crows gray

Morning heard the usual chirping chickadees, warbling finches, and cooing doves get "CAWED" into silence by a far-from-usual flock of airborne scavengers… circling… flying reconnaissance over a hodgepodge of idle smokestacks that seemed to aim at the sky like rifles poised for a farewell salute. Nary a shot was fired, however. Unmanned, the plant lay neutralized, its poisonous burn-off and noxious tides of residue having gasped and leached their last—actively, that is; passive contamination would linger for untold half-lives, the Legacy of an Era—and of each and every individual who had participated in the factory’s operation, most of whom, after several alleged "mishaps" (Code One Alerts, and the like) commenced calling in sick; never had so many "accidents" occurred in so short a time. One entire shift had expired with the release of toxic chemicals. A careless fluke? An act of sabotage? The cause went undetermined… much like that which took the lives of several CEOs as they, instead of voting to close the premises, toasted the company’s profits, their champagne spiked with a potpourri of solvents and industrial waste (over which they keeled a la Jonestown devotees). Just desserts, one might say, for a clique of corporate scalawags. Not a savory sight, nonetheless, as vomit dribbled red from their collective dropped-dead gizzards (around a banquet table, no less), their viscera hemorrhaging on contact with pollutants each gut imbibed, innards oozing through apertures fouling the fabric of thousand-dollar suits, silk ties stained with up-chucked strontium 90 and Dom Perignon.

"If you’d like to have a lawyer present while we…"

"Why? You don’t suspect me, I hope. Don’t kill the messenger, for Heaven’s sake; I only ‘served’ the drinks. I certainly didn’t lace them with strychnine, or whatever. They did that all by their lonesomes—the silly old things. Grandpas, most of them."

"Could you tell us how, exactly, the toxins were introduced?"

"Well, I can try. Keep in mind that I was popping in and out, doing my aim-to-please damnedest to earn the tip I never received, no thanks to those foolish, FOOLISH old fogies, all tucked in around one huge table, blathering on, and on, and ON about ‘the Brazilian this,’ ‘the Indonesian that,’ patting themselves on the back, or so I gathered, for cutting costs and lining up dirt cheap labor, when all of a sudden this hush settled in like someone let loose a fart. I thought, ‘Is it I?’ Maybe I sashayed in on something I wasn’t meant to hear. But no; every last one of those pompous, over-stuffed fossils was gaping at the table’s butt-ugly centerpiece—a monstrosity, I assure you! Some namby-pamby designer had incorporated unmarked canisters and heavy-duty thermoses into a flower arrangement; can you imagine? Sort of like a World War One Victory garden replete with steel canteens and vintage tins of mustard gas. Except these were brand-spanking new, all shiny and sinister-looking. But I swear, on my mother’s cremated ashes, I hadn’t a clue about what was inside. The way those good ol’ boys were ogling, it might very well have been some Fountain of Youth—the menstrual blood of vestal virgins, or some such—but I digress. Anyway, all at once, these containers were twisted open and passed left to right, like party favors, every glass getting a dose of who-knows-what."

"Were the men in self-control, would you say, or were they…"

"What; hypnotized? Acting like zombies? Not in the least. They all had Owl-Eyes, of course, but who doesn’t? Unless, that is, their cases were well advanced. Rumor has it, the longer OE lasts the wackier people behave. But I’ve had mine for months; you won’t find me swilling acid till my bowels dissolve through my bunghole. These poor slobs started passing poop before they even passed out. And the stench? Eau! Un-fucking-believable—pardon my French. I wouldn’t wish a death like that on Hannibal the Cannibal!"