Authors: D. Harlan Wilson
They Had Goat Heads
Copyright © 2010 by D. Harlan Wilson
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.
This is a work of fiction.
Acknowledgment is given to the following magazines, journals and anthologies in which some of these stories originally appeared:
Mad Hatter’s Review
The Café Irreal
Steel City Review
The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction
The Ranfurly Review
Bust Down the Door & Eat All the Chickens
The Abacot Journal
Alice Blue Review
Dark Sky Magazine
Dayton, OH 45429
Cover art copyright © 2010 by Brandon Duncan
Illustrated version of “The Sister” copyright © 2005 by
ALSO BY D. HARLAN WILSON
Peckinpah: An Ultraviolent Romance
Blankety Blank: A Memoir of Vulgaria
Dr. Identity, or, Farewell to Plaquedemia
Stranger on the Loose
The Kafka Effekt
Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction
“His wife cries from the rubble, father father, what have you done?”
For the Unserious Ones. And for the rest, lip-music: brrrrzzzzrrrr.
6 WORD SCIFI
Mechanical flâneurs goosestep across the prairie.
THE MOVIE THAT WASN’T THERE
I go to a movie and notice I’m starring in it. I don’t remember shooting the movie, let alone auditioning for the part. I am not an actor.
: A harmless kung fu demonstration threads into a hyperkinetic gorefest. I die, uttering tender, hopeful words into the ear of my wife. A touching moment, despite the impossible carnage distinguishing the scene. People cry.
We file out of the theater and proceed to the cemetery in long silver Lincolns and Cadillacs.
A vast crane lowers me into a hole in the ground. Closed casket. Ribbons of film dangle from the lid, encircling the casket in a corona of celluloid.
The actress who plays an
in the movie gives the eulogy. “He w-was the only
man I knew,” she whimpers, then makes a sex motion with her finger. The audience nods in painful understanding.
It is a long ceremony. And hot out. Sweat dribbles down my back. Countless grievers speak on my behalf, explaining that, aside from egregious shortcomings, I was a good man. One woman doesn’t say anything. She stabs herself, repeatedly, at least fifteen times, possibly more, blood spurting from the wounds, although I can tell she makes a calculated effort not to puncture any vital organs.
An ambulance arrives and two paramedics put her on a stretcher and take her away.
“Fuck you!” she shrieks—at me I think, but maybe not—as the doors of the ambulance slam shut.
Nobody leaves until I have been buried.
The director shows up at the last minute, just in time to stomp the dirt into my grave. My wife accompanies him. She stands there quietly, staring at her toes.
A gravedigger passes out hors d’oeuvres on the silver platter of an overturned spade.
Chirping. Soft breeze. Smell of fresh air and green pastures. Everybody clasps hands. We run through a field of sunflowers, kicking up our knees. If we fall down, we lie there for awhile and observe the blue screen of sky.
[Insert solar eclipse.]
: The reel belies the projectionist’s good intentions. It comes loose and he doesn’t know how to fix it. White screen. They blame me. And yet reviews of my actions are invariably positive. The only significant critique has to do with my physical stature, a body of lies that doesn’t adequately reflect the courage of my character.
THEY HAD GOAT HEADS
They had goat heads . . .
I could see down the hallway from the bed. It stretched two miles into the forest. My mother served me a bowl of vegetable soup. The door was open. I wanted to close it.
The TV turned on. A goat walked back and forth across the screen. A tall, thin man entered the picture and slaughtered the goat with an axe. The camera zoomed into the man’s face. He gazed down at the carcass, eyes wide with terror, mouth creaking open into a chemical scream . . .
The TV turned off.
A brick crashed through the window. There was a note tied to it. I picked it up and read the note.
“They have goat heads,” it read . . . I looked out the window. An astronaut in a bubble helmet and orange spacesuit waved at me, then boarded his shuttle. Liftoff. The motel shook. The shuttle rose like a flag, gaining speed and altitude until it disappeared into the clouds.
Thunder. The clouds flashed, flickered . . .
The shuttle fell out of the sky, smoldering . . . It crashed onto its launch pad and burst into flames. The motel shook . . .
A door creaked open and the astronaut climbed out. He staggered into a tree and bounced backwards. He looked at the wreckage. He looked at me and took off his bubble helmet. He had a goat head.
I drew the curtain.
Somebody in the ceiling had attached marionette strings to my mother’s joints. They had also stapled her lips onto her cheeks. Her teeth were two rows of golf tees. She made desperate sucking noises as the puppeteer compelled her to dust the room and vacuum the carpet.
I heard bleating in the hallway. I told my mother I would be right back.
I shut the door behind me.
For two miles, all of the doors were closed, and I didn’t see anyone except a meter maid who tried to take my pulse with a lightning rod. Then I saw an open door. Room 3,401D. I heard cheering inside.
I went inside.
They wanted to play basketball in the boxing ring. Hoops loomed over the ring’s turnbuckles. The coaches screamed at each other. The referees ran back and forth and bounced off the ropes, testing their resilience. The players held hands and prayed. They all had goat heads.
I noticed my father in the audience. He pretended not to see me . . . I walked up two flights of bleachers and sat by myself.
A referee blew a whistle. Tipoff . . .
My mother lumbered into 3,401D. The puppeteer maneuvered her into the boxing ring, scaring away the
. A microphone descended from the ceiling on a thin length of cord and she gurgled into it.
They played the bagpipes . . . I stood and walked downstairs and left 3,401D. The crowd broke into hysterics as I shut the door . . . and went back to my room.
I got lost.
I found the lobby. A motel clerk asked to see my room key. I didn’t have it. He tried to arrest me. I ran away.
I got lost . . .
. . . timelapse of bellhops and concierges and janitors racing up and down the hallways . . . silhouette of the motel set against a blazing horizon . . .
I crawled the rest of the way . . .
My mother was sleeping in my bed. She looked like a dead seal . . . No sign of the puppeteer, and the marionette strings were gone. Open wounds covered her body where the strings had been ripped free. And her lips had been cut off . . . I shook her awake and asked her to leave. She made a deflating sound.
Through the window I saw them, thousands of them, tying notes to bricks . . .