Hungry as hell.


I was hungry.

Since I didn’t know what I could and couldn’t eat in this place – I’d made mistakes regarding food when I was much younger – I went looking for a shop.

I found it in the form of a small building about a dozen or so miles from where I’d encountered the soldiers on the bridge.

When I entered the building, I was greeted by a tall, thin man seated behind a counter. On the walls to either side were jars on narrow shelves and dried meats hanging from the ceiling. The man nodded, smiled, and asked in their penetrating way, “How may I help you?”

“I’m hungry,” I answered, ignoring his surprise when I used my mouth to speak. “I’d like to purchase some food for the road.”

He blinked at me, then his eyes widened in recognition.

“You’re the one they’re looking for,” he told me, a note of awe in his words.

“Probably,” I replied dryly, “unless there’s another person wandering around who happens to speak through his mouth. Now, I’m wondering if I might get some food.”

He reached down, and my hand dropped to the butt of the Colt. Instead of bringing up a weapon, he held a scroll. His hands trembled as he released the string around it, unrolled the paper and turned it to face me.

I couldn’t read the language it was written in, but a wanted poster is easily understood, regardless of the language.

I saw a well-done drawing of myself, and I looked angry as hell.

“So,” I said, letting go of the pistol. “You’re not going to sell me any food.”

He shook his head and put the scroll down. “It is not worth my life.”

“I don’t blame you.”

My stomach growled, and as I turned to leave, he said, “The fruit of the Or tree is a soft yellow. It is filling and sustaining.”

Glancing over my shoulder, I asked, “Is it in season?”

He nodded. “It cannot be missed. The trees are tall, the fruit hangs low, and the birds gather around it.”

“Thank you,” I said and made my way out of the building.

With my stomach still growling, I wondered who had drawn my face so well, and I went in search of the Or trees.

The fruit, I soon discovered, was as sweet as fresh honey.

#China #Horrorstories

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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