“Kid. Hey, kid. Seriously, feed me. I’m starvin’ down here.”
Josh sat up in bed and rubbed sleep from his eyes. He blinked at the light streaming in through his bedroom windows. He’d been up too late playing Warcraft again. The clock read 12:32 in angry red numbers. Past noon. Crap. There was a ton to do before the prom at 6.
His stomach grumbled loudly. At this hour, it was no wonder he was hungry. The last food he’d had was cold pizza at 2 am. That was forever ago.
Everything else would have to wait until he’d eaten.
A gravelly voice echoed through his head. “Damn straight, kid. Let’s grub.”
What the hell was that? The first time he heard it, he figured the voice a dream. Josh was wide awake at this point, though, and hearing it clear as day.
Shit. Was he losing it? Not today. Any day but today.
He shambled over to the mirror by his door. Eyes weren’t bloodshot, color looked, well, pale, but that was normal. All in all, he looked okay; disheveled, but otherwise healthy.
“Dammit,” the voice spoke again, “quit admiring yourself and Get Me Some FOOD.”
“Aw, hell. I’m losing it.”
“Nah, kid, you’re not wacko. I’m real. Well, not a real voice, but I’m solid enough. Get some eats and I’ll explain.”
Between admitting you’d cracked on the day you finally had a date with the girl you’d loved since the fifth grade or having breakfast and hoping your crazy went away, the decision was easy.
A few minutes later, Josh stood before an open refrigerator munching another piece of cold pizza while he contemplated what else would make for a good breakfast. So far, no more voice. Maybe he was just having aural hallucinations from hunger. Screwy blood sugar levels could mess you up, right?
He shoved the last bites of crust into his mouth, swallowed, and took a long drink of milk. Maybe that’d do for now. He’d get something else once he ran all his pre-date errands.
“Don’t quit,” the voice said. “We’re not done yet. See that leftover chicken? That’ll go down pretty well. And a pickle, too. That pizza was a good start, though.”
Josh groaned. Quietly, he said, “Start talking. I’ll eat.”
He felt a sigh in his head; it was a truly odd sensation. “I can’t talk and eat at the same time. Look, it’s pretty simple, though. Remember that Twinkie you ate last week?”
“No. Yes. I guess.” He ate about two boxes of Twinkies a week. Mom said he was going to turn yellow and squishy. Still, she always bought more.
“I was in the Twinkie. Now I’m in your stomach.”
He figured it was psychosomatic or whatever, until Josh felt a tickle in his belly followed by strong rumble of hunger. He dashed to the sink as a rush of saliva filled his mouth, warning of vomit. Leaning over, he coughed, waiting for the inevitable Technicolor yawn.
It never came.
“Nah. There’s nothing left down here to chuck. I already ate it all. Still peckish, though. Hows-about that chicken?”
Shaking, Josh stumbled back to the fridge and took out a chicken leg. He wasn’t sure what else to do.
“So, you’re like a tapeworm?” he said, ripping a chunk of meat off the drumstick.
“Dunno. I was a little thing before, now I’m bigger. You ate a lot of stuff last week and I got most of it. Helped me grow. So now I’m big enough to talk to you. We’re gonna be pals. Just keep eatin’ and we’ll do fine.”
Keep eating. Sure. No problem, Josh liked food alright. But… “After I eat this, I need to run some errands. I’ve got a busy day.”
“OK, fine. Just make sure you keep a snack around. I pretty much need to eat all the time. We’re both growin’, right? It’s gonna take a lot to feed us both.”
Josh frowned, mid-bite. “What do you mean? I have to eat constantly? Like, all the time? I can’t always eat. I have other stuff to do.”
“Look, kid, I don’t make the rules. You gotta eat. I don’t want to have to do mean stuff in here.”
“I can’t go to prom with a box of cracker jacks and a turkey leg, you piece of shit,” Josh cried. The hunger voice said nothing, but a searing pain shot up his back.
“Fine, fine! You want food, you got it.”
Josh ripped open the fridge and grabbed a block of moldy cheddar. He gobbled it down. Then came a pound of butter and three pudding cups.
“Now you’re talkin’, kid.”
Again, the urge to puke caught in his throat. He ignored it and focused on more food. Anything that looked even remotely edible went down his pie hole. Bread, raw eggs, deli meat, pickles, condiments, week-old leftovers, it didn’t matter, Josh ate it.
In the beginning, the voice hummed happily.
An hour into the outlandish buffet, though, the humming stopped.
After that, Josh occasionally heard groans.
As he stood over the stove slurping cherry pie filing while warming a can of Spaghettios, the voice said, “Ugh…too much. No…room. Slow…”
The voice trailed off. The kid grabbed a spoon and shoveled rings of mushy pasta into his mouth. Around a partially chewed meatball, Josh mumbled, “Up yoursh, bashtad. No fwee ridesh.”
He swallowed; a sickening pop rippled though his gut, more felt than heard.
The urge to puke returned forcefully, but Josh squeezed it down and shoved in another spoonful. This time the feeling came right back, and every single morsel of food he’d eaten came with it. He threw up for 10 minutes straight, and then for 5 more minutes after that.
Exhausted, with an empty stomach and, more importantly, a quiet head, Josh collapsed on the kitchen floor. Wiping spittle from his mouth, he smiled, and then passed out.
He didn’t eat a bite at prom, and never touched a Twinkie again.