In the days after Big Jim’s eyeball rolled out of his head, it became clear that I was going to have to pick up some of the slack. All of the slack, in fact. Since Big Jim was so busy jabbing his finger at the basement wall and doing a stellar impression of a rabid raccoon, I took on even more of the household chores than I normally do. I put clothes in the laundry machine and dealt with Dennis’s not-so-subtle hints at dinnertime when he pummeled his food bowls as if they had castrated him. Filling his water bowl proved tricky for me, so I escorted him to the porcelain throne which was fruitful and utterly revolting. Honestly, the toilet wand has more dignity.

In the mornings, I waited for the young MoFo with the red headphones to hurtle past on his bike faster than a toupee in a hurricane, for him to use his black-and-white projectile to decapitate another hydrangea flower head. He never came. Neither did the car dealership mailers or the Amazon packages or our Big Butts™ magazine subscription. It was curious. Curious enough for me to contemplate tuning into the goat rodeo that is Aura. Something you might be unaware of—in the natural world, there is an Internet. In English, it would roughly translate to Aura because it is all around us. It’s not the same as MoFo Internet with YouTube crabby cat videos and sneezing infant pandas, but it is similar in that it is a network, a constant flow of information at your disposal, if you can be bothered to tune in and listen. Information streams daily via the winged ones, the judicious rustle of the trees, and the staccato percussion of insects. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a MoFo claim, “Listen to that bird’s mating song!” writing off the feathered kind as licentious horndogs (they are not squirrels for s— sakes). In fact, the birds are delivering information through melodic verse, releasing intricate notes much like how the trees whisper their slow secrets into the wind on the wings of leaves. A torrent of warnings, stories, adages, poems, threats, how-tos, real estate info, survival tips and non sequitur jokes are available for those who tap in. Everything talks, you just have to be willing to listen.

There certainly is a social dating service element to it, but not as much as most MoFos believe. Of course, there are those who refuse to tap in. Like yours truly, who had access to the real Internet and didn’t feel that there was anything to be gained from all the twitter. You know who else never listened? Roadkill. There has never been an excuse for roadkill. Aura sounds with constant stories and statistics about cars and the perils of nearing the great white lines. Warning calls ring through the stratosphere—from green stinkbug to glaucous-winged gull—and still, the idiots who don’t heed end up as curbside tortillas. Sometimes I have the thought that a lot of species are hardwired to refuse to listen to warnings. And that’s how they end up extinct.

I braved Aura. Silence. An Aura silence can be cause for alarm. Either there aren’t enough birds or participating trees around to spread the scuttlebutt. Or everyone is hiding from a nearby predator. A flight around the neighborhood confirmed that the roads around our house were eerily still—no cars zipping below like frenetic jewel weevils. It was as if a Sunday morning had flown in and made a permanent nest. This is when I started to get shivers that felt like an army of mites scurrying through my plumage, and dread spread a dull, hollow ache through my bird bones.

If I’m honest, I had a feeling that something was happening beyond our russet-brown front door, beyond our sleepy neighborhood. Something big and ominous and probably quite s—ty, but I didn’t like to leave Big Jim and I needed to lock things down at home and wait until he was feeling better before we decided to face the world together—always together. I checked on Big Jim hourly, bringing him bologna, Funyuns®, and the two Cheetos® I was willing to spare. I even rolled a Monster energy drink down the basement stairs for him. He showed interest in nothing but drooling and scraping his bloody finger across the wall. I brought the keys to his beloved gunmetal-gray Ford F-150 with the KEEP HONKING, I’M RELOADING bumper sticker to see if a ride would perk him up. The silver keys caught his attention for a brief moment, but then he snarled, snapped at me (not verbally, with his actual teeth), and resumed dragging a finger at the concrete. Whatever was wrong with him was serious. When, after several days of this basement weirdness, he hadn’t masturbated or mentioned the state of the economy, I declared a state of emer-Jim-cy.

Big Jim was in the grips of a medical crisis and it was up to yours truly to make things right again. I felt confident I knew what to do, an innate, natural instinct thrumming inside me. First, I had to make sure that Dennis was preoccupied. After watching him s— into the sound hole of Big Jim’s guitar and then run full steam into the kitchen door, I felt reassured. Exacting his revenge on the doorknob for the attack was taking precedence over anything else. It seemed unlikely that Dennis would venture down to the basement for a while, given his level of focus and typical chokehold on a grudge. Besides, ever since Big Jim’s eyeball fell out, Dennis had steered clear of him. Man’s best friend indeed. More like man’s neediest parasite that would trade you in for a bull-penis dog chewy at the drop of a hat.

Hollow Kingdom