Simon weasels his way out of every trap I set. I dirtied my paws a long time ago, getting my face right into the putrid filth of his scheming little plans. I wanted to snatch his body. A conniving genius—Simon kissed me flat on the lips—and I said absolutely nothing in his wake. I was set aside, like a matryoshka doll full of surprises. My attempts piled on, festering like mold on a filthy wound, like maggots pulsating to the sound of the radio. Sun splashed on our framed bedside pictures, washed them out an inky blue. I tasted his rough animal tongue fresh in my mouth for weeks.
This body is not my own. I stole it a long time ago, when I was just a child. I’ve cut the breasts away, gnawed at the pubis, swallowed the bone marrow whole from the inside-out. It fits me nicely. It’s a good skin-suit, one that works me. I lick my chops at the sight of a fresh box of chicken nuggets. I drink human soda. We drive in cars. I fuck myself in the night and keep my tail hidden from the world; they don’t need to know about those embarrassing parts of me. As long as I maintain this shape of a man with a woman’s stinking guts, I can breathe new life into it. Smoke out the grotesque bleeding and scabbing of my insistent gnawing until I finally hear the bones break, the sinews snap, and the blood boil.
I know bodies. I seek out bodies. Simon comes home one night, and I am at the table like a good boy. Breathing his air, stinking up the room with my animal scent. I hope he doesn’t realize—he’s a sloppy kisser, a tired graduate student practically with no time to himself. He has human needs. I learned this a long time ago—human bodies are glorified digestive systems constantly breaking down. I’m astonished how long this one has lasted.
I take Simon’s arms into my own, use these skinny limbs to embrace, holding his full weight against my chest. It’s a man’s chest, it’s a creature’s chest, it’s mine, mine, mine. Surely, it’s his time to pay, to recognize all the labor I’ve gone through to carry this body. To carry his whole weight on my back while he mumbles about his day of class. Oh I’m so sorry, that’s a shame, shame, shame, shame, shame, shame. If I could pick up my neck, I’d look over his shoulder just to make sure there wasn’t a third eye. Even if I trapped him in my arms, he’d slither out, more snake than human, a boneless young man who cried and collapsed on his futon mattress. The television whined and squeaked in the background. I dropped him to the floor, fixed myself a drink, and sat cross-legged thinking about the fresh vulva of fat juicy hens.
When I saved this body, I thought it was too late. She stood on rooftop ready to jump—I suppose that isn’t too uncommon nowadays. The supernatural have their own ways of sniffing out prime possession suspects, fresh meat, wet and simmering for our hungry tongues. I crept along the walls, keeping my paws nimble and light while she gazed glassy-eyed out to the sky. I don’t know what consumed her, what evil spirit spoke into her ear in the night telling her she’d be better off dead. Maybe it was the same voice telling her to hurry up and splatter all across the concrete. The same voice romanticizing the sensation of flying far, far away.
That was when I jumped. It took only seconds for me to wiggle into the skin, shed my fur, my thick coils of muscles wrapping, to snap the bones to my liking. The human body is surprisingly flexible. It’s rubber. My jaw cracked and I slammed my back against the brick wall, feeling the balloons of my lungs inflate with panicked air. Surely, this would be her death had I not intervened. I took the sweaty palms and slammed them against the fence railing, regaining my balance before stumbling downstairs. The shadows struck me as odd, like paper cut-outs bobbing their heads in and out of this reality. Not unlike a puppet-show with dancing silhouettes. They melted like black butter, in a washed-out blur as I disappeared into the fourth, third, and second floor.
The fire escape was easy; I learned to maneuver this new body in only minutes. Fresh and untouched. This was still months before I’d meet Simon. If I was lucky, I could’ve broken my legs and re-grown them anew, taller, manlier. But I simply lingered in place, listening to the rapid beating of my own heart, counting down the tremors of my arteries until I finally felt the asphalt kiss my bare heels. She didn’t even wear shoes that night.
I don’t understand why humans hurt themselves so much. Maybe there’s a sexual reason; maybe they breathe in toxic fumes that pervert the mind and send them into diabolical fits. Either way, I count my blessings, am thankful this one lived. That I was able to savor the rich taste of this body before it was lost.
The street howled, empty, lonely, afraid. I ran my human-paw through my long black hair, wondering how it would feel shorter, like a boy’s.
There are old stories about foxes possessing human bodies and seducing men in power for beautiful and great things. They’re in old books, under boxes, collecting dust in places I don’t care to look. In libraries, in private collections, in scrolls, in museums that tell everyone how important we are—how utterly imaginative people must’ve been in the past. As though they get all the credit for scribbling us into existence.
I lit a cigarette on the front-porch, wonder exactly how the fuck I got to this position, sitting on the rock-chair waiting for Simon to come home. I’m as docile as a housewife. I’m subdued by the ever-loving desire to rip the neighbor’s dog to shreds. If I still had my tail, I’d chase it for miles. Dig up flowers in the garden, chase squirrels up trees, bring roadkill to the front-step. But I know Simon likes me like this, masculine and scrappy, with my face marked by acne scars from a puberty that went all wrong. He doesn’t know—he’ll never know—what I put myself through to get under this human’s skin.
I’m waiting for the postman. It’s a dull enough way to pass time. I’ve been buying raw steaks, defrosting them in the sink, next to where Simon hangs his yellow gloves to wash the dishes. I’m not allowed to smoke in the kitchen, but I keep my ashtray there anyways. I like to wash it out, keep it cleaner than my asshole on a good day. I don’t even bother to say goodbye to Simon on his way out to campus anymore. He’s better off without me and but I’m too lazy to leave the couch. Eventually, I’m a fixture, I’m furniture, like a maimed and skinned animal laying on the floor like an antique carpet. I exhaled the smoke, watching it collide with the wooden beam of the porch, wondering when exactly the mail truck is going to arrive. I’m hungry for the nicotine and the meat, nothing else. The asphalt hugging the curb stop looks like stinky tar under the sun.
The wait isn’t long. The postman comes and goes. I don’t get up from my seat, just sit and watch as his chubby legs carry him up the stairs to drop off the package. It’s a square box, with an international declaration taped around it. Must be another book review. Simon is so wellconnected these days. Lucky boy. I don’t read human-words unless I have to.
Simon is touching the scars on my chest, the muscles on my arms. I’m mostly hairless; I hope he never has to see my furry side. I sit cross-legged, naked on his bed, while his hands explore my silhouette in the dark. The blinds are pulled, save for a sliver of red light protruding through the plastic. I can see dust on them, how dirty they are. I wonder how long it’s been since anyone properly cleaned around here.
“But you’re a man—” Simon said
“I’m your best friend,” I correct him. Cunning as a vulpine Casanova, brilliant as a broken bulb. There’s nothing shiny in this room, nothing but rusted brass, the banging of a headboard against popcorn-colored walls, and worn-out Depeche Mode posters.
I don’t believe anything Simon says. I have to close my eyes and wonder what it might feel like to have the earth between my paws again. How long it’s been since the fire escape, the building, the cold night wind between my fur. I want to see what Simon looks like without skin, wonder if he ever saw a skinned man before. I’ve seen skinned foxes, hunted, ripped apart by dogs, demeaned, beaten, shot at, maimed, brutalized, decapitated, burned alive. But I doubt he’s ever seen another man straddle him between his legs and try to choke him. A shadow casted itself across Simon’s temple, and I can tell he’s ready to stop the questions. Leave his fingers right at the ridge of my scars, my has-been body, my warped skin perpetually made pink. He closed those soft lips of useless whining, listening to clattering of his own teeth as I licked my chops. Ready to gorge myself, I prepare to attack, lean into the soft meat of his back before he gasps and digs his nails deeper into me. I don’t dare speak; my voice isn’t human-voice yet. It’s the screaming of hundreds of foxes caught underground, howling and strangling and suffocating themselves under miles of dirt as the men come. Burying them alive. I lean deeper into Simon, tell him I love him. Into the burrow, down the rabbithole, into the dark moist pit I land myself.
I met Simon when he was still hungry. We were both hungry, but Simon was absolutely ravenous. He didn’t know I’d stolen this body—and I wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible. I didn’t care to sneak out in the middle of the night, or run away, or risk being found out. I was subtle: at the kitchen table, tugging at the tea bag string in my mug while Simon washed the dishes. I told him he was good in bed. I told him he was a respectable young man, with lots of good to give back to the world. These were all lies, but I didn’t care. I only had one goal in mind—wanting to crawl under the sweet wetness of his skin, taste the messy string of muscles and tendons for myself. If the body-snatching didn’t work, then at least I could devour him bit by bit, and move on to the next boy.
Cornish ham, steamed brussels sprouts, cranberry and alfredo sauce, chicken and penne, smoked turkey, cornbread, collard greens, fried wild rice. I shoved it all into my mouth at an alarming rate, washing every morsel down my throat, into the black tar pit that was my belly. I didn’t need to eat—it wasn’t an essential function of a body after possession—but I was starving for the flavors and scents of the human world. Years of living like a carnivore sharpened my canines and my senses, but it gave me no pleasure. The typical human jaw is docile and small compared to mine. Their palate is more attune to the savory, less with the bloody. It swallows and eats only what fits; there’s no room for tearing or gnawing like a wild animal.
“What’s wrong?” Simon asks. He takes a seat across from me, folding his arms. His head is cocked to the side like a confused puppy. “You’re going to choke eating like that.”
I nearly spat out my mouthful of food. I slammed my fist against my chest a few times before everything properly slid down my throat, into my gullet. I wanted to ask Simon if there was dessert, if he had a sweet-tooth, what his favorite flavor of bubble tea was. I wanted to know what I was getting into, what taste buds he kept insude that tongue of is. But I neatly folded my hands instead, wiped the corners of my soiled skin-and-lip mouth with a napkin, smiling like a good boy.
“Nothing’s the matter,” I told him. “I’m just hungry. Starving.”
“Me too,” Simon agreed. He nested his elbows on to the table, digging them into the table-cloth. There was a heavy pause. I could hear the clock tick. Dripping in the faucet, water pooling by the drain, not going anywhere fast. There was something bulging in Simon’s throat, like a bird trying to escape, threatening to burst.
“I’ve been thinking. I want you to move-in,” he started. “It’s been a time coming, but …”
I tried to eat, but this piece of filth kept talking to me. The predator in me was ready to lunge, to snarl, to breath heavily down his soft boy-flesh. But I resisted it, felt the room grow smaller, became the bigger person. I shuffled in my seat, crossed my legs, not sure if I was ready to take over Simon yet. It’s been a game of cat-and-mouse for too long, too many entrées without any three-course-meals.
“Why?” I asked him. “Aren’t you happy here?”
Simon shrugged. He didn’t even touch his food. I began to worrying he had more to say, more to discuss than just moving-in. That was Simon, always making the preemptive move. I almost felt heartbroken.
“I just think we need to move on in our relationship—take the next step, I mean.”
I stop mid-bite. Now I knew I’ve made a horrible mistake, left some trap-door unlocked in my plan. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Not at all. My only intention was to lure him in—sink my canines in at the right time—and get away with it. Intimacy wasn’t my strong point; I squinted and could only tell by the quiver of Simon’s upper-lip that he was afraid. Afraid of what I said—what came out of my mouth rather than what went inside it.
“Nevermind,” Simon finally replied. He twisted his fork like it was a burning rod. “It’s nothing.” He realized I wasn’t going to say anything. So be it. I watched as he sat up, sliding the chair away from the table, and hurrying back to the sink. Now would be a good time to strike—dig my claws into the back of that neck and wait for him to wail. Goosebumps scattered themselves across my skin just at the thought of capturing Simon all for myself. A perfect delicacy, young and fresh, sweet and sour under my tongue. I knew his taste, knew the bitterness that Simon harbored for other boys. He only wanted me—to hear my rejection must’ve stung like salt on an open wound.
The chair creaked as I sat up. We can’t afford nice things. I tasted the spit in my mouth, hungry and thick. Not with your budget. If I’m not careful, I will give myself away and Simon will run. My palms are flattened on the table, firmly planted while Simon hummed something to himself. I can’t hear over the sound of water running, of plates clinking, trapped against each other. I stopped, pressing my heel into the tile as his shoulders turned, his brows furrowed at my aggressive stance. I cleared my throat. Foul-play, I realized. He’s suspicious of me, this body.
“What’s the matter—”
“I’m lying to you,” I said. “You don’t deserve this. Not me. Not this apartment. Nothing.”
Simon is utterly lost. I came closer to him, walking around the table, snatching his hands into mine. They felt like a plastic baby doll’s. I can’t know how I remember this, whose memory I’m inside now, what layer of skin I’m feeling. Who I’m wearing, who’s nostrils I’m breathing through, what sweaty palms are touching the broken skin against Simon’s overworked hands. It’s all translucent, just peachy shades of tan and veins and fat and muscle and sinews and knots underneath each other. Simon is sheet-white. He hates me.
“My, what big eyes you have,” he laughed. “You’re joking. You’re drunk. Go to bed.”
“Better to see you with. And—I’m just starving, y’know?”
Simon’s other hand lingered in the air. Soap dribbled off his wrists, plopping into the sudsy water below. The drain ran, a vicious circle of liquid wrapping around the sink. Ouroboros swallowing itself whole. When I narrowed my eyes, I saw our warped reflections, our squeezed and stretched bodies in such a small space. We look like fluid, bendable, just meat, skin, and bone.
I leaned into Simon for a kiss, craning my neck, sidling my palm up against the collar of his shirt. He silently obliged. My heart raced, coiled and recoiled in my ribcage, fighting for release. My shoulders shook. I reached for his Adam’s apple, gently pressed my thumb down, and opened my hungry fox mouth wider and wider.
“I’m a good boy,” I told Simon. “I’m a good boy, and I love you dearly.”
The snap was quicker than a hummingbird. Simon’s body went limp, all wet skin-noodle, nothing holding it up against my desperate weight. It amazes me how efficient the human body is at preparing itself for death. Ready for me to gnaw and chew right through. To wear it like a holy hungry prince. I licked my chops, primed for the kill. I got mine.
The taste was like sweet, nectar-filled dates. I savored it. You can say I’ve been craving a good date for centuries.
Blake Planty is a trans-masculine person who loves crawling the web at the witching hour. He has fiction published and forthcoming in Nat Brut, GASHER Journal, Tenderness Lit, and more. Find him talking about cyborgs and coffee at @_dispossessed on Twitter and online at blakep.xyz.
Image: Ladyheart, morguefile.com