Anxious. Very anxious. If I keep moving, keep walking along this same stretch of wall, over and over, something might change. Something may give and I can drink, eat and finally sleep. The smell of spoiled meat is making me confused as I long to eat anything but my brain still tells me it’s bad. I can’t remember what I was doing but I know…I know that I cannot shout any longer. It hurts too much to shout and no one comes anyway. They, the things behind the door, used to shout back, they too went silent eventually. In the end, I had to give in to my first agony and relieve myself in the corner of the room, I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t return to pacing or shouting as the stench of my own filth took over from the spoiled meat. So, now…now I’ll just lay here by the door and wait for something to change, for something to give. Then the smell, not spoiled nor shameful but a fresh smell as if the outside was creeping in from under the door. This scent seemed to carry with it the image of the garden in teasing notes, the pots of herbs by the kitchen window that are warmed by the sun. The damp dirt path that led through the long dew-kissed grass to the stagnant old pond at the bottom of the garden. I how I really wished to be out there and run to the pond. It’s so close that I have to get out and be in it, out of here, in it, out of here, in it, out of here. Just pull it and tear at it and it will give, it has to give. I’d cry but that hurts, so I continue to tear away at the door. Sometimes big chunks of the wood fall to my feet and sometimes the splinters stick into me, the pain is nothing compared to the need to be out. Out. Out. I have to be out. The drive of hunger and thirst mingle into one singular thought and turn me to madness. I can see the light from the other side now and the fresh air seems to chase away the small of my shame and stoke my madness. Almost, almost. I can almost fit through the hole now and it is so close that I cannot think of anything other than being out of this room. I’m through and…and now the next door but the smell isn’t fresh behind that one. It’s spoiled. I can hear the spoiled meat moving as if wants to be out too, excited by my noise as it also claws at the thin wood. Its shouts are mere whispers but I know it’s not nice, not friendly at all. So, instead, I’ll take the stairs to the next room. The smell of spoiled meat is just as strong here but I know there is also water because the burn in my throat has returned. My fear has been roughly cast aside. I push the door open, dive straight into the toilet water and drink and drink and drink. I drink until I have no choice but to pull my head out to breath and then I drink some more. I am not so anxious now, the walls are different here and my shame is gone, the spoiled meat is quiet and all I can hear is something moving from within the bath. I will not drink the water in there, it is spoiled too.
I rest on the bathmat in the sunshine for a moment, my stomach hurts from drinking too fast. My sanity seems to be ebbing back a little now and I start to think more clearly. Less like an animal. It had been days since I was trapped in that room or at least it felt like days. The shouts and screams caused my first wave of anxiety, those I cared for oozed with fear and panic so I too shared that fear and panic. When I panicked I wanted to fight and shout and show the fear who was stronger. Instead, they locked me in the room and let their fear grow until the smell of it was replaced by the smell of spoiled meat. I thought they would come back for me now that the panic had gone, they always came back when my fear was gone. With my thirst sated the hunger was clawing at my stomach again, the water sloshing about uncomfortably in a pit of acid force me to stand and look for food. The bedrooms hold nothing, not even an old crust on a plate by the bed or forgotten crisps and all windows are closed. The heat of the midday sun is warming the glass and bringing back that claustrophobic feeling which now makes me anxious again, I don’t want to be enclosed anymore. Then I hear it and my anxiety is joined by excitement. I hear words. Someone has come back. I bolt down the stairs and throw myself at the door, calling out to them with my rasping cries.
“For the love of Christ. Jeb, go deal with that racket before it brings a bunch of those things down on us.” The voices will feed me. I can eat. My brain melts back into an excited anxiety that takes me over so now I shout longer, louder and beat the door with my body until it opens. It opens and I sit. Little whimpers escape as I eagerly await my greeting but the man just points something at me. I feel his fear and I feel his weakness and most of all I feel his intention. It was then that out of the darkness of the hall that the creature of spoiled meat lunged forward and fed. The man’s throat was torn away, the walls coated in the iron stench of his blood and his legs bucking beneath his own weakness and fear. The creature was gorging just as hungrily as I felt but it had no emotion. High on the fear and the panic once more, yet feeling his weakness, I chose to run. I bolted past the feasting and through the kitchen. I left behind my food, my bed, my home and broke into the sunshine of the garden and kept running. Behind me, the voices were drowned into a reek of mixed emotions.
“That bloody idiot, he let the dog escape!”
The twilight of the night was drawing in and my feet had been following the black road towards town since I had escaped the house. A steady trot following my nose away from anything spoiled that like me, seemed to be looking for something to eat, trotting on towards anything just in case it turns into something. There were people still moving about the streets in a mixture of weak emotions and paid me no mind as I travelled. They seemed lost or hurried and either way, they were unstable in their presence and could offer me nothing. I was drawn by my nose and my ears to a stretch of the high street. There had been loud sounds and the smell of wood smoke. This had stirred up memories of evenings spent watching the sky burst open in loud noises, the people around me laughed and chattered without fear. For being good and unafraid I was given hot meat from the fires and lots of attention. I hoped that I would find the same treatment if I followed the noise and the smoke.
I was right, for the most part. Behind a wall of wet sand in bags and wooden boxes of chemical smells, I found a group of young men huddling around a small fire. Their body language showed them at ease with a trickle of apprehension, the latter of which I found the strength to ignore. Most of this strength to ignore came from the intense smell of a bowl in the possession of a standing man who hadn’t seen me.
I sat straight and proud, I sat politely.
“Is that meat, Harper? Where the fuck did you get a pouch of stew from?”
The guy with the food seemed pleased with his meal as others seemed to want it too, “That dappy little young’un from further up the line. Traded him half a packet of smokes for it. Good stew too.”
There seemed to be a growing wave of jealousy over the meal but no one seemed to be looking to take it, they just watched him eat just as I did. I may have given the slightest shout to get his attention when my stomach got the better of me. They all looked my way, eyes on mine, I felt uncomfortable. Still, I sat.
“Hello, pretty pup. You hungry? Give him some of your meat, Harper.” Came one voice with a teasing smile.
“Fuck off. It’s mine.”
“Don’t be a bitch, he’s probably starving.” Another joined in bugging the eating man to a titter of amusement.
“So am I. Now fuck off.” He took another spoonful from the tin bowl and I watched as it’s warm, meaty juices sloshed from the side of the spoon and vanished into the darkness of his mouth.
“I could just put him out of his fucking misery?” This voice came from my side as he pointed something at me. He had an anger or aggression bleeding off of him, his concoction of high emotions had me confused, was I not sitting like a good boy? I’ll sit straighter and taller.
“Blare put the bloody gun away. It’ just a dog, mate.” A voice tinged with pity came through.
“It’s a kindness.” The man stood in front of me now. Still pointing and I still sat. The metal object with the familiar smell of burning pressed against my head.
Uneasy feelings crept around the group of men. I am sitting. I sit so well, why is he not happy me? The metal object made a clicking sound and the group of men all tensed, waiting in their growing pool of fear.
Still, I sat.