"Chris had become our self-medicating mood salvation and our darkling angel child."
Assignment: A quick Pub on your thoughts on the world or an artifact from your chosen short.
For this week, I read “Angels + Cannibals Unite” by Greg Tate in Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond.
I am not even sure how to begin describing this short story since I can confidently say that it is the weirdest I have ever read. The world where this story takes place is not unlike our modern world — no futuristic technologies or out-of-the-ordinary artifacts. The story takes place in New York City, specifically at and around Yankee Stadium.
The quick summary of the story is a man who works at the stadium witnesses a spaceship crash where an alien (i.e. angeloid) named Chris is seen emerging from the crash. The wounded alien is then seen devouring his arm and then curling up in a fetal position. The witness, Mojo Raj Raj, horrified of what he saw, brought Chris back to a locker room at Yankee stadium, the setting where the remainder of the story mostly takes place. After Raj realizes that Chris has the ability to regenerate and eating parts of Chris leads to vivid hallucinations, Raj and a few of his friends take turns over several months feasting on parts of Chris and sharing their hallucinations.
After a few months, Chris is finally rescued by his species, leading to the deaths of a few of the cannibals during the rescue operation. After a short time, the remaining cannibals start growing feathers on their lips and jaws, leading to some of their wives leaving them and their eventual suicide. Others, such as the main protagonist, actually have wives that they grow closer with because of these events (weird, I know).
Eventually, after the remaining surviving cannibals form a support group, it is reported that several angeloids have arrived at Times Square and have start self-cannibalizing in grief. Knowing that the angeloids can regenerate, the cannibals decide to go to Times Square and show the world how to “harvest glory” from these aliens.
So, the world where this story takes place…
Besides the alien cannibalism, everything sounds to be normal when compared to present day. Nothing was mentioned that would make you think this was set significantly in the future or the past.
But, I did spend some time thinking why the angeloids are the way they are and what the purpose is of the self-cannibalism. Greg describes, “the mouth of Chris seemed only to have a maw made for sucking, so it stood to reason that some energy or corrosive fluid or hidden mandible of a thing down his throat was what had sliced off the arm and cauterized the would.” It seems that Chris, and generally his species, have evolved, or designed, to be able to eat their own limbs given the natural cauterization. I suspect this is somewhat an efficient regeneration technique where you can use the energy from the consumption of the broken limb to aid in the regeneration of the other one. This led me down a rabbit hole of researching self-cannibalism in animals where it is far more common than I thought but there is no evidence that any do it to aid in regeneration. North American rat snakes seem to just do it naturally, sometimes leading to their own death. Others do it to because they are transitioning to a new phase and no longer need that portion of their physiology (i.e. nervous tissue).
The flip side is that the angeloids could also be doing it to induce their own hallucinations, either for pleasure or as an anesthetic. That doesn’t really explain why a group of them came back at the end of the story to mourn (probably for Chris) and then proceed to self-cannibalize. Somethings are better left unanswered…