by Colin Davy
Have you ever undergone an Insulin Tolerance Test? An ITT in medical parlance? If not, my advice is don’t.
You are injected with insulin and blood is taken via a cannula in your arm. No need to worry about your safety because a consultant endocrinologist will be present. He, and it was always a he when I took the test, will be dressed in a shirt and tie and a three-piece suit. And ready to give you intravenous glucose if needed.
But don’t do it because it was the symptoms of a blood glucose below 2.2 mm/l (40 mg/ml in the old units) that caused my problems. I went beyond sweaty and trembly. I went beyond ravenous. I became different. The nurse’s arm looked good enough to eat and I nearly succumbed. The idea is to stress the body. Determine its resilience. I blame the test totally for my present condition. I wasn’t as resilient as I thought
Of course, I was human then. Or hooman as we say in the Fens. I’m not human now. Nor in the Fens. I live in the big city. I’m a monster. And I need to eat people.
My first human meal was many years ago. Before then, I’d settled for cats and dogs, and the odd pig I’d leave with his hind legs missing. But this time was different, I needed a large adult human. And the man walking towards me was very big. It was late and raining. He was striding down the deserted road without a care in the world. Muscles bulging under his tight-fitting t-shirt. He gave me barely a curious glance and marched past. He feared no one in this valley of the shadow of death for he was the biggest bastard around.
I turned and tailed him, letting the urge take over. A numbness in my face became a raging fire and my upper body engorged with blood. I followed on remarkably feather-light steps and bit off his arm just above the shoulder. I crunched and swallowed whole chunks of meat and bone, and to be honest, I was very messy; masticating fist-sized pieces onto the road that I’d have to tidy up later. But that’s excusable for a beginner with a massive appetite and a need to eat on a regular basis. Isn’t it? When you expand into something large, with the mouth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, you can’t be fastidious.
My foster mother used to chastise me for my appetite. Not because I was greedy, but because I was so fussy. ‘There’s children in India who’d give their right arm for that meat,’ she’d say. And ‘Who learned you to turn your nose up at good food,’ and ‘Your sister was never so fussy, she’d eat the pattern off the plate if we didn’t stop her.’ I only vaguely remembered my older sister. She was ‘a rum un’ said my foster mother. She also complained that ‘the neighbours are frit to death on the pair of you, but I don’t know why.’
This man was no longer in any state to be frit on me. He lay on the floor quivering in shock. He didn’t utter a word. When your blood pressure has dived due to a lost limb or a thoracic cavity ripped wide open, you don’t usually sit up and complain, ‘Oi, you’ve eaten my arm, you bastard,’ or ‘give me my pancreas back or else.’ Oh, no. Your heart rate rockets and you slump into a faint before you can even think of calling for help.
I ate him all in one sitting (more of a kneeling position to be honest). I ate him, skin, bones, and intestines complete with semi-digested contents. I even ate his clothing. I’m so pleased that braces have gone out of fashion. In fact, anything with metal attachments disagrees with my digestion. Leather boots are quite acceptable, but I do wish people would check the treads on the soles for dog shit. No doubt, he’d have given his right arm to be alive again. But I’d already swallowed it.
I left the rain to conveniently wash away the blood into a ditch. This unfortunate passer-by was memorable for being my first human kill. Inexpertly killed perhaps, but expertly tracked and dispatched. I learnt from that experience. Attack from the back and go for the throat. Rip most of it out before he or she knows you’re there. A soft gurgle is the sign of an expert kill.
And it is he or she, as I’m an equal-opportunities muncher. I prefer big people, especially female ones. Women have a larger proportion of adipose tissue, and a porker of either sex is less likely to run off fast enough to escape if you’re careless. Children are out of the question. Apart from being too small – although it’s reassuring to see the obesity epidemic taking hold – I have my standards.
I haven’t changed through the years. I’m Peter Pan with a gargantuan appetite when hungry. I still look the same – the same Andrew Garrod as ever. Late twenties in appearance but past retirement age in human years, and as handsome as you like, or so I’ve been told. I’m not a prolific eater. I resemble a python or crocodile in that I can live for a year off one meal. That’s why I’m selective and careful about my victims. As far as I know, I’m also unique, but who knows? Of course, I’m assuming that I look like a tyrannosaurus when I’m in change mode. I’m too old-fashioned for this selfie craze.
And that’s interesting too, isn’t it? Where does the extra mass come from and disappear to? I have a theory about that, it involves the interconversion of mass and energy. Which brings me to my latest victim. Sonia. Early twenties, very pretty, but a little scrawny for my tastes. We’re in the Thetford Forest, way off the beaten track and we’re sitting on a grassy mound discussing physics. She’s bright and has a degree in the subject. How fortunate. I bring up my pet theory. ‘Energy and mass,’ I say. ‘Can’t they be created from nothing?’
‘That’s right,’ she says. ‘They’re called virtual particles, they pop into existence from the vacuum, but they have to disappear back into the quantum void very quickly, depending on how much energy they have.’
Her eyes seem to sparkle in the sunlight, and it is delightful listening to intelligent conversation in the English summer sunshine.
‘So energy is the same as mass?’ I ask. ‘E = MC squared and all that?’
She smiles showing even white teeth and a small dimple in her chin. It’s a pity she’s so small, but she is entertaining at least, and so naïve.
‘That’s right,’ she says. ‘But even a tiny mass means an infinitesimally small life span.’
‘Unless you’re travelling at the speed of light,’ I say. See, I’m not a total ignoramus, merely a flash-eating ghoul with some eclectic interests.
‘Yes, Andrew,’ she says. ‘But you can’t travel at the speed of light if you have mass.’
‘Ah,’ I say. ‘I knew there must be a catch.’
Her smile is infectious, but I’m beginning to feel hungry. It’s not yet imminent, but the
change is coming and the sands of her life are rapidly pouring away.
‘Isn’t it time for the picnic?’ she asks, glancing at her watch, a jewelled timepiece on her
thin wrist. Her eyes are green with spots of yellow, and she has freckles around them.
Innocent eyes and I feel a little sorry for her. But the hunger won’t be deflected.
‘It would be,’ I say. ‘But I’ve come without it.’
Her frown is fleeting. ‘What else shall we do?’ she asks, her tongue slipping out between slightly parted lips. I pretend to consider it.
‘I’m sorry, Sonia,’ I say. ‘I fear I’m going to have to eat you instead.’
She’s a modern girl and, although she gives me an I’m not easy sort of look, she seems not to be too surprised.
‘If you like,’ she says. ‘But let’s get comfortable first.’
Leaning back, she begins to shuffle around on her bum and tries to pull down her knickers. I’m an old-fashioned sort of guy so I offer to help. If I go behind her, my change will be less traumatic for her. I’m all heart, you see. An organ she will shortly be missing.
Her shoulders feel warm. My only disappointment is that she’ll be no more than a large snack. Probably no more than a three to six-month digestion period. Luckily she’s bra-less, so that’s one less metal attachment to worry about. She seems very enthusiastic.
‘No,’ she says with a light laugh and points between her legs.
I like a little bit of banter, but she’s insistent, pulling me gently round to press my mouth down on her favoured spot. I humour her. I feel the change coming as her fingers clutch my hair.
But she leans over, pulling me up to face her with a surprising ease. Her teeth rip and tear my throat. I make that soft gurgling noise. Well done, I think, as my blood spurts in a jet over her body. An expert kill, exactly as I would have done. The biter bit
She pushes me away with no effort and I stare at a modern Gorgon with a mouth something like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, blood dripping from the opened jaws. Her clothing has fallen off and lies in shreds on the grass beside me. Mind you, a naked gorgon-style monster isn’t really a turn-on at the best of times, and this really isn’t the best of times.
I try to speak, but gasp and choke instead. I’m more resilient than I used to be but I’m dying. I stare into her face for one last time as she prepares that large mouth for the final strike. She could be my older sister. In which case she’ll insist on eating every last morsel. And she’ll be meticulous in tidying up. I bet she is my sister.
As the last of my blood seeps away, and my blood pressure disappears into my bootlaces, I’m glad of something.
I’ll always know that I didn’t disagree with something that ate me.
Colin Davy, retired with four degrees including a PhD in toxicology, has published around twenty peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals. His alternative history novel, An Ever Rolling Stream, was published as an e-book in October 2014 by Wild Wolf Publishing, http://wildwolfpublishing.com/publications/c-dav/