Princip

Princip was sitting disconsolately at a café, nursing an espresso and a grudge, when the motorcade rolled to a stop in front of him. He couldn’t believe his luck; they’d all gone to ground after the failure of the bombing, written the day off as a loss, and yet here the occupiers were, almost on a platter in front of him, blocked in by traffic at one end of the street and their own motorcade at the other, the top of their convertible open to the sky. Fate, perhaps; what else could one think?

He walked across the street and shot them both, as casually as that, one in the belly, the other in the neck, bang bang done.

Too young to hang, they chained him to a wall and gave him tuberculosis, cut him down when he tried to hang himself, made him talk to a psychiatrist to try to reconcile him to their view of his actions. “He refuses to accept responsibility for his actions,” they write, as though he couldn’t feel his lungs being eaten away, as though they hadn’t amputated the arm that had held the gun, as though he weren’t in exile.

Of the 20 years on his sentence, he served only 3; tuberculosis and malnourishment took longer than a noose but were no less certain. The empire survived him by just six months.

Or

The swarm descends, potent with meaning, golden with symbolism. Leutard thrashes as they penetrate him, delicate blunt bodies aswarm around his waist, spread his unseeing eye and slip inside.

Night fears.

He sweats under a midnight sun, eyes winched shut against that impossible, unilluminating light. His every muscle is tense as a bridge cable thrumming in a high seaward wind. He locks his traitor hands together across his chest, fingers hooked to thumbs, lest they turn against him, tear flesh free, gouge eyes to jelly. His mouth waters.

Church bells.

He runs through the streets, naked as a jay, breath ragged, lips bloody, bare feet aslap against the tar. He feels the stones, the broken glass, the nails, but keeps the pace. Fat blunt body, chilled by the night.

Glass windows, goat horns curled delicately above a prophet’s brow.

He pulls the cross down from the wall, smashes the font to pieces. Crouches in the ruins, licks the dust from the ground, shatters his teeth against the rubble, lifts his head and howls, howls, howls.

Buttermilk

Glass, broken glass, that was easy, floors were everywhere and gravity did most of the work. Glass wanted in, it didn’t wait to be invited, sidling into his feet like an old friend dropping round.

Walls, walls, easy enough. All it took was patience, and he had plenty of that. He loved the strange shapes his fingers made, the unfamiliar lumps that crooked his hands, the ineloquent stuttering of his wrists. Electric fire up to his elbows.

Milk white, veined with red, sweet and acrid as cheese, lemon bloom as he gets his teeth in, copper wash of new blood laving down his throat. Long clean poolside burn of chlorine, unpleasant waxen ooze of soap, hair, frogskin.

Stairs, traffic, bridges, cliffsides, beaches. The ocean purls around his ankles, buries his feet in little stones. A long rope of kelp coils invitingly around his knee. He stands aside and waits for that first, last, only step.

Bright Bile

Fulci’s world is all rough cuts and seams, the red of blood, the yellow of digestion. Meat-crazed: crows ascend, beaks wet, from the bodies left to rot in the street, dogs squabble and tear at each other, laughing children dismember a cat and gnaw rapturously at its legs. He shudders and turns away, whose hand is on the tiller.

He is sick, lately, with planning murder, with arranging death. People are butcher’s charts, easily and necessarily segmented. A profitable trade, at least: the hunger for meat is insatiable, an open throat a mile wide and twenty deep. He could labor another lifetime and still you wouldn’t see his handiwork piled at the bottom.

Riots in the street on the way to and from work. Fulci, dazed, does not notice, not the fire, not the smoke, not the intermittent sound of gunfire, too stuffed with his own deaths to notice others. He wakes, sleeps, works, drinks; plans for a boat trip that never comes, an respite never quite earned.

Centralia

The last bullet stops, the others pause before consummation. Legs broken, lung burst, skull just beginning its final unfolding: the gentle yellow haze of the streetlights halts its molecular shiver. Her book has come undone, glue, spine, pages ripped loose by the first rude volley.

Centralia never falls, never settles. Forever in the act of falling, clothes slipped loose of gravity. Cars do not pass, heads do not finish turning, arms never quaver, sirens never blare.

Fire in the steets, or the shape of fire. Her hair continues to smolder, an unceasing blister, her veins run with heat, her buildings condemn. She will not leave, cannot leave, pinned to these hills.

There is another world, perhaps, before or after this one: she falls, she cools. The shadows lengthen. A street sweeper scours her blood away. Time or justice claim her killers. Another world, but not this one: here the last bullet stops just this side of her skin, here her heart stutters and waits for some final sign, here the choir never resolves.