Authors: Brian Martinez
The Silvery Tape wasn't touched so I peel it off. Inside I get the roll and tape it up again, always like this, taped on the Inside when I'm Inside, taped on the Outside when I'm Outside. If I could tape both sides I would but it's not possible, so I just do the one side and I have to be okay with that.
I put the Supplies away and sit in front of the Record Player where I've wanted to be. I pick a Record I found in the living room of a cabin close to here I and lay it on the bottom part and put the Needle to it. The electric ones don't work anymore, nothing electric has worked since the Real Times, so I built this out of the bottom parts of an electric one plus a Sewing Needle and an Oil Funnel. When I spin the Record with my Finger the Sewing Needle picks up the sound and speakers it through the Oil Funnel. The sound is low but that's how it should be so no one can hear it but me.
Out of all the Records I've found, this one is my favorite. That's because the man playing the piano speaks a good amount, and because of him I know some words I wouldn't know if I didn't listen, like Beautiful and Cherry. I think Cherry is a nicer word for Eyeball. Beautiful I don't know yet, but I like the way it sounds.
Spin the record. Put your Ear inside the Oil Funnel. Listen to the music but don't listen loud. The Munies wander up the Mountain sometimes, and their hearing is much better than their seeing.
I wake in the morning. This is strange because I sleep in the day and live in the night, have to, and my Body is used to this. I sleep well and never wake in the morning unless I hear something or something is wrong.
Something is wrong. Get up, grab the Axe.
Silently, at the speed of a Slime Grass Beast I get to my feet and take the Axe to the Door so I can listen for the Voice of the Outside. It's important not to move so the Suit doesn't crinkle and spoil my hearing. My Body is warning me about something, one of the dangers, Bastard Air or Beasts or-
A loud bang at the Wall makes me jump, makes the Trailer shake. I stay still and sweat in the Suit and hope it's a Cave Beast. They come close sometimes if they smell food. As hard as I try to keep everything shut, the Beasts can smell everything I do. They go away when they get bored or tired or stop being interested in things they can't reach.
The Doorknob rattles in front of me and I stop breathing. I raise the Axe and it rattles again. Something is trying to open it from Outside. Something with hands.
For thirty-nine minutes nineteen seconds I hear it going around the Trailer trying to find a weakness, a way in. I don't move, even when my Back is angry, even when my Axe Arm shakes I stay still. Thirty-nine minutes nineteen seconds ready to kill or die. It goes around the back, near the Window, and I'm glad I covered it up with the Silvery Tape. Then it goes underneath and even comes right under my Feet. My Body hurts but I won't let it rest or make a sound.
One more shake of the Doorknob, then it retreats into the Wood.
I stay awake the rest of the day, sitting on the Bunk-bed with the Axe on my Legs. It would be wrong to sleep now, the Trailer in danger. It could still be out there, watching, seeing if I come out to look for what was making the noise. I don't want to think about it, but I know what made the noise.
At night I go Outside, so nervous I almost drop the Axe but I look all around the Trailer and everything looks good, no holes, nothing broken, and I'm hungry so I go back Inside and eat and check the Silvery Tape and wind the Watch and listen to a Record but it's hard to focus on it. Two hours four minutes before the normal Bed time my Eyes are dizzy so I lay down and fall asleep.
I wake in the morning and this time I'm not confused, I know what woke me, can already hear it starting again. Something trying the Doorknob and then circling the Trailer and slapping and pushing on it. I stay in the Bunk-bed with the Axe on my chest and I listen. I sway with the Trailer as the curious hands rock it on it's dead wheels.
On the third day I'm awake when it starts. The pushing and pulling is angrier this time, more serious, and now I know it won't stop unless I stop it. I decided in the night that if it happened again I would stop it. That's why I pulled the Silvery Tape from the Door and sat in the Chair with the Axe on my side. It took longer this time, already half-day.
I wait for it to try the Doorknob. I hear it working around, now underneath, now on the side, and when I hear a shuffle at the front I know it's time. I close my Eyes and then open them and I pull the Doorknob fast and rush out and swing the Axe over my Shoulder and it doesn't stop until it hits a Munie in its foot. It cries out in pain, pain I caused it, and I hear myself screaming but it doesn't feel like I'm doing it so I stop. Then the Sun is in my Eyes and its so strong it's hard to see. My Eyes haven't seen the Sun in a long time and it hurts them now, but eight or nine seconds after I can see better so I look down at the Munie I hit with the Axe, see it in the grass, clawing and trying to get away, and I feel good about this but confused by how small this one is. It's been five months twelve days since I saw one but I don't think they can shrink that much that quick. I don't think that's what life is.
I walk around it, keep away from it, watch it crawl. I remember a long time ago in the Real Times being that small. There was a word for it. A name. But that was a Real People name, not a name for Munies, and I don't think Real People names are the same as Munie names, and I shouldn't confuse anything I was with anything they are.
Look at it. Filthy Munie with its pinkish skin and pinkish eyes. Take the Axe, finish it, chop it up. Throw it down the side of the Mountain with all the garbage.
I lift the Axe up with my Axe Hand, both Hands, hold it above my Head. With the Sun on the Munie I can get a good look at it, see it for what it is. A Beast barely covered with rags, worn only to insult the memory of clothes. Munies don't need help staying warm, they are warm, all the time, just by being alive.
Line up your shot. Swing.
I draw a line in my head from the end of the Axe to the front of the Munie's face. I tense, ready to swing. Then I hear it.
I check the Wood behind me, then to the side, looking for People, Real People who are watching and talking. I would like to see them, yes, that would be good, but not let them Inside. Not in the Trailer, they might let the Bastard Air in with them. But there aren't People, there are only trees in the Wood. I look at the Munie at my Feet, laying in the grass with its dirty fingers stretched out at me.
It's very small, but even a small one can kill. All it takes is one rip in the Suit and the Bastard Air gets in. The Munie opens its dry lips and shows me its pinkish tongue and its grayish teeth. Then a sound comes out.
“No want,” it sounds like, but I know it can't be.
“What was that sound,” I ask.
Again the same sound, small, like the squeak of a Rat Beast. “No want.”
“Is this a trick? Open your mouth.” I hold the Axe to its throat. It opens up to let me see, almost as if it understands, but it's important to remember this is a twitch of instinct. There's nothing in there, not a machine or a speaker or anything like that, so I tell it to shut its mouth.
“No trick,” it sounds.
“Munies can't talk.”
It studies me with its big, pinkish eyes, looking for my weakness, working out how it can kill me. A noise like “Munie” comes out of it.
“That's you. A Munie, a dirty Munie. You can't talk and you can't understand what I say so stop trying to trick me.” I return to the Trailer and leave it to bleed, let it finish itself so I can come back and cut it up and throw it out.
“No you can't. I won't listen to this.” I go Inside and lock the Door and put up the Silvery Tape. Then I lay in the Bunk-bed and I wait.
It feels like one hour thirty minutes goes by but when I check the Watch I've been in the Bunk-bed for eight minutes nine seconds. I'm trying to go to sleep to let this pass but when my Eyes close I see the face of the Munie taped to my Eyelids. I think about how small it is, but I remember that I don't know anything about Munies or how they grow or how long they live so I can't say anything about that.
I hear it moving out there, making that croak-croak sound the Munies sometimes do. I can't stand to hear it and I'm afraid if it keeps making that sound other Munies might come to see what's happening. They'll find a dying Munie. They'll find me and rip me apart. I take the Silvery Tape off the Door and go Outside and find the small Munie twenty feet from the Trailer. It holds its foot with hands painted in wet, dark filth. It sees me and starts crawling away faster.
“Stop,” I tell it. “I won't kill you but you have to leave here. Go back to the City and don't return. If you return I'll use the Axe on you.” I hold out the Axe. It holds out its foot. “The blood,” I say, and I know it's right. It can't get far leaking like that and I don't want a trail of Munie blood leading up the Mountain to the Door. I don't like that the Munie is right. It's talking to me. I want it out of here, gone, I want to be alone again and not doing this. I should have used the Axe already.
I throw the Silvery Tape in the tall grass next to it. “Wrap the foot.”
The Munie walks through the Wood, one bare foot and one Silvery foot. I follow it with the Axe and keep ten seconds of steps between us. I have to be sure it leaves and doesn't get lost and come back, or die and attract others. I'm surprised the Silvery Tape worked. I don't doubt the Tape, I doubt the idiot Munie that figured it out, hunched now and smelling at the air, the Bastard Air, like its okay to smell it, let it into the body. Two minutes forty seconds from the ledge, I have to choose: point out the City and turn around, or kill it.
We clear the Wood. Thirty-two seconds from the ledge the Munie stops its limp walk. It turns its bulging eyes on me. “Hunter.”
“That's what you are.”
It sniffs. “Hunter.”
I understand what it means and then I see it: the Beast has returned from the Wood, still hungry and ready to end the fight, thin and bristled and not scared. It comes quickly from the Trees with its fangs shaking in its mouth and its voice yelling in sharp bursts. The Munie puts its dirty arms out and swings them around, makes strange shapes in the air and croak-croaks. The Beast looks confused for three seconds. I wish I could run in those seconds but they aren't enough.
The Munie is much smaller than me but it seems calm, scared but in control. We keep moving the way we were moving but backwards, faces to the Beast. “What do we do,” I ask. I'm angry I have to ask a Munie anything but I want to live. It doesn't answer, changes the way its arms move and that makes the Beast charge and attack it, I don't know why. Then I don't see it but it takes a sharp tool from its rags and cuts, wounds the Beast's side as it comes close and then the Beast cries out and falls heavy into the grass. Then it gets to its feet. It snaps at the Munie but the Munie shows off the tool, shows the Beast's blood to it.
“No want.” Serious face, not scared. The Beast seems to understand this. It backs away and goes into the Wood and we don't see it anymore and don't hear it anymore but the Munie doesn't smile, because Munies don't smile.
I look behind me and see we're at the ledge. Beneath are all the Garbage Bags I've thrown over onto the Steep, torn open on the sharp rocks and spilling rotten food and mixed with Munie bones.
At the bottom of the Mountain, the City is awake.
If I squint my Eyes I can see movement down there; tiny figures in the streets, hunting, fighting over the carcasses of Beasts that roam into the City. That's why I'm smarter than the Beasts, and smarter than the Munies- I know to stay away from all life.
The small Munie is poking at the Three-Legged Stand that lays in the dirt by the ledge. The Stand still holds the Long Eye I once watched the City with, making sure the City was calm, not coming closer. I would throw the Garbage Bags over and then look through the Long Eye for one, two hours, and return to the Trailer and feel safe. Those were early days, when I thought I might see Real People if I looked long enough.
“Get away from that,” I yell. It jerks, frightened, scurries away. I pick the Stand up and plant it in the earth again, aimed at the City like it was before. The Munie cowers a little distance away, like it should. “This is mine, do you hear? Don't touch things you don't understand.”
“Good. You can't have it.”
This is where I have to decide what to do with the Munie. Kill it or release it. It's smarter to kill, be done with it, make sure it's no more danger to me. It can tell others where to find me and I can't fight off an entire group of them. But I've been Outside too long and need to return to the Trailer before the light goes away. These are the colder days when the Sun becomes lazy. The Munies come out less at this time, which is good.