Because he was a powerless child, Jonah went seeking mutations and freak accidents. He drank stagnant water from the swamp behind the powerplant, forced himself to stay in the bath so long that his skin did not merely go white and wrinkled, but sloughed off in wet folds like lasagna noodles. He cut a hole in the door of the microwave so he could thwart the safety sensors and insert his hand with the generator going. In the garage, he slit his fingers and glued penny-nails to his bones. In this manner, he would be prepared when the time came.
Below the forest canopy, Jonah commanded the sun to rise. The light brought with it fragments of steel—airplane fins, busted radiators, shattered billboards—unearthing themselves, raining dry silt. From these fragments, Jonah fashioned his armor. A corroded boiler for a breastplate, a helmet padded with abandoned picnic blankets, though he hadn’t foreseen that the blankets wouldn’t stop whispering. They tongued his pinnae with frayed strings and said over and over how there are the regrets of the world and there is the world of regret, and these are not the same.
The roads and the rivers hunted Jonah from the horizon. Beyond the edge of the wood lay a world where bullies bullied and fathers beat their sons and investment bankers performed mortgage-backed-security-voodoo capable, somehow, of graft soot to your shadow for life.
And Jonah, in his armor and knives, walked close to the edge of the yellow wood. From here, his childhood home was miles back, and with day’s heat arisen, his carved-ice furniture would all have melted. He stood poised below the sycamores, watching for a hint of the onslaught to come. He knew what lay nestled in the grass and knolls, waiting to rise like locust swarms, to descend like tornadoes. He knew what lay curled round branches ready to drip unseen to his shoulder, to unsheathe poison fangs, and what lay sunning itself on rocks brazenly in the open, and what lay buried in burrows, waging unseen wars of attrition. He knew, and still he stepped out from the wood into sunlight glistening on his plates and blades.
Go ahead, he told them. Swallow me whole.