Septic Infusion PDF A surreal interlude based on a dream where a hurt boy and a frog have a nice talk.
David sat on a bed, happy in his experiments. He tried not to wake his father as he poured over an ancient book of science. A diagram instructed him to place handfuls of straw and dead spiders into a box and close it. Shake gently and wait—he opened the box, and white mice appeared: pink noses, red eyes, bristling whiskers. David said it's not possible, so the mice began to die. Rats took their place by threes, and David consulted his book of science.
3 MICE = 1 RAT
That made sense on paper, but these creatures lived. They gnashed yellow-white teeth. They scratched at the box to escape. Their bodies were warm and wet inside. David tried to hush them, but the smell of rat urine woke his father.
“What are you up to, you little—!”
David got out, but head hurt in the daylight. He fled to the old pond down back where he found the waters neglected and ill. Big animals died here, and their carcasses steamed with the fog of decay where primordial things grew. A giant oak tree rose from the muck. David saw that at least the frogs were alive. One of them sat motionless with his arms folded and his back turned. David wanted the frog’s attention, so he pulled up his courage like a warm jacket and tapped the old lungfish by his bony shoulder.
“What now, boy?” the old frog grumbled.
“I came outside to play. Do you want to play with me?”
The old frog didn’t answer, just raised a bloody finger and gestured toward a nearby hole in the ground. It was an abandoned well gone bitter and black, and David headed over to see what the matter was. He found four turtles there, swimming on their backs in the muck amid the slimy leaves. The turtles snapped at his fingers when he reached for them. Flat white teeth crowded their lips, and David returned to the old frog with empathy and insight. “One of the turtles bit you. Didn’t it?”
“Yeah-hup,” the old frog said. David knew how that bite must’ve felt. Painful, but with a sort of shame mixed in for showing hurt at all. He stood close to the old frog but kept very still. Dusk electrified David's eyes, his skin. His fingertips tingled. These moments mattered to him: a little like sharing but too much like asking.
May I sit with you?
May I shoulder your burden?
Does it have to be shameful here too? Death and decay pumped into David's lungs. It coated his flesh, clogged his pores, and filled his head like a toilet bowl. He looked back at his old house on the hill and realized, All that shit trickles down here…septic infusion poisons our pond. “Fuck ’em,” David said like a big boy now. He referred to the turtles and to the imaginary eels too, and he settled beside the old frog to divide this ancient feeling. They watched the oak tree grow. Even in darkness, its leaves were lustrous.
"Septic Infusion" stands as a short interlude based entirely on a dream. It originally appeared online in The New Flesh ~2006 and again in Long Live the New Flesh, edited by Brian Barnett and William Pauly, III. Re-purposed for the collection Local Systems Decline. Septic Infusion PDF