“The Goat Variations”

Beginning of the rough draft…


It would have been hot, humid in Florida that September, and the secret service would have gone in first, even though it was just a middle school in a county he’d won in the election. He would have emerged from the third black armored vehicle blinking and looking bewildered as he got his bearings in the sudden sunlight.

His aide and the personal body guards who had grown up protecting him would have surrounded him before he’d taken a step. They would have entered the school through the front, stopping under the sign for photos and a few words with the principal. He would already be thinking past the event, to the next, and how to prop up declining public approval ratings as a result of his supposed “sickness.” He would already be thinking again of the secret room, buried far underground, and the pale, larval face of the man floating in the vat, hooked up to electrodes. He would already be thinking about the machine.

By the end of the photo op, the sweat would itch on his forehead, trickle into his eyes, burn sour in his mouth, but he’d have to ignore it while the smile on his face would have frozen on his face in a rictus. He has learned a new word from a Czech diplomat advising him on the Russian situation, and while he stands in front of the school, he turns it over and over in his mind: ossuary. Ossuary. A word that sounds so rich and soaring, but just means a pile of skulls. He feels like he’s presiding over a pile of skulls.


  1. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Yeah, good point. Since I’m still working out the guts of it, I’m afraid to post more for fear of being blocked.