Addicted to Brains
a flash fiction by Aster Marsh
In this short story from Aster Marsh, our fearless heroine agrees to accompany her friend to a support group to see if she can overcome her addiction. But this particular group is a bit different, viewing a common fictional genre from a skewed perspective—let’s call it the underside.
Addicted to Brains
by Aster Marsh
The room smelled faintly of old paint and copy paper. They had placed office chairs around the room, forming a haphazard circle. Her new friend Ed had dragged her here. They had met recently outside a small house in the suburbs. He had stalked Ava all the way there trying to get to her before she used again, but he had been too late and only caught up to her after.
Ed wanted to change her ways, but Ava wasn’t sure. He had made some convincing arguments about saving her humanity and maybe being able to reverse the disease. These were all intriguing factors and even though the chances for her were slim, she still considered it.
She wondered what a life without her addiction would look like. She could not quite picture it. Her idea of happiness didn't really look like Ed’s. She felt like she lacked a role model which she could project her life as sober on to.
Maybe she would be one of those people who tended to her garden every day. Or maybe she would be preaching about god and the end of the world out on the streets in one of the encampments.
She had visited one only last week, but she hadn't really interacted with the people there. She had just come by to scavenge after they were already dead, but some had still had smiles on their faces. Ava wondered if she could have a life like that in the future.
The meeting started and they sat down in the circle. The leader of the group had a tray on a table behind him with badges on it. They had different colors and Ava fixated on the red one. Her first instinct was to smash his skull in and steal the badge, but she fought the urge. She wanted to see where this could take her.
Besides, she kind of wanted to impress Ed. He seemed to be different, more sincere in a way.
“Welcome everyone,” the leader said. “I can see some new faces with us today. Would any of the newcomers like to share?”
A woman held up her hand to show she was willing.
The leader pointed to her. “Go ahead”.
“I…” she started, but seemed to get lost in her train of thought.
“Go on,” the leader urged her to continue.
She mumbled something, but seemed distant and not fully able to speak. She seemed far gone already, probably another lost cause.
They all chimed in together, “Keep coming back.”
Ava looked around at this strange group of people and wondered how they were able to do this. How were they capable of being this articulate? Had they only recently been changed by the disease, or had they found something she wanted?
“Would any of the regulars like to share?” the leader asked.
Ed quickly held up his hand and waved it excitedly toward the leader.
He pointed at him. “Go ahead, Ed.”
“Hello, my name’s Ed and I’m addicted to brains.”
“Hi Ed,” the group said.
“I brought a new friend with me. I’d like everyone to welcome Ava.”
“Hi Ava,” the group replied in unison.
“I promised Ava we’d help her back to humanity again. But as we all know, this requires Ava to surrender herself and accept her addiction.”
The group nodded and Ava grew restless in her chair. She didn’t have the patience to sit here and listen to this. All she wanted was to go out on the streets and stalk some prey. Maybe she could find another overrun encampment with some rotten brains still lying around. She felt reluctant at admitting to being addicted--everyone needed brains after they had turned. That’s how they survived.
She scratched her face while mulling it over, thinking she should leave. She noticed her fingernails still had some semi-fresh blood on them. Must have been leftovers from her last meal. She put her fingers into her mouth and tried to suck the blood out from underneath.
It tasted a bit like brains, but not enough to give her the fix. Ava pulled out her fingers and scratched the side of her face once more. A piece of her cheek came off and fell to the floor. The smell of blood started to spread in the air from her nails.
Ed flared his nostrils and looked at her with murder in his eyes. He looked vile and furious when he lunged toward her, trying to get her fingers in his mouth. Soon the group of devotees were ripping each other apart to get to Ava, just to get a lick of some human blood.
Ava struggled to get loose from Ed’s grip. The newcomer yanked Ed off of her. She stood up from the floor and glanced down at the slaughter next to her. She didn't feel compelled to fight this bunch of idiots and straightened her shirt. Their sudden outburst of violence had quieted her emotions and she felt quite sure they hadn’t found anything she wanted.
They had been easily destroyed with only a whiff of brains. Ava couldn't see herself doing this abstinence thing. She felt it was better to be addicted like everyone else than to turn crazy like Ed for not consuming. Ava felt herself giving up on her humanity. She let herself be fully consumed by the hunt and gave into the disease.
She moved over to the table with the badges on and picked up one. She put it in her pocket and watched the leader desperately screaming at the group to settle down from the sidelines.
Ava quietly exited the office building and headed out to the streets. The wind blew up the stench of human bodies, and she knew she would find more brains if she headed east.
She picked up the red badge from her pocket and turned it over. "30 days" she read on the back. Ava pulled the badge up to her cracked lips and kissed the words. She felt they were important, even though she didn’t know what they meant. Maybe keeping it as an amulet would give her luck in hunting for her next fix.
Meet the author:
Aster Marsh is a queer fiction author who loves to write speculative stories. Find more from the author: amazon.com/author/astermarsh
Recent encounter with the underside of life: Going to several stores in the area just to find they’re all mysteriously out of orange juice.