Girl Dinner: A Dinner Just for the Girls

E. L. Maloney

Trigger Warnings: Cannibalism, Body Horror

 

She sits facing the wall, staring at the inky black lines of old blood against the cement. Everything is cold. Her breath. The floor. And the sodden rags that attempt to cover her. Air is hard to obtain. Has it always been so difficult to breathe?

She has been the last one left for a while now, left to rot in the remains of her sisters. Old meals, left by the Gentlemen, sit throughout the cell. They’ve all long since gone black, betraying the once well-hidden poison. But the food doesn’t decay alone. Festering beside each tray of old food, a body lies. Milky skin turned grey. Black veins filled with venom. Filthy bodies, abandoned, never to be mourned.

A scraping noise rips through her mind, her ears. She leans away from the wall and retches. And retches. Nothing comes, but her throat burns. The promise of bile teases the tip of her tongue. Tears form in the corners of her eyes, ripping through her unwilling ducts as she forces herself to look.

Then she does cry.

A tray of food lies on the ground. Dull colours of red and green meet her face, but it is better than the black that devastates her mind. Something to eat after days—maybe weeks—of nothing.

Shakily, she reaches for the food. Her fingers mush through wet material, and a smell breaks away. It’s strange, though, it almost smells metallic—like blood. It doesn’t smell like her sisters’ last meals. She blinks warily at it and reaches for the green instead. She scoops it in her fingers and spoons it into her mouth. Then it’s not there anymore. The green mush is all gone. Consumed. She sucks at her nailbeds, digging her tongue under her cuticles.

‘Hester.’

Fingers still in her mouth and she raises her eyes. Her name sounds so delicate in the foreign voice. It’s been a long time since it was spoken as is, not as a cry for help.

‘I apologise that I could not find you sooner.’ It’s a woman who speaks. She’s dressed in a dark cloak, hood resting atop her head. ‘And that you are the only one left. I should have found you all sooner.’

Hester’s vision swims in dark clouds. Pain shoots through the base of her skull. She lowers her eyes to the tray, staring at the red mush.

‘Do you want to get out of here?’

The question echoes, or maybe it’s just in her head. She closes her eyes, trying to make it stop, but instead she invites a new ghost to taunt her. Vicious diseases, black blood, cold skin. Filthy dead girls. She is a lone survivor, and the Gentlemen are displeased with that. She was supposed to die with her sisters.

‘You are more than an experiment, Hester,’ the woman says.

Spikes prickle up her throat, breaking out over her tongue. ‘I am?’ she croaks.

‘Do you want to be?’

Hester’s eyes find the woman’s once more.

‘I have no answers to the query of who you are and how you have survived this long. All I know of you, Hester, is your name, and that you were made for more. You just have to want it.’

The silence that follows weighs down on the air.

Hester struggles to swallow. ‘I want it.’

The woman smiles, pointed teeth appearing between feral lips. ‘All you must do is eat.’

‘E-Eat?’ She stares at the red chunk, lax but plump.

‘That meat is special.’

‘Special?’

‘If I tell you, you might not want to do this anymore.’ The woman watches her carefully.

Hester grits her teeth. ‘Tell me.’

‘It is what the Mothers call meta. It comes from man. It holds chemicals that alter our own. It unlocks our true potential.’

She takes the meat in her hand. Purge oozes down her wrist. ‘Man?’

The woman nods. ‘Every male human has been holding the secrets to the universe, but we are the only ones who can read them. All we must do is consume the necessary key.’

Hester brings it to her lips.

‘Without man, we are nothing.’

She sinks her teeth into the meta, blood pooling on her tongue, dribbling down her chin.

‘Without man, we cannot be what the universe needs us to be.’

She swallows the first bite.

‘But without us, this world—and the men in it—would no longer exist.’

Pain ripping through her spine. Her spine ripping from her. Bones slicing flesh. Moist muscles screaming, exposed to air. A hole in ones being.

Outside herself, pulling away. Fighting to leave the earthly body behind.

Forced back in.

Skin tears, limbs convulse.

The desire to die vanishes as the pressure to be complete, to be new, screeches in her mind. Ripped apart and stitched back together. Is this what she wanted?

She takes another bite when she finds her hand.

Wings split through her bones, muscles forming out of nothing.

The woman unfastens her cloak and lets it fall to the ground. Her own wings unfold and rise behind her, skin stretched between bones, veins decorating like the first sketches on parchment. Webbings of spiderwebs, pellucid skin pulled taunt across bone.

‘Come, we have work to do,’ Mother says.

Hester swallows the rest of the meta in one last bite and smears her palm across her chin. When she stands, her knees don’t shake. Her vision is not clouded with darkness. She smiles. ‘Yes, Mother.’

The woman leads Hester out of the prison, away from the remains of her sisters. She leads her into darkness, all-consuming. The new wings are weightless, like they were always meant to be there. With each step comes the squelch of wet flesh.

E. L. “Loricia” Maloney (she/her) is a high fantasy novelist currently working on her hopeful debut. She aims to bring a balance to characterisation, plot, and worldbuilding in the epic fantasy genre. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok by @loriciawrites_ for daily content.