“The Ogre Next Door” by T.H. Adams

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I live next to humans, most of whom are very accepting. The lesbian throuple next door was so used to campaigning for queer rights that they were more than accommodating when we moved in. Intersectionality, they call it. The latinx family on the other side leaves us alone, and their kids are polite enough when we occasionally have to tell them to turn down the music at night. Never thought an ogre like me would be the one telling kids to turn down the damn music, but having sprouts of your own will rebraid your mane in ways unforeseen.
My wife and I met before the Awokening, when it was dangerous for the othercommon community to be seen in public. At best, you’d get some speciest human yelling, “Freak!” right in your face like it was a perfectly normal thing to do to another being. Of course, now it’s common for the younglings to “reclaim” that word, calling themselves the “burgeoning freak community” and those of us who fought and bled for the Awokening “old others.” Maybe we’re being too sensitive and they too crass, all at the same time.
It’s not uncommon that my wife and I met at a metal concert. Lots of othercommon flocked to the various “fringe” elements of human society, with varying degrees of success throughout history. Everyone’s heard the stories from post-colonial America of the witch hunts: a group of enlightened human witches invite in couple of sweet old Night Hags they met in the woods and a few months later it’s “The witch must burn” this and “congress with Satan” that.
Anyway, I was down in the mosh pit. The humans who mosh always had a great time when I was in the pit. They would throw themselves into me with reckless abandon and I’d knock them flying into the crowd circumferencing the pit. I only ever heard positive things about my horns and tusks in those scenes. Even though the humans thought they were just radical prosthetics, it warmed my livers to hear human voices appreciating the most recognizable markers of ogrekind. Admittedly, it became a little weird and “meta” when they started wearing actual prosthetics to look like othercommon, and now that we’re out more and more, folks are starting to call that “appropriation.” Maybe that’s for the best. I once had a human scare when I thought I was hitting on a Kitsune; once I realized the fox tail was strapped on, I “went to get drinks” and hauled my furry, green ass out of there.
But no one could mimic my wife. The opening band was nearing the end of their set. I was in the pit and had just spun around when a break formed in the crowd behind me. She was dancing. A pocket of empty space had formed around this beautiful tree Nymph as she lithely writhed, her body twisting like a willow trunk in a storm, her arms branching like ivy surrounding a pine, and even her vine tendrils stretched out their curls to let the wind of her dancing carry them. The crowd around her hadn’t even noticed they had made room, but the way the light bent around her aura made it clear that this Nymph had let go of the self-consciousness, the social anxiety that so often plagues us all. She danced like anyone watching could go fuck themselves.
The opening act wrapped up, breaking my reverie. Only then did I realize I had been standing stone still, shoulders hunched, jaw dropped so hard my tusks nearly fell out, and surrounded by moshers who had spent themselves throwing their bodies at my immovable girth. I took stock around myself: the din of the crowd milling about between sets, several humans laid out all around, and me, staring dumbstruck like the very stereotype of a big, stupid ogre. I pulled myself together, stepped over a few barely conscious moshers (one of whom threw me the horns and panted something about rocking on), and stalked towards the Nymph who had felled my totem.
As I got closer to where she wallflowered, I could feel my frontal sinus swell, pushing out my horns more prominently, my fur stand, poofing out in a way that I guess my evolutionary ancestral grandmother found majestic, and my glands churn, excreting pheromones. In short, I was a nervous wreck. Somehow, I managed to garble together enough coherent words to make clear my intention to buy her a drink and get to know each other. She swears I slobberingly asked her to elope that very night, but I’m absolutely certain I would never do anything so ridiculous. The night we shared our first kiss, her head fit perfectly between my tusks and a pair of her tendrils wrapped around the toothy projections like she was pulling me into herself, like we were made to fit each other.
But that was decades ago before the Awokening made us feel safe to try and bring more othercommons into the world, before we didn’t even think of worrying if she could bear our spawn without complication because we were too busy worrying we might be found out by the humans and our own kind. It’s so strange to think back on who we were before: rebellious kids fighting for our right to exist, compared to now, just another pair of middle-aged suburbanites with a litter of sprouts harassing each other and driving their parents crazy. Then, we were hunted; now, I work in an office answering to five bosses. Half my coworkers are othercommon, the other half human. Then, there’s the intern, who is himself half-human. It’s crazy to think of how much has changed in my own lifetime, and yet how far we have to go.

 

 

 

T. H. (Tom) Adams is a poet, husband and father, and recovering scholar currently residing in East Texas. Tom finds magic in the process of endowing bits of one’s soul into squiggles on a page so others can invoke those squiggles into their own soul.

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