under the knife

emerson barrett • Atlanta, Georgia

Forest feet hit the ground almost silently, hearing the thumping of the animals underneath its gaw. The feet continued stepping over the twigs and roots in its path, but the legs once in-sync with the feet had stopped.

A stripped feeling had washed over the ground, but the animalistic urge of the feet persisted despite the growing silence below. And although the feet could overcome this stripping of energy, the rest of the body could not, and collapsed on the roots and twigs beneath it.

The feet continued. They always continued to gallop and to dance upon the ground, whether accompanying sleeping appendages or restless ones. This was no exception to the feet’s work upon the forest floor, diverting one’s eyes from the body collapsed on the ground, making them focus instead on the feet seemingly dancing with a mind of their own.


A slice. A slow and painful chop had taken the body’s first feet in infancy. It was said by doctors that the bones and the muscles in them could not withstand the weight of the rest of the body, and that if left attached, the condition could spread. So the feet had been removed, replaced with those of a convict killed just recently on Death’s row, electricity still running through his veins.

The procedure had worked. The feet took to the legs immediately, but the veins filled with light and shock remained trapped in between the ankles and toes of the young boy, tripping him up in grade school, calling him names like “Happy Feet” in middle school, and making him a surprisingly good break-dancer in high school.

He’d kept the name Happy Feet. It fit him better than Kevin, and even if it hadn’t, people had forgotten his real name years before.


Now, the spindly body lay collapsed on the forest floor, feet still streaking in jagged motions, waiting for the silence to finally catch them up.

A chop. A quick slice did the job. The feet were gone, in some stranger’s bag to be sold. But the screams of the boy were not gone. They were screams so loud they echoed down into the forest floor, jumpstarting its clogged arteries. I think they were screams of joy.