We’re proud to present “Roadkill” by Seth Cadin, from the pages of Bandersnatch, where, as Booklist puts it, “the editors had Carroll’s irreverent surrealism in mind when they asked contributors for their most avant-garde stories . . . the authors’ whimsical revelries with language and imagery provide mind-befuddling satisfaction.” I hope you agree!
Every piece of asphalt has two sides. The one people walk or drive on, and the other one, which it keeps to itself. It’s not underground, it’s just ground. Until it hits the under where all the bones are buried. Earthworms are friendly but there’s a lot of stuff you wouldn’t want shitting you out, down there.
I woke up in a cement block and it wasn’t a prison. It was literally a block, two inches hollow all around me. I knew I was dead, because there was no air. I was ground. I could feel holes in my body, up and down my spine. Definitely dead, nobody lives with holes that big in their body. I thought about drinking air through them, like maybe someone put straws in me to the outside. Then this struck me as clearly a bad way to think. Who stuck them, for example, and where did they find such big ones. And why did they put me in this block.
I still have all my teeth. If I’m dead, maybe I can chew my way out.
“No I said you put the you put it right uh you put it on the goddamn counter right now, you little muvverfuckah! You put your uh hands in the goddamn air!” The blonde woman gets so excited about her own furious anecdote, she nearly drops the cellphone. “I waved it ‘im! Right in his face!”
Everybody without earbuds hates her for having something better to do, but I don’t. I want to menace up over her and put my crotch at the level of her face, hanging from a strap despite all the empty seats. You understand, I want to do this out of love. I have nothing but good feelings for her screechy, scrawny ass. I’d like to wrap her in a giant banana leaf and roast her for hours on a spit, I’d do that for her, I love her that much. I’d lick her greasy bones.
There are windows, but nobody cares. Nothing happens out there big enough to register, nothing rises up from the landscape and yanks great oaks from the ground to pick its teeth with. Nobody is recognizable at 120 miles per hour, seen from inside, standing still on the road. If a famous person were there, you’d never know it, or your dead cousin with all the bedsores, they’d have to come right up the glass. They’d have to put their hands and faces on the glass, and then they’re just passengers too and it would be rude to stare. The train would suck them up, drag them along, ensure that the scenery won’t be marred by their mortal remains. It can’t do a thing about the raccoons, though. Those can be recognized at any speed, when they’re smashed into a gutsy pulp and tossed wadded up to the side of the road.
No one can see the chitinous extrusions. No one can tell my teeth are just worn down nubs of nothing. This is for the best; though as a passenger I am allowed the dignity of anonymity, any circumstance can turn. There’s no way to predict what people will do when they start seeing what’s in front of their eyes. In what they call the Dining Car, clicking white mouths slurp down hotdogs that cost three dollars and ninety five cents apiece. Like movie theaters, trains only make money on concessions now.
I left a corpse in the toilet, or some people would say that. The cramps hit somewhere around Albany. What came out was clotted too thick to be blood, mine or anyone else’s. You know there’s a big hole with blue water, just like in the period pad commercials, and when you push the silver button, you can smell the bleach and it just drops all down on the tracks. Well, it looked right up at me from that hole and said, “You get what you pay for.” No lips, just that crazy fetus smile, those slitted-up eyes like a frog. “You get what you pay for. You should have gone Business Class.” I couldn’t deny it. Up there they have all kinds of legroom. They could fit five, ten extra limbs, no problem.
I meet a lady from Baltimore who says her name is Elizabeth Borden Peterson. She was named after the killer. It’s funny, that her parents hated her that much. We both think so, we both laugh about it. She didn’t kill them, she tells me, vibrant under a bad perm; she’s never held an axe. Her stickbug elbows are flashing while she talks, so I can dig it. Her fingers are spaded, and I know her heart will implode in a year, ten years, she’ll be ground. Like hamburger. I ask where she’s headed and she asks me, and later that night she tries to touch my tits. In the fake emergency light, the blue water looks electric, but painted on.
We get off at the same stop. One of us is following the other, and that’s funny too, so as the wet stairs wash away beneath our feet, we laugh about it. At the curb, Liz starts to smile in that big, secret way. “Maybe—” she says.
Beautiful, I think, and the asphalt catches her just before the cars do. Everything gets seriously hectic, and I’m crowing with the hot new jagged mouth in my throat. Nobody saw my extra arms extending, and nobody hears the clever sound I make like a cricket the size of me. Nobody sees me get back on the train, or takes my ticket when I wave it in the air. Nothing could be better than the hotdog I press against my new mouth while the concessionaire gapes and offers mustard. Coiled up on a bun, this is her fatty flesh, driven hard into the asphalt but much tastier than the ground.
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Hardcover / $19.95 / 196 pp. / ISBN 978-0-8095-7266-3
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Seth Cadin’s first job was folding pizza boxes for a penny a box in his grandfather’s pizzeria. Since then, he has been, among other things, a house cleaner, a book doctor, a sex worker, and a fake psychic, but his weirdest gig was as administrative assistant to an urban legend. He is currently an associate editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, and parenting a toddler in the most beautiful place on earth: Jersey City.