Eclectic Voices

Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More

Scavenger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart of the Eclectic Voices Halloween Issue
by Chelsea Sutton

We starved that mouse until you could see its ribs stretching against its skin, one pointy little edge breaking through the fur and dribbling bits of blood with every inhale. We starved it until it wasn’t even a mouse anymore, until it wouldn’t sleep, until it began circling its cage, aimless and dazed. We’d watch it tumble over itself, trip along the bed of straw and newspaper shreds and we’d laugh. Sid and I.

The mouse was a gift from the other guys at St. Vincent’s, boys otherwise known as the boarding school banished, the children of disaffected, disillusioned adults who, early on, realized their offspring would not be the bringers of utopia. My mother gave birth to me in a bathtub—I gulped bloody water before I shrieked into life—and when she saw I was born with a tail—eight inches of extra spine—she refused to touch me. My father handled me with chilled fingers, keeping me away from doctors, in shadowy hall closets until I was old enough to be sent away to school. To St. Vincent’s School for Boys.

Rat Face, Mouse Ass, Scavenger, PESTilence—taunts I had heard ever since Craig Klopping caught a glimpse of my tail while carrying out an ill-conceived prank involving taking pictures of guys in showers.

Because St. Vincent boys are subtle and ironic creatures, they had left a mouse in a cage outside our bedroom on the sixth floor. Sid, my roommate, a brutishly gentle kind of guy who hadn’t yet become accustomed, even at 17, to the lumpish body puberty had bestowed upon him, insisted we keep the thing rather than allowing me to toss it out the window as I had initially suggested.

Starvation was an accident at first—we weren’t allowed food in the dorms, and neither Sid nor I remembered to sneak a biscuit upstairs to feed it. But then we both started to enjoy the show—watching it wither in its desperation. Sid named him Murray, after a particularly impish bully from our Latin class.

The day before Christmas break, the boys left another gift—supposedly in the spirit of the season. It was a dead mouse this time, nailed to the door by its tail, a filthy red ribbon tied over its bloated stomach.

I yanked it down and the tail ripped in two.

I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but I put it in the cage near Murray. And watched.

Murray’s nose wriggled with interest. His red eyes gleamed, his jaw stretched, he pawed at the body as if taking a pulse. Then the pawing became clawing. He dug at the fur until he reached open flesh. He ate through the muscle and innards until he hit bones and then gnawed at those too. When Sid showed up, Murray was already eating a paw—the crooked little fingers projected at horrific angles from his mouth.

Sid watched in silence. “You fed him,” was all he said.

The sounds of Murray tearing at the remaining bones, slurping at the dead thing’s tail, kept me awake that night. Knowing I would most likely be alone the next morning—being the only St. Vincent student to not leave for the holidays—left with the gorged Murray, made me restless.

At 3a.m. I arose, carried Murray to the hallway and set him free. He looked back at me as he tentatively stepped from his cage—a look a mouse gives when he’s cursing you in his own language.

I didn’t wake until the afternoon. Sid was gone; the rest of the floor was deserted with the eerie silence of hallways meant for echoes. The windows were blanketed with snow.

It was freezing. Heat was no longer rumbling through the vents. I stayed in the warm cocoon of my bed until I felt hungry.

Hunger made me realize I was locked in.

The stairways were bolted shut. The elevator shut down. The windows, made of a fortified double paned plastic—a guard against boys hurling themselves out, after a rash of suicides had hurt St. Vincent’s reputation in the ‘90s—were shuttered against the winter storms.

I couldn’t find my own cell phone or computer anywhere—they’d been taken.  I searched the other rooms for secret cell phones or wireless computers—nothing. I pounded at the windows. I rammed the doors.

Nothing. My breath smoked in the cold air.  But someone had to know I was there.  Someone had to know I wasn’t going home for the break.  Someone.

No one came.

It was three days before I found it. A body, on the top bunk of the farthest room at the end of the hall—Craig Klopping himself, barely beginning to stink. The cold had staved off the progression of rot.

They told me later that Craig had choked on his own vomit while in a drunken sleep. The aftermath of a holiday celebration. And there was Murray, lapping at his mouth.

A week later I remembered where Sid’s pocketknife was hidden. That’s when I began to eat.

Around day 19, my body began to burn. I tore off my clothes—it felt freeing to feel my tail flap along as I skipped madly around the empty rooms, scavenging for dirty magazines, cigarettes, anything.

This is how they found me—naked, hovering over a carved and chewed Craig Klopping. I was gnawing at his hand, his blood dripping down my chest. Murray was nibbling at his toes.

I had nailed one of Craig’s ears to the bathroom door—which I thought was pretty funny around day 25.

Mouse Ass, Rat Face, PESTilence, Scavenger—the words were bloodier this time when they hurled them at me as I was taken away. Finally escaping St. Vincent’s.

I heard it was Sid’s idea. His kind of joke.  Locking me in, cutting me off from the world.  Torture the freak for a while.  Let him know where he really stands.  Thirty-five days in all. He probably didn’t think it would last as long as it did.  And Craig’s body certainly wasn’t part of the plan.

They think they’re pretty clever. But the joke’s on them. They’re the ones still stuck at St. Vincent’s, running around in their little cages, waiting to be fed. At least I got my cage all to myself now. At least I know what I’m hungry for.

____________________________
Chelsea Sutton holds a BA in Literature from The College of Creative Studies at UC Santa Barbara. Her plays have had readings and productions in Santa Barbara, New York and Los Angeles. She has participated in workshops with Skylight Theater’s Playlab and LABWorks, The Vagrancy, Brimmer Street Theatre Company’s Blueprint Series, Playground LA and Eclectic Voices. She was recently named a semifinalist in the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and PlayPenn Conference, and a finalist for the Stanley Drama Award and the Woodward/Newman Drama Award. This past year, she was a member of the selection committee for The Blank’s Young Playwrights Festival as well as served as a director and literary advisor for The Vagrancy’s Young Playwrights Contest. She is a member of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative and an Associate Artist with Rogue Artists Ensemble. Her fiction has appeared in Farmhouse Magazine, Spectrum, Catalyst, Fictionade Magazine, The Best of Farmhouse Magazine Anthology (Editor’s Choice Award), NYC Midnight, Bourbon Penn and The Cactus Heart.

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2 comments on “Scavenger

  1. b00kreader
    October 27, 2014

    Oh my god I could not stop reading this. Great use of a parallel stories!

  2. Eclectic Voices
    October 28, 2014

    Thanks so much! -chels

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This entry was posted on October 27, 2014 by in Fiction and tagged , , , , , .
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