The Consequences of Man

by Judd Hampton

"How can you hold a pen?"

"Shhhhh," he tells Milroy, shivering. "Why don't you get some sleep?"

"Too damn cold to sleep."

It's late October. Crisp night air colliding with warm earth blankets everything around them with fog. Moonlight filters through the mist, casting a pale glow upon their faces. Milroy's shadowed eyes look decisive.

"What are you writing?"


"On a night like this it must be full of meaning."

Thick mud coats the ground. Everywhere boot-prints scar the earth as if by some human stampede. A skin of ice creeps across the rain filled pocks like clotting blood. Rows of faces emerge, some expressionless, others anxious. Eyeballs blaze and shift.

"C'mon, tell me?"


"C'mon. Tell me."

"Alright," he whispers. "I'm writing about puppies."


"My little girl loves puppies."

"On a night like this you write about puppies? Why not something profound?"

"Puppies can be profound."

Noises ascend in the distance, snapping twigs, the crunch of footsteps, other whisperers. Eager hands wait for the moment, fingers twittering. Hair stands on the back of necks.

"On a night like this you should be writing about life, death, the consequences of man."

"But what of cheerful things," he says, "like Ketchup."


"My girl's puppy. She named him Ketchup."

"You're joking," says Milroy.

"I'm not."

"It's no good. Not on a night like this."

"But my girl, she--"

"I want evil conquered. I want demons vanquished. I want witches burning at the stake."


"I can see it as plain as your face," says Milroy. "Over there in the mist, a bonfire-wood stacked to the heavens, all of us dancing around like pagans. Bloodlust! We'll burn those fucking witches." Louder Milroy repeats, "We'll burn those fucking witches!" He starts chanting. "We'll burn those fucking witches!"

The mantra goes down the line and returns as a rising chorus.

"We'll burn those fucking witches!"

"We'll burn those fucking witches!"

Suddenly, flashes of light cut the mist and sharp noises like hornets buzz their ears. The sting bursts into Milroy's head and he falls backward and slumps into the freezing mud, dark liquid leaking from under his helmet and from his mouth. Steam rises from the earth as Milroy's blood melts the ice.

"Puppies. I want puppies."

And then he fires his weapon.

Copyright 2003 by Judd Hampton. All rights reserved.