An essay by Joseph Mei, as provided by Leslie J. Anderson
Art by America Jones
Taco was a Papillion, for all intents and purposes, and showed up at the door of my small white house at the edge of the woods, or in the middle of the woods. That is to say, the woods are more or less around me all the time. I live in the woods, is what I’m trying to say. There’s something you should know about these woods–about the things that live there and seem to tolerate me despite all the teeth they have and my mild manners. Let me start over.
One evening, I was sitting at my table with a notebook, trying for the hundredth time to write to my wife, Jemma, in the city. I had to find the words to make her take me back, or come here, or something. I had to find the words, in any case, to explain. I was tired of the alone feeling that sat between my shoulder blades like a breezeblock. I clicked and unclicked my pen. Click. Click. Scratch. Scratch. That was not me.
I stopped clicking the pen and tilted my head. The little white house was bright, but sparsely decorated. My landlord had given it to me already furnished and decorated, so there was a lot more lace than I would have chosen, and the furniture was fairly small for my long thin body. It was night outside, and the forest made all the usual creepy forest noises. There was the low moaning of the thing that crawled through the top of the branches, or maybe it was the thing that lived just under the bark of the red trees, or maybe it was the thing I saw under the porch, with the scaled, human hands. I was never sure. Then, there it was again. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. None of the things from the woods ever came to the door. They avoided the cabin and sometimes I even felt safe there, if I ignored the noises.
I opened the door and there he was, Taco, a small golden powder puff with two tiny ears and a fluffy tail wagging back and forth in the snow. He looked up at me with two tiny black eyes. Of course, I hadn’t named him Taco yet. It was just a dog, tiny and lost and shivering a little in the cold. I looked out into the night. There was no human out there. There was something the size of a whale moving impossibly just past the white birches. It blinked at me with an eye the size of a Volkswagen and opened one of its mouths. I looked back down at the little yellow fluff.
“Are you cold?” I asked.
I didn’t want to let it in. I didn’t have anything to feed a dog in the house. But as I waited, it was very obvious that no human was going to form from the snow, pick up their dog, and crunch away, so I stepped aside. “Okay, come in.”
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2016 collection.
Joseph Mei graduated with two PhDs from Johns Hopkins in [Redacted] and [Redacted] with a specialization in Nuclear and Molecular [Redacted]. Joseph has published in the Journal of Fallout Studies and the Curie Institute Weekly Newsletter. Joseph says that he has tried not to let the recent passing of his greyhound, Taco, or the end of his relationship with his fiancé affect his focus. Instead, he’s excited to be accepted to the Legion of [Redacted] and work on his newest project [Redacted].
Leslie J. Anderson’s writing has appeared in Asimov’s, Apex, Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart, Elgin, and Rhysling Award.
She lives in Ohio with her husband and two small dogs, Caper and Oscar. For her day job, she organizes words and pictures for financial consultants.
AJ is an illustrator and comic artist with a passion for neon colors and queer culture. Catch them being antisocial on social media @thehauntedboy.
“It Landed in the Woods, My Head” is © 2016 Leslie J. Anderson
Art accompanying story is © 2016 America Jones