Rion Amilcar Scott

The Fall of Lokus the Wise: A Children's Story

The Fall of Lokus the Wise: A Children's Story

By Rion Amilcar Scott

I was told once that our world is the very bottom of a bottomless pit and what we commonly think of as the sky is the very top of the bottom, the beginning of the end.

I didn’t believe it until I saw a man materialize from a dark cloud, falling through the air like a drop of rain. On his descent, two birds circled his head and I could hear them tweeting like madmen [….]

Read More

A Loudness of Screechers

By Rion Amilcar Scott

Prompt, by Tara Campbell: Banquet of beasts: beasts could be literal/figurative/whatever. And they could be on either side of the table: eating or being eaten. Or they could be underneath the table doing whatever it is beasts do best.

The first of the screecher birds appeared that year over the town like a hero in the sky during a cold walk home from the bus stop. Josh had just grabbed my butt and dashed off as a dare. He looked back with a dumb smile and there the impressive thing coasted overhead, massive wingspan spread wide.

Nigga’s childish as shit, said Andrew, the boy who dared Josh, as he sidled up next to me, too close; his breath smelled of peppermint, cigarettes and tooth decay.

I breathed the cold air deeply, hoping it would freeze and then crack my heart. One more week until Christmas break and Josh and Andrew wouldn’t be in my face everyday and I could ignore them more easily. Just ignoring them is what my mother would advise anyway. Daddy would tell me to punch them in their heads. That’s far too angry, my Uncle Charles would say: Smile and don’t let them dumb niggas see you sweat.

Go somewhere before I call that screecher down to snatch y’all, I said. There was a smile on my face that poisoned my words, made them sound joyful.

Josh mumbled something about the birds never straying so far from the Wildlands while I looked at the claws on the circling thing and imagined it swooping down and snatching the boys, piercing their chests with sharp talons before flying off to feast, digging into the boys’ chests, pulling out their intestines to gobble them like early birds gobble worms from the dirt.


Just before Christmas the sky turned black with a loudness of screechers flying in impossible patterns. Cracks of light peeked through their ragged feathers. Their impossible wingspans took our breath from us, my little brothers and me, and we pointed and ooh-ed by the window. Every so often the birds would flap their massive wings and we wondered how they stayed up there with so little effort. Both day and night the bawling from the sky left us awake and red-eyed. Mahad and Jamal ran about flapping and squawking until Umi told them to shut their mouths. This is not the joke you think this is, she said. My father, my uncle and  about six or seven important men—Josh’s dad was there as was Andrew’s mother (the only woman in the bunch)—sat in my dad’s study talking real low and from time to time they raised their voices in anger, but it would always settle to a low grumble.

Do ‘em like the wolves, a voice, not my father’s called. Bang. Bang. Do ‘em like the wolves.

Sorai, my mother called. Take your brothers downstairs, please.

It wasn’t at all fair of Umi to tell me to wrangle two curious five-year olds. Seems to me now that was her job, but I didn’t complain back then, I just said, OK, you little rats, you heard Umi, downstairs.

The little rats ran about—one clockwise, the other counter--squawking, squawking, squawking, saliva running down their chins.

My father stepped from the room looking taller than usual, his face disturbed and heavy. I froze, grabbed the fleeing Jamal as he dashed by and pulled him close. I’d seen this face before and a beating usually followed.

He called our names and knelt so he was eye level with my brothers. He pulled us all in, hugging us too tight. The boys squirmed. My back hurt, but I didn’t fight. Daddy pressed his face to my stomach. I felt the wetness of his tears soaking my shirt.

I love you all and your mother loves you all and your Uncle Charles does too, he said. My uncle walked by, a silver platter in his hands, atop it the charred wolf that was to be our holiday centerpiece.

Charlie, my father called, but my Uncle didn’t look back as he moved swiftly out the door.  

We watched by the window as Uncle Charles bowed before the flying birds in an exaggerated gesture of respect. The important men mumbled amongst themselves while my parents watched stoically and when my father could take no more he turned and shambled away. One of those big, black things landed in front of my uncle. With its beak, the bird knocked the wolf from the platter and stared down at Uncle Charles with a condescending glare.

Good lord, Josh’s dad said, the offering—

It screeched in Uncle Charles’s face, a sound like ten air raid sirens. I could feel the sound vibrating at my feet. Another landed behind my uncle and let out more screeching. The two birds rose above Uncle Charles’s head beating their wings into one another, pecking at feathers and flesh.

My uncle raised his arms in protection.

My father burst into the room, shotgun in hand. No, Andrew’s mother called. This is the ritual.

Fuck the ritual, my father cried. That’s my only brother. Some of the important men snatched at him, he held firm to his weapon, swinging it all about. I’ll shoot, he called. I’ll shoot.

My brothers held tight to my legs, tears staining their cheeks and shirts. I assured them things would be fine, but my wet face was no better than theirs.

Reynold, my mother said, finally. Reynold. This is the ritual. He held his gun at her, the only thing between him and the door, but the tension had broken, we all knew my father couldn’t shoot my mother. This is the ritual, she repeated.

Fuck the ritual, my father said, lowering the gun, tears in his eyes. That’s my little brother.

By then one screecher lay dead and the other had snatched Uncle Charles, talons piercing his sides, blood dripping to the streets. He flopped about like a doll in that bird’s embrace as it took him to the sky. The layer of screechers that blocked the blue cleared, first slowly and then all at once.

The loudness flew off, leaving nothing but birdshit and ear-splitting wails in its wake. For the first time in weeks we could see the turquoise and the clouds and we could see the sun and now I hated them fiercely.

Rion Amilcar Scott has contributed to The Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, and PANK, among others. His linked story collection, Wolf Tickets, is forthcoming from Tiny Hardcore Press and his short story collection, People in Motion, is forthcoming from University Press of Kentucky. Currently, he teaches English at Bowie State University.


By Dana Diehl

Prompt, by Rion Amilcar Scott: Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hannukkah/Three King's Day after society has ended and civilization is struggling back to life.

Jenna and Lily can’t agree on the rules of New Christmas.

In this version, Lily says, Santa’s elves will curse and be politically incorrect.

In this version, Jenna says, Santa’s elves will have overtaken Santa and started their own holiday where they pilot hot air balloons instead of reindeer.

In this version, we will decorate our windows with pigeon bones.

In this version, we will make snow angels in the ash.

There is no one to break ties. There is no one to break ties, because Jenna and Lily are the last girl on earth.

They are allowed to say girl because they are sisters and they are conjoined. Two spines, two hearts folded inside a single torso that binds them together. Two brains, two faces, two noses, four ears. One pair of legs. One pair of arms. One ass. It’s funny how you can be separate in so many ways but only some of those ways matter.

“We’ll agree to disagree,” says Jenna.

Lily hates the way Jenna uses platitudes to end arguments. Jenna hates the way Lily can only end an argument by winning.

Since the world ended, Lily and Jenna have been living on abandoned television studio stages in LA. They sleep on the Central Perk couch, eat dry Ramen lunches in the Full House kitchen. They like how these stages were designed to look alive, even when they weren’t. Unused coffee mugs on counters. Crayoned drawings of sunsets stuck with magnets to fridges containing plastic foods.

In the Old World, Jenna and Lily had their own reality show. They had make-up artists who would powder their shared skin peach between takes, reapply Jenna’s very-berry-pink lipstick, touch-up Lily’s silver eye shadow. “To us, you’re just like anyone else,” the producers assured them. They pitched episodes to Jenna and Lily’s parents: In this episode, the two-headed girl rides a bike in their cul-de-sac. In this episode, the two-headed girl joins the softball team and strikes a homerun. In this episode, the two-headed girl crams for a biology final (encouraging the question, if a student has one ass but two heads, does that student have an unfair advantage?). The producers flew Jenna and Lily to LA, flew them to a set that had been designed to look like the girl’s living room back in Cincinnati, framed childhood photos placed on a mahogany bookshelf, a sofa that forced their parallel spines straight. Jenna and Lily liked that in LA, when the camera was around, people on the streets stared openly. In Cincinnati, people would pretend to text while they took pictures, they’d avoid eye contact and wait until Jenna and Lily passed to turn to their friends: “Did you see that?” Jenna and Lily liked that the camera makes people less polite. When everyone was looking, there was no point in trying to hide.

As they brainstorm rules for their New World, their New Christmas, Jenna and Lily walk Hollywood Boulevard. They watch their reflection in empty shop windows. Since the world ended, they’ve let themselves become satisfyingly monstrous. They’ve burned their brushes into piles of plastic, let their hair tangle together into a single knot. They loot film wardrobes to dress themselves—today they wear a blood-stained wedding dress from a zombie flick. Yesterday they wore a space suit that felt like pajamas.

In white lace, they skip over a palm frond, they spit on Stars of Fame. The high sun turns the gray buildings white. They can smell the not-so-distant ocean, and the briny scent of it makes them both dizzy at once.

When Jenna and Lily were younger, they were obsessed with learning about themselves and girls like them. They memorized all of the different ways two people could be joined. By hip, by back, by belly. This line on Wikipedia haunted them: In the case of Thoracopagus, two bodies are fused from the thorax to lower belly, a heart is shared. Separation of twins cannot offer survival to two twins. A designated twin may survive if allotted the heart, sacrificing the other twin. They are obsessed with the word choice of designated, of allotted, of sacrifice. To allot is to give. There were no words that showed what was being taken away. They wondered, if it came down to it, which of them would be sacrificed.

During that same period, Jenna and Lily went through a phase of hurting each other in secret. Jenna would punch Lily in the meaty part of her thigh. Lily would retaliate by drinking coffee before bed, letting the caffeine zip through their shared bloodstream, keeping them both awake until dawn. They wanted to find ways to hurt the other without being hurt themselves, wanted to locate the boundaries, if any, that separated them.

Once at dinner, the evening before a flight out to LA, Lily almost asked their parents, “Did you ever consider separating us? Did you ever have to consider, which one of us to save?” Jenna could feel the question coming, could feel it in the thump thump of their shared heartbeat. She clutched the hand that belonged to Lily. She was afraid of that small possibility that there was an answer.


            The night before New Christmas, Jenna and Lily struggle to fall asleep in a bedroom with only three walls, a bedroom made for people who weren’t real, dead lights suspended overhead instead of a ceiling lamp.

In the Old World, Christmas always came two month early. Their producers would want to air special holiday editions that would have to be shot weeks in advance to be done in time for December. So Jenna and Lily’s parents would set up their plastic tree. They’d wrap empty boxes to place under the branches. More boxes than Jenna and Lily ever received on real Christmas. Then the lights would come, the microphones stuck against skin, the hum of the camera.

“We have no secrets between the two of us,” Jenna would tell the camera. “And no, we’re not scared or sad to be the way we are. We’re just grateful to be alive.”

All of those platitudes Lily could never stomach. It was never true what Jenna said, about them not keeping secrets. Especially now, especially when they were the only girl left.

Lily’s secret: When the world ended, she was glad. Glad that there was no one left to stumble over pronouns (she…I mean they…I mean it?).  Glad that there was no left to wonder, “If you add two brains and one vagina, do you get one girl or two?” Glad that the thing that was considered a handicap had actually been a super power, had been the thing that protected them, like a girl in a horror movie saved by her virginity.

Jenna’s secret: She dreamed about confronting their old producers, producers who had smoothed their skin flawless with cream, made them look normal with softball teams, with sparkly eyeliner. In her dreams, she’d cry to them, “We’re not like anyone else. You only wanted to pretend that we were.”

The secret they both share, though neither of them knows it: They fantasize about sitting in front of the camera one last time. In the fantasy, the cameraman counts down with her fingers, the red light blinks on, and the two-headed girl goes wild. Tears paper from wrappers with their two pairs of teeth. Splits of seams of their cord-knit sweater to jump naked on the faux-leather couch. Because isn’t this what everyone wanted of them all along? To see them grotesque. To see them breaking. To see the monster come out.