David Kuhnlein 日 25/11/2021 · admin No comments


They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly,
But, bear-like, I must fight the course.

She trembles with the snowmelt, as if meaning to keep cold. I hold my bladder, watching. A chime is answered, voluntary pathogen pressed in the inner ear. We flag an app taxi. Her taps pillow ash on Astroturf. We’ve tried being clean. It’s entertaining. Rubber-banded grocery bag snapped overhead, plump lips lit by sparkling Retina Display, she intones: “I’m sick of everyone claiming they’re a survivor. You didn’t survive shit.” Her thumb drills the screen. “Just being a victim’s never enough.” I encourage some thoughts being saved from the feed.

Pop-up arena approaching, animals taped together in a scream. Large metal rings gouge the beast’s limbs, industrial stigmata carved in. Runes etched on the muzzle fill blackly, vaginal upper gums pinned back. Directing the head of the moon bear, a crew of tiny men saw it some nubs. Canine teeth chiseled down. A canal in the cheek bone shows optic nerves. Eyes removed from sockets sutured shut. Hamstrung by a goosequill saber, baritone vibrations still felt underground. The splotches on its chest look pissed there.

We’d let a sneeze release what ailed us, if it wasn’t our finest possession. Sticking out our necks for secret events, ballooning past the scientific mediocrity of life, is worth seeing a bear cling to a ridge pole. Cigarette smoke flits between the tectonic plates in my head. Nineties rave for a brain, I reduce myself to strobe lights. A cripple on a tricycle circles the crowd, playing music from a Bluetooth speaker. Her hips sway on mine. I’m in it for the notch I’ll make in her web. Spectator deaths do occur. Many of us are strapped. The audience is on the same plane as the spectacle, a well-seasoned subspecies. Lots of top dogs bobbing at the trough. The bear’s muscles exhaust. The blood vessels of its eyes bloat. They unveil dog cages. Pit-mixes and mastiffs sharpen their teeth against the floor.

At first, I did not love her. The drive to stun and steal women from themselves frightens me. But I hadn’t met someone to be cruel with. My remains went unmatched, save for her. “Don’t grieve,” she assuages me through barbeque smoke. Sometimes I dilate her nostrils with my tongue to see if she’s frowning beneath all that scarred and overlaid skin. The bear continues dying on the pole, really committing to the Kegels of each throe. It’s chained to wood, secured by a ring in the nose. A harmony has formed between beast and crowd. Strands and fibers merge in matted fur. I feel her smile through the blinding sting. Latched as one, we tease our arms forth for one last bite, because this is religion.


David Kuhnlein’s fiction is featured or forthcoming in Ligeia, Tragickal, Void Front Press, Surfaces, Burning House, Fugitives & Futurists, and others. He edits the literary review column Torment, venerating pain and illness, at The Quarterless Review. He lives in Michigan.