The city employs a 12-man and 2-woman crew responsible solely for
ongoing antagonism toward and deterrence of fox denning. With bulldozers
they raze grass and earth along the creek. Dirt piles like miniaturized
mountain ranges, perfect for fox dens, amass on the neighboring field,
evidence of taxpayer dollars spent. They grace the earth long enough
only to tempt foxes and then face an eternity of flatness, as if the
city had invested in some giant steam iron to smooth the land.
The rest of the work week these anti-fox construction workers smoke and
sip soda. They leaf through Walmart paperbacks with galactic cruisers,
orcs, and shirtless muscle-bound whip-toting cowboys on their covers.
When the locals see them not exactly on the job but still collecting
pay, the consensus is that their employment is one big, stupid waste.
Save for two points:
At night, nearby residents sometimes find themselves trailed by one
or more curious foxes. The creatures stalk at a fixed distance they
seem to measure with a sense of something unseen to us. They study
us. They are not afraid.
The vixen call. When mating season comes, the female fox trumpets
her voice to all. Its cry sounds, more than anything else, like the
desperate agony of a beloved puppy skinned alive. This is her love
Several times men, tormented by the full-throated, torturous screams of
lust, have tried to track down and silence the vixens. But the men in
the town are incompetent, by and large, hunting vulnerable animals using
specialized technology requiring none of the deftness, wit, and skill
the foxes display daily. Lost to them, too, is the wild resolve to kill
cruelly. So, they sit suffering, as if their legs were snared, wondering
if their teeth are sharp enough to free themselves.
Despite the efforts, despite the silent protestation of the neighboring
people, foxes nonetheless make their homes. The crews with their
paperbacks and bulldozers can only mitigate, slightly, the natural
processes. So, a man still possessing some small measure of his wild
cruelty, though not much wit, loaded up one night determined to thin the
fox numbers. Unlike his coworker at the local Walmart who worked in
sporting goods, he did not have a basement stocked with over two hundred
firearms all locked safely and kept in working order. He had not been so
much as fishing for a good ten years. The rough, scaly feel of a fish
between his fingers at dawn was not something he sought. But he needed
sleep, and the vixen call had not relented for four nights running. The
agonized call toyed with his empathetic impulse, sent sharp tingles of
pain down his arms and legs. Made him think of phrases he’d thought were
for other people, like “I feel your pain” and “Put it out of its
misery.” But out of the mania of sleep deprivation, or running on some
underlying instinct, some exposed nerve, he journeyed out. Not sure what
sort of firearm he would need, he carried a bundle with a broom, his
father’s old hunting rifle, and a machete, should hand to paw combat
He stalked in the night, moving silently along the lighted trail where
foxes denned. In the darkness, the anti-fox crew’s leveling machines
slept, dreaming, perhaps, of the metallic sensation of crushing all
before them. The man envied their restfulness, the ease with which they
could tear open their paths forward. The totality of the silence
achieved. But this notion slipped away like a low creature into the
brush. He moved on. Down the trail he went searching for the origin of
the nightly cries, which had gone silent on his approach.
Then barking. After all his hunting, a fox had simply revealed itself to
him. It stood in the light at a measured distance, yapping rhythmically.
The man approached. Fox retreated. Yapping. The fox challenged, man
advanced, fox outstepped. Man paused, considered abandoning the hunt.
Fox goaded; man continued. As if man and beast were connected by string,
they proceeded in this manner, one shadowing the other’s steps.
The man pursued the fox down a trail darkened by flooding that destroyed
the city’s electric lamps. On either side, the trickle of creek running
still overfull from intense storms rose up like a curtain of sound,
separating the two from the world. The fox’s shape grew dusk colored as
it slinked from one paved square to the next. Before the darkness
cloaked the lines between these paved pieces, the man had started to
imagine chess pawns sliding in pursuit of each other, one space at a
time. Pavement disappeared, and the barking drew him into a field full
of crops that had not yielded. The glow of town lights was gone.
Then barking ceased. Proverbial, then actual crickets. He had been close
to start with, he realized then, had almost found the lot of them, and
the fox had been drawing him away. Away from the family he’d been out to
kill. Now, predator safely away from the den, the fox darted away,
faster than human eyes can trace in the night. The man leaned on the
weapons he’d bundled together and moaned, a sounding of his voice the
meaning of which he could not immediately grasp. Deep in that hidden bit
of wilderness, hidden under darkness more than mere night, he found
something he did not know existed.
At this point in the story Frankenstein’s blood—smuggled out of Nazi
Germany by a rogue scientist—has, through the wonders of modern
transfusion, grown a porcupine twenty-five meters high and bestowed it
hellfire rainbow beams that launch from its quills. The beams will be
added in post. The villainous creature Golorha disappears after rampages
on cloudy days into a strange, electric dimension. Meanwhile, I
disappear inside his skin, sweating under 200 lbs. of latex. The
bumbling press blames our misdeeds on Porcupinicus, an innocent monster.
Now we prepare for the reckoning.
The crew have drilled holes in Golorha’s throat for ventilation, but
director Endo requested layers of hair added over the creature’s
body—no comment on the hairy foreigner inside. Just to clearly mark
the villain. “Like a curly black mustache,” he said. The fur traps in a
beastly musk that tastes like punishment. Between scenes they unzip
Golorha’s back and let me lean out for a smoke and some tea. Always the
damn hot kettle. “Cold tea, cold tea onegaishimasu.”
I sip my hot tea and watch them set explosions for the next scene, my
terrible rampage on Asakusa. Tempted by the joyous sounds of a festival,
we will crush underfoot irreplaceable temples and screaming people. The
miniatures crew have constructed a detailed world solely for us to
obliterate. But this scene is when Porcupinicus finally catches us. The
climactic battle requires half the studio’s explosives budget. The “bomb
crew,” as we call the explosive effects team, hides charges under pads
of dirt, inside the pagoda, lit cigarettes dangling hazardously from
their lips. I can’t hear what they’re muttering about even if I could
understand that gruff Japanese because they keep setting explosives off
too close to Golorha’s head. Now incoming rockets ring in my ears.
“I have the same problem,” Endo once said. He wasn’t in the war, though.
He did propaganda films. Model plane dogfights. The glory of the
Imperial Airforce. Had he supported the wars? Did he resent we Americans
who’d bombed his home? “Iya, I only thought about the planes.
Beautiful designs, elegant steel wings.” Now his specialties were
monsters—and explosions. “But Mr. Endo,” I’d said, “that beauty surely
aided the war effort.”
Aya-chan, the compact woman who crawls about inside Porcupinicus’s skin,
takes her tea on the other end of miniaturized Asakusa. Her hair is
lopsided, partially burned off by a misplaced firebomb effect. She lifts
her cup in a toast. We are soon to war, soon to change from smiling,
tea-sipping selves into bloodthirsty kaiju.
I suit up. Stepping onstage, I remember what Endo said in response to my
question: “People go mad. We give ourselves up. We torture others and
don’t know why.” He’d held a model plane from one of his propaganda
films. Metal wing sharpened razorlike. As he drew his fingertip along
its length, a thin line of blood crawled across his creation. “Maybe
it’s the only way we understand. By creating beautiful violence.”
Enemies square off. Civilians cower. The holy sites of Asakusa wobble
with our footsteps. Endo directs from offstage, hand quivering over the
James Sullivan has split his adult life between the Midwestern US and Japan. He lives in Minnesota now and is writing a novel. Find his recent work in Fourteen Hills, Door is a Jar, The Daily Drunk, and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. Twitter: @jfsullivan4th