Hunger: Chapter Four

Finding his footing again, and once more centering his focus on his own perspective, Raul pushed through the fog concealing the final segment of the lab. Against the grate leading into the third and final wet lab were two more of the flat fleshy creatures. They didn’t seem to notice Raul as he closed the distance between them. Once he was within reach of the first one, Raul dug his fingers deep into the soft, yet oddly shaped underside. Handfuls of non-distinct tissue came away exposing the writhing worms inside. They looked so small compared to the one inside of him, that one was an whale among clownfish. It began snatching them up in no time, able to do so as Raul turned his attention on the other abomination.

It looked smaller from a distance but as Raul neared it, the reason for the creature’s diminutive stature was obvious. The pad of flesh was doubled over with a writing shape battling with it from within. Raul chuckled slightly knowing this creature would not only be defenseless but he also laughed at whatever it had caught. He and his worms had so easily dispatched of the attacking experiment and now here was one entirely incapable of escape. Digging his fingers into the fold, Raul decided he would help the unsuspecting victim of this trap, only to make it into his next victim. Deep cobalt acid spluttered out with the first few jerks and then dumped into the pink waters as Raul ripped the pile of olive skin in two. From the crude mouth came a half-scolded creature that looked like a chocolate lab, it scurried away as quick as it could. Yet for all the dog was worth, Raul was much faster.

With little effort, Raul caught the pup’s tail and dragged it closer to him. While his worms busied with the parasites inside the second fleshy slab, Raul brought the dog before him. He looked into its scared dark eyes as it whined, no doubt equally terrified by what it had just experienced as it was of Raul. Gently he pet the hound, minding to not rub of a peel of fur as he did so. Raul liked dogs, always wanted one, maybe even one just like this but then another feeling struck him. Raul would like a dog, he wanted one, and his stomach said one just like this pup. Struggling to make sense of the thought, Raul had to bring himself back to reality after a minute. That short lapse of awareness was all it had taken for the subconscious to do the deed.

The brown pooch’s limbs hung slack, the entire body flaccid with life drained away from a quick twist of the neck. Raul looked into the half-lidded eyes, seeing all the pain and sorrow that dog had endured in his short time on earth. He wondered how the boy had gotten into the labs in the first place but could conclude that quickly. All of the labs, not just the wet labs, brought in all sorts of animals for various tests. Some would try out new medication on them others used the smaller critters to feed larger ones. Holding the pup up still, Raul found it sickly humorous that such a big creature could still be prey to yet another. Yet as that joke grew old with impressive haste, that urge gripped Raul again. It seemed impossible, against every fiber of his being, but he sunk his teeth into the soft flesh of the pup in seconds.

Bits of ripped, dirty fur clung to Raul’s fingers and lips, the blood was all over him, and only a few internal organs of the pup remained. In his intense fervor, he had even turned on the bones, cracking them and supping up the marrow that spilled out. It wasn’t for a couple minutes after the act of eating the poor dog that Raul realized just how wild he had become. Disdainfully, he dropped the cracked femur and let it join the rest of the dog skeleton. Unbeknownst to him, Raul’s worms were busy picking away at the pieces he had left behind. They wriggled through brains and intestines, freely snatching up their fill before slithering back into their host. Raul shuttered and stepped away, that initial tremor felt like more than a chill in Raul’s spine.

For a moment, Raul felt his whole body slump as though it could not support him any longer. He didn’t quite feel weak but as though everything inside of him was nothing more than runny gelatin. Raul caught himself on the wall, trying to keep himself upright but that lasted all of a minute. Slipping on the remains of one of the fleshy creatures, Raul sunk down into the blood-clouded waters. In an attempt to rise as quick as he fell, Raul cracked his skull on the overhanging portion of wall the grate sat under. Everything went black as the Raul’s mind screamed, the fact he was seconds from drowning to death was all too real before he was fully out.

Raul began to dream, had he been more conscious that he was in fact dreaming he may have realized he was still alive. It would have also struck him as strange, Raul did not dream often and if he did they were often just recycled memories. This vision unfolded before his eyes was something that would make Lewis Carroll’s worlds look like child’s play. A psychedelic night terror of swaying flora and fungi that could almost look to be truly alive by their motions. Not only did they dance about as though subject to harsh winds but some of the plants, that would have looked more at home deep beneath the sea, skittered and crawled about the walls. Had everything not been coated in the colors of hippie’s van stuck permanently in the late sixties, Raul could have believed he had been knocked out at all. The world around him was that of a wet lab and at this point he could not be surprised by any of the experiment that could be crawling about in one such laboratory. Then there came the creatures, and Raul began to consider himself lucky to be dreaming.

The hog had been an unsightly thing, the flesh piles a bizarre terror, and the stingray the thing of nightmares but these new critters would be something beyond even what the labs could turn out. They had thin, lithe, pale figures of Paris’ most renown models. Yet, as Raul’s gaze moved from the exposed naval and mid section, he stumbled while taking in the limbs. They were heavily clothed in feathers, vivid and bright in their many colors, nothing like anything that existed in nature. Their hands and feet were that of a bird’s hindlegs, rough and almost scaly looking with hideous talons that made the reaper’s scythe look soft. Then there was that face, something not even the mother of all monsters could love. It was elongated and wide like an alligator’s beak and could open easily wide enough to snip a human in two. The teeth were not the jagged points one of those swamp dwelling reptiles but instead a series of curved bones, singular pieces that ran the full length of the mouth with rows moving further to the center. Its whole head was consumed by the almost neon-hued feathers, so much so there were no visible eyes on the monstrosity. In fact, even had there been eyes, it was not obvious where they would be located or if they could see all that well.

Raul froze in place studying the crowd of bird-like devils as they stalked about like herons, poking their beaks into the water and dragging out prey. By contrast, the crustacean headed eels were almost natural looking against their predators. Watching the bird creatures snip and slice then swallow their victims was a dreadful thing but Raul couldn’t move his feet. It was not unlike sleep paralysis, he was subject to simply view the terror with no means of stopping it. As the creatures seemed to finish up their meals, they began to meander freely from their group. It was as they separated that Raul finally felt the gravity and danger of the situation. Though of the six only one turned towards him, Raul couldn’t even begin to conceive how he would get away from the monsters.

Behind him the grate was sealed, as it would have been in the waking world, and there was even the pile of dog bones. It was an odd detail to bring over into a dream that was so detached from reality but Raul wasn’t ready to pick at that concept right yet. Instead, he worried how he would get out of this night terror before the bird people overwhelmed him. Looking back Raul could see that one was definitely moving in his direction. It did not search by sight but seemed to taste the air, a slithering amethyst tongue ejecting from the beak repeatedly like a serpent. Suddenly, its head stopped still as a statue before it tilted curious like a dog searching for a ball that was never thrown. Then, as it righted itself the bird seemed to realize Raul was there. It arched its body like a frightened cat before letting out a yowl that would make the animal world feel threatened.

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