Fiction: Bones

By Maria Barnes

Reset. Restart. Eat again and vomit.
These bones are too dry for our consumption, and tears burn sour in the empty mouths of our young. At night, they screech with hunger and claw their way to desolate cities in search of food, but nothing awaits them there. The stone boxes contain pieces of plastic and metal, and scraps of fabric the meat used to cover its bareness. The streets are quiet and still. No meat flows in their sleek arteries, and only bones are left for us, bones whose pulverized essence bears little resemblance to the taste of human meat.
We are starving, and we are crying, and our grief grows like black mold in our hearts.
Find them. Someone with big wet eyes full of terror, so we can scoop their brains out of their skulls. Years ago, millennia ago, the meat was everywhere, swinging from pliant branches in the woods, professing love in dark caves where we found it naked and disgusting in its lust. The meat crossed busy roads, died in soiled beds, poisoned by the potent odor of suffering. We smelled its fear as it glimpsed our tenuous shadows under street lamps at night. The tender meat screaming, praying to its silent gods. We like to see fear in its big wet eyes, but now we see emptiness there, and we crush the remaining skull with sharp stones and shove the shards into our throats, attempting to stall inescapable death.
Crush. Lick. Vomit, vomit.
Most perished overnight, shuddering, begging for mercy, a mess of mucus, blood, and paranoia, which, in their case, proved justified. They weren’t frightened of us, though, of our silence and quick, imperceptible movements. We were merely annoying insects to them.
The others ripped them apart and ground the debris into a pulp for no purpose whatsoever—that’s what we thought at first. The others took our meat away from us, screeching with malicious glee until we bled. And the meat bled too, its glistening intestines turning into the gory rain, its muscles vanishing without a trace. Even hair and nails were gone, only bones remained. The cursed bones we now rely on for food.
Vomit. Vomit. Vomit. Vomit.
There is some meat left, hiding high in the mountains, where we cannot reach it. Avoiding us or perhaps avoiding a greater danger, which can transform flesh into dust.
That’s the lie we keep telling ourselves: there is still food out there, waiting for us.
Eat. Vomit. Repeat.
The horizon is red for the first time in days. It’s not gray anymore. Nothing is. We slither through the red woods, drag our exhausted bodies across red towns, and drink red water from red rivers to quench our thirst. The meat is gone, all of it, and the bones cannot sustain us anymore.
Help. Help. Our hope is murdered.
Most of us destroy our own flesh now. Flesh that tastes like death and almost like the meat. Few have attempted cannibalism but were forced to stop by excessive vomiting and pain piercing every cell of our bodies.
Those bones feel like nothing in our decaying mouths.
We are too weak to move, and can only watch the red horizon and whatever is coming. It’s coming closer, coming to claim its tortured prey. It’s coming for us.

Maria Barnes teaches English and writes dark fiction. Her work has appeared in The Pinworm Factory: A Tribute to Eraserhead edited by Scott Dwyer, Anterior Skies, Vol 1 edited by C.F. Page, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, and Samjoko Magazine, among other places.