Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things (excerpt)

by
Daulton Dickey.

[This is an excerpt from the titular story in the new short story collection, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things & Other Stories, which is out now.]

1.

Humming fills the air, but it’s the humming of a brain filling gaps exposed by silence. The lights are out. Colors flicker in space–sometimes near the ceiling, sometimes near the floor.

The brain does the math, and this is another case of the brain creating something where something should be.

But listen: the silence. It’s unnerving somehow. Unnatural.

The ceiling throbs. Cracks spiderweb the walls. From these, insects emerge. They’re miniature heads, human heads, crawling on six scrotums. Sperm oozes in their wake. Sadie throws a shoe at the wall and the insects scream and scatter.

She climbs out of bed and peeks outside: a planet-sized eyeball drifts toward a planet-sized eyelid. Twilight. She throws on her robe and taps her skin. It’s still skin. Thank Cruelty. She hasn’t transformed, not like the others.

She opens her front door.

The hallway is empty.

She tiptoes across the hall and puts her ear below “3F” on Martin’s door. Silence. But that doesn’t mean anything. Those creatures are probably in there. Right now. Fucking each other with those tentacles–or whatever the hell you call them.

More humming.

Is it a lightbulb, or is it her brain doing the math, plugging holes?stilllifedaultondickey

She ties her robe and rubs her stomach and tiptoes down the hall, listening in on apartments 3D, 3C, 3B.

She puts her teeth together and hisses, just to make sure she hasn’t gone deaf.

Hiss.

She hasn’t gone deaf.

Door 3B flings open. A human-sized caterpillar pops its head into the hallway. Snot and cum drips from its mouth.

–Everything okay? it says.

–Fine.

–Why you in your robe? Locked out?

–Stop talking to me. Monster. Continue reading

Morning Rituals, Meat Machines, and Tragedy in Vegas

by
Daulton Dickey.

I woke in a void, empty. The room appeared as a mirage: both there and not there. Stumbling across the room to get dressed, then sneaking downstairs and closing the door behind me, certain not to wake my wife and baby, I floated in a state devoid of thought. A machine running on autopilot. Our dog stood in his kennel, whimpering. I let him out and followed him into the kitchen and opened the backdoor to let him out. He ran, tail wagging. After pushing past the cats in the bathroom doorway, I took a leak and brushed my hair and put on deodorant. Then I ambled into the kitchen and kneeled in front of the oven—after turning on the exhaust vent overhead—and lit a cigarette.

I turned on my phone and checked the news: a slaughter in Las Vegas. More than fifty dead. As many as five hundred wounded. The emptiness inside expanded, consumed me. Neurotransmitters flooded my brain. Chaos. Depression. Thoughts attempted to rise but nothing appeared. I pictured the dead and wounded, blood filling the streets, and my depression deepened.

What’s the point? What’s the point of any of this? We’re meat feeding on chemicals, motivated by chemicals, until these organic machines stop. Then we cease to experience anything. The universe, as far as we’re concerned, blinks out of existence the moment we no longer perceive, think, feel, experience. We’re meat machines fueled by desire, without objectives—desire, for us, acts as both the means and the end. But the chemicals permeating this meat persuades us we’re somehow only incidentally meat. We’re something greater, some say, far great. Not animals. Special. Continue reading