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Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books

The New Hunger

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The New Hunger

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Author: Isaac Marion
Publisher: Vintage, 2013
Series: Warm Bodies

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Book Type: Novella
Genre: Horror
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Julie Grigio drives with her parents through the crumbling wastelands of America - a nightmarish family road trip in search of a new home.

A few hundred miles away, Nora Greene finds herself the reluctant, terrified guardian of her younger brother when her parents abandon them in the not-quite-empty ruins of Seattle.

In the darkness of a forest, a dead man in a red tie opens his eyes. With no memory of who or what he is, he must unravel the grim mystery of his existence - right after he learns how to think, how to walk, and how to satisfy the monster howling in his belly...

Two warped families and a lonely monster. Unknown to any of them, their paths are set to cross in a startling encounter that will change the course of their lives - or deaths - forever.


The tall man has been cheated. Some of the information he bartered for is false. He knows that he is in a North American forest and that there should be things like wolves and bears and deer in it but instead there are strange things that shouldn't be here or anywhere. Floating eyes and trees that breathe and snakes with silky blue fur. He does not know where to send his complaints. He does not know how he'll ever get a grasp on this world if it keeps changing.

He has been walking in the dark for six hours. His mind is losing what little rigidity it had, melting into mercury and oozing through the cracks. The brute in his belly is in a panic, screaming at him over and over, and he is growing weary of its mindless ranting.


Shut up! he finally snaps. I can't do it until you tell me what it is! So shut up!

To his surprise, the brute shuts up. The man walks onward, his mind ringing in the sudden silence. And then, in a sour grumble, as if pried out of a pouting child, a specific imperative finally emerges:


The man stops walking and slaps a palm over his face. That was it? Eat? He remembers eating. He even remembers some foods. Steak. Sushi. Sashimi... Eating is easy.

Why did you dance around it so long?

The brute is silent.

Still in disbelief, the man begins foraging. He finds a huckleberry bush and pops a handful of the plump red globes in his mouth. He bites down, expecting juicy sweetness--and feels the sensation of biting into a dead moth. The juice tastes like attic dust. The texture is dry and flaky, despite how the berries feel in his hands. He spits them out and stares with horror at the pulpy mess on his shirt.

The brute smirks.

He searches until he finds some wild mushrooms and shoves one in his mouth. Although he can feel its fleshy softness in his fingers, his mouth tells him he's crunching into a ball of dead wasps. He spits it out with a moan.

The brute laughs.

The cloud of hands mobilizes again, darting deeper into the forest, and a rich new scent pulses back to him through the cloud. Blood. Flesh. He follows it into a small clearing and discovers the source: a young deer hobbling through the underbrush, blood pouring from its claw-raked haunches.

This? he asks the brute, and the response is a mumbled, slightly sarcastic maybe.

The deer's dark, round eyes regard him with desperation. Part of him recoils from the impulses surging into his hands and teeth, but that part is no longer in charge. He seizes the deer and bites into its neck.

Blood pours down his throat. He rips out big chunks of meat and his mouth plays no tricks on him. The meat tastes like meat. The blood tastes like blood, salty and metallic. But when it hits his stomach, there is no spreading warmth of satiety. He drops the deer and stands up, waiting for it, but when his stomach finally responds, it's not the answer he expected. A dark rush of wrenching, twisting hunger knifes into him, as if he's suddenly minutes from starvation.

Eyes bulging, he leans over and vomits.

Wrong! the brute giggles into his ears. Wrong wrong wrong.

He vomits until it feels like his stomach will twist inside out, then stands over the deer gasping and shuddering. What do you want? Tell me!

Eat, the brute purrs, retreating back into the shadows, as if the answers to all questions are contained in this single word.

The cloud of hands drifts toward an opening in the trees, beckoning him with long, curling fingers, and he follows. He squints as he emerges from the graveyard musk of the forest into crisp air and blinding light. He is on a hill overlooking a valley, and there is something amazing in this valley. Towering rectangles of concrete and glass. A tangled web of streets winding through houses and businesses and banks and bars.


All these words return to him at once, conjuring a wild spray of images. People swarming in shopping malls, flashing plastic cards, putting paint on their faces and metal things on their fingers. People sleeping in alleys, sticking bottles in their mouths and metal things in their arms. People naked in beds, kissing. People naked in showers, crying. A man pouring gasoline on a leather couch. A man in a tie screaming into a radio. A blonde woman touching the man's face, then dying beside a river.

THERE, the brute shouts, interrupting his daydream, and the images fade. GO. TAKE. EAT.

The cloud of hands surges down into the city like a squid on the hunt. With his head bowed, the man goes where he's led.

Copyright © 2013 by Isaac Marion


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