“How Many Four Year Olds Do You Think You Could Take In a Fight?” by Ian Couch

Aug 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Nobody ever told me why the scientists decided to answer the question, but they must have cleared out every orphanage in the country to do it.

The first hour of the experiment was the toughest. Kids headbutted me in the crotch, and I caught enough shin kicks to limp for a week. Bite mark scars still shimmer along my fingers. I punched their child-sized temples and mule kicked their soft little sternums hard enough to make their chests pop. One boy, I grabbed by the ankles and flailed against his comrades. I kept swinging him until the top of his head came off—he must have still had a soft spot. Soon, I stood in the middle of a growing pile of dead four year olds which I stacked like cordwood to fortify myself. They couldn’t swarm anymore and, when chip-toothed children whack-a-moled their heads over the wall, I yanked them down and beat their skulls against the ground like trout before tossing them on top. I made an igloo of dead four year olds that way. The igloo smelled like pee and everything was sort of sticky. If kids wriggled through, I’d strangle them and use their bodies to make the walls thicker. Amid crying and ineffectual battering at the walls, I slept. Those scientists somehow made the toddlers go rabid. But it must not have been actual rabies, because I’ve eaten hundreds of them by now and I’m doing fine.

When I woke the next morning, I burrowed out and found an army of children stretched to the horizon. Zombie movies don’t have so many drooling extras. Just like the igloo, I killed myself a tunnel’s worth of grade schoolers and then structured yet another room. I feasted on Capri Suns and Lunchables recovered from the fallen.

Those early, terrifying moments were years ago, and I’ve now crafted a labyrinth of secret rooms and trap laden passages. Having tracked the toddlers-turned-teenagers through the network of gore I’ve come to call home, I hide perched above and listen to a group surrounding a campfire in one of the larger chambers. They tell ghost stories about me and make hopeless plans to finally kill me. They’re all scared and sometimes even cry when sharing the horrors they’ve seen in my lair. Most of the stories are true.

I am legend.

I tug at the clothes I’ve sewn together from salvaged Dora the Explorer backpacks and stroke the necklace of finger bones rattling against my chest. One kid says he hears me stalking them from the distant shadows, as if I’d directly strike a hunting party. This sends a girl into a gasping panic that the group leader warns her to snap out of. The leader sends the alarmist trembling down a wet, red corridor to investigate. A tiger pit lined with sharpened femurs waits for him, so I don’t bother following.

The collapse sounds off from the darkness and he screams. The leader boy shouts, “We have to get out of here!”

“No,” says the panicked girl, “we stick together. He can’t get us if we stick together!” But in the end, they always scatter. I stalk them down their own lonely sections of carrion lined walls, ill-fitting light-up sneakers making them easy to track. I brain one with a ball of cheap winter jackets I’ve melted into a hardened nylon sphere; I garrote another with a rope of woven friendship bracelets.

All they’ve eaten for thirteen years and ten months are the juice boxes and chewy fruit snacks provided to them, so their teeth are completely rotted out and they can’t even shriek things like “they made us do it!” without spitting everywhere. A lot of them die from oral infections before I even find them. Still, in another two months it will have been exactly fourteen years since the four year olds arrived. And that is when I will take their toothless women.


Defenestration-Ian CouchIan Couch has previously served as a fiction editor for Barely South Review, worked as a head writer for the sketch comedy show Magic Pants, and written for several television programs. Having taught fiction classes at various schools and received awards for both fiction and screenplays, his stories appear in Papyrus, Clockhouse Review, and Drunken Boat. He lives with his wife in the Washington, DC, area.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.