Ghoul of Providence

I can only chew when the air conditioner is on. It is an old, boxy thing, with a temperamental thermometer. I remember the meaning of such words, and less sharply owning such a thing, once. The device runs, chugging in the window, on and off every few minutes as it struggles against the New England summer.

The bones will give up their marrow grudgingly; though my teeth are very sharp now. Loud. The chewing is loud. Too loud. It will wake the family if I do not have the cover of the noise of the rattling air conditioner.

It is hot, despite the machine. I am glad of my lack of clothing. Filthy grave rags gird my loins, but that is all. I caught a glance at myself as I passed a large, shiny mirror in the entry hall of the poorly locked house on the ancient, tightly packed street.


Skeletal. I had become a thing of gristle and parchment. My head seemed too large. My shoulders too, were unnaturally broad, for I had been long used to the narrow stairs of such houses, and fit them better, once. My proportions were no longer those of a man. My head elongated, teeth warped into the atavistic fangs of some pre-human beast. Protruding. My jaw retracted, imbuing my over-large skull with a strange geometry. I barely recognize…me. Me? Shuddering, I turned to go up the stairs, to leave the mirror behind. I am even more hideous at the landing, where the sagging glass of the window overlays my apparition upon the ranked and shingled rooftops of the sleeping hamlet.

The family. I know what they will find in the morning. I will take only this one. He is enough, but they will not see it as a mercy. Horror. Horror at me…but, choice is gone. She took it. I gave it to her. I don’t remember how, or why. Perhaps she has stolen that memory, too. Perhaps that part of me died before she found me.

The flesh is sweet, as she promised. It parts from the bone under the assault of my fangs and incisors, and I freeze. I freeze mid-gulp. The machine has cycled off again. The house is quiet. The soft susurrations of breathing down the hall not nearly the cover I need. Two adult breaths consign their tribute to the humid summer air. A man and a woman, in the next room. I know. Their scents are sharp. Hardened by their many winters here, hardened by labor and poverty and adversity not yet suffered by the other residents of the home.

Two, smaller, younger. One half-cradled in a yellow-nailed paw I can scarcely credit as belonging to me. The other feet in front of me, in a matching bed of old wood. So much meat left. The machine starts again. Its roar a steady lullaby counter to my unsteady gnawing. No breath from this one. The neck first, she said. The neck first, always. Then, the rest is easy.

She was not happy with my first choices. Drifters. Shut-ins. People with no presence in the world of their fellows. People whose flesh was rank with failure, solitude, self-poisoning, and neglect. They did not glorify her. Someone had to care for The Eaten, she said. Someone had to bear witness, or the meal had no dessert, she said. Chastised, I was sent back. Back to the cobbled streets I had once walked in daylight.

And, I gave. I gave her more of me. What choice did I have? There was so little left. So little that was still me, anyway. What did it matter? Yes, Mistress – take a husband from his sleeping wife, in their bed. Yes, Mistress – a…child. No. NO! No? The air conditioner stops. Small foot in my mouth. No…. Yes. Yes…I cannot argue with what I do this very moment. Cannot argue with the gobbet in my throat or the instant of lethe it provides. No, I cannot. The air conditioner, taking so long…come back! Back ON…to conceal. No. No, must not.


Sickened and ravening at once, the loathing unending. Interrupted by fleeting slivers of moments with each gulp, and only with each gulp. I am only not what I do while I am doing it.

The air conditioner in its third story window goes out with a crash. I follow.

The screaming will not wait for sunrise.