The Ways in Which We Are Starved (or, The Special Kind of Solidarity between a Butch Wendigo and a Magic Twink)
rating: +27+x

Blood.

And flesh and.

Bone.

Ground beneath you. Your paw pads patter on the hard earth. The smell of pine. Of prey. Swirling, and all of them. Wet nose. Despite bone. Sleek. In the night. Antlers moving between the limbs and branches,

(like puzzle pieces)

soundless.

You never make a single sound. Unless you want them to hear. And sometimes, it's more fun when they can feel you coming in the deep down of their guts and in their bones. When their fear rides high in their chest, and sometimes don't they just start piping with a terror so high-pitched and beautiful?

The smell of it all comes together. The prey and the predator. It is an easy meal that offers much pleasure. They are not what you fear, and the very thought of it is

(sacrilegious?)

ridiculous.

Does the cat consider the mouse?

Does the wendigo consider the man?

Only as much as it gave pleasure. And oh, did they give so much pleasure. Even as they rot and turn putrid and break. Sometimes, especially when they rot and turn putrid and break.

The hunger that drives is insurmountable, and the coldness is pervasive and whirling and swirling. An open sky, a tundra that is

(a taiga like you saw on nat geo didnt you always wanna go to the steppes and see it didnt you always want to feel the land beneath you where your ancestors came from where they were born and traveled and left and raised babies and)

all open before you, and there is no food but what can be killed, and what can be killed is man.

The hunger claws at your insides even as you feed upon flesh, even as you craft bone through sinew.

When you are bored, when you are restless, when the taste of blood and marrow has not touched your tongue in so very long, you sometimes take the little ones. Their lives do not satisfy. But then again, nothing fills the depths of you.

Nothing has ever been able to make you feel complete, for as long as you could remember.

Except for one.

(even before everything started even before you really made your moves to make yourself who you wanted wasnt lakshmi always there for you she never saw you as anything less and she never saw you as anything monstrous until you became a monster and wasnt even that only temporary a meanness you deserved a meanness long in the coming but she loves you she loves you like no one else could and it is terrifying to feel love like that)

And that is what you fear above all else. That is what makes you cry out and run inward and downward.

What you fear is feeling full. A cessation to the hunger that is you.

The wendigo may not fear any man, but this one fears a woman.


“Hey, big boy, wanna reach up there and grab me a book? The one with the fucked up looking ugly orangey cover. Bad orange. It's that one. You can talk, right?” the small man said.

It didn't strike Avery, immediately, as unkind. She figured that if she saw her current self as her prior self that she might not have immediately assumed the hairy skull monster to be capable of speech. But then again, if she couldn't talk, why did he assume she knew colors?

The book was in a sea of neutral tones and deep earthy greens. So it was easy to find it. And with a considerable lack of grace, she pulled it out and dropped it into the waiting hands of the grinning dude. He patted her on the back. The way someone pets a dog when they really would rather not touch something so big and hairy.

“I'm a girl, you know. Name's Avery,” she said, and it still was super funny every time they jumped. They never expected a voice, which was pretty fucking hysterical. She didn't know how her vocal cords worked either. The jailers probably had an idea, but they weren't exactly super up on communicating with escaped objects.

“Sorry, big chick. Didn't mean nothin' by it.” It sounded affected, but Avery couldn't really detect any malice in it. He held the book loosely in his left hand, arms crossed across his chest. He didn't look like he ever considered that his grip could loosen even a little bit. “Still, thanks for that. I'd've climbed up to get the thing myself, but you know how those weird fuckers get when you start breaking rules.”

“Regular librarians don't like it when you do that either,” Avery said. “What's in the book?”

“Some shit guaranteed to blow your mind so high you don't come down.”

“Are you reciting song lyrics at me?”

“Shit. I guess I did. Didn't even realize it.” He held the book out. No writing on the front, the spine, and when he opened it, it was very apparent that there was no writing on it anywhere. “Check out this dank shit. Ridiculous, right? We can't even see it. You gotta be real fuckin' on a different plane of existence, realways not drugways, to read it. I'm getting it out for my bud, Armand. I'm pretty sure they can read it. I mean, shit, if they can't, it's not like this shit costs money.”

“What's your name?”

“JJ.” And he tilted his head. “Bigger one's comin'. We're a bit too loud. Come to a reading room with me. I feel like we gotta chat.”

Avery didn't know why, but she followed him through the bookshelves. This small man she had never met before. But that's what the Library did. Easier to accept the weird stuff and the weird people that came with them.


The beast came out too often, too easily. You were honest when you said you didn't remember all of the ritual. Some of it feels like it didn't happen the way you remember. Sometimes, you worried that was the point of it. They probably did the sewing thing, that was for sure.

But the words they said. You always remember those so different, every time you try.

When it first happened, you really did blame yourself. It felt like the repugnance inside of you had come out. Like you deserved to feel and look this way. The hunger was always gnawing at the insides of you already. The raw jealousy you felt. The fear of ever missing out. And didn't your body feel like this to you anyway? Hairy and ungainly? Made for destruction and predation, nothing beautiful or soft.

You were never a pretty, vulnerable thing. It was never easy for you that way. Years of pills and injections. All thrown out when some fucking weirdo with a furry boner decided to make some monstrosity. Toss a monster into the world for the hell of it. For the general fun of it.

Sometimes, you'd even take your human body even before you tried your best to make it something habitable. You'd take yourself before the surgery and all of the hormones. You'd take anything if it meant you didn't have huge open wounds on your chest any longer.

Sometimes, you don't even mind it. It is great to be powerful. To be able to run, to meld bone and use it in, really, a lot of pretty fucking cool ways. At least this body was, generally, about as girly as the one you had before. And the kind of Stantler-slash-Cubone skeleton face? Well, honestly, that was pretty fucking metal.

But, it's hard to really get comfortable in a body when, at any moment, if you're not feeling particularly in love, deeply in love, something monstrous awakens and curls itself around you like some horrible fucking serpent.

Sometimes it's mad. And that's when it hurts you. Or makes you hurt yourself. The thing inside of you isn't stronger than you are. That's something you've come to realize. But it has an animal cunning. It's patient. And it always hits you when you're at your weakest. After a fight. When the nightmares come. Whenever your guard isn't up.

The worst thing isn't the constant assault on your senses from something bestial, obsessed with rot and never being fed.

The worst part is that you worry that it isn't something outside of you.

You worry that the monster is just you when you're hungry.


JJ leaned back in his chair, on two legs. Sometimes he lifted the chair up, trying to balance on just one. It never lasted long enough to satisfy him. So he kept doing it.

“Well, that's kinda fucked up,” he said at last.

“Kind of an understatement.” But Avery smiled. It was nice that he didn't go on and on with it. Sympathy could be poisonous in large enough doses. That was something her grandfather had said. He probably made it up.

“I mean, the whole monster in the brain thing aside, it's pretty cool. I hope that's not rude to say. Personally, I love the look. And you're in a relationship? Weird for a wendigo.”

“What do you mean?”

“Hunger can mean a lot of things, can't it?” JJ shrugged. The chair slipped, but his feet hit the ground, arms grabbing the table. Fingers gripped with surprising strength as he positioned the chair with his butt. He stuck to two legs after that. “Loneliness. Wendigo with a girlfriend doesn't exactly jive, does it? You figure a wendigo'd be too busy eating people to fuck them. But not you, baby girl.”

“What are you talking about, dude?”

“There's something, like, about it, isn't it? I think that's what's kept you from getting it all in, you know? I don't know, but when I talk to you, I don't see anything weird. Maybe they took you for someone else, when they did the shit to you. Another kind of person.” JJ settled on four legs, stretching his long legs out in front of him. He almost kicked her in the shin. “Or maybe we're all hungry. Isn't a wendigo just a dude who got fucked up hungry? Enough to hurt? And maybe sometimes, you can make them fresh. By possessing them with a hungry spirit.”

Avery nodded.

The chairs were never exactly comfortable for her. The chairs were designed for the human and inhuman alike, certainly, but they didn't see to accommodate for someone with the unique combination of her physique and size. And, well, it wasn't like the antlers ever helped anything on that point.

So she sat on the ground. It was doglike. But then again, everything about her that wasn't cervine was canine, wasn't it?

“You're lucky you're the way you are. Someone made an artificial one, that's what I think. Or tried. And I think you really must feel something powerful for this girl. Enough to keep that at bay? You're a strong chick, Avery. You're beautiful. You carry your look well, if that means anything from me.”

“Even with the open wound thing?” Avery's smile was even more doglike. It betrayed the same emotion. The same wide-opened joy. If she had been a furry, she had always thought, hers would've probably been a dog. Sometimes she thought of that and laughed. It only bitter some of the time.

“Kind of got this cenobite swag going, if you ask me.”

“Weren't they those perverts from the Clive Barker movie?”

“Dude, Pinhead got good at the end of one of them or something. It's cool. Did you ever get into that series?”

“Not really.”

“Makes me think of you, just a little bit. The cenobites are people, you know. But they're chained inside. I read some wikia entry on them or something, it was wild as hell. They're, like, chained and wrought and boxed like steel inside of themselves, and the ways in which they're a monster come out.”

“I'm not a monster,” Avery said.

“No, you're not. And that's what's so impressive to me. No one in the movie really escaped the box or whatever you wanna see it as without wild help. And it never lasted long. But you, you're barely in it. The thing inside of you that's starved for everything can't beat you.” JJ beamed. “So, you stay here?”

“Pretty much.”

“Yeah, cool. Well, wanna walk me to the check-out? The fucking dudes here, the what do you call them? Docents? Scare the shit out of me. I'd like to get a bigger lady between me and them, if you're cool with that.”

“Whatever, man. They sort of freak me out sometimes, too. But they don't bother you, if you don't bother them.”

“Like sharks.”

“Book sharks.”

JJ shivered and slid out from the chair. Elegant. Sometimes, Avery had wished she was that elegant, before she had embraced the kind of woman she was. Elegance wasn't the only road to womanhood. If she had been femme, maybe, this transformation would've killed her.

Instead? Well, she didn't want to kill herself, that was for sure.


Blood flowed and.

Flesh tore so easily with the.

Bones breaking and cracking and.

Marrow.

That you sucked straight from the bone, yielding wantonly toward you better than any lover could. It was all a dance. Romance was the same as the hunt was the same as feeding was the same as fornication.

But there was nothing that tasted greater than marrow soaked in fear. What is womanhood and what is manhood to a predator? What is beauty to something that is beyond all of that, a hunter made perfect and efficient and hungry oh-so hungry?

It was simple where there was just the flesh and fur and skin between your teeth, when she let you

(us)

satiate the things inside of us that clawed within and without. And there was no one that would tell you that you didn't look right, that you weren't the way you felt, when your jaw clamped shut on their throat and you drank their life's blood long and deep and full in your stomach as their heart beat their last against your chest.

There was nothing that could hurt you when you were hungry. You were already hurting from the inside out. But it was a clean, cold pain. And nothing else would get in the way of it.

The woman

(lakshmi and i love her like no one else in the fucking world jesus christ why did i have to be that outdoorsy bitch and go along in the bullshit woods why did i do this to her and us and god i dont deserve her i never deserved her did i)

was beautiful.

And even you loved her. And love does not have a place within hunger. Within the selfish hunger, the self-loathing, of one who chooses to devour the flesh of his kin, of man.

But she never partook. She never forgot the love. It would be easier if she

(we)

didn't feel so strongly.

It is hard to starve, starve in all of the ways that matter and scar and burn and twitch, when the fire lights itself deep within her, enough to warm us both and make us remember the times that we, yes we, when we were warm and comforted, when the monsters that we are and were and feel like so often in the world that we were born in always in the wrong body and the wrong circumstances, but the woman, the woman made things seem so warm and so long, and you.

You fear it.

You fear her like the man fears the hunger. Like the man fears the cold, unyielding wind and the death of his crops. The blight that spreads and rots, deep in the earth and the loam and the heart of the land. It yields nothing, and the rain does not come. It is a dry rot that breaks out, and the flies buzz and feast. But man finds no succor, and that is before the snows even come. That is before bone breaks stone and flesh.

You fear the love, because it is in your nature. And it always will be, That is what it feels to you. A pain. A deep, spreading rot, not sweet, but hot and fast. That is her love. Like the very essence of you is undone, and for a moment, you feel as though there is something, maybe, that can fill you up, and that there is no more need to hunt, to find, to search, for that which can fill your belly. That maybe everything in you is full already.

And you will always hate her for it. Not the woman, but the one who you share a being with. For allowing that love to satiate. For allowing the both of you to remember being fed when the nights are cold and sparse.


“So, like, I totally met the god of dogs once.”

“What?” and it was hard to whisper with the body she was given, but staying in the Library so long, a girl made do and learned.

“Totally drunk. Really cool guy. I just kind of walked through some weird Ways. Kind of feeling that way every so often. Don't think he'd remember me if I ever came through again. Really funny jokes, though.”

Avery smiled, and she was certain that if she could make out the face of the man who allowed JJ to check his book out that he would not be smiling. Or she. Probably they was the way to go. It was hard to tell the genders of the tellers. Or of any of them really. They gave her the willies, honestly. But again, like sharks.

And not the Jaws kind.

“Thanks.” JJ mumbled. He didn't look at them. No longer gregarious in the face of the employees. Willies. Strong willies.

The due dates always seemed to be different. But, in her experience, it was easy to tell when the things were due. The feeling was unmistakable. She, personally, couldn't imagine ever letting one go overdue.

As JJ turned, presumably to thank her, he pushed into her. Above his head, a sphere of blue and pink shot through the air, burning a hole in a shelf of books behind them. A perfect hole. And the cotton-candy shaped electricity popped and sizzled out in another cartoon-perfect hole. As it flew through the air, JJ rolled onto the ground, narrowly missing the crackling that cut a wedge through the floor. He tossed the book to Avery, and she caught it without thinking.

Being attacked in the Library was unheard of, and the Docents were currently swarming. Large things, hooded and big. Weren't they supposed to feel this kind of thing? Weren't they ESP monsters or something?

She didn't have time to think, because the electricity hovered before her. It darted toward her, but a bone, a scapula to be exact, erupted from the ground. She winced. Avery knew she'd be fucked for that. Three more rose up from the ground to enclose it, and the thing buzzed inside like a pissed-off wasp beneath a red solo cup.

What happened next wasn't something she understood until it was too late. JJ had taken her hand with a strength that no longer surprised her. The both of them ran between the stacks. Behind them, the crackling electricity exploded out from the bones. She could have done more. She would have done more, but the small man stopped in front of a door, tapped on it three times, opened it, and then flung them both inside.

For a few moments, there was darkness, and then she fell onto the ground. Onto grass. Dewy. It smelled like somewhere far from anything. A veritable jungle of a forest. A startled deer ran away from them, and she had to stop herself to keep from chasing it.

“What the fuck did you do that for?” she said. “My girlfriend's gonna be worried sick.”

“You got that book?” JJ said in response.

“Yeah,” Avery said. “I got your book. Why'd you fucking take me?”

“I don't know. Felt right. I do things like this.”

That was all he said. A shrug. And that was it. Avery stood in stunned silence.

“Do you think we can call her?”

“Yeah, I know a guy. I mean, I'm glad you're here. You know the outdoors, right? I'd be dead if it weren't for you. I mean, probably not. Bitches make do. But you're gonna be a big help.”

“For what?”

“Shit. Surviving. Someone wants the book. I knew I felt like I had to have it for a reason. You're gonna help me get this to Armand. And we're gonna find out why someone would want this bad enough to start a fucking gunfight in the most neutral-ass terrifying territory to start some shit in.”

“There's no way I can say no, is there? To being your weird forced bodyguard in this bullshit?”

“No. A one-way Way. You're stuck with me, sister. So, like, what do we do first? Make a tent out of, like, a boar or something? Maybe a deer tent.”

“No. What? No.”

Avery sighed. But it did feel good to be back. In the wilderness. The bone trees never felt as good as the real thing. And the thing inside her? Well, for a moment, it almost preened.

“Lakshmi'll be worried, dude.”

It was a dense forest. Denser than the one she had gotten herself a little lost in. But with her senses, she doubted it would be hard for them to get out. To find the way back, the Way back, or whatever.

“We'll call her as soon as we get to Armand's. I know some people, real good at long-distance relationships. Besides, by then, I'm sure we can find you a Way back, right?”

There was a long pause before JJ said, “So do we have to hike, or can I ride you?”

For a long time, Avery was silent, and then she sighed and said, “That's kind of rude to ask. I'm not an animal.” But then, “Yeah, shit. This'll take forever if I have to wait for you.”

“Hell yeah,” said JJ.

The sun was setting, and in the raising darkness, the butch ran fast through the trees, supplemented by the directions of an extremely lucky twink. He held the book close to his chest. As though he were worried, suddenly, that it may drop.

Her eyes flashed light. The deer and the possums and the raccoons practically jumped out of her way. She hoped this would be something interesting to tell Lakshmi, at least. And she hoped she wouldn't be too pissed about all this.


You miss her when she's gone. You always need to be around people. And that was why it was so funny when you would go out into the woods. The mad bitch, going off alone to traipse in the mud and gunk and between trees off in the mountains. It wasn't fun to be alone like that. It was a kind of punishment. Sure, outdoors felt pure. The air was better. But it was better when you could enjoy it with someone else.

You punish yourself whenever you're happy. It's a thing you've always done. Maybe the Catholic in you, forever embedded deep in your psyche where it's hard to get out. A malignant brain tumor, the kind they can't get to, the kind wrapped around the lizard brain, the stuff that makes you shit and fuck and eat. A need to self-flagellate, to self-loathe.

Lakshmi didn't exactly make that all go away. She wasn't perfect. She didn't take the entire disorder that was you yourself and make you something whole and understandable and dare you say normal. Never a miracle worker. But there was something she did.

When you were with someone who understood you, you didn't feel so fucked up. You didn't feel like a broken automaton with a shitty wiring or, later, like a giant monstrosity dreamed up by some pervert who lives alone in the woods. Because to her, you were always Avery. You were a woman. Whole and complete and funny and interesting.

She took you for who you were. And she always did. And maybe that was why she kept you from falling completely to the hunger. The first one to believe who you were. The first one to accept your intrinsic humanity, to love you as a woman loves another woman and not like how some chaser would do it or something. And of course, you ran away from that.

And you got into this whole mess.

The Catholicism in you, oh so rarely, makes you feel like you deserve it. Just a little bit.


“How did you even know about that book?”

“I got a notion.”

“That's a super infuriating thing to say, considering I almost died over it. And I'm running in the woods with the love of my life worried like shit. Probably. I mean, we were kind of in a fight, but Lakshmi was totally gonna let me apologize..”

“Yeah, I know how those go.” And JJ sighed, face against the back of her neck. They weren't going as fast as they could have. But it seemed right to at least, well, talk a little bit about all of this. “I broke up with my boyfriend a bit ago. That's got. Nothing to do with anything. But what you said. He said that stuff a lot. About it being infuriated. About collateral damage.”

Avery didn't know why he was talking about this, but she didn't interrupt. There was still no smell of humans or human activity. It was amazing to her, really, the sheer breadth of wilderness still accessible in America. She wasn't, like, patriotic or anything, certainly, but there was just something intensely beautiful about the very land. The unspoiled nature of parts.

“You think you're hell to live with. You might shed, but I'm a bitch. The notions. They don't really ever stop. They keep coming. I do weird shit, and at first, it's cute. People don't mind.” JJ faltered, stared off into the distance.

Avery said nothing.

“He was only, like, I wanna say forty? Younger than my usual bag. But, he was so put together. A professor. And, shit, I must've been some manic pixie dream boy for him.” A pause. JJ cleared his throat. “Usually, I break up with them. He was the one who stopped it. Couldn't stand me anymore. Didn't say it, but I could see it.”

“Jeez,” she said. Not sure what to say. There didn't seem to be anything that she should say. Nothing that she could think of in the moment.

“That's why it's good to hear from you. About you. Even though romance is dead for me, forever and ever this final time, it's good to see it's alive.”

“What the fuck are you talking about, dude?”

He didn't say anything for the longest time, and then he said, “I don't know. I'm sorry for being so glib. I can walk alongside, if you want.”

She shook her head. “It's fine.”

The silence was only broken by the crickets brave enough to still call in the face of the beast in their midst.

“Any idea who tried to kill us?” Avery finally asked.

“Nah,” he said. “Haven't had anyone try to kill me in, shit. A long time.”

“This has happened before?”

“It was more like anime. This is more sci-fi fantasy, if you ask me,” he said, holding out the book and shaking it to hammer in his point.

“Oh,” she said. And then, “You got any plans for keeping me downlow if we get near people?”

“No,” he said. And they didn't speak for a while. The silence was gentle. There was no urgency, nothing left to be said.

The stars twinkled above them. Avery thought of Lakshmi, and JJ thought only of how he was going to sleep outside.

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