by Brendan Gillen

I am your archetype, a lurker of tunnels. Hands taped, I pace the dripping furnace. Somewhere above, the announcer growls my name. On the lips of strangers, it’s a synonym for wicked, the relentless enmity on which I depend. Ferocious, they say. Caged beast. Can barely spell his own name. Maybe it’s true. Maybe I am what they want me to be. Maybe I am my country’s son.

I was a weightless child, a chaser of bricks. They plucked me from rubble, welded my hands. They fed me fire; their champagne dreams became my own. Someday soon I will forget my mother’s face.

A whisper, paper thin, tells me it’s time.

I prowl the maze, bow in a bowl of smoke. Thousands of faces, brutal as pastries, scream of forfeited wars. They gamble on flesh, can taste the collision. Flashes pop, the wicked lithium. A man with a haggard visage grips my wrists; I touch the fists of a stranger. He looks just like me: tattooed conscience, kaleidoscope eyelids. Terrified.

Tomorrow, ink will spill, pens fueled by his blood. In an hour, lying in a bed of regret, he will forsake his trade. In minutes, the pitiless nexus; the fantastic damage. He will crumple at my feet, a heap of bones, a natal shape.

He believes the same will become of me.

For now, my corner is babel, a lash of tongues. I loom, a brooding razor. I coil for the knell, the stinging bell.

I hope it never comes.

Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Brendan lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is an MFA candidate at City College in Harlem. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in (b)OINK, Flash Fiction Magazine and elsewhere.
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