by Ryan Price

The rain was back, coming soft then hard. Rix stood outside letting the rising water soak his shoes. He wondered if the carp gators from the flooded river would come to him, if the worms swimming through the river would crawl up his clothes and bury themselves in the pits of his arm hair. The water reached the height of his knees. He waited for a gator to bite his hand, to pull him into what he assumed would be his death. They didn’t bite. He wished they would.

He heard the distant sound of Lys’s truck. Its putters. He looked out at his house, roof collapsed and fallen, walls and siding flattened, couches exposed to the outside but not yet completely flooded. Everything at the farm was destroyed. Half the trees had fallen in the orchards, and the chickens were dead, drowned in their coop. The cows left to die in their stanchions. The guinea hens somehow survived. They clucked in the limbs of a nearby tree, the blue tops of their heads making them stand out.

The revs of Lys’s truck made it to the driveway. Its tires sloshed through the water. A cat swam out of the rubble of the house meowing, and Rix picked it up, scratching its head. The cat nipped at his finger and he dropped it into the bed of Lys’s truck, watching it shake its fur dry best it could.

“Where to?” Rix said, climbing inside the truck.

“My place for now.”




Lys’s house had weathered the storm better than Rix’s, but her barn was destroyed. Torn to shreds. Loose tin and broken boards scattered everywhere. Worms hadn’t gotten this far north. The river wasn’t close to her house. She mainly raised goats. Twenty of them were corralled into the living room and were shitting everywhere while they chewed on the lamp shades and couch cushions. A few of them gnawed on the last bits of a cactus. Others tore at the see-through curtains.

Rix walked past them and into the kitchen, following Lys. She gave him some tea. He thanked her.

“Do you want something to eat?”

He ignored her, still transfixed by the goats. They destroyed everything, banging their heads into the walls. They humped each other. Their blats didn’t stop. He sipped his tea. They were better off outside. Free to run from what was coming.

“Why are they humping each other?” he said, pointing to the goats.

“Weather has them horny.”

“Me too.”

Lys laughed as she set out some crackers. She was younger than he remembered, fit. Her hands were what he noticed most about her. He heard that they were so small that they pulled a child out of a woman once. That was why she raised goats. She pulled the troubled kids straight out of the does every spring. He couldn’t stop himself from staring at her fingers as she set out the crackers. Her knuckles perfectly defined. Nails almost polished. She left the crackers, and he followed her hands while she worked about the kitchen, tidying the clutter on the counter. Containers of spices and pots and pans. He put two crackers in his mouth, chewing on them loudly.

She turned up the radio. The host listed names of the lost. Rix swallowed the crackers and listened closer—Ty, Rome, JC, Lux, Andre, Dane. The cat from the truck meowed outside the kitchen door. He let the cat, still wet, inside. Lys opened and closed the cabinets one by one. She moved into her pantry and came back empty-handed.

“All I have left is crackers and tea.”

The cat rubbed up against Rix’s legs. He picked it up and attempted to dry it. He pulled out a chair from the table and sat. The cat, damp and shivering, lay in his lap.

“None of your cows survived?” Lys said.

“All drowned. All dead two days ago.”

The radio droned on about the next storm. They’d stopped naming them. Rix stroked the cat and thought about the storms, how surprised he’d been when this one tore through his farm. He wondered if his milk buyers would still call him. He was one of the last farmers this far out from the city. There was Lys of course. Good friend, Lys was. Kept him sane when he wanted to quit. Strange woman though. Not many people liked her.

“How did you know to check on me?”

“Did you see the damage around this place?”

Rix looked out the window at the barn, all the shattered lumber on the concrete slab. He stroked the cat. He guessed his place was worse. He’d ran out the back door when he heard his roof cracking like a wet log in a fire. Louder and louder. He went to the barn, water outside up to his knees, and stayed in the hayloft, leaving the cows in their stanchions as the water rose. Their moos softened by the loudness of the wind pounding the roof. Afterwards, he waded through the water, letting the river tug him as he released his cows’ dead bodies. Lys came soon after, saving him. She picked bits of crumbs off the table now.

Rix’s stomach growled.


“A little.”

He ate another cracker. The cat jumped off his lap and rubbed against Lys’s feet, meowing loudly, crowing almost.

“There’s nothing we can butcher here?”

Lys sipped her tea. She looked out the window and then stared back at Rix.

“I don’t think so.”

A goat blatted.

“What about one of them?”

The cat meowed loudly at the door.

“No,” she said, getting up from the table.

“One would last us a month. Maybe longer.”

Rix grabbed her hand, wanting her to look at him. She pulled away.

“I said no.”

“Just consider.”


Lys opened the door and let the cat outside. Rix needed a nap. He was hungry and tired. It’d been days, weeks since he slept and ate. He couldn’t remember. Constantly pacing from place to place just like Lys was now. He finished his tea and brought his cup to the sink. The radio host talked about destroyed forests, flooded rivers. He wondered if they’d report on his abandoned farm, if the city still sent out rescue convoys, or if they’d run out of funds. Lys shut off the radio.

“Let’s go to the river.”

“There’s no fish.”

“We’ll see what we can find.”

“I’m not eating gators.”




Rix wiped away a few of the worms that were stuck to his pants as they walked through the woods. The trees were spread out in a uniform pattern, almost as if they were placed that way intentionally. He reminded himself that the city planted forests for timber harvest. That they plotted how to grow trees to get a maximum yield. The storms, of course, messed with this, pulling trees from the ground, breaking branches, stripping twigs of their leaves. This piece of forest was whole. Trees still standing. Leaves still crackling as the wind pushed them together.

Rix stayed a couple of paces behind Lys, who was carrying two fishing poles and a spear. He told her that he didn’t know how to fish, that he had no desire to sit in front of a river and cast his line into a body of water that did nothing but take and take and take. Part of him wished that he’d stayed behind and killed a goat, drained its blood and preserved its meat before Lys noticed it was gone, but he hadn’t stayed behind, and instead, he walked behind Lys to the river, looking at the trees that hadn’t flooded and the soil that hadn’t eroded away.

The river had subsided since Rix last saw it. He wondered if his guinea hens had come down from the trees. Lys picked where they were fishing. The carp gators devoured her line every time she cast, biting clean the lure and somehow destroying the line without killing each other, or maybe they were eating each other. They could’ve been cannibals. It was why Rix refused to eat them. Why he knew even if Lys caught one he couldn’t will himself to eat it. He thought he heard the guinea hens, clucking nearby. He wondered where the hell that cat had gone. He sat down a couple of yards away from Lys and played with the tiny pieces of shale rock on the riverbank, scooping the particles into his hands before slowly dropping them bit by bit back down onto the ground. The worms slithered across the ground. Their red color blending with the shattered bricks along the riverbank.

“I brought another pole,” Lys said.

“I’ll leave it to the experts.”

“Have you speared one before?”

“Once, a while back.”

Rix tossed worms into the river. The carp gators jumped through the surface, eating them. Lys pulled out a spear. She threw and missed. Rix collected more worms.

“How did you do this?”

Rix let the worms slide through the crevices of his fingers.

“I must’ve been lucky.”




Lys never caught any gators. Rix told her that the crackers would be enough for tonight. That they could try to fish again tomorrow. They sat on the couch with the goats while some nibbled Lys’s hair. Through the window they saw the wind lift broken pieces of metal off the ground, throwing swirling scraps of tin.

“Should we go to the city?” Lys said.

Rix petted one of the smellier goats.

“Too many freaks.”

Lys stood up from the couch and walked to the kitchen. She lit a lantern and set out more crackers, brewed some tea. Rix scratched a couple of the goats behind their horns and then went and joined her. She handed him a cup hinted with scents of lavender and mint.

“We could head further North,” Lys said.

Rix sipped the tea, burning his tongue.

“And go where?”

“I guess it’s not so bad here. We have the goats.”

“Funny fuckers.”

He drank more of the tea, letting it scald his throat this time.

They went upstairs in the bathroom eventually, sitting in a dry yellow bathtub. Rix told Lys about the farm, about his mother and father and brothers. They’d all died. He told her how he’d become lonely. That he’d always accepted the fact that he’d die alone. That his family was gone but something about now felt different.

He spoke more about his brothers. He told her the story of when they first went hunting for the gators. How his mother had warned them all to stay away from the river once the gators came, but no one listened. They went straight for the river. Dove into the water searching for fish or something or anything that they could eat. One brother didn’t make it. One did. Rix had hoped that his brother that lived would stay with him on the farm. That the two of them might run the farm together, but his brother had left after his parents died. Ran off to the city like everyone else. He found out that brother died too. The air wasn’t good for his lungs. He told Lys all of this and she just listened. He listened to her.

She spoke about her childhood and her mother. Her love for the goats. Her hatred for the gators. The small town that she grew up in. How it no longer existed. She explained that she couldn’t butcher the goats because they were the only family that she had. They were her children. She spoke to them when she was lonely. They answered most days. Somedays she yelled at them, others she laughed. She took Rix’s hand. She asked if they were going to die, if they should leave.

He hugged her and told her they’d talk about it in morning. That there was nowhere to go tonight. They wrapped blankets around themselves, musty towels that hadn’t been washed in weeks, and slept with their necks bent against the dry walls of the tub.




Rix woke to the sounds of churning water, the river getting close to Lys’s house. He gripped the edge of the tub with his hand to pull himself up and cut his hand on a shattered piece of plexiglass.


Blood ran down his fingers to the palm of his hand.

He got up from the tub and went to scrub his hand, forgetting the water was out.

“I’ll get some water from downstairs,” Lys said.

He sucked on his finger trying to get the bleeding to stop. He flipped the toilet open to take a piss and all he saw were worms crawling on top of each other, squishing their bodies together. He urinated on them, covering them in yellow that splashed off their skin and onto the laminate floor. He slammed the lid closed after.

Lys came back upstairs, socks wet, and set a bowl of water and soap on the sink counter. She scrubbed Rix’s wound and then wrapped it with a piece of cloth, slowly and carefully.

“Will you hurry?”

“These things take time.”

“It’s small. Just wrap it.”

“Sit down and relax,” Lys said, guiding him to the toilet.

Rix sat on the toilet, lid closed, and all he could think of were the worms below his butt. He felt them bouncing against the lid, lifting his body into the air.

“Hold still,” Lys said.

“I’m trying.”

The toilet gargled.

“Water is getting higher.”

“Should we go on the roof?”

Lys pulled the bandage tight around his palm.

“Give it time. Stop moving.”

“It’s the worms.”


Rix flipped open the toilet and showed her. They spilled out of the toilet now, slithering across the floor and over Rix’s bare feet and Lys’s wet socks.




The two moved to the attic. Lys pulled the drop door down and Rix followed her up the ladder. His finger pulsed blood through the bandage. Lys lit two candles and the two sat, listening to the water rise. Rix looked through a small vent hoping to see something outside, but all he saw was water. Shadows of trees bending. Darkness. He wiped away the bits of bat droppings covering the wooden floor. Lys brought up the musty towels and the two of them wrapped them around each other when she said, “The goats.”

She started towards the ladder and Rix grabbed her arm, stopping her.

“It’s too high.”

Lys pushed him away.

“They’re not drowning in my living room.”

Rix tightened his grip on her arm.

“There’s not enough room up here.”

“Of course, there is.”

“Lys, no.”

He yanked at her arm again, hard.

“Let go of me.”

She pushed him away. He pulled her back from the ladder. He pinned her and then she dug into his cut finger with her nails and flipped him over, driving her knee into his groin.

“Lys, get off me.”

“Let me go down there.”

“The water is too high.”

She drove her knee deeper.

“Let me go down there.”

A shingle must’ve ripped off the roof and water came into the attic fast. Lys jabbed him in the groin and ran.

Rix sat up eventually, wrapping himself in the towels. He debated whether he should chase after Lys. He stayed in the attic instead, moving closer to the candles and away from the hole in the roof. The wind picked up more and two more shingles blew off the house, sending more water into the attic. His cut pulsed and he held it to his chest. He wondered if he’d lose his finger, if the cut was actually clean or if it’d became infected and turn yellow and blue. He found himself curling in a ball like he’d done in the hayloft two-three days ago, towels as his blankets now instead of hay. The goats blatted occasionally downstairs and he thought he heard Lys’s yells. He knew he should’ve helped her. She’d saved him after all. He couldn’t though. He couldn’t die for goats. He stayed upstairs in this tiny attic instead, wrapped in towels, finger oozing blood through a poorly wrapped bandage.




He woke up to a goat chewing on his hair and another two that were biting his ankles. He sat up, shooing them away. The house was empty except for these three. He wondered how long he’d been knocked out. Where had Lys gone? How’d she gotten downstairs? The storm had all been a blur. They were in the bathtub and then in the attic, and then there was screaming, and he thought he’d heard the guinea hens clucking, and strange voices might’ve been calling for help. Blood dripped from his leg. Warm and unscabbed. He scuffed up his hair and noticed that it was wet, drenched. He smelled his fingertips, catching whiffs of piss. Fucking goats.

He stood up, steadying himself, but fell back onto the ground. The goats blatted, almost laughing at him. The cat was curled on the sofa somehow dry and fluffier than he remembered. His finger, still cut, was turning yellow. Something was cooking in the kitchen. Worms moved across his body. He found their touches comforting. He wanted them to hug him tighter. He sat up and leaned his back against the couch and began picking up worms, collecting them in his hands and letting them squirm across his palms. The guinea hens, bright blue heads bobbing, crept into the house. They strutted, clucking as they pecked at the worms.

Lys came into the living room a moment later shooing them away, but she grabbed one of the hens by its leg. It squawked as she carried it through the living room into the kitchen. One of those ear-piercing shrieks that guinea hens let out when they’re scared. She slit its throat, cutting off its head, and threw its body onto the carpet. It ran headless, blood squirting everywhere, while the worms slithered through Rix’s black arm hair.

Ryan Price lives in Northern New Jersey and works at a therapeutic farm for individuals with disabilities. He studied fiction at the University of Southern Mississippi and has been published by the Beloit Fiction Journal. He serves as the Fiction/Poetry Editor for the online literary journal Alluvian.