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The Taxidermist

by Celia Thome

The lifeless eyes placed in the heads of dozens of dead, stuffed creatures lining the walls, shelves, and floors, watched as Lilith crossed the living room. Their eyes, made of glass, reflected the dark, still room with gloss that gave the impression of tears welling on their lashes. Their fur was perfectly soft, inviting almost, as if they were nothing but pets. Many of the animals had gaping mouths, giving silent screams for help that no one would respond to. Their sharp teeth provided a shadow deep in their throats to hide the dry stuffing replacing their insides. Lilith gave a small smile, tilting her head to the side at her children. They kept her company. She had made them, created them. Her veiny, wrinkled hand floated up to the ear of a cat placed on the edge of a table, its boneless tail hanging off the side. Its bloodshot eyes with a sharp black slash from top to bottom were a painful distraction from the cat's expressionless face.

“Good girl, Emmy.” Lilith whispered, scratching its head.

The cat stared ahead at the empty fireplace that gave no warmth to the unnaturally cold room. Her days of purring by the flames were long gone.

Lilith sat down on a patterned, deep maroon chair; its squeal being loud enough to wake the small bird she placed in her lap from its eternal slumber. Lilith stroked it’s back. One, two, three. The same pattern the finch had tapped on Lilith’s darkened window in the dead of night. Blindly, Lilith had slashed her knife through the silent wind.

“Ah, that's my sweet child,” she praised, “Never hurt a soul, did you?”

A floorboard creaked under the recliner, the noise stretching across the house like a curse word in a church. Lilith rose, placing the bird where she had sat, the fabric not yet warmed.

“My babies, did you hear that?” she asked, looking around, examining the placement of each animal, “Nana, was that you?”

A large graying wolf stared forward, not responding to the question. Lilith’s memories were swept into a wave of when she had found Nana. Feasting on a dead rodent in the snow, barely able to be seen. She remembered the very allure of the dark wood arrow she had used to pierce her side. The color of the dark, glistening, scarlet red that had been soaked up by the ground within seconds.

“Nana?” She asked again, her voice grainy, with nothing to carry it but the smell of old and rot.

A flash of movement turned her head towards a dark corner, where nothing but a coat rack and one spotted, fur jacket stood.

“No, Nana’s a good girl. Never runs in the house,” she spoke to the animals, her voice shaky, “Mable?”

Light scratches came from the kitchen and Lilith slowly crept towards it.

“Mable, why are you up and about?”

A crash came from near the oven and a small glass fell to the floor, rolling to Lilith’s feet placed in two matted slippers. Lilith’s breath got heavy, her hands shaking beneath her gray shawl.

She forced a laugh, “What are you up to? Are you being silly again?”

A small creature leapt off the counter behind a bookcase. In the darkness, Lilith’s head snapped left and right, moving shadows begging for her attention.

“They’re alive,” she grumbled under her breath. “So very alive.”

She grabbed a steak knife from the table next to her, the medal sliding against the wood. She traced her thumb down its blade, drawing blood. She passed it to her other hand, adjusting her grip, “I told you not to run in the house, you silly things.”

She turned to her side, stabbing into the head of a small rabbit, its hard shell underneath splitting with the crack of a whip.

“Back to sleep now, it’s the middle of the night.”

Lilith turned toward Emmy, taking her face in between her fingers. She took the knife under Emmy’s chest, stabbing it through her stomach. She lashed out to her right, swiping the blade across Nana’s face. Lilith screamed, seeing the bloodless slash stretching from her ear to chin, “My baby!”

She shut her eyes, scrunching her wilting face and dug the knife into the haunches of the wolf.

Something ran across the floor, its nails scratching along the dark, stained wood. Lilith took the knife across the base of the bird’s neck, cutting it clean off.

“They’re alive!” she bellowed.

The finch’s head rolled onto the floor with a clamor, rolling into the wall. A shadow lept towards Lilith, alarmed by the noise. Lilith threw out her arm, clutching the knife, her knuckles turning white.

“Back to sleep!” She screamed, losing herself in the feeling of catharsis.

Her knife caught onto a piece of flesh and blood, and it spilled out onto the fur rug beneath the couch. The shadow gave a yelp as Lilith crept towards it.

“Yes, back to sleep my babies.”

A small dog laid within the puddle of deep red, its paws twitching as if it were attempting to swim away. Lilith tilted her head to the side at the site of the unfamiliar animal, and flashed her unnaturally sharp teeth. Its eyes stared up at her, the room reflecting in them, begging her to save it. A small shiny label hung off a blue collar hugging the dog's lifeless neck.

“Spots!” A deep voice yelled from outside, the tone shifting as he crossed the street outside.

Lilith’s smile grew as she knelt down to pet the dog's head, sticky and cold from the blood. No lights were on in the house but one lamp in the center of the living, providing a spotlight to the two figures. Lillith began to chip off already drying blood from the dog's fur, preparing its hide.

“Spots? What a lovely boy you are,” she sang, inspecting every detail of the weapon she had used, as if to never forget this moment. Blood soaked into the wood handle, staining Lilith’s hands a deep red that seeped under her nails as if she had clawed the animal to death with her bare hands. “You’ll like it here in our home. You are very mischievous, I can tell.”

She slowly got up to lock the front door, her hand lingering on the dog for just a moment, before locking the dead bolts into place with a loud thud.

“Yes, I can always tell.”


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