Red Bellied Brown

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Chapter 14: Hunger

At one point I must have passed out. I thought I must have gone blind when I opened my eyes the room was so dark. The pain had stopped some time ago. It seemed that my transformation was over and that I had survived it. I dimly recall hearing the click of a lock through the agony. Drained from the ordeal I felt a ravening hunger I had never experienced before. The type of hunger that stops you from thinking of anything else but acquiring food. My mind narrowed to the single minded pursuit of nourishment. As my eyes adjusted I found that it wasn’t as dark as I had thought. The walls and floor were the dull grey colour of concrete. In the middle of the room was a table that drew my attention immediately for its luminescence. The smell of meat filled my nostrils. I rushed towards the table. The only thing stopping me from grabbing some meat straight away and eating it was the colours. On some was a bright white glow while other parts were a dull green. I looked around the ceiling expecting to see a UV light since that was what it most reminded me of. In one corner I saw a little red light. The only light in the room. Someone was watching me. I looked back at the meat and recoiled. It was the unmistakeable shape of various body parts. Whomever had done it clearly wanted those who saw it to know that this was once human. I recoiled immediately shocked that I had been moments away from committing cannibalism. My hunger gnawed at me, insisting that it didn’t matter.

I frantically searched my room for any hint of a way out. It was soon clear the room was empty of everything except the ominous table of flesh. This had to be a test. An initiation into the club. We’ll only accept you if you eat a human. Maybe it was more than that. It could be a ritual, the consumption of your old form. Thoughts came unwanted to my mind. They were dead. I was alive. I’d soon be dead. If I lived I could help others. It’s not as if I was the reason they died. My dire need for food easily defeating my moral objections. It was against everything I stood for as an officer of the law. What was the point of trying to enforce the law if at the first sign of difficulty I broke it? I pushed my mind to solve the problem of escape but my hunger was overriding all ability to think about anything else. My reason was being pitted against me and my body’s desire to live. I subconsciously looked back at the meat on the table. I admonished myself for thinking of it as meat. It was flesh, once a living breathing human. A thought shook me to my core making me investigate the body. I sighed with relief when I confirmed that this particular body was not my daughter. Just some other unfortunate. Standing this close made the smell of the body all the stronger. My heightened sense told me this body was still fresh. Possibly only hours since it had been carved up. The thought sickened me and yet my body was betraying my mind. It did not care about ethics and morality. How long before you starved to death? I remembered starving wasn’t the issue if you didn’t have water. Without water you were dead within the week. I searched for water but it was clear they wanted this to be quick. If I waited for a few days and feigned death would they come? Would I be strong enough to fight? I decided to pass the day by sleeping it was the only thing I could think of I was certainly exhausted enough. Would I wake up again?

Whether I slept for hours or merely minutes was unclear to be. Nothing had changed. I was in a dark room with a dead body. Time had no concept for me. I banged on the door for them to let me out but there was no response. To my surprise the door was made of wood. I had expected steel. I kicked at it but did nothing but jar my leg. They hadn’t skimped on the quality of the wood. I thought back to that fateful day at the apartment building. They had chewed their way past the lock. I doubted I could chew concrete but perhaps I could chew this. I began gnawing at it telling my body this was our means of survival. To my surprise I was able to make leeway. I had never considered my teeth to be such an effective tool. It was hard going but I had no other clear path. It was tiring work. My hunger reasserted itself as if it had become its own entity. A schism in my mind or a mutiny of the flesh. Thoughts of how good that meat would taste flooded my mind. How refreshed I would be if I just ate. It’d be a much quicker way of escaping. Doubt beset me. What would I do once I opened the door? They knew what I was doing. The camera was trained on me. If I was them I would have someone waiting on the other side. Or I would just come in and kick the shit out of me. I continued my enterprise blocking everything. Escape was the only possibility.

I’m not sure how long I chipped away at that door while I fought my inner demons. It felt like hours had passed. I fiddled with the lock surprised to find there was no resistance. Perhaps I had been wrong about the camera. Easing the door open allowed me a quick glance of the next room. I found myself in a hallway of doors. It reminded me of a hotel. At the end of the hall was a figure. It hadn’t seen me despite the noise I had made. I made my way up towards the figure going as softly as I could. When I was close enough I assessed my options. I had no weapons but my fists. I investigated my hands briefly satisfied that my claws could cause damage. I felt smaller than my adversary though. Surprise was my friend. I needed to cause maximum damage. My claws wouldn’t do enough. Thinking back to my previous encounters gave me my answer. I leapt on the guard’s back sinking my teeth into his or her neck clamping down hard. Blood gushed into my mouth from a severed artery. The taste of iron and flesh overwhelming me. Before I knew it I was swallowing it in gulps as my empty stomach thanked me for the sustenance. At that moment my mind was no longer in control. Or at least that is what I tell myself. The blood quenched a thirst I hadn’t realised I had. My stomach had been so dominant that I had failed to realise dehydration had threatened to kill me earlier than I had given it credit. The guard crumpled underneath me. I dropped him to the ground and stood there in shock. The fur covering my skin dripped with whatever blood I hadn’t sucked into myself. It glowed just as the meat did in the room. A black light had to be in use somewhere but why? For the first time I noticed that I was naked. I ransacked the body for anything I could find. Winning myself a club. I didn’t bother taking clothes feeling that it no longer mattered.

‘Detective Johnson,’ came a charismatic voice over an intercom, ‘how nice of you to join us.’

The voice stunned me. A glance up and down the corridors told me there were no other guards. Green dots at regular intervals however told me everything I did was still very much known. This then was part of the initiation. In case I won free of my room I was still offered a meal. That I had drunk his blood of the rat man at my feet made me feel defeated. My stomach, still achingly hungry, influenced my thoughts. It was a rat. Surely that meant it wasn’t cannibalism. As if echoing my thoughts the voice over the intercom said.

‘Oh don’t worry about him, help is on the way.’

I moved forward, strengthened in body if not in spirit by the blood I had consumed.

‘Where are you going detective?’ asked the voice, ‘you could finish off the job gain your strength.’

There were so many doors. I counted twenty at least. Should I open one would I find a man like me in one of them? I tried one of them. Unsurprisingly it was locked. I went through the hallway trying each door. Those that were unlocked opened to rooms similar to the one I started in. A dark room with a table in the middle. Surely there would be an exit. The hotel image was so fixed in my mind that I expected to see a staircase or a lift at any moment. I started hearing the voices behind those doors. The shouts for help or the sobbing in despair I understood. The sounds of being consumed disturbed me in a way I had never been before. Before I knew it I was running through that corridor overwhelmed by the noises I could hear. All the way through that voice maintained a monologue of questions aimed at my motives. It sounded smug as if everything I did was expected.

I found an area that was not quite a staircase. Rather it was a ramp of sorts sloping upward in a spiral of cement.

‘What do you expect to happen when you leave?’ asked the voice.

I continued going upward. The effort combined with my hunger making it harder the higher I went.

‘You are a rat, detective,’ the voice said changing its tactic, ‘whatever reality you hope to go back to is gone.’

I found an exit from the ramp and went through relieved that I didn’t need to climb upwards anymore. Wherever I was reminded me of the warren of dirt walls and wooden struts we had seen when we entered that trapdoor not so long ago. The walls here were cement though and lined with LED lights. The brightness of which blinded me. I squinted my eyes as they adjusted. Several rats milling around the area looked at me in shock. They immediately changed their attitude when they took a closer look at me and where I had come from. Their expressions were full of sympathy. I was given kind words and assurances that everything would be ok. That I was one of them now. The last words of that disembodied voice ran through my mind. I was a rat. Everything that I thought about the world came crumbling down around me. My job was forfeited by default. I’d never be able to get a coffee from my favourite place in the city. The biggest shock though was my family. How could they accept me and even if they did how could I expect them to continue to live with me. I took in everything that I was now and knew that I was not part of human society. The rats were many and ushered my tired hungry body through to a room. There was no human body on the table. It was a bathroom. The sight of that tiled room sent a shockwave through my mind. I broke into a wave of hysterical laughter as they cleaned me.

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