Excerpt from EYE SKIN: Menagerie of Death

In the distance, another distant barrage of gunfire. “Sounds like hunters, eh? More business for you.” He quipped, trying to tease a little emotion out of the man in front of him. The sun was nearly gone. Two large mosquitoes landed on Peartree’s elbow, feasting, expanding— he didn’t appear to notice or care. He dropped the armadillo in the cooler, moved past Wholeman on stiff legs up the steps, tossing the grinning dead raccoon aside, and held the screen door open, waiting. “Obliged, Mr. Peartree.”

The stench inside was even worse. It was difficult for Avard Wholeman to breathe. He kept enough of a smile on his face to be sociable, but he began to feel cramped, boxed in by the assault on his nostrils. Every corner and available space was full of preserved creatures, it was easy for Wholeman to see this man was a savant. Every creature of the swamp, savannah and palmetto forest filled the room, half-obscured, hidden in the penumbra, pupils glimmering, the last rays of daylight reflecting red orange crimson. Directly in front of him, a fascinating pose of two white faced barn owls, their cordate faces and v-beaks like warnings, the male standing, wings extended on a driftwood branch frozen before flight. Intent, fearless. Peartree’s mastery caught the moment perfectly, seizing stark survival, the female owl posed feeding a water snake to three of her young still in the nest, necks extended, claiming their share of flesh, a coparcenary swallowing another moment until flight breaks any supposition of loyalty. The owls were immediately over-shadowed by the Anhinga- the swimming snake bird, nesting. Beside that was a pose of small feisty alligators staring back, hyaloid eyes staring forward, ten varieties of heron—white, pink, black-throated; the mammals were displayed in a far corner of the room. An endangered miniature Key deer, two razorback pigs, several good sized boars with sharp tusks, a coral snake on a branch. Like a Noah’s Ark of death, thought Avard, strange.

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