Hungry (chapter 2)

In the encyclopedia, the term ‘Cabin Fever’ is listed as “a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in, for an extended period. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, forgetfulness, laughter, and excessive sleeping.”
I’m thinking this as I watch Ben checking the doors, reinforcing them with the last of the nails. He has taken to walking from each window, peering out and muttering something too quiet to quite make out, though I believe I caught the words, secure and senseless. “Hey, we need a back up plan in case these windows give out,” Ben is whispering this in Tony’s general direction.
Tony is pacing, eating salt and vinegar potato chips out of a packet. One hand holds the packet, the other dipping in and coming out with his fingers full of chips, then straight into his mouth. Still pacing he turns to Ben, “What we need is to get out of here as soon as fucking possible,” salt and vinegar spit flies from his lips with each syllable.
“And go where?” Haley, huddled in a pew, is prairie dogging, her head jerking up and facing Tony. “These things are all around us, we have no weapons, and we don’t even know what’s left to escape to.”
The rest of us roll our eyes, at least that’s how it feels.
“So we should just give up, is that what you are saying Haley?” then Tony jams another fistful of chips into his mouth.
“Of course not. I’m just..”
“You were just what? Breaking my balls? Bringing the rest of us down? Jesus fucking Christ Haley!” Tiny soggy potato meteorites fly through the air.
“I’m scared!”
“No shit! It’s not like you don’t keep fucking reminding us every 5 minutes.”
“Fuck you Tony! Who made you the boss anyway?”
“You all did. By your collective inaction.”
“Hey, I’m not inactive,” Ben turns around from his window watching.
“No, maybe not but if I have to listen to you and that goddamn hammer one more time I will hammer you into the wall.” Tony has stopped pacing, his chip packet, now empty, floats to the floor.
“Well Mr leader-of-the-pack you had better think of something quick, our food situation is serious,” Haley turns her head away.
In the middle of the room is a little campfire-like bundle of collected items. Emily has been turning the place upside down looking for, what she has labelled, the church survival kit. So far it consists of batteries (no torch), an aerosol can of fly spray, an old bed sheet which Haley has taken to draping around herself as she sits on the pew, a Stanley knife with a dull blade, a box of matches, about 6 feet of rope, the thin nylon type and a fire extinguisher.
From outside, the sounds of bashing and scraping against the windows and walls is constant. No need to climb the bell tower to know we are completely swamped. These human monsters, the next step up on the food chain.
“What exactly is our food situation?” the priest asks. He has come back into the room. The others are in various parts of the church, Emily still on her little search mission, Sarah wandered off with her. We decided we needed to make hourly trips around the church to check the perimeter, to ensure no breaches have occurred. And by we, I mean Ben and Tony. Well Ben’s idea, Tony enforced it, made it a rule. So every hour, in pairs because it’s safer, we walk around and check the perimeter.
Our little routine, our ritual.
I tell the priest how our food must be running low, then I look at the empty chip packet at Tony’s feet. On the pew, Haley is biting her nails, staring off into nothing. Tony has taken to pacing, back and forth, back and forth. Ben is roaming from window to window, peering out and muttering to himself, hammer in hand. The priest looks at me and asks if I have rang the bell today.
I squint at my watch then I tell him, its not quite time yet.
The lack of razors has begun to give us all beards. The men I mean. Tony is scratching his beard, pacing, eyes on the ground. “Haley can you stop that nail biting, its driving me nuts.”
Still staring into nothing she says, “Well it’s the only meal I’ll be getting for a while, you just ate the last of the food.”
“I thought you said it was running low?” the priest says.
“What difference does it make?” she says.
“You stupid fucking bitch,” Tony turns to Haley, shooting her a look that could splinter wood. “You mean to tell me that we haven’t been rationing?”
“Well I didn’t see the point in rationing, considering we are dead already.”
Tony lunges for Haley and I grab him before he can get to her. From a distance it might seem like we are lovers, my arms wrapped around his waist, pushing my body up against his, chest to chest, my breath on his cheek. It almost might seem homo-erotic. From a distance.
Haley is cowering up against the pew, her hollow cheeks give her a haunted look, face contorted, wearing a pitiable expression.
Here the priest lays his hands on Tony and is trying to calm him. What it reminds me of is a horse whisperer, as if the priest is singing Tony a lullaby. Tony glares at the priest, glares at me. His nose flares, his top lip trembling. In the corner of his mouth is a small amount of frothy spit. That, and a tiny soggy potato chip flake. When his lip trembles the spit wobbles. Then he relaxes, his muscles loosen, the trembling subsides. He wipes his mouth and flinches away from me. On his arm is a thin string of foamy spit.
“Let me go,” he says and walks to the front of the room. As he goes he is wringing his hands and running them through his thinning, strawberry blonde, spaghetti hair. Under his breath he is mumbling the words, stupid bitch.
Ben is staring wide eyed, holding the hammer close to his chest, breast feeding it. Emily and Sarah appear from the darkness. “All clear,” Sarah says. She looks at Haley, looks at Tony, looks at Ben, looks at the priest, looks at me and she says, “is something wrong?”
But nobody answers.
Ben wanders off towards the windows. He’s peering out and muttering something too quiet to make out, though I believe I caught the words, barricade and helpless.
Tony is pacing, dragging his hands across his forehead. Through his hair.
The priest is comforting Haley, telling her everything will be okay.
Sarah is still standing there staring at me, waiting. “Well?”
I look at my watch, “I gotta go ring the bell.”
Emily says, “Well if anyone is interested I found this.”
We all look and she is holding up an axe.

Hungry (chapter 2)


Brisbane, Australia

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