Hercules Inkpen awoke and swung his trash can legs over the bedside. He clomped to the toilet where he sat disconsolate and went. In the mirror, a glare of utter contempt.
He fastened his shirt as well as he could, though his fingers were the crispy rims of fried eggs, hardly the tools for the task. His fingernails were apple cores, five weeks old. His colon, which was twenty miles of rusted pipe, poked out between the buttons of the shirt that had looked so respectable in the light of the store. A mannequin would wear it well. But not Hercules Inkpen.
In the apartment lobby, the postal carrier said hello and almost left it at that.
But the universe has no mercy, so the carrier added, “How are you?”
“Just fine,” Hercules said. “I’m fine, everything’s okay!”
His teeth fell on the floor and rolled away like marbles.
At work, Yeudall from the next cube over said hello. “How’s it going?” Yeudall added.
“I’m fine! Everything’s okay!”
Yeudall asked if Hercules had had a chance to look at the document they’d been sending back and forth. The document was a seemingly infinite Excel sheet; Yeudall and Hercules had spent the past month trying to find the bottom. Each man scrolled until his scroll finger wore out, and then he would note which cell he was at and forward the document to his cube neighbor.
“I haven’t looked at it yet,” Hercules said, hunks of flaming kitten spilling out with every uttered word. “I just got in.”
Yeudall slapped at the flames on his desk with a rolled-up printout of one section of the Excel sheet that he’d been inspecting. The cells were full of swear words and racism. Yeudall thought he could see a pattern. Yeudall thought that the cells held clues about the department’s future. Hercules put a hand to his mouth to stop the fire from raining down. Beetles pushed between his fingers, spewing acid from their rears.
He felt an ominous gurgle inside and went to the men’s room. He sat on the toilet. The movement felt like razors and long hair, and when he looked in the bowl he saw a dark, glistening animal, like an otter dipped in blood. He felt a maternal pang and reached into the bowl. The otter bit him and slipped off, cackling to itself. He followed its trail to a busted vent and wondered what he’d brought into the world.
After a day of scrolling, Hercules called it.
“See you tomorrow,” Yeudall said.
“I’m fine!” Hercules said. “Really!”
On the subway, his elbows, which were broken broomsticks, kept jabbing the breasts of women commuters.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Tonight was the night of the big family reunion, so Hercules took a shower. Afterbirth clogged the drain. Pencil shavings, pizza crusts, broken glass. Hercules put on a suit, which ripped as he stretched the pants over his trash can legs. In the mirror, his nose, which was a dropped ice cream sandwich, slid off.
The family gathered in a rented community center. Long-lost relations had flown in from all around the wide and exotic and frightening world. A dinner was planned, and they’d set up tables with name plates. Hercules wandered between the tables, everyone else seated and chatting, but he couldn’t find his name. His spongy toes kept dropping off, so he collected them in the kitchen sink where his heart, a jar of stale pink erasers, was also kept. He thought he glimpsed the bloody otter from earlier running under the chairs, looking up his female relatives’ skirts, cackling to itself.
One table was full of kids and Hercules tried to say hello, because they’d all grown so much, he couldn’t believe it. He wanted to be a part of their magical childlike lives while the lives were still magical and not dead.
“Yo, uncle Hercules,” one of the kids said. “Whazzaaaaaa?”
“I’m fine! I’m great! How are you?”
The kid returned to his device, and Hercules’s chest, which was a car fender, broke off and clattered on the linoleum floor. He left it there.
Since he was pretty sure his family had forgotten to set a place for him, he huddled in a corner. Everyone ate and laughed, and then they stood up to mingle. Hercules wanted to mingle too, but he was afraid of the questions his relatives would ask. Are you seeing someone? How’s work? How are you?
At last the reunion ended and everyone left, though Hercules remained huddled in the corner. The custodians came in, squat Filipinos. One of them was about to take him out back to the dumpster when Hercules made it known that he was in fact a living human being.
“Sorry,” the custodian said. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine! It’s fine! Everything is great!”
Then his arms broke off, and his head collapsed, and cabbage spilled everywhere. Cabbage and gold, which the custodian picked out, and, being a good man, sent to his poor relatives back home.
Trevor Shikaze‘s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in American Chordata, Lockjaw Magazine, Noble/Gas Qtrly, and elsewhere. Find him online at www.trevorshikaze.com