God put His hand into the earth and pulled out the sea. God put His birds in the trees and his cows in the fields. God put Lacy into a small blue house and a tall green tree, and across from it all He put THE KNIFE.
THE KNIFE crouched in the street over a large dying bat. Its cold eyes stared into the cold eyes of THE KNIFE.
“Is it already dead?” said Lacy, suddenly appearing as a shadow over THE KNIFE.
THE KNIFE indicated the blood on the pavement. The bat had crashed out of the sky.
Lacy frowned. “Pick it up,” she said. “I think it will live.”
THE KNIFE did not move but stayed crouched.
“We can save it, I said,” said Lacy. “Pick it up.”
THE KNIFE picked up the bat.
“I’m Lacy,” Lacy said.
THE KNIFE shook Lacy’s hand.
The street was very still. People watched from their windows. Why were two nine-year old girls alone and torturing a bat in the street?
“This is my room,” Lacy said. She showed THE KNIFE around. “These are my books,” she said. “Those are my clothes.”
Lacy opened her closet. There was a fish tank. And inside the fish tank, a trout. It drifted there in the grey water of the tank, bubbles coming from its mouth, a wide eye, a wide jaw.
“Give me the bat,” Lacy said.
THE KNIFE opened her hands.
The bat opened its wings and its neck creaked to look at them. It opened its mouth as if it were panting.
Lacy spread its wings and pinned it on the table. “Are you aware of what to do?” she said to THE KNIFE.
THE KNIFE reached into her pocket.
Night fell and Lacy and THE KNIFE ducked into the woods.
The girls found, through the trees, a pond. Beside the pond they set down their big black bag. The moon reflected in the pond. The pond smelled like rain.
“Are you really my friend?” asked Lacy.
THE KNIFE opened her own hand. And Lacy opened hers beside it.
A jogger jogged by.
They looked at him, mixing their blood together.
“What’s in the bag?” he said.
“A dead body.”
They held the bag over the water.
“Ready?” said Lacy.
They opened the bag. Nothing moved. They looked in the bag. The body of a trout. It opened its mouth. They set the bag into the pond. The bag spread in the water. Finally, the trout slipped slowly from the bag. The wings of a bat. It breathed in the water then flew down to the bottom of the pond.
“Did it drown?”
THE KNIFE’s face remained as still and calm as the pond.
“But is it dead?”
It broke the surface and made an arc. It swam through the pond then shot out and flew into the trees.
Lacy went to chase after it. She ran through the trees. Then she stopped. Where was THE KNIFE?
Lacy returned to the pond.
THE KNIFE had thrown up. She sat wiping her mouth.
“Nerves?” Lacy said.
THE KNIFE nodded.
Lacy held out her hand and helped THE KNIFE up.
In any neighborhood, there are wild ground creatures, wild tree creatures, wild pond creatures. Pet cats can wander off. Pet birds can go missing. But things also return.
And it’s the same with human beings. Sometimes there are accidents. Sometimes things go wrong.
An arborist’s hand was lost in the chipper. On the other end was just sawdust and blood, no fingers, no wrist.
Once the famous fat neighborhood cat disappeared. It was gone for three weeks, then finally returned. Its family found it in a box, chirping like a bird.
Raccoons, but nobody cares about them, crept through the trash in the darkness, stuffing their cheeks ballooned full of corncobs, not unlike squirrels.
A dog had been found. It had human fingers. And how do you explain that to a child? “Our dog is different now.”
Once too THE KNIFE went missing.
The light in THE KNIFE’s room did not come on for four days, nor did she appear at Lacy’s house. THE KNIFE’s parents were home. They wandered in and out of the house. Sometimes they carried in grocery bags. Sometimes they carried in giant bags made of fabric stuffed with things that might’ve been ordered in by THE KNIFE.
A week passed and THE KNIFE’s window stayed dark.
Lacy couldn’t take it anymore. She crossed the street to their house.
THE KNIFE’s mother and father were in the front room crying. They took Lacy to THE KNIFE. She was alone in her room watching TV in the dark. Godzilla was breathing light and pulling a monster out of the sky.
“What’s the matter with you?” said Lacy.
THE KNIFE did not get out of bed, but shot a finger up and jabbed it down to her abdomen.
“Are you dying or something?” said Lacy. She opened THE KNIFE’s blinds. There was her own house, across the street.
THE KNIFE motioned to a nearby bucket which Lacy passed and THE KNIFE vomited into. THE KNIFE lay back in bed. She was pale and her hair stuck to her forehead.
These were the days the girls were still amateurs. Certainly, they were masters of appendages, but they knew nothing of the stuff inside the body.
THE KNIFE had not one but two abnormal kidneys. By destiny, Lacy was a match.
Lacy lay in one hospital bed. And THE KNIFE lay in the other.
They would not go under at the same time, and so were given the option to watch the surgeries on small screens outside their operating rooms.
THE KNIFE watched the doctors cut open Lacy. Their knives were so incredibly sharp. Then when THE KNIFE went under, the screen was brought into Lacy, in her recovery bed. Still dreamy from being under the gas, Lacy watched the doctors use their instruments to disturb the order of THE KNIFE’s internal organs. They cut out the old kidney and put in the new one. Now Lacy’s kidney lived in THE KNIFE. Lacy felt her own scar, and the doctors rolled her back to bed.
It was a long recovery.
But soon enough they returned. And soon again began the neighbors’ complaints: small shadows over their backyard fences and disappearances of cats.
One night in the woods, THE KNIFE was holding Lacy on her shoulders as Lacy coaxed a family of squirrels from a tree into a bag of McDonald’s. It was a long job so THE KNIFE carved her name into the bark.
“Do you hear that?” said Lacy, THE KNIFE having finished K, N, I and just beginning F.
From total darkness, a sweet voice inched slowly and gently as honey through the thick of the woods.
Lacy jumped down. “What animal is that?” she said. “Don’t you hear it?”
The voice grew louder, so the girls hid in the bushes.
It was as if a light was coming, a little girl their age coming through the woods in all white. She hummed and occasionally cupped her hands and called into the woods, “Snowy. Snowy.”
She saw them through the bushes, like they weren’t hidden at all. “What are you doing in the dark?” she said.
“Does she see us?” said Lacy.
“Yes,” said the girl. She stood there very patiently. She wore a bonnet with a ribbon. “I’m looking for my cat. My name is Jessica. Can I use your phone?”
The girls walked through the woods.
Things moved around inside trees and other things crawled out. Something screamed then clamped open and shut in the hole of a trunk.
Dark trees bent over one another. Pine needles fell slowly from the sky.
“What was that?” they said. They hid behind THE KNIFE.
Dark leaves were rustling. Something watched them.
It was a cat. Beautiful, long, white hair.
“Snowy,” said Jessica. And the cat flew into her arms.
Jessica’s eyes were like a doll’s eyes.
But there is no limit to what you might improve.
Lacy showed Jessica around. “These are my CDs,” she said. “These are my houseplants.”
Snowy squirmed in Jessica’s arms and Jessica set her down. Snowy followed after something into the hallway. THE KNIFE took her coat off and threw it on Lacy’s floor.
“I want to show you this,” said Lacy.
“What is it?” said Jessica.
“It’s a crab,” said Lacy.
THE KNIFE opened her knife and deepened the K on Lacy’s dresser.
“That’s not a crab,” said Jessica.
“Of course it’s a crab,” said Lacy.
“What’s wrong?” said Jessica. “What’s wrong with its eyes?”
“All the other crabs were picking on it. Because it only had one eye. But dog’s eyes are really good. Dog’s eyes see really far. Miss Anne’s dog was getting old.”
Jessica, like she would if she were on TV, clutched her hands over her mouth.
“What did you do to the dog,” she whispered.
If people go missing, the police get involved. The police are not good or bad. But they really don’t like it when people go missing.
When the police came to Lacy’s house, Lacy and THE KNIFE were bandaging Lacy’s hamster who had slipped up in its wheel.
“We’re here on a missing person’s report,” said one cop named “DAVIS” who reminded THE KNIFE of her father.
Lacy led the cops into the kitchen and invited them to sit by a chocolate cake.
She offered to boil water for tea.
They rubbed their bellies and declined.
“An arborist had to climb the tree and pull her down,” said DAVIS.
“Up there for three nights,” said the officer named BOB. “Up there screaming in that tree.”
“Only until a jogger heard her and called the arborist,” said DAVIS, “was she rescued down from that tree.”
Snowy wandered in.
Snowy wrapped through the legs of the officers.
DAVIS reached down to pet Snowy. “She wandered up in that tree and got stuck,” he said.
“Something’s wrong with her now,” said BOB.
THE KNIFE stopped cutting a slice from the cake.
“Wrong with her?” said Lacy.
BOB screwed up his face. He thought about it. “Wrong,” he said. “Dead wrong. Something’s wrong with her eyes.”
Snowy stood to climb up on BOB so he picked her up and held her. Snowy bit BOB hard on the thumb.
BOB turned her around. Her eyes were closed tight. “What’s wrong with your cat?” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with our cat,” Lacy said.
“What’s wrong with its eyes?” said BOB. “What’s wrong with it?”
DAVIS came and looked at the cat. “Why won’t it open its eyes?” he said.
Snowy opened its eyes. Its eyes were the eyes of a girl.
The state would say it was monstrous. The state would order separation. They would not be isolated together, away from the world, but separated and kept unbearably apart.
“THE KNIFE,” said Lacy. “I want you to have this.”
But Lacy, who held no gifts before her, pointed only at her heart.
The true expert of vivisection knows his masterpiece not when he sees that he has made the pig which can fly, nor when he sees that he has made the mouse which can speak. The true expert of vivisection knows his masterpiece only when he sees that he has made the pig see it must fly and the mouse that it must speak. Only by experiencing its own necessity, its own inseparability from wings or from voice, may the masterpiece reveal its true being and so reveal to the vivisectionist that this life which he has created was essential all along.
God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.
THE KNIFE reached into her pocket.
In the time it took the state to file their warrant, Lacy and THE KNIFE, truly expert vivisectionists, conjoined two bodies into one.
Captain by trade, Cpt. Eric Thralby works wood in his long off-days. He time-to-time pilots the Bremerton Ferry (Bremerton—Vashon; Vahon—Bremerton), while other times sells books on amazon.com, SellerID: plainpages. He’ll sell any books the people love, strolling down to library and yard sales, but he loves especially books of Romantic fiction, not of risqué gargoyles, not harlequin romance, but knights, errant or of the Table. Eric has not published before, but has read in local readings at the Gig Harbor Candy Company and the Lavender Inne, also in Gig Harbor.