A warehouse that could be the love child between a dumpster and a medieval castle. Coming from inside, groans. Moans. A few shrieks cut off by the violent slapping of struggle, and then the wet patter of teeth on flesh. In the air an odor like rotten onions and shit and that unappetizing yeasty smell that accompanies unwashed bodies.
Welcome to Necronomi Con.
Booths. Endless booths, configured like holding cells in a prison. Each booth – a few posters depicting the wares of the artist, a stack of comics or a pile of plush things, and the artist itself, chained by the neck to a post, slobbering and scratching and gibbering horridly. Fans loiter, maybe to see how close they can get, maybe to ask for commissions (the zombies mostly vomit disturbing things, but sometimes they can be coerced to draw a portrait), maybe to get a scab or two flicked onto their special edition issue. In some places, the fans let the artists chew on them awhile as sort of ritual, sort of bragging right, sort of showcase of respect.
A few nibbles. That was what Alesya was slobbering for. She’d started her webcomic Radio Sex mostly for the bites, for the giblets, and maybe those penitent few who’d volunteer a limb. Unfortunately, five years on this lame series and she’d only gotten a few wrists, a pair of eyes, maybe an ear or two. Now she’d begun to brood and still, eyes alive but body stiff as the corpse it should be.
“I really like this.”
Alesya’s head snapped up. A fan!
A boy was browsing some original sketches. Better, a cute boy.
“Hey, these are kinda cool. I like your protag. Heh, look at her little boobs!”
Alesya was out of her chair, arms swinging, fingers curled into hooks. The fan sighed and put out his arm. “Aim for the flab.”
As she slurped sinews, he talked, appreciating her thick lines and muted colors. Finally, the fan looked at her progress and winced. “That’s enough,” he said. She continued. He pulled away.
The fan rubbed at the beef stroganoff that’d become his arm. Ulna and radius peeked out through bundles of muscle; the bones like embedded cables in thick red clay. The artist had taken too much. The fan had hoped to have a few snacks for Small Press.
I’ll have to grow more meat for next year, he thought, begrudgingly.
“Thanks for your time,” he said aloud. “I’ll swing by later.” He took a card and left.
Somewhere in the din of Alesya’s mind meat, she remembered the howling mouths at home — the children, and the husband, who’d lost his legs to a sawed-off shotgun. She spat some pink stuff into a ziplock bag, and tossed it in the icebox, noticing grimly that the row had emptied of fresh meat. There was a panel going on somewhere. Those artists were kept in fridges, so as to be better preserved, and fed a steady diet of spleens. Every year, they were brought out in coordinated waves.
But Radio Sex hadn’t earned its rabid following. Not yet. Not yet. Not ever, maybe.
There’d been a time when Alesya had been nourished by sources other than human meat. When she’d been alive. She remembered the meals from white boxes, from plastic bags, from plates and from pots. And there’d been the blood of her God, delivered weekly in small plastic cups, and the flesh of her God, come as wafers the size of coins. Call it communion but it had really been a buffet.
Oh precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow
no other fount I know
nothing but the blood of Jesus
She’d been told her hungers were evil, that the Devil was oozing through her organs. Now she knew there had been no devils. It wasn’t chaos, but biology, that created this appetite.
When she was alive, Alesya had taken a slim selection of her art to Fragale, the creator of Sugar Creek, and let him gnaw on her shoulder while she presented thick lines, muted colors, and a protagonist with tiny boobs. Fragale had been more interested in the shoulder. Later, Alesya had examined the marks he left — weak little things, like the nips of a juvenile shark, or the teething of the world’s tiniest bear trap. The perforations grew purple and Alesya grew sick.
The girl had lain in death for a few more years, stinking up the apartment. She became the chaperone to a series of young men far more energetic, ambitious, and alive than her. It’d take a whiff of her true nature to make them depart. Alesya would complain, but she knew she was dead weight, that she was kind of a drag, that the boys preferred girls of eyes of blue, not pale yolk.
Still, the friends tried. They’d haul her corpse out to Tonic or the sports bar, masking her putrefaction with artificial fumes and body sweat. Then, drunkenly, they’d haul her back up the stairs (the Hellevator never worked), dump her on the couch, and head off to midnight suitors. In all this time, Alesya never ate anybody. The hungers wouldn’t really start until-
“Uh, yeah, hello! Hello?”
A fan was waving a hand in front of her face. A hand with all its fingers, followed by an arm with all its flesh. Alesya was on her feet.
“So you’re the chick who does Radio Sex?” gushed the fan, a chick with pink hair. “Yeah, I stopped reading that in like ninth grade. It was good though! As you can see, I don’t really have a full set, so I got what Radia was going through.”
Alesya howled, knocking everything off the table.
“Hey, what was your angel’s name again? Spranter? Spaniard?”
“Sp-sp-sp…” Alesya’s throat felt like daggers. “Spanner.”
“Yeah, Spanner. Awesome stuff, although I don’t think drunk guardian angels are that original.”
Alesya’s arms were fully-extended, fingers pulsing as if they were grasping a beating heart. The fan looked at her sheepishly, rubbing her arms.
“Oh, um, I’m just browsing.”
“Mmrrph,” moaned Alesya. The chain taut.
The fan moved on, and Alesya hunched in defeat. For the first time, she felt a sloshy trickle of fear in the brown mush that made up her brain. Some cortisol not fully stagnated.
This was the moment, something told her. The moment that’ll come again, and again, until it becomes a flurry of moments. She felt inevitable, and she felt truth. Someday fans would refuse her and the few dedicated she’d consume too quickly. Then there wouldn’t be enough, and the rot would grow worse, and when she couldn’t provide she’d be kicked off the assembly line. Then a cracked tongue would survey a gray, drying mouth and find it void of bits. And her stomach would become as empty and twisted as a leftover grocery bag.
Alesya would lie down for lack of food, and they would put her in her tomb. She would still be muttering and coughing as the moss grew over her body, as the roots breached her wooden bed, trapping and tearing and gnashing.