Fiction — February 7, 2012 13:21 — 2 Comments

The Sun Eaters – Alex M. Pruteanu

We ran together on the frozen land like a pack of insane hyenas. Children. All ages. Starving. Poor. Ill-dressed. Some dying from tuberculosis. Others living with pneumonia, coughing up liquefied guts and bile. We puffed on used, dry butts we found in the rubble of the war. Stained, finger-rolled, half-smoked cigarettes; some abandoned in a hurry, others interrupted by sudden death. All tainted by once-infected lips. Herpes. Blisters. Cankers. Remnants discarded by the dead. We made up games and stories, all the while subsisting in the shadows of destruction, orphan concrete, rebar, and petrified bones:
“Enemy sniper dragged his last breath on this just before he was clipped by his counterpart.”
“He was shot through his own scope.”
“On the last day of the war.”
“Before he was to come back to his wife.”
“And then he was eaten by feral dogs.”
“By feral cats.”
“By feral villagers, hiding in wine cellars.”
There was no food, just the winter earth under our thin, worn-out soles. Some had no shoes at all. Others improvised. Gabby wrapped his feet in gauze. It was soaked in dried blood that looked more like cracked, satiated clay. He had removed the bandage from the frozen head of a captain, propped up against a tree in the forest, on the outskirts of the city. He had removed the captain’s stripes off his epaulets, as well, and ate them.
“He died heroically after fighting at Stalingrad.”
“At Bastogne.”
“Eh, at Bastogne…you idiot, what would he be doing all the way here?”
“Dying, that’s what.”
Prostule, esti mediocru! Nu stii istorie.
“Piss off!”
“There was a sign nailed to his chest that warned of resistance.”
“They tortured him but he gave away nothing.”
“On the last day of the war.”
“Before he was to come back to his wife.”
We starved and became insane. We ran together and apart and together again. There was no food. Just cold. Gabby lost a toe to frostbite. We slid on ice on bare flesh. We pissed in dead, frozen fields. In February, Caesar found a bombed communication truck in the middle of a ravine, hidden by burned out tree trunks. Three men were frozen inside at the controls. Parts of their flesh were black, missing, a leathery, carved-out nightmare.
“All made from wax by Madame Tussauds.”
“Keepers of the Chamber of Horrors.”
“You idiots, check their pockets for cigarettes.”
“Imbecile!”
“Animal.”
Mameluc.”
“Sodomite.”
And in the end, we ate the sun. It was Pavel who taught us. It was he who convinced us that we’d fill up our bellies with it. There was nothing to eat that winter, and when you have nothing, you will believe anything; anyone. Even Pavel. And so he showed us where to find the sunny spots between the ruins, kneel down, turn our faces up to the star, and open our mouths. That was all we had. And so we ate sun. And our mouths became dry and burnt and full.
And that is how we died, one by one.

Bio:

Since emigrating to the United States from Romania in 1980, Alex has worked as a day laborer, a film projectionist, a music store clerk, a journalist/news writer for the U.S. Information Agency (Voice of America English Broadcasts), a TV Director for MSNBC and CNBC, and a freelance writer. Currently he is on staff at NC State University. Alex has published fiction in Peer-Amid, The Legendary, Girls With Insurance, Trick With a Knife, Amphibi.us, Slingshot Litareview, Specter Magazine, Thunderclap Press, and Pank Magazine.He is the author of novella “Short Lean Cuts,” available as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and in paperback from Amazon.

2 Comments

  1. DAMM says:

    Pruteanu continues to show why he is the up and coming front runner of short fiction. The natural characterizations and swiftly relevant themes make him one to watch

  2. James D. Salzburger says:

    Great short story. It literally left me speechless. It reminded me of something written by Kundera or Solzhenitsyn.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney