by Jason Erik Lundberg
X had never considered the possibility that his origami constructions might spring to life. Through all his years of paper-folding, his early fascination with the Asian craft blooming into obsession, the endless competitions, the early arthritis, the impassable barrier between his talent and his imagination, through all of this his miniature creatures remained inert, frozen in the act of running, or slithering, or pecking. But tonight, his most recent fauna, birthed from printer bond, stirred.
"We know what you have done," said the paper cow, its hide revealing the left eye and nostril of a 13-year-old boy from Kuala Lumpur. The corner of the boy's eye was raised, suggesting a big smile. His skin was dark and rough, as if he had spent every waking moment in the scorching Malaysian sun.
"We know," said the paper crane, its creases half-obscuring the face of a seven-year-old girl from Semarang. Though X could not see her face, he knew it in his mind, could remember the gap made by the missing front teeth as she had grinned up at him, taking his hand and trusting him as if her own kin.
"We know," said the lumbering paper gorilla, made from the obituary notice of two ten-year-old twin boys from Penang. Their screams, too, had been identical.
More and more of the dead-tree atrocities, the collected evidence of X's crimes, printed from internet news stories and charity sites and then shaped into bats and elephants and frogs and tigers and pandas and a hundred other animals, rustled toward X, slow as the undead, each whispering, "We know." An army of his perversities, his many sins, each folded animal a reminder of a life held, touched, taken.
"Stop," X said. "I am sorry. Please stop."
"We cannot stop," said the paper cow, commander of this zoological army, edging ever closer to its creator. "You have made us so very thin and so very sharp."
And then all of the origami animals moved as one.