by F.H Maard
A young man remembers his time on an abandoned cruise-ship succumbed to cannibalism.
| never actually met Sam. I saw him once through the crowd up on deck, in the empty spaces between the messy heads of people just as fucked up as me. He was bound up, hands to feet with his knees to the green helicopter pad in front of us, placed in a line of a handful murderers, child-eaters, and rapists. Some of them had probably done all three, some had had the chance to do much more with their time here than that. He was with people who all knew just as much about the insides of the human body as I do today, if not more. I was new. It was exciting and terrifying, seeing grown-up men crying in fear, snot running down their chins and spit flying from their mouths as they screamed at us, begging us not to. I want to think that sound could be heard all over the ship, that their little families could hear their agony from inside their cabins, huddled up in grief, holding on to each other tightly for a last bit of comfort that never would come. I want to think that, but their shrill, weak voices probably just went into the fog and stayed there just like the remnants of their bodies eventually did. They were begging us, begging someone, anyone, trying to appeal to the softer hearts of the people in the back, maybe someone on the side-lines. There weren't any. We all enjoyed the show the same.
I didn’t know it then, but the scrawny young man with his newly cut black hair was actually one of the few good ones we had on board. Maybe we should’ve seen it in him, but honestly, even when put up there next to each other facing the same crowds and the same home-made clubs and pointy things, we all look the same. I remember Sam because he was the first one I ever saw dying who didn’t shout and scream like the rest of them did. He cried through his shut eyes but other than that? Maybe the twitch of a thumb, one short irregular breath just before show-time. I looked at his hair. I can see now the hands of a young woman with a blunt knife, spending a last precious moment with the brother she loved so dearly, making him look pretty for the event that neither of them saw coming. A day they both prayed would never be. Looking back, it feels like it should have been obvious to everyone in that little crowd that Sam had not forced himself upon a single woman, not killed anyone. That man had never eaten any child. As it turned out later on, he had never eaten anybody. Still, it didn’t seem like he minded dying with the people who had. Seemed like he had had enough.
After a few moments saved for building up tension among us, some of my new family members, and by extension yours too, finally came out with their homemade little clubs and we cheered, oh how we cheered. I wasn’t afraid to cheer as loud as the rest yet with shining eyes and wet lips. The kids went mad, we all went mad, waiting for the red stuff to spill out on the deck and for the white to show through the torn apart skin. My new brothers smiled, and I smiled too, looking around at a new home, happy I’d found my place in the audience and not on the stage in front of us. Our guys stepped forward! They raised their clubs! We all clasped one another and rose from our seats, everyone wanted a better look! Our hearts raced! Our hearts stopped!
And a thump, thump, thump; there’s the honey.
They all cowered as if pulling away from the swings was gonna make them miss. All except Samuel Tate, who kept his eyes closed throughout the entire show. Since that day, a lot of eyes looking just like his have seen me as their last. Perhaps they hoped that I would fail, give in, that I'd be the one that finally dared to refuse. I never did, never wanted to, and you can hate me for that. The last thing Sam saw was the small sea of hungry children who always got the front row seats, demon-like kids and their parents watching over their young, desperate for them to learn how to survive, how to stick to the rules so that they never end up on our make-shift stage. Children. Many of them younger than you, raised for a while mostly on muscle and marrow, the fat beds found behind the victim's eyes for their late-night snacks, their playground the cold ship, their toys actual human bones, sticky blood-pools instead of sandboxes. Maybe you would have been just like them. Crawling over your little friends in that crowd, all struggling to get out of their parents’ arms just to get close enough to get the people-liquid splattered across your rosy cheeks and smiling mouth.
But maybe not. Maybe if you had been there and if you had been the girl you always have been in my head, you would have seen in Sam’s eyes that he was innocent and kind. You would’ve looked at him and seen that he wasn’t the same as those next to him, that he was the type of guy who wouldn’t hurt others just for the chance to live another day on this ship. Maybe you could have ran in front of our brothers in one grand act of bravery and made them lay down their clubs, spoken powerfully to the crowd and eased their thirst for blood so that they too might see that Samuel Tate has to live! They could have untied him, looked into his eyes and seen what you would have seen, a careful and tender soul, apologised deeply, and he could have gone back to his cabin where his sister waited for him and give her a hug, tell her everything is going to be okay, and maybe we could all have survived this. Isn’t that one hell of a thought.
But I saw Sam die. I liked it. I cheered for it. I blamed him for every pain in my body, I blamed him for you, and I wanted him to pay for something he never did. I even ate some of him afterwards as his fat-beds went to the kids, his bones given to the fog. It wasn’t great.