Peter was a cannibalistic giraffe. He was often sad. Sometimes he went for a walk by the river. His long legs moved gracefully through the tall grass. On this particular day, he held his head up high, staring for too long at the sun. It made his head hurt and his vision throb slightly.
After a while, Peter came to a tree he’d never seen before. It had big red fruits on it. Peter stretched out his neck, eating one of the fruits. It was sweet and filled with juice. A snake hung from the tree. Its eyes were the color of sapphires. “What do you wish?” hissed the snake, hanging upside down.
Too late, Peter remembered the stories; tales of a magical snake that clung to a poisonous tree. Already he could feel the bitter seeds of the fruit taking root inside his belly.
Peter lowered his eyes. “I wish for a friend,” he said.
Slowly, the snake uncurled itself from the tree, wrapping its thick, muscular body around Peter’s neck. The snake directed Peter, hissing into his ear as he walked out onto the savanna. They came to the edge of a low hill. In the distance, amongst some shrubby trees, Peter saw a beautiful female giraffe with three young calves.
At first, Peter was afraid to approach, for he had been cast out by all giraffe kind. The snake hissed in his ear. “Go to them,” it said, “and your wish will be granted.”
Slowly, Peter approached the female giraffe. When she saw him she did not bolt away with her calves. Instead she stood, calmly chewing a mouthful of leaves.
“Hello,” said the female giraffe.
“Hello,” said Peter. Peter gritted his teeth, waiting for the old compulsion to take him. The tightening in his throat. The gnashing of his teeth, and the terrible, violent, all consuming hunger. This time, it didn’t come. He lowered his head, so that the snake could slide discretely into the grass. The snake slithered away, returning to the riverbank.
Peter ate beside the mother giraffe and her calves. They stayed in the cool shade of the trees until evening, Peter making conversation, even playing with the children, romping and chasing them around through the trees. When the stars came out, Peter and the female giraffe stood side by side, watching the Milky Way unfurl across the deep. When she leaned in, brushing her neck against his, the entire right side of Peter’s body trembled. The stars seemed to ring in their sockets. It was the happiest he had ever been.
By morning, Peter was dead. From his belly grew a beautiful and poisonous tree.
Geordie Flantz’s stories have appeared in Shadows & Tall Trees, G.U.D. Magazine, New Genre Magazine, and R.KV.R.Y Quarterly. They have been honorable mentions for The Best Horror of the Year and Year’s Best Weird Fiction.