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"Flesh Peddler (A Gothic Tale)" by Joe DiMino.

He walked with a limp—
Different from injury caused by accident—
More a-kin to deformity;
Or alien nature,
What I suspected
But saw no reason
For further speculation—he paid well;

His hands, while quite normal
Size and shape,
Were of smooth, glossy texture—
Appearing doubtfully alive—manufactured;
Perhaps why he hid them with motion,
Avoided touch—
But most unsettling
Were his eyes:
In the moonlight
On occasion I thought them
To vanish—leaving only wells of hollow
Which I fell into,
Taking me worlds-away—galaxies;
How long gone
I could not say?
Only certain of passage —
Having journeyed—sucked down a spiral of madness,
Spit back to the surface—
And there again
Those riveting peepers,
Their sparkle
Leading me from one
To the other,
Back and forth
As if mindlessly following
A crystal-pendulum
Swung by the hand
Of hypnotist—

But after all’s said and done,
I felt none the worse
For the experience—
Though left with a sense
Of having been

So immediately afterward,
When certain I had regained autonomy
The focus of our conversation
Returned to body-parts:

Arms, hands, legs, feet, toes—each had a price;
—outers, inners, complete torsos;
I knew my trade well—
Exactly what my
Eclectic clientele would accept
As fair-price—
Nearly all them, in unique, unpleasant ways
Strange as this one
Before me;
Always firm, I was,
To nail-a-deal-down
(Thinking fondly of sealing the top of a coffin)
Before the creature slithered off—

A warmer product
He paid more for

(If not to ingest,
Why? I could not say)—

Perhaps still with heat and vibration of spirit,
If one inclined to
Such thinking—

For myself, I saw it basic—flesh and blood
Simply as commodity;
Considering myself merely
Another type of merchant—
I gave myself the
Respectable title of, “Human Recycler”—
Hard work, I might add—
Quite risky at times;
But as I said,
He—it—whatever they were, paid well!

I cannot definitively say
Where I acquired such amiable temperament
For dealing Remains—
I can say only that my father
Ran a crematorium;
And my mother’s vocation was that of a surgeon.
Affiliated with the same hospital
As my father, often they partnered
In that he buried her failures—mistakes?
One could only guess?
Neither seemed about any of it the least bit passionate;
And even less fond of parenting—
Often while growing-up,
My sole companions
Those of the dead—
Youthful romance was awkward
To say the least; entirely one sided;
Therefore—human affection,
Healthy experience
By which one develops a compassionate heart
Was all but absent,
Leaving me cold somewhat to everyone—

In fact, anything living;

Indeed I was more comfortable
With the dead—and only with those of
The living having
Such morbid inclinations as my own;
But this customer, of whom
I have spoken, in short time
Became insanely difficult
To continue with whom to do business :
No longer satisfied with the amount of parts,
Nor quality—always wanting younger
And fresher cadavers;
And though I dealt with death
So nonchalantly
I drew the line at actually
Taking a human life,
A course of action he coldly suggested—
Wanting me to acquire what he needed
Not simply by stealing bodies
Of those already deceased,
But to increase production
By way of murder—

Then I came to realize
It was indeed the spirit
That excited him;
Bodies were secondary—
It was the Life-cord, as he termed it,
That was of value to him
And his associates (first time I heard mention
Him and the others having connection)—
Ranting on and on
About needing
A far larger channel
If they were to be
At which time
He handed me a heavy box
Full with hundreds
Of rare, gold coins—“Jackpot!” my mind

I should make mention
It was about midnight
When this took place;
Most the city asleep
Or parked where they were going to spend
The rest of the evening;
Myself quite comfortable with late night excursions
Customary of a thief—
Carting off in the dark what I had stolen—
That which was meant for the oven;
Thinking myself, one of the best
At a highly specialized
Though quite illegal
And frowned-upon craft;

That night I followed him—
My curiosity having gotten
The best of me—
Keeping to deep shadows
A short distance behind him
Well from his view;

Shying away from lampposts
And vehicle headlights—
We hugged the stained buildings
(Dirt-spots inside of me
Came to mind)
And their putrid alleys;
At times, like he, seeming quite the cat—
Quickly yet silently
Gliding from one cover to the next;
He—appearing evermore the ghost;
His uncovered hands and face, less human—
Entirely translucent;
Having no internals—
Beneath the false
Exterior his substance
An unsettling, purple iridescence—
Sort of like peering through impurely dyed, veils of silk
Into flame behind them,
Becoming entranced by strange fire
Licking convulsively around the edges
As a sun in forbidden thrills
Of Satanic-eclipse—

At length we arrived at
And then entered a tall
Abandoned building—warehouse of sorts,
Abysmal except for a circle of rotating light
Projecting upward from a pit
In the concrete floor
To a skylight, some 4 stories above—
The premise in days long gone
Must have been a fun-house
Or costume factory
For their were strange manikins (startlingly realistic)
Seeming everywhere (as if a Mad Ball
Were in progress)
The bizarre guests
Dressed in the most fiendish
Attire imaginable—

I heard church bells in the distance—
From a Gothic cathedral
I recall having skirted by
During our journey;
A night of some special Atonement
I suspect,
The hooded monks out-front
Processing in bleak-file—
Some motionless in cloisters
Appearing as much demons
As saints—
My quarry having taken great pains
To slip by them
By passing on the opposite side of the street—

I found this behavior
Little more than laughable—
(My Heaven and hell nearer
And far more practical—
Heaven when my pockets were full,
And hell
If needing replenishing)—

Well hid behind some long discarded
Shipping materials,
I peered out using great caution
As now the room began filling
With mobile phantoms;

These I am at loss to exactly translate—

Can only say with certainty
That they were of no nation
Which I had ever heard;

Blob-like things—

Squirmy, oozy, see-through vessels
Of the most nauseating glow
One can affix in mind—

I remained silently concealed with the spiders
And their webs—

With the rodent droppings;

Struggling to remain still
As a large Sewer-rat
Checked-out my motionless feet;

Wanting to keep my attention
Transfixed on the bizarre proceedings
Unfolding before me—

I dare say, I was more than a bit frightened—

Prior to this, fear having been something
Of which I thought myself entirely immune—

Always lacking depth
Of emotion;

Yet here, with these sickening orbs,
One by one as they approached
The funnel of light
To empty their glass containers
Of smaller (strangely cold) lights
Adding to the circle
More disturbing radiance
Increasing circumference,
For the first time in my banal life
I began to sense what some
I am certain would call
The dreadful presence of evil—

And by shock from contrast
Rose in me esoteric knowledge—
Recognition of a hither-to
Invisible kingdom
Of diametrical contrasts
Thus far I had been
Unaware of:
Dimension I had never before pondered,
That somehow alerted them
To my presence—
Appearing to home-in on me
As carnivores
To the scent of prey—
Attracted by motion inside of me
Where before only resided
The Ice of
Soulless living;

Where this warmth now in me
Making me vulnerable emanated from
I do not know—

Nor could I will the internal glow out
As I wished
Hoping to rid myself of luster
Vividly exposing me—

Finding such suggestion of pleasing warmth
As much burden
As blessing—
A Comforter while Squealer
Giving me clearly up
To the executioners;

But they knew…

What I could not know
And had not the slightest hint for solving

Blocked my reason by base foundation
Formed of activities

They came toward my place of hiding

As if I were entirely visible,

An appetizing neon

Raided my place of shelter…;

Dull—putrid—merciless orbs of sucking light
Stinging me relentlessly—

This was not the light of saints in paintings—
Or sunrise, that of the pond reflecting:
Capturing morning cycling her hues,
So enchanting their dance, the Blossom-partners,
Making me wonder if there was something
Deep inside of me, awakening from dormancy,
With hunger
For brighter light—

I ran from the building—
The orbs swarming after me,
Penetrating the walls
About the doorway,
Chasing me into the gutter—
Down the street and
Off into the night
I raced,
Those hellish fireflies
In drooling-pursuit—
What they wanted from me
I could not fathom;
I felt clawing at my chest,
My heart—
Yes—soul! I now exclaimed,
To owning one—

It was the incessant ringing
Of the bells
From the Gothic Cathedral
That drove me in its direction—
The monks parting
As if a sea for Moses;
The great door swinging shut
Seeming on its own
Slamming behind me—

Deafening was the howling in my head
As a made my way up
The dimly lit marble staircase
And finally to the roof
To catch my breath—
I hovered
In the moon-made shadows
Of stone gargoyles
And imposing saints—

Whatever the power
Of the church,
The orbs could not penetrate
To reach me,
With great sparking explosions
Repelled back into the night sky
Away from the Parapet—

The monks’ chanting was now incessant…,

Their procession far below
Around the perimeter of the Cathedral
Locked arm to arm
Ever more vehement
And determined;

Could one soul, I asked myself
Especially one such as mine
Dark from a life of evil
Be worth all this bother?

At length, I found my way
To the scribe’s small room—
Surrounded by statues
And crosses;

And it is from here which
I write this account—

I wonder, as I am about
To lay down the ancient quill
What sleep will bring me—
So tired, so tired;
Slowing as the dark ink
Now dripping spent of purpose
Absorbed into the blot—
Such strange, black patterns,
Could be my soul?
I search for specks of white…,
Apparent its tinge of red (perhaps my own blood)—
Why this overwhelming sensation
Of being pressed?—yes caught
Between opposing forces
In conflict since time immemorial;
My human body expendable
For the spirit—
Feeling juiced in prosecution,
A conduit and battlefield
Of a rivalry older than
Any concept
Should allow—
Where in all
I have seen some sort of scale or balance—
Norths for all Souths,
Easts for all Wests,
But for this war
In all direction
I see only
The absence