We apologise for the lack of feeding yesterday. A technical hiccup set us back. To ensure your monsters don't stay hungry, we offer this tasty piece of flash fiction from our own Rinoa Cameron.
By Rinoa Cameron
Lucas huddled beside the portable stove, warming his hands. His teeth chattered as condensation burst from his lips with each icy breath. His frayed blanket hung around his shoulders. His torn clothes hugged newspaper padding for insulation.
He wondered if this alley—a dark, dank place—was safe? He doubted it, hardly anywhere was these days, and all evening he’d had an odd feeling. It drilled into his bones with more chill than the already frosting ground around him.
Still, he had to bed down somewhere. He wished he could disappear, but couldn’t, and knew he’d get ushered away from shop doorways and be too exposed on a bench. So with little choice to do otherwise, he unrolled his thin sleeping bag atop a layer of cardboard he’d gathered, then turned off his portable stove because it didn’t have enough fuel to last the night.
Head down, he pulled his blanket over him. The cold ate through it immediately and he sandwiched his hands between his knees, trying to keep warm.
Lucas sprang up in time to see a trash can roll from the dark end of the alley.
“Who’s there?” he asked, ashamed his voice amounted to little more than a whisper.
It’s okay, he tried to assure himself. Nothing. Just a stupid cat. He curled into a ball, concentrating on keeping his body from freezing.
The smell of the alley—a lot like sour seaweed—seemed stronger now, so strong it tainted the back of his throat.
His heart drummed triple time. Sweat broke out despite the cold. His numb fingers tingled. He moved a tacky tongue around his dry mouth. Peeking from his blanket, he saw the trash can sitting just ahead of him, rocking back and forth. Its yawning mouth peered at him and Lucas squinted, certain he could see a shape in there—something fat, round, and black.
“Go to sleep,” he instructed himself, but something was definitely in there, something he couldn’t define. Part of him needed to know what.
He crawled from his bed and approached the can, it stayed in its gentle rock like a weird ghostly cradle. The thing inside didn’t move.
“Here, puss, puss, puss,” Lucas tried, his voice a timid squeak.
He drew closer, rubbing his eyes to try and sharpen the blob. He began to see the outline more clearly and a slight breath hissed through his lips. It wasn’t a cat, or even a dog. It was ...
Well, he didn’t know.
Tentatively, he reached inside the can. His fingers met something thick, leathery, and flexible. He rummaged a bit further and felt hair, and ... wait a minute ... a hairband, and a ponytail knotted into a plait.
Holding his breath, he drew the thing into the available light.
Two empty eye holes glared from the crumpled face he held. The weightless head had dark hair with plaited pigtails as he’d suspected. He pulled the rest out, seeing a butterfly tattoo on what must be an arm.
Lucas spread the canvas out, discovering he had the complete skin of a young woman. She must have been shapely when she still had her filling. He knew this because he could fit his entire fist into her vacant breast pockets by sliding his arm through the rip in her back. She felt completely dry inside.
Shocked, Lucas studied the fine detail—her belly button had a dragonfly piercing and there were perfect crescents where her finger and toenails should be.
“That’s mine,” something rasped from the shadows.
Lucas shrank away as a creature crawled out the dark. Thorns stuck up from its scaly hide, red eyes glowed, big and fixated.
Lucas pulled the woman’s skin against his chest. The sweat came back chilly, combined with a fresh wave of goosebumps.
“That’s mine,” the thing repeated, its voice like gravel poured from a bucket. It smiled, displaying rows of yellow teeth. Behind it a tail with two prongs on the end lashed. Drool slipped over its jutted chin as it rose onto its hind quarters and smiled. Its head cocked and those red eyes ran up and down Lucas. “Nice,” it said. “Very nice.” More drool dribbled down its chin. “Very nice, indeed.”
It crept forward, extending a clawed hand. “Give it to me and your death will be fast.”
Lucas gave it to him, alright. He swept around, grabbed his portable stove, swung it straight and true, and clouted the monstrosity smack in its ugly face.
It made a grunted mewl and Lucas slammed the stove into its head, hearing bone crack. He fell onto his haunches, breathing heavily, his heart trying to escape his rib cage.
Eventually, once his frayed nerves stitched themselves back together and he stopped feeling like the world had mutated into a carousel, he extracted his knife from his pocket.
Later that night a smile crept over his lips as he drifted to sleep. He couldn’t believe what a wonderful, pillow the woman’s skin made, better still, the monster’s hide gave perfect shelter from the cold.
Normal publishing will resume next week.
Threadbare © Rinoa Cameron