Interlude - Hunger
by D.C. Logan
A young boy crouched in a doorway. He was average for his age, which he figured was about six, though he didn't know when exactly he was born. He was dressed in traded clothes that were coated in the dirt and the filth that come from living in them without cease. His feet hurt—shoes of any description were hard to come by in the refuse bins he frequented, and the ones he wore were a size too small. His hair was a snarled rat's nest of brown and copper that was flipped over his shoulder as an afterthought. And his face was drawn and his eyes sunken in the face of hunger.
His stomach rumbled loudly, and he wrapped his arms around his gut to quiet the sound. He couldn't remember which day he'd eaten last—but he remembered what. It was surprising the things people would discard as trash. He'd been caught pawing through the garbage containers along restaurant row and chased away from his favorite scavenging site. Now he was having difficulty finding new hunting grounds. Every place he tried had its own group of local kids and there was no room for another dirty brat with long snarled hair and a bad attitude.
The street vendors where smart to him now, and chased him away from their carts before he could get close enough to snatch and grab. And still he kept in mind the other kids back at the house, as hungry as he was, waiting to see what he could bring back for them.
His appetite was a live thing, reaching up through the muscle layers in his stomach and wrapping around his chest and spine—reminding him of just how long it had been since he'd sent food down that way. He knew from experience that the hunger pangs would go away after three or four days, and that he could go for as long as a few weeks if it came to it, and if he didn't have to fight off anyone or run too hard or fast.
Handouts had been pretty slim recently as well, and the last food he'd groveled and begged for had gone to the other orphans at the house. They were younger than him, and needed the food more than he did.
He stared through the large window of a nearby cafe with longing. The desserts were displayed on a revolving pedestal for the benefit of the patrons. Acheingly out of his reach. He'd had a taste of the multilayered confection at the top of the case once. It had been dumped into a bin with a scattering of coffee grounds for company—but it had been the best thing he'd ever tasted. The one time he'd been lucky enough to find a dropped credit token in the street, he'd run into the cafe to purchase a treat for himself, and had been soundly hounded out of the shop for his trouble. His pleas of "but I can pay for it, really" had fallen on deaf ears and inconsiderate minds, and he'd never dared to return.
Huddled in the alcove, filthy and stained from his life, he was invisible to the populace that flowed around him. He watched them move, clean and well fed. Oblivious to their wealth. Moving with steady purpose from their point of origin to the destinations fixed in their minds. Resentment for their fortune at the expense of his own burned in hunger-dulled eyes.
He stood and moved into the crowd on the sidewalk, not caring that he impeded their route. He felt a grim satisfaction in watching them recoil from his presence—as if he were disfigured, diseased, or worse.
And as he parted the wave of their continued onslaught, he wondered aloud where he should continue in his search for his next meal