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Ted broke Melinda again. Snapped her right in two. She must have lashed out and bitten off his face. She likes to do that. After it grew back, he would have sneaked up on her late at night. Also: not the first time. She’s twice his size, or was. He then ran the length of the cage they call home and smashed into the wall. Couldn’t have survived more than a couple of impacts. Now he’s a powdery chewing-gum sludge drying against the glass. He’s not the priority, though. Melinda’s broken. At least there’s more left of her. I have to decide if repairs are worthwhile. I should just order new ones.
They come in all sizes. No one knows how they’re made, or quite where. Best not to ask questions, not in this day and age. Everyone has one or two even if they deny it. Most have more. They’re not expensive. They’re quite lifelike. Most can talk, unless they’re programmed just to scream. There are theories that they’re aliens, or fae. Intended as a remedy for loneliness, the brittles will watch TV with you. You can put them on the sofa. If you squash them, get replacements. Or you can watch them in their little habitats just like you’d watch TV, or you can feed them to your cats. They’re not especially nutritious. Don’t ask me if I’ve tried one. Of course I have. I’ll tell you a secret: it’s never nice when dinner bites your uvula as you swallow. Not everything tastes like chicken.
You can order softer ones too. They’re a bit like cream cheese that can move. They’re spreadable. But they leave your fingers sticky. Little trails on the floors of their enclosures. They smudge the glass. And if you leave the lights on too long, they get melty. My friend James likes to slice them up and serve them on crackers. Depending on who his guests are, he lets them do the slicing. There’s a trick to it. They stay alive longer if you start with the feet. Work your way up. There are no genitals to speak of, no alimentary canals. You’re not eating their shit, not like shrimp. You can order some that are high in fiber if you like, but that seems like overkill. If you eat a few small ones, they’re like little brooms. You’ll feel clean inside the next day, and also dirty. I never order the ones that can talk, just the screamers, and only sometimes.
Melinda sits there, watching me. Glaring, although it’s hard to be sure what her expression is meant to convey. Their faces don’t move much. Their mouths can form little Os of horror when they’re torn to pieces. Or you can buy the kind that crack and crumble into powder. Those are fun. I’ve stapled Melinda back together. Is she glad to see the last of Ted? I scrape him off the glass with a special spatula designed just for that purpose. It’s understood that the brittles commit suicide. It’s entertainment; it’s part of the fun. For people who feel squeamish about using kitchen utensils to scrape the muck off the sides of the cages, there’s a whole range of appliances. The spatulas I mentioned. Special callipers if you’re fond of flinging at the wall but don’t want to get bitten when you pick them up. There’s even a solution to dissolve the remains. (Or you can just drop live ones in and watch them squirm into clouds of nothingness.) If you really want to go a little nuts, there are little incinerators that reduce them to ash you can sprinkle on your plants, and biodegradable envelopes if you’d rather toss them in the compost bin. It’s a whole ecosystem. Recycling is important.
Somehow I’ve run out of cat food. Ted will do. I’ll sprinkle some dry chow on the muck. Miss Mittens will love it. Yes, I think Melinda’s glaring at me. It almost makes me wonder what she’s thinking, but of course we all know they can’t think.
I splurged a bit and bought three. Melinda won’t kill them, I’m sure. The first one out of the shipping tube, I name George. He has a bluish cast, almost purple. These designer colors are so gourmet. I’ve heard they taste better than the plain ones. George looks up at me. His little eyes blink. Although he can’t talk, the other sound he can make is half croak and half gasp. It’s louder than I expect. In fact, it startles me. I give him a thump and his head snaps off. God damn it, I mutter, and mush it back on. Seems like I did it just in time. The connection re-formed, or reset itself, or whatever it does. I don’t quite understand how it works. Still, it did work – that’s what counts – and now he’s in the enclosure with his back pressed against the glass. Melinda advances toward him, stalking like a cat. No! I yell down at her. Do you want me to pinch off your arms and make you eat them?
The next one out of the tube is pale pink. I name this one Suzie. She’s larger than the other two, Melinda’s size. Perhaps she’ll restore order to my brittles. A new balance. But I can’t help thinking how she looks like a walking piece of fruit. It’s so tempting to cut her open just to see. She’d look like a strawberry inside, or maybe a melon. Yes, I think my little Suzie will bring some normality to the scene. And if she doesn’t, I’ll put her in the blender with some blueberries and make a smoothie.
The last of the three, I’ll name Alex. There’s a legend. If you’re lonely, take a brittle with you to bed. Put it under your pillow like you’re five and it’s a tooth. If it survives the night (most don’t), it’ll be with you for a long time to come. You should treat it well. Get it a second enclosure. Keep it separate from the others. Don’t even let it see them. Naturally most of them get squashed while you sleep, or they break into pieces. If that happens, mush them down and use them as toothpaste. Add mint if you’d like, or some clove oil. The tooth fairy may steal molars at night but the toothpaste you make out of brittles puts the bitch out of work. It’s useful if you’re older and don’t want dentures. I’ve flossed all my life but I like this idea. Never tried it. I know what’s going to happen to Alex tonight.
The brittles are the best things since bitcoin and Netflix. Melinda’s got a few more weeks left in her. She’s looking a little worn out. According to the catalog online, I can replace her for half what I paid. I’ll get two next time. Plus some of that new strain of kombucha that dissolves them and makes a healthy tea. I spend my last half-hour or so before bed talking to my little collection. It’s so important to remind them I love them. They’re so useful. They try to hide in the little huts I’ve given them, so I take those away and smack them around a bit. George’s arm comes off. I put it back on, but backward, to teach him a lesson. I’ll tear it off and reattach it in the morning. They make me so happy. They’re so much fun. Best of all, you’re never really alone.