George was at the fridge again. He stared hard at the bright interior but it wasn’t there. Standing on the slate tiles in bare feet, pyjamas failing to insulate their spindly frame, his chill grew and his hunger deepened.
Closing the fridge door he turned to the pantry but found nothing nice. It wasn’t fair. He kept getting an unbearable desperate need to eat that perfect something but he just couldn’t find it. It had happened a lot lately.
Closing the pantry door in a bad mood he turned and stubbed his toe.
‘Damn!’ He winced, trying not to wake the owner of the fridge.
He silently cursed her.
This was all her fault. She had taken him in, fed him and somehow whatever she fed him failed to stop the hunger. He’d even begun to believe she was making him hungry. Hungry beyond belief. Her food was awesome but it was never enough. Now there was nothing nice anywhere in Aunt Beatrice’s kitchen.
She wasn’t really his Aunt. It’s just what her lodgers called her. Or so she said. He’d never met the others. He asked her once about her previous lodger. He’d found a letter addressed to an Eric Johnson at the back of the drawer. She just got a far away look in her piercing blue eyes and an odd kind of half smile and said,
‘Eric… Yes. He blew through …’ waving a well manicured hand through the air. Her long grey hair, in a tight bun, remained unruffled.
‘Do you know his address?’ George asked, thinking he could forward the letter.
‘Oh, no! He got very blue. You know, went to pieces. Something got into him and down he went.’
‘Down? She was far away, her sculptured face fixed in a kind of passive rapture.
Her smile faded.
‘Yes, George. Down, … down south, … you know …’
He didn’t, but he left it there. The letter still resides with his socks.
The need possessing him deepened. He turned again to the round shouldered fridge. He leaned hard on the door, bending his skinny torso as he peered in, glasses fogging.
‘Nothing!’ he muttered.
The kitchen light sprang to life.
George shot backwards out of the fridge and stood bolt upright while turning to meet the gaze of Aunt Beatrice standing in the doorway. Her immaculate white silk dressing gown framed by the pale green architrave and pastel apricot of the walls produced a priest like appearance. Her stern gaze reinforced the image.
‘Shut the fridge door George.’
It was her nicest voice.
’You’ll let all the heat in’.
He blinked, dumb struck.
‘George. Shut – the – door!’
He always felt guilty when she found him at the fridge. Or the cupboards, or the table or anywhere else he wasn’t sanctioned to be.
‘Sorry Auntie. I was trying not to wake you, I was just looking for something to eat’.
He knew this confession was inadequate. He tried hard to avoid eye contact.
Her lip curled a fraction in what passed for a smile. His bony frame crumbled more.
‘George Anderson, have you got worms?’
He was about to reply but she continued,
‘You finished a beautiful roast tonight. You had strawberries and ice cream for supper barely two hours ago. You can’t possibly be hungry.’
‘I am. I don’t …’
‘You don’t what, George?’
He had no defence. None that mattered at least. Tonight however, the need was strong. George needed it. A strange new kind of determination stirred within his core.
‘I just wanted something to eat, I felt a bit hungry but I couldn’t find what I wanted. I was looking for something …‘.
’Something what, George?’
His new inner feeling rose a little somewhere.
‘Something nice,’ he heard a timid voice say.
He inwardly cringed at the sound of his own words. He expected the worst now. After all, he had all but said that there was nothing nice in the fridge. She didn’t look angry, not that she would hit him or do anything so physical. She just had a way with words that made a caning look like fun.
‘Well George’, … , ’you’ll just have to keep on looking in the fridge until you find it’.
His astonishment followed her down the hall as she disappeared into the gloom. That way lead to her end of the house, as she called it.
’I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, I made some just this afternoon,’ came a hallway conversation that George assumed was for him.
Her voice wavered in the still night,
‘Goodnight George.’ It had a new, cheeky kind of lilt that George had never heard before.
‘Goodnight Auntie,’ he answered, not expecting his quiet reply would be heard.
Stunned by his permit to browse the fridge at will, his lanky arm moved forwards. He no longer felt cold, the glow of the interior light seemed to warm him right through. It drew him like a moth. He seemed to be completely inside the fridge examining the contents as a cockroach, up close with all the labels, smells, sights and textures. Even those under wraps and in tightly sealed tubs. It was then that he saw it. He didn’t know what it was exactly. It was neither this nor that, it was neither firm nor runny, it was neither creamy nor chunky but it was there.
He knew at a glance he’d found it. It was that special, just right something. A taste sensation. Why he hadn’t he seen it before he couldn’t say but there it was. Moving quickly, the tub was open on the bench. The smell was just so. Not peaches, not roast beef, not quite like apples and something somewhere a bit like some other stuff he’d had once in the only real restaurant he’d ever dined in. Perfect. He quietly took a spoon from the top drawer. He was still trying to be stealthy despite permission to proceed from the highest authority. It was all quiet at her end. With the inner strength he felt earlier now a rock solid conviction George knew he had found it. He raised the loaded spoon to his quivering lips.
George didn’t feel right. He couldn’t eat breakfast at all. He’d already decided to go back to bed and try and sleep through the growing discomfort in his gut. In the meantime, he sat quietly waiting as Aunt Beatrice busied herself at the kitchen sink cleaning the breakfast bowl, cups, cutlery and a plastic tub. She placed them on the rack to dry.
He stole a guilty glance at the upturned tub.
‘Aunt, I think I’ll go and lie down.’
She looked long and hard at him.
‘Why George, you do look a bit pale. What’s wrong?’
‘Sorry Auntie, I just feel a bit odd.’
He tried hard to avoid her gaze.
‘I have a kind of queezy feeling and everything tastes like old bread.’
‘Are you saying my food is off?’
‘No, no, I just don’t feel real well. Maybe there’s something going around.’
She forced a smile.
‘Well, you go and lie down. I’ll come see how you’re brewing in an hour or so.’
He smiled back weakly.
Beatrice stood in the doorway. Bedroom curtains drawn, the room was dark and quiet.
‘George? Are you there?’
‘Yes Auntie,’ came a muffled reply.
She glided in, flicked the switch and squinted in the glare of the naked bulb hanging from the plain ceiling. He lay gaunt on the pale saffron sheet, blankets folded back over the bed frame.
‘George, you don’t look too good.’
His almost translucent catatonic body glowed a strange kind of neon blue.
Bending over and looking intently into his face she took a deep breath.
‘That smell is something else George. It’s heavenly. Have you been baking bread ?’
‘Brewing beer?’ He couldn’t see her manic grin.
‘No, why?’ he struggled to reply.
‘I feel terrible,’ he moaned.
’You’ll be just right, come the morning,’ she said, patting his forehead, feeling the pasty texture of the gelatinous blue goo that now passed for his skin. His eyes blinked but George was no longer really there. The filigree of mycelia invading every cell of his body was seeing to that.
Beatrice hummed to herself as she busied preparing the evening meal. George was gone, just like Eric. Her strays were never missed, that’s why she took them in. It was dinner for one tonight. Sitting at the table she was finally ready. Smart white lace blouse, favourite pale pink skirt and her best white shoes. Starched tablecloth, polished cutlery and gilded crockery. Something nice on the plate. She raised the spoon, loaded with quivering blue heaven jelly, to her expectant lips.
Story for beastiary – it is not named in the story but I guess you could called it a slime mould or mycelioid. Not exactly an animal but not a plant either. Still Feb 19 here in Australia! Apologies, it isn’t formatted very well.