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The man in the house nicks his smooth brown thigh with a razor blade. Snap, the blood pops out. Bright red at first, turning green in the oxygen.

From the slit in his thigh, a tiger is born. It comes out whiskers first, smooth black nose, hot white fangs. It claws at his flesh, hind legs scrabbling for purchase on his femur, a deep ache a tearing a kick in his groin and then with a roar the tiger emerges, dripping green, leaps onto the floor and the wound on his thigh is still throbbing and wet but the adrenaline heat of relief dams up in his body like an ocean and he is amazed.

The tiger laps the blood off its fur, licks its chops. Purrs. It is the size of a cub, but it is no cub. It is a full-grown miniature Bengal tiger.

He forgets to pour alcohol on his cut, forgets the bandage, forgets the thrill. He feels lightheaded. He sees the gunslinger waiting on the other side of the window blinds, sees polished gun metal through the slats, and the tiger in here.

The air conditioner emits a fragrance of cotton candy. The cabinet television strokes its antenna, turns itself on. The tiger walks into the TV screen, onto a racetrack, and jumps on the backs of horses. Jockeys and thoroughbreds scream. There is a tumult of whips and hooves but the tiger is unstoppable. He is a killing machine.

The man in the house changes the channel.

A Navajo medicine woman scatters pollen to the four directions. She plucks the legs off butterflies, braids them into her daughter’s hair.

The daughter is to be married to an important chieftain. The two women will have a hogan of their own, a place where the sun falls in the winter and the shade cools in the summer.

Their wedding is at a monster truck rally. There is a demolition derby held in the couple’s honor, a money dance, white dresses and halibut shipped overnight from Alaska.

The bed in their hogan is covered with bearskins. At night they wear the bearskins and go into the mountains to drink Icehouse in the forest. They find small men living in holes under tree roots. The men tell them they are living in sin. The women laugh and pluck off their limbs, one by one, until only their heads are left.

They eat the heads and spit out the teeth like blackberry seeds.

The man in the house changes the channel.

The tiger is adopted by the owner of a taco truck. He sleeps behind the warm stove all day and hunts for meat at night. Every morning, the owner makes tacos out of the leftover meat. They make a good team. The killer needs a good provider. He needs a place to dream.

One day a guru comes to the truck and buys dos tacos de papa, por favor. He drinks Sidral Mundet sitting in the shade of his unwound turban and tells the tiger he can teach him to become enlightened. No more killing, only peace.

The tiger likes this man. He likes the way he pulls at his fuzzy gray beard, the way he doesn’t eat the tiger’s carne asada. The tiger follows the guru into the desert to learn yoga, which he masters within a day. (Tigers are very flexible.) Then he learns levitation and firewalking by the end of the week. When the guru admits he has nothing left to teach him, the tiger is so hungry he almost kills and eats the guru, but he kills a jackal and eats its tough flesh instead.

The guru weeps. “And now it is I who should be learning from you,” he says, “for the tiger has so mastered his own desire that now he can even kill without wanting to do so in the slightest.”

The tiger cuts its forepaw with a claw. Snap, the blood pops out. The guru, still sobbing, crawls in. His bones crackle and pop as he is subsumed into the tiger’s flesh. The guru’s world tastes of metal, sublimely warm. It is dark as the womb.

When he is reborn, the guru is dressed in black. It is hot out here by this window. He is holding a gun.

He hears a television blaring inside. Horses roar and scream.

The man in the house changes the channel. Green blood drips down his leg.


He was at the bus stop minding his own business when a person of short stature asked him for the time.

It was 12:05, he said. And he was headed out early even though the bars were still open. His shift was over and he wanted to get to the 24-hour QFC before the drunk rush. He had an urge to buy a slice of red velvet cake. Plus, he was out of scotch. And why the hell was the bus so late? Traffic was basically non-existent at this hour.

The short person nodded empathetically and pulled a long strand of seaweed out of his ear. He examined it and flicked it into the gutter. The bus pulled up and the seaweed clung to one of its tires.

All desire for cake suddenly drained out of him. The person of short stature boarded the bus, but he waved it on and went to the pinball arcade instead.


There, a live crocodile opened its jaws to accept hunks of raw poultry. He ordered scotch with MD and peed in a toilet that looked like the Batmobile. Androgynous blondes wearing glasses waited outside the all-gender restroom for him to emerge. He felt sweaty and gross. He drank three limoncellos and then walked up the hill toward his apartment.

He was halfway home when the earthquake hit. It shook open the pavement, cracked canyons down the streets. Apartment towers skidded downward. A woman in manacles burst out of the sewer, her eyes alight. She stretched like a cat and scraped the slime off her legs with the links of her handcuffs.

The ground was still rippling. The woman had no shoes, but she walked to the Pie Bar to quench her terrible thirst. She drank an entire pitcher of mimosas. She ate a huckleberry pie. The Pie Bar slid down the hill like melted ice cream and spit her into the bay where the saltwater rusted through her chains.

Free at last, she swam to the surface. There bobbing next to her was a man wearing a black hoodie and a look of confusion.

The man couldn’t say what she saw in him. Getting thrown off the hill by an earthquake after a night of drinking hadn’t done much for his looks. But she didn’t seem to mind. They made out in the frigid waters, the incoming tide pushing them to shore. He thought of alien abductions. Maybe he was getting abducted right now.

It seemed highly likely. But everything seemed highly likely when it was already happening. Such as her eagerness to tear off his clothing and make love to him on the beach.

Well, why not? This was why he kept a condom in his wallet, after all.

She was an animal. He felt himself dissolving into the sand, sinking atom by atom into a singular orb of pleasure. Skyscraper lights spun like fireworks. Dock pilings collapsed and crashed into the bay. She towered above him, monstrous, ravenous, terrifying.

He didn’t want her to stop.

The precarious brick buildings of Pioneer Square crumbled into the water.

She didn’t stop.

A tsunami swept them up in its icy grasp.

She still didn’t stop.

He didn’t care if the world was ending. Stars exploded. Fire rained down. He hadn’t realized how tall she was. She carried him like a baby and for one brief moment he felt safe. Then she dropped him into the churning sea. Darkness swallowed him whole.

He was not at all surprised to discover that hell was a City Target store, and that he himself had shrunk by several sizes. He must have been the subject of an alien experiment, or maybe there was something nuclear in the water. Or maybe this was karmic punishment for being a selfish prick all his life.

It made sense. He bought himself a presentable shirt and slacks from the children’s department and caught the next bus home.

On the beach, the woman shook the sand out of her dress and tied plastic bags on her feet for shoes. She bought a chocolate sheet cake at the 24-hour QFC and ate the whole thing while sitting at the light rail station. The piped red icing spelled Astonishment.

Liz Kellebrew is the author of Water Signs and the forthcoming books The River People and Cloistered (all from Unsolicited Press). She won The Miracle Monocle Award for Innovative Writing, and she was a finalist for the Calvino Prize. She has volunteered for Kitsap Salmon Tours and wants everyone to know about the amazing salmon-saving work Columbia Riverkeeper is doing. You can follow Liz on Bluesky or learn more about her publications at

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