He’s late, but she doesn’t complain. It’s an old dance now, between the two of them. The late nights, the lost weekends, out on his work. She doesn’t know, she doesn’t want to know and that suits both of them just fine. He plays the role of the provider, she plays the role of the dutiful wife, they share a few words at breakfast, a few words at night, a bed and that’s all.
He hangs his coat on the hook while she fusses in the kitchen. He hasn’t the heart to tell her that he’s already eaten. The meat sits heavy in his stomach making him full, sluggish, as he loosens his tie and sits down, ready to do his best.
While her back is turned he picks the little bit of gristle from between his teeth and hides it. Offering her a faint, tired smile as she slides his plate in front of him and sits opposite, a smile plastered to her face though her eyes look harassed. Some book or other she read told her to smile and so she does.
The knife cuts the steak. He takes his time doing it, cutting it into pieces, arranging it on his plate in the faint hope that the extra time will allow his stomach to digest the meat already in it. To make room.
The steak is overdone, his fault for being late. He eats it slowly, nodding along to the few things she says. Telling her that he’s tired, that he has a few more things to do before bed. It takes him an age and his jaw is tired by the end of it, but he finishes his meal and kisses her before he shuffles off to his office.
She doesn’t come into the office. Nobody does. It’s his one safe place. His sanctuary from the house and the world. His ‘work room’, the work she never asks about. He closes the door behind him and twists the lock shut.
It’s not a big room, this sanctuary. A desk, a small book case, a computer and The Wall. He stops at The Wall and brushes his fingers over the yellowing and curling paper. The heater makes the paper age faster here, but he sort of likes it, it makes things seem older and more distant. Historical.
Each article a dead man or woman, their bodies – or parts of their bodies at least – found. Suggestions, hints, daring allusions to the fact that some might have been eaten. Other articles, items, from the Sunday papers, series on human monsters, Fish, Chikalito, Dahmer, Meiwes, arranged around these more local, more recent cases.
He stifles a belch with his fist and pats his chest, stepping across the room and pulling the little bookcase away from the wall. This is his sanctum sanctorum, his hiding place, the holiest of holies. A place he can safely keep his special things.
He kneels down and pulls out the stack of papers with care and reverence, leafing through them. Safer to have them on paper than in a computer these days. He clicks on the lamp and flips through the stack, ashamed and excited at the same time.
The top page, his favourite, a crude black and white drawing, pixelated, expanded to fill the page. A depiction of a woman impaled on a spit, impossibly still alive, a fire burning under her while a man, the ‘cook’ has his way with her helpless body.
He bites his lip, hating himself as he leafs through the stack, dozens of depictions, torture, killing, cannibalism, women being eaten by snakes, toads, monsters from mythology and from the twisted minds of the artists who have lovingly depicted a hundred, a thousand, devouring ends. Vore, Dolcett, Guro, why does he love it so? He doesn’t know, it just does. A single image fascinating him for hours and invading his dreams.
He’s aroused now, the need overcoming the shame, but he’s determined to hold out. Hurriedly he stuffs the papers back into the hole in the wall and drags the bookcase back into place, realises there are tears on his cheeks and wipes them away self-consciously, even though he’s alone.
He sits, heavily in the chair before the computer and powers it on. The flat screen lighting up and filling the room with a pale glow as the drives clatter away. He peels an old post-it note from under the desk and opens a browser window, into a proxy, tapping in the numbers he reads off the paper, numbers he knows, but checks every time.
It’s a primitive forum, old by internet standards. No graphics, no user icons even, just text. That’s all they need. Here they share stories, fantasies, the dark and the forbidden. He scans the titles one by one, eyes flickering in the dark from one to the next.
NEW: Devoured by a demon – 1
NEW: Scalding in the pot – 1,2
NEW: Eat my tits – 1,2
NEW: Donor’s Rights? – 1,2,3,4,5
NEW: Blood Sausage – 1
NEW: What about clones? – 1
NEW: Mad Cow Disease? – 1
NEW: Cannibal Holocaust (Redux) – 1, 2, 3
Then he sees it, the little ‘x’ to mark a private message and he opens it up.
I’ve seen you on the forums, talking. You always seem to be the voice of reason and your intelligence and your comments shine through every time. I think, from things you’ve said, that we live near each other and I would like to meet. Maybe I can be your donor, maybe you can be mine, maybe we can have someone who understands, in the flesh, to talk about these things.
She leaves an address and a time. Tomorrow night. She makes it so easy for him. He feels that strange combination again, fear, arousal, shame, excitement. He closes the window, shuts down the computer and shuffles up the stairs to bed. Heaving into it he leans over, hips back so she can’t tell he’s aroused. He kisses her, once, on the neck, aching to bite, but he can’t and he won’t.
He sleeps little. The address burned into his mind, dancing before his eyes until the sun begins to crest the horizon. He shouldn’t go. Not again.
It’s not a hotel, it’s a house. Out in the suburbs. He drives, precisely because so few people do in the city. The boot is filled with his things. Plastic bags, plastic gloves, a change of clothes, all the tools, everything he might need.
The club sits heavy in his pocket. An old-style truncheon, buried deep, a reassuring weight, familiar at his side. He sits in the car and smooths back his thinning hair, building up the courage. His hands are trembling as he forces them to obey, wrenches open the door and walks, briskly to the front door through the drifting mist of autumn drizzle.
No bell, just a knocker. He clenches his fist to still the trembling and raps it, three times, smartly against the door. He tastes bile, his stomach spinning with tension, his whole body rigid as the door opens, safe on its security chain. A single eye peers up through the gap at him, a quiet voice, almost lost against the wind. “Daddy?”
They both nod to each other and she fiddles with the chain.
“My real name is…”
She cuts him off, opening the door, shaking her head. “We don’t need to know Daddy. These names are the real us anyway, right?” She’s so quiet, timid, a slip of a thing really, close cropped hair, neat little breasts under a white blouse, that draws his gaze immediately. Shorts, bare feet. She barely opens her mouth when she talks, a tight lipped smile and doleful eyes, perhaps as nervous as he is.
He steps inside and closes the door, follows her, glancing down, watching her hips, watching her body, imagining her naked and… that shame and excitement hits him again, makes him giddy, dizzy, he almost stumbles.
“Do you want to talk or..?” So quiet, he has to strain to hear her, that little-girl lisp to her voice is almost endearing.
“Or,” he says, emphatically.
She shivers at the way he says it. “Do you want to… eat me… or do you want to be… eaten?” Her eyes are wide, staring, is it fear, is it hunger, what is it?
“I want…” he swallows back the acid taste in his mouth as he speaks the forbidden. “I want you… to eat me.”
She takes his hand, her touch is light, but cold. She pulls him, by his finger, towards another room, gently urging him behind her, then ahead of her, through the door, sliding in behind him and closing it, with a click.
He stops and looks around, blinking his eyes. Every wall, the floor, even the ceiling, is covered in plastic sheeting. Stapled to the moulding and the skirting board, pinned to the Artex. The room has a single furnishing. A mattress, under more plastic, an elegant and expensive set of chef’s knives laying on it in an open case.
“This is my dream room,” she says, quietly behind him. “Where I come to think about these things.”
“I have somewhere the same.”
“How do you want to…?”
He heaves a deep sigh and slides his hands into his pockets. Strangely more ashamed now than he been in the sanctuary, or fumbling with himself over pixelated blood, imaginary flesh and bone. “I’ve changed my mind.”
She stares at him, blank incomprehension and there, beneath the little-girl-lost act a flash of anger. Her lips are still pressed tight but she’s no longer smiling, her hands behind her as she glowers, sneering out the words. “You can’t change your mind.”
“Meat… this is just supposed to be a fantasy, a kink. You’ve crossed a line into madness,” he raises his gaze to meet hers but the act is entirely worn away now, she’s furious.
“You told me you wanted this. You came to me. You consented. You’re a donor,” her mouth opens now as she hisses at him and he blanches. Her teeth are filed to points.
“And the others. I bet they were donors too. Did they change their minds? Did they really consent?” His voice is harder now. He fist winds around the truncheon and holds it tight, white knuckled.
There’s a ripping sound. A blade, hidden beneath her blouse. She bares those sharp teeth and brings it up like a dagger, a Japanese sushi knife, trailing ribbons of duct tape.
Time seems to slow down as he yanks the truncheon out of his pocket and throws up his arm to ward off the knife. She comes at him like a furie, screaming like an animal. Her blade’s so sharp he doesn’t feel the cut. A razor’s edge parting his suit, his skin, his flesh but it doesn’t stop him. The hard length of the truncheon catches her in the throat and she goes down, the scream abruptly cut off, replaced by choking, dropping the knife as she struggles to breath and claws at her own neck.
He pins her, strip-binds her wrists and kneels on her. Middle-aged weight holding her down as hot, wet blood runs down his arm. Absently he licks at the salty-copper while she gasps like a landed fish under him and he fumbles for his mobile phone.
One call to the station and this is all over. Following a lead on the Internet. Plaudits, promotion, newspaper articles, talk shows, interviews in magazines. He’ll be a hero.
She struggles, weakly beneath him and the taste of blood fills his mouth with metal.
Almost touching the call button his thumb hovers.
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