The following is an excerpt from the story Bred in Captivity by Ravi Mangla, appearing in Annalemma Issue Six: Sacrifice. Image by Xenia Fink.
There were few things Dev loved more than shooting himself in the side of the head. With his index and middle fingers aligned, his nails pressed to his greasy black hair, he would click down with his thumb on some imaginary top-access trigger. He blew his brains out countless times each day: when he was bored in school, while waiting in a long line, during any film without a high-speed car chase or kung-fu fight. He mimed the deed with such ingrained devotion that when he built his volcano for the school science fair, the activation device – affixed to twin propane tanks – fit seamlessly in the crook of his cocked hand, and as the judges made their rounds at tectonic speeds, he leaned idly over his project and scorched himself to a molten pulp.
For months my mother grieved. She wore through shrinks like the boxes of tissues we bought in bulk; their contents crushed and scattered like windblown blossoms from a dying dogwood, littering the carpet and hardwood floors. One psychologist was so forthright as to call her grief “inconsolable” and “beyond repair,” and he said it would be a waste of his time and our money to attempt to treat her. My father keyed the hood of his car.
To be honest, there were times I believed him. She cried all day and all night. In our sleep, we dreamed of mewling cats and beached whales. And then one morning I woke early to the slow gurgling of the coffee maker and found my mother in the kitchen, a cartridge belt wrung around her shoulder like John Rambo, equipped with silver canisters of cleaning products, linen dish rags, and small rolls of bubble wrap.
She waged war on danger. Mannerisms were the first to go, like the nasty habit my sister had of biting her fingernails, on the off chance poison or disease was festering underneath the nail. Little by little, her fear evolved. At her urging we began relieving ourselves in the backyard (numero dos), behind the azaleas, for fear that sewer gators might shimmy their way up the plumbing. She’d just seen a special on the sci-fi channel in which a pack of famished, sun-deprived reptiles wreaked havoc on the diarrhetic and unsuspecting denizens of New York City. That spring, our garden was the envy of all the neighbors.
Years earlier, grouped with the other parents at parties and play dates, she used to tell the story of her tipped uterus, and how she was only given a one in four shot at conception. Dev was a two-fold miracle, for surviving the nine months and for straightening out her uterus, clearing the way for me and, later, Penny. She’d always wanted a big family.
To read the rest of this story, click here to pre-order Annalemma Issue Six: Sacrfice, which ships April 12th 2010.
Ravi Mangla lives in Fairport, NY. His short fiction has appeared or will soon appear in Gargoyle, Storyglossia, Gigantic, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Best of the Web 2010 (Dzanc Books). He is the Associate Series Editor for the annual Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions.
Xenia Fink was born 1979 in Sao Paulo. She grew up in Brazil, Mexico and Germany. After studying Illustration in Halle and Hamburg she finished her Fine Art studies with a Masters Degree at the University of Arts Berlin(UdK) in 2009. She lives and works in Berlin.