In the other world we act worse than wolves. We gather near the gas grill and decide that any deviation from the group’s way of eating ought to be taken as a sign of other deviations, therefore should be halted early and often. Oscar’s backyard is surrounded by a black iron fence which is surround by more black air which is discouraging to look into. We chant in response, pointing our knives at the tree tops.
Rob is the first to eat outside of our prescribed diet. He grills a rabbit. We confront him and wrestle him to Oscar’s backyard. We tie his hands together and push him towards the end of the diving board. The pool’s water presses against the humid night’s air. Rob sweats raindrops. It was really just a blip he says, too many rules to keep straight. Then why is everyone else keeping them straight, we chant. Oscar steps on the board, a few feet behind Rob.
What do we say about rabbits, Oscar says. He has his favored serrated knife today.
Rabbits are small, Rob says.
Our rule states that we will eat animals that are big. Animals that are difficult or impossible to carry. Oscar turns to all of us. Does this seem fair, he asks.
We chant. We point our knives toward the trees. Rob moves his mouth, maybe offering some more explanation. Maybe his rabbit was huge, maybe he wasn’t sure exactly what constitutes size in this particular case–maybe he was just very hungry.
We chant louder. Oscar raises his arms as if to calm us. We chant louder. Okay, Oscar motions. He approaches Rob from behind, grabs his hair, pulls taut the neck, and saws through that skin. Blood like thick sweat. Rob’s body is still quivering when it tips forward into the pool’s warm water. We congratulate each other on the safety of our community’s future.
A few weeks later Wanda eats some stringy wheat thing brought over on a boat. Oh Wanda, we all think, though we also show surprise that she wasn’t the first to break the diet. This rule was too obvious though. Nothing that came here on a boat! We shove her onto the diving board at Oscar’s later that night. She doesn’t argue, or maybe she does but no one gives her any attention. We are entering our fourth month of summer heat.
Stephen Daniel Lewis lives in Colorado. He edits the online journal, Robot Melon.