By Adam McOmber
Here are the dogs, long-bodied and smooth, winding like serpents through the underbrush. They climb the trees and hang from branches. Some will sleep. But others stare. See the whites of their eyes. Their many teeth. Here are the dogs, silent as they are. This is their kingdom, the forest. When they sleep, they dream of an ancient figure, a hero. His fur is dark and rough with mud. His muzzle, flecked with foam. He walks alone because there is not yet another like him. The dreaming dogs know that the hero too must have dreamed. Perhaps, he dreamed a dark crevasse, the entrance to some underworld. The hero crept down into the earth, into the pits and the bowels. And it was there he saw many things. The dead, for instance. Eyes like yellow stones. Mouths dry and grinning. He knew the dead would follow him. So the hero walked quicker still. He saw the luminous flowers that grow deep inside the earth. He saw cups of gold and cups of jewels. He whined in his sleep. Just as the dogs of the forest whine in their sleep. Then, the hero moved deeper. And the earth itself was full of bodies that were not like dogs. Bodies that were fat and full, having gorged themselves. And when the dreaming dogs finally awake in the forest, do they forget their dreams? Yes, they forget their dreams as they slip along the paths toward the silent village. Night covers over everything still. The dogs, jaws open and tongues lolling, creep down empty cobbled streets. They want to eat. They want to eat.
Adam McOmber is the author of The White Forest: A Novel (Simon and Schuster) and two collections of stories, This New & Poisonous Air and My House Gathers Desires (BOA). His new novel, Jesus and John, is forthcoming from Lethe Press in June 2020. His work has appeared in Conjunctions, Kenyon Review, Black Warrior Review Fairytale Review and Diagram. He teaches in the MFA Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Los Angeles.
Art by Michelle Johnsen, art editor
Michelle Johnsen is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by AP, weather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.