Black Petals Issue #88, Summer, 2019

The Taxidermist is Hatching
Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Place of His Own-Fiction by Dorian Sinnott
Blood on the Riviera-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Chapter 13-Fiction by A.M.Stickel
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Chapter 14-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Chapter 15-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Next Stop: Napper's Holler-Conclusion-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Red Dress-Fiction byTrisha McKee
The Dead Are Not Lonely-Fiction by A. L. Hodges
The Taxidermist is Hatching-Fiction by Michael Mulvihill
This Isn't You-Fiction by J. David Thayer
Love River Forever-Poem by Hicham El Qendouci
Fire Rages from Her Fingertips-4 Poems by T. B. Kelley
Sheepsquatch-3 poems by Richard Stevenson

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The Taxidermist Is Hatching

 

Michael Mulvihill

A neighborhood blight resolved

 

 

In the second year that Logos lived next door to me weeds took over his garden and lawn. He used to throw the remains of his meals into the middle of the lawn, its grass hip-high. 

He had a pit bull who I called Charlie that was never walked. The dog’s excrement, deposited in his back garden, remained where it fell. On warm days, the stench simmered from the heat, bringing its vapours well past the borders of the neighbouring back gardens, including mine. 

Whenever I walked outside the back door of my house the long-suffering dog would bark viciously at me. I was certain that one day he would jump the wall, leap forward with his front legs against my belly, knock me to the ground, and devour me from my face down. I only went out to the back garden to dry my clothes. Over time, the dilapidated walls protecting me from that dog seemed to shrink. One day I admitted this to my neighbour, Francie.

“I’ve already had words with him,” she replied, “angry words!” 

“What did you say?”

“I told him he was a sloth, a hoarder, and a disgrace.”

“I bet he loved that.” 

“He just stood there like a big dumb rock.”

“And you did nothing?”

“I asked him if he was human.”

“And?”

“He did not reply.”

“There’s your answer.”

“I told him I expected his gardens to be trimmed, the excrement to be removed, and the weeds to be cut back. I also intended to give him a list of other things I expected him to do, and warned him firmly to agree to do them.”

“Francie, you must really enjoy talking to walls.” 

 

I went away for a month to the seaside, and forgot completely about this unhappiness. I read philosophy books and slept for long hours, truly embracing the spirit of respite. I did not think of the strife waiting back home until I boarded the return bus. I had received a text message, but left it unopened. When the bus stopped a block away from my home, my phone rang. It was my neighbour, Linda, telling me she would be at my front door waiting for me. 

When I arrived at my front door, the short blonde woman, who had always looked elegant and calm, was there in an agitated state. “Wait till you see what he has done.”

Knowing who she meant, I opened the front door of my house and gestured her to go in. She was in no mood for small talk about the weather. I calmly planted my bag on a chair, and said, “Shall I boil the kettle for some tea?” 

“Where,” she said, ignoring my hospitality, “is the best part of your house to view your neighbour’s garden?”

That was an easy answer, as my bedroom window offered a bird’s eye view of the garden we both knew was no Edenic masterpiece. Although, normally, in suburban Dublin neighbours vied for the most beautiful garden, my neighbour seemed to be competing in some subcategory beyond avant garde.

I opened my bedroom window to inspect said garden. Was I admiring his newly created green space? The artificial turf did offer the basic hope of not waking up to rodents roaming my attic, or being bathed in eau de dog poop whilst hanging my newly washed clothes. The desire to not be mutilated by Charlie was now moving from a hope to a possibility.

What drew my gaze most, though, was a monstrous structure that had replaced Logos’ shed. It was one of the ugliest concrete buildings I’d ever seen, with quite a view of strange stuffed birds.

“This is his revenge,” Linda said in a growl. 

“Revenge, why?”

“He knows I had the department of the environment out to see him regarding the state of his garden.”

“And what did they do?”

“They gave him a firm telling off. Why do you think his lawn is green plastic?”

“I assume this building he made is a county council issue?”

“Of course it is.”

“Surely he has no planning permission for this structure?”

She did not reply, simply crossed her arms and shook her head. 

“I bet he can be told to take it down.”

“Yes, you would think that, wouldn’t you?”

“There is no way any of us would be allowed to build such a structure in our garden.”

She shook her head again, and said, “I rang up the county council the minute I saw that abomination.”

“They will come out here and tell him to take it down, won’t they?”

“No, they will not.”

“But they have to come out.”

“He was granted permission to build something of this exact nature in his back garden.”

“That sort of permission takes time to get?”

“Yes, you’re right.”

“And a notice has to be displayed outside the property asking for such a building to be made acceptable.”

“Yes, everything you say is actually correct.”

“Why did I see no notice outside his house?”

“Permission was already granted before the house was purchased.”

“So, we have to look at this eyesore for the rest of our lives?”

“Yes.” 

“The value of my house will be ruined!” 

“Mine will too. But what can we do?” she asked.

“What kind of birds are they? Do you know?” 

“Yes, I researched them.” 

“Tell me...” 

“Among the extinct or endangered birds he has in stuffed and staring form,” she said, pointing, “there are the flightless moa, depicted with a haast eagle attacking it from overhead, and, to your right, the great auk and the enormous, ostrich-like elephant bird; to the left are the emu and the cassowary.”

“He is a bit of a bird man, our neighbour.”

“A bit?” Linda said, laughing hysterically. 

“Do you know how he constructed all of this? He could not have built it all on his own.”

“He got a team in. Our neighbour told me he laid out the specifications, insisting it be built in the exact fashion you see before you.”

“Do you know who made the mounts?”

“Can you believe these mounts are the result of his own work?”

“He must have been working on that ghastly menagerie for years.”

“I am sure these birds are not hunting trophies.”

“Since our neighbour’s mounts are based on mainly extinct birds, this must be either a natural museum he is attempting to create, or—”

“Listen to me: I do not want to be alone tonight,” Linda interrupted.

“How come?”

“He has outdoor lights for his big bird cage.”

“So?”

“I can’t bear to look at them.”

I was going to advise her to just close her curtains and go to sleep, when she added, “Things happen out there.”

“You have not seen his dog?”

“No.”

“Maybe the haast eagle tore it apart,” I comically asserted.

Linda did not laugh, but instead shook her head. “Our neighbour, Francie, saw Logos digging a hole.”

I felt disgusted but curious. “A hole for what?”

“She saw what she knew to be the dog’s corpse being placed, in pieces, into a black garbage bag.”

“She rang the animal welfare people, right?”

“No, she has no spine, even though she acts like no one or nothing could scare her.”

“So the dog is definitely buried in the garden?”

“Yes…next to the new building.”

“He killed his dog?” I tried not to sound too relieved.

“We cannot prove it.”

“Did she film him burying the animal?”

“No, she would not have the nerve to do such a thing.”

“She is that afraid of him?”

“We are all afraid of him.”

“What do you expect he can do?”

“He is above both the law and human decency.”

“I knew he was eccentric, but I had no indication that he was into taxidermy.”

“I assure you: this is but the tip of the egg.” (Egg? Yes she said egg and not iceberg as the cliché would more correctly go.)

“It will be dark soon.”

“Yes it will,” I agreed.

“Last night it terrified me to be home, alone, with his home right next door.”

“Why?”

“I heard noises.”

“Noises?”

“Unusual noises.”

“So you looked outside?”

“No. Civilised minds, including mine, do not care to be reminded of our ancestral history of being hunted as prey...at night.”

“But what was it about those noises?”

“They have to be audio recordings. If he is determined to recreate these birds he probably wants to reimagine their sound.”

“Are you afraid of him raising dead creatures?” I asked, smiling to comfort her.

She chose not to answer, but begged me, “This simply cannot continue.”

“What are we to do?”

“Help me watch what goes on out there?”

“Why?”

“Look! Just stay up tonight with me and watch.”

I gave no answer, so she whined, “Please!

I nodded my head.

 

After hours of darkness, during which I wondered what exactly we were supposed to be looking for, a floodlight came on, followed by lights in the back birdhouse. Huge egg shell halves lay in the middle of the garden.

What laid that egg?” Linda asked in a whisper.

The egg shells appeared large and strong enough to hold gallons of water. A creature that might possibly be a hatchling stood beside the shell. Then the fuzzy, flightless, man-sized bird, strutted about, its head pointing down.

Linda gasped as if about to scream. I covered her mouth and warned her not to. I got out my mobile phone and filmed the bird. After a minute had passed I stopped to watch the video evidence. It had recorded nothing! I tried once more and got the same results.

“What should we do?” Linda asked.

Both of us felt useless. When the bird finally faced our direction, it was as if the predatory thing was peering straight at us. Even though we were hiding within my home, I felt that the bird could easily attack us, perhaps summoning others, who were now moving around in the night, to join it. The rear bird house had become a hive of activity, our neighbour’s creations very much alive—an insane situation.

What could we do? It was obvious the large hatchling was trying to jump the wall into my garden. Surely it could not be so flexible, and its weight would naturally prevent it…or would it?

 

Hideous weeds began to spring up from the neighbour’s soil, right through the plastic. They grew as if the weeds Logos had destroyed were taking vengeance. Their appearance was python-like and their growth absurdly rapid. I presumed the weeds were not possessed of territorial sensibilities. Might they shoot up in my garden and even from the ground under my house, causing not only structural damage, but strangling and mangling us? 

I ran from my back window to my front window, Linda beside me. More grotesque weeds had emerged throughout the neighbour’s front garden as if they were trying to imprison his house. What was to stop them migrating to my house?

I grabbed Linda’s hand and ran downstairs as we heard what I presumed was the neighbour’s windows being smashed and wings flapping restlessly. There was still time, still a passageway through my own garden without the weeds getting to us.

We were going to run to the other side of the road. Then I saw through my glass peek hole our neighbour dressed as a bird, standing in his front garden holding his hedge clippers, rapidly snapping them as numerous birds swarmed around him.

I did not know if he would come after us, or why nature seemed to be under his spell. What could we do? What offence could we say was being done to us if we rang the police? In my helpless rage, would it do any good to act on instinct by screaming at and attacking him first with my sole weapon at hand, my kitchen cleaver?

 Linda saw the fight-or-flight look in my eyes and held me back. “It is too dangerous to go out there.”

“Call the police.”

“I have been trying to do that.”

“You have?”

“Did you not see me phoning?”

“Have you gotten through?”

“There is no mobile connection.”

“Why is nobody else ringing them?”

“Probably for the same reason we are not.”

“We are left with no choice but to us see how this situation plays out.”

“Whatever that creature is out there with our neighbour, who knows what it might do?”

We walked slowly to my front window, and I opened a small gap in the curtain. There was our neighbour walking around, his shirt drenched in blood. So were his clippers. I noticed that he had hacked off some of the weird weeds. They bled! He acted as if he did not notice all the blood. He roared at the swarms of birds flying overhead. Then the weeds rebelled. One wrapped itself around his neck, and another his legs and stomach, rapidly pulling him to the ground, where birds converged upon his body, tearing at his flesh and pecking out his eyes.

Snow began to fall from the sky. Gradually, the birds vanished into the whiteness, and the weeds into the ground. Nature had triumphed: Logos, the unholy taxidermist, was no more.

 

The End

 

 

Michael Mulvihill, mulvihillp@ymail.com, of Dublin, Ireland, wrote BP #88’s “The Taxidermist Is Hatching.” (+ BP #81’s “Drogol’s Inst.” & “Killing Time”; BP #80’s “Rise”; BP #79’s “Drogol the Nosophorous and the Calf of Man”; BP #78’s “Self-Immolation,” BP #77’s “Lupine Savagery”; BP #76’s “The Watchers”; BP #68’s“The Toasters’ Tragedy” and “Ziggy’s Afterlife Analysis”; “Homeless” & “Why the Hell Siberia?” for BP #67; was featured author for BP #65’s “Ethagorian Evidence (Parts 1 & 2)” & “Uninsured Assurance”; VAMPIRE HORDE, Ch.1… for BP #63; BP #61’s poems, A Love Story Beautiful, Capitalism’s Modern Architecture of Love, Red Brick, The Securocrats, and Toxic Addiction; the poems, “Fatigued,” “O Mother,” & “Spike-Inverted Hearts” for BP #58; “The Cleaner and the Collector” & all 6 BP #56 poems; BP #50’s “The Soul Scrubber” and as featured vampire poet with A Vampire’s Dilemma: Love, Becoming a Vampire, Vampire Insomnia, and Vampiric War in The Kodori Valley; wrote BP #49’s poems—I, the Vampire, The Reluctant Vampire of Tbilisi, Vampire Observations, and Vampire Psychoanalysis). The 30ish author published a short story, “Ethagoria Nebsonia,” in BP in ‘98 and had a poem, “The Bombing,” in The Kingdom News about a domestic tragedy in Ireland. He has two 2007 poetry books out with Exposure Publishing: Searching for Love Central and The Genesis and Anatomy of Love, and has written the horror novels, DIABOLIS OF DUBLIN & SIBERIAN HELLHOLE.

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