I don’t usually wake up hungry. Usually a post-sleep panic grips my stomach and doesn’t let go for two or three hours. Five if I was drinking the night before. Even if it was a little bit, I won’t tolerate breakfast.
Today was different. I got out of bed and searched the fridge for some eggs. I know I had them, but maybe Frankie made off with a few…
After salvaging a some from the bottom drawer, I cooked them. I didn’t have work anyway, so I had time.
Last night Frankie and went out to dinner. For our six month anniversary. I was taking her out to the Thai restaurant we love, but she suggested a new one.
“It’s not really Thai, Burmese, I think,” she said over the phone. “It just opened up. On Milton Ave, near the Chase.”
“That’s not a really busy area though, is it?”
“No, but it’ll be quiet and romantic.” I could picture her half-smile as she said it.
“All right, sure, I’ll come by at-” I looked at the clock. “Seven?”
“Seven thirty. I gotta get the gum out of Moxie’s fur before I shower.”
The restaurant was hidden, nearly, between a nail studio with bright pink awnings and and closed Jewish deli. The building was a thin, four-story block without a single light on in it. I looked at Frankie. “This..?”
“Down here,” she said, somewhat exasperated. She led me down a set of narrow, steep stairs on the left side of the building, over which the words ‘Pho Chop’ were written.
“How’d you know that?” I asked.
“Megan’s the one who told me about it. She came here last night with Rod.”
The restaurant itself was warm, comfortable. Soft lights hung on the walls. The floor was cushioned with maroon carpet. Fishtanks stood here and there between a series of two-person tables.
The waiter hurried out to us from the kitchen.
“Ah, welcome sir and madam, welcome to Pho Chop. Please, sit.” He ushered us to the nearest table. “To drink? You both must be thirsty, you must be hungry, please.” He pushed menus into our hands.
“Water’s fine for me,” I said, looking at Frankie.
I scanned the menu as the waiter bustled off.
“That guys a real go-getter,” I smiled.
“Shut up,” she laughed. “Seriously, don’t embarrass me everywhere.”
The waiter rushed back with two glasses.
“To eat, sir and madam?”
I scanned the menu. “Uh, I don’t really…what do you suggest?”
“Ah, sir, well you must try Mohinga. Burmese national dish sir. Tender rice in fish soup. Onions, garlic, lemongrass, served with minced pork, sir,” he smiled. His tongue flicked out against his upper lip.
“Sure, yes, I’ll have that,” I said.
“Gyin thoke,” Frankie said without missing a beat.
He whipped the menus from our hands. “Excellent!” He said loudly, and hurried back to the kitchen.
“A connoisseur, you,” I eyed her and sipped from the glass.
“It’s salad with ginger and beans. I had it once and I loved it.”
It wasn’t Thai, but it wasn’t bad. The pork definitely had a weird bitterness to it, but with enough soy sauce it was unnoticeable.
“Not bad huh?” Frankie said as we mounted the stairs.
“Exactly, it was not bad. There’s bad, and this was not."
"Come on, it was all right at least?”
“We should have gone to Sri Thai.”
“It was fine, shut up.”
I only had four eggs left this morning. Four was all I could find. When I was cooking them, my stomach’s growls turned to pangs. It hurt.
I ate all four. In under three minutes. I shredded cheddar cheese over them. I threw in peppers and onions and olives. I inhaled them, threw the napkin down. But I was still hungry.
But that didn’t make any sense. I should be at the point of throwing it all up right now. I looked down at my plate, at the tiny flecks of egg on the corner of the table (maybe if I scraped those up) but those weren’t enough.
I headed to the couch to let myself digest. Maybe it has to hit my stomach, just give it some time (still hungry) then I’ll feel full enough to put me back to bed.
My stomach growled.
Three hours later, the fridge was empty. Greasy tupperware lay on the floor. Tin foil with burn marks clinging to the rack in my stove. I ate every slices of cheese, meatballs, Dutch chocolate ice cream, whole tomatoes, leftover steak, frozen burgers. I pulled down a tin of lasagna so hard it flipped and splattered over the floor. I scooped it up with my hands, shoveled it into my mouth like a fucking animal. But I was still hungry.
I stumbled into the bathroom, weak from hunger. Gripping the sink, I looked into the mirror.
Somebody had taken my face and was wearing it as a mask.
My cheeks hung off the bone. The bags under my eyes had gone from light purple to pitch black. My pupils were pinpricks, the eyes bloodshot. I was bleach-white, except for the red and brown streaks around my mouth from pasta and steak sauce. And my hair…was it…thinning?
Before I had time to take it in, I got distracted. My lips…were red. Very, wonderfully red.
I licked them. My stomach groaned again. And I was…drooling.
It was Frankie. Before I could swing the bathroom door shut, she was there.
"You know you left your door open so if I wanted to hack you up into pieces I could probably-” She had come around the corner. She dropped a plastic supermarket bag and brought her hands up to her mouth.
“My G-what…what happened?"
"I don’t-don’t know,” I said. “I’m so…so…I’m starving.”
She looked back over at the kitchen, and the overturned containers and flecks of food on the counter and floor, at the drawers ripped out of the fridge. “You ate all that?”
“Yes-well…I don’t know…maybe it’s food pois-”
“This is the opposite of food poisoning,” she sent back. “You might have to go see a doctor.”
But I had remembered something. I remembered the dinner we had last night. The food…something was not right about the food…the…pork.” At the thought of the pork, I started salivating. Spit filled my mouth, ran down my chin onto my shirt.
“What the fuck-I’m not even joking I’m calling 9-11”
“What’s Megan’s address..”
“I-what?” She stammered.
“Megan!” I roared, finger tearing at my stomach, “She went there! To Pho Chop! I need her address! I’m dying!”
I didn’t even realize how close I had gotten to her. She backed against the counter, her fingers gripped the edge. I could see the green irises in her wide eyes, could see her cheeks…her…delicious…cheeks…
"I-I-don’t-um” She closed her eyes, trying to remember. I stepped towards her, looking at those cheeks, puffing in and out with her heaving breath, if I could just taste-
“One six six Woodhaven Road,” She spluttered, opening her eyes. She screamed when she saw my proximity, pushed me hard in the chest, and sprinted out of the apartment.
I sprinted four miles to Megan’s apartment. I burst into the lobby, scanned the listing for ‘Connelly’, and ran up the stairs four at a time to the third floor.
“MEGAN!” I bellowed, pounding the door. “MEGAN OPEN UP-”
It had swung open at the first knock.
A wave of warm air hit me. It carried the sickly sweet odor of stagnant rotting, of road kill left in a garbage bag. I gagged.
“M-Megan?” No answer.
I stepped into the apartment. All the lights were on. “Megan!” I walked down the hall past the kitchen, covering my mouth. Her fridge hung open, empty. It’s contents were scattered along every surface. Butter and packets of turkey bacon and yogurts apparently flung at the walls, pans on the stove full of chicken and rice, sitting in a layer of cold oil. The floor was covered in milk and onions and dressing and broken eggs and blood from roast beef-
But that was a lot of blood. And @way@ too dark for beef.
“Megan? Megan! I know you’re in here! Let’s go, come out and tell me what the fuck’s happened!”
But I had turned the corner to the living room. When I registered what I saw, I half-screamed and fell backwards. If I hadn’t fell the stench surely would have knocked me down.
Megan was kneeling in the middle, on a carpet saturated with blood. Flies numbering in the hundreds covered the floor, the walls, the tv screen, everywhere there was blood. The lamp near the window sizzled the dried blood stuck to it.
Rod was on the couch to my right. He was face down. His head, torn nearly off, hung off the side of the couch by a flap of skin. His back was opened up. Like someone had put a shovel in and popped it up in both directions. I could see right into the cavity. It was empty except for maybe a piece of his lung. His intestines were clumped at the floor, one long strand still running back inside him like an umbilical cord. His calves were carved down to the bone. Maggots poked their heads out of the shredded meat in his thighs. The head stared, the upside down, eyeless, lipless thing grinned over at me, still on the floor.
“M-m-m-” I shook. “M-Megan…w-what did y-you d-d-do…”
She wasn’t listening. She was ripping at a thick hunk of meat in her hands, eating with heavy, guttural sounds.
I crawled over. “M-Megan…Megan…answer m-me please…” I touched her shoulder.
A clawed hand flew up, fingers hooked into the side of my face.
“AH! MEGAN W-”
“IT’S US!” She shrieked, whipping around onto all fours. Her face was gaunt, hollow, white. “IT’S US!” She was grinning, slivers of Rod hanging from between her teeth. She wheezed a laugh, her tiny pupils fixated on mine. “NOTHING TO EAT BUT PEOPLE! NOTHING ELSE WILL DO!” She laughed again wildly, blood or mucus rattling in her throat.
I couldn’t answer. I was backing away on all fours, scrabbling to get away. My eyes looked right into hers. There was a dead, animal look in them.
My gaze trailed downward. Her cheeks were gaunt…but still…enough meat on there…be pretty good…
I stopped thinking. I only watched. Watched myself stand up over her, watched myself dive at her hunched body, watched myself pin her to the ground.
I felt my mouth open and my teeth sink into the side of her face, closing, teeth grinding, her hot blood squirting down my throat. She cried out, grabbing at my hands, my arms. I couldn’t have noticed. A tender, warm comfort flowed from my mouth outward as I swallowed. My stomach churned its appreciation.
I took another bite, this time I found my way down to her throat. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her molars from the hole I’d left. As I pulled back, I felt tendons pop, muscles tear. Hot, sticky blood soaked my face, my eyes, showered down over me, and I swallowed whole, laughing, giggling with the feeling of real food, savory, healing meat. I heard Megan gurgle out of the hole in her throat.
I looked up, closed my eyes, breathed in deep, letting the fetid stink of the room flood into my lungs, felt my stomach start working greedily, and tranquility flooded over me. I fell back next to Megan, who was fingering the hole in her throat feebly, her mouth hanging open. My heartbeat slowed. I felt a soft glow behind my closed eyelids.
I lay there for what could have been years. I felt like my life had been leading up to this one glorious moment, this one feeling of release, like a cyst had been suddenly drained. I felt like I could die right here, right now, happy.
But…the glow got dimmer.
The light started to fade. Rapidly. The happiness was leaving me. My breath was becoming shorter. I sat up, seeing the room bathed in blood and the two corpses lying there. I felt something. Feverish…and…
And I’m hungry.