Hunger Awakened(3)

By: Dee Carney


The scent of a nearby garbage bin made his stomach roll again, and this time when his stomach heaved, everything he’d consumed lately spewed forth, covering the ground until it shone crimson. All that blood, gone to waste.

The woman screamed—he still held her hand, needing it like a lifeline—before blazing heat swallowed him whole.

* * *

Alice looked toward the commotion coming not far from where she crouched. She’d been peering into a crumpled white sack, hoping the grease stains on the outside meant still-edible fried food on the inside. She’d stopped near the parking lot between the two buildings in case she had to try again, if the bag’s contents were rancid. In three days, she could afford to shop in a grocery store, buying manager’s specials on things past their expiration date or anything a dollar or less, but until then she had to eat. No matter where it came from.

With a mystery illness running its course, she didn’t make the assumption she’d live to see sunrise. Each day was a gift. Seeing a new one was all she could ask for.

She almost squealed in delight when she saw the doughnut inside a wax paper holder only had a single bite taken from it. Two gifts for the day!

A woman screamed, and there was more noise. The sounds of someone retching. Once upon a time she might have thrown up herself just from the gagging sounds, but after spending so many months tending to Richard it took a lot to faze her now. One of the many things she’d learned while living with a junkie brother was how to clean up shit and vomit. Instead, Alice clutched the bag tighter, intent on keeping her newfound delight.

But the scream caught her attention. The curiosity of a woman’s terror urged her feet forward.

Alice followed the source, intent on just seeing from a distance why someone needed help. The staccato clicks of heels on pavement echoed into the lot, past cars she couldn’t have afforded even in her employed days. It was the sound of uncertain running, and she recognized a woman’s tiptoe dance in shoes meant for little more than looking pretty.

The woman had stopped screaming and decided to get the heck out of Dodge, it seemed. She’d left behind someone still moaning and coughing though.

Alice edged closer.

A man elevated himself on hands and knees, swaying like a drunkard. Apropos, seeing how they were just outside the doors of a nightclub. Alice almost turned back to more important matters, but a glint of light reflecting off something on the ground beneath him made her gasp.

“Mister?” she called softly. “You okay?”

There was no way he was okay. Even at her distance she recognized the blood pooled around him. The man tried to rise, stumbled, almost slipped in the blood. He lifted his head, looked at Alice then began to shake.

God, she didn’t want to go to him. She didn’t want to know if he’d been knifed or shot. It was none of her business. But then she thought of Richard, of the times he’d been brought home simply because of the kindness of strangers. This could have easily been him. Richard might have forced her out onto the streets with his backsliding ways, but he was still her brother. Whether she wanted to get involved or not, if this had been him, she would have wanted a stranger to help.

With a sigh, Alice ventured closer. “Hey, where are you hurt?”

He made a noise then dry-heaved. His mouth opened, and she grimaced, ready to watch him vomit. She tightened her stomach, mentally preparing herself for not getting sick with him. Nothing came out of either of them though, and she exhaled, relieved.

“Hey...do you have a phone? So I can call nine-one-one?”

His head lifted again, his attention coming to focus on her. Alice caught sight of his dark eyes and immediately thought it a trick of the light. They were eyes capable of seeing into tomorrow, she was sure of it.

“What’s wrong with your eyes?” he asked, his voice croaking.

“My eyes?” Under other circumstances she might have laughed. Maybe even thought he was flirting with her.

Beads of perspiration raced down the sides of his face, the crown of his dark hair almost black in color. If she hadn’t seen the clear sweat, she might have considered his head the source of all that blood.

“They’re...wrong,” he replied.

Ignoring their ridiculous conversation, she crouched right next to him. The scent of copper rushed at her, almost triggering her gag reflex. “My eyes aren’t at issue here. I need to get an ambulance or the police for you. Can you wait here alone for a minute? Do you know how to press on the wound?”

“Wound?”

“Where you’re bleeding from.”

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