“She’s still not speaking, you know,” said Merle, her voice raised over the grinding of the food mill.
“The little girl. She hasn’t said a word since last Tuesday, Bart.”
“I’m not surprised. Her whole family was murdered and she saw it happen.” Bart shook his head and pursed his lips, his razor sharp knife beating a tattoo on the chopping board.
“Poor little lamb. I’m going to sit with her this afternoon and see if I can make any headway with her.”
“What’s the point?” asked Bart, scraping hunks of meat into a fat copper pot. The knife lay on the counter, translucent pink fluid pooling along the edge of the blade.
“She’s refusing to eat or drink.” Merle stabbed a button on the processor with a bony finger and the noise stopped. She unhooked the mixer bowl, unclipped the lid, and removed the claw of devilish blades dripping pale, viscous foam. She tilted the bowl and poured the pallid mixture into a pan.
“Bone cake will do the trick, it’s my secret weapon. If I can get her to take some food, she may last a bit longer.” She winked at Bart and turned to peer at the oven. “Is the roast nearly done? I need to put this in. Smells fantastic by the way.”
He stopped chopping long enough to nudge Merle with his shoulder, “I used the number six marinade. That’s my secret weapon.” He leaned in and touched his lips to her cheek.
In a blank, sparse cabin at the rear of the ship, a small girl lay on a low bunk, picking absently at a scab on her shin. Her eyes were hollow and her mouth sullen. The scab came loose and left a shiny pink mark behind. She picked through the new skin until it trickled red. Behind her a wide window showed a million pinpricks of light. They blended together in a hazy tapestry. In the midst of the stars, a nebulous eye stared blindly through the glass.
Soft tapping sounded on the metal door and the handle turned, letting in a shaft of brightness. “Hello little one,” sang a gentle voice through the door gap, “I’ve brought you a present.”
Merle leaned against the counter, her foot resting on a low stool. She pulled a sticky, stretchy curl of fat off the base of the roasting pan and popped it in her mouth. “I hope there’s leftovers tonight, I’m starving and this is damn good.” She glanced at Bart perched on the sister stool with his elbow on his knee. He nodded, shoving a hunk of globulous gristle between his lips. “Did you make any headway with the girl?” he asked.
A jarring metal clanger sounded and their two heads jerked in the direction of a steel door. They stood automatically, shifting gears into action.
Merle licked her fingers and scrubbed her hands down her apron. “I’ll tell you about it when we’re done serving,” she replied. She picked up the large domed platter. It dipped as she hefted it. “This one’s heavy! My god do you have the whole thing on here?”
“Just the legs, deboned. It was a big one,” replied Bart, reaching out to grasp the platter. ”I’ll take it. You bring the crackling.” He nudged the swing door open and a cacophonous racket drifted in through the opening. Growls, followed by a crash of heavy glass and a thin wail, turned into grunting laughter. “Sounds like they’re on form tonight”, he muttered.
Bart mopped the grey suds off the tabletop and shelved the last of the heavy cooking trays. “You haven’t told me what happened with the girl? Your famous bone cake didn’t work its magic?”
“No. She’s beyond help,” Merle sighed, bending to lift a dark-stained wooden tub. Greasy curls fell forward over her face.
“What did you expect? She saw those monsters in action. I’ve seen them do it a hundred times and even I was sickened. They tore the boy to pieces, fighting like dogs over him. They clawed his skull apart and scooped out his brain while he was still breathing, and she saw it all. Those screams. Can you imagine what that would do to a kid?
Merle shook her head. “I hoped we could save her.”
“We couldn’t even save our own children.”
“I know, but I thought… maybe.” She placed the tub under a lip in the tabletop, shrugged, and traced a calloused finger over the edge of the worn rim.
“Let’s just get it over with, at least she’ll have the mercy of a quick death” said Bart, handing Merle a cleaver. As they left the room he pressed a panel in the wall. The snag toothed band-saw clicked into motion and began its keening lament.
About the Author:
Wendy Moore is a librarian with a love of good stories and a background in fine arts. She writes flash fiction for her own amusement and gets very excited when anyone else shows an interest in it. When she isn’t lost in a book, Wendy enjoys doodling, having new ideas, and embarrassing her children.
Her favourite childhood memory is reading aloud to her family, although whether they share the same fondness for this memory is debatable. Wendy lives with her husband, children and a small menagerie in Melbourne, Australia.