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  • Writer's pictureSteve Gerson


1867, two years after the war ended, five years after Antietam, 22,700 and more dead at Sharpsburg, arms and legs scattered around me like fireflies at night, bones still singed from flash powder, three years after I escaped Elmira POW camp, "Hellmira" more like it, us eatin' roaches and maggots.


I hightailed it for the Indian territory and Robber's Roost Peak near Black Mesa, burrowing in like a mole, and I wasn't coming out, no way, no how.

One night, dark as a witch’s maw, huddled over my campfire for warmth, I started slitting my catch, a squirrel 'bout as big as a prison rat. Here I was, hungrier than a rainbow chasing rain, my rawhide shirt, as holey as Palm Sunday, hanging on my bones like I was a scarecrow out on my paw's milo field back home in Chicksaw, Tennessee.

I just wanted to eat, lay back by the fire, and look at the stars. Though they seemed to be moving closer to me. That coulda' been due to the rotgut moonshine I was drinkin', probably half snake venom, half turpentine. I'd bought a gallon jug off a traveler for maybe four chunks of gold I'd panned out of the Cimarron.

I sliced through the varmint's gullet, them stars still gettin' closer, and saw it, inside the squirrel. Something red, glowing like an ember but pulsing. I plucked at it, hoping for a heart, good eatin'. Out it came, hard as a ruby gem, in my hand, still pulsing, and attached to the squirrel by wires, green, red, and black. So I pulled, damn fool that I was, and its innards unspooled, now metal, like clockwork.

And it started talking. Don't know what language, not mine, maybe Cherrokee or Sioux, but nothing like I'd ever heard when I'd stumbled upon tribes. The damned squirrel started humming like a machine afire and buzzing and vibrating and chattering like a telegraph transmitter.

Next it said in English, sort of, part growl like a rasp file, part machine like a thresher, "I am not of this time, nor should you be. I can show you a life of plenty."


Suddenly, a light from above shone on me, pulsing like mother's blood amidst a whirr as if from a thousand hummingbirds. I was lifting like Jesus on the third day toward who knows where. Home?

And the voice spoke again. “Come. Let us depart."


Steve Gerson writes poetry and flash about life's dissonance. He has published in CafeLit, Panoplyzine, Crack the Spine, Decadent Review, Vermilion, In Parentheses, Wingless Dreamer, Big Bend Literary Magazine, Coffin Bell, and more, plus his chapbooks Once Planed Straight; Viral; and The 13th Floor: Step into Anxiety from Spartan Press. 


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