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The Phoenix

The Student Art & Literary Site of Community College of Allegheny County

The Phoenix

The Student Art & Literary Site of Community College of Allegheny County

The Phoenix

The Laughing Goat

It laughs. It laughs at nothing in particular, but it laughs. We’ve tried to find out why, if there is a reason for its amusement, but there is nothing. The children laugh when someone slips and falls, but it does not. The adults laugh at crass language, it does not. The eldest of us laugh at absurdity, and still it does not. It laughs at nothing and everything, and it never stops.

It was born at night. It was autumn, no one thought a kid would be born. Within our sleep we heard the amusement of a man echoing from the barn. Within there laid our oldest doe, lifeless in the hay. A babe at her womb. Though not a babe any man or woman had seen, it laid upon the hard dirt, legless and unmoving. And all the while it laughed as a man laughs. My father buried the doe by the creek, we spoke our peace and returned to our home, silently. The gods surely would never send us something so horrible, though we have no sight of their intentions. Surely it must be the work of demons, but is it a worthy gamble? The killing of a newborn goat must outweigh whatever harm the kid brings in life. And thus the solution must be the priest, but my father refuses. There must be another method to dispose of it.

We have kept it these weeks, alone and isolated. We take our turns feeding the creature, though it hasn’t grown a morsel since its birth. My father has begun speaking of slaughtering it to the protest of my mother. She is far more terrified of what its death shall bring. She believes the priest to be our cure, but my father continues his hesitation. I question his reasons privately, but it is not my place to speak on. My young brother is quite amused by its constant laughter, it cheers him up quite nicely when his pouts become too violent to bear. My sister refuses to go near the wretch, and I do not judge her for it. My eldest brother does his work silently, and has never refused his duty. Though he continues to do his chores later than is required.

Everything is different since its birth. The skies have been dim, yet cloudless, and the trees are turning far slower than they ever had before. One would not believe it is no longer summer. This should be an incredible miracle: a longer season for harvest. It is doubtlessly an omen. The summer was never meant to breach autumn. Still, though, the pasture remains. Our flock is lively, giving, and affectionate. They maintain a distance from the stall. The once glittering creek is brown, green. Full of afflictions, we presume. I dreamt I  held the babe close to me, and took a stroll through a tall wood. The path before me was paved with night, and all around were trees tall and warped, tinted red. My steps fell at each laugh the goat bellowed. I came upon a dead end, and there sat an apple tree, smelling of a newborn. I picked a plump, crimson fruit from its branches and bit. Within was nothing. The goat laughed.

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The heat is blistering, the creek has to be only muck, and that little lump is still laughing. Still has nothing to laugh at, yet it keeps laughing. Laughing, laughing, laughing. It ruined everything. The animals are slim, and the plants are dying in the midst of this long, rainless summer. Father continues to forbid a trek to the priest, and he denies us explanation. I have not known myself to rebel, but my young brother is angry at each moment. He bites and claws my mother at the slightest misstep, and the lame creature’s chortle always cheers him up. I attempted to play our games. I have tried to reason. He insists his place be at the creature’s side, threatening us all in manners unsuited to a young boy. It seems our bond will not transcend this malevolence. My sister does not talk, she hides away in her room from dawn till dusk, the only words she speaks are requests for food and water. I had never seen any darkness break a glow as mighty as hers. My eldest brother holds himself firm, yet his sunken eyes attest that he has only crumbs of rest. He speaks a mantra to himself, as he always does whilst muling. But as of late, he has taken to a tune that is foreign to my ears:

O’ come the endless wake,

O’ come the sleepless slumber,

O’ come the day we must feel no longer,

O’ come the whistle of airless wind,

O’ come the bristle of nothing’s hand,

O’ come the rhythm of hearts upbeat,

O’ come the joy of their beating cease.

The words shine black in my head. He has denied the existence of this chant at every broach, but I know what I hear. I dare not alert my father. Father has ordered its feeding to cease. He claims the gods’ eyes won’t see the killing as murder, but it is a lie he tells himself. All for naught, of course. I have seen my mother creep into the pen at night. Her fear of its death has only grown. We have been shunned, cursed, and attacked by our kinsman. It will only get worse. I know what I must do, but I am unsure if I will be able to do it. The priest lives within the mountains, the creature cannot walk on its own, and an omen of this stature will surely attract more. Wandering the hills and rocks whilst carrying a demon will be my death and failure, and my father would never allow it. But, perhaps he has lost infallibility.

We reached our limits. My youngest brother is an ocean of rage without the goat. My mother has given up on shielding him from it, he is with it at all hours. I have not seen my sister for a long time. Her room makes no creak, no thump, no chatter. A knock is met with a frail hum. My eldest brother is frail and speaks without sense. His eyes dry and red, skin the complexion of a storm cloud. Our father is confined to a room at our mother’s insistence, lest he do away with our ailment. She speaks in a strange rhythm, as if in prayer yet without piety. I take it upon myself now to rid us of this useless flesh. I cannot do such a thing without the assistance of my brother, but he is hardly a help anymore. Whomever has decided our punishment has chosen well. It seems I will be alone for the remainder of my life. Alone with my tyrant. Out from my home the mountains prick the horizon, and my venture commences through the tall wood.

It did not have teeth. It had only eyes and a tongue. Laugh, laugh, laugh. My parents didn’t give me enough food. Laugh, laugh, laugh. The rabbit I hunted has a human tongue. Laugh, laugh, laugh. It laughs at every possible slight on me. It laughs at me. I knew it would laugh. Of course it would. Its never stopped, why would it stop now. It’s only gotten worse. The times I’ve fallen asleep, I woke to the demon licking my arm. Laughing and licking at my veins. It might have been days since my departure, my mother gave me more food for the goat than myself. Every night there has been a sense that something approaches my fire, looming closer and closer to me until I can feel its wet breath on my back. Yet there is nothing there. Nothing. And it laughs again.

It must only be a few days now. I’ve pondered on my family’s well being. I like to think they are doing better. I hope my youngest brother has found peace. I hope my sister has left her quarters and gone for a stroll. And I hope my eldest brother has finally laid his head to rest, and dreamt of a better time and place. I’ve dreamt. I dreamt for small moments before I was awoken. I’ve dreamt of a void. I’ve dreamt of a man that stares. A man that eats. I dreamt of something funny, too. I remember laughing as I woke up, but nothing of the dream remains.

The cascading mountains can be seen from miles away, I love seeing them. The foothills are lovely to camp on. Somedays I just feel like gazing at the mountains for eternity. I have passed no one approaching the priest’s home. There are no pilgrims, destitutes, wretches. None. I awoke laughing again, I presume it is the same dream. The goat has been nipping at my chest as I travel. It pants like a hound now. I’ve seen it crawl like a worm when it thought I was resting. I watched it laugh and crawl away, and heard it laugh even more once I rushed to retrieve it. I just want it dead. I want it dead. I just wish it would stop laughing at me.

I have run out of milk to feed it. I do not know what to feed it. It will not eat grass, it will not eat leaves. I do not even know what to feed myself. I am afraid of eating these animals. There is a river I have caught fish in, but they have disappeared within the night. I am certain there is an animal taking them. I see no evidence, but one must not underestimate a fox or raccoon. They are devious little creatures. Though I see now the goat is far more so. My father would lash me for saying such a thing, he and my gods-fearing mother. If I am to live to see my home, I wish nothing more than to light my barn aflame, and rid my world of these creatures, these liars. They were always watching us. They planned this from the beginning of time. Convince the whole world that they are sent by the gods, and then torture us. They are demons. I found one of the fish I caught. The goat was eating it. It has no teeth. It ate it whole.

I have found the priest’s home. I have found no priest. Doesn’t matter, nothing is special about a holy man if he is not here. A flat mud spire juts out the mountain stomach. A spike perfect for skew. My chest is nearly gone. A laugh. Behind me shows my approach. A dainty trail, surrounded with leafless trees. Rotting upright. The goat’s mouth is red with my blood. I rub my thumb around the hole to my heart. Dry, then damp, I pull out my finger painted red-green. The mud spire’s side is a canvas, and my kin I paint. They must all bear witness to the lump’s unmaking. My family will know peace. One hand clutched to its throat, the other steadying my stand. My right hand vibrates at each laugh. At the first pierce, Its back drips a red wax down the spike sides. Still further through, it laughs wet. Unending blood, but no organ. The skewer’s tip births through its belly. It laughs deep and mucky. And it stops. I remain. My family’s painted figures hide behind the corpse’s blood. There’s no wind. It is awfully quiet. I hear no beat. I am numb. If only it would laugh.

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