“Come.” It guided him to an unfamiliar place in the city. “Here we are.”
A wagon, pulled by a shabby mule, stopped in the intersection. Two men stepped down from the bench; one went to the back of the wagon, and unlatched the gate. From his position, Reynard couldn’t see what was stored in the back. The man rejoined the other, and they entered a home.
He walked to the doorway. In the gray shadows of the room, Reynard saw them wrapping something in filthy sheets.
“Step back,” one said with a growl, seeing him. “Unless you came to help.”
“Nah, he’s too pretty for that,” the other man said, and chuckled.
Reynard backed away, and turned his eyes to the backside of the trailer. He heard grunts behind him as the men lifted the wrapped parcel, and walked briskly on the other side of the trailer. He stopped at the end, and craned his neck to see the trailer’s cargo.
“Oh great, a lookie-loo. Piss off!”
Reynard did not move. A hand fell out of the sheet, its blackened fingers stiff and lifeless. He recognized the putrid scent of rotting flesh. His stomach churned, and its contents erupt from his mouth. Chunks of his dinner splattered on the ground.
The men laughed as they closed the gate. They shook their heads before returning to their positions on the wagon bench.
“You watched your parents and sibling perish from the Black Death,” it said. “You do not have to suffer it for yourself. You do not have to watch your flesh decompose as you still live.”
His stomach turned, hearing its words.
“No,” he shouted. “I do not want that to come to me. I will do as you have asked, and commit to you.”
A maelstrom of light and darkness swirled around him as its excitement grew. He felt it touch him with gentle undulations like a lover in the night. His ears popped and crackled as though a change of pressure had occurred, and for the first time, he felt it. It coursed through his veins, and merged with his mind. It was him and he, it. He now had its sight and something else. The feeling was strong. He envisioned dark scenes of slaughter. Was this its hunger? At that moment, he knew when he looked into a mirror darkness would shine behind his eyes.
We hunger now. Its voice echoed inside his head. We need sustenance.
He did not understand what it meant by hunger. Even though a hunger now lived within him, he didn’t know how to quench it. For the first time when he spoke to it, he did not use his mouth. It heard his question, and responded with a laugh that he surely thought would drive him mad.
He found his way home, and went up the stairs. Fine did not suspect any change in him or see the darkness that pulsed in his eyes. However, Jerome cried at the sight of him—children are more perceptive.
“He’s teething,” she explained. “And has been grouchy all day.”
He smiled at her as she bounced Jerome in her arms to settle him, knowing what she said wasn’t completely true. He knew his child saw what lurked within him. They had supper, rather she had supper. He toyed with his stew, taking small mouthfuls. She looked him over again as she had done so many days before, and, again, was satisfied that he was not ill.
They went to bed, and he laid in silence, listening to her soft breaths. His stomach ached, demanding to be filled. He rose, and took some wafers from the larder. They did not satisfy the burn, the hunger. It laughed softly, but nothing more, no insight on how to stop the pain that grew within him. Once he returned to bed, it stirred.
I will show you how to stop the hunger. Come now.
Quietly, he dressed, and let himself out of the flat. He crept down the stairs into the night air. It directed him down the cobbled streets and lanes to their destination. The less fortunate slept, huddled under flimsy blankets in the park; some propped against trees, others laid on the ground.
What do you have to show me here? He asked it.
It laughed coyly. A vision flashed in his mind’s eye. He was disgusted at what it showed and expected; he turned on his heel, and ran home. He cursed it, and demanded that it stop with him.
You made the vow.
Hunger is available at the following fine retailers.