Detective Li stood in pooling blood,
only a moment before the body
let life and lead out in the station rain.
Detective Li’s cigarette did not smoke.
His mind elsewhere – the last living deer.
From the body’s tattoos he took a clue:
One dead deer upon an altar. “Some clue,”
He spit and turned away from bone and blood
and spoke to comms: “Zealots got the deer.”
“First things first,” Captain said. “Bag the body,
then go Earthside – if you’re not blowing smoke.”
Li bagged the man and walked back through fake rain.
The captain sighed and asked through her cigarette:
“You think zealots have the doe from this ‘clue’?”
“Earthside altar. Ceremonial smoke.
All in a tattoo? You know about the blood
revel-” “Just not one more body,
okay? Get out, and find that damn deer!”
Detective Li, Earthside, followed his deer
through ancient trees dripping with acid rain
that bit at his suit and burned his body.
He followed the slick and abandoned trails
and dreamt of old Earthside ancestors:
had they killed deer, chewed upon smoked venison?
His daydreams died out and fled with the smoke,
on through the chewed up trees. Then in a clearing:
A whitetail doe and six zealots around an altar – blood
slick knives and black stone wet with acrid rain.
Detective Li’d followed his leads to the end,
to find the doe, now a butchered corpse.
The six shadows sipped blood from the body,
around them rose grey ghost pillars of smoke.
Li had followed the clues
to their conclusion: just a dead deer
soaking with the superstitious in the dead rain
with no prophecy fulfilled, even in blood.
Li left the zealots with their dead deer,
bloody altar, and empty prophecy.
On the shuttle back he lit a cigarette
Erik Burdett is a writer and working photographer currently studying English at West Texas A&M University. Erik lives in the West Texas Panhandle, his heart in Nyapea, Uganda.