– or –

The Young Man sat at the edge of the cliff, absentmindedly sharpening his incisors on a rock shell, watching the greater-than flock (>) fly across the tangerine-skinned sky — the ninety-third bright sky he had declined to count since escaping the world of sky counters. Our hero was content. He placed the stone in a pouch he had made out of violet pigflesh and watched the sky peacefully shift to the deep blue hue of a bruise.

It was time to hunt. He unsheathed a crude knife fashioned from bone and advanced downwind toward the foot of the slope. Along the path, he harvested llama piss fruits from their bushes, having acquired a taste and tolerance for their putrid, vomitous flavor. The now-familiar cold breeze slipped through the Young Man’s hair and skin and molecules, making him wonder aloud, [How can a place so green, so full of the heat of life, be so damn cold all the time?]

Just then, our hero felt the breath of fire upon him, molesting his upper back as he vibrated to attention. He swiveled his head skyward to see the tusked, hypertrichotic terror framed in blurry starlight, smelling of fecal matter that can only be produced by a monster-eating monster.

A jungle yeti. The most fearsome creature the Young Man had confronted in the jungle — with the best-tasting meat he had eaten during his tenure in the wild. The hulking ape dropped its enormous fingers atop our hero’s head, but the Young Man rushed forward, pushing the beast against a tree, snapping the yeti’s right ulna. [Look it in the eye!] the Young Man demanded of himself. [Be big!] The yeti released its grip and ran screaming through the darkness as the Young Man gave chase, brandishing his weapon.

As our hero sprinted through the night in pursuit of his dinner, a curious thing happened to the jungle walls around him. The trees seemed to be further and further apart until he was surrounded by nothing but cracked concrete. He throttled down to a jog, then stopped. Looking back, there was nothing but blackness and shadow. A fog began to roll in, but as it crept into our hero’s nostrils, he realized it was not fog. It was smoke.

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