|This is my response to the recent challenge of Northlight. It is
also a sort of preview of my longer story Tomorrow, which may come
out within the next year.
This story contains portions which may offend sensitive readers. The less sensitive may get a cheap laugh out of one part of it. It also contains some characters belonging to Marvel Comics, but the story itself belongs to me.
A Quick Bite
She lay, wrapped in greasy sheets, numb. It might have been hot, or perhaps cold. A thin film of dried perspiration made its presence known every time she moved, so she didn't move. Not very much, anyway. She still had to breathe, for now.
She ought to have been asleep, she knew that. She had been given a pill, but she hadn't taken it. She had put under her tongue before she swallowed the water that he had given her, and had taken it out of her mouth after he had left. He was so trusting, that way. Since the gel had not dissolved, she had placed it in the special place, just inside the box spring under the bed. There was a little wooden shelf just inside a torn place in the lining, where she had accumulated at least five pills. She wasn't going to take them, not yet, but it was a great comfort to know that they were there.
Little else was a comfort. There had been other pills, but they hadn't helped. They couldn't replace what she had lost, nor could he, nor could the girls, nor could anyone. Once, their thoughts had been near her, always. Now they were alien, isolate, walking lumps of meat known only to themselves. Charles had tried to help, giving it back to her through him, but Charles was dead, felled by a stroke. Pryde had fucked up, and almost every psi on the planet had paid the price.
Pryde had come to visit her once. The drunk that she had married had been there to help her, but he barely been able to stand. Pryde had sagged, skeletal, in the chair on the other side of the room, first apologizing, then haranguing. She wondered if Pryde had been talking to her, or to herself. It had all ended with the little cripple collapsing, puking on the carpet, as such scenes so often did. A small smile crossed her face.
Thinking of Pryde made her think of how hungry she was. He didn't share the bed with her anymore. He didn't like the crumbs. She reached over to the box on the night-table. Nothing. All gone, and it had been full the night before. She glanced at the floor. The pile of plastic wrappers on the floor gave evidence of her appetite. The tiny fragments of orange cake and white cream sticking to them glowed in the sunlight escaping from behind the curtain. She fumbled for the drawer, but it too was empty, save for a brown apple core. She picked it up and sucked on it for a moment, but it tasted awful. She threw it away. It landed somewhere on the empty side of the bed.
She debated calling to him. The great house was so empty now. The others rarely came, being caught in the net of the Congressional investigation or in hiding. The girls haunted the empty halls, sometimes coming near, other times staying away. Someone might come, or she might just call foolishly, stupidly into the silence. Thinking of this banished the hunger for a brief while, but then it returned, full force. It refused not to be confronted.
Somehow, she found herself in a sitting position. She felt the weight of it on her. The last time on the scale, she had weighed twice what she had the year before. Every time that she stood up, she knew that she was heavier. She was overwhelmed by a wave of tiredness, but she knew that if she lay down again, she would lie awake hungry for hours. Sleep was not for her, not any more.
She made it to her feet and dragged herself over to the door. She listened for a moment, then opened it a crack. No-one. The lights were off, to save electricity. The power generators didn't work and there was very little money, now that Charles was dead. She made her way quietly down the passage, ready to hide in an empty room if anyone came. She couldn't recall when she had last had a wash. Such things seemed unimportant now. He had been overwhelmed by it all, and he was still limping from the last time that he had tried to make her do something that she had not wanted to do. She smiled another small smile. She made her way down the servants' stairs to the empty, darkened TV room, then went down the passage towards the pantry and the kitchen.
The kitchen door was closed, but as she reached for the handle she froze. Hope filled her. Had it come back, in some small way? She had been disappointed before. She concentrated, but nothing came, not into her mind. Instead, she was able to make out the soft low sounds coming from the other side of the door. They were so familiar to her, after all these years. Quiet, strangled gasps, through which a hoarsely whispered Red or two could be heard. She lost her appetite completely. She knew that she should turn around and go back and pretend that she had never left the bed, but she could not.
He was there, but not looking at her. His head was thrown back in a position she knew well. The skin of his neck was stretched, hiding the sag that had recently appeared under his chin. She could see, clearly outlined, the jawline of the shy sixteen year old boy that she had met in her first days in this house. He had his visor on, but she knew that his eyes were closed. A pair of hardened, emotionless eyes stared back at her, almost hidden by a forelock of hennaed black hair.
"Aw, shit," said Jubilee.
He went rigid. More than ever, she wanted to be able to see his eyes. He said nothing. Jubilee disentangled herself from him and pulled up her skirt. He remained frozen, silent.
"I can see you're going to have a lot to talk about," she said, blowing a large purple bubble. It popped liked a gunshot as she left the room.
"I wanted some food," she said.
"There's nothing for you here," he replied in a weak voice.
All she could think of: it wasn't one of the girls. Thank God it wasn't one of the girls.
He still hadn't moved. His prick was subsiding, but still remained half erect, red and glistening, above his tiny, hairy balls. She burst out laughing, but then jammed her fist into her mouth because it scared her so. She bit down hard, releasing only when she tasted blood.
She turned from him and walked, but did not run, back to her room. She bolted the door behind her as she heard him coming up the stairs. He knocked once, but she didn't acknowledge him. After an eternity, she heard his footsteps receding into the silence. She set the taps running, and, with trembling hands, set to making the bed.