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Dowsing Rod // New Fiction by Taylor McGill

I tried every way to salivate. I licked my upper lip, and my tongue left a small abrasion beneath my nose. I thought of my neighbor’s wife in a red sun dress. Still, I could not salivate.

     After some wandering I came upon a dowsing rod. It was a sturdy, forked, white twig. I picked it up and felt a heaviness tugging me in the forward direction. I followed the weighted tip of the dowsing rod for only a few moments in what seemed like circles to the shoulder of a highway. I then looked down to realize that the thing was not a twig but the antler of a deer.

     Given the cursed circumstances, I decided to wave my thumb at the passing traffic but the drivers paid no mind, perhaps moving so quickly the peripheral world was but thread and peripheral. Or, likely, they were turned off by the thing in my hands. I thought to call out the passersby; however, any motion of the rough tongue inside my throat threatened to split my neck down the center. The antler, my lifeline, I pointed at the forest and begged it to show me water. My tongue was so dry it was filing my front teeth to stumps.

     I considered I was nearing death. I thought of rare tuna and rosemary potatoes and the behind the knees of my boss, who is a woman. Still, my mouth would not produce saliva. The day sun was milking my pores for moisture. Yet, I did not perspire. The weight of certain death settled on me and I wondered: if a hunter happened upon my bones where would they lead him?

     I reentered the forest shade and began to remove my clothing so that, in the event of sudden collapse, my remains could be discovered most easily. I hung my garments from a low tree branch. The forest was heavy with shadow at this evening time and the chilled air set my pubic hair on end. In fact, I quite liked the feeling. I tried one last time to wet my mouth: I thought of blood orange gelatin. I pressed the palm of my hand to my tongue and the effort was unproductive.

     I laid my body upon the ground among the sticks and arranged my limbs in a tall stack. My insides would be found in a tidy pile crowned by the set of antlers. Perhaps I would be mistaken for a deer that walked upright. I closed my eyes and welcomed death, anything to rid me of unwanted sensations.

     I was woken, who knows how much later, by two patchy dogs with coats like young beards—one dog blonde and one dog blonder—each gently chewing the contour of my Achilles. I shook the pups from my leg and held out my tongue inviting them to lick it. Now, this might be a rude detail: they did so and I felt neither loved nor lucky but the feeling was not unpleasant.

     The dogs were bound to one another by knotted leashes. I stood and wrapped the knot securely around my left wrist. I asked the dogs to walk me home. Or, they asked me to walk them home. I can’t remember now, I was quite thirsty. I spoke, Onward, and the dogs began walking in opposite directions of each other. They were identical, except for color, so as one pulled east and the other west and as I backwards—intending to bring them towards me because there is comfort in proximity to even opposing things—we were stuck in place trying to move but going nowhere at all. I had an idea then. The dowsing rod, the deer antler, was tight in my right hand and I thought to throw it straight ahead of me. I did so and the two dogs took off in its direction, dragging me behind. The skin of my genitals too thirsty to ache or to bleed. Bones rattling along. Tree shadow slicing our caravan into slim pieces. The trees taunting, full of moisture. Envy, I considered, is a form of admiration. And at that moment, everything I loved was a tree. The two dogs stopped when they reached the antler and began urinating upon the thing. I dropped the leash then. I buried my fingers and feet in the soft dirt and still I was thirsty, but I was not at all bored.
Taylor McGill lives in NJ, for now. Her fiction appears in matchbook, Timber, and Metazen. Her minimal web presence can be found here: she-biscuit.tumblr.com.