Appetite for a Nightly Feast
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Andrés leaves the engine running and I step out to collect, suitcase firmly held in my gloved hands. Cold night air embraces me, long fingers creeping their way up my sleeves and down the neck of my shirt to grope what flesh they can before I light a cigarette and get my inner sunshine going. I check twice for any trouble – once with each pair of eyes – and head towards the battered door that drips a wrongness only those like me can see. Lit by sickly blue streetlight, I take care not to step on any filth the rain might have carried down the gutters and into this rock bottom of a neighborhood; my paycheck doesn't include shoe-shining expenses.

Graveyard shifts aren’t really a thing in my line of work. In a city this big, there is always someone buying what we're selling, someone rich enough to afford us, or desperate enough to sign up with us. Party, orgy, ritual, suicide: we're the only ones on the market who can deliver it all in a single hit, lightning in a needle, and we are always in demand. Call us when you want to see God, or when you want to kill Him – all the same to us.

Six long steps and I'm at the door, my second pair of eyes – the ones beyond my skull – following the trail of weird malaise that pools at my feet all the way to the rusted doorknob. It tastes green, and that is not a good flavor, my second eyes tell me. I look back at Andrés and I can tell he senses it too; he might not have sight like mine, but he's seen his fair share of shit to know when something is not quite right. He nods and palpates the shotgun; he'll be watching. Here I open wide the door…

Madness there, and nothing more.

Twenty bodies lounge on couches, stretched across the floor and slumped against the wall. Party has been over for a while, judging by the empty-eyed expressions they give me as I slither my way into the crack house. Some try to turn their heads to get a better look at me – perhaps they think I'm the candy man come to deliver them from the evils of sobriety – but I'm not here to sell this time, and I let them know by patting the holster on my hip. Most just ignore me, however, their minds glued to whatever ephemeral epiphany they might have discovered in the folds and ridges of their addled brains, ritual chants drumming through their throats like the calling of a dying foal.

My second eyes again palate the green wrongness. It's all over the place, drenching the junkies so that I cannot pinpoint the source – I’ll have to rely on my birth-given optics to find him and collect.

It doesn't take me long. A long moan calls from behind a graffitied door, its hinges barely holding it in place – what passes for a restroom in a shithole like this. Sitting on a broken toilet with his head hung low, thick threads of drool oozing from his chapped lips and rotting teeth, is my target. He looks like any other junkie, bone-thin with blackened veins that spread throughout his sickly grey skin like a web of putrefaction, open sores screaming where the needle has defiled him. He drifts in and out of his stupor, not even looking at me as I hold his eyelids open and shine a light into his pupils: still high, and all the better for it. I quickly notice that he reeks, and not just because he's soiled himself to the point of dehydration, but because he is indeed the source of the wrongness, of the green malignance that my second eyes caught on to.

Shit, I was hoping I was wrong.

We call it "chechem," named for the cursed tree from ancient times. It festers in the veins of addicts, a bloodborne plague that ravages communities with the tint of gangrene, limbs necrotizing and dropping from their owners like spoilt fruit. Skin rots and cracks open into a painful mosaic of red and black, pus-filled blood bubbling out like a malignant volcano of brown sludge. Onwards they prowl, corpses in all but name, bellowing and begging for release in the shape of a needle – it kills them slowly, but it kills them lovingly.

The faster I work, the better. I flip the suitcase open and take out the pump, connect it to the canister and stab the nozzle into the suppurating sphincter that bulges from just beneath his sternum, the gene-hacked wound we carved into him to give us free access to his liver. He moans as the nozzle penetrates him, halfway between pain and arousal; high as he is, I imagine all stimuli must be nigh-orgasmic. Or agonizing. Such are the ways of the living dead.

The cigarette burns down to ash as I finish preparing the cow for milking, so I light up another one while I wait for the pump to do its job. Yellow fluid – k'i'ik – drips drop by drop into the canister, my time measured in what precious milliliters a junkie can provide for us. He twitches and winces from time to time, almost as if realizing what is happening, desperately trying to wake himself up, to come back to the realm of the living and stop the real-life nightmare he's in. Then his body goes limp again and his mouth lets out a sigh of relief. All the while, he oozes out green.

By the time my second cigarette is out, the pump is done suctioning the contents of his liver and I'm ready to go. I carefully pack my instruments and place the canister – barely at half its capacity – in a bomb-proof metal shell the size of my fist. Assets must be protected, Andrés always recites like a litany. So much hassle for something that doesn't even fill a shot glass.

I'm on my way out when the junkie springs to life and grabs my arm with a claw-like hand of filthy fingernails, the wrongness seeping from every pore in his body. The ghost of a word – a pleading, perhaps – forms on his ravaged mouth, his eyes overflowing with tears as he tries to speak. Instead, he lurches forward and vomits all over the bathroom floor. I bash his head with the egg-shaped shell, once for startling me and thrice for my shoes.

Andrés waits where I left him, shotgun close by.

"Trouble?" he asks upon noticing my doomed footwear.

"Chechem contagion," I report the green wrongness. "Our asset was patient zero. Probably spread from a shared needle; you know how it is. We might want to get away a few blocks before we call the police to come take them."

"No police. New orders," Andrés grumbles. "No more letting the pigs handle our mess."

"Then what do we do?" I ask. Then I notice the stench coming from the gallons next to him, the iridescent mirror he has spilt. Andrés pulls out a lighter.

Canek asks only one question:

"How much?"

"30 milliliters." I hand him the metal shell. I've cleaned it the best I could, but a few red droplets still stain its silvery surface.

Canek pays no heed to the evidence of my crime. He just locks the egg in a vault which is already brimming with its like; its contents are probably worth enough to buy an archipelago of private islands, but still Canek shakes his head.

"We're not filling our quota. Boss called – he is not happy."

"That's as much as any cow will give us these days," I retort. "What would they have us do? Seems livers just aren't what they used to be."

"We get more cows," Andrés spits out. He's still playing with his lighter; I can almost smell burning gasoline. "More cows, more livers, more k'i'ik."

And more chechem contagions, I think to myself. The prospect of more junkies to keep tabs on and drain does not elate me in the least.

"I'll float that idea around next time he calls. Then maybe we get more resources, more personnel," Canek concedes. "Can't really run this show with a three-men crew. What we can run, though, is tomorrow's circuit."

He pushes forward a brochure with the fighters of this week's big event: Magog vs Deodoat, tomorrow at 10:30 p.m., Xibalbá Arena.

"It's organic on organic, so no matter who wins and who loses, we get our cut. I had a few words with the chief of disposal – they're handing over the bile bladder in exchange for a taste of the end product."

"They want k'i'ik?" I don't hide my surprise.

"Who doesn't?" Canek shrugs. "Everybody wants to eat the gods."

Andrés drops me off at my apartment and says he'll be back by next sundown. I count my night's earnings – my cut from a successful harvest – and shower away the smell of blood, filth, and fire. I go to sleep while night turns to day.

Sleeping when you have second sight is strange. You dream, but you also remember, and the stain of sins past covers you like a leper's skin, in sackcloth and ashes. Guilt is like an ocean with thick, viscous waters that cling to your skin and fill your throat with their tar-like embrace – it reminds me of the polluted seas where faceless men serving faceless masters bury the ruin of their making, where bedraggled divers sink like stones to try and pry away what refuse they may sell to feed their starving stomachs.

I, too, am a diver. I swim down into the sea of sin, into the remembrance of the lives I've ruined and the hearts I've stopped cold. The water around me smells of burning flesh and petrol, of bile pumped out of half-dead men. Bodies litter the bottom like rotting totems, their eyes bulging from crying out the ocean where they hope I'll drown, where they hope I'll one day join them. Sometimes they turn to me and speak, but I can never understand their words because water fills their throats and lungs, and all I hear are silent curses. I can tell they scream out murderer.

It is said that every time you return from the black waters, you are born anew, for a man who can embrace the horror he has wrought is truly cleansed and annointed. I have never experienced such a thing, for I do not fool myself into thinking my actions are justified. My second sight lets me see beyond the murk, beyond the layers of lies men like me tell ourselves to cope. That is how I know we are never to be reborn, for we are nothing but defilers of men and gods.

My dreams often take me to the moment where it started, to the agony of my elevation and the ecstasy of my corruption. Second sight is both gift and curse, holes drilled into your skull to give you a second pair of eyes, eyes that see the workings of flesh and spirit. The risk is high: should the surgery go wrong, your brain will eat you from the inside out, your identity suppressed by the bestial thing fused to your occipital lobe like a tumor of godly malignance – such is the punishment of men who usurp the minds of gods. I grit my teeth, for though I know dream from waking, still the pulsations of the godflesh rattle my skull.

Sometimes I see ripples on the surface of the sea, like the thing whose brain has been grafted onto mine tosses around in its dead slumber, the terrors of its forever night tormenting it long after it stopped breathing – but not fighting. No, fighting is all they ever know, all they ever are. Even in death, a part of them remembers the appetite for a nightly feast, the thirst for blood, the lust for violence. On our altars of steel and stone, it is the gods who are sacrificed to sate us, for k'i'ik means blood.

¡En esta esquina, con diez toneladas de músculo y dos de cuerno, el campeón de la temporada! ¡El carnicero de Madrid! ¡Magog!
¡Y en esta otra esquina, con siete victorias consecutivas y las cicatrices para probarlo, el retador de esta noche! ¡El señor de la sangre! ¡Deodoat!
¡Que comience la batalla! ¡Que el mejor kaiju gane!

¡Lucharáaaaaan a una caída sin límite de tiempo!

The crowd's roar plays backing vocals to the monsters' screeches, the arena rumbling as two giants charge and crash into each other. Dust from shattered concrete explodes with every blow, and the ground is quickly drenched in blood and gore as the creatures claw and bite and kill. Andrés and I have good seats courtesy of Canek, so close to the battlefield that I almost fear one of the kaiju might fall back and crush us. This is how we spend time before we get what we came for; there's no excitement in scavenging a bile bladder if we don't get to watch the kill.

The monstrous Magog is covered in bone protrusions that make it impossible for other kaiju to grab onto it without risking disembowelment. Its most prominent feature is a crooked crown of horns that turn its head into a butcher's wet dream. I've heard it's killed some of its handlers: whatever genes they spliced into it, they sure brought out the nastiest temper possible.

The challenger, Deodoat, is an ape-like aberration that has won seven consecutive victories – and I can tell why. With one blow it stops Magog dead on its tracks, a quick succession of punches aimed at the weak spots on its rival's armor quickly drawing blood. Whomever has money in this, they better have bet on the monkey.

Andrés hands me a drink and sits down to watch the match in silence. He sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of the raving multitude, his gaze focused entirely on kaiju's spilled blood and guts, perhaps calculating how much bile we might harvest depending on the loser. Assets must be protected, I can almost hear him thinking.

I, on the other hand, have no problem joining the crowd in its revelry: the godflesh in my brain throbs and pulses, my second eyes drinking in the colors of violence that ooze from the battling kaiju. Cold blue rage, its flavor like that of quiet lightning. Orange fear, the orphaned child of self-preservation instincts. Colors I cannot describe, for no human eyes were made to witness them – colors of death repeated again and again, of painful births and unknown desires beyond the never-ending war.

I can also taste the crowd's colors. About a third of them are users, some of them dangerously close to addiction. Drugs taste differently once processed through the human body: their colors pop out in a miasma of misfired bioelectric impulses, jellied brains puppeteering liberated flesh into frenzied exultations. The result is always a kaleidoscope, an overwhelming rainbow of flavors where one's second sight can almost tell from which kaiju came the drugs the user shoved into their bloodstream. It's harmless, really: no foul thing in expanding your mind with the ichors of fallen titans. It's when things turn green that one must start worrying.

Yeah, it's all fun and games until you become an addict. Will is lost, subsumed and broken under the unending thirst for intravenous bliss. Bodies catch chechem or some of the other countless plagues that ravage the world's underbelly, people turned to shambling shadows of their former selves. They die in ditches, covered in open sores, forgotten, still begging for one last hit. Then we come in: any junkie desperate enough to give up their body for a shot of what we're selling is already beyond any salvation. That's why we give them what they want – that's why we bleed them dry.

Magog is no fighting shape anymore. Its legs have collapsed under its massive weight, and its great crown has been laid low by its rival's bone-shattering punches. Deodoat barely has a scratch on its furry hide; it stands triumphantly and beats its chest with blood-soaked fists like a grotesque parody of a gorilla. All that remains now is the finishing blow – then it can get to eating or fucking or otherwise defiling Magog's mangled remains. Either way, these fights always end with a crowd-pleasing last act.

Surprise tears gasps from our throats, however, when the downed kaiju suddenly turns with lightning speed and clasps its jaws around the would-be victor's arm. Deodoat lets out a shocked cry of pain and tries to free itself, but Magog isn't letting go. Slowly, it drags the desperate monkey closer to itself, closer to the sharpened bone protrusions which jut from its body like some abhorrent porcupine. Deodoat keeps punching, writhing, pleading, but all its strength is not enough to keep it from getting impaled through a dozen different places; its screams are drowned out as it vomits blood.

Triumphant, the atrocious Magog tears itself away from the newly christened pincushion that is Deodoat's corpse and begins feeding. Rent viscera spills all over the arena, and the crowd cheers as the champion feasts on the arrogant challenger that sought to usurp it. But I do not join them in their celebration of ultraviolence, and neither does Andrés. I can taste the grey emanating from him, the dull horror that has awakened in his mind as his gaze nails itself to torn innards we were supposed to profit from: with all that skewering, what has become of our prize?

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