She ravaged the remains of the run down 7/11, ignoring the moths fluttering around her head and hand. The flashlight brought them to her, but for some reason it reminded her of death. Maybe it was all the moths she’d see on the boxes of VHS tapes in Blockbuster as a kid, or maybe it was the moth wings brought to mind images of the dance macabre. She suspected it went deeper, but she tried to ignore the thought as she sifted through a pile of half rotten and mashed packaged snacks. It smelled like maggots and rot. She felt crawling against and between her fingers, but her fears couldn’t survive in a dead world. So she buried them. She was so tired of potatoes and tomatoes. They grew so easily and could be so yummy.
She used to love them, but then again she loved a lot of things. Now she couldn’t keep the texture of tomatoes down. Her partner said her eyes looked sunken and urged her to eat. Last night she had her ration, four tomato slices with stale potato crackers. She didn’t make it past the smell before her mouth filled with bile. They took her plate, and told her man not to waste food. Even at the memory of sourness on her tongue her stomach growled. She’d tasted something that day and though it proved foul it’d been something. Hunger gnawed at her being. She wished they’d ration her more meat or that her man would have better luck fishing the rivers. He came home that afternoon with nothing but foraged mushrooms. She was allergic, but he tried to trade them. It’d been pointless, but a good man always tried. They wouldn’t ever give him what they were worth, and what they wanted to give was a quarter ration of potato.
Bottom line was waste, and she’d been waste. They did not like to feed her much and they only fed her man because he proved large and helpful. He knew science;medicine and botany. Once he planted a magnificent garden and they had so much basil they fried it and put it on top of pasta, pasta salad, grilled fish….
Drool escaped the side of her mouth, she slurped. Everyone knew she couldn’t go on this way. Her “halfie” child would have no milk even if she survived that long. But no she found this gas station outside the sanctuary. They didn’t like her white boyfriend anymore than the south valley supremacists had liked her, but at the very least they let her forage in piece. She never found anything, but today had to be different. Today she’d have coffee and tea and chocolate. A Hershey’s Special Dark with an Almond Joy on the side. Another string of drool escaped her, but she didn’t bother to pull it back.
Food. She needed real food.
Her hand plunged into the heart of the pile and then a sinking sharpness forced her to gasp and pull back. A squeak. A scurrying flash towards a corner. Rabbis. “Oh god”. She looked at her large belly, and felt a kick somewhere near her kidney. She swallowed, and followed the scurrying.
Orange. She raised a brow, peering through her smudged glasses. It was a large hamster covered in long angora like fur. Probably, she thought, the poor thing had once been a prize winning pet. She saw the small mound of dirt out back near the little house, and the tombstone marked with a crudely carved Islamic star and moon above “Mel”. Had it been a little boy or girl or? Did it matter?
Her arm stung, and she held up her light to see bright red drops forming perfectly circular pools between her index finger and thumb. She looked to the scared fur ball and remembered how she always wanted to try Peruvian style guinea pig. She flashed the light on the former pet and it squirmed. It’s hair fell revealing large brown eyes, like those of a plush toy. She swallowed. She used to like toys.
“Would you be my dinner?” she asked softly.
It stared back, eager as though it were waiting, wanting some big crescendo to their encounter. She felt the air thicken, an unspoken tension between two barely surviving beasts. She’d been a woman in her heart and in her mind and in her body. Now? They made her so weak she couldn’t be called anything vaguely human, but she smiled. To her surprise the little beast squeaked, and she jumped, which made it jump.
“Should I kill myself?” she asked “If you won’t be my dinner then should I end this.”
It turned it’s head and began sniffing a dirty aluminum and paper chips package.
“Oh…I see.” She coughed, and felt another kick that resounded through her as though the whole of her were a great empty amphitheater.
Food. That’s all she needed.
She returned to digging, tossing trash and junk aside as unclean insects rubbed against her skin and dirty mushy packages. Then she felt something slick and smooth, like a glossy mirror but bendy. She gently squished. It crinkled. She pulled back her hand and there she saw a 3 Mustketeers bar. The package almost glistened it looked so clean, as thought he gunk stuck to everything else. She examined it only to find it clean, and so she yanked off her gloves, tossing them aside. Then with gusto ripped it open. She devoured half, the overwhelming and once familiar sweetness made her eyes cross and her heard race. It tasted so perfect on her tongue. A movement caught her eye by her leg.
Orange. The creature squeaked and crawled over her legs and around her, over the garbage and then to her side. Big of goo were stuck in its fur, and now she saw how neglect had left its once beautiful fur unkempt and matted. It must have been here alone for a good year if not months, scraping by on whatever the family left behind in the riots between the Self-Abolitionist Movement and the Northern White Brotherhood. That’d swept this neighborhood up until…Well, supplies got short. It must have been so alone. And it must have seen the clashes between the Brithouse Gang with their west coast hippy anarchy, at least they’d given her food, and the DPD, who had given her nothing except advice to be self-sufficient. Darwin or Die. Fuck that noise.
What did the hamster think about all this bullshit? What did it think about its ruined life? Did anyone care? Did she?. He must have been depressed, lost, and drowning in isolation.. She looked at the candy bar. She slowly reached down her hand, and again her eyes met the hamster’s. It didn’t know humanity, but neither did she. She coughed. It jumped, but then it sniffed her chocolatey fingers and slowly extended its tongue. One lick, then two, then several. It climbed into her hand. Her stomach screamed at her, and she shoved the hamster deep into her pocket. She broke off a chunk of the chocolate bar and set it down beside the hamster.
Hunger was everything, but even in that hunger she could still give some form of kindness.