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Dead Things

Written by Trey Briggs || Art by Kokab Zohoori-Dossa
Being a Prime Boar is a joke. It feels like fatherhood sometimes. Everyone always needs me to take care of them. You’d think I had kids around here.
Interestingly enough, I was ten when they told me I was allowed to kill people. And it’s alright. Just alright. I spend a crazy amount of time killing and apologizing for it. They didn’t explain to me that it would be so often, and for anyone who asked.
They made it sound like something I’d choose to do, or want to do. It rarely was.
What they really meant was that I was expected to kill horns, not only allowed to. My mother is too angry at every little instance of disrespect for me to do anything but kill. At least once a day, my sister or her best friend ask me if I know some random boy they have an issue with. And, hey, if I don’t could I meet him and see what I think? I had a teacher pull me to the side in high school and tell me that her husband was cheating on her, ruining the family name. Did I think I could go ahead and ‘deal’ with him?
You fly through school when you can kill for grades.
The only other Prime Boar is batshit crazy. I mean that with all my heart, he’s a nut. So I’m the guy you go to if you want someone killed but want to survive long enough to ask.
It gets a little boring, but it’s alright. Just alright.
“The dead girl with the disgusting mouth. I want you to stay away from her.”
My mother opened my door, said irritating things, and stared at me often. Love her. Junnie and my Mom are my entire life most of the time, so yeah, I love her. But if I could deadbolt that door to keep her from interrupting my breakfast, my second breakfast, my lunch, my second lunch, etc, I would. There’s this feeling I get that Lyria Gorton would use the spirit of my father to smash through the door and rip my head off my body the minute she tried to open it and it didn’t give.
She paused her long stare just enough to glance at the rabbit in my hand. It was close to dead. Running out of blood. I hate eating dead things but, eh, every now and then you have to deal with it. Savoring the blood was always an easy way to accidentally kill whatever I was eating. It was worth the risk. Every now and then I wanted to feel the blood pulse on my teeth.
Feel the life go out of it.
It’s as much about the struggling as it is about the meat. I have a bloodlust that makes me a little crazy if I don’t hurt things often enough. Eating so much makes my days kind of bland, though. Repetitive. I eat, I kill, I follow Jewel around. Every now and then I start eating something and my mother or sister come into the room talking. Like we were already in the middle of a conversation or something. Like I’m made of ruled paper with a leather bound cover.
I bit into the rabbit, slowly, and stared at my mother.
“Do you hear me, Hasan? I don’t want her near my bloodline.” Swallowing a big gulp of the rabbit’s pulsing blood, I motioned for my mother to leave my room. Gentle.  Like I said, you gotta be careful with her.
I know some things about my mother that might surprise people.
“Oh, I see, Hasan. I must be speaking too low…”
“No, no. I hear you, Mom. I’m not doing that, though. That’s about it.” I sucked more blood from the rabbit and wished it would fight back more.
“She’s revolting. You deserve better. I deserve better. Find a more suitable object of affection.” My mother swept her long coat behind her and sat, neat as always, at the foot of my bed. She reminded me of folding clothes when she moved. A series of angles and steps.
“What makes you say that?” An annoyed smile crept onto my face and I instantly regretted it. That Prime Boar anger was a problem sometimes. I tried to remind myself that this woman had been married to a much bigger Prime Boar than me. I was actually the tiniest Prime Boar to ever exist, to my embarrassment. My sister’s best friend was the daughter of an actual full-sized Prime Boar, the psycho one. He could barely fit in a door frame. No problem, though, I didn’t sweat it.
Everyone figured that I would’ve gotten much bigger if my Dad had lived. Not sure how that one works but, eh.
“You’re being harsh for no reason, Mom. You wouldn’t do this to Junnie. What if someone treats her like this?”
“Junnie is surrounded by love and violence. You would destroy the entire family. And if you were too weak to do it, Lewish would.” She said it without missing a beat.
“Damn. Okay.”
“Listen. I’m not trying to be rude. She’ll leave you heartbroken. She’s in the final stages of Horn Rot. She’s very literally near death. I don’t want to…I would hate to see you setting yourself up for sadness.” Holding my shrug back was hard so I masked it with another slurp of rabbit blood.
I understood why she was saying what she was saying.
I just didn’t care.
When they told me I was a Prime Boar, I had a lot of questions. The first of those was ‘why’ and the second was ‘do I have to do anything because of it’. The answers were always vague.
My mother finally sat me down, pride straightening her back and raising her eyebrow, and explained that I had control. I could pass judgment. I was set to be stronger, stronger than anyone else in our country. I was set to ‘provide retribution’ whether I wanted to or not.
“Do you remember how strong your father was?”
“Yes, ma’am. But he died?” That took all the wind out of her. I think it was the only time I saw her slouch. My mother wasn’t ready to talk about that back then.
“And so will you. Hopefully, not by my hand because of your smart mouth. But we will all die. Death is not a measure of strength. It’s an inevitability. In fact, the sooner you embrace death, the better.”
I kind of live by that, even though I’m sure she regrets saying it.
I live by it more than she would like.
“All insults aside, Mom, I do love her. You want to meet her?” You can’t tell when my mother is actually upset unless you know her. She does an odd thing with her body, gets a little stiffer, talks a little quieter. She’ll start using bigger words. But she does her best to remain regal and beautiful and approachable. The thought of meeting Jewel seemed to bubble up some of her anger, quick enough that she couldn’t hide it.
“Of course not. Why would I? She’ll be dead and then you’ll be cradling her in your arms like a pathetic baby and trying to find a replacement. Not in my house.”
“Not to be rude. You sound like a hypocrite. You take care of sick people all day.”
“And I’d give anything to see them perish. You think your dead girl is any different?”
You only had to see Jewel laugh once to fall in love with her. Even with all those horns jutting out everywhere. Even with all that pain blocked into her chest and expressions. You’d love her.
She laughed as easy as spitting out water. You saw every tooth. You could crawl into her throat and rest a while and still come out to her laughing, laughing, laughing.
The girl had a genuine type of joy that she really didn’t deserve.
Trust me. I feel the same type of joy and I don’t deserve it for even a second.
Jewel cried a lot. She had a terrible temper and she cried whenever she got too overwhelmed. I thought about her in every capacity – good things, bad things, harmful things. I imagined grabbing her by the neck, listening to her spew vitriol at me, spew curses and anger, never afraid and always talking shit. She turned me on without even acknowledging me.
Maybe I’m so attracted to sick girls because I’ve been surrounded by them all my life. Patients and rebels and classmates. I couldn’t remember the last time I went a day without seeing mangled horns. Jewel was the worst. Her Horn Rot refused to reach her brain. It just kept growing and growing and growing, breaking her bones, ripping her skin. If I could fight it for her, I would. Being a ‘brute’ only gets you so far, though.
My mother was stupid about some things. I didn’t care if Jewel was dying. Shit, I counted on Jewel dying.
I wanted to be there when she died, cradling her in my arms like a pathetic baby.
I watched my mother close.
“You must be gearing up to die yourself. All I’ve been hearing lately is you giving me instructions. Giving Junnie instructions. Sounds like you’re writing a will.”
She gave me a cold, dry laugh. It wasn’t Jewel’s laugh, for sure. It was a laughter made up of sickness and anger and all the revenge she had stuck in her head. She laughed until I felt it in my bones, in my horns, even in my spine a little. She laughed until I regretted everything I’d ever done.
“Hasan. My brute. Of course I am. I’ll be dead sooner than your dying girlfriend.”
We sat in silence. Fearing she’d said too much, my mother huffed and escaped my room in the whirl of her cape. Finally. Sometimes, eh, I just want to eat.
I bit deep into the rabbit and it stopped moving. It stopping fighting at all. I almost threw it in anger, tired of ignoring it building in my chest. Instead, I settled on squeezing the tiny body until every drop of blood was either in my mouth or on the floor. I stared at the mangled, deflated corpse, the bulging eyes, the limp and stained fur in envy.
My mother, she told me once that everyone dies. It’s inevitable.
I live by those words more than she’ll ever know.