Part 35 - Artery

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Trivia and Ray reentered the circle of stones.

Audubon held a seashell like an old-fashioned microphone. She parted her lips. The cry of a red-tailed hawk echoed across the glade.

Trivia whispered to Ray, "She has a kinship with birds; crows are only her favorite."

"That one better?" Audubon said.

"Good," Roosevelt said.

"Really good," Ray said.

"What are you doing?" Trivia said.

"Saving the forest." Audubon tossed the shell to Wilson. "Play it back."

Wilson looked at her quizzically.

"See if the glamour works, dummy," Audubon said with affection.

Wilson held the sea shell to the side of his head, where his ear ought to have been. Nothing happened.

Audubon frowned.

Wilson shook the sea shell up and down and repeated the gesture.

"Why are you—" Trivia said.

Ray would never know what one thousand red-tailed hawks screaming into his ears sounded like, because all he heard was agony and a hint of cinnamon. The latter was the result of trauma-induced synesthesia. "Oww!"

Audubon clapped with delight.

Trivia massaged her temples.

Roosevelt slowly covered his ears. "Loud," he complained.

Wilson said nothing, because he had been decapitated. His body lay on its side, twitching and jerking. His scarf and glasses lay ten feet away, his trilby twenty, all supported by a writhing, cone-shaped carpet of ants with its apex at Wilson's neckline.

"Wilson!" Ray ran to Wilson's side, taking care not to stomp any ants, and looked helpless.

Audubon giggled into her palm.

"I think he's got a head injury!" Ray said. "Somebody do something! Where's his head?!"

"Get yourself together," Trivia said.

Her callousness shocked Ray. Unable to think poorly of Trivia, he said, "Audubon! What did you do?"

Audubon pointed to her ears and mouthed, "I can't hear you."

Wilson's headless body sat up and patted Ray on the shoulder.

Ray screamed. He fumbled for his cell-phone. "I have to call Byron, he'll know what to do."

"Ray, he's fine." Trivia said. "Get yourself together, Wilson."

The ants formed a flying wedge and charged beneath Wilson's coat. More ants spilled out of his neckline, connecting their bodies into chains and the chains into scaffolding. The structure supported a softball-sized ball which grew larger as more ants glommed onto its surface. When the shape grew large enough to rest upon Wilson's shoulders, the scaffolding came down and Wilson molded it like a child sculpting Play-Doh.

"Wilson?" Ray said. "You okay, buddy?"

Wilson wrapped his thick, grey scarf around his head and replaced his green sunglasses and trilby. He waddled over to his cache of candy, unwrapped the last caramel, and pressed it between the folds of his scarf. "Delicious."

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