by Jason Thompson

I. Hungry

         After spending three days holed up in his hotel room on the south end of town,

Kelvin Hartner stepped out into a the cold, wet early May night to a pay phone. He

wore a long black coat that frayed along the bottom edge due to its dragging on the

ground. His shoulders appeared to be the size of baseballs at either end of a foot-long

ruler. His pale skin was sporadically blotched with scabs that gave it the appearance of

a dead shark that washed up on the shore and was left to rot in the sun. Behind his

stringy dark brown hair were eyes that were of the same shade of gray as the clouds that

have been hiding the sun throughout the week.

         Then there was his walk. The mere act of watching it as he did it was an exercise

in utter and inevitable exhaustion. Even if one was blind, that person was subjected to

his breathing that sounded like someone dying from an advanced case of emphysema.

To the casual observer, it would appear that Kelvin Hartner was not so much taking a

walk to the pay phone as he was halfway through embarking upon an expedition into the

African wilderness with malaria and cholera settling in to ravage his already worn out

body. With one final step to the phone that seemed like it required more effort than

every other step preceding it took combined, he attained his goal.

         Taking a deep breath, he rummaged through both pockets looking for a quarter and

a piece of paper. He was able to find both of them. He held the quarter before his eyes

and stared for amoment at George Washingtons silver profile. OK, he thought, I have a

lot of paper money in my wallet, but I only have one quarter. If this call doesnt go

through, the machine will give me my quarter back, but I am so exhausted that I could

die before I have time to make another call. Even that call might not go through for all I

know. Picking up the receiver with one hand, he released the quarter into the slot with

the other. Money, Money everywhere, but only a quarter to spend.

           Looking down at the sheet of paper, he engaged himself in a rapid process of

elimination with several numbers with names attached to them that were written on it.

This one in the center looks promising, he thought as a fingers made their way to the

keypad. Once he pressed the seven digits, he waited for the ring while hoping not to

hear a long whistle followed by a female voice saying, Were sorry, but the number

you have dialed is no longer in service. He thought about reporting that to ATT

once, but then thought better of it when he considered that they might ask him, so what

are you doing calling numbers that have been disconnected?

           He was in luck, at least somewhat, when he heard the first ring. Good, a number

that works. The phone rang again. Come on, pick up. A third time. I aint got all

night. Really I aint. After the fourth ring, Kelvin not only began to fear the worst, he

began to fear several kinds of the worst. What if shes not home? What if shes a heavy

sleeper? What if she likes to listen to loud music at night? What if she changed and left

her ph-

            Hello, a sleepy female voice said.

            Hello, is this Annie Mackenzie? asked Kelvin in an even more exhausted tone.

            Who am I speaking with?

            Ill only be a minute. Long streams of droll were escaping his mouth as his

head weaved dizzily from side to side.

            Look, I dont know who the hell you are, but youve got a hell of a lot of nerve

to call me one in the morning. I am trying



              OK, Maybe I should not have done that. It wasnt his foul-mouthed outburst or

the fact that he used such language with a lady; it was the energy expended. He had to

take two more deep breaths before he could work himself up to ask, are you still


              uhh yethhhh. He could almost see her now. Her jaw lay slackly upon her

chest as if it was weighed down by an anvil. Her eyes were open wide enough to see

everything while staring at nothing. Slowly but surely the nausea began to leave his

body and he was able to restrain the saliva within his mouth.

          Ok, Im going to need for you to listen to me now, he said while feeling slightly

more energetic than he did seconds ago, but there was still a long way to go before he

was completely refreshed.

           unngggay.., she said even more lethargically than her pathetic attempt to say yes.

           Good, now let us begin. He began to speak the code that allowed him to

partake in The Feeding. It was a code that noone walking beside of him would

understand had they been bored or foolish enough to be out this time of night in this part

of town. They would have assumed he was just another one of them foreigners that

Clinton gave our jobs to. No, the code could only work with a Speaker, a Conduit, and

the Food. That was the only way the race could survive. At least until the next phase

began. Who knew when and what that would be? he thought as her bodys electrical

energy merged with the electrons in the phone line.

II. Full

              The diner/Greyhound terminal still had a few patrons an elderly couple who

looked like they belonged to the aircraft carrier sized Winnebago parked by the gas

pumps. By the window sat a trucker who lamented the fact that he partied through

college and now had to drive an oversized Peterbilt to support his ex-wife and three little

girls. Along the back wall were five guys with long hair wearing denim and leather

jackets with band names with indecipherable logos on the back complaining about the

club owner who wouldnt even let them have a free pizza for putting on a kickass show.

It was at that time a young man walked in.

                 His hair was a thick and lustrous dark brown that hung about his shoulder.

His eyes were the color of a clear autumn afternoon sky. His wide shoulders were

framed by a long coat that flowed to his knees without so much as one Irish pennant.

The first thing that caught his attention was a rack of cheap used paperbacks that stood

beside the ticket booth. One in particular caught his eye. Hmmph., he giggled as he

looked the cover with a design with a well dressed man with fangs protruding from

beneath his upper lip. If there is one thing that evolves more slowly than the Food, it is

their ideas about who we are. The Piece known as Bram Stoker really gave them a lot of

false ideas. Instead of him and the idiots that followed him, they should have read

Charles Darwin more to understand us. The last one of us to have actually tasted

human blood died in 1946. Unlike the Food, we have-

Can I help you with something?, his train of though was broken by a man

working the counter.

                Umm, yeah. Can I have a ticket to Tampa?, the young man asked.

                 The one that leaves at 4:30 this morning?

                 Yeah, thats the one. , he replied while thinking of the names in the Tampa

phonebook for future reference.

                 The cashier pushed several keys into a keyboard and then said, Thatll be


                  The young man pulled out four twenties and passed them to the cashier. It

was a small amount from the wad of bills that made his wallet almost too thick to close,

which in turn was also only a small amount compared to all the money made from

shrewd investments over the years.

                  A slightly sad look crossed the cashiers face as he said, Im a little low on

ones right now. Is it OK if I give you seven quarters?

                   Not a problem, the young man said with a smile.

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