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The Hunger of the Dead
“So what do you have for me today?” asked the casually dressed chief medical officer as he walked through the police station on Bernard 3.
“It’s a citizen from one of the geo-spheres, GS34,” answered the lieutenant. “She refuses to eat, insisting she’s dead - which is why we wanted you to see her.” He stopped before a glass wall and nodded towards a woman sitting in a chair inside a small room.
“GS34? –is that where all those homeless people have been dying suddenly? Have the police figured out what’s killing them yet?”
“Not yet. In fact a cop on the beat was investigating the murders, going door to door, and he noted that she hadn’t used her food replicator in two weeks. So he brought her in.”
The medic looked over the woman sitting in the other room. “That certainly explains her emaciated appearance. Maybe it’s Cotard’s Delusion, but someone actually believing they are dead is so rare.”
“She keeps insisting that she’s not alive... Her file gives her name as Debra Hubble.”
The two men entered the interrogation room, the doctor taking a seat across from the subject and the cop standing beside the door.
“Hello. My name is Doctor Ishim. How are you feeling today?”
The woman on the other side of the metal table barely moved. “I feel today the same as all other days – I feel nothing because I am dead.”
“But I can hear you speaking, Miss Hubble. How can you explain that?” The doctor leaned in a little.
“Perhaps you are dead as well.” The woman looked at the men with dark, empty eyes.
The tall, lanky doctor walked over to a wall and said, “Sweet rolls, four, assortment.” Instantly a tray of baked goods appeared inside a recess in the wall. The doctor placed the tray on the table in front of the woman. “May I offer you a sweet roll, Miss Hubble?” He picked one up and took a bite. “They certainly are delicious.”
The woman glanced down at them before returning to her corpse-like stance.
“You’ll excuse me for a moment?” asked the medic, quickly exiting the room, with the cop following.
“Let’s take a look at what’s going on inside her mind,” said the doctor, standing before a round table in the other room. “Computer: 3D scan of Miss Hubble’s brain please.” A 3D image appeared above the table, in various, bright tones. “That’s amazing! The rest of her brain is operating fine, but the part that controls her entry level consciousness is essentially flat-lined. For all intents and purposes, that woman should be completely comatose – unable to speak or move.”
Suddenly the cerebral cortex flashed bright green, as though a switch had been thrown. The doctor and the cop looked into the room and the woman’s face seemed to be in pain. Her mouth was trying desperately to say something. The muscles in her neck strained forward as though screaming although no sound was coming out.
“Computer! What is she mouthing?” demanded the policeman.
“She is saying ‘help me’,” the machine informed them.
The two rushed into the interrogation room and the woman returned to her death-like state.
“Miss Hubble, Debra…” began the physician.
“Not Debra. I am Denise. Debra is the other,” said the woman.
“The other?” asked the doctor.
“She is the meurtriere. She believed she was doing all those people a service by killing them, but soon she will be dead, as dead as I am.”
The policeman by the door signaled for a uniformed officer to enter the room, and Desman moved closer to the table, to protect the doctor.
“She believed she was helping them?” the doctor echoed.
“Yes. They were always begging for food, so Debra gave them biscuits laced with poison. That way they died quickly, instead of slowly starving to death.”
The woman quit talking suddenly, as if her mouth had been clamped shut. She seemed ready to faint.
“She’s losing strength. Computer, explain any abnormality that would interfere with this woman being fed intravenously.”
“Intravenous feeding is recommended, but she does have an unusual abnormality: Fetus Fetu.”
“Fetus Fetu? Definition of term please.”
“Fetus Fetu occurs when twins are in vetro and one twin envelops the other, absorbing the second twin’s body.”
“So it’s possible that although Denise was never born, her skeleton calcified and some of her brain cells crossed over into her sister’s brain – living there all these years.” The doctor lifted the chin of the woman so he could see her, eye to eye.
“Was that what happened, Denise? Are you the twin that died?”
The woman took a gasp of air. “Yes doctor. I had to watch in silence all those years as my twin killed those people. I finally had no choice, I had to take over the mind and kill her. I decided to starve her to death,” the woman said without flinching. “I have never been hungry – so I simply didn’t let her eat.”
“Flawless logic,” said the doctor. “However, if we prosecute your sister, she’ll never hurt anyone again.”
The dead sister sat thinking for a moment. “Will it be necessary for me to testify?” she asked.
“Not really. We have today’s recording and we’ll search the video files on the geo-sphere for footage of her supplying food to the homeless, and we’ll check those bodies for poison.” The doctor leaned back in his chair and motioned to the food on the table. “But you’ll need to let her eat, so she can stand trial.”
“Goodbye, doctor,” said a very weak voice.
“Goodbye Denise – and thank you,” replied Dr. Ishim.
Suddenly the woman’s continence changed drastically. Anger and disgust appeared on her face, followed immediately by overwhelming hunger. The policeman rushed forward to protect the doctor, but the woman was too busy devouring the pastries to attack anyone.
mark211 - Well, it's a point of view, I guess ...(horrified to think that I 'preach' - definitely not the tone I intended [!])
Thanks for your comments, Mark211, but you've stop preaching and started talking philosophy when it comes to Denise's motives. Are people born good and then turned bad by circumstances? Can one twin be born all bad and the other all good? Was the mass murdering sister bad because she killed the homeless - or was she just trying to ease their pain - unlike Sister Theresa who supposedly liked to watch people suffer! Yes! Why does anyone do anything. Well, there it is. Michele
mark211 - This is so phenomenally creepy, by which in this case, I also mean absolutely brilliant! I'd never come across Cotard's Delusion before but it just goes to show how a brief encounter with an event or some other feature of the real world can be realised in fiction to quite startling effect. My only (very minor) query is with Denise's motivation - if you ever feel like expanding this short into a slightly longer one, I'd be curious to know where, as a never-having-lived presence, Denise nonetheless acquires a high moral sense. Anyway, a very sharp and interesting short.
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