by: Amanda Grosso
When I touch my belly I can feel my backbone, and I’m hungry. The signs were all there. The legends, the stories. All the warnings. They all basically said the same thing. Don’t eat. One simple rule and I broke it.
You have to understand though. I was so hungry. The kind of hunger that makes a man snap. So hungry it felt as if my stomach would shrivel up inside. Like it was twisting up into knots in an attempt to fill the empty spaces. A pain that leaves even the strongest of will and strength curled up in the fetal position clutching their gut with white knuckles. Since setting foot on the reservation, our stomachs began to grumble. The low rumblings kept in time with our footfalls and with each step we took, my stomach ached more and more.
Miss Claire was frightened the most. Her fear left sour tastes in our mouths as she told us the stories her grandmother had told her of the demons that resided in these mountains. Demons of famine, the wendigo. Her stories had gotten to a few of us. Don’t eat meat. Whatever you do, don’t eat any meat. Not even to survive. We might have been able to write her stories off if they hadn’t matched up a little too well with the natives of the town below.
We thought about turning around several times, but Dr. Thomas claimed that the pains in our guts must have been caused by food poisoning, “sketchy food from sketchy Indians.” Dr. Thomas was a racist asshole, but he was always one for logic.
By the time we were a few miles from the top, it was nearly nightfall. After three days, our expedition grew so sick, the good Doctor called it off. We were to spend the night and descend the mountain, without the mystery predator that had been on a killing spree, to seek out medical attention. That night was the worst. It felt as though we hadn’t eaten in weeks. The nuts, dried fruits, SpaghettiOs, and other rations we brought did us no good. The granola bars made it worse. No matter how much we ate, nothing could fill our empty bellies. That’s when Samson turned on us.
A scream had startled me from my thoughts. It hurt to move, but I struggled to my feet in a panic and ripped down the flimsy tent zipper. Standing in the middle of camp was Professor Edward Samson, a knife held up to Claire’s throat. His eyes were bloodshot, his skin a sickly grey color. Driven mad, he looked like a cornered animal. Essie had her gun trained on him but froze when he dug his face into Claire’s forearm, ripping the flesh and tearing upward with the tendon clutched in his sharp teeth. Another scream sounded out, and chaos ensued.
Blinding lights, gunshots, screams, and guttural snarls filled the air and my senses were overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion, yet somehow I was able to turn and run. My feet struggled to carry me as far away from the ordeal as they could. Stumbling through brush and thorns, I kept running. My sight grew hazy as lights danced around my vision; I couldn’t take the pain any longer. Tripping over my own feet, I fell. I could barely feel anything except the pain and the wetness of water underneath. I passed out to the sounds of screams and gunshots filling my ears, echoing off the mountain.
When I came to, I could only assume it was morning. The sun had not risen yet, and the water below had soaked my clothes through. I shook violently, risking both starvation and hypothermia – I was surely dead. Someone would find the bloodbath and think the worst. Or maybe no one would come looking at all. Yeah, that seemed the more likely scenario. There was a reason they hadn’t hired a guide, after all. No one was stupid enough.
I didn’t move from where I lay. Instead I prayed to whatever would listen to just allow me to faint again, permanently… so imagine my surprise when I staggered to my feet. Step by step, I came to find myself standing just outside the camp, the pounding in my head driving me towards food.
I was so hungry I couldn’t think straight. I think it was Buddha that said starving yourself was very distracting. Truer words were never spoken. So I ate what was left. The sticky, juicy remains of my friends and colleagues, their faces blurry in my dazed state. I ate until there was nothing left. Not even the gray husk that was mixed in. My mother used to tell me to eat what was put in front of me after all.
My fingers are longer now. Grey, thin and boney, my joints like knobs. My hair is rotted and falls out at the slightest touch and I’m hungry. When I touch my belly I can feel my backbone, and I’m hungry. So very hungry. Always hungry.