It was the same process as that of darkness conquering daylight upon the brink of night. I could feel my mind struggling, in hues of ever darkening thoughts, as evil finally took possession of it. I had shed too much light upon the ignorance of those who followed me, changing their outlook on their own measly lives; they believed I was their leader, and that I would provide them with shelter until their brittle bodies gave way to famine and disease.
No, I hadn’t a pound of food in the storage room. All I had was a myriad of living and otherwise decomposing bodies in my living room, some of them consciously awaiting the last stroke of midnight.
I couldn’t handle it—there were far too many corpses out there, and I had no food. I felt hunger sting the remnants of my shrinking stomach and thirst once again puncture my bladder, while the cold winter air hardened my tongue. My hair was dry, as it had been for the last month or two; my nails were three inches long, their insides filled with the rotting meat of my idiot followers; my feet were cherry-black, from walking on muddy blood-covered grounds while scavenging for food; and my left hand was gone, lost to the desperate cannibalistic desires of some insane old man. I let him have it, but now it was my turn.
I stood up, feeling the layer of cratered earth break at the base of my feet. I stretched my left arm, feeling the peeling wall rub against my wrist; I headed towards darkness, hoping to find a door from which to leave the room. As I held onto the wall, I reached down with my right arm, feeling a freezing ankle. My hand traveled upwards, gently caressing calf, hamstring, gluteus, and torso. Once I reached the shoulder I felt for the arm; I then dragged the body while following the wall towards the exit.
There were dim green lights outside, lining a street in direction of the factory. Determined to trade the old man for any valuables, I dragged his corpse relentlessly for several hours. I ignored the hungry looks of passersby; I even took alternate routes in order to evade their eager thrusts and malnourished customs. I wished I could still eat their flesh without feeling remorse.
“So, have you got anything worth trading this chunk of carbon for?” I asked. I could feel my eyes widen as she passed around a tray full of food, feeding the workers of the factory. They were fat, and they smelled of burnt flesh. I now had two reasons not to like them.
“That old thing? Who do you think you’re dealing with, Cat?” she asked.
“I already told you what I came here for. Either you give me food in exchange for his body, or you get nothing. Take it or leave it, Delia.”
She didn’t tend to me for another fifteen minutes. She went around the entire room, handing out potatoes and some type of meat. She finally came back with three potatoes and a knife in one bag, and what seemed to be five pounds of meat in another one.
“I’ll tell you what, Cat. Whatever you want to take today, you’re gonna have to work for. Not only will I take the body, but you’ll go up there and dump him in yourself. I’m not dragging that old thing if that’s what you wanted.”
I acknowledged her orders with a defying glare. I threw the old man’s corpse over the counter and jumped in immediately afterwards. The event caused no commotion, not even a slight shift in any of the dozen workers’ sitting positions. I grabbed the elder’s arm once again and yanked him toward the first flight of stairs.
At the foot of the staircase was a sign that read:
FIRST FLOOR: MANAGEMENT
SECOND FLOOR: PRODUCE
THIRD FLOOR: LEATHER
FOURTH FLOOR: FUR
FIFTH FLOOR: COAL
I pulled him up the first flight, careful not to bang his head too many times on the steel stairs. Each thump resonated through the entire staircase, making my bare feet and hand momentarily freeze. Once I reached a sign that read ‘pro-doose’ I had to stop, for there were no more stairs, but a door blocking my way. I pulled the corpse up and let it rest against the wall, and reached for the doorknob.
“Hey,” someone whispered.
There was a stout woman standing ten feet away from the door, pursing her lip and licking it every five or six seconds. “What do you want?” I asked.
“Is that ripe meat you have there?” She came closer, lifting her head as if to allow the rotting smell to more easily enter her nostrils. “I love the taste. I’ll buy it from you.”
“I said I like the taste. It smells good too. Haven’t smelled a ripe one in the entire day. I’ll take it.”
“Listen, it’s not for sale.”
“Get the fuck out of the first floor then, sod. Can’t you read, you beast? The sign reads pro-duce! I made it myself so idiots like you wouldn’t waste my time.” Once again she closed her eyes and took in the smell. “Pike off, now.”
I opened the door and pulled the corpse in. Inside was another flight of steel stairs, but these were covered in fresh blood. I could hear the muffled impact of steel from adjacent rooms, accompanied by the accelerated spin of saws. My heart raced faster as I hauled the body upwards to a third floor.
The third sign read “leather”; I was surprised this one was actually spelled right. There was no door in front of me this time. Instead, there were hundreds of skins hanging from hooks on the ceiling, dripping blood onto the floor, trickled down one stair at a time until it reached the second floor. I knelt quickly and started crawling towards the other side of the room, expecting to find a door from which I could escape the bloody rain. Halfway across the room the skins stopped dripping, and once I reached the other side most had turned dry and brittle. I stood up, opened the door and kicked the corpse inside the small room containing the third flight.
Another sign, reading “fur”, covered the entire height of the door leading into the fourth room. There were three different mounds of hair, with a sign above each that read either ‘puvec’, ‘scalp’, or ‘pit’. There was a small child standing in front of the ‘pit’ mound, reaching into it with a gloved hand. I made my way across the room, but I bumped the corpse’s head against the stairs.
“You want to buy some?”
“No, thank you.”
“Come on, please. They’re fresh off the flesh. It’ll keep you warm tonight.”
“I said no.”
I turned around and started running up the stairs; I did not stop when I heard the old man’s neck crack, nor when I felt the small child pull off one of the man’s socks. I just kept running.
Finally, I reached the sign that read ‘coal’. I could barely stand the heat as I opened the door. I left him half inside and half outside, feet out the door, and ran down without looking back.
* * *
“Did you enjoy your little tour, Catatonia?”
“No, I didn’t. Just give me the food and I’ll go quietly”
“Here you go then.” She took out of the trash can the two bags of food, but held them arm’s length away from each other. “Choose.”
There were only three potatoes in the first bag, and seeing as it also contained a knife, I assumed they were raw. The second bag was full of meat.
“Answer just one question for me, Delia.”
“Of course, dear, what is it?”
“Is that… animal meat?”
She looked at me with a compassionate smile. She glanced out the window, where two of the homeless waited patiently for the day’s garbage to be taken out.
“Of a sort.”
“I’ll take the potatoes then.”
* * *
Before I went back into the storage room, I grabbed a potato and bit into it. Surprisingly, it was soft and seasoned. Cooked.
Wrapped around the knife was a small piece of paper. I un-wrapped it, and read as follows:
“Do you think you can stay clean for so long, Cat? You’ll need the knife. Aim forward and bring me some more carbon. They’ll give no fight.”
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