Short Story
                                            Bleating Goats
                                                                    By Bryan Francia


    The dim light flickers above my cell. The room is calm and silent, and only the sound of bones scraping
against the cement walls violates my ears. “Heeellloooo theeeereeee…children.” The cells around me
begin to rattle as the children in them quietly sob as if they were starving mimes in Paris. Their faces
droop as their eyeballs cave into their skulls, devoid of any emotion or sight. To the left of me is a still
body, but I think his name was Jerry.

    “Helloooooo theeeeeereeee…children.” A rotten and brown stained wooden door opens and offers us
the smallest sliver of blue sky we’ve seen in weeks as a man walks down the ancient, rickety stairs of fate.
The floorboards creak and wobble as he inspects the room. We hear his heavy breathing through his
mask. His mask is a goat’s head that has hair blacker than the motor oil in our water bowls.  A grey nose
that sniffs the room for fear and desperation.  Limp ears that hear the whimpering of the three-year-old
children.  Horns that jaggedly protrude from its forehead, and empty eye sockets that are now home to his
bloodshot blue eyes.

    Blood drips from the edge of the mask’s neck, but the man simply collects it with his fingertips and licks
it. “Art, children, is fresh, and never stops. Art,” he holds his arm out like Hamlet and says, “is life itself.” He
puts his arm down and looks at a small girl. She looks away from his gaze and shuffles backward into the
cell’s corner. “Tsk tsk, 32. You’re invited to dinner, so let us… eat.” She begins bawling uncontrollably as
he unlocks the cell’s rusty door. The man grabs her by the neck, leans by her ear, and sniffs her. His eyes
roll back as he licks his chapped lips and says, “You smell…tantalizing tonight, my precious.”

    “No…please. Let me go! I-I’ll promise that I—”

    “Shut the hell up!” He squeezes her throat until her head swells like an infected boil as he walks to my
cell.

    “Well, looks like someone likes to watch. 32, I say we got ourselves a…voyeuristic sicko. Who’s,” he
looks at Jerry, “your friend here?” He kicks Jerry’s body and watches as the rats scurry away from the
decaying carcass, casually carrying away bits of Jerry to their homes. “Disgusting creatures, eating my
children.” The man quickly looks up, flashes me a smile, and unlocks the cell door. “Alright, 18, let’s go.”

    His callused hand grabs my neck as he drags me away from the hell I’ve known for what seemed like
decades. He drags our carcasses up the stairs, apathetic to our bodies banging upon the rough wood.
Our backs are rubbed raw, and I can only make out the small trails of blood that follows our ascension into
the unknown. The children look away, instead preferring the scene of my cellmate joining the rats in their
feast on Jerry.

    The man finally drags us into the outside world and its blinding daylight. He picks up a thick chain and
laces the door’s lock with it. He then grabs four padlocks and secures the chain with them. The girl looks at
me, looks at the man’s back, then back at me. Her flushed face screams out in agony as she shakes her
head at me. She quickly stands up from the ground and makes a run for the forest that is behind the shed.
The man sighs and says, “Why didn’t you tell me!” as he kicks me thrice in the ribs. He reaches for a
revolver that sits at his waist, aims it at the girl, pulls the hammer, and finally pulls the trigger. The bullet
explodes from the barrel as sparks fills the air for a split second. The chamber rotates as the bullet
whizzes toward the girl’s head. She screams at her inevitable fate as the bullet digs into her skull and
penetrates her brain. Her head ruptures and bits of her goes flying toward us. Pieces of grey matter land
on my forehead, and an eye hurls itself by the man’s feet.

    “What a shame, 18. She would’ve made a lovely bride, but that’s alright.” He picks up the eyeball, puts it
in his mouth, and bites into it. The innards of the eyeball land on my cheek as he laughs, swallows, and
says, “She always did have an eye for you, 18!” He slaps his knee and puts both his hands on his hips.
“Well, she’ll make a great meal.” He aims the revolver at me, makes a clicking sound, and jogs toward the
girl’s body. He throws her over his shoulder and walks back toward me. The black blood stains his shirt as
he pulls my arm and guides me toward the house that overlooks a field of nothingness.

    “You know,” he says as he kicks open the screen door, “no one ever visits your old uncle Ronnie, but
that’s okay,” he throws the girl’s body onto a couch, “because Ronnie is doing just fine! Now, if you’ll
excuse me, I need to make dinner.” He grabs the body and drags it into the kitchen.

    The house is dark and ravaged, as the couch’s cushions are sliced open, nightstands are pushed over,
and broken windows are boarded up. The walls are covered in torn wallpaper, and blood is smeared into
disgusting art that depicts little people worshipping a bigger person who wears a goat’s head. On the
cracked coffee table that overlooks the kitchen lays a decapitated goat, its innards are strewn about the
room as if they were party favors.

    Ronnie slams the body upon a moldy countertop and proceeds to rummage through a drawer. “Ah, here
we go,” he says as he pulls out a cleaver. He grabs the girl’s arm and carves a sliver of meat from her
underarm. “This, 18, is the best part of a woman’s… supple body. It has fat, but it has the most tender bit of
meat; don’t tell anyone I told you that,” he says as he smiles through the mask and points the cleaver at me.
He bites into the meat and swallows it. “Fresh as art, 18.”

    The blood trickles out from her arm as he carves more pieces of meat from her. My stomach is
stabbing itself as I’m forced to watch, lest he cultivates my fingers as he does to her. “Hey, 18! I give this
girl,” he cuts off her thumbs and holds them up, “two thumbs up!” I stay silent as he shakes his head. “C’
mon, that joke was a…killer!” He cackles as he rapidly pats the countertop.

    Ronnie catches his breath and lays the pieces of thinly sliced meat upon her stomach and places a pan
upon the nearby stove. The stove grunts and squeezes out a flame that engulfs the pan’s underside.
Ronnie cuts into the body’s side ever so slowly. The intestines splurge onto the counter’s ledge. He then
scrapes off the fat from the intestines and flicks it into the pan. The fat begins melting until crackling and
popping sounds fills him with glee.

    “Humans are so self-sufficient, right?” Ronnie grabs the slices of meat and places them onto the pan.
The meat jumps and dances around the pan as the fat fries the flesh. The pungent smell of sin and disgust
wafts through the house. He deeply inhales and claps. “Agh, do you smell that…delicious aroma? It smells
like Mother’s cooking! Don’t you love my cooking?” I stay silent as he turns toward me. He pulls out his
revolver and pulls the hammer. “Don’t you love my cooking?” I nod, but no matter how hard I try, my smile
cracks and commits suicide as he winks at me.

    “Come, 18, to the table and eat.” In the kitchen is a table that is sparsely supplied. There is a lone salt
shaker, two pepper packets, a metal fork and knife, a plastic fork and knife, and no table sheet. The table
itself is made from different pieces of wood that used to make up previous furniture. “Here we go!” Ronnie
throws pieces of flesh upon the table and sits down with me across from him. “Well…eat, 18.” Ronnie
slices the flesh with his knife, the pink center of the flesh exposing itself to me.

    The idea of consuming someone whom I saw suffering for so long is sickening and makes me want to
grab a knife and jam it into my throat.

    I look at the girl that lays on the table before me, and I realize that this will be my fate as well in due time.
“Eat,” Ronnie stands up from his chair, “the,” grabs his revolver, “girl,” pulls the hammer, “18,” and presses
the barrel to my forehead.

    I don’t cry, I don’t whimper, I don’t even look at him, I just grab my plastic fork and die inside.

    The flesh sticks onto the fork as my hand shakes and brings it into my mouth. My tongue feels the slimy
texture, the smoothness of the bone, and the roughness of the seared skin. I dry heave, but he merely says,
“Keep it in, 18.” I swallow the pain, and I swallow the misery of death.

    “Bleat for me,” he says as he glides the revolver’s barrel across my lips, “and make Ronnie a happy
daddy, child.” I softly bleat, but he just gets near my ear and says, “Louder, 18. Make Daddy happy.” I
shiver and look away. “Look at me when you’re bleating!” He pistol-whips me across my temple. I scream
and bleat as loudly as I can. He screams and bleats as well. Eventually, he and I bleat back and forth,
raising our volume during the exchange. “Shut up!” Ronnie fires two rounds into the ceiling and aims the
revolver at me. “Finish your food, 18!”

    “Kill me, Ronnie! Put that damn revolver in my mouth and pull the damn trigger! I dare you, Ronnie, you
sick bastard! If you don’t do it, I’ll kill you!”

    His hand shakes, and for a moment, I see something flash across his eyes. Was it fear, or was it anger?

    “You’re a barrel of laughs, 18.” He sets the revolver next to his heap of flesh and continues to eat his
abomination as he stares at me. The blue of his eyes drowns me as if he placed my feet into a cement
block and pushed me into his oceanic abyss.

    My heap is bottomless, but I shove the now cold flesh into my mouth, and without chewing, I swallow the
chucks. “I’m thirsty, Ronnie.”

    “So? I’m not Mother Theresa; go get your own damn water.”

    “You know, you’re supposed to give a dead man his last wish before he dies. My wish is simple,
Ronnie; I just want a drink.”

    Ronnie rolls his eyes, stands up and walks to the fridge.  He takes out a carton of milk, gets a glass
from the sink, and returns to the table. The glass cup is severely chipped and so dirty that you can’t see
through it. Ronnie opens the carton of milk and pours out its contents into the cup. The milk sloshes out like
sludge from a sewer drain. The chunky, yellow milk lands into the cup with a thud as he proceeds to fill the
cup to its brim.

    “There,” he slides the cup to me, “is your damn milk.”

    “That wasn’t so hard, now was it, Ronnie? Cheers.” I grab the glass and tip it toward my mouth. The
sour substance fills my mouth as I chew and gag. It crawls down my throat and leaves my mouth feeling
drier than before. Yet, I finish the glass of milk and hold the cup in my convulsing hand.

    “Alright, 18, give me the cup.”

    “No.”

    “Give me the cup.” I shake my head at the figure as he leans over the table.  “Give…me…the…c—”

    I smash the glass cup into the mask’s eye sockets. The shattered glass slices open my right hand like a
scissor through paper. The glass lodges itself into his eyes as he screams in agony. Ronnie flails his arms
around, desperately trying to grab me so that he may either snap my neck or choke me.

    I snatch the revolver, pull the hammer, press the gun into his chin’s underside, and say, “Bleat for me.”
The bullet leaps from the barrel of the gun, travels to the underside of his chin, ruptures his arteries, severs
his tongue, and eventually claws its way past his brain. The bullet leaves through the mask and nestles
itself into the ceiling. Ronnie’s eyes widen as he slams into the table and breaks it as it collapses upon his
weight.

    Blood quickly spreads upon the linoleum as I drop the revolver onto the floor. Ronnie twitches on the
ground and eventually stops moving. My hands shake, my lungs heave, my eyes become blurry with tears,
and my mouth twitches. “It’s over. It’s…actually…over.”

    I search through his pockets, take the keys, and exit the house running. I reach the shed that bound me
with fear and death. The padlocks are quick to unlock, and the chain that once held Ronnie’s secrets
comes tumbling down. The stairs sway and creak as I rush down them. The cells open, but the children don’
t move. The children don’t move as they stare blankly at each other.

    “Y-you’re all free now; get up and leave!” They all turn to me with empty eyes that fill me with dread. In
unison they say, “Goats never travel alone; goats travel in packs.” Footsteps descend the stairsteps and
heavy breathing accompany it.

    “Heeeeelllloooo theeeereeee…children.”
About Bryan Francia

Bryan is born and raised
in Texas where the
Chainsaw Massacre took
place. When he isn't
sleeping, Bryan is writing,
eating, listening to music,
and letting puppies. He is
an English major at the
University of North Texas.
He hopes that you enjoy
his debut piece that's
made with love.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.