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Dead Oaks: "An Insatiable Appetite" by Sean Hodell


By Sean Hodell

The baby snake slithers willingly into your belly, scorching your esophagus on the way down. There is an immediate onset of nausea as it wades through your stomach acid. You press your lips together to prevent yourself from retching.
Sunlight peeks through the blinds in your bedroom. The smell of bacon wafts through the door, which only adds to the nausea. You’re hungry, starving actually, but not for that. You have an appetite for something, but you find yourself drawing a blank on what it actually is that the snakelet wants.
You found its mother coiled around a branch protruding from a fallen tree in the lake the previous evening. You had your bow with you, so you shot it. Right in the belly. Sure, you could have shot it the head, but you were in a torturous mood.
Naturally, the snake was pissed at first. It tried striking you several times, but the arrow went all the way through, leaving it with a debilitating pain. When you ripped the arrow out, the underside of the reptile tore open to reveal a dozen not yet fully formed snakelets. An odor of maggot-infested flesh and rotten eggs emerged from its spilled guts.
“Please.” The snake hissed through labored breaths. “Please. Listen to me. Let me speak.” The words sounded as though they were layered over each other a thousand times.
The talking serpent took you by surprise. The bow slipped from your hands and landed on the wood with a loud clang. The spotlight fastened to it was left pointed in the direction of the snake and the babies swimming in the black bile that dripped from the large hole on its underside. Your mouth would not function enough to reply.
That oversized watersnake told you stories of destiny and boundless powers last night at the dock for hours. You listened intently, soaking it all in. “Death. Chaos. They must live on. I must live on. Through you. We’re meant to be together,” the snake spat the words with its acidic voice. “This is no mere coincidence, my child of the darkness.”
All you had to do was eat one of its offspring before sunrise, the lone black one, and powers would develop in you like mankind had never seen. But you had to feed the damn thing inside you first. What the fucker failed to mention before passing was how to nourish the creature that would be residing in you.
---
Beads of sweat form around your temple. A sour taste enters your mouth. The contents of your stomach are about to come up. You jump out of bed and run to the bathroom. The same inky sludge from the pregnant snake ends up in the toilet.
You wipe the chunky liquid from your lips when there is nothing left inside you except for the parasite. The insatiable appetite is growing more intense with each passing second.
“Are you alright in there?” your mother asks with a voice as smooth as silk.
You hope the smell of the bacon overpowers that of the rank vomit. “Yes, just some stomach problems.” She leaves it at that, as you know she would.
The rim of the toilet bowl feels cold against your cheeks. It feels like your insides are rotting. You can’t explain the events that have transpired over the past several hours, nor do you want to. But, something is not sitting right with you. It’s all too fantastical. You wonder if it was all a dream, or if the dream has even stopped.
You flush your thoughts down the drain along with the vomit. While washing your hands, you gaze at your reflection in the mirror. Your pupils have consumed the hazel irises leaving you with eyes like black holes. You blink a few times until they return to normal.
There is no way to explain the situation to your parents. They’ll never understand, and will probably just tell you that you are crazy. Not that you won’t agree, but you don’t need to hear it from them. You decide to go to your brother’s room instead to see what he has to say about the matter.
His bedroom is empty. Mark is an early riser and must be out running errands. A holstered nine millimeter lies innocently on the bed. You pick up his handgun and hold it to your head to try to clear your mind. Your heart pounds in your chest like a jackhammer breaking apart concrete. It feels as if it is going to pop.
You run back to your bathroom. More black bile shoots from your throat until you start dry heaving. Your organs are on fire. That does it for you. You need to see a doctor, probably a fucking psychiatrist as well.
---
Your parents aren’t in the living room, but the plates in the kitchen are still warm. You walk to the master bedroom door. The shower is running. You sit on the couch and turn on the TV to vegetate your mind.
The snake crawls around inside you. It makes you feel like some pregnant skank who notices her baby kicking for the first time. You have to nourish the son of a bitch. Food is beginning to sound more appealing.
The bacon and eggs have been finished and the pan is already in the sink. Because you’re a lazy fuck, you don’t want to make yourself anything. You grab a pen and paper to leave a note for your parents letting them know your whereabouts. Of course, lies fill the page. They will be much more content if they think you are visiting your friend, Lucy, who your parents are convinced is your girlfriend. While in reality, you just smoke pot together.
Your mother’s purse sits on the kitchen counter. Your heart rate increases to that of a hummingbird. You can hear the blood flying through your veins. You keep your mouth closed and stand still. It passes.
The zipper is already partially undone. There is no one else around. You fish her wallet out of the bag. A couple twenties, a ten, and three ones. You take the emergency twenty she keeps hidden underneath her driver's license so she at least won’t immediately know you’ve stolen from her.
The front door swings open, nearly breaking the hinges from the force of your hands. You feel light in the feet and head, likely from a combination of dehydration, chronic insomnia, and an empty stomach. Food is going to have to come before a visit to the doctor.
The intense hunger has somewhat subsided by the time you make it to the nearest fast food place still serving breakfast. But you haven’t eaten anything since that burger yesterday afternoon. You need something to tide you over, to give you some energy.
The drive thru is slammed with cars. You position your shitty little sedan next to a double-parking douchebag. It’s the closest spot to the entrance.
The dining area is overcrowded with energetic children and exhausted parents. Two people are ahead of you in line. A cashier to your right opens up another register. She waves her hand. “I can take you over here,” she announces over the roar of the mass of customers.
A morbidly obese woman driving a rascal cuts in front of you. The epitome of the American dream. Blood rushes to your face, turning it a nice crimson color. The thumping in your chest won’t stop. The anger takes control as it is wont to do from time to time. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, you fat cunt?”
Her mouth drops open. She struggles to turn all the way around in her seat so you swing it around for her. Her lips tremble when she stares deep into your abysmal eyes. The girl at the register watches silently from behind the counter.
The sack of lard clutches her breast and rolls out of her motorized chair. She gasps for breath, while reaching out for help with her other hand. You don’t break eye contact with her until every last ounce of her life has disappeared. A twisted smile forms on your face.
You step in front of the fresh corpse to place your order. The cashier, Melanie according to her nametag, looks around the building for some form of help. “I’ll take a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. And a large soda please, Melanie.” The malice has left your voice. “To go.”
Melanie walks to the heating tray for the sandwich. Her hands are trembling when she passes you the food and soda cup. She’s so frightened that she doesn’t even ask you to pay.
---
Your breakfast tastes of ash and cigarette butts. The demon inside your stomach growls. It doesn’t want human cuisine. You throw the remains out the window. It’s not like you give a damn about the environment. You try to wash the taste out of your mouth with the soda to no avail.
Lead fills your feet as you stomp on the gas pedal. The speedometer hits ninety miles an hour and counting. Hot, summer air blows through your hair. You’re feeling good, but you still can’t shake the hunger. You hope a medical professional can help.
A Dead Oaks cop catches you on the radar. The dirty pig pulls out of the median and turns on the classic flashing blue lights. It doesn’t take long for the ungoverned engine to outpace your puny four-cylinder.
You look in the rearview mirror. She signals for you to pull over. You ignore her and push the pedal to the floorboard.
“Pull over now, sir. You are endangering civilians.” Her voice sounds raspy through the PA system.
You stick your hand out the window and shoot her a bird. She accelerates high enough to reach the left side of your vehicle. The two of you continue racing for several more moments. The pounding in your chest returns.
It doesn’t stop until you whip the sedan onto the median. The officer attempts to do the same, but your car has better handling capabilities. You rip through the grass, creating a dust cloud, and merge in with the vehicles on the other side.
Her car tires catch the lip upon entry to the road. She loses control of the vehicle, flipping multiple times until landing on the roof. Shattered glass litters the asphalt. The oncoming traffic comes to a grinding halt.
She’s dead. You can’t see it, but you know. You can sense it.
---
The waiting room in the after-hours clinic reeks of disinfectant chemicals. Magazines are strewn about the coffee table in no particular order. An elderly woman sits in the chair beside you. Her lip smacking begins to rub you the wrong way.
Thirty-seven minutes have passed since you signed in at the front desk, and you’re next on the list. You start tapping your feet and drumming your fingers on your thighs to pass the time. The snake is famished. It’s becoming restless. Every movement it makes sends spells of queasiness. You need a doctor now.
A cute nurse eventually steps into the waiting room. “Mr. Sullivan?” she calls out looking for a response. You stand up and follow her down the hallway. Her gorgeous ass shakes underneath burgundy scrubs. You want to fuck her right then and there.
She leads you into a room on the other side of the building. “Someone will be with you shortly.”
You wait patiently for fifteen minutes. You’ve read all of the medical posters on the wall. Boredom sets in as well as extreme voracity. The monster will not leave you alone.
Just as you stand up to leave the room, someone twists the door handle. A male doctor walks through the doorway. “Hello, James. My na-.”
“Jimmy,” you sharply interject before he can continue.
A look of irritation flashes across his face. “OK, Jimmy. My name is Dr. Glegg. How are you doing today?” He scribbles something on the clipboard in his hands.
“I’m going to say weird.” Your eyes meet. You can hear the forceful knocking in your chest.
“Interesting.” Dr. Glegg instantly turns away and continues taking notes. “Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know,” you confess. “There’s something off and I can’t quite place it. My insides hurt and I have a pain in my stomach that won’t go away. I feel like I’m dying, doctor.”
“Well, let’s start by taking a preliminary blood sample while we figure this out.” He swabs a spot on your arm clean with rubbing alcohol. He puts the syringe to your arm, but it doesn’t break the skin. He pushes harder until the needle plunges into a vein.
Much to your surprise, the vial instantly fills with a thick, dark liquid that matches your eyes. The bile has entered your bloodstream. Black blood dribbles from the entry wound. The microscopic puncture heals after a couple seconds. Your left hand starts twitching.
“Umm, what the hell?” He is dumbfounded. “I, uhh, I need to phone Dr. Akachi about this. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life. This needs to be catalogued, documented, recorded.” He twirls the vial around in his hands with a sense of childlike wonder.
You whip Mark’s pistol out and drill the barrel into his forehead. A reflex so instinctual that it doesn’t even register in your mind until the gun is already in your hand. It’s been tucked in your waistband this whole time.
The methodic thwacking of your ticker sends shockwaves through your nerves. Your body trembles from the pulses, but your hand remains steady. “No, you’re not going to tell anybody about this.” The doctor lets out a pitiful whimper before you introduce his brains to the wall.
The gunshot is deafening in such confined quarters. A ringing sensation enters your ears. You leave the bloody mess on the floor for someone else to clean. “Thanks for the help, doc. I’m feeling much better now.” The hunger vanishes at last. At least for the time being, the beast has been satisfied.
Your heart quits beating entirely, but you’ve never felt more alive. Your senses are peaking. It’s akin to the time you snorted ten fat lines of coke in a row.
You are unstoppable.
You are the embodiment of disorder.
You are the bringer of death.
You are God.


"An Insatiable Appetite" was written by Sean Hodell. Sean lives in Atlanta, Georgia where he attends Georgia Tech.

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