Feeding Time

by Jason Warden

an excerpt from my novel “Dependance”

The lights inside our cage flicker, fade, go out, and then there’s the sound of boots crossing the concrete floor outside. Their number is as indistinguishable as their target in the dark. A buzz, a click, the door rattles open. We become one, and back away, our fermented smells combining like trash. It’s always the same, we push and squirm to get to the back of the cell, but they never take long to decide which of us it will be. The one they pull from the mass is a fighter, a man who actually belongs in here. He’s still strong; he’s been stealing meals from us. We let out a collective sigh and listen. He says,
“C’mon you fucker, I’ll give you a taste.”
Someone is banging on the bars two, maybe three cells down. I can’t tell if they are pleased with the twilight show or if they have found hope through suicide. Then a sound answers the question, and a second, the sound of wet meat slapping the concrete floor confirms it. He wasn’t the first to escape through death. He won’t be the last.
The fighter begins to say something else, no doubt something like,
“Bring it on.” He loved that childish line, but he only gets the first word out before the sound of what could be a baseball bat, a fist, or the hand of god slams into his face. It makes a wet, pulpy sound that almost drowns out the fighter’s agony. He pleads for mercy, but only for a second. Then he is quiet. We listen for more, and push tighter together, but all is silent, all that is, but the sound of feeding. I don’t realize I’ve been crying until the lights come back on and the door shuts, I never do.