Limbo

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The rabbits gimping lope indicated it was injured. For the rabbit, this meant certain death. For me, it meant an easy meal.

Rabbit didn’t used to be on the menu. I used to eat spaghetti, steak, Caesar salad… but no one had rationed food during the first few weeks of Limbo. All of it was consumed, spoiled, or heavily guarded by ruthless urban guerillas. Even thinking about a nice heaping, steaming portion of fresh spaghetti, drenched in my Mom’s homemade sauce made my mouth water, my head feel dizzy, and my stomach clench and roar in angry defiance, as if to say, “Hey stupid! Our meal’s hopping away!”

These days, it seemed my stomach was calling all the shots.

I lived in Limbo; the name was coined by its inhabitants to define the horror land that had become of our home after a bombing at the hands of foreign powers. We used to call it Maryland. It used to be a lot of things, but nowadays, Limbo seemed a more accurate description: the edge of h***. Buildings had been reduced to rubble in the initial shock wave. Sky scrapers resembled skeletal hands reaching upwards, pleading the heavens for comfort. They received none. Bodies collected in the streets; no one wasted precious calories digging graves these days. Overgrown shrubbery and uncontrolled weeds gave our once urban paradise a rural spin.

People used to like to speculate about who attacked us. Most said Iraq, but that feud had ended a little over ten years ago. Some proclaimed Russia was at fault. That was back when we still believed aid was coming. We forced ourselves into illusions of helicopters dominating the horizon, carrying provisions a plenty. But it had been six months, and I had lost my faith in humanity.

My sister and I survived together. We no longer lived; living was the quickest way to die in Limbo. Living entailed creature comforts, searching for edible food, and a comfortable place to live. Surviving became the only option here, we had long given up TV, cell phones, appetizing food, and even beds. We took refuge in one of the few still standing buildings in Limbo, as it happens it was an abandon shipping warehouse. Still made of old fashioned concrete, time, and hard work, it had survived the bomb, while others made of get-it-up-now flimsy steel had fallen to pieces. Locked in the once manager’s quarters on the upper level with a shot gun in her lap, Dana, my older sister, now awaited my return. She would have the propane campfire lit ready to cook whatever mangy, probably disease ridden woodland creature I had managed to kill that day… or week.

The rabbit’s amble was slowing; it was nearing death. But nearing wasn’t good enough. In one swift movement, I brought my make shift blade down on its scrawny neck. The alerting of my presence was probably the last thought in its feeble mind. I was no longer disgusted by the lifeless animal’s body. Throwing it into my makeshift duffel sack, I began the long trek back to our warehouse.

The wind was blowing today. I missed the feel of the breeze in my hair. After Limbo begun, identifying yourself as anything but a threat became a risk. This included being recognized as a woman. So with a pair of office scissors, my sister and I had hacked off our long blonde hair. It wasn’t what I missed most, but it felt like cutting off a part of me.
Lugging this rabbit was getting heavy. It couldn’t have weighed more than a few pounds, yet I felt weaker than I had in days. Yesterday’s meal was boiled water and grass- not much nutritional value in grass. So running on empty, I suppose it wasn’t a shock I could hear my stomach talking to me.

“Hey, Lily, it’s your stomach! I’m starting to eat my own walls here, I’m starving!.”

“Don’t I know it.” I replied out loud.

“Lily, that rabbit in your duffel…”

“Forget it. Dana needs to eat too.”

”Lily, let’s be honest here. Dana is going to die soon.”

“Excuse me?” It was my own stomach, and yet it never ceased to amaze me.

“What? You thought that an innocent little cough she has is going to go away? It’s progressing. She’s not cut out for this type of life. But you, Lily, you’re a survivor. You need to eat.”

“Dana is not going to die.” I said again out loud. I wasn’t sure who I was trying to convince, me or my stomach. I thought of how frail and weak she was, back in the warehouse. She could barely move off her bundle of fabric, coughs shaking her core every five minutes.

“Lily, Dana will die. And what good will that juicy, succulent rabbit do in a dead person’s stomach? It will go to waste Lily, waste.”

“But in a survivor like me…” I can’t believe it, my own stomach was convincing me to betray my sister.

“In a survivor like you Lily, it can nourish and give you energy. Plus, I haven’t eaten in five days. That grass tea stuff isn’t cutting it. You’re the survivor Lily. So survive.”

And with that, I felt the final bit of my sanity separate from me. Allowing my stomach to lead and my feet to follow, I ran to the nearest alleyway and undid the knot on my duffel with shaking, anxious fingers- more excited than I had been in weeks. Gripping the rabbit by the nape of its neck, I tugged it out, finding I could barely lift it. Once out, I immediately began skinning it. Tearing meat from sickly bone, I felt my senses reignite as the taste of meat, however uncooked, crossed my palette.

Within a minute I had licked it clean, the pathetic carcass sat in a disarrayed pile in front of me. Then the wave of guilt crashed over me, making me physically cry out in pain and fall to my side. My own sister! , I thought, and I had betrayed her with merely a little prompting from my subconscious. What had Limbo done to me?

“She never has to know.” My stomach told me, its voice a little less feral. “Lie.”

I suppose this was the day I stopped listening to my heart, my head, my soul, and began listening to my stomach. Even when it told me to betray my own family.

When I got home, (what a word!), it wasn’t hard to force my face into a frown. Yet holding back the tears when I saw my sister’s hopeless face force a smile nearly broke me. Sitting down next to her, and embracing her- she was so skinny!- I buried my face into her hollowed collarbone and cried, trying to hide red tinged fingers in my pockets.

My stomach was uncharacteristically silent.





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