By Caleb Bethea
He buries himself every night, letting the mire fill his circuit board like sleep, or something adjacent to what organic humans do when they dream, the monolithic dark of the swamp sitting on top of him with all the weight of a demon that’s parasitic in posture, pulling a warm current into its mud, distributing it among the buried eggs and half-sunken flowers.
The warmth of the other body, a new one each night, spreads its tendrils through the murk as well—exhales the last amber breath of cheap beers on tap, the chaotic charge of glowing neon signs hung behind darkened windows, frantic legs pulled from the dock party, one pair of so, so many.
He began his life in a filling station, old time charm, androids filling your tank and your milkshake, him being the only asynchronous one, dressed in the black and white of an old world butler, his only job to tell guests how happy he is to make the acquaintance of a true-blooded southerner, that some outsiders wouldn’t know a swamp from a bayou even if it reached up and drowned them.
Each body is for the sheriff, the android hoping that planting a carcass will bloom the attention of his lover, that the badge will excavate mud-stained flesh and see the pattern that it’s all wrapped around, that a machine like him could love a man of the law.
He’s buried eCommerce boys, young adult children of the HOA, Capricorns and Scorpios, you in your best pair of flip-flops, believers of secret history and the future of digital tarot readings, fermented drink evangelists, and others deserving of swamp death.
And as they die, he thinks of the night that started it all, the way the sheriff ran after the culprit in the rain toting a 9-millimeter, instead of tending to his blood-splattered silicone, the way that—in the mind of the android—the sheriff will always be chasing after the wrong one, a tragedy the size of an entire ecosystem rotating against the infinite gear-like categories of death fauna.
Caleb Bethea is an MFA at UofSC, studying fiction by night. By day, he works as a copywriter in eCommerce. But, the best of his time is spent with his wife and two goblins by the ocean.
You can read his work in voidspace, HAD, Maudlin House, mutiny!, APOCALYPSE CONFIDENTIAL, hex, Final Girl Bulletin Board, and Autofocus. He tweets at @caleb_bethea_.