THE HEAVEN OF CANNIBALS
A new video game had just come out and stormed the charts, tearing it a brand spanking new number one – The Heaven of Cannibals. A pretty niche name considering. Miles had been recommended it by a number of his buddies including Adam, Tony and Stuart.
‘God, this game is to die for,’ Tony gushed.
Stuart added, ‘It’ll change your life. Trust me.’
That same evening, Miles left the interactive game shop with his purchase tucked safely under his arm. As soon as he got home, he quickly rustled up something in the kitchen and poured himself a cold sweating glass of coke. Once inside his bedroom he switched off his lights, turned his phone to silent and inserted the disc in his Xbox. He waited for the magic to begin.
CanAte is on your trail. He’s been lumbering around after you for some minutes now though he hasn’t found you. You can hear him breathing, that slow-grunting sound which secretly arouses you. CanAte is two hundred and thirty pounds with a thick tree-trunk neck and a dodgy buzz cut which isn’t even. He snarls and tears through the forest which fails to conceal his huge bulk. To you, the bracken is a godsend, acting like nature’s shield aiding your trek through the woods. You feel your heartbeat thrum in your temples and veins, and pray he doesn’t find you.
According to CanGod, the rules stipulate that there are two types of cannibal: CanGoods and CanEvils. The names speak for themselves. The objective is to win the CanGood’s trust and defeat the bastard CanEvils. Pretty simple.
With this rooted in mind you survey your surroundings and spot a gap through the dense bracken. This could be your chance. Your moment to escape. You have to act now.
With a final look around, you bolt towards the gap.
Back in his bedroom, Miles is too engrossed to think about sleep and ignores his body’s cue to rest. His eyes are hot like suns and his visions blurs beneath the strain. Still he continues to navigate his way through Cannibal Land using four buttons. His eyes flicker up to the top right of the screen and sees that he’s already on level thirteen. Miles pauses for a nanosecond and considers this. If he carries on at this rate, it’ll be game over in less than a week.
Shit, he thinks. Maybe I should call it a night.
But the allure is far too strong.
Miles plays until his eyeballs are molten orbs in a drained face; he has already discovered which cannibals are CanGoods and CanEvils. Luckily for him, the hot one is a CanGood. Now his character is talking to her, and though the sensation is odd, Miles actually thinks he’s speaking to her in reality. He can feel the soft lilt of her voice on his skin, and he’s becoming aware of something stirring down below.
Just another ten more minutes and then I’ll call it quits.
Miles plays on, becoming sucked into the storyline and the labyrinth of subplots which are branching out. He also gets to spend time with his cannibal lover, and fails to notice the clock reaching three a.m.
The sexy cannibal is called CanBite. You look at her in revered awe, secretly listing all the areas you would love her to bite. You remember Tony, or was it Adam, saying something about CanBabe. Perhaps they were referring to CanBite?
Her hair is a tossed dark caramel wave draped over her shoulders; her eyes are hazel stars, full of dim light. You are drawn to her mouth which isn’t pink or red but a deep purple – the colour of a bruise. It is full, each lip a plump cushion.
‘These are my siblings,’ she says and points to a man with tall spindly limbs and a long crescent-moon shaped face, and a girl of about fourteen or fifteen who is pretty but not sexy like CanBite. ‘My brother, CanTear. My sister, CanChew.’
On hearing her name, CanChew blushes and looks at the soiled ground which is littered with human debris including hair, nails and teeth. Bizarrely there are no bones.
‘What is your name?’ CanTear asks.
You notice his eyes are a little too close together which makes him comical and somewhat dim-witted; though you are wise to keep your thoughts to yourself.
‘I, CanTear, am CanAbel.’
‘Welcome, CanAbel. You have been indredibly fortunate to find us. We can offer you protection and shelter from those CanEvils. You will be safe with us.’
CanTear extends his leathery hand. Up close, it appears to be sweating. You hesitate. CanBite looks at you through hazel stars. CanChew bites her lower lip. You accept his hand.
When he woke up Miles had a maelstrom of a headache. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so shit. Surveying his room from the night before, he saw his half-empty glass of coke on the side, no longer sweating. The sight of it appalled him. He turned on to his side where he spied the bloodied cover of The Heaven of Cannibals. The words burned back in heart-red, a mess of intestines and organs adding decoration.
He rolled out of bed and picked up the case. It was warm as though a small child had clutched it for a long time. Odd, he thought and moved his hand to the bloody title. Miles found the blood was real. It slithered down his hand like a wet snake and stained his fingertips as if he’d been dabbling in paint.
A wave of fear and nausea washed over him, soaking him to the bone. Without yelling out, Miles searched his body checking for any open wounds. He felt no pain, no needle of fire. Surely if he had been hurt he would feel something?
The only thing swirling around his brain was whose blood is that? Otherwise his room remained untouched. Feeling a sudden chill, Miles quickly got dressed, took some paracetamol and left the house.
On his way to work, the headache hadn’t eased. In fact, to Miles it felt as though it had got twice as worse. He took another couple of pills on the train to try and alleviate the tension volcano between his ears, and wished it would disappear before he reached the office.
Adam and Stuart were already there when Miles stumbled through the front door.
‘You alright, mate?’ Stuart placed a hand on Miles’ shoulder. ‘Been a bit of a late night, has it?’
Adam was more forthcoming.
‘I know what you’ve been up to. You look fucked!’
‘What have you been up to?’ Stuart asked.
‘He’s been playing that cannibal game, getting all hard over that CanBabe. Am I right?’
Adam and Stuart continued to discuss the video game while Miles attempted to retain his grip on reality. Around him, chairs seemed to flow in and out of focus accompanied by a wave of spots. His buddies’ voices became static, white noise, meaningless and irritating, delving into his brain.
The next thing he knew he was on his knees and a man’s voice said, ‘Christ Miles, are you okay?’
The only thing Miles was thinking about wasn’t the excruciating pressure in his head but the blood he had found on his hands earlier. It had been wet and warm staining his fingertips and the sight of it had caused him to retch.
He still wasn’t any closer to finding out who it belonged to. His vision continued to swim from black to white, from white to black, his eyes feeling loose in his head. There was a scream or a cry in the background, something to upset the crowd anyway and then the world went black.
You’re not quite sure where you are but you feel lost, in limbo, trapped between two worlds. You recognise your bleak surroundings, a monochrome apocalypse where the extinction of mankind is looming on the horizon. Nothing grows here. There are no lights, no buildings projecting towards Heaven. Just a vast wasteland where people come to be eaten.
You are in the game.
You pinch yourself hard, a claret welt quickly blossoming on the surface. You are not your character – CanAbel, as you have been on previous occasions. You are yourself.
Above, the sky is the colour of cultured pearls. It is impossible to gage the time of day. In the distance, the horizon looks blurred and fuzzy, the usually straight line wavering with static interference. And then a loud bellow of thunder rolling, rolling, rolling. The heavens shake with forewarning.
You stand for a few moments wondering what is going to happen next when the drab background begins to flicker intermittently and you recognise Albert Street – the street where you work. Here, throngs of people hurry past one another, and you notice someone who doesn’t fit in: a shaven-headed, thick-necked, two hundred and thirty pound cannibal whose name is CanAte. He lunges into the crowd and bites a chunk out of a woman’s arm, then turns to bite a man’s face, finally finishing with a taste of breast. A cacophony of screams pierces the air as the first bolt of lightning strikes.
Adam, Tony and Stuart peered down at Miles who was flounced on his bed. Their faces were marble pillars, completely ashen despite the moderate heat. They all wore the same expression – fear.
Without asking the general consensus, Adam woke Miles.
‘Miles, thank fuck. You’ve gotta help us. That cannibal game you’re playing, it’s come true! They’re in our world, right fucking now. And they’re gonna eat us if you don’t do something fast!’
He blinked sleepily.
‘What did you say?’
Tony said, ‘Miles, there are fucking cannibals after us. You have to kill them. Do whatever you have to do. Just get them out of our world.’
Miles smiled dreamily.
‘Oh, how funny. I had a dream about that.’
Adam said, ‘You what?’
‘Yeah I had a dream.’ Miles looked down at his arm and saw the claret welt. His throat went dry. ‘Shit. It wasn’t a dream.’
Stuart looked thoughtful.
‘I think they might be projections, you know, of Miles’ subconscious. He’s been having terrible headaches and somehow through him they have managed to intercept reality. I think if Miles kills them in the game, he’ll kill them in reality.’
Now it was Miles’ turn to gape at Stuart.
‘You honestly think that’ll work? Fuck off.’
‘Hey,’ Tony said. ‘Anything’s worth a try.’
‘You better be fucking right,’ said Adam.
There is a pungent metallic stench in the air. The smell of fresh blood. You do everything to prevent yourself from gagging. Before you, stand three bloodied-mouthed cannibals – CanAte, CanChomp and CanRip. They grin through blood-soaked teeth. CanRip holds a limb, a smooth milk-white leg you have seen somewhere before. Attached to a small girl – CanChew.
They laugh, rusty chuckles serrating the air.
‘You fuckers. Where’s CanBite?’
‘You mean CanBabe. She’s safe.’
There is an arrogance in CanAte’s voice which makes you despise him even more. You feel the weight of your handguns tucked safely in your waistband. These fuckers don’t stand a chance. As soon as they start their shit, you’ll let it rip and send these bastards sky high.
‘Ain’t you gonna run?’ he asks. ‘Because we’re gonna tear you slowly, limb from limb.’
CanChomp breaks into a run, his bloodied mouth snarling, leaving a terrible blood-saliva trail down his chin, as the other two follow suit.
You automatically grab one of your guns and blast the bullets at their chests. The bullets impact with flesh, burrowing themselves deep within before exiting their backs. You fire again and again, watching as their bodies become bullet-ridden, juddering and jerking into a series of spasms as they collapse inches from your feet. This time their own blood exiting from their mouths. CanAte gurgles, spluttering pathetically on the ground as CanChomp convulses beside him. CanRip attempts to speak but his mouth is just one bloody mess.
In true western style, you blow the smoking tip of your gun and replace it in your waistband. You begin to dust your hands down when CanBite appears on the scene. She looks less sexy, her hair sweaty and matted with blood. You wonder what else is living in there. She stares coldly at the three useless bodies on the floor. Then she turns her cold glazed eyes at you. There is no recognition in her gaze. She opens her mouth to reveal a row of bloodied teeth and screams before running straight at you.
Without thinking, the other gun comes out and this time you aim high, shooting her in the forehead. She falls down like she weighs a ton, a river of blood leaving her body.
‘You better come out CanTear,’ you say, your heart tripping on adrenaline. Right on cue, he makes an appearance from seemingly out of nowhere, and pounces like an agile panther. Three bullets in the torso and two in the leg, and CanTear is just like his sister – a disgusting mess of flesh, blood and bone.
1 comments on “The Heaven of Cannibals – New Short Story by Lauren Bell”
This is really good. The writing is great, visceral and full of personality.