When the lights came up he still had the bag over his head. The quality of the dark had changed and he knew now that wherever they had put him, there was light. There was an unexpressed contempt in the hard grip of the hands leading him and the refusal to speak to him and the hard shove against the back of his knees that had dropped him backwards into the discovered chair. He waited, breathing warmly into the bag, wondering what he should be feeling.
He sat in the grayish dark, breathing the reedy aroma of the bag. He waited without daring to remove it until told. He had been warned. He had not heard the escort leave, but he could sense through the bag that he was now alone. He felt a rumble in his belly as he discovered this new organ there, his stomach. His stomach was empty, it was always empty, unused, almost from birth. Biological processes were a source of disease in this new world. Not simply a source of disgust, but of death. In this world nothing could die without permission. Food was delivered through chemistry, nutrition so efficient there was no waste to excrete.
This whole event was so wrong, not merely illegal, but so perverse, that it had taken him a year of obsession to set up. It was his obsession that needed to be believed in by the sort of people who made these things possible. They had to know you had gotten past your social conditioning and could be relied on in your madness. There were rumors of places. People who did things. Things to other things, things that had done them no harm. Did things that were hideously, grossly biological.
That world out there, where the bag had been placed on his senses, blocking them, all of them, was a world of disciplined sanitation and safety, a world without violence. In this world there were legacy photos of animals, though no one had ever seen a living animal of any kind. There were some plants in museums, or poached for the privileged few from stolen archives of seeds. But no one had ever touched a precious plant, or dared to.
In this world where no one touched, anything could be a sin. And it was not the act you took such risks to commit, it was the risk that thrilled. The possibility of discovery followed by oblivion. When the abyss between what was allowed and what was wanted was so huge, temptation was everything.
“Now.” A soft voice over a sound system. He reached up and lifted the bag away.
He was seated in a chair. The chair was in front of a table. The room was circular with two doors, on opposite sides of the room from each other. The walls were lined with mirrored windows. He knew there were disgusted, fascinated eyes on the other side of the glass, watching him about to do something primal, forbidden, and grossly physical.
On the table was a single white china plate with a bright, red, round thing. From pictures he knew this was an apple.
He knew there were eyes on the other side of the glass because only a short time ago He had been one of those eyes, had paid a lot of money to watch a girl. She was young, nude and seated at a table like this one. Her eyes were filled with tears as she touched the living plant on the table in front of her. A flower. She caressed it. Lifted it to her nose and smelled it.
The chant began all around her. “Eat. Eat. Eat.”
A plant that did not want to die.
“Eat. Eat. Eat.”
And how much he felt the craving to kill it himself. To imagine killing it through her. To steal its life for his own.
He had watched the naked girl and for the first time in his life had then felt his mouth fill with water and his soul with the thrilling awe of revulsion and shame. He felt a wave of enormous pride and even relief to discover himself for the first time as a man capable of feeling shame. The nude girl and the act she was about to perform filled him with new discoveries. He had watched her open her jaws, and place the flower between her lips. He thought he could hear the flower scream.
And now this tender thing on the plate. The shame turned to questioning. Why not stop now? Why not just turn away and let it go? He had come this far.
The room lit up a little brighter and he felt the rows of voyeur eyes taking him in. Behind the glass ghost voices took up the chant -
“Eat . . . Eat . . .Eat . . .”
He imagined a human baby, fresh from an in vitro incubator, its bald head, watery, uncomprehending eyes. Lifting the warm, fragile thing to his lips, scenting it, placing a small pudgy hand in his mouth and biting hard.
The hand. Then the arm, the tiny bones would crack, probably easily, between his teeth. His mouth fill with blood. Like anyone, he knew the taste of raw blood, from his own small accidents, falling down, cutting himself and sucking the wound without thinking and feeling the mystery of life in his mouth.
Its not so bad, he thought. This plant in front of me. Its not human. Its something I’ve never seen and I must deface it with my teeth in order to know its secrets. Honor its secrets? Yes, that was the right way to look at this. It wanted to be eaten. It longed to be fulfilled by him.
“Eat . . Eat . . Eat . .”
He lifted it in his hand, felt the small weight, the remote cool smoothness and tried to compare it to other things, but nothing in the world felt like this -
“Eat . . Eat . . Eat . . “
- not human skin, or a baby’s hand, or his own hand or any thing he had ever seen. He turned it over and over in his fingers, admiring its perfection. Its color. As he turned it, he saw a small brown hole. A wiggling, blind, phallic, white tip briefly poked out and tasted the air. Withdrew.
An animal lived in this red ball. Eating it ahead of him.
Eating it before he did! Stealing from him.
He open his jaws, placed the brown hole between his lips and pressed down with fury.
Sweet acidy juice burst over his lips and down his chin. And under the tastes, something writhed, mortally hurt, dying. He crunched down, flexed his throat and the mass of sweetness and death rolled down his gullet. He gagged. He bent over, thought of the animal in the red thing and swallowed hard. He had killed it. Killed. Shame. And sweet victory.
He looked at the red ball and saw he had bit to the middle. Tiny brown pits that would be seeds. That would contain the possibility of whatever plant had created this for him.
He looked up and saw finger tips clawing at the glass. Eyes watching him, despising him for his violence and yet wanting so much to be him.
The sweet, half chewed mass, burned slightly as it passed down his throat and for a moment he feared he would choke, maybe strangle to death as he deserved. Felt it stop half way.
This is what it is to eat. To kill. To take. I like it.
A soft sound behind him. The tiniest gust of cool air.
He bit the red thing again, his senses dissolved in the high acidy sweetness of the thing. for the first time in his life, his tongue was awake, really awake. His senses were alive. He rolled the wad of crushed sweetness between his teeth. His teeth. Again. Looked with satisfaction and strength at the gaping second wound he had made on it.
The chanting began again and a wild knocking at the glass.
He turned to look behind, where the second door was.
Yellow and black stripes, huge soft furred feet, round ears and powerful, rippling muscles. It padded silently towards him fixing him with its eyes and its mouth, filled with long teeth, was huge. He had seen this animal in photos but in real life . . .
. . It was SO much bigger.
A black and golden rainbow of fur as its shadow fell over him from above.
“Eat . . Eat . . Eat . . . “