Below is a slightly different and longer version of Mass of Appetites. I hope you enjoy it, despite it being quite rough, and that you feel driven to add a paragraph, a photo, whatever, in the comments section. I will look through any such contributions and consider how to work them in. I like the idea of monster stories occurring in familiar spaces where people behave unexceptionally yet co-exist with horror.
Mass of appetites
It always buys rounds
Patting the distension, wiping grease off bulging, sagging cheeks
Holding forth, fat soft paws gesturing
They reach for the girl
who imagines she will survive the eating
you are a ngood gaw
the appetites breath is hot and wet
eyes: beady, sunken, gleeful
I may nget this one
The Mass of Appetites is always on the make, out on the town most nights of the week, like a shark that cannot stop swimming and hunting for a single moment lest it drown. His German automobile turns into the bar parking lot slowly, ponderously, with the drivers behind him hooting their exasperation. Appetites drives carefully and his car is always very clean. It has one of those pine tree air fresheners dangling from the back mirror alongside a small smiling green troll doll bought on a trip to Dubai last year. The inside of the car is immaculate and the outside polished to a dull sheen.
He looks for the parking space that will afford the most people a look at his car and is willing to wait interminably for one to free up. He crouches in his seat, taking in the sights, with his soft paw-like hands holding onto the velvet-bound steering wheel. When the watchman informs him there are open parking spaces further down, he chooses his response carefully from his two-item menu: threaten or cajole.
He takes in the other cars in the lot which are mostly Toyota Corollas bought from Dubai, the unmistakable mark of the striving classes. In the old days the ladder’s steps were: servant quarter in Golf Course, house in Buru Buru, a plot in Githurai, house in Plains View and the final move to Kileleshwa. Now it is about modes of transport: mathrees for a few years, the Shuttle, a used Nissan Sunny, new Corolla, used BMW then finally the Mercedes Kompressor. They will never rebel he thinks with an amusement laced with contempt, they will only keep switching their modes of trajectory to account for every national failure. Finally parked, he heaves his distended belly out of the car by first putting both small feet on the ground then with a grunt rising. He maintains surreptitious glances at the car, nervous that it will be stolen and also curious what everyone thinks of it.
Appetites ambles into the bar, beady eyes darting in all directions as he seeks friends and targets. His eyes take in the girls barely out of school, judging the firmness of thigh, the weight of buttock and most importantly the state of finance. He can guess within a few hundred shillings how much everyone has in their purse or wallet. Pocketing, he fingers a wad of notes with one finger and then subtly rubs it against his penis which is already semi-engorged with possibility.
As he walks toward fellow appetites with whom he’s done ‘Tender business’ in the past and who he calls his friends but secretly loathes, he notices a girl, dressed in a tight black dress that hugs a curvaceous body, who is eyeing him with what she imagines is a knowing eye. A frission of excitement runs down his sweaty back. She is the best kind – the ones who imagine that they KNOW, who want to eat into his wad, to use him. He chuckles inwardly knowing that he is unusable and cannot be lied to because he has achieved the exalted state of decadence which is the truest form of freedom. It does not matter that she has coupled hundreds of times or has a boy she loves and comes to this bar only for the money, he can smell the remaining strands of innocence woven into her firm youthful flesh. She will not know that when he heaves his hairy thighs off the bed with his fang dripping semen, he will have pulled them out of her and transformed her into the undead.
He calls for a triple shot of Johnny Walker Black and three kilos of roast meat – fuel for the hunt – while loudly ordering a round of drinks for the table. Miming conversation with his fellow Appetites, who do not mind since they too are busy, he sweeps his eyes across the room taking in the men this time. He wonders whether they present any competition for his mission. He casts around seeking those that appear to be in love wanting to watch them for little lapses that betray the futility of their attempt to find happiness. Spotting one such couple seated with the girl in black he notes the boy’s eyes occasionally glazing over as they covertly take in the sight of strangers’ thighs and arses. Soon the girl will be ready for Appetites when she finds out that her beloved, but slightly disappointing boyfriend is pawing her sister or sleeping with her best friend. He has seen betrayal a thousand times, but gets a delicious charge each time.
The girl in black gets up to go to the bathroom and Appetites, now in full Nosferatu mode, eyes her proud back which tapers to a point before her hips and buttocks explode outward and then settle onto thick hard thighs and thin calves. She walks slowly, uncomfortable in heels that are a bit too high for her, tottering and parting her way through the crowd with a subtle caress here and a hip nudge there. She will do, oh yes, there will be a feeding tonight. But first he must seek that dark, strong thing deep inside him that attracts his prey as surely a flame draws a fly to its destruction. He has never put a name to it, but knows that it emerges in the presence of Black Label, a wad of money, noise, low lights and innocence.
The meat arrives and he reluctantly invites the other Appetites to partake as well. They fall to it with unembarrassed relish. Tearing, guffawing mirthlessly, wiping grease off bulging, sagging cheeks and holding forth on “prots in Dadora”. Appetite matches them bite for bite, caressing his pot belly to summon the confidence monster who must emerge soon if the girl is not to fall to one of his companions. Here she comes.
She is heading for her table but her eyes are fixed on the table of Appetites, aware that they are rich and on a hunt. She thinks herself their equal in worldliness, confident that her beauty which she has used to toy with many men could see her through an encounter with any of them. Appetite watches her amused glance and snickers inwardly knowing that like everyone uprooted and thrown into the thousand universes that are Nairobi she belongs to many and yet to none – she longs for anchor and is seeking it without recognizing her desperate need. She has one of those new fangled rasta hairstyles which at first puzzled Appetite who had only ever seen them in pictures of Bob Marley and Dedan Kimathi. He has since come to associate them not with political struggle but with a process of self manufacturing that is a response to any one of a thousand traumas of an upper-middle class family tumbled to genteel poverty.
Such girls always tell teary tales of the mistakes Daddy and Mummy made as the to-be-rasta attended some fancy private school and then went abroad to find Me, he feels a surge of hatred. They make for the easiest prey. He knows how to lay a trap that allows them to feel the greatest degree of freedom even as the noose tightens – it is how they prefer to be ambushed. His first move must confirm her opinion of him and then there will be nowhere to go but up, all the while borne by her pleasant surprise.
‘I’ve been looking for you, Needs, do you know why?’
‘Yes, you seek flesh. You want to love me and you resent me for that.’
‘But there are also other things that lie beneath the flesh that are desirable,’ he breathes underneath his words. He is playing with the flame, trying to get as close to the edge as possible. The eating will be sweeter if he has voiced his true intentions and she, already caught in the web of the undead, freely offers herself.
A passing waiter with a tray of samosas and sausages walks by. Appetites motions to him and orders five of each. He watches Needs nibble at her sausage fastidiously, careful that she should not ruin her carefully applied makeup. Her face is round with wide eyes that are extraordinarily far apart so that she wears an expression of permanent surprise. Her smile is an attempt to communicate certainty where there is none; it twitches slightly at its widest point. The skin on her neck is darker than that on her face due to the use of Ambi skin lightening cream, her body not as youthful as it seemed at a distance. Appetites notes the careful disguise with distress, perhaps she has no strands, maybe she is empty of the sweet marrow. He falls to the remaining snacks, shoving them into his mouth and swallowing without chewing. Needs recoils inwardly, suddenly aware that she is in the presence of a great hunger.
‘What is it that you do for a living?’ she asks.
‘You are curious? I am an in-between; I exist in the cracks to smooth them over. I detect needs and fill them while keeping a few of them for myself. And you?’
‘I told you that I was the daughter of Fallen Success. That means that I spend my time caressing entitlement, in expectation of victory.’
As they have been talking, her hand has been inside her large leather purse stroking the spine of a book as if a genie will fly out of it and rescue her.
‘Which book is that you are reading?’ he asks. The dark thing always wants to know such details, there is no better way to divine the state of the inside.
‘The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho,’ she answers.
He shudders with excitement, she is his. It is the final proof that she is desperately trying to hold onto a moral universe – she is ready for the nail.
Appetites and Needs are in the German automobile heading to his lair. They are silent, listening to a CD of sighs and moans that Appetites is playing at a high volume. The lights of other cars do not seem to reach into the cab and he is driving very slowly. Needs looks around the interior and notices little carnations strewn carefully about, the kind used for funeral wreaths.
They drive on a dark road winding through a forest, past a great housing estate that now lies empty and silent, past vast horticultural farms, coffee and tea plantations, herds of emaciated cattle with no minders and beach hotels whose windows are giant Trojan condoms – they have not seen a single car or human being for the past hour. The music this time is a steady murmuring that is getting louder with every passing mile. She notices that the road is widening and is running downhill.
‘Where do you live?’
‘At the end of this artery.’
They drive past dark silent mansions whose large gates – on which symbols in a strange language are wrought in grey steel – have been half torn off their hinges.
‘Where are we, who lives in these houses?’ she asks with trepidation, she is realizing that there exist paths whose existence she had never even guessed at.
‘Mimicry used to live here behind gates of nihilism that as you can see were no match for absurdity when it came to take them to the end of the road.’
Needs is starting to listen to the voice beneath his words, feeling the presence of the dark thing. She glances sideway at Appetites and sees that he appears bigger than he did when they left the bar. He is sunken into the leather seat and his stomach has grown so large that it is pressed hard against the steering wheel which he clutches loosely with hands sprouting rough black hairs. His eyes are shut not looking at the road ahead and she can no longer feel the motion of the car.
‘I’ve changed my mind about visiting the end of the road, please take me back home.’ Her voice trembles. He does not reply for long minutes, but instead fiddles with the radio which starts emitting a low keening noise that steadily rises in intensity.
The road has by now become a steep decline and the trees bordering it rustle agitatedly. The moon, so prominent when they got in the car, is nowhere to be seen and yet there is an eerie light that seems to emanate from the earth itself.
Appetites is in a trance, knowing that the dark thing is now in full control, the hour of feeding is well nigh. It caresses his sex, stilling him, burrowing deep into the folds of his stomach and emptying it in preparation. The trees outside the car are now in frenzy, bending over the road almost as if they wish to peer into the car. The radio is now emitting a wailing noise.
Needs is whimpering.
They approach a large black gate decorated with naked steel statues that spell out ‘Etats house’. It opens with a great creaking sound that can be heard over the radio’s deafening wail. Appetites has expanded even more and is now pressed hard against Needs side.
‘We are here: the end of the road.’
Appetites puts both his feet on the black gravel and with a heavy grunt of effort heaves his bulk out of the automobile motioning to Needs to follow him. They are outside a large mansion with every light blazing. Fused within its granite walls is wet blonde hair that emanates a strong smell that seeps into Need’s every pore. She staggers into Appetites’ arms knowing that in them lies certain destruction, but it is the only place that appears familiar and therefore comforting.
They descend a winding staircase, the steps illuminated by a milky, glowing substance. On the walls are a thousand portraits of old men in Makerere graduation gowns. Their faces wear expressions of heavy resignation battling pride; their fingers clutch their diplomas tightly like a drowning man clutches at a straw. Fallen Success. Needs is in the house that she has been trying so desperately to run from, she was always headed here. She feels an enormous weariness.
Appetites savors these moments before the feeding when he sees the target face-to-face with itself. He is fully engorged, but cannot remember when he has ever felt hungrier. If only the other Appetites could see him now, descending lower than they have ever dared.
A low keening sound fills the hallway through which they are walking. It breaks into song, a disjointed rap tune issuing from a child’s throat.
Ahhhhhhhhh, squat, squaating, birthing.
I am a savage
Right inside you
No instrument required by law to be stamped
Can be accepted
Unless it is stamped with the required
Sufficient stamps under the stamp oathing
Needs lies on the bed watching the ceiling on which fat snakes in pinstripes, red shirts and green ties wriggle as if in a pit of pain. They are hissing at her … hissing her name over and over. ‘Needs, Needs, Needs daughter of Fallen Success,’ they say. They are celebrating her homecoming to the end of it all; to that place the ordinary world pretends does not exist.
Appetites is asleep on his feet. The dark think unfurls, its one unblinking eye fixed on Needs. From this eye comes a drop of a bloody liquid whose scent is like rich, wet loam soil.
Needs watches the fang approach flanked by two thin hairy thighs above which swings swollenness containing filaments of writhing, suffering innocence. She parts her legs already feeling her filaments struggling to get out, to free her of their tenuous hold. Appetites does as instructed and perches above her directing the fang between her legs, its breath against Needs thick thighs is hot and moist. It writhes towards her. She screams.