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The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs
It was a warm evening in our town, with the air lying gentle on our quiet streets, but here it felt sharp and bright with our anticipation.
The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs was coming to our town. That was what all the rumors said. He had been touring our part of the country, they said, and now he was coming here, to our little town. We were all very excited. The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs wasn’t welcome in any reputable theatre, the authorities had made that very clear, so we went to work clearing a space in the old Censon quarry for him to perform. We made a ring of oil barrels, to be filled with wood and fuel for burning that night, and drove a heavy iron stake into a stone at the center. We had to be careful; we knew that if the town elders got wind that the Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs was coming they would close the roads and establish patrols around the town limits. He would never be able to get past them. That was why, when they asked us what we were doing, we said we were making a shooting range. They smiled at that, and then, to our relief, they left us to our work.
The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs arrived at dusk. We were waiting for him. The barrels were already lit. Everyone was there. It was a warm evening in our town, with the air lying gentle on our quiet streets, but here it felt sharp and bright with our anticipation. The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs was wearing gray sweatpants and a stained white undershirt. His feet were bare and his gait was shuffling, lopsided. Only a few strands of greasy hair still clung to his scalp. As we all expected, he carried a black leather prayer book in his left hand, which was little more than a stump of flesh with a thumb attached. His face was changeless, ceaseless. We all thought he was the most beautiful man we had ever seen.
The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs shuffled to the center of the ring. Although we had all clustered together on the northern edge of the ring, he nonetheless faced each of the cardinal directions in turn and executed a deep, formal bow towards them. Then, facing towards us again, he knelt down on the bed of gravel we had laid over the rough bedrock. The dogs were brought out. We hadn’t fed them for two days, in anticipation of this night. Their coats, freshly washed and groomed, glistened in the firelight. The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs extended his right hand and started to make a low and rumbling hum from somewhere hidden inside him. His left hand, with the prayer book, he kept clutched close to his chest. The dogs approached. A dark gray wolfhound was the first to strike, biting deep into the flesh between his thumb and forefinger. We heard the crunching of small bones. The other dogs quickly followed the wolfhound’s lead, and we watched the Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs disappear beneath a swarm of fur and blood and bright, snapping teeth. His humming, which had been almost inaudible at first, grew louder as the frenzy grew until suddenly, abruptly, it stopped, like a valve being shut off, and the dogs scattered into the darkness. What was left behind was scarcely recognizable, nothing but a pile of torn clothing and viscera. The pile stirred, and the Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs rose from beneath it, unharmed, looking just as he had at the beginning of the show. He bowed. We all clapped. A few of us cheered. The Man Who Feeds Himself to Dogs held his bow for a long moment, then shuffled away, into the darkness, out of our town. As we walked back to our homes that night, down our gentle, quiet streets, we felt something new in our hearts. It was the very first time.
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