As a quick introduction to this short story, I wrote it this evening coming home on the train. I had been reading a novel on my Kindle but I felt too distracted. So I turned the Kindle off and opened the notepad thing. I had no idea what was going to happen, but between St Leonards and home this short story happened. It’s only had a quick edit to ensure predictive text didn’t make rude words or deranged sentences out of what I was aiming at. I’d love your feedback if you feel like giving it after you read the story. It’s only a short one.
Hope you enjoy 🙂
Hunger – A Short Story by Mike Cullen ( word count approx: 1, 478)
It came out of the dark, slinking quietly towards the tent. It hungered and could smell food. It felt like it hadn’t eaten in days.
Moonlight barely illuminated beneath the thick canopy of leaves, under growth snagged at its trousers, burrs catching in its socks.
It was closer now. The sounds from inside the tent were dim, but discernible. Breathy laughter and the occasional squeal indicating pleasure, maybe surprise. It really didn’t care.
Food. All it cared about was to sate its appetite. To push the food into its mouth. Feel it slide down its throat. Too feed. Without food it would die, wilt like a winter flower under a hot desert sun.
A noise came from the space near the tent. A bark. It paused, it needed food but it wasn’t stupid enough to get itself bitten. What if it caught rabies. Could it even catch rabies? It waited. The dog barked softly, whimpered. Dreaming. That’s all the dumb dog was doing.
Imagining rabbits as they fled across a meadow, escaping a hungry predator. It would show the dreaming dog the terror of being chased by something larger then itself, more vicious. Deadly.
But first it needed food. Having fed it would sleep and having slept it would wake and feel the hunger in its belly. A never ending cycle. Burning for sustenance, praying to be satisfied. It would feed and then slide back into the shadows.
It would not pay to be caught here, juice on its hands and chin, food caught between its teeth. It just wouldn’t be good at all.
More noises from the tent. Another squeal from a female voice, a deeper more guttural growl, a male. A gasp.
“You feed your way, I’ll feed mine.” it thought.
Keeping to the darkness as much as possible, one eye on the dimly lit tent it snuck further into the camp. A fire had burnt down to smoking embers. Given the heat of the summer night the fire probably hadn’t been necessary, but they’d like it.
Leaving embers unattended was just stupid. All it would it would take would be a bored breeze, stirring the flames back to life a little, caressing an ember , convincing it to leave the confines of the fire pit. To slowly float away on the breeze’s back into the dim dry underbrush.
It wouldn’t be an ember then. Winter had been too wet, spring and summer too dry. One bored little breeze and the gasping coming from inside that tent would quickly change into choking and screaming.
It sat on its haunches, looking at the embers. It entertained the fantasy of roasted meat for a short time. A minute, maybe two. It shook its head. It didn’t want the attention it would bring if it nurtured them boredom of the breeze in its seduction of the embers.
It glanced back quickly towards the tent. No noise beyond a snore like a chainsaw cutting through concrete. It appreciated the snore. It would cover any accidental noise it was about to make approaching the tent.
It eyed the embers once more and sighed regretfully. The breeze would need to find something else to seduce tonight. It stood. Quickly it unzipped its fly and urinated on the embers. It felt like a killer. As the embers died, he observed the steam rising.
“Enough mucking about” It thought “time to feed.”
With a cocky grace it slid towards the tent. Gently he slid the zipper up. He glimpsed inside. In the sparse moonlight he could recognise only shapes. She lay on her back breathing softly. He lay on his stomach, his arm stretched across her body. Protecting her even in sleep.
It wondered if this was love. If this was how all people slept after the grunting, the squealing, the moaning and groaning. It crossed its eyes and stuck out its tongue. Truly it didn’t care in the slightest.
Sliding its hand into the half open zip of the tent it found what it was looking for. It paused to make sure the tents occupants hadn’t been disturbed. It’d have to fast. Lightening.
It slowly, painstakingly wrapped cold fingers around the food. Convenient packaging if you had the teeth to tear it free. It grinned in the moonlight. It would have no trouble tearing open the package and feeding on the magic inside.
Its hand closed around the food. A noise behind it but he ignored it. Now was he tricky point.
Fetid breath, hot as the summer breezes that tore throw Hades brushed against its neck. Thick, foul smelling water dribbled onto its neck. It felt fear. It was here to feed, not be fed upon. It began to panic.
Raspy, rough, hot and wet, a tongue dragged up its neck, sampling the salty taste of its skin. It felt terror and was glad for a second it had already pissed on the embers. Otherwise it would be damp trousers time.
A weight pushed against it. It lost its balance, falling through the opening of the tent with an audible grunt. Landing cross the sleeping mans legs. The weight lifted and bounced against it again.
As it landed on the hairy legs of the sleeping man it screamed. A scream to wake the dead and summon the Devils own minions to raise themselves from Hell in their millions. It screamed as it felt the sleeping man stir instantly to wakefulness, lashing out blindly with a foot.
It was joined b y the woman as she screamed, a sound to rival his own noise. The weight crawled off his back, and made its way towards the damp fire pit.
“Josh” the woman yelled. “There’s someone in here.”
“I’m aware of that Marney, it’s lying across my legs, sobbing and spilling what I hope is chocolate pudding onto my back.”
Marney stopped screaming. “Chocolate pudding? What are you talking about?”
Josh laughed and grabbed it by the scruff of the shirt. It whimpered, but it didn’t scream anymore. Marney lit the camp light.
It turned out to be a 10 year old boy, with scruffy blonde hair, red streaked blue eyes, with a large chocolate pudding stain on his tee-shirt.
“Dammit Alan” Marney screeched “you scared the shit out of me.”
Terror and defiance crossed Alan’s face as he stared at his sister and her boyfriend.
“I was hungry. I thought I’d be quiet and not wake anybody up. I would have too if Josh’s Hell Hound hadn’t snuck up behind me. Mutt.”
Marney looked as though she was about to say more, but the sound of feet crashing through undergrowth, occasional swearing and the begging sounds of their mother extolling the virtues of remaining calm interrupted the night.
Josh let Alan go and reached for his boxers. Marney adjusted her night gown and followed as first Alan, and then Josh exited the rent.
Alan’s father arrived at the site wearing a battered pair of pyjama pants and a face like thunder. His mother arrived moments later, loose hair curlers hanging down beside her head.
“We heard screaming, what happened?”
“Nothing dad” Marney said, attempting to sound dignified while shooting death beam eyes at her brother. “We had an unexpected guest looking for chocolate pudding but Boris tackled him into the tent. It was a surprising way to wake up.”
Alan’s parents eyed the three of them, noticing the chocolate pudding covering Alan’s tee-shirt and jeans.
“I see” he said. “It appears your visitor got what he came for.”
“Yes dad.” Alan said quietly.
“Good, then everyone return to their tents. We’re leaving camp to climb The Sun Finger Mountain tomorrow at 0600 hours. I won’t accept midnight silliness as an excuse for a late start.”
Marney and Josh, both grinning at each other watched as Alan was marched back across the camp ground to the tent he shared with his parents. Muted conversation flowed back to them on the wind.
“How close did you get before they woke up son” Alan’s father said.
“I had my hand in the tent” Alan said, sounding a bit annoyed “if it wasn’t for that stupid dog I’d have gotten away with my chocolate pudding and they’d never have known.”
“Good job son” he said “we’ll make a Ranger out of you yet. All the way out of our tent and across the camp ground without anyone hearing a thing. Excellent job. I’m proud of you.”
Alan looked up at his Dad smiling shyly.
“Just wait and see what happens tomorrow night” he thought “I’ll get two chocolate puddings. I’ve just got to figure out a way around the dog.”
Alan smiled as he started to walk back into the tent. He paused and turned to see his sister and her boyfriend watching him. Josh was patting the dog.
Alan watched the dog.
The dog watched back.