The Heaven of Cannibals – New Short Story by Benjamin Hewitt

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Benjamin Hewitt

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You can only take 7 items. 17 to choose from. 3 elasticated luggage straps. First Aid Box. Guide to South American plant species. Work in your groups. You have 10 minutes. Nametags with the store brand at the top, pinned to everyone’s chest. Black sharpie names. Group interview. Trial shifts on Saturday for the lucky 5. Race to the finish.

You cannot remain where you are.

The aeroplane wreckage could catch fire.

It is 3 days to the edge of the Brazilian rainforest. A 1 litre bottle of the local alcoholic spirit. ‘Tina’: We could get drunk to calm us down. Assistant manager makes a note. ‘Fay’: Bribe the locals not to kill us. Chumi laughs.

Chumi is a bitch. Chumi has an anger problem. Chumi is bossy. 29. Acne and thin ankles like they’re going to break. Bangladeshi. Feeling too quiet compared to the other candidates. Fake laughs and looks at the task sheet. A pack of 25 anti-malaria tablets. Stomach pains. Hunger. Feels good. 2 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. Tired.

1 Apple iPhone phone with GPS. 2 boxes of chocolate chip cookies. A huge call-centre. Work your way up, Chumi. Manager in 10 years. Tread on their backs. Like stairs. Becky, Fay, etc.

The Assistant Manager looks at Chumi. Her cheekbones, hollow. Thin brown wrists like a copper pipe.

Peeling blue floral wallpaper in the interview room. Humid. Sweat and skin and steam from cheap complimentary coffee. 2 boxes of Chocolate chip cookies.

1 Flare gun with 1 flare. ‘Fay’: We should keep it as a weapon. ‘Yoanna’: Surely we need to just fire it. There could be a plane nearby. Chumi coughs. 1 swiss army knife. Send a message. Kill or be killed. ‘Fay’: We have the mobile phone for that. Yoanna leans forward, raises her voice: It probably doesn’t have any signal. ‘Fay’: Erm, GPS? ‘Yoanna’: Fay, is it? Listen-,

Nobody else talks for two minutes. Fighting talk only. The Assistant Manager makes lots of notes. Guardian article at breakfast. Chumi’s kitchen. 40 Bangladeshi women garment workers. Locked in a room. Toast, jam. Unventilated.  No toilets. No Water. No Food. Sweatpatches under Chumi’s pits. She needs a piss. Three hours punishment for being unproductive. ITGLWF enquiries being made.

A collection of paperback novels. A Tourist map of Brazil. A 3 metre square piece of opaque plastic sheeting. No water. No food. Chocolate chip cookies.

Time’s up. You’ll hear from us in the morning, we have your numbers.

Hate and smiles and fake goodbyes. Leave the building before the others. Turn left. Walk quickly. Heart beating. Confrontation. Competition.

Social anxiety overload. Face twitching like a hamster scratching itself.

The voice whispers in Chumi’s ear. Louder today, and suddenly all she can hear. She’s achieving something. Her bones ache. Her periods stopped this month. But.

The anxiety deafening, the compulsion too strong. Head to the corner shop. Pack of 10 superkings. Two big bars of dairy milk. 2 Peperamis. A packet of cheese and onion Walkers.

Get on the bus. Bottom deck. Back seats. Walk to the Central library. Unsteady feet. Big grey building. Concrete. Nineteen sixties Brutalist architecture. Take the escalator. Third floor. Find an empty booth. Nice. Secluded. Lay the food out.

Slap yourself. Panic. Put the food back in the black plastic bag. Head out to the bookshelves. Throw it all in the bin. Panic. Look around. Empty. Dig a Peperami back out. Shove it into your mouth. Panic.

Through the doors. Out to the library balcony. Lean over the edge. Vomit. Some hits the building’s sign. Some hits the ground. A dead wasp on the floor by her foot. Stomach pains. Take out a half-eaten apple. Put it back in the cling film. Back in the rucksack. Feeling dizzy. Feeling sick. Light a cigarette.

Security inside the building behind. Pointing toward her.

Look at the city. Try to calm down. Shiver. Smoke. Bones. Skin. Nihilist. The office block she’d just come from. Guy in a sleeping bag on a bench. Can of cider. Muddy face. Office blocks being built. Drilling. The Guardian offices. Rana Plaza. Bangladesh. 1100 dead. 76% women. Chumi’s distant Cousin Panchali. Sudden sadness. Nice girl. Childhood friends. Broken factory. Major cracks in the walls. Had to go in or lose their job.

Billboard for H & M. Woman in a black dress. Woman in a black balaclava. Molotovs. Tear gas. Dreamy.  Security staff eating lunch behind her.

Hates everyone. Doesn’t want the job. ‘Dad’: It will help you. Get out and about.

‘Chumi’ is just a creature that starves. Shits. Pukes. Shivers. That is all. She runs for miles a day on a few bites of apple. Compulsive sit-ups. Push-ups. 10 secret cigarettes. Dizzy. Feint.

Pick 7 items. 3 blankets from the plane. A box of matches from the hotel. Keep warm when you’re lost.

Someday she will disappear. Somewhere inside a mental unit. Gone. First her bones. Muscle. Blood. Skin. Gone. Something achieved. Something lost. 1 dead.

Dizzy. Feint. Rubs head. Door opens. Drops cigarette. Light head. Blacks out. Floats down. Balcony floor. Bangs elbow. Rips shirt. Hard concrete.

Blue sky. Fat clouds. Nineteen sixties Brutalist architecture. Cracks in the walls. Billions dying. Millions dead.

black tree

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