Appetence by Kevin Kekic
She sits alone in a room without windows, surrounded by only darkness. Hunger and exhaustion build with every breath, each eyeblink, every thought. The outline of a door is visible within the gloom, and she watches it patiently, awaiting any sign of movement, any whisper of sound.
Anything to proclaim the arrival of Papa.
She hopes he will return soon, for the simple reason that she doesn’t believe she will survive much longer. Not like this. Starving. Afraid. Her only company the lifeless husk of a rat she had devoured with her bare hands.
She still remembers its sweetness. The blood and meat. The crunch of bone between her teeth.
How many days ago had that been? How long since she tasted anything but the dust of floorboards or the retch of bile building at the back of her throat?
He will come, she tells herself. Papa will come.
So she waits.
A hollowness throbs inside. A heartbeat of hunger. She rests her hands beneath her chin as cries come without tears, as whimpers form without sound. An image of Papa forms from the hidden place old thoughts sometimes peek through. Although this is a different Papa. A man of kindness and weakness and strength. A man who once held her, loved her.
A man who fed her.
The mechanical squeak of the doorknob shatters her thoughts like a stone tossed against a mirror. The door swings inward as Papa enters from one room of darkness into another. Despite the absence of light, she sees him well. She always sees him well.
“Papa.” She crawls to him. “Papa, p-please…”
He stands before her, watching, observing.
“Are you hungry?”
“Are you thirsty?”
She tries to look up from the floorboards, but her head is too heavy—an unbearable weight of fatigue. Yet even without looking Papa in the eye, she can feel his stare as if it is a physical thing, living and breathing entirely on its own. He speaks in her ear, inside her head. “Yet still you breathe. Still you crawl.”
“But I’m so…”
“Quiet child. Do not waste energy.” His voice grows closer, until cool breath tickles her ear, “Do not move unless necessary. Do not speak. Do not even think. Do you understand?”
She says nothing, only listens.
“I’ve been there, like you. On my hands and knees. Hungry, alone…for far longer than you could possibly imagine. Sometimes, this is how we must live.” His words come forcefully, as if spoken between gritted teeth, “Sometimes, this is how we must survive.”
He straightens, and the air around her changes, like a storm swept away to sea. “Do you understand?”
She feels him retreat to the door. To that other room of darkness. “One more day. One more day and I will send food.”
“Remember, child,” he says in a near whisper. “Quiet.”
The creak of the door signals his exit.
“Quiet and still.”
She does not respond. She does not move.
She only waits.
She is no longer alone. Flies buzz by her ears, brush her face, before returning to their meal. The scraps of rat left uneaten. The hunks of skin and fur she couldn’t possibly force down her own throat. She is too tired to swat the pests away. She tells herself that they should only survive a few days. That eventually the bones of the rat will be eaten clean and the flies should all just die. But it feels like they’ve been accompanying her for a lifetime. Years falling away and devoured within the darkness of the empty room.
Perhaps they are waiting, biding their time until the chance comes to feast on her own flesh. If that’s true, they needn’t wait much longer.
This room… This unforgiving room.
She’s grown to hate it more than the hunger and the flies, more than her own weakening body, for the single reason that it keeps her from Papa. Not the Papa who comes to her in the darkness. The old Papa. The different Papa.
She remembers him now. The kindness of his eyes. The way he would pick her up in one fell swoop and spin her in big circles while she laughed and screamed all at once.
He is searching for her, isn’t he? Whiskey burning at his belly as he speaks her name into an empty glass. She sees him just before sleep. When her consciousness falls clean.
He is out there. And he is close.
The door, forever unmoving, reverberates. A sound. A footstep. Another mirage within the black. Yet instead of fading away into fantasy and dream like they had so many times before, the footsteps grow closer.
Her entire being turns its focus to the door. To the possibility of food. She tries to stand. Tries to push herself up from the floorboards as the doorknob turns. Someone steps into the room. A boy. A lone, frightened boy. Yet there is a surge of excitement stirring within him. Even in the darkness, she sees it clearly, just behind the eyes. A curious sort of wanting.
He wishes to feed her.
She stands with a sudden vigor, and lunges forward, constricting herself around him. Legs around his waist. Arms tight across his shoulders. He rolls his head to the side, offering the meat of the neck, the pulsing throb of the jugular vein. She bites deep. The exhaustion and pain siphon away as she drinks, replaced by other feelings she had almost forgotten. Joy. Exhilaration. Power.
The boy tries to speak, but only a low gurgle escapes his lips. She bites deeper. Ravenous, animalistic. Grunts and snorts echo through the quiet room. His blood is hot. It burns her belly in ways old Papa could never comprehend. For he will always be a child of the sun, a wanderer of the light. He will never drink from the lake of fire and brimstone. He will never feed willingly upon the soul of man.
Only new Papa understands. Only new Papa can fulfill her appetence.
And somewhere in the corner, he is watching.
Somewhere in the corner, Papa is pleased.
Kevin Kekic resides in Brook Park, Ohio with his wonderful family. He has an identical twin, the novelist Keith Kekic. His short fiction has appeared in The Colored Lens and 9Tales Told in the Dark.