Onion Breath by Matthew J. Gleason


Eric and I used to watch the kaiju attacks from the roof of our apartment. We were both busy a lot of the time with work and other stuff but we made time for that. It was nice in its own sort of way.  Both of us had grown up in relatively conservative religious households where kaiju watching was frowned on. There are those within the far right who still don’t accept that the kaiju are from space. They assume they’re demons from Hell. I guess the old saying about a hammer seeing everything as a nail has some truth to it. 

The kaiju were awesome in the biblical sense of the word. Some of them were your standard giant lizards and monkeys/gorillas. Others were million tentacled floating squids wielding  golden swords or six headed winged opossums  made of green stone. They brought destruction wherever they went. All that absurd beauty mixed with raw power made them cultural icons the whole world around. 

Eric on the other hand wasn’t all that impressive to look at. He was a little chubby but not very and a little taller but not much taller than average. He had that David Bowie thing where one of his eyes was a darker blue than the other. I always liked that about him. It helped me to imagine he was deeper than he really was the way a dirty swimming pool might be an ocean. Swimming pools are nice in their own right. His smile was perfect save one slightly chipped tooth. He always made me feel warm and bubbly inside when he smiled. It was like being near a roaring fireplace in the winter. He’d often smile his perfect little imperfect smile while we watched the fights. We lived in Concrete City which was a bit of a kaiju hot spot so we often got to see the gargantuan monsters topple skyscrapers and each other. The air smelled of smoke more often than not. 

There was a variety between individual monster attack date nights or afternoons with us. Sometimes the sight of carnage would lead to us kissing or sex or just passing out in front of the TV later. Sometimes we’d order this delightfully greasy thin crust black olive  pizza from a place called Alfredo’s nearby and consume it ravenously while towers fell and strangers screamed. As is the way with memory certain details and events stand out. 

When I think of all the kaiju fights I ever watched with Eric I think of one towards the end of it all. It wasn’t the last one or even the second to last. Still my brain has latched onto it for one reason or another. It was summer and I’d just gotten home from working at a gas station. I heard police and ambulance sirens. Glancing out the window I saw a dozen or so burning/crumbling buildings maybe five or six miles away. I grabbed a pair of old yellow binoculars from inside our coffee table. Then I carefully yet eagerly  climbed the ladder up to the roof. I was a little bummed to see that there was only one kaiju present but it was Eric’s favorite.

It was Glindar the serpent tongued thousand foot tall penguin. Its tongue resembled a purple cobra. It swung around like a whip or a cowboy’s lasso. Green  lava  flowed out  in arcing streams of death from the snake tongue’s mouth. On the ground people were frantically running in all directions. Those trapped inside tall buildings waited for death or leaped from windows to meet it. I saw a woman dressed in a black and  white  pants suit weeping as she fell to the ground clutching an infant in her arms.  It was beautiful. Of course it was sad as well but  the way the stuff online is sad. 

I was just thinking what a shame it was that Eric was missing seeing his favorite monster wreak some havoc when I  felt a tap on my shoulder and looked. Eric stood there with his suit jacket draped over one shoulder and his tie undone.  He held a greasy  looking brown paper bag in one hand. Eric took a seat beside me on the roof. He then reached into the bag and tossed me a burger with extra onions. He knew I liked onions. 

For the first year or so we’d been together I’d refused to eat them around him because I knew some people were put off by the smell and I didn’t want to be revolting. He’d made it clear that he’d rather I be happy than anything else and didn’t really mind how my breath smelled. It was in the grand scheme of things a little problem but thinking of the situation reminded me why I loved that man. He got a burger for himself as well. His was the same but with added bacon. I knew everyone was supposed to love bacon but the flavor/texture combo  just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I should have been born Muslim or Jewish, or something. 

“Looks like I’ve missed an exciting show so far.” he said snuggling in closer to me.  His warmth made me feel like I was home. As we watched Glindar the penguin consume countless strangers we were more alive than ever. We devoured the burgers and kissed with our stinky onion breath. It was gross and sweet and what mouths were made for doing. As the sun finally set and Glindar retreated into the ocean I fell asleep in his arms right there on the roof. 

Maybe you hate me for loving a life that’s ugly and seeing beauty in it. Maybe you think the kaiju were evil and we were worse. All I knew then and know now is that the world is chaos and shit and sometimes enjoying it is your only real option. Sometimes love makes it okay. At least that’s what I tell myself. Eric died about two months after the evening of the onion breath kisses. He was at work in his little office building to the east of the apartment. 

Once again I’d just gotten home. I was already out on the roof smoking a spliff when Glindar attacked again. It had to be that tiny little street full of meaningless people and HIM that got attacked. I saw it all happening. I didn’t see him die but I’d seen too much to expect a miracle. I tried to call his phone but it went straight to voicemail. I cried. It somehow felt both less and more real than all the other catastrophes we had enjoyed together.

I saw that massive Penguin glance in my general direction. I wondered if it saw me and understood what I was feeling. Ultimately I tried my best to ignore it. I focused on Eric’s soul if he had a soul at all. I tried to call out to him; to offer any comfort I could. Glindar left. All that remained of the building in which Eric had was a heap of burning wreckage. I broke down; falling to my knees and  crying more pathetically with each passing second. I was alone in a world of monsters. Eric was dead. 

The worst thought  popped into my mind  right about then. It was that maybe he deserved it. Maybe we had gotten so much joy from destruction and death that it was our turn to pay the price. Fuck that! There’s no rhyme or reason to pain. I dusted myself off and headed back inside. Maybe if he’d been home instead of at work we’d have watched and laughed together. Maybe I’d have ridden him on our futon after. I don’t watch kaiju attacks anymore. I don’t smile anymore. Mostly I don’t eat onions. 


Matthew J. Gleason is a writer of speculative fiction usually gravitating toward the strange, the unsettling, and the monstrous. They were born and raised in West Virginia but now reside in Iowa with their partner. They have had their work included in Horror Sleaze Trash, The Sirens Call eZine and Unstamatic among other publications. Books in their collection series Strange Phenomena are available for purchase on Amazon. They plan on releasing a vampire novella titled Blood Ties later this year. They can be found on Twitter (@MatthewJGleason) and have a Facebook page also called Matthew J. Gleason Writer. 

Published 2/16/23



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