I don’t remember much. Who I am. What I did. How I got here. All of these things have been forgotten. But even after forgetting all that, there are some things my body remembers: Hunger. Thirst. Fire is hot. Okay, my body didn’t remember the last one, but after walking through a patch of burning metal hunks, I learned again about how hot fire is. It didn’t hurt—nothing does, but bits of my skin melted off and exposed the flesh underneath. It should heal after a few days. I don’t know why I think that’s the case, but I’m certain after a few days, my skin will grow back. There must be some kind of mechanism in my body that performs it. It wouldn’t make sense otherwise. If my body never healed, then how did I survive for as long as I did before losing my memories? At least, I think I survived for a long time. I can’t remember. There was a boy staring at me. A child. Through a crack in the door. I was eating. Yes, it’s certain I wasn’t born yesterday. But I might as well have been.
Did I mention my body remembers hunger? It eats at me from the inside. Spreading its vicious claws out of my stomach, tearing at the soft, tender innards. Overriding all my thoughts with the pain that gnaws and gnaws, driving me insane. What was I thinking about? Hunger; yes, I was thinking about hunger. But there’s nothing to eat around me. Everything is lifeless. The hunks of metal are too hard for my teeth to bite through. The rubbery bits underneath them are softer but still impossible to chew. There’s soft meat on the ground, but it’s rancid. Rotting. Disgusting. Even the hunger rejects it, making me feel even worse after consuming it. Before I lost my memories, what did I eat? I must’ve eaten. Maybe the hunger ate my memories.
A store. Yes. A convenience store. There is always food in a convenience store. Thank God I remember how to read. God? Who is that? I can’t remember. He or she must’ve been someone important to me before I forgot everything. Other people are heading to the sign that says convenience store too. It’s certain. Food is there. These people look just as starved as me: Their ribs are showing. Drool is pooling out of their mouth. Disgusting. Will that be me when my hunger consumes me? When these tendrils extending from my stomach reach my brain? I don’t want to be a drooling mess. I have my pride. I can’t lose to hunger. I can’t lose to myself. I am me. The hunger should obey me, not the other way around.
What’s that smell? Something is wounded. Weakened. I can kill it, and then I can eat it. I can eat. Other people have noticed it too. They’re moving faster. Their drool is hitting the ground like rain on a street. Some of them are moaning. If I don’t hurry, there won’t be any left for me. It’s screaming. The prey is screaming. I’ve heard many screams since I woke up. If I knew screams meant food, I wouldn’t be so hungry right now. I should’ve followed the screams earlier, when I could think clearer. When the hunger wasn’t clouding my mind. My mouth hurts. My teeth itch. I want to bite something. I need to bite something. The prey. The prey’s screams are turning shriller. If this goes on any further, the screams will stop. And there will be no more food for me. That can’t happen.
This man. What is he doing? Why isn’t he going to the store? He’s stuck on a metal hunk. He’s in my way. His hunger has turned him stupid, dumb. He’s no better than an animal. But the screams. They’re coming from inside. Inside, behind the glass, my food awaits. The drooling man keeps moaning and clawing at the glass. His fingernails have fallen off, and his hands are painting red streaks. I can’t turn into that. I can’t let my hunger consume me. The prey is inside an enclosed space. There has to be a way inside. There must be. It makes no sense otherwise. But this drooling man is in the way. I can’t see. I can’t let him continue. What if he finds a way inside? He’ll eat the prey first. Then it’s simple. I have to make him unable to eat.
I grabbed him, but he ignored me. Why is he stronger than me? Is it his hunger? No. I’m hungry too. It must be the difference in size. He’s bigger than me. Bulkier. I can’t move a metal hunk because it’s too heavy. He must be the same. He’s too heavy for me to move. Other people are here. We can move him together. No. If we work together, then we have to share. I have to find the way inside by myself. They’ve all lost themselves to hunger; I can’t become like them. Only I can eat the food. The other side of the metal hunk. I’ll move there. There’s more metal hunks in the way, but if I climb on this man, I don’t have to go the long way around.
The prey screams even louder when I walk on top of the metal hunk. Is this the way in? Through the top? I can’t see anything. It’s smooth. Like a rock. No, there’s a seam. But I can’t dig into it. I lost my fingernails to the fire. These rounded tips can’t get a proper grip. I’ll keep this in mind. Maybe the entrance is through the top, but there must be other ways. I’ll check the other side. My stomach. It hurts. I know; I have to eat soon. I can see my prey through the glass. It’s watching me. Is this the entrance? I tugged on a handle. It jiggled, but nothing happened. The prey stopped screaming. Is it holding its breath? Did someone already make it inside? No. The bulky man is still in the way. The prey is moving. Why is it moving? Is it because of this? I tugged the other handle, and the metal gave way. It opened. The prey screamed and the metal jerked back. No! I can’t let it. Not after coming this close.
I placed my foot against the metal hunk and pulled the loose side. The metal hunk opened further. The prey’s screams rang even louder now that they weren’t confined inside. The others may have noticed. I have to be quick. I pulled even harder. A second. Three seconds. Ten seconds. Finally, the metal panel opened. The prey screamed and tumbled back. It pressed itself against the opposite side, and I took that chance to come in. I tugged the metal shut, so no one else could interfere. It was just me and my prey. The ones lost to hunger can’t steal my food from me. I figured out the puzzle. The prize is mine.
The prey’s staring at me. I don’t understand. It’s bigger than me. Rounder. It should be stronger than me. Then why is it the one trembling? Why is it the one that’s afraid? Water is leaking from its eyes and nose. It clasped its hands together and shut its eyes.
“Please, God. I want to live.”
God again. I should ask who he or she is. But if I open my mouth right now, only moans will come out. The hunger is in my throat. In my teeth. Almost at my brain. What did the prey say? It wanted to live. Yes. Live. If I don’t eat, then the hunger will kill me. It’ll consume my brain. I want to live too. Then I must eat.
There was a shrill scream. Then—like the earlier screams—there was silence.