Weekend Writing Prompt #139 – Devour

Piotr didn’t notice the hunger at first.

Since he’d become wealthy his opinion was required on any number of subjects such as who should pay for the upkeep of the jail. He’d assumed the authorities would, but the council and guilds decided the populace should meet the bill, as it was they who languished within the prison walls most frequently. The wages of the constables, the maintenance of the stocks and the gibbet were added to the charge through the same logic.

As Piotr listened to the learned men of the town debate, he wondered why the contents of a man’s purse should determine how closely he was listened to. He didn’t recall being asked his opinion before he was wealthy, back when he was the one sitting in the stocks, the one pelted with wormy cabbage hearts and green potatoes.

He almost suggested the populace pay for a cushion for the stocks – he remembered the seat being very hard – but it probably wasn’t the sort of thing a powerful man should concern himself with.

The banquet after the meeting was the first time he noticed.

He’d grown used to the rich food, the range of wines and ports and Madeiras. He was admired by his fellow worthies for his slim frame, the bones still visible at his wrists and collarbone, where their’s were masked in fat. He smiled, flushed, assured them he would soon put on weight.

But as he picked at the feast, he realised something – since having money he had never felt full. When he was poor and ate a large meal (a rare occurrence) his stomach would swell and harden as if he were a sheep suffering from Bloat. Now he could eat and eat – gorge, even – and was never full.

Always the rat of hunger gnawed at his belly, scratched at the back of his mind.

He tried every food on offer – thick cut meats heavy with Burgundy sauce, glazed fig puddings pocked with chestnuts… Even the pea pottage that had once been his only sustenance left him hollowed and bony.

Hunger filled Piotr’s every waking hour, his every thought, his every dream. He took to chewing pine twigs between meals to busy his jaw, to stop him gnawing at his own fingers. His nights became restless, his days sluggish. He took to walking the country after dark, snaring and eating wild animals, searching for something that would fill him.

One evening he walked abroad. A Hunter’s Moon swelled behind thin cloud, the land clean and grey beneath it.

He paused to drink at a brook and that was when he saw it – a hump he’d at first mistaken for a rise in the earth but as he drew closer resolved into a man. The body lay on its front, hands beneath it, head slumped forward into the water. Ripples formed and broke about the right cheek and jawline, water tumbling into the ear, rushing back down on itself.

Piotr’s first instinct was to haul the stricken man to dry land, to have him washed and laid out for burial.

He bent to grip the man’s wrist. The flesh was surprisingly soft and cool, the muscle tender, relaxed in death as it might never have been in life. A calm knowledge washed over Piotr…

The next night he slept well and the night after that. His restlessness would gradually increase but a night roaming the country setting his traps, devouring his prey, would sate him.

Piotr no longer remembers the discomfort of the stocks or the taste of pea pottage.

***

Written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #139 – Devour. Come and join in here.

Don’t ask me where the idea for this came from, only that the word Devour suggests not merely hunger but desperate hunger and from there I imagined a man who might never be satisfied.

What do you think Piotr has become? Merely a capitalist exploiting the poor? A psychopath or something much darker?

26 thoughts on “Weekend Writing Prompt #139 – Devour

  1. That was something else, Lynn… Wonderfully written (a “tad” over 108 words 😉 )
    I know that I don’t like what Piotr has become…

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    1. Ha! Yes, I did think on it but the intro – (Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like. Or take the challenge below) seemed open to interpretation – especially that ‘or’. 🙂 I am duly chastened. Glad you liked it though, Dale, and thank you for reading

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      1. Haha! Nah, I sure as heck am not chastising you! Not my job. It was more of a wink. I did so, very much. Am rather disappointed in Piotr… Was kinda hoping he’d become one for the peeps… Sigh. That is not what Lynn does 😉

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      2. Well, they say absolute power corrupts absolutely and Piotr is certainly corrupted. Perhaps it would happen to best of us were we given the opportunity. Yes, I really should be kinder to my poor protagonists 🙂 Thanks so much Dale

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      3. Most definitely and I think it must be very difficult to resist.
        Nah… once and again you give us sweet, just to keep us on our toes… don’t change now!

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      4. Thank you, Dale. I know we’re constantly disappointed by people in public office, but I can see how once your there, the waters can turn muddy, with principles often having to be out aside for pragmatism. Not a position is like to be in. Bless you

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  2. I’m echoing Dale, naughty to exceed the word count. Yet so worth it to write this piece. It couldn’t have been done in fewer. A real good take, and I’m sure Sammi won’t mind 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    1. Well, I wondered about the word count and then read this in her intro – ‘Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like. Or take the challenge below’ – so I kind of thought as there was an ‘or’ and no word limit mentioned in the first section… Anyway, glad you liked it and you’re right, I couldn’t have written it in fewer words. Thanks Crispina

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  3. I find Piotr somewhat creepie, and certainly not someone I’d care to sit next to at a banquet. A piece that’s really got me wondering. Wherever it came from, I hope there are more waiting to emerge! Excellent Lynn.

    * with you on the word count option!

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  4. Wow, Lynn, this is so … wonderfully disturbing. Being someone who tends to like ‘dark’ pieces, and who sometimes thinks he goes too dark, I must say this is DARK, and awesomely bizarre. The word that comes to mind is Kafkaesque (I haven’t read The Metamorphosis since my high school days, but this is reminiscent of that one). I normally prefer less graphic detail than more, but I almost think this one could benefit by lingering a bit more on the gruesome fate of the beached body. I love the image of the water washing into the ear, it’s very unpleasant, and appropriately so, all things considered. I do like the capitalist symbolism, too. I see Piotr not as a psychopath but almost as a victim of corruptive forces more powerful than him. Lots to consider here, including maybe whether this is something worth developing into something bigger?

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    1. Wow back to you, Walt! What a fabulous comment. Yes, you’re totally right, this could absolutely do with being longer- the section towards the end that you picked up on especially. Truth is the prompt for away from me and I was worried I’d written too much for a blog post. Dark, bizarre and Kafkaesque are such brilliant comments in themselves, I couldn’t be more chuffed. I’m looking for publications that print dark stories, so I’ll earmark this idea and develop it more fully – I liked the tone at the start and felt I lost it a bit towards the end. Any way, I think you’re right – Piotr is a man who’s been corrupted by the influences surrounding him. Feels particularly telling in our current age, too, the idea of the wealthy feeding off the poor. Thank you so much for the positive feedback – I truly appreciate it . And so very nice to hear from you. I hope you had a good festive season and your writing’s going well. All the best

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  5. Hmm, is this flash fiction or, um, *flesh* fiction?! I almost don’t want to know the answer. 😄 But wonderful descriptions of food not quite hitting the spot for Piotr.

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