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  Table of contents Issue Eight KEKONG





he soldiers dragged Jamar Kabala into the Mayor’s administrative hut and slammed the door shut. Inside, there was a table and three wooden folding chairs. The green Congolese flag, depicting an arm holding a torch, and a framed picture of president-for- life Kabila Seko Seko hung on the brown wall. Black, finger-sized wasps flew through a crack near the corrugated metal roof. Flies buzzed around the decapitated body of the mayor. Jamar recoiled at the sight and resisted, but the soldiers picked him up and carried him over the corpse.

They slammed Jamar in a chair, tied his wrists, and bound his ankles. Using a dirty cloth, they strapped his head to a flat board, which had been secured to the back of the chair. As Jamar continued to struggle, he heard the angry shouts of young soldiers, not more than thirteen years old, coming from outside. The soldiers held his mother and father at gunpoint. His mother begged for Jamar’s life. “He knows nothing,” his mother shouted, “he is just a young man.”

“Shut up,” a soldier muttered in Lingala and Jamar overheard a dull smack. His mother said something about how children should not hit their elders.

The unit’s captain looked older than his troops. Crow’s feet had formed at the corner of his yellowed eyes. A film of sweat covered his face and his breath smelled like soiled laundry. The captain had a lithe body, thick hands, and wore a red beret. His olive-drab vest sported an infinite number of pockets loaded with ammunition. A hornbill skull hung from his neck to protect him from the men he killed. He sat at the rickety table, appraising Jamar.

“You will point out the rebels in your village,” the captain said.

“I do not know of any rebels,” Jamar groaned.

The captain waved an arm and a bearded soldier looped a cord around Jamar’s neck, wrapped it around a board, and stuck a dowel in back to tighten it.

The captain calmly watched the soldier finish the work, then motioned with his hand, “Garrote,” he said.

The soldier turned the stick. The noose tightened around Jamar’s throat. He shuddered and his vision blurred.

“Too tight!” the captain yelled.

The pressure on Jamar’s throat let up and he wheezed in a few breaths. He looked up at the captain and sputtered, “I know nothing sir.”

“We shall see,” the captain said. He lit a cigarette, puffed a smoke cloud, and repeated his question, “Where are the rebels?”

“I do not know of any rebels. This village is peaceful.”

The captain calmly signaled and the garrote tightened. Jamar felt like his eyes would burst from his head and he lost consciousness.

Jamar recovered and saw the captain beating the soldier in charge of the garrote. “Too much,” the captain yelled in French, “We need him alive.”

A young soldier wearing a rended camouflage jacket, shorts, and a pink scarf pointed out that Jamar had regained consciousness. The captain appeared relieved. He pushed the old soldier and told him to bring out the head crusher. The soldier left the building and returned with a giant industrial clamp. They attached the ends of the metal clamps to the top of Jamar’s head and the bottom to his jaw then tightened the handle a few inches. A high pitched, terrified whine came from Jamar’s nose.

“I would say you are in a bad situation my friend,” the captain strutted around the building talking to the air, “Will you cooperate?”

Not able to talk, Jamar grunted a signal of his agreement. The old soldier released the giant head clamp so Jamar could get his words out. “I do not know of any rebels. I do not know who you are talking about. No rebels have ever come here. I know this.”

“Well I know you are from the Budia tribe and all Budia’s are liars. They tell lies in the market, lies in the city, lies to their family. Even Budia’s in the military say they can’t trust other Budia’s.” The captain smiled at the other soldiers to see if this fact had sunk in.

“That is not true,” Jamar said.

The captain grimaced and told the soldiers to start the procedure.

They grabbed Jamar’s shoulders and pinned him down. The old soldier tightened the head clamp and Jamar felt the pressure increase. Outside the hut, his mother’s sobs deteriorated into whimpers. His father’s angry shouts rose to a high pitched wailing.

Jamar knew nothing. There were no rebel movements in this province. The soldiers were mistaken. They arrived, ransacked the village into a burnt husk, and lined up all the young men who did not flee in time. He happened to be the first one picked from the line up for “interrogation” procedures.

The clamp pressed down and something wet dribbled into Jamar’s eye. His teeth felt ready to break and he could not speak. He wished the soldiers had strangled him with the garrote.

The captain motioned for the soldiers to release the head clamp. “You will show us or you will be crushed. We have suffered many losses battling rebel youth and we have no mercy. We will let you live for your cooperation.”

“Enough,” Jamar groaned. “I know who the rebels are.”

Holding Jamar by gunpoint, the captain helped him up, wiped his face off with an old shirt, and pushed him outside. Jamar squinted under the Congo’s bright sun and stumbled forward to a line of young village men.

In front of Jamar, all of Bena Nzaji’s young men and children, his friends and relatives, lined up in a row facing him and the captain. Their heads hung downward, staring at the orange dirt. Remains of mud brick homes and thatched roofs smoldered around them. Soldiers loaded dead pigs and chicken, stolen from the families, into their military trucks. The village’s barefoot children stared at the soldier’s expensive boots.

The mothers of the suspected rebels surrounded Jamar and the captain and pleaded for their son’s lives. The captain pushed them away and ordered the soldiers to corral the parents. They shoved the adults into a tight circle and the unit’s armed youth set up guard positions around them. The parents kneeled and clasped their hands together pleading for mercy.

The captain led Jamar down the line of young men. Jamar passed by his friends. Except now Jamar did not picture them as friends, they were competition. It was him or them. His friends realized this and stared at Jamar with terror.

As Jamar and the Captain walked down the line of “rebel suspects,” the villagers hurled insults at the soldiers. The captain yelled that if heard another insult, everyone will be shot. The crowd settled down and became still. Dust and smoke blew in the street. An old boney dog scavenged for food in a demolished hut.

The captain became impatient, “Where is the rebel?” He asked and Jamar heard a click. The captain had pulled out a handgun and held it to the back of Jamar’s head.

Jamar had to pick a person, a person he would not miss. He knew everyone in the village. He considered them family. Then he noticed Tavarius. Tavarius, who had bullied Jamar in class, taunted him, and stole his notebooks. Tavarius was bigger than the other young men in Bena Nzaji and he enjoyed pushing kids around. He did not live in the village. His family lived outside Bena Nzaji where they grew peanuts. Many villagers disliked Tavarius’s family because they were from the Luba tribe and considered rude.

Jamar pointed towards Tavarius and Tavarius’s eyes widened. Tavarius protested, but Jamar kept pointing, “He is a rebel. That man there.”

The villagers gasped at the revelation.

“Jamar is lying!” Tavarius’s father yelled. “He is scared!” The father picked up a rock and pitched it at Jamar, “Jamar is the rebel. He is deceitful!”

The stone missed, but shattered a post. Other stones flew past him and the Congolese soldiers shot guns in the air to restore order. The soldiers pulled Tavarius’s parents out of the crowd and hauled them in front of their son. The captain told Tavarius to stand and face his parents. He complied and turned towards them.

Without warning, the captain shot Tavarius’s parents and they crumpled to the dirt. Tavarius’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. He gaped at his parent’s bodies, which lay contorted at odd angles. Blood flowed from the back of their heads and seeped into the sand.

The captain collared Tavarius and dragged him to the military truck. Tavarius put up a brief struggle, but the captain overpowered him, tied his hands with a cord, and threw him in back of the truck.

The young soldiers stood in shock and the older, bigger soldiers, readied their guns.

The villagers of Bena Nzaji erupted in anger. In one motion, they stormed the young guards. Jamar’s mother broke free, ran at a soldier, clawed him, and kicked him in the privates. The soldier buckled and she sprinted towards Jamar. Her blue, flower-printed wrap unfurled behind her.

Jamar’s mother pulled him to the edge of the savannah, which surrounded the village, and they dove into the curtain of tall grass. The thick wall of stalks screened them from the soldier’s sights. Bullets flew overhead like angry bugs as the soldiers fired wildly into the bush. His mother told him to run to Lubala where their uncle lived. “Never come back to this village,” she said between breaths. A bullet found her and she dropped in the bush.

Not looking back, Jamar careened through the savannah, covering his head with his arms to keep the grass out of his eyes. He kept running until he could no longer hear the shouts of the soldiers and the screams of the village. He stumbled, panted, and his legs refused to run faster, but he pressed on in the direction of Lubala.


After hiding in the bush for a week, living off of a dead goat he had found, Jamar arrived at the edge of his uncle’s village in Lubala. He knew his Uncle Akello would provide shelter. His family considered Akello to be a success. Akello farmed manioc root for subsistence and managed a bicycle powered trade route of soap and river fish with the city of Gandajika in the West. Lubala contained no mineral wealth, so for the time being, the village was free from marauding soldiers.

A woman cried out when Jamar emerged exhausted, bleeding, and scarred from his journey through the grass. Jamar fell to his knees. “My name is Jamar Kabala, my village has been raided, and my uncle’s name is Akello Kabala. I need his help.” The woman ran off and Jamar collapsed.

Jamar woke in a hut. He recognized nothing and remembered nothing. His world filled with unrecognizable sensations and objects. He felt lost and panic enveloped him. He screamed and lashed out at the air, but someone hugged him tightly and sang in his ears. He recognized the song. A lullaby his mother used to sing to him and then he recognized the voice of Uncle Akello’s wife, Aunt Faya.

Faya hugged Jamar tightly and he calmed down. The villagers of Lubala crammed in the windows, staring at him, whispering amongst themselves.

Uncle Akello, his shirt untucked and dirty from field work, approached from the corner of the hut with a glass full of a reeking clear liquid, “Drink this, it is medicine.” He handed the glass to Jamar.

Jamar drank it. The liquid tasted like charcoal and burned down his throat. Thick drool came to his mouth and he vomited.

“Local moonshine always calms a person down,” Akello said and grimaced at the puddle of vomit on the floor.

Faya loosened her hug and continued to sing lullabies. She examined Jamar’s face, wiped his mouth, and caressed the back of his neck. A light blue scarf covered her shaved head. She sported strong arms and shoulders from her routine of daily chores. Her soft eyes reminded Jamar of an antelope.

Uncle Akello shooed the villagers away and shut the windows and door. Rays of dusted sunlight entered through the shutter window cracks and Lubala’s children peered through the slits, engrossed in the drama. Akello returned and sat in his wooden chair. He ran his fingers through his graying hair, rubbed his unshaven face and inspected Jamar. He poured himself a glass of Congolese moonshine from a dirty bidon. “Your village is gone,” he said and gulped the drink, “planes came and bombed it.” Akello’s hands made a sweeping gesture, “The army wants minerals in the ground to sell to outsiders. They use rebels as an excuse.”

“Planes?” Jamar heard of planes and saw them in the sky, trailing smoke, but never heard of them bombing villages. “Did anyone escape?” asked Jamar.

“No,” Uncle Akello’s eyes teared up, “everyone was killed.” He drank another glass of moonshine, “Women and children. They are all shot because the military does not want the tribe’s children to seek revenge when you are older.” He stared at Jamar, “You are the remaining survivor.”

Jamar thought about his mother lying in the grass, her blue wrap hanging from the brush. His father, his friends, his home wiped away. “It can’t be true,” he said and Faya came over and hugged him and he cried.

Then an image of Tavarius cracked into his thoughts and he shuddered. Jamar remembered what had happened: what he had said to the captain, singling out Tavarius from the village lineup; Tavarius’s parents lying on the ground, their heads opened like torn flowers; and Tavarius dragged into the truck for interrogation.


In the evening Jamar ate fu fu and manioc leaves mixed with dried fish. After dinner, Faya led Jamar to the guest hut and gave him a torn sleeping mat. “I hope you can sleep,” Faya said and returned to her hut for the night. The last time he slept? Jamar couldn’t remember. He felt the world moving by him like photographs from magazines. He listened, talked, ate, but everything seemed foreign to him.

Jamar carried a sardine can lamp filled with palm oil. The lamp’s wick cast a feeble orange light. He scanned his surroundings and noticed bidons, containers, pots, and pans stacked in the corners. Two bicycles rested on the wall. At the bottom of the far wall was a hole, the size of a soccer ball. Jamar retrieved the pots and pans and piled them over the opening to keep goats from coming inside. He lay back on his mat, wearing his dirty clothes, and fell asleep. He dreamed of his mother as dogs barked from far away.

At night Jamar awoke to the sound of crying babies and realized they were cats. He grabbed a pot and left the hut to scare them off. Outside, stars peppered the sky and silent lightning flashed in distant clouds.

He noticed a young man leaning against the hut.

“Who are you?” He whispered, but the man gave no response.

The howling of the cats grew louder and Jamar tried to pinpoint their location, “Do you hear the cats?”

The man stepped forward and Jamar saw it was Tavarius. His body reflected the dull grey moonlight. He limped towards Jamar.

“You are alive?” Jamar stepped backwards. “How did you escape?”

Tavarius said nothing. What is he doing here at night? Jamar felt uneasy. This made no sense. He thought he would never see Tavarius again. Hadn’t the captain carted him off in the vehicle for interrogation? Tavarius remained silent and partially hidden in the darkness.

“Are you hurt?” Jamar asked.

Tavarius made an underhand throw. Jamar flinched at the movement. What looked like a ball of tied rags sailed through the air, bounced off Jamar’s chest, and landed in the dirt. Jamar looked down and saw lying his feet, not a bundle of rags, but a severed hand, crusted with dried sinew.

Jamar blinked and looked up. Tavarius now stood right in front of him. His eyes were empty holes filled with shadows. “Look what they are doing to me,” Tavarius croaked, “Help me.” His voice sounded hollow and miles away.

Jamar screamed.

He woke sweating. The sardine can lamp had gone out. Darkness smothered him. A rooster crowed and he heard grunts and footfalls outside the hut. Uncle Akello burst through the wooden door and glared at him, “What is wrong boy?”

Jamar said nothing.

“What happened?” Akello asked, “Why are you screaming?”

“It was Tavarius. He came in the night. The soldiers cut off his hand.”

“Who is Tavarius?” Akello studied his face, probing for answers.

“A friend.”

“You were dreaming.”

“I was not dreaming.”

“You are in bed aren’t you?”

Jamar surveyed the hut’s surroundings, “Yes.”

“Then you were dreaming. Relatives and friends may talk to you in your dreams.”

“Can I sleep in a different hut?”

“Why do you want a different hut?”

“A goat tried to get in through the opening on the floor,” Jamar said.

“Put a board in front of it.”

“I do not want Tavarius to come back,” he said.

“You should not be afraid of things that can’t hurt you,” Akello frowned and walked to the door. “Try not to wander outside in Lubala. The village is full of rumors. They believe you bring bad luck with you.” On the way out, Akello glanced over his shoulder, “Come to our hut for breakfast. We have papaya.”

After breakfast, Faya told Jamar that work would keep him grounded and take his mind away from misery. She gave him a clay pot and asked him to head to the spring and haul up drinking water. The spring was located near the village in a small draw.

Jamar slogged towards the draw carrying the clay pot. On his way, he overheard the Lubala villagers gossiping about him: “bad luck that he was here”; “they heard his screams in the night”; “the boy is cursed by witchcraft”. Jamar made his way down the draw and reached the spring. People saw him and scattered. They hid behind trees and watched him dip the pot in the spring’s cool water.

After filling the pot, Jamar struggled up the hill with the sloshing water, worried that the villagers may throw him out. He had nowhere to go, except the expanse of vast savannah grass surrounding the village. He recalled the military captain had said, “The soldiers were searching for rebels.” Where are the rebels located? What do they do? They probably have food and houses. If the village throws him out, he must seek out the rebels and join them. He did not want to live off of dead bush animals.

Near the top of the valley, Jamar saw Tavarius, standing under a dark Banyan tree. Tavarius’s silhouette mingled with shards of sunlight and his form shifted like a mirage. He held up a severed arm and waved it in the air. In place of Tavarius’s left arm was a stub of flesh. He mouthed silent words to Jamar.

The pot of water fell to the ground and cracked. Jamar jumped off the path and tore up the hill. The savannah grass smacked him in the face, cutting him. Where is the village? He barreled through the land and thought he heard Tavarius following, carrying his arm, calling for Jamar.

He burst into the clearing of Lubala and raced down the main street. Villagers moved out of his way and shouted at him. A man tried to grab Jamar, but he slipped away. There was nowhere to hide. He headed towards Akello’s hut and found Faya outside pounding manioc flour in a wooden bowl. She wore a bright red wrap with a printed floral design and after each stroke she tossed the mortar in the air, clapped her hands, and caught it.

Jamar placed his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath, his chest heaving. Absorbed in her work, Faya continued to beat the flour and looked over her shoulder at him.

“What is wrong Jamar?” Faya asked as the giant pestle slammed into the mortar. Her upper back tightened with each thump. Her entire body a piston, never letting up, she crushed the dried manioc roots into cooking flour.

“He wants revenge,” he whispered.



She stopped pounding and faced him, her forearms dusted with flour, “Who is Tavarius?”

Using a low voice, he told her what he did at his old village. He told her about the captain, his torture. He started to shake, “I singled out Tavarius for the rebel and they took him for interrogation.”

Faya remained silent and mulled over his story, “Why did you pick him?”

“I had to pick someone. I had no choice.” Tears streaked down his face.

“Are you sorry?”

“Yes. He haunts me.”

“Kekong,” her eyes widened.


“You are cursed. Tavarius is a merciless Kekong, a spirit that wants vengeance and attacks you in your dreams. He is a spirit. Real and unreal. Do not let him trick you.” Faya’s face contorted. “The spirit cares nothing for your suffering. It will try to claim you.”

“Can you help me?”

She searched his face, “Why don’t you cry for your mother and father?”

“I am too scared to cry.”

Faya set the pestle next to the mortar and hugged Jamar. Warmth moved throughout his body. Her physical strength enveloped him. Although he weighed more than her, he felt she could pick him up and set him on her shoulders. She held him tight.

When he calmed, she let him go and shuffled to her hut. She returned carrying a chicken leg adorned with black feathers and handed it to Jamar. “Take this with you to bed and hang it above the door. It will prevent the spirit from passing through the door frame,” her expression became serious. “Do not tell anyone about this, including Akello. They kill people suspected of witchcraft.”


In the evening, Jamar hung the chicken leg over his door and rested on the porch watching Faya take down the manioc roots from the drying racks. Uncle Akello returned from the fields with bidons of orange palm oil for cooking. A crowd of men and women followed him. He shouted at the villagers and an argument broke out. Akello asked them to go away, but they continued to shadow him.

The villagers coiled around Jamar. A man wearing an Arsenal T-shirt cursed. “We heard what happened in your village. You must be exorcised or the curse will follow you here.” He turned and faced the small mob. “All of you see,” he said. “His eyes shine. He is possessed.”

Uncle Akello stepped in front of the ring leader and addressed the group, “Tomorrow he will see an exorcist.”

“We should take him now, before his screams will bring soldiers to our village,” the ring leader said.

“No. He has been through a lot and we need to care for him properly,” Akello countered.

The ring leader stepped around Akello and lunged at Jamar, who shot backwards to avoid the man’s grasp.

“Leave him alone!” Faya shouted. The mob turned towards her voice and she rounded the corner of the hut, holding an axe, ready to swing. “Anyone that tries to touch Jamar will get it.” She waved the axe back and forth, “This will bring the soldiers here for sure.” The ring leader backed away from Jamar and Faya continued, “Tomorrow we will take him to see the Kimbanguist Priest, Father Moab, but we will defend him until he is cured.”

The ring leader paused and considered his options. “We will be back,” he said. The mob separated and a few people yelled curses at Faya, who retorted that they were scared and misguided.

When it looked like the last of the mob had left, Faya took Jamar inside the hut where she had a charcoal cooking fire. Jamar slumped in the corner. Faya fanned the flames and stared into the glowing coals. She listened for any commotion outside. After a few minutes, she set a pot of water on the grill and shrugged. “It looks like your Uncle will not get much water tonight.” She tossed black beans and rice in the pot and watched the mixture boil. For some time Faya remained silent and sighed, “Sometimes people get carried away. But we have to forgive them or the fighting just goes on and on.” She stoked the fire and added more charcoal.


For supper, Jamar ate beans, rice, and python meat. Using a bundle of sticks, Faya swept the dirt floor under candlelight. Akello had gone to the village chief to complain about the ring leader of the mob and ask for protection.

After washing the utensils with water borrowed from her neighbor, Faya lit a candle and led Jamar back to his sleeping hut. She placed a mat on the floor and tidied up the hut. Over the hole in the bottom of the wall, Jamar rested a board, and placed pots beside it to keep it in place. He examined the chicken foot and fashioned an improvised lock to wire the door shut.

Faya finished cleaning up the hut, “Goodnight Akello,” she said, “ We will be next door if you need any help.” She hesitated at the door. The old chicken leg dangled above her, “Tomorrow we will see the Kimbuingist priest and he will help.” She left the sardine can lamp for Jamar and went to her hut.

Jamar shut the door and cinched it tight. He checked the roofs for openings and saw cracks. He stuffed the cracks with clothes to make sure Tavarius couldn’t squeeze through. He searched the hut for weapons and found a pan and a rusted kitchen knife. He placed the items near the mat and sat with his back against the wall.

The moonless night descended. A toad croaked in the corner. A spider the size of Jamar’s hand skittered across his leg. Rats rippled through the thatched roof. Jamar followed their movements as they searched for nesting material.

The night wore on. He overheard Akello return from his meeting with the village chief and Faya greeted him. Their door shut and they talked in muffled tones. Their voices made him feel secure and his eyelids started to droop. He fell asleep and dreamed the wall opened up, brick by brick, revealing a black void.


Jamar snapped awake. The lamp had gone out and he sat in the dark. His eyes adjusted and he made out the door, bidons, bicycles, and containers. The air felt heavy and nothing stirred. His muscles were tense and rigid. The silence bore down on him.

Something stirred outside and Jamar grabbed a dented cook pot. It was Tavarius. He was sure of it. He felt around with his right hand for the knife.

A fingernail scratched on the cinched door followed by a soft moaning. Jamar held his breath and the scratching grew louder.

“Jamar. They are hurting me,” Tavarius moaned.

“Go away,” Jamar hissed and covered himself with his sleeping mat.

“They took my hand.” Tavarius emitted a gurgling noise and continued to scratch.

“Go away. You are not real.” Jamar leaned back into the wall and placed the cooking pot over his head.

“They cut off my foot. So I would talk about the rebels.”

“No. You are a dream,” Jamar whimpered.

“I have no foot. How can I walk?”

“I’m sorry.”

“I need your foot.” Tavarius pushed on the door, but Jamar had cinched it tight. Tavarius banged with more force until dust fell from the ceiling. Jamar tried to scream, but the sound vanished inside his stomach.

“Jamar, they took my head.” Tavarius’s voice sounded like gravel.

“Go away,” Jamar mouthed the words. His voice had disappeared.

“Jamar, I need your head.”

The scratching ceased. Jamar heard something fall to the ground outside the hut. He followed the sound. The thing rolled around the hut’s perimeter and stopped at the covered hole in the wall. It knocked against the barricade of wood and pots.

“Stop it,” he pleaded.

The object continued to bang against the barricade. Jamar inched toward the door, his body tense and rigid.

The barricade fell over and pans clattered to the floor. Tavarius’s head stared at him from the hole.

“I can see you,” Tavarius said. The head rolled forward into the hut and Jamar, his eyes wide, clawed at the door’s improvised latch.

“I can see you.” Tavarius’s head rested at his feet, smiling. His eye sockets were vacant bore holes.

Jamar screamed he was sorry. He screamed for his mother, father, and Faya. He kicked at Tavarius’s head, unlatched the door, and rushed outside. He ran a few steps, slammed into something, and fell backwards.

He looked up to see what he had run into. Standing over him, balanced on one leg, was Tavarius’s headless body. Furls of skin dangled from its whitewashed bones. It hopped forward carrying a hatchet in a gnarled hand. Behind him, the head chuckled and the hatchet swung towards Jamar’s skull.


Jamar woke up in the hut, soaked in sweat, feverish. Cool air filtered through the hut’s cracks and he shivered. The dream felt too real: the dull thwack of the axe as it buried in his head up to the handle; the Kekong’s twisted body, real and unreal, jerking forward. Was every night going to be like this? Damn the priest and the village. He had to do something. He was losing his mind.


The Kekong wants vengeance. Time to get it. He must find the Captain and kill him and kill everyone from the Captain’s tribe. He would need friends. He couldn’t do it alone. He rummaged the hut and pulled out a dented kitchen knife. This knife won’t work, he thought. He needed a machete. A machete would be better. He resolved to steal one. But a machete is not enough. He needed fire, guns, and friends.

He left the hut and walked to the edge of the village. The Captain is out there, somewhere. He will track him down and exact his vengeance, for his village, his tribe, and Tavarius. He cannot lose. The Others must be destroyed.




Mike Alix lives in Missoula, MT. In the nineties, he worked overseas in Africa and Guatemala. Afterwards, he toiled as a mill rat in cattle feed mills, a pond crew worker for a fish farm, and an an office worker for a nonprofit that chased grizzly bears. Prior to this publication, he has one published short story, "The Right to Bear Teeth".

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