Thicker than Water

By: Moses Dyckman                                                  

The restaurant was an island of parchment colored light suspended in the darkness. It may have once had a name, but it was forgotten in the night. No new customers were coming, and none were leaving. There was only the group of five figures, the five shadows which radiated from the round table.

The Baroness passed a glass bowl to the Boy. Inside was a substance resembling raspberry jam or strawberry sauce.

“Heavens know you don’t go to a restaurant to have plain bread,” the Baroness said, “Please try some red honey. It goes scrumptiously with rye.”

The Boy looked at the scarlet dip uneasily. “These must be very strange bees.”

“I would say the flowers are the more eccentric ones,” chuckled the Poet, “For all the flowers have little lives: they walk, they talk, they love, and they philosophize meaning from this world…”

The Banker grimaced. “What he meant to say, was that Southern Red Bees are actually very similar to mosquitos. And they prey on humans.”

“You see,” said the Scientist, “Once the swarm finds a suitable person, the arch drones all deliver lethal venom to the base of the victim’s neck. Once the man is subdued, the other drones pierce his skin with their proboscises, sucking away precious blood. Once the swarm has exsanguinated the victim, they deliver all the blood to the hive- to be gelatinized into red honey!”

The Boy’s eyes were as wide as saucers, and his mouth hung open like surrendering drawbridge.

“But- but- this’s downright cannibalism!”

“No, no, no, you misunderstand,” said the Baroness, “That is how Southern Red Bees behave in the wild. The restaurant’s hive is locked up in an enclosure with only chimpanzees for the bees to feast upon. It is really quite moral.”

“You should really try some,” said the Banker, “Unlike the sweet flavor of most honeys, red honey has crisp, salty taste.”

The Boy’s eyes still had not returned to their proper size. He pushed the bowl away.

“Could we talk about something else?”

“Actually, no,” replied the Scientist, “The Southern Red Bees are just the tip of the iceberg. What has your teacher taught you about the Caesarian Effect?”

“Um… like the salad?”

The Baroness sighed. “Education just isn’t what it used to be,” she droned, “It started when the dunce cap became illegal…”

The Waiter came to a silent halt behind the table. In his ivory grip he held a steaming tray of food. He didn’t speak a word, but his presence was oppressive.

“What are you waiting for?” exclaimed the Banker indignantly, “must we tell you how to do your job? Snap to!”

The Waiter lowered his burden to the table as gracefully as a bowing monk. Then he stepped away, but not before giving the Boy a chilly glance.

The gift he left was a horror. The platter contained a fish with golden scales. Long amber fins clung to its side. Its now-sightless eye was as big as an egg, with a manic little pupil scrutinizing the chandelier. But the disturbing part was the mouth. It opened up like a massive four petaled flower, with fangs the size and shape of fishing hooks on all sides.

“Longfin Salmon,” the Scientist said, “Another one of the peculiarities this new century has brought us. A close cousin to the less interesting Bluefin Salmon, it has evolved with extremely long pectoral fins give it enough thrust to burst out of the water and into the open air. It has also developed some nasty fangs to lodge itself into a human breast, while it feeds greedily on the ichor of the heart.”

“The North American governments have already had to close down several rivers, to protect the tourists,” said the Banker, “And my investments there are suffering horribly.”

“This is also part of the Caesarian Effect,” said the Baroness, “Are you beginning to understand now?”

“I think so. Does it have to do with animals eating people?” asked the Boy.

“Yes.” responded the Scientist, “Over the last century, organisms with mutations that are advantageous to preying on human blood have become much more enduring. I suppose us humans are to blame for this. Our populations are swelling faster than a mosquito bite, making us an ideal species to feed on. Additionally, we’ve driven many creatures extinct and forced the survivors to adapt to a brave new world with not many other menu choices besides us.”

“Besides the bees and the salmon and countless other creatures, many bushes are growing longer thorns, in the hope that a human will be pricked and a precious drop of human blood would fall to nourish their roots.” Said the Baroness.

“The effect is named after Julius Caesar.” said the Poet, “A big, powerful Roman who was so popular that he was going to become ruler of the entire Roman Empire! But do you know what happened to him?”

The Boy shook his head. The Baroness muttered something about education.

“His friends murdered him. Each one walked up to him with a dagger in his fist. Cassius came- Stab! Metallus came- Stab! Casca came- Stab!” The Poet accompanied each ‘Stab!’ with an actual stab into the hideous fish with his steak knife.

“So, what’s happening now is very much the same thing,” continued the Poet, “the entire animal kingdom is strolling right up to us and jabbing us with their jagged knives until the great mankind, ruler of all creatures, comes splashing down into a pool of his own blood.”

“As you can imagine, my dear boy,” drawled the Banker, “This has all been quite disturbing to everyone. However, it is the latest development that would strike terror in the hearts of all, if the public got wind of it.”

“If I were to further extend my metaphor,” said the Poet, “This development would be akin to Julius taking out his own dagger and lodging it in his own bosom.”

“I don’t understand. What’s the development?” said the Boy.

The Baroness’s smile echoed that of a skull. “You are the latest development.”

Silent alarm bells rang in the Boy’s head. “What! You think- you think I eat people?

“We don’t think,” Said the Banker with hooded eyes, “We know.”

“Tell me,” said the Scientist, “haven’t you always eaten dinner at home? And wasn’t it always prepared by your mother? ”

“Of course, but that doesn’t make me a bloody monster!”

“And your mother was a professional nurse, was she not?” said the Scientist, with words as sharp as shards of glass.

“So what?”

“Well, what you don’t know, is that every night, your mother stole a blood bag from the hospital. She then cooked it with whatever dinner she was making for you. She knew it was the only way to provide you with the nutrients you needed to survive.”

“O, but the love of a mother, to hold the chill of bitter truths at bay forever!” sang the Poet.

“Shut up. We don’t need you to quote Berikson at a time like this.” reprimanded the Banker.

The boy’s anger had vanished like a candle blown out by the wind. His face turned the sickly color of candle wax. His breath quickened.

“A doctor, an acquaintance of your mother, told us everything,” said the Baroness, “When he heard that your mother had died of pneumonia, he was afraid that a deprivation from your ichor might cause some of your darker instincts to surface. He was terrified.”

“Have you felt any strange… urges during the past three days, since your mother’s untimely death?” questioned the Scientist.

“No.” said the Boy

“Yes.” said the Boy’s mind

“That girl in your Algebra class. She thought it was an accident. She thought that she had unintentionally elbowed you in the face. But really, it was you who had lunged at her exposed arm, like a striking viper…and as you apologized, the warm, salty fluid was running between your teeth, down your throat-“

                  “We are here to offer you a choice,” said the Baroness, “You can either work with us in the Harrington Biology Center, to stem this unfortunate occurrence-“

“‘Work with us.’ Such a pleasant euphemism for dissection.” Hissed the Boy’s mind.

“- or we will be ethically required to tell the government about your case.”

“Death by scalpel or death by shotgun- that is quite the decision, isn’t it?”

The Boy stood up. He looked at every face in turn- the baroness’s ironclad expression, the slitted eyes in the generous flesh of the Banker, the Scientist’s glasses glinting opaque in the candlelight, the hectic smile of the Poet. The humans, quivering with their chosen emotions, all stared at the Boy.

But the Boy only had eyes for his brother. The brother lying in the center of the table, a steak knife imbedded in his golden breast.

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