Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Scenic Path of Human Artefacts

by Cate Gardner

You arrive at a fork in the road and you have a choice.

A Buddha statue tells you that your path lies to the left, noting that said path is leafy, dark and plain creepy. Beside him, a man with a guitar points to the right advising you to take the populated route with its souvenir shops, tourists, alien artefact museum and security cameras.

You listen to Buddha, right? Because the guy with the guitar, well he has no face.

Anita found the sneaker a little way down the path. Its sole covered in mud, its laces gnawed, and the foot that had once inspired movement severed at the anklebone. At that point, screaming was redundant. A sword swept out of the dark to sever her vocal cords. Anita’s disembodied head spun at dizzying speeds and landed nose down in the dirt. Unfair, she thought. Now she couldn’t scowl at her attacker.

A hand gripped hold of her ponytail and picked her up, dangling her in front of his face. The last remnants of her spit travelled across the air to land on his bulbous nose, his snot dripped blue, his tears welled green. Adding insult to obvious injury, he jammed her head down onto a branch--it scraped against her brain--and stepped back to take a photograph. A Polaroid--the guarantee of instant humiliation.

In a bizarre twist on the ‘who am I?’ game, her attacker stuck a post-it note on her forehead and the photograph of her rotting head on his. He sat and stared at her, while she just stared. She wanted to ask, “If I get it right, will you sew my head back on?”

The shake of his confirmed he was telepathic and unsympathetic. Several of the arms attached to his coat waved their fists at him. The non-blue tinge to their skin confirmed they’d once belonged to humans. Anita recognised the deer tattoo on the hand beating against the attacker’s chest. It confirmed that Red had not walked out on her.

I’m not playing. She pulled her tongue at the blue man and found she couldn’t pull it back in. She felt sick to her phantom stomach. Fall leaves dislodged with the shake of her head and the twig prodded into her brain. A few memories dissipated with the act, but sight, hearing and pain remained.

He pressed Red’s fingers to the Polaroid and pointed at her. If her fingers weren’t digging into the dirt, she’d rip off the post-it note and point at him.

And I am what became of your kind. She blinked.

He nodded and pulled her head off the branch when she would prefer he slammed his fist
down on her skull and ended this. Perched beneath his B.O. soaked underarm, and deaf from the press of stolen flesh against her earlobes, Anita joined him in the journey back to the path’s beginning. The man, he of the wise advice, continued to rest against his guitar, and she now saw that it was jammed into his butt and their attacker had pasted his missing face to Buddha’s backside.

The alien placed her head in Buddha’s lap, and then he waddled back down the path to wait for the next fool.

A duo of giggling girls stopped to take photographs of Anita’s head—now she was a celebrity—and the Guitar Man’s faceless skull. Their sneakers tripped against the yellow lead and woke Buddha. The sage advised them to take the scenic path.


Cate Gardner's addiction to souvenir shops means she wouldn't have followed Buddha's advice. For once, her long suffering family are grateful. You now have two choices, you can visit her on the web at or you can read more Stitches, she recommends the latter.


Rachel Green said...

Very creepy tale!

Josh Reynolds said...

Freaky, but awesome.

jonathan pinnock said...

Particularly weird and particularly wonderful even by your high standards, Cate :)

Michael Stone said...

Reading a Cate Gardner story is like waking from a dream. You sit up and think "Wow, cool!" and then "What the hell was all that about?!"

Yours is a weird kind of genius, Cate.

Alan W. Davidson said...

OMG...'Ultra' Cate Garner at her quirkiness and gruesomeness. Well done!

*Alan now reconsiders his decision of taking the Buddha path on the left...*

Rich said...

That was like some magical mystical enema of the brain.

God job!

Simon said...

Dark, funny, gruesome, quirky and just plain weird and off the wall. In a word- classic Cateness!

Katey said...

Oh, that was way too fun. I'm going to have the image of the head on a branch with a post-it attached stuck in my mind for a long, long time. You are wonderful, Cate.

Danielle Birch said...

Dark and offbeat, just the way I like them :)

Fox Lee said...

I'd love to see this made into a short film ; )

Tuonela said...

Yikes! What Jonathan said...

I've decided - I'm taking both paths.

Cate Gardner said...

Thank you to all who took the time to read my story. :D