Here’s another of my irregular and infrequent Friday Flash efforts. This is something a bit different to my usual fare and, to be completely honest with you, it’s a bit daft. But I enjoyed writing it so hopefully some of that enjoyment will rub off when you’re reading it. If not, I apologise. May I present:
Misery Most Delicious
by Alan Baxter
For millennia the misery of humans has sustained me, though I have never known such sumptuous feasts as these. Time and again the human race surprises me with its pathological ability to bring wretchedness down upon itself.
I walked the sands of Jericho as trumpets blared and voices roared and the walls fell. I feasted then while every man, woman and child screamed as they were slaughtered, supping of that despair as an indolent king takes wine from a golden goblet. I strolled in the footsteps of the Israelites as they sacked Canaan, and their legacy engorged me.
I fed at the first genocide as Carthage was destroyed and I lounged in a tent with Alexander as he crushed the fatigued Persians, drinking in their laments as the Macedonians soaked the earth with their blood.
I stalked this fetid earth from Crimea to England in the wake of the black death that reduced humanity’s numbers and its will, celebrating that invisible, unstoppable, insatiable wave of bereavement.
I laughed as the Inquisitors tortured and violated minds and bodies, terrifying humans away from evils the Church itself created. I thought then that humanity had reached its peak of imposed suffering, but I was wrong. Has ever humanity suffered so much as at the hands of religiously sanctioned atrocity? How many times have I taken sustenance from the anguish of families as blood washed the streets of Constantinople?
I rode in the dark, stinking bellies of creaking ships as they sailed with a cargo of desolate souls from African coasts to the new world. But it was an old world to me, no different from those that had gone before and no less ripe with nourishment.
Wherever spirit is crushed, wherever hope is torn away, wherever light is snuffed with anger, greed and hatred, there walk I. For the history of humanity I have lurked and never have I gone hungry. Never have I lacked provision. Always have I been spoiled for choice.
And forever the numbers grow, a virus across the sweet green face of the land. People spread wherever there is space and pile upon one another whenever space runs out. They rut in desperation, propagating themselves and their ideals and always with them goes the abhorrence that leads them to desecrate and debase each other, for power, for money, for gods. For the pure sake of it. As their numbers grow so too does their misery. And their misery is the nectar I live for. Was there ever a creature more suited to this mortal realm of carnal decadence and carnage than I?
So many human guises I have worn over the centuries, walking through the killing fields, riding the plague winds, following the footsteps of suffering. Always have I hidden in plain view, disguised as one of them, feasting as I go. Yet always I had to seek out my sustenance, track down the pain of existence. It has never been as easy as this. Finally it comes to me.
And now my current role calls for my attention again. What slices of personal despair await my slavering taste tonight. Within this human guise, this suit and tie and glossy smile, I hunch with fervent anticipation. My mouth waters. I must be careful not to let my hunger show. Let it begin. Let the human misery wash over me. I clear my throat and speak through this modern medium of mass communication, that brings the desolation directly to my tongue. ‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another edition of “A Current Today”. On the program tonight, are you paying too much in the supermarket? Plus, a look into why nursing homes are possibly the worst place to send your aging relatives. But first, who would abuse and starve an eight year old child like this? Our exclusive report follows. Stay tuned!’
NB: For any overseas people confused by that ending, “A Current Today” is an amalgam of a couple of Australian shows (A Current Affair and Today Tonight), both of which are awful magazine news programs. You know the kind of thing – it parades as a news show while actually digging around to sensationalise the worst of humanity for ratings success. Parasitic and ugly. I’m sure your local TV stations have equivalent shows.
I hate shows like that. You’ve captured the cynicism of medial profiteers so well.
Love the title, and all the lovely desolation. Has a very poetic feel to it, like scripture. Peace…
I had The Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” going in my mind as I read this. Very cool story.
Ha! You’re the third person so far to mention “Sympathy For The Devil” about this story. It didn’t even occur to me while writing it.
“supping of that despair as an indolent king takes wine from a golden goblet” – delicious.
Beautifully written, Alan. Majestic.
And a little too true for comfort – but then we don’t come to Alan Horror Baxter’s stories for comfort, do we 😉
Thanks mazzz. Seems I’m developing a reputation…
Dude, I love your writing, point blank. Always there, always amongst us, supping on our despair, comfortable in the knowledge that it will never go hungry. Creepy and a little too plausible. Awesome.
Thanks, mate – much appreciated.
Came across this from an RT off someone’s twitter feed. Glad I made it. Great piece, and that modern voice of doom creates such a bad taste in the mouth. And I’ll agree with Mazz about that line; brilliant.
Adam B @revhappiness
You won’t know the name Jeremy Kyle over here in the UK, possibly the most despised person on our shores and you describe his ilk quite precisely, other than a completely inconceivable sense of historical awareness… I was also reminded a bit of Anne Rice’s Lestat
Thanks guys – glad you can relate. Every country has these bastards.
I too love the poetic feel to this and find it ironic in comparison to the subject. Very well written Alan.
Tasty treats! Love the vibe of the story and that ominous narrative about human nature. Great stuff, Alan!