She wasn’t like this when they found her. No matter what they try to tell you, she wasn’t like this when she came here.
She was normal, then. Afraid, and confused, and angry. She’d thrown herself against the gate and sworn to punish them. She’d reached beneath the barrier, touched my hands and promised to save me.
She wasn’t like this, then. A soundless, crawling thing that tore flesh into ragged strips with her teeth, that chewed on bones and licked blood from the floor.
They did this to her.
My stomach hurts constantly. The stench of blood and decay fills our tiny prisons, but still the hunger lingers. Even the nausea does little to suppress it these days.
She eats both of our dinners. Mine was a father of three, but she doesn’t particularly care. She tears off chunks and pieces through the wire, staring at me as she shovels dripping shreds of raw dad into her mouth.
I have no interest in fighting her for it, him. I just want to stay out of her reach.
My cell is scattered with paper and debris from when he used to bring me books and magazines.
I pull one of the less soiled sheets toward me and tear a thin strip free.
It melts to paste in my mouth and muddies my teeth.
Across from me, Bella watches me with feral curiosity. Though her cell is cluttered and layered with blood, she is able to locate a stained and tattered page and stuffs it into her mouth. She chews once, twice, then spits out the whole sodden mess and looks at me accusingly.
“It’s not exactly my idea of fine dining, either,” I say, and tear another strip from the page. Even in my current state, it’s a struggle to force it into my mouth.
She just stares at me in silence.
In my dreams, she lies helpless across the table. Her short red hair is scarlet-black with sweat and her skin is salty against my tongue.
Gently, I remove her glasses. I fold them and set them aside. They’re expensive, she’d say, examining them for dust or scratches as we’d watch from our enclosures, wretched and hungry and hopeful. I don’t want them broken.
Her eyelashes flutter against the tip of my thumb. She’s already screaming.
The spoon is heavy and richly decorated. I helped myself to the good silverware, the pieces she only allows out of the box for special occasions.
I think of avocados as I slowly roll the spoon around the inside of the socket.
I think of cherry tomatoes as it bursts between my teeth.
I think of my mother as I lick a thin drizzle of hot jelly from my lips.
I wake up aroused, and for a brief while, the hunger is numbed.
She comes downstairs empty handed again. Her short red hair is greasy and uncombed. Smudges on her glasses obscure her eyes.
“Useless,” she mutters, peering into Bella’s cage. “Disgusting,” she announces, glaring into mine.
I beg for food, pleaseohpleaseohplease, but she just writes something on her clipboard and leaves. The stairs bellow beneath her boots, and the door slams shut behind her.
Bella sucks on her fingers until they crack and bleed. She watches me in silence with her fingers in her mouth, her sucking mouth ringed with her own blood.
“Nervous,” she whispers, and her voice is raspy and wet and desperate. I can hear the dry rattle of the rusted metal barrier groaning against her weight, but I can’t seem to turn my head.
Her breath washes over me, rotten and meaty and hot.