He quaked as the sun ascended, lighting his cave. Yes, he was a he, not an it, but based on the feel of his stomach today, he questioned that concept himself. His name was Ergamere and he had a knot the size of a captain’s fist in his stomach. He should know. He had swallowed many a captain.
Ergamere groaned and gurgled. He scratched the flecks of hair on his scratchy face. It was time to go out into the day after a fortnight of illness. It was time to fill his hunger. It was time…
He had indigestion at the thought of hot flesh. This manic fever and rash vomiting had left him with a distaste for what he loved, what he enjoyed… eating.
Or so he thought.
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As Ergamere bowed and climbed out of his den (or the place of his current woos), he thought in order to regain his appetite, he might need to move caves, but he dare not go to another beast’s dwelling and who knew the journey he would face to find another one with such prime real estate as his. He was after all on an island where many a shipwreck occurred off the coast. He would have to leave the island to find a vacant haunt. Bettelbee and Gargatha already occupied the other two hotbeds in the island of Farctate.
He sighed and lumbered down towards a freshwater pond about a tenth of a mile from his hideaway. He noticed a man swimming in it and felt inclined to vomit at the sight of the heavy set meat.
Ergamere looked away. He stared at a rabbit up the hill as it eagerly vanquished a patch of mustard greens. The rabbit stopped. Its eyes bulged and it had the compulsion to run away.
“No, no, no, if I was interested in eating bones, you would be but a bite.”
“Then what do you want?”
“I want to know what you eat?”
“Oh, then, I like to eat all kinds of things — mint, kale, the delicious watercress the ship-wreckers tend to squash with their feet. Vile men, I must say.”
“I wasn’t asking for your opinion on my dinner.”
“Well, you do the rest of the island a service. Imagine if they were allowed to live here. The ecosystem would go right down the tubes.”
He gave the rabbit another venomous look and it scurried away, bits of mustard leave flying in the air around it.
Ergamere shambled over to the patch of green mustard, or whatever the little critter had called it, and pulled up a clump into his paw. He put it into his mouth and chewed. He lifted his head and thought for a minute…
A loud sigh interjects the story. The beast, the island, the man in the pond with the big belly disappear. There is a shuffle of papers and a man is sitting in an office with a university student.
“This is not where you tell me the beast had a change of heart and became a vegetarian?” Mr. Blake said with a scowl, tossing the manuscript down.
Pete rubbed the back of his neck and didn’t reply. His professor gave him a hard look.
“Did you have a stomach virus recently?”
“Horrible bugger, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Pete said, remembering the spew and heave of it all.
“And you ate healthy afterward.”
“Yes,” he said, smiling.
Mr. Blake nodded.
“How’s that diet going now?”
“Your beast needs more depth.”
“But you haven’t finished.”
“And the rabbit needs more play! And I want a flurry of meat at the end!”
Pete sighed. He nodded and got up. He looked at his professor’s framed book covers. The Horror of the House in the Hollow, The Boy Whose Scream Was Strangled, The Meat-Eating Man. He walked down the hall and into the romance writers department. A man sat smoking a cigar with a glass of bourbon at half past ten.
“What you got?”
“A story about a beast that becomes a vegetarian and falls in love with a heavy set man, who drowns the beast in the end.”
“Love. Sex. Scandal. Betrayal. Intriguing indeed.”
The professor looked down the hall at the Horror department and nodded.
“We’re both not taken by that seriously young man, but we both elicit screams, if you know what I mean,” he said with a wink.
Pete didn’t have a clue what he meant, but the man was interested in reading his story so he sat down and handed over his manuscript. He was in no rush as the man thumbed through his piece, licking his finger with each turn as Mr. Blake had done. Pete wished to warn them that he was feeling beastly, but shrugged it off.
The last remains of the flu floated in the air around him, catching hold in the blood of both professors he visited, a horror story unfolding, a great one indeed.