The Collapse

Disclaimer: This story contains graphic violence and adult themes.

There’s something wrong with my ankle.

I know I shouldn’t be able to see the bone. I’m certain the blood is supposed to be inside my body not pooling bright red on the tiles of my kitchen.

I don’t feel anything.

Wait –

I remember everything.

Running into the house, into my kitchen, grabbing the biggest knife I could find but being completely unprepared to use it on the man attacking me.

It was Omar Prasad, my neighbour. He’s a pharmacist.

Was.

He was a pharmacist.

Omar’s wife Jiya used to make pakoras on a Thursday, always too many, and you could smell the onions through our kitchen window as they fried. In the afternoon there’d be a cheery hello from over the fence, and a big Tupperware bowl full of steaming hot pakoras would follow shortly after. My husband used to eat so many he’d be up all night with heartburn. I just can’t stop once I start eating them, he’d say, wincing as he sat on the edge of the bed that night, chewing Mylanta like it was his last meal and holding his fist to his chest.

I remember slipping on the tiles, falling to the floor as Omar burst through the door behind me. The knife skittering across the kitchen floor. His teeth sinking into my ankle and wrenching the skin away. I remember the ping of tendons snapping, sinewy strips of muscle in his mouth, the pain a white-hot flash, starbursts of black and red in my vision.

If I don’t fight, I’ll die.

I remember screaming, kicking and kicking and kicking. Omar’s head snapping up to look at something just out of my peripheral vision. Suddenly Omar is on the floor, the knife lodged in his temple, the blade driven deep into his brain. He’s not moving. My flesh is stuck in his teeth.

He’s dead. Really dead.

And here I am, sitting here on the tiles, looking at my ankle.

I don’t feel anything now.

The blood on the tiles has seeped into the grout, coagulated to a darker colour, almost-black.

God, I’m hungry.

The hunger is clawing at the back of my throat; ripping, squeezing and rolling back into my gut. I need… food? No, that’s not right – fuck! Why is it so hard to think?

Something else.

A sob, caught in another’s throat.

It belongs to the young girl, who is cowered in the corner of the room, her dirty blonde curls stuck to her wet cheeks. Her eyes are wide open and huge. She is trying to make herself as small as possible, but that sob has given her away.

I can’t stop looking at her throat.

Hungry.

Something guttural and wet-sounding escapes my lips.

The girl’s eyes widen further and with a sharp intake of breath, she stands and runs. Without a deliberate thought, I pull myself up onto one leg. My exposed tibia makes black-red slide marks on the tiles as I shuffle in the girl’s direction. My foot is still attached, but it trails behind, tethered by a few stubborn tendons.

Nothing hurts, except that hunger rising in my throat.

If I don’t eat, I’ll die.

The little girl is fast and has already made it to the front door, crashing through it. She turns, slams the door shut and I can’t reach her.

The hunger is a hand inside my guts, fingers squeezing, its fists full of organs and viscera. It pulls me towards the door, but I can’t open it.

I’ve forgotten how a door works.

Something is missing between my brain and my hand. An electrical current, a direction. Not knowing what else to do, I lean on it and let out a loud groan.

I must eat, or I’ll die.

You can’t find me!

A sweet sing-song voice coming from the wardrobe, instantly giving up her location. Molly giggles as she hears my footsteps draw closer to her hiding spot, and squeals when I throw open the doors and growl and groan at her like a rabid monster, tickling her feet.

Stop mummy! I’m gonna die!

It’s her favourite threat whenever the Tickle Monster appears. I stop, and she tumbles out of the wardrobe in an avalanche of winter jackets and scarves. Come on, let’s put this away and you can come and help me make dinner, I tell her. She makes a half-hearted effort to tidy up the mess, but she’s distracted by the sound of the car pulling into the driveway.

Daddy’s home!

She drops the scarf she’s holding and runs out of the room. I contemplate the pile of clothes on the floor for a moment, decide it can wait, and follow her.

He’s walking in, tossing his keys in the bowl on the hallstand as I turn into the hall. Molly’s already latched onto his leg and won’t let go unless he picks her up and holds her upside down, her blonde curls brushing the floorboards. He obliges. More giggles. Once she’s back on her feet, she’s off again.

How was your day? He asks.

He pulls me into his arms and leans in to kiss me. I instinctively turn my head; the kiss lands on my cheek and I instantly regret it. I should have let him kiss me. Too late now, he’s noticed and he’s frowning, but decides the fight isn’t worth it.

How was my day?

Well darling, the usual – coffee, shower, got dressed, went out for lunch with Daniel, he’s from Molly’s school, you wouldn’t know him. I caught a lift home with him, and he kissed me hard as he held me against the closed front door. We fucked, fast and urgently, but he was generous, let me come first. When he left, I showered for the second time, brushed my teeth and left to pick up Molly from school.

Uneventful, I tell him.

I should feel guilty about this. John is a good husband but long ago I stopped listening to that voice of morality, the little angel on my shoulder, and gave into something less civilised within me. I’ve forgotten how to control my urges. I know this would break John’s heart if he knew, but I don’t care. I don’t feel anything other than my own desire.

The latch on the door hasn’t clicked properly and as soon as I’ve leaned on the door it falls open, taking me with it. I land face-down on the front deck, next to a pink scooter.

I hear cartilage in my nose crunch when it connects with the ground.

Don’t feel anything.

The girl is there. On the ground, eyes shut. She must have tripped on the scooter. Hit her head. I can see her chest expand and fall. She’s not dead. I can smell her.

Hungry.

I pull myself towards her.

Her eyes open.

Fear.

I need.

Molly is sleeping and John and I shuffle off to bed. We hold each other; I’m the big spoon tonight. I find a pair of my twisted-up knickers in the bed near my feet and kick them off the end as soon as John rolls over. I made the bed this afternoon and must have left them there by accident. I remember Daniel sliding them down my legs earlier today, and instantly I feel that familiar hungry desire. My fingers, wet and slick, explore the warm spaces inside me. I imagine Daniel pressed against me, inside me. John stirs but doesn’t wake up.

I reach the girl, and she’s screaming; kicking and kicking and kicking.

            I can smell everything ripe and alive within her.

Hunger.

The next morning, John is gone, but his wallet and keys are still in the bowl on the hall table. Strange.

            I stand on the front porch and notice his car is still in the driveway. Molly’s pink scooter is on the front lawn, even though I clearly remember telling her to pick it up yesterday after school. I sigh, pick it up off the grass and head back towards the house.

            A scream from the Prasad’s house. The dull thwack of flesh hitting flesh. Worried, I drop the scooter on the front porch and run along the side fence to a gap in the palings. Looking through, I see Jiya kneeling over John, who is sprawled out on the ground.

            Oh God, he’s had a heart attack, I think to myself.

            Those fucking pakoras.

            Jiya leans down and pulls the soft flesh of John’s bicep away from the bone with her teeth. I’m screaming. Running back along the fence towards them. I don’t know what’s going on. I need to get to John.

            A groan ahead of me. It’s Omar. The first thing I notice about him is his eyes, clouded grey and milky, unseeing. Half his cheek is missing, blood dried and blackened around the wound and something meaty and wet staining the front of his pyjamas. He lunges at me, arms outstretched, and I run.

            I need to get to Molly before he does.

Stop Mummy! Please!

            The girl is pleading.

            I don’t care anymore.

            My teeth meet her soft belly flesh and sink in.

            Hunger.

            Nothing matters except my desire.

            I can’t feel anything.

            If I don’t eat, I’ll die.