The Year of the Porcupine By Dinker Charak
In the dream, Anthro was kissing a girl. The sharp protrusions of her silver bangles were pressing against him. For some time he was able to ignore it. His mind was somewhere else.
“Of course,” in his dream he thought, “one does not get to kiss such a beautiful girl often.”
However, the bangles kept pricking hard until it became unbearable—
“Good choice. It is real scary!”
“I don’t get scared easily,” Anthro told the girl at the counter while taking his cash.
“This one is. Believe me.”
He gave a very dry smile as he walked away from her.
As he walked away, he heard her almost grumble to herself, “Wait till you piss in your own pants.”
Anthro just ignored her.
His hands hung in the air as if he was resting them on an invisible stand. His mouth was open and his breath heavy. He looked scared and almost as if, he had pissed in his own pants!
He was looking at his belly. It was hurting and a steady stream of blood flowed from the left side of his navel down his belly. Anthro did not move or maybe he could not move at all. He stared at his belly as if frozen in time in that posture. A single quill lay embedded into his belly, exactly where the girl’s bangles were hurting in his dream.
Anthro grabbed the man by the collar and pulled him up and whispered, “You are in such a hurry. Is your mother dead or is your wife about to sleep with your neighbour?”
The poor man did not understand what happened. It took him a while to regain his balance and then realize that it was because of Anthro, he had fell and that Anthro had said something nasty to him. Before he knew any further or could have reacted, Anthro had walked away.
“Piss in my pants! I won’t even piss on her,” Anthro grumbled wishing the girl at the counter were in his room now so he could hurl a volley of abuses at her.
He forced the cassette into the video player, grabbed a bag of walnuts and played it.
For first time in life, he jerked back scared just as the director of the movie intended. He did not realize, but something weird happened the next moment. Before he could realize, he lost his conscious and fell down on the bed.
“Do you have a porcupine for a pet?” one of his friends asked him. “Anthro, do you have a porcupine for a pet?” she repeated when he did not reply.
“Never had any,” Anthro responded.
“I could have sworn these are porcupine quill, though quite big.”
“Maybe he killed a porcupine in his previous birth and now it is payback!” joked a friend.
Not everyone found his comment funny.
Hello, welcome to World Wide Web Search. Please type what you are looking for:
> “porcupine quill human”
Now showing 3,150 results…
Anthro started reading the results. He did not give a thought to the fact that it may not be possible for him to read all the information. He was determined to find out what had happened to him.
Quite a few articles talked of a calendar cult. This cult had derived their calendar from the ancient Chinese and Indian calendars. According to that calendar, the year Anthro was born in was the year of the Porcupine. Another result of the search was an article from a gossip tabloid covering a report saying that they had found a little girl in the snowy Tundra whose hair had fused together and now she had something like quills instead of hair. He printed a few long articles so he could read them at home later.
That evening after returning from work, he took those articles to bed. He kept reading them he finished his bedtime snack of a bag of nuts. After which, he fell asleep.
He woke up after few hours with a start. He immediate looked around and at his belly if there were more quill but there were none. His relaxed as he stood up and talked towards his kitchen. His friends had left some food for him to eat. He felt like having some fresh air blow at him and decided to go out for a walk. He moved the thick curtain and look outside the window. It was dark, but he felt it was a good time to take a walk. He got ready, locked his home and left.
He took a deep breath of the water-laden spring air. It was fresh and tasty. He walked towards the community park. As soon as he stepped off the footpath, he heard loud horn of a truck. He looked back and realized that he had stepped on the road without having looked both sides. A truck was coming at him from the wrong side.
He stood few feet away from the truck. Its headlights were off but it was not driving very fast. As he withdrew back to the footpath, the truck swivels past him. His hands rushed to the side as if he would push away the truck if it came close.
The surge in the noise as the truck approached and the immediate hush as soon as it passed due to the Doppler Effect scared him. The blaring horns undid what his friends and the sleep had done after the quills. He panicked and screamed. As he crouched, he heard his heart pound under the noise of the truck and his scream.
He felt a million pinpricks pierce his back as he fell on the footpath. The fading sound of the truck sounded like music from another world as he drifted into sleep.
All this made him very irritable. More intolerable than what some very tolerant people could tolerate.
“Wake up! You drunk! Idiot! Wake up! If you want to die, die on some other street. Do not mess my neighbourhood.”
Anthro woke to these words and realized what had happened. He was soon in his elements.
“Go to hell. I will die anywhere I want. But there is only one place where you can die, a trash can!”
Anthro walked away.
“You nasty moron, may the bees bite you till you are dead and bloated,” the man screamed at Anthro’s back.
“I don’t have to say anything to you! The cockroaches are already getting you!” Anthro screamed back at him.
Anthro walked back to his home and broke a few glasses in anger. His already chaotic life was now even bigger a skein. He wished he were dead.
Anthro could not help but move. His friend stood next to him with a seven-inch blade knife and he was planning to stab him with it.
“Give me that knife and you sit here,” replied Anthro with mild irritation. “Then show me how to stay still. No wonder your girl friend left you. You must have always been still with her too!”
“Damn it Anthro, I am trying to help you and you are so—”
“Shut up and stab me. I talk nasty. I cannot help it. Take it or jump out of the window. Either way is fine with me!”
He lugged the knife hard towards Anthro. The blade hit his skin and it scratched as the blade hit it. As before, all he could do was scratch Anthro’s skin. His skin was so tough that the blade could not penetrate.
He sat in the couch with a huff. Those who stood behind watching him stab Anthro stepped back.
“What is wrong with you guys? I am a normal human!”
“I wonder what else is ‘normal’ about you,” asked his friend with the knife.
He wished he could cry and all he could do was finish all the walnuts he had in the home.
Those who did talk to him often had to end the meeting to save their selves from all the verbal abuse the impatient Anthro subjected them to.
She looked at the movie and said, “It is real scary!”
Anthro relaxed as he realized she did not remember him. “I know and the last time I saw it I pissed in my pants!” and they both laughed.
Anthro saw the man come at him. He heard the police constable and he knew what he had to do. He looked at the road. His bus was coming. It was few seconds away from its usual stop. Anthro raised his hand and the man fell. The police constable caught up.
Anthro boarded his bus and it drove away. From the window, he saw the police constable look at the fallen man with a strange look.
Anthro saw that movie thrice.
He complained to the newspaper manager about it later in the day. It was a brief and gentle conversation.
Anthro was more than irritated this time. The man in front of him was acting strange. He was very rude to the woman in front of him. Even though waiting in the queue was universally irritating, this man’s noxious behaviour was making it worse for everyone.
“What did you say to?”
“I said did you daughter pay the neighbour to sleep with your wife so she could call a better man her father?”
The man, visibly angered, looked away. Apparently, he wanted to avoid a confrontation. Nevertheless, Anthro’s words had done the things. He was now still and silent. Anthro had put him in his place.
Still, Anthro felt uneasy. Things irritated him very easily. But what this man caused was more than that and Anthro did not like the feeling.
Pretending he was reading a book, he kept his attention on the man. The queue moved slowly. He had already been there over twenty minutes. Given the going speed, he expected to be there for another forty minutes or so.
As Anthro kept a close watch on the man, he realized that the small object he had noticed inside his jacket was almost shaped like a gun. Anthro grew alert. People were not allowed to bring in guns here.
Someone who wanted to bring in a gun may want to conceal it in a bag or something. But this man wore it as if he wanted to take it out instantly. It was then he realized why he had been pestering the old woman to keep distance. It might be somehow detrimental to his plans. Anthro kept his eyes on the man.
The time crept by. Soon, the man with the gun was at the counter now. He was talking to the man on the counter. He was asking about something and the man was trying to him as much as he could. It was apparent to Anthro that he was just making up all the questions.
Suddenly he saw his hands move to his jacket. Anthro’s eyes tried to follow him but he could not see. He moved in closer and he heard the faint click as the gun’s lock released. Anthro realized what was going to happen.
Anthro moved to the man’s side so he could see a bit more. His hands we on the gun and he was slowly taking it out. Anthro had to act quickly.
He raised his hand and pointed his finger at the man’s lower back. A single quill appeared and punctured his lower spine. The man fell motionless as the quill withdrew.
In the mêlée that followed, Anthro quietly walk out of there.
Cover picture by Quinn Dombrowski