Eating

She hungered, and so she ate.

At first, she ate only that which was laid before her, presented as a meal. For a time, this sated her, yet as is the way with hunger and desire, she could not be sated forever. As the days and years passed the meals given to her came to bore her, and it came to be that she took no joy in them. Without joy, her hunger could not be sated.

She began to seek her own meals. At first, she scrounged from cabinets and cupboards, eating what she could that required no preparation. She prepackaged snacks and desserts, and fruits and vegetables, and plain bread, too impatient to form any ingredients into meals. Yet she discovered that, no matter how much she consumed, it seemed to leave an empty void within her, aching to be filled.

Therefore, she began to craft her own meals. She learned quickly how to cook simple things that came ready-to-prepare, with instructions on how to make them into a meal. These dulled the ache of her hunger, but still, she was often left wanting more, at which time she reverted to scrounging for snacks until she worked up the drive to prepare another meal.

When she realized that such simple meals were not enough, she began to learn how to truly prepare food. Studying from cookbooks and from articles she found on the internet, she studied the art of food preparation. Her meals grew not only in complexity, but in size. Soon large swaths of her life were themselves consumed by the time it took her to prepare what eventually equated to feasts for each of her meals.

These satisfied her more fully than any of her previous attempts. Yet, no matter how much she made herself for breakfast, by the time lunch rolled around, she had become ravenous once more. The same held true for dinner, and — because she began eating four such meals a day — supper.

Her family and friends expressed their concerns for her. This frustrated her. She had begun to share her feasts with them, even though it deprived her of portions of her sustenance, because they had marvelled at the amount of food she produced, and the increasing quality of it. They had, for a while, raved about the excellence of her cuisine, and encouraged her to pursue becoming a professional chef.

She’d had no desire to do that, and she blamed the fact that she didn’t conform to their whims for the attack they launched upon her. They told her she had grown too large, and that to continue to consume so much for every meal, every day, would eventually cause her to collapse from her own weight, if no other side effect of it brought her down before then. They told her that her consumption was depleting her parents’ money, and her own, and that eventually she would run out and be unable to sustain her lifestyle.

Their attacks drained her, and she found that the meals she had come to covet, for they had resulted in the most fulfilled time of her life, were not enough to replace the energy her family and friends were taking from her with each blow. She wept as she ate, because each bite felt empty and fruitless, and the meals into which she poured so much of her effort no longer satisfied her.

In desperation, she began to devote less of herself to cooking. In fact, she abandoned it entirely, and within the span of a few days, she had gone from making extravagant meals to eating her ingredients raw. Vegetables, fish, eggs, meat, flour — it didn’t matter. She consumed it. She no longer felt she had time, between the pangs of hunger, to process the food into a more edible form.

When her food ran out, she turned to her parents, who stood before her, weeping with concern. She sat upon the floor, legs splayed out before her, and the stains of food that had fallen from her mouth smeared across her girth. Her parents pleaded with her to stop and allow them to help her, but the hunger was too strong. She couldn’t listen to them. She had no strength to bear their pleading. She had only strength to consume, and so she did.

She reached out for her mother and took her in her hand, pulling her into her mouth. She feared at first that she would not be able to open her jaw wide enough. Her fears were unfounded. She loosened her throat and, with effort, swallowed her mother whole. Her tears as she did so were too strong to allow her the effort of chewing.

Next came her father, who did not flee, but came forward to strike at her feebly, moaning in anger and fear. She took him in both hands. Head-first, she pushed him into her mouth, quieting his pleading and ranting. He followed her mother down her esophagus, clothes and all. Once he was gone completely, she sat in silence, contemplating what she had just done.

She felt full. The meal had dampened her hunger in a way that nothing before had ever accomplished. She reveled in the feeling, even while parts of her rebelled against the action she had just taken. The joy of feeling so deeply full dampened her regrets.

She wanted more of that joy. She wanted it to last forever. So, one by one, she called each of her remaining friends. One by one they came to her, drawn in by sweet lies of change and reinvention, which she promised for herself, if only they could come over and help her through a difficult time. One by one, she took them in her hands and swallowed them whole, so that they could join the others she had consumed before them.

When she had gone down through the whole list of those who would consider responding to her, she tossed her phone away from her, disgusted, for the first time in her life, at how full her stomach felt. She couldn’t stand. She could hardly move, with the hard knot of people compacted into such a small space within her. She feared that if she shifted the wrong way, she might burst from the strain of keeping them inside.

She had nothing left in the world. She had eaten all the food in her house. She had eaten her family and her friends. She had only herself. Unable to move, she sat for hours in her kitchen. The pressure in her stomach remained, given her the sense that she was still physically full, but the hunger returned anyway. She had to eat. She wanted to eat, but there was nothing left, and her phone was out of reach. She couldn’t even call to have food delivered.

She raised her hand to her mouth and bit down. Her jaw was weak from sadness and fear and her growing hunger, but desperation lent it strength. The first bite wasn’t enough. It didn’t slice cleanly through. She had to grind her teeth together for that first, sweet release. She wept, not from pain, but from the relief of chewing, of the beauty of having something flowing down her throat once more after hours going without even water.

Bit by bit, she chewed and crunched, letting her mind relax into the rhythm that brought her euphoria. Her head grew light, and she allowed herself to believe it was from the pleasure of eating as she consumed herself. She felt her mind drifting upward, and her thoughts floating away, as everything within grew too light to be contained by a mortal vessel. Feeling lighter than she had since she first began to eat, she dispersed and faded away.

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