Once there was a body, which was once a possum. Once there was a house, which was once a home.
Possum liked the home. The apples hanging like pendulous pairs of lungs from the orchard; the arteries of little walks down which Possum cruised, a cell in a bloodstream. He wasn’t allowed in the house, though the red meat on the table enticed him. He liked the red of the whole place: red brick arching to the sky like an ecstatic back, the red front door. There were people, shaking and ponderous and bumbling, who did things like washing and taxes and eating red meat.
Of course, Possum did feel a touch unwelcome at times: the people wore possum-fur gloves from tourist shops as an ‘ethical form of fur consumption.’ To help with pest control, you know, one said, wiggling her fingers into the pelt of some possum cousin or other. Possum didn’t believe in ethical consumption: he was just hungry. Maybe he should have been offended, but he knew something the people didn’t.
They thought it was their home. But really, it was his.
His backyard: his bluebells, his baby birds to split beneath his teeth. A whole kingdom of delicious things to consume, ethically or otherwise, thrummed beneath it. And Possum? Possum was their king.
Today was an ordinary day. Possum watched the home. Possum listened to the people. Possum got hungry. Possum feasted on the mangled inside of an apple and felt pretty as a princess.
And then, of course, it wasn’t.
Possum met God. Everyone did, that day. God was loud and rumbling and he shook Possum’s home like he was torturing a confession out of it. The red brick ran into the gutter, lurid and butcher-blush.
— What are you doing? Possum asked God.
— Pest control, God said.
An understanding was reached. God was making Possum a real home. Eradicating the people and their fur gloves and their red meat. Possum’s bluebells and backyard and birds, those would stay ripe for the picking. The splitting.
— I am doing this for you, God said.
— Who, little old me? Possum blushed.
And they both laughed, because God and Possum knew that there was nothing little about either of them.
This, in hindsight, was the tricky thing about Him. God was hungrier than even Possum, and He was good at making small creatures feel special.
Red rubble and rigor mortis. Kingdom come or whatever the phrase was. Possum nosed at it delicately, the new smells of stickyslick pavement and aftermath. He couldn’t see the people.
This was encouraging. Possum cracked his knuckles.
Out of a nest of broken glass crawled a baby bird. Pretty blue bird. It hadn’t learned to talk yet, but it had the fear of God in its eyes and Possum was kind of a fan of the guy. They had a lot in common. An affinity for small creatures, for one. Possum liked the way they slid down his gullet. The way it made him feel Divine.
— Thank you for the housewarming gift, he said humbly.
Possum went for a walk. Cruised down busted capillaries. The Earth had been turned upside down and all of Possum’s prey was wriggling out, the trees bare of apples, a whole buffet. He gorged himself. He walked for so long and became so enlightened that he felt ten times his size; he floated above the city and he ate it whole because Possum, Possum was king. He had never been so hungry in his whole life, and what was there to do in a world brought to its knees but rip the prayers out with his little needle teeth?
— Having fun? God asked.
— Oh yes sir. How do you get anything done? You have so much to play in.
— Love what you do and you never work a day in your life.
— And what do you do?
God did not respond.
The city was an open wound, people writhing like maggots. The silence was quivering and aghast, like a broken tooth, with worker bees worrying at the gaps left behind. Possum saw stacks of plaster, brick, mortar crushed with some divine pestle, like catacombs; crushes of bone piled on top of each other. He had expected it to be quiet. But the people were doing what people did; bumbling around, wringing their hands. He wondered if they resented God for this. Of course, that grief was a symptom of misunderstanding; this was the natural order now. A Possum’s got to eat, you know, and so does the Almighty.
Wires hung like exposed nerve endings; the insides of humanity turned out. All those clever machines. All those pest-free initiatives. Put on hold now, aren’t they? No more shops to buy fur gloves from.
He slipped through the smog like a knife through butter, unnoticed and omniscient. From the malevolent haze that thickened the air, he saw a tall point looming. A stained glass eye staring down at the carnage. God’s home.
Seeing as the two were so buddy-buddy these days, Possum figured he’d pop in for tea and biscuits. Red meat and raw. As the fog cleared, he saw that one whole side of it had collapsed into Cubist rubble.
The vaults of the cathedral were like a ribcage, rotted open and bared to the sky. Colourful shards littered the ground. An entire peak of the roof was hollowed out. Possum scampered in, staring around at the God-awful mess that had been made. Rows of pews tossed aside; the towering organ silent as a reaper. There were still good bones here, Possum thought. Even if the flesh of it had been torn away.
It seemed counterintuitive to eat one’s home. A Possum’s house is his castle, you know, and it seemed in poor taste for God to consume His own walls. Surely this wasn’t what God was hungry for. Tearing His own body apart. There wasn’t rhyme or reason to the levelling of the cathedral, in Possum’s eyes. To consume ethically is to protect one’s own. Did God even care? Or was His home just another exercise in destruction? Possum, for his very few faults, was a sentimental guy. He wouldn’t want to do this to his own kingdom.
There was a sort of sickly feeling building in him, like watching a dissection. A pigeon settled in the rafters.
— I was kind of having a moment here, Possum reproached.
— Get in line, the pigeon said. Everyone’s having a moment today.
Possum rolled his eyes. Stupid bird. Too big to eat, too dumb to muse with. Squatting in God’s house like it knew Him. He turned his snout up and marched out of the skeleton-church, any misgivings dispelled by his own superiority.
Possum cruised home, in the end, and along one of the roads was where he saw it. The cat, that is.
It had ballerina legs and glass eyes, red insides and a heavy head. Possum didn’t scare easy, but he confessed himself a little spooked.
— Hello? Possum whispered
— Why are you talking to me? I’m dead.
— But how? You’re so… big.
— So are buildings, and look how many of them are dead too.
This was troubling. Of course, kings don’t die, and God doesn’t either.
So Possum would be fine.
But he was somewhat perturbed at the sight of his natural predator rotting from the inside like an apple. It was too close to home. Possum shrugged. Guess God hadn’t chosen the cat. He nosed about in it for a while, but it tasted leaden and uncertain.
Possum wanted to go home. He wanted his people, even if only to thumb his nose. Look how much red meat I have now, he wanted to say. Look how nice my house is now you’re gone. Look how I lived through everything turning inside out.
Days followed and he feasted on them. He avoided the city: the pools of dirty water, the eerie corpse of the cathedral. No, best to leave that to other players. He had his own kingdom, and it flourished under his paws.
The bluebells grew tall and grazed the sky and there was a new apple every day, and new things to test out between his teeth. He loved everything in the way that God loved His children, he would lay back after a feast and he could taste the divine on his lips like a lover. And he was grateful, to be just the right size for the life that had been created for him.
But there were shiftings. The birds changed their patterns. He felt a car rumble by in his teeth.
Humanity was brewing like liquefaction, the birds told him before they vanished into his maw.
His people were still absent, their house a rotted-open apple, red skin coated with dust. If such a thing were happening, they would have returned, ready to make gloves of the first little king they saw.
What did a bird know? Which bird had God on speed-dial like him? His people wouldn’t crawl from the ruckus without saying hello. Or measuring him for a sweater.
Possum lay back, furry body round as the moon. The summer was yellow and creamy like lanolin. His Kingdom pulsed gentle as a mother’s wrist. He heard a rustle along his Walk and he closed his eyes, because he wasn’t hungry for once, and-
Possum met Gun and he felt very small.
— You said it wasn’t going to be this way.
It was a neighbour. A Gun like a God, silent and starving. The pith and pulp of Possum turned over scarlet like the innards of the earth and took root. In time, a new house was built around them. And there were new bodies there too.