by Taylor Hood
While the villagers of Allborough chant so loud they cause my swollen, sensitive ears to ache, it is nothing compared to the pain pressing against my temples, this red demon agony like a dying star ready to explode, sending out shockwaves of nausea to the furthest reaches of my being.
The mob do not cease their baying as they carry me to the village green, leaving my suitcase abandoned, clothes, rations, and train ticket scattered across the pavement. Rows of carbon copy houses with gleaming facades pass me by as wanted posters bearing my name flutter through the streets.
In a window reflection: a swathe of suited villagers writhing beneath me, and my features which brand me as an outcast. My head, bruised like a turnip and topped by tufts of greasy black hair; bulging, bloodshot eyes; nose askew; skin streaked with stretch marks.
At the green, they strip me naked. I wriggle maggot-like as they hoist me by my feet with ropes to a gnarled oak. As I hang, I prepare for an early death. The same fate that befell Glum Geoff, Crowface—all who hesitated.
They pelt me with turnips, cauliflowers, potatoes, and the familiar insults are given new weight. Finally, the village elder cries, “No Allborough without all of us,” the children taunt, “Turniphead! Piñata-boy!” and the rods of purging are unsheathed, poised to strike.
The destruction begins. My bulbous body blemishes instantly, as though I were being splattered with paint, not beaten by batons. To my surprise, a mix of pleasure and pain has me begging for more. Like squeezing a boy-sized pimple.
The liquid that spurts out of my lesioned skin is not blood—it is oil-in-water emulsion. A prismatic shower so beautiful and breath-taking I forget myself and the hurt being done to me.
The wad that is my right hand breaks away, tumbling to the variegated lawn. I groan more with relief than bewilderment as tentacles erupt from the hole at the wrist.
Fingers fly and lumpen limbs pinwheel through the air, ejecting gnawing gnats and biting bats. In the chaos I witness the tentacle wrap around a man’s neck.
My belly bursts open like a party bag, releasing a gut-spray of jewelled genii and infernal ethereals.
Out of me writhe more protean horrors whose names and natures I am astounded to know.
As I recognise them for my companions met in many books in lonely hours—
A crack resounds in my head, and the world trembles.
I float safely heavenward, leaving the town in tumult.
Rise bodiless into the universe.
Free, at last.
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