All Stories, Horror, Short Fiction

Feed by Tara C. Kneel

She both loved and hated her room, as she would have an overbearing mother.

The room had soul nonetheless. It was a welcome presence amidst the ocean of her loneliness and she revelled in it. It was both reassuring and slightly stifling, like a mother’s well remembered perfume. She also liked the way the tiny dorm room filled up entirely with her own being, how it was full of her familiar self, how her scent lingered in the corners and smoothed their harshness.

The room also filled with her daydreams and the smells they brought along with them.

Too much of her was in that room…

‘The silence is my enemy’, she thought in the dark. She knew it would catch her unaware the moment she closed her eyes. And every night, she entered a quiet stand-off against the silence that crept up the walls and down her throat when she dozed off.

She was known as the silent girl. She knew. And she did not like it. But she had not chosen that nickname, nor the lack of sociability it implied. The others would not open their mouths to greet her, or let her seat with them, and so she had no use for speech. They would not tear their walls down, and she was afraid of heights and the implications the perilous climb might entail. Tired of scaling those cliffs of silence she gave up on speech altogether. The silence was winning.

And then something happened, didn’t it?

With time her tongue felt more and more tied to the roof of her mouth, and the less she talked the harder it became to manage that alien piece of meat resting uncomfortably behind her closed lips. She was desperately hungry for contact. She could feel that deep down her social self was withering to a point of no return.

So she turned to the outside world that she saw shimmering through her computer screen. She had found her words again. Her fingers flew on the keyboard and kept her from becoming mute. It was her secret weapon against her powerful and vicious enemy. As she closed in, she closed up and forgot how it felt to go out of herself.

 She had become the room…

The friendly presence of the whirring laptop on her desk gave her company. Its monotonous sound punctuated by the ringtones of the notifications helped her wage war on the silence. The other strangers online were so much friendlier than the ones who surrounded her. They did not ignore her at least. She was comfortably conforming and unoriginal, and she took solace in it.

And imperceptibly her daydreams shifted from walks on secluded beaches and in crowded southern town markets to stillness. She had visions of herself dying and rotting away in that room without anybody to disturb her or to open the door and break the spell of her self-entrapment.

She burned up with cabin fever in the night…

In her semi dormant state she remembered the time when she floated lazily in the warm bath back home, and those pretty red flowers had bloomed in the water and laid her to rest on a bed of roses. But then her mother was hovering over her, and she had felt a sharp sting in her cheeks as she slapped her face to make her come to. And she had snapped out of it, the comfort of that unknown place was lost forever to her senses. That was when her war on silence had begun. She played loud music in her room, turned the TV on in the living room, anything to keep the restless enemy at bay.

Back in her dorm room an animal instinct for survival made her crave sound even more, and she bound herself to her laptop with all her might, to those hints of the outside world, the constant stream of news feeding her humanity. She needed the action of a real life, but she could feel her own body’s inexorable sclerosis. Yet, like a faithful pet, the laptop broke the silence with its rain of sounds into shorter, more bearable sentences of time that took her closer to what? she could not tell.

She felt more and more content in that passionate state of fusion  that she cultivated with her laptop. It was all she needed and she thought– how dumb she had been to venture out into the world to get hurt the way she had and to try and use her tongue when she had clearly not been gifted with speech and did not need anyone else because the world and the words rose and fell under her fingertips,  and before she was scared of the silence but now an endless stream of music and sound could come out of the magical instrument to please her and erase her loneliness and quiet the dark at 2 A.M. when she woke up wide-eyed and scared and ‘oh my god I heard something but it’s not really something is it it’s just the silence bearing down on me’ and she could not tell what scared her because she could not tell what remained to scare her, there was no faith and the void yawned wildly but then that buzzing friendliness would warm up the room and pull her out, pull her out of here, out of it, even if she did not really know where it was that she was.

She felt faint… 

When they found her she was connected alright. The blue light that filtered under her door had been shining for days on end before anyone thought of doing something, and a sweet sickening smell crowded up that part of the corridor. They tried to open her door, but it was locked. The janitor came back with a passkey and it opened with a screech, as if they were interrupting on something, hurting the unity of a fully formed body that did not need more.

The others think it does not make sense but it happened, right?

What they saw was definitely WRONG. They felt it deep down, in their heaving stomachs  that what they were staring at- because that was not someone right?- was illogical. And yet it was true and so, seeing that crumpled up body lying headfirst on the desk, they could find nothing to say, let alone something to share with one another. For the first time in their lives the silence- and that smell of spoiled roses- choked them.

Later on, they still could not say much of it, but not because they did not want to. The secret had spread like wildfire, just like the smell of rot had burst out of the swinging door, and it was not a secret anymore. They just could not get their head around what they had seen.

The silent girl had become silent for good. Her body had been lying limply on her chair, her head had been resting on her computer’s keyboard and was fused with it. No one could tell where the skin ended and how far into the machine her flesh reached. None of her features remained, she was uncharacteristic like a smooth-skinned mannequin. But the strangest thing of all was the computer screen. Instead of turning off, the screen shone with renewed force, and data was flashing across it at an impossible speed. Seeing that peculiar symbiosis, one of the students thought that like a baby in the womb she had found her way back to her beginning. The screen spread an almost tender halo on her arched back as it kept her alive through that umbilical cord. She was now feeding against the void.

Did you pull the plug?


Tara C. Kneel

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3 thoughts on “Feed by Tara C. Kneel”

  1. Hi Tara,
    This was very imaginative.
    I have taken this a different way each time that I have read it.
    I always enjoy a story that continually whispers in my ear and this is one.
    All the very best.


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