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Louise M. Walken

The Hunger 

“There’s someone in here with us,” Zoe whispered. Her voice was filled with panic and fear. I nodded my head, although it was so dark in the room that I couldn’t be sure if she saw it. We stayed as quiet as we could, like prey knowingly being watched by a predator waiting to attack. I could hear our breaths, ragged and desperate. My heart was beating so loudly in my ears that I was sure our predator could hear every single beat.

The world had ended three months before, roughly, I wasn’t sure; none of us were. Since the event we haven’t had any contact with the outside world, fearing the spread of the hunger. I had been lucky, although the word lucky was relative to a crappy apocalyptic situation.

It was a Tuesday. The sun shown brightly, silently promising a beautiful day filled with possibilities. As per my usual morning routine, I had set out for a 5 km run. I had music playing in my ears, the wind at my back, and all was good with the world, until it wasn’t.

There was a tremor from the ground, so soft and insecure at first that I couldn’t tell if it was the path being uneven or my shoes playing up. It was neither, I realized as the tremors grew in size and severity, opening up parts of the ground and hungrily swallowing pieces of innocent earth. I felt like I was stuck in a dream, like a character in a video game needing to complete an obstacle course before receiving game points or even a medal. I heard the people’s panic before I saw them. Screams and shouts in the distance continued and grew louder until people were swarming around me like ants trying to escape sun rays under a magnifying glass.

A man ran past me with a controlled calmness. There was something about him. He knew where he was going, and he knew he would be fine. He seemed to be prepared for the disaster that had hit so full on, so unexpectedly, so horribly. In an instant I decided to follow him.

What else was I going to do?

He ran in swift quick steps and I wondered who he was and where he was going. We ran past hysterical mothers holding their screaming babies, taxi drivers who cried over their destroyed incomes, and old ladies screaming for help of their old husbands who had collapsed. We ran for what felt like hours and I was thankful for my years of dedication to running. I could keep up with this mystery man only because I was as fit as he was.

He seemed to speed up even more as we left the last of civilization. He came to an abrupt stop in, what seemed to be, the middle of nowhere. I was flooded with emotions, disappointment for putting my faith in this stranger, and shame for running past all of those people in need of help. He stepped closer to a small hill and seemed to be knocking against it. That’s when the door opened and I saw a young woman nod as he walked past her, his back glistening in the sun, soaked with sweat. I ran closer, ready to follow him in, when she saw me, and I realized I wasn’t welcome here.

“No, you weren’t selected. Get away,” she started her protest, but my will for survival was stronger and I shoved her back and stepped inside.

I laugh now looking back at the memory of how I met Zoe, the woman who became my best friend in the bunker. It was true, I wasn’t selected, and I wasn’t aware of this secret survival society. I was merely at the right place at the right time, considering the dire circumstances we found ourselves in.

I was under scrutiny as I begged to stay, begged to be accepted. I threw my family’s name at them. I was rich, old money rich. The people in the bunker still thought with the mindset of normal people driven by power and money. Not that money helped us in anyway now, as we sat in the dark room unsure if we’d leave this place alive.

After some deliberation, while I waited for my fate alone in a small dark storage room, they told me I could stay on the condition that I paid them each one million dollars when we left this shithole. I agreed, and that’s how I got to stay here.

Things went smoothly for the first few weeks. They had prepared well, and we were stocked with enough food and water for years of containment. We suffered from cabin fever and I missed my morning runs, the sky, and the sun on my back, but I was alive. I cried at night, missing my family and my friends, wondering if they had the privilege of crying, too, or whether their lives had ended.

We were doing well. Then the attacks started. The first one to suffer an attack was a young man called Seb. We found Sep close to the kitchen. He had been ripped in two, and consumed from both ends. It was bloody, messy, and disgusting. What made it worse was that we were in a confined space, a safe and locked space. That meant one thing. The attacks came from inside the bunker. The attacker was one of us.

We were scared, untrusting, and aggressive toward each other, the ugliness of the human race showing its dreadful face. Hassim had suggested we end it all here and now. He was convinced that one of us had caught the hunger, as he called it, before entering the bunker. It was troublesome because whoever it was, hid the hunger and blended in perfectly with the rest of us.

Hassim had suggested we make a friendship circle in the kitchen and turn the gas on. He said it wouldn’t take long. This way we chose how we ended our lives, a choice Seb never got to make. All of it seemed so unreal. We all started rationing Seb’s attack in ways we all knew weren’t true. A freak accident had taken the young man, not the hunger in someone amongst us. We found Hassim in the kitchen the next morning, peacefully sitting against one of the rice containers. He had made his choice and I respected him for it.

Since then, three more lives have been taken in a fierce and violent way. Hassim had been correct, the hunger was in here with us, and the carrier of it was merely a slave.

“Zoe, I’m going to crawl to the door, open it and then we get out as fast as we can. Don’t look back, just get out. Alright?” I said as quietly as I could.

She didn’t respond, but I knew she was trying to be still. I did as I said, flung myself towards the door, making more noise than I had intended, and left the room. I looked back while waiting for Zoe to step out. I leaned in to switch the light that had been turned off by our attacker back on, and the scene which presented itself to me was something I wasn’t prepared for.

Zoe had been attacked, her throat bit and slashed. Her hands hung limply by her sides, showing her final surrender. She had bite marks on her legs with pieces of flesh missing, pools of blood taking their place. I looked around the room alertly and there was no one else here. It made no sense.

That’s when I saw my reflection in the steel wall that encircled my friend. My mouth was soaked in a deep, red shade of blood. It ran down my chin, streaking and hot. I smiled at myself and my teeth were red, too, stained by my feast. I was satisfied for now. 

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