The sleeping bag had writhed, a kissing thing, a succubus, mad like a salted eel. I’d seen that. For days now I’d seen it and let it happen. Too scared to scream. What a stupid terror, I hold in me, shrinked cold and half-gone. Tonight it dines.

It was days of knowing something bad would happen. Nights too I had warnings. But during the day it was far off and starlight from a decades old supernova. A feeling and a hunch.

Now there was a clicking.

It was the primordial kind of clicking, undercut with hiss and hum. A mating call of two dull stones. Now, as I stare there is the wet felt of the antennae, reaching over the foot of my bed from underneath. A sort of drawstring, it is wet. Pre-mucused and peering came out and it was then I knew I would not move, could not move, atrophied with terror.

Now the maw, which was in a way, the start and all of the rest of the beast. Cloacal, this creature, in entirety. A sea anemone and a resume and drinking problem. Cloacal as subject and spasm.

All mouth, a worm, puce-lipped and man-sized. It gropes forward. Like a roach. Like exhaustion. In the sea, in a trench, in caves there are monsters self-selected to live in rot and ridge and ugly. And here, somehow, one of those strange quirks of the unknowable universe, have let this thing be here.

I have, in the past, had trouble along the potholed edge of sleep. Now I thought of sleep.

The trick is to shut off blue light. The trick is to drink camomile tea and not eat, the trick is a melatonin, some ashwagandha, that’s the ticket, the trick, count sheep, white noise, clean room, it’s gut health, its gut health turns out, it’s all gut health and we the ungentried, the dumb have yet to think of our gut health. We the horror struck morons have thought nothing of our gut health.

This is a certain hot warmth of an easy fix. It opens. This warmth is moist.

It is a one-night stand and of saying “yeah, I was just saying that” when you were certainly not just saying that. It is the warmth of whale guts and a donut-fueled slumber party, inside the beast, that I started to experience as its lips found me.

This breath warm thing, this gaping and hungry cadaver began consuming me first at the toes, and my neck hurt and arched as I let it.

There is a fecal assent in the leaving of a body, now in terror, soon in spirit. Unpleasant and guaranteed. It was the rhythms I focused on as the sleeping bag ate me. Heart, breath pull. The inchworm arch and the inchworm creep of the wet and slimy pleats. It’s guttural tense and pull. One two and harder on three.

My breath, my heart, crescendoing. One two and one–two and also three and five. In through the nose and out. A hearse, these polyrhythms.


About the Author

Duncan Tierney lives and works in South Florida. He has had previous work published in JMWW, Caustic Frolic, South Florida Poetry Journal, JAKE, and the Meniscus Review. He is currently shamelessly shopping around manuscripts.


Photo by Mikhail Preobrazhenskiy on Unsplash