It was a bright Saturday afternoon, half way through the main summer holiday. The local park was deserted for a change. Most families are either away for their summer break or taken advantage of the glorious weather and gone off on a day-trip.
One little girl sat on a swing, not swinging, just sitting and staring at her feet.
She was beautiful. Her long blonde hair shone in the sun and because she was sitting on the swing and therefore a little unstable, the sunlight glinted off the shine on her hair with every imperceptible movement. The ringlets in her hair moved as a rogue breeze caught it and tossed it about.
The dress she wore was a bright cornflower blue and was too ‘posh’ for usual playtime; it must be her party dress. The frilly socks and clean sandals added to the effect. She was holding tight to a blue ribbon in one hand, absentmindedly twirling it in her fingers.
There was a part-healed graze on her right knee and as he approached her, she looked up directly at him with the most perfect blue eyes he had ever seen.
The Hunger makes itself known. It reached to clutch the heart almost painfully yet the sensation was welcomed and savoured.
“Hello, my name’s Sarah. What’s your name?” she said with an innocence which belied her upbringing in a world of trust and love.
“My name’s Brian but you’re not supposed to talk to strangers. Hasn’t your mummy told you that?”
“I don’t have a mummy anymore, I only have a daddy. Mummy died...” A shadow passed over her expression, not quite sadness but perhaps an echo of a response to the question – a mimicry of the expression an adult may make in response to the question.
“Oh that’s sad,” Brian said as he sat on the swing next to hers. “That’s a really pretty dress Sarah, are you going to a party?”
“I’ve been to a party all afternoon,” she sighed elaborately. “All the games are boring. I told them so too.”
Brian laughed at the precocious child’s mannerisms. He could imagine exactly how she would have told them, even with a little stamp of her tiny foot. “Didn’t they play other games? And what about the birthday cake, didn’t you want to wait for that? Blowing out the candles is my favourite part of a party.”
“No. When I pulled Jessica’s hair, I was sent to bed for being naughty.”
The Hunger stirred once more, twining tendrils around the heart and lungs, making breathing a little, but not noticeably, difficult.
Brian’s hands began to twitch. To disguise the fluttering of his fingers, he rubbed his face. The sound of his two day growth of whiskers seemed loud in his ears.
“So you didn’t go to bed? You came out to the park instead.”
Sarah nodded with great solemnity. “I thought there might be other children to play with, but no one came.”
“Until me,” Brian said quietly.
Sarah looked directly at Brian for a few long moments. Brian swallowed involuntarily under her scrutiny. She jumped off the swing and stood in front of him, his face was level with hers and she grinned. He saw the gap in her teeth and he smiled back.
“Shall we go for a walk?” he said at last.
Sarah didn’t hesitate, she held out her hand for him to take. “To see some ponies?” she asked with excitement.
“Yes, I know where there are some ponies and some sheep with baby lambs. And I know where there are six beautiful new born kittens, only a few weeks old,” he said as he led her off the park.
The Hunger was fully awake and aware. It tightened its grip on the heart, making it beat harder with anticipation. It made breathing yet more difficult and adrenalin, or something akin to it, oozed through the nervous system to enliven the senses.
The Hunger was no longer a sleeping and dormant beast. It was baying to be fed. Its need paramount and it must be satisfied soon.
“I like kittens. Will I be allowed to stroke them?” Sarah looked up to Brian when she asked the question and his breath caught in his throat at the intensity of her gaze.
“Yes of course you will. You can do anything you like.”
Just off the playing field, beyond the boundary fence, there was a wooded area. There was a foot-worn path running towards the stile.
Sarah placed her hands on his shoulders as he picked her up and he had to swallow again, hard.
At the closeness, the Hunger voiced its unrest. The words were quiet and yet distinct. “This one is perfect. This one will slake my thirst, feed my need. Be quick about it, I want it now!”
It was always hard to ignore the voice but it must wait just a little longer.
Further into the wood, away from the worn path.
“I’m tired Brian. Where are the kittens?” The tone of voice had begun to take on a whining timbre and Brian was becoming agitated.
“Not far now, Sarah.”
Then he could see his secret place. It was well disguised from all eyes prying but he recognised it easily. An old but well repaired stone shed, possibly a long forgotten gamekeeper’s hide or store, or even a charcoal burner’s temporary shelter in days gone by.
“Here we are Sarah, the kittens are inside.”
Brian pointed to the door which was clear to see since he pushed through the undergrowth.
The Hunger was almost uncontrollable. Almost a physical force by now but it had recognised that the time was almost nigh and became quiet – for the moment.
“In here?” Sarah asked. She hesitated, disturbed by the darkness perhaps?
“Yes, just push open the door, but be careful, they are becoming little rascals and we don’t want to let them escape.”
Sarah pushed open the door slowly. She looked on the floor for the kittens and closed the door after her.
“Brian! It’s very dark, I can’t see them!” Her voice was muffled but he heard her well enough.
“Just one second, I’m coming to you,” he called back.
The Hunger was a palpable force by now. It sensed that it was about to be satisfied. These opportunities were so few and far between.
As the door opened, Brian walked in slowly. He reached up to his left and clicked on a camping lamp connected to a car battery. All around the shack were scattered his mementos. He had made the shed a cosy home-from-home. In the light, things glistened and twinkled, objects that he had found and brought there, toys taken to the playground by children and discarded or forgotten. A comic or two on a milk crate table and a magazine of a more adult nature on the floor by the side of a dirty mattress. A radio stood next to that and in the far corner, almost out of sight was a cardboard box.
Inside the box was a mangy, skinny cat. Her equally scrawny kittens were scattered around her, fighting each other for the limited supply of milk.
“There she is, Sarah,” Brian said and pointed to the box. “Six beautiful kittens.”
Sarah turned, almost bewildered. “Oh,” was all she said. As she had her back turned towards Brian, the Hunger took control.
Brian stepped up behind her and was gazing lovingly at the kittens. As he bent forward, his throat was rent from his neck as Sarah’s tiny but lethally pointed teeth snapped shut on it and she yanked her head away. Brian stepped back with both hands clutched to his destroyed throat, trying in vain to staunch the blood. His eyes wide and his stubbly chin splattered with his blood.
Sarah leaped at him, her fingers curled into claws, teeth bared in a silent scream. Her eyes were no longer blue, but a luminescent red, an evil glow illuminating them from behind.
The force of her leap knocked Brian backwards onto the milk crate, shattering the brittle plastic table. The comics were rendered unreadable by the blood which sprayed them.
Brian tried to scream but sound was impossible from his ruined voice box. Instead, a wet gurgle was all he could manage.
Sarah was strong beyond her appearance and Brian realised too late. The Hunger which resides inside her gives her a strength beyond human capabilities – beyond human imaginings.
Brian died in a wet whimper. Any urges that he had hoped to act upon died with him. It is only Sarah’s urge – the Hunger – that is satisfied.
Sarah left by the same door she entered by. She wiped the back of her hand across her mouth as she pulled the door almost closed.
“Bye bye, pusscat. You have lovely kittens.”
Brian’s cat purrs in response as she feasts on the first decent meal that Brian had provided since the birth of her kittens.
His heart just wasn’t in it any more. Neither were his kidneys or liver.