SMALL SHARP KNIVES EVERYWHERE
By Augusto Corvalan
The aunt has tried to devour me in a variety of ways.
The first time I can remember she was teaching me the piano even though I did not want to learn.
I don't remember exactly but I bet I was acting out.
She tried to sever my fingers with a surprise slam of the piano lid.
Joke's on her, she only got my right ring finger.
That night she chopped up the finger and cooked it in skewers, like mini-hotdogs, and served it with mashed potatoes and spicy mustard from Belgium.
For dessert we had marshmallows and I got my revenge by eating them all in a mouthful before she could react.
The house is G + me + the aunt.
In the mornings we all have breakfast and then G + I go to school.
The aunt never leaves the house.
The aunt is in a blue mood.
She has felt low for what seems like a long time.
When you were younger, she tells me, you would answer to anything but your own name.
Then the aunt turns to G. When you were younger, she says, you could predict the future.
You wrote it all down in notes.
You predicted that your heart would be broken by a dentist at 32.
That you would lose all your teeth at 43.
And starve at 55.
Then what? says G. She always takes charge.
I hugged you, the aunt says, and told you I wouldn't let anything bad happen but you didn't hug me back, you didn't even believe me, you just stood there with your back extra straight and your hair down to your waist and your bottom tooth already chipped.
And me? I can never hold my tongue.
You hated all writing, any form of recording. I tried taking a video of you walking but you became furious and slapped the camera from my hands. You tore the tape with your teeth, not just that tape but all the tapes in the house. I had many tapes then, I used to like to record voices, messages, I had all kinds of tapes.
Tapes from old television programs.
Tapes from my old roommate.
Tapes from your mother from many years ago.
And then? G interrupts.
The aunt shrugs.
I never heard any of those tapes again.
G points at me. You are always the one who takes things too far.
1. Cannibals have been observed to form family units for short periods.
2. It is not known why cannibals engage in this type of behavior.
3. Cannibal teeth are capable of inflicting not only ordinary gashes but also a type of wound that is nothing like a gash and more like loneliness or a void.
For breakfast I ate sugarcereal with milk that overflowed from the bowl and had to be slurped up from the table where it spilled.
G had chocolate pastries.
To get to the school G + I take the windy path that follows the edge of the forest and avoids the town.
Kids should not go to town alone, the aunt says, because the town is a dangerous place and one needs to always be on guard there.
It would be nice if the town was peaceful and calm, but that's just not how cannibals are.
Has the aunt ever been to town?
A long time ago I went to town, when I was younger and my teeth were sharp and I ate many faces.
Did mother go to town?
The aunt shakes her head no.
Your mother walked into the woods even though I asked her not to, even thought I said I wouldn't follow her if she walked into the woods, even though I said don't go into the woods, please don't go into the woods.
Go to school now, the aunt says.
The school is a long concrete bunker.
The school is not large. The town is small and there are only a dozen other kids.
The school doesn't have many rooms but is full of long hallways.
I'm always lost because no one ever explained to me where to go or why I'm here.
G is not like that. G always knows what she has to do.
I follow G everywhere she goes, hand in hand.
After school G + I ate macarons, then beans, then the front pages of old newspapers, then juice, then the pages of the calendar, then a whole pecan pie. I like the feeling where you eat so much and you feel horrible and pass out.
G woke up from a nightmare. She didn't want to eat breakfast. I ate pudding, which was vanilla, a huge scoop of it. And a honey cake. And a brownie.
G was upset the whole day. She didn't talk to anyone. At lunch she didn't eat or play, she sat with her arms crossed not doing anything, just staring.
I asked her what was wrong a million times but she just hated me more every time.
I left school early and went to the edge of the woods to play a game where I find the nicest stick and shatter it across my knee. Some sticks are harder than others but I break all of them just the same, that's part of the game. I ate a few splinters but I have to admit it wasn't as much fun without G.
When I got home I was sweaty and out of breath. I sat on the floor opposite G and stared at her. She wasn't doing anything, just flipping through a magazine, not to look at the pages just to make noise.
I could tell I annoyed her by being there but didn't stop. When she finished with the magazine she threw it at my face.
G always takes things too seriously.
G + ME
G always brags.
I can ignore pain for a long time.
G can never seem to keep it together.
G won't stop screaming.
G is so vindictive.
I won't change my mind for anything.
I always find a way to get my way.
G started it.
G can cry on command.
G doesn't mean anything she says.
G doesn't mean her apologies.
I told you not to trust her.
G is only using others.
G believes in revenge.
I simply don't get it.
I never know my turn.
G holds grudges.
I never believed in right and wrong.
I'll admit to nothing.
I always lie.
Today I got in a fight at school with another kid.
I've played with this kid before but I can't remember his name. I can't even remember his face. I don't like to look at faces, they are always a blur, they all look the same.
First I kicked the kid in the stomach then I bit his forearm. I had already eaten breakfast but I bit off as much as I could. Then he bit me on the cheek.
6. Eating is not allowed at the school.
7. Students should eat only before and after school.
8. Students should only eat at home with the curtains drawn.
The rules are there for the good of all the students, the teacher says, otherwise cannibals couldn't have schools.
There are many punishments for eating, the teacher says. She's shown us almost all of them:
The teacher can ask you to stand at the front of the classroom and then for five minutes everyone can throw erasers at you just not the face.
The teacher can yell at you.
The teacher can drag you by the arm to a corner where you have to stand and think.
The teacher can make you read poetry out loud for a long time until your mouth is dry.
The teacher can make you apologize.
The teacher can flick you on the nose.
The teacher can make everyone ignore you for the rest of the day and at first this is great you can do whatever you want but then it becomes very lonely and painful and awkward.
The teacher can slap you on the stomach.
The teacher can make everyone call you a mean name you don't like.
The teacher can tell you a story that will give you nightmares later when you go home.
The teacher can poke your palm with a very sharp pencil.
The teacher can make you stand in a corner until you pee.
The teacher can stand in front of the classroom and tell everyone an embarrassing secret about yourself.
The teacher can make you spin until you're dizzy and you throw up.
G is the biggest trouble-maker in the school, and then me.
The sun rose extra early and seared all the concrete.
G + I decided it was too hot to go to school.
We ended up spending more time with the aunt in the house. It was dark in the house but not very cool.
There was not a lot to do in the house. The aunt was not much for conversation.
In fact, the aunt has grown increasingly unsettled.
To pass the time G + I locked ourselves in an old room with a huge stack of magazines. We lay on our bellies and ate the ads out of the magazines, the glossy stuff, perfume samples, the real estate listings.
We giggled ourselves sick and vomited up paragraphs on each other and then rearranged the letters like tiles. K-N-I-V-E. I had A-X-E. I grabbed my word and chased G around the room and promised to decapitate her.
Later we fell in a pile and punched each other in the face.
G choked out a few more letters. She managed Y-A-K and S-E-E.
But how could that satisfy us when the magazines we couldn't afford printed glossies of buttered watermelons and candied meats?
That night the aunt tried to boil my hair.
She seared me when I wasn't looking with a quick flick of the iron when I got too close.
My scalp scorched and little patches of hair fell out.
The aunt followed me around picking up the clumps of hair as they landed on the floor.
She collected a big ball of hair and boiled it like spaghetti. It was delicious except for the garlic bread that she forgot in the oven and let burn.
I yelled at her about it and I think she cried.
She's getting worse, her memory and other little things, for example how disoriented she becomes suddenly.
This leaves her vulnerable to sneak attacks.
G + I like to spin her around and around and then vanish and giggle all over the house while she tries to find us, tripping and hurting herself on the stairs.
Maybe this is why her paranoia has become so intense. It doesn't even let her sleep during the night and so she paces and makes grand plans.
I'm not sure she slept at all tonight.
THE AUNT ALONE
The aunt likes to send letters to people she used to know. Sometimes they respond, though it takes a long time. The aunt likes to read the letters aloud even though she knows we are not paying attention. She treats the arrival of each letter like a big event. She sits in her robe and holds the letter in front of her face and reads it out. The responses are short and flat, you can tell they were written without much thought.
The aunt likes to watch television. She follows several programs religiously as well as the news.
The aunt likes to stare at the small birds that hop around the patio in the afternoon. There was a garden back there and she enjoyed tending to the plants before they all died off. Too hot, she says.
The aunt likes to listen to music when it's very late at night and everyone else has gone to bed. Just the same two or three songs over and over. She doesn't have much interest in sleep.
The aunt likes to cook. She claims her hands hurt her all the time now and that's why every dish turns out sour.
The aunt likes help, when she falls or can't get up from the sofa.
The aunt likes to tell us it's all going to alright. We're not really sure what she's talking about.
The aunt likes sweets like cakes and pies and cupcakes and chocolate and waffles and cannolis and cookies. She likes us to mash up the food on her plate so she can swallow without needing her teeth. Afterwards she rocks back and forth in her chair holding her belly. She claims her stomach is all ballooned up and kneads it with her thin fingers. She whines and says we shouldn't let her eat like that.
The aunt claims she was able to eat great quantities when she was younger, whatever she wanted.
I'll eat like that again one last time, she claims.
G came up with a plan so diabolical that I said no way.
Then we started to fight.
We fell into a pile and throttled each other and yelled the worst insults into each other's mouths.
I don't know where the aunt was. It was early in the morning, who knows what time.
Maybe she was passed out, or lost and confused in a closet.
Finally I decided to go along with G's plan because I didn't want her to leave me alone.
We snuck out to the gas station that's down the big road.
We ran in screaming and knocked over all the big soda bottles.
While the zombie cashier was distracted we stole all the top-shelf magazines.
The subscription monthlies.
We decided to go home and have a feast.
G was in charge of cutting out the pictures while I speared them with a fork.
The pictures of meat we cooked over a fire we lit in the center of the bed.
The smell made our mouths water, only it wasn't drool it was S-P-I-T.
When the pictures finished cooking we feasted until our bellies stretched out. Ink sores split our lips.
Eating like that makes me feel happy and cruel.
The aunt knocked and tried to get in but we had painted our door shut.
You could only get in and out through the window.
The aunt asked us to come out.
What are you doing in there.
Let me in.
Please let me in.
The truth is the aunt doesn't look good.
Her skin is grey.
She shuffles with great energy.
Her hands shake.
I believe she has found a long recipe that will allow her to bake and eat my brain like a cake.
She wants it to be her little treat for when she turns 92.
But the joke's on her because she's not going to make it.
It's her brain she should be worried about.
4. Cannibal teeth do not work like regular teeth, they possess many special properties, only a small fraction of which have been observed.
34. The past is accessible to cannibals only through a thick veil and most mistakes are repeated in sequence without halt
37. When asked what might bring them joy cannibals often respond without honesty
47. Cannibal memories are transparent and can be consumed without learning anything at all
49. Cannibals cannot look each other in the eye
The sky was grey and extra-close, like it was going to crush us all.
Our room was a disaster. It smelled like ash and blood.
Let's feast again, G said.
I can never get enough.
G is the same way.
We ate until we vomited little puddles, little balled up papers that didn't look appetizing, not at all
I told G so but she was not listening, she just held up the magazine spine, pages spent and our hunger only growing.
Look for fashion shoots, I begged G.
Look for sex quizzes.
Look for celebrity bikinis.
Or diet tips.
G help up her hands.
We have nothing left, no back issues, not even nature shots.
I upturned my underwear to look for coins. We'll go to the store in town, to the hypermarket rotating magazine rack. 2-for-1 deals.
I found two dimes and a cockroach head which we immediately digested.
We'll starve, we'll starve.
G whined and demolished 19th century literature. I cuffed her on the ear then punched her goopy eye.
G always took charge.
I always took it too seriously.
G always went too far.
G cried and I stomped her toes and yelled for quiet.
She bit at my fingertips and dripped gore on the floor.
I cried and stuffed my mouth with her hair.
G ate some of my shoulder meat. She opened up network veins for teeth flossing. She wriggled under and swallowed nameless organs whole, mouth stuffed and hardly able to chew.
How could she chew? Not without lips, not without a nose or forehead, all of which I severed and roasted by the pit.
The room filled with amazing odors, not that we even waited for the meat to cook, we were digging in already, we were stuffed but not slowing down, picking up speed even.
We ate the logs and the embers.
We ate the sheets and most of the frame.
We slurped up whole wallpaper sheets.
We crammed in wiring that tore up all our gums.
We've lost a lot of blood, I said.
I want to eat your arm, G said.
I'm dizzy, I said.
I need to sit down, G said.
Not without legs, I said. But it was an empty threat. I was so tired.
We fell on our butts. I couldn't believe the mess we'd been allowed to make.
The entire house was quiet.
Eventually we slipped out the window.
We saw that the front door had been left open.
G + I walked out in the yard.
We yelled out the aunt's name in every direction.
We walked to the edge of the woods.
Finally we found her freezing in a mud puddle. I had to wrap a towel around her shoulders and get her home so we could wash her clean.
She still shivered when we put her to bed.
She told me to come closer.
I didn't want to. My wounds were still fresh and my flesh delicious.
She told me to come closer. She whispered.
She hugged me and kissed me.
She kissed my forehead and kissed my eye.
Managed to claw up my neck and, with timid little bites, chew up my face.
She whispered something that sounded like something or nothing.
She didn't move.
G wrapped her up in the tan sheets so she looked like a crepe.
She didn't move or say anything but her eyes were open.
G + I didn't say anything, not for a long time.
The custom is to drive nails into bats and stand outside the house.
Eventually the other cannibals will come to eat the body, G said.
They will want to eat the house, I said.
We can fend them off for a little bit, G said.
Yes, I said. We weren't hungry for days.
A fog rolled in.
Are you still there G?
Yes, she said. I could just make out her face. I didn't recognize her voice at all.
What do you want to do?
I want to go into the woods, she said.
Don't go into the woods. I don't want to go into the woods.
I think she spoke some more words. I couldn't understand anything she said.
I asked her what she was saying.
I told her not to go in the woods.
I told her I wouldn't be able to find her if she went in the woods.
I asked her not to go in the woods because I couldn't go with her.
I asked her not to leave.
I couldn’t see her at all.
I asked her not to go.
I asked her please don't go.
I told her hold my hand.
Augusto Corvalan is the founding editor of Dead Alive Magazine, an online journal for experimental, cross-genre, multi-media and unclassifiable works. He was also a reader and contributor to The Masters Review for several years. He studied Creative Writing at Columbia University. His previous work has been featured in Gone Lawn, Used Gravitrons and others.