“A Short Account of the Myrtle Chicken’s Terror” by Ethan Vilu

Good morning! This is the home stretch–our Issue 21 launch is TOMORROW at Shelf Life Books! And here is our last teaser for this issue–if you want more you should come check out the readings at our launch tomorrow.

This piece is by Ethan Vilu, an undergrad at the University of Toronto who studies Christian History and East Asian Studies. Their poetry has been published in Peculiar Mormyrid and The Trinity Review. Originally from Calgary, their time is evenly split between Southern Ontario and Alberta.

A Short Account of the Myrtle Chicken’s Terror

Deep in the cavernous depths of the forest, under the verdant carpet of ferns and towering conifers, a myrtle chicken ran sprinting across the moss. Ducking under logs and other deadfall that was strewn across the forest floor, he knocked the caps off of some polypore mushrooms as he moved quickly towards a nearby clearing. Everything in the forest, as far as the chicken could see or could even conceive, was resplendent in green, in all shades of green imaginable – it was a vast altar, an eden of leaves and spores that the myrtle chicken ran through, going on and on through the deep, primeval veil.


Off in the distance, barely audible to the one who was myrtle, two other chickens were moving with powerful focus towards the same clearing – one of them was the color of asparagus, and the other was a green that was as dark as a rainforest midnight. Running swiftly through the interwoven devil’s club and ferns which formed the underbrush, they passed over divots and rises in the earth in their determined pursuit of the coming open space. Sunlight shone through the spruces and the pines, whose needles were a green which spoke to endless eons, and to endless rebirth and life – and the chickens moved as if in a sea of green embodied.


As the three chickens – those of myrtle, of asparagus and of midnight – advanced at last upon the clearing, they were joined at all sides by chickens in all shades of green which may be known by the mind. There were chickens in endless variants of spring and early summer, and chickens the color of a manicured lawn; there were chickens who were like limes and bright green apples in their plumage, and there were chickens like avocados and olives fresh from the tree. There were chickens like shamrocks and seaweed and mint, and like all manner of leaves in the world; there was even a chicken whose green feathers could only be described as neon, and a chicken who shone bright as a priceless emerald. All of these birds converged as one upon the forest clearing, and together they found immediate, primal, beatific ecstasy, for they were the consciousness of green itself.


And they ran. They ran as the living movement of that embodiment across the floor of the forest, through the lush, imminent trees that were as tall as the sky, through the endless waves and manifestations of the undergrowth which moved out towards eternity. They ran and they ran, accelerating as they moved through the verdancy, and together they raised a call, quiet at first but soon radiating piercingly through all parts of the forest. With this movement and sound, the green chickens spoke to a joy unimaginable to us in its scope, a joy of perpetual, final simplicity, of all of the shades in full consonance with the universe. A joy which should have gone on forever, should have destroyed any feeble sense of time itself, but which instead came to a screeching, skidding, tumbling, heart-shattering halt at an unexpected drop in the ground.


For in their euphoric movement through the forest, the green chickens had come upon a lake, and the lake was blue.


It was unambiguously blue.
It was, without qualification, a deep, radiant, and unreserved shade of blue.


And the chickens, in a moment, like the snuffing of a candle, lost everything that was theirs.  All that they’d had, and all that they’d known, disappeared into that lake of water and sapphires, of blueberries and cornflowers and oceans of never-ending depth.They stood at the banks, and all of them were silent. All of them, except for the myrtle chicken – who, after a time, let out a cry which reverberates with us to this day, a scream throughout the vanishing ages, a lone, terrorized wail.