Lost & Found

We lost the map on Tenth Avenue, but found what we were looking for in the storm drain in front of the 7–11.

Bowery was slick and sticky, coated in a thin film of August. The sun burned the backs of our ears and the thing huddled in the shadows, letting the slow underground drip of the city ooze around it. It slashed and bit at our hands as we reached out— no one had touched it in years. Scrawny, shivering, and damp, it crouched in the darkness of our coat pockets as we took it home.

We fed it maggots and red jelly beans, scraped the pus from the corners of its eyes, and slowly it grew strong. It ventured out in the evenings and brought back corpses: rats, sparrows , tiny delicate lungs and livers from unidentified creatures. We cradled it together in our hands and cooed over it like first time parents, as if we had created it ourselves. It peered back at us placidly with dark, solemn eyes.

Sometimes I would wake up to find it nestled in the deep cleft between your jawbone and clavicle, claws gently dimpling your skin. Its head, pressed tight to your throat, swayed gently up and down with the slow pounding of your pulse.

When it left, the apartment smelled like rotting fish for three days. I tried to touch you, comfort you, rest my hand on your neck the way you used to like — but you looked at me as if I were a stranger, and your skin felt clammy and cold against my palm.

When you left too, the apartment stopped smelling like anything at all.

Now all day I wander up and down Third Avenue, sniffing in dark places for the smell of rotting fish. I extend my scarred hands to the creatures I find there, but they hiss at me and skitter away.

I have nothing to feed them anymore.

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