Here is a language for witches. No. Here is a language for high school. No. Here is magic in all its occult guises. No. Here is high school in all its occult guises. No. Here is a hallway in a high school. The floor is gray linoleum. Lockers line the walls. On the doors of some of the lockers are footballs cut from construction paper. Jersey numbers are written on the footballs in black felt-tip marker. At the end of the hall is a banner that reads: “Go Bobcats!” A bobcat with black ears and yellow eyes is painted in one corner of the banner. No. Here is a path in the forest at midnight. The path is lined with gray trees. Nailed to the trunks of the trees are the long dark tongues of cows. The tongues were removed from the animals with a knife. At the far end of the path is a banner with a symbol drawn on it. No. Here is a high school student named Tom. He lives in a small town in Ohio. For the past three years, Tom has been in love with his best friend, Jason, who plays football. Jason has no idea that Tom is gay. Or maybe he has an idea. But it doesn’t matter. Tom wishes there were some spell or even a curse that would make Jason fall in love with him. No. Here is a figure in the forest. The figure passes through the trees, touching the bloodied cow tongues with the tips of its fingers. No. Tom stands in the bathroom of the high school and looks at his face. He supposes it is a handsome face. He supposes that doesn’t matter. No. Here is a figure crawling like a horror between the trees. No. Here is Tom waiting for Jason after football practice. Usually, they walk home together, but Jason has been more distant lately. They’re both going to be seniors next year. No. Here is Tom walking home alone. No. Here are all the trees in the forest attempting to speak with their cow tongues. Blood runs from the tongues as they twitch and curl. No. Here is a hallway in a high school. Someone has torn down all the paper footballs and thrown them on the floor. Someone has torn down the banner too. Ripped it in half. The bobcat stares at the ceiling with vacant yellow eyes. No. Here are the voices. They are not the voices of trees. They are not the voices of cows. They are the voices of other things. Disembodied. Moving through darkness. They speak, all at once, in a language never heard before. No.
Adam McOmber is the author of The White Forest: A Novel (Touchstone) as well as two collections of queer short stories My House Gathers Desires and This New & Poisonous Air (BOA). His work has been included in The Year’s Best Speculative Gay Fiction, Best Microfiction and shortlisted for Best American Fantasy and Best Horror of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the MFA Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Cover photo by H3xtacy (Flickr)