard. The trees were still leafless but with days like these, buds would be popping soon -- if the old walnuts were still living. The winter had been long and hard: too many snow-bound days, confined, feeding fires, in a house impossible to keep warm.
With my back to the house, I faced the fresh cold breeze. I felt my headache lifting. If I went further perhaps the pain would disappear. I struck off into the breeze and the house slipped from view as I descended to the next grassy swale. The soft soil moved easily under my feet. The grass camouflaged no stones or litter left by man; an open rolling carpet stretched out and away. The green hills rolled rhythmically like waves at sea.
I struck out to the west, the bleakest direction, having explored the more verdant hills to the Ñorth and South, I thought the most unlikely path might be the most rewarding. I had no good reason for being here; I had come to this place thinking the change would do me good, I had to go somewhere -- there was nothing holding me here like before. I had no tie to the land, like before. There was no commitment to the ground, merely a place to rest; a spot to collect strength before moving on.
The house was cold and drafty with no running water or electricity. The place sat at the end of the road, alone, weathered and tired, miles from town. I had no job. I knew no one in the area. The region was foreign to me, with unfamiliar vegitation and strange sounding names to the people and their places. The nearest neighbor, an old lady, was fortified by a hedge set back from the road. The creepers had overtaken the house and hedge, making her place invisible. I had seen her once, scurrying back from her mail box. The postman never came to the end of his route; I received no mail.
I developed a steady pace and was feeling wholesome with the exercise. With the breeze and sun, my headache evaporated. Fueled by sweat, my pains burned away. Progress was easy with the hills being steep but smooth and even, I crested one after another, building some feeling of accomplishment. I was moving in a line over the bumps and and knolls, through the swales and small valleys, directly from where I had begun, navigating crudely, moving over the crests to see what might be exposed in the trackless grassland.
The timothy gave way to thinner soil with grass less desirable for hay or pasture. The land had no drainages or streams. Rolling on under the sun and sky in a predictable maze of undulating openess, grassy blisters comformed one into the other. I would be lost without the sun, showing me the way to return.
By mid-day, I had traveled some distance. I realized I should have turned back, but the day had warmed and the breeze was an escape from the headache, lying dormant, lurking between my temples. I was warm from the exertion and feeling fatigued; realizing there was nothing to discover, nothing but more of the same repetitious grass-land, I decided to return. I brought no food or water, and I had seen no forage -- nothing to feed an appetite. Standing in a last survey of the openness, from a hill top facing into the wind, I could see over three low mounds. Beyond, an object was sitting atop a large hump. The hemispherical mound had a dark bump on its crest. The sparse annual grasses had bolted to seed; it looked like a tanned breast with a teat at the crest. Moving on through the low hills between, I lost sight of the object. Working up the, slope I began to think the discrepant feature had disappeared. When nearly to the crest, I first saw four stumps. Moving closer, revealed a round, fur-covered belly connected to four cloven hooves. The dead cow was full bloated. It lay with legs sticking skyward, as if standing inverted on a clear slippery surface. I approached cautiously -- not knowing what might have slain the animal. Circling close, I noticed the animal appeared to have died strangely; there were no signs of a struggle and no tracks in the soft soil. Approaching closer, I could see, the cow had no anus or vagina, its navel was gone, exposing only cleanly cleaved cavities where they had been. The bloodless caverns were deep and their borders crisp, surgically keen. Moving around the corpse to the head revealed further disfigurement: the lips were missing, a remnant of what had been the tongue remained deep within the jaw cavity. The eyes were gone; open white sockets of skull accepted the soft crescent shadow of a haze- covered sun. I could find no wounds other than the parts removed. The missing parts were not about but removed, carried away.
A cloud cover had blown-in casting the country in soft light; the hills were more uniform, stretching off into a building wind. From the hill-top, I could see far off to windward; the cloud's color gradiant was undefined, merging into the horizon. Perhaps a hundred miles away was a dark angry form, between sky and land: storm carried by the morning breeze, still hours away. The thin black rim stood on the horizon, appearing motionless--hanging.
Over the break of the hill was another object perched on a smaller breast-shaped hill. The object again took an erotic form, sitting atop a bosom of uncovered ocherous earth. The grass had played out into barren land with humps looking more like burial mounds than the work of nature.
I had to see to be sure: there being another multilated cow was unlikely. The soil was dry and trackless without a pebble on the smooth contours leading to the low hill; my steps felt spongy as if walking on a bog. Still no sign of a living thing. I climbed the hill. Cresting the smooth curvature of the top, the wind, dry and warm, began tugging at my clothes.
The cloud cover thickened to hide the sun.
My shadow disappeared from the ground.
Closer -- I could see the same tragedy, another dead cow, bloated and inverted. Knowing I should head back.
I approached, in haste, leaving chalk-white prints on the smooth fleshy earth.
I had to make sure of the amimal's sameness. She had been dead longer. Spooked by my steps, Flies billow from the cavities. Caught by the wind, they lose their way, spilling over the hill's curvature. Gusting, the wind carries the black whisp off in a trail of undetermined numbers. I am standing on the lee of the blown bovine; the head, grotesque, is like her companion, blind and laughing. The wind is stronger, whipping about the carcass, rustling its coat; the few remaining flies depart in a frenzied buzz.
The inverted host moves. The belly undulates in tiny ripples.
Recoiling, I hear a faint hiss.
The taut gut shrinks then colapses.
I run: not soon enough.
The wretched odor of the animal's putrified insides wafts about me, running with the wind... steps too slow to escape the stench.
My lungs fill as I run. I fight the impulse to wretch.
I'm panting through the swale, running on earth
too plush for speed; the ground drinks the energy of my stride.
Away safe, I turn to see what I've escaped. The breast is whipped by dust trailing around its base. The ocherous mound is now alone on the plain; dust streaks across the swales and streams about the imagined body, still maintaining its volumptuous deception.
I withdraw, escaping back with the wind. The fine dust swirls about my body, pushing me on at a run. I rise from the choking plain on cresting humps, spongy-bladder like, each rising higher than the last.
A large mound, the largest I have seen, stands before me, bare and alone -- wind pushing the vaporous particles around its base. The hump looks like the tallest mountian in the world.
I rise with the momentum of a panicked crowd pushing, wind forcing on.
I stumble; my legs stretch to keep pace with my body. I can't stop.
Near the crest, a smooth rounded crown is broken by a hoof pointing skyward. Crouching atop the stiffened leg, leaning into the wind, a black feathered ball perches -- it calls. The cry is carried away in the gale.
Pushed closer, I see him leap in a cry, spreading his wings. The raven is swept from the hill.
A score of black comrades buried within, feeding, follow in screams. All are torn from the hill; their cries disappear into the pressing weather. Tethered to their feet are ribbons of escaping flies; they steam in a boil from the bowels of the corpse.
Leaning backward, my feet grind to a halt; I stop, back to wind.
I face the gale. Eyes tearing, my clothes are rags whipping my body. I lean unsteady and pained.
Squinting, I see the burial mounds sweep off into the storm. Trails of dust stream about their base. The fleshy barren humps levitate above the grit, like silver blisters, curved, soft, erotic.
Beyond, the horizon has disappeared, absorbed into the fury.
The storm's rim has comsumed all. All beneath its black edge -- Gone.
I topple, unbalanced, to my knees, tugged toward the bloated corpse.
I fight to stay.
Leading the storm is a plane of dark clouds rushing to comsume the already shadowless land. Land and clouds are matched reflections; dark, mirrored blisters rush supported by nothing. A black void lies between -- nothing.
Roaring, the wind builds. Speeding toward me, the storm is increasing in force by the moment. Pushed back on my seat, I feel the fleshy hill. Blistering clouds consume the humps before me, erasing all evidence of earth.
I cling to the skin of the hill. Before me, it comes accelerating, greedy to consume. The flesh beneath shudders, quaking, sloshing.
I'm slipping backward. My grip -- lost...
No hold. I tumble in the roar. Rolling, I scratch the breast-top--groping.
I strike the corpse.
I am stopped, pillowed by the round bloat of fur and flesh.
The storm is upon me, grinding; I feel the roar --UhOhOoo.
Wrenched from the cast-iron bed, flung to the floor, I lie in a heap, drenched in sore sheets--a pile of sweat. I fought free in the darkened room. Throwing open the drapes, I tugged at the sash. I flung open the window; with hair dripping and hands slippery wet I gasp, leaning into the cool morning air. The room now lit, was unkempt. The cream-peach balloon-print wall paper was blistered and torn, peeling. The ceiling was soot-streaked, water-stained and falling away. The room was bare, except for piles of clothing. Gaining my breath I look out beyond the walnut snaggs, through the braided strands of limp barbed wire.
Three cows stand, belly deep in trimothy-grass, looking at the open window. The closest, lowed again, backing away from the disturbance in suspicion; they turned and trotted off to a hill-top. They stood about, looking down on the old farm house. Turning, they trail one after the other over the crest into the fresh morning breeze.
I have no plans for the day--like the rest. I could feel it start behind the eyes, to the temples and then wrapping around my head like a tight hat band.
I had to get out of the house, get some exercise.
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