Hungry Town, part 2

I live in a hungry town, and I was wrong about how the town would satisfy its hunger when we elders were the only ones left. It didn’t let us die. It won’t ever let us die. Instead, it lets outsiders in more often. I don’t like these outsiders. They aren’t like the ones the town let in before. These ones are loud, brash, aggressive. They speak of developing our town. Of building things called high rises, condos and skyscrapers. They speak of fast food, and mini malls. They laugh at our mention of Gods. People don’t believe in Gods anymore, they say. We need to let go of these silly superstitions, and become part of the modern world, they tell us. I don’t understand why the town let these people in.
The town doesn’t tell us when its hungry anymore. Now people just…disappear. We haven’t had to draw straws, haven’t had to process anyone in a few years now. I am relieved by this. I’m not sure how we ever would have explained to these outsiders why we were drawing straws. Why they had to draw straws too. Why we were placing raw meat into potholes, and broken bones into holes in yards. Why the holes disappeared by dawn. I don’t think they would understand. I think they would try to hurt us. The way the missionaries hurt the little girl.
The outsiders tried to establish a police department. Everyone who put on a badge was taken by the town. We heard their screams. Anyone who tried to find them also disappeared. We heard their screams, too. But the outsiders didn’t learn. Next came a fire department. The town took them too. The town doesn’t like people trying to take its jobs from it.
The outsiders tried to build their buildings. All the construction workers were taken. The town doesn’t want to be changed. We told the outsiders this. They laughed.
The ground bleeds when we plant our crops now. Tests are run by the outsiders. We know why the ground bleeds. We know the outsider’s tests won’t return any answers. Not answers that they want, anyway.
Some of the outsiders don’t like it here. Attempts at leaving are made. Do they think that we haven’t tried that? The town doesn’t let people leave. It hasn’t since it became hungry. No matter how hard escapees try, no matter how hard they run, or how fast they drive, they always end up back in the middle of town. Direction doesn’t matter either. They don’t like this. They should accept that they belong to the town, and that the town will never let them go. If they follow the town’s rules, and follow our customs, they’ll be allowed to grow old, to have children. If they don’t, they will feed the town. And more outsiders will replace them.
Someday this town will no longer be hungry. Someday our Gods will return, will cease our town’s hunger. Someday I will be able to atone for killing the little girl. For killing my daughter. It was my idea to go along with the missionaries. My idea to wait until they left, then return to our own ways, our own Gods. That’s why she’s dead. If I hadn’t bullied the others into going along with my plan, she wouldn’t have died. And I wouldn’t have had cause to perform the ritual that caused this town to hunger. I wouldn’t have had cause to use my daughter’s flesh, bone, and blood to gain my revenge. I would never have needed revenge at all.
I live in a hungry town. And it’s my fault that it’s hungry.

Hungry Town

I live in a hungry town. There aren’t many of us left here, in this town. Only a few dozen. We don’t appear on any maps. We don’t get mail. We don’t have politicians come through, looking for our votes. The government never paves our roads, it doesn’t need to. The town paves our roads for us. We don’t have any police. Or firefighters. The town takes anyone who breaks the law. And fires die out as quickly as they start. The town does that too. Why did I call this a hungry town? Because the town doesn’t do this for free. Oh, it used to. In the old days. Before the missionaries came, before they brought their strange Gods, their strange customs. Before they drove out our Gods. Before they spilled blood.
We thought the missionaries left after they killed her. The little girl. The one who wouldn’t give up on our Gods, who wouldn’t swear loyalty to the missionaries’ Gods. They said, afterwards, that they didn’t mean to hit her that hard.That they didn’t mean for her head to hit the ground like that, to bounce with a sickening crack off a rock. We didn’t believe them. We saw the eldest draw back his staff as far as he could, swing it as hard as he could. What did he think would happen? That it would pass through her like she wasn’t there? That it would pass harmlessly over her head? No. The old man was a fool, if he thought we would believe that. If he believed that. We told them to leave. To take their Gods and go. They refused. Said we were heathens, that we had to be saved. There was no trace of them the next morning. We thought they’d changed their minds. They didn’t. The town took them.
We should have told her. Told her that we weren’t really giving in to the missionaries’ demands. Told her that we were going to go back to our ways, our Gods, after the missionaries left. But we didn’t, and she took a brave stand against the missionaries. I think that’s part of why the town is hungry. Because the little girl’s blood is on our hands just as it is on the hands of the missionaries.
That was centuries ago, now. How do I know this? How do I know things that happened centuries ago? Because I was there. Those of us who witnessed the little girl’s death are still here. The town won’t let us die. I’m not sure the town will ever let us die. We had children. They grew up, had children, grew old, and died. Their children grew up, had children, grew old and died. Those children grew up, and the cycle continued on and on and on. Occasionally an outsider finds their way to our town, settles down. Mostly though, the town takes outsiders. We hear their screams, and give thanks that it wasn’t one of us who satisfied the town’s hunger this time.
The town tells us when it’s getting hungry. Not verbally, of course. It has other ways. Potholes open in the road. Holes appear in yards. The wind seems to tear at exposed flesh like hungry mouths. When that happens, we draw straws. Whoever gets the short straw satisfies the town’s hunger. We-the town elders-never get the short straws. No matter how hard we try, we don’t get the short straws. Whoever draws the short straw feeds the town. The job of processing them to fill all the holes falls to us elders. Meat goes in the potholes. Bone goes in the holes in the yard. The blood we dehydrate and give to the wind. And then the town is sated again, for a time.
The town is getting hungry more often now. I think it’s because it has to work harder to keep us hidden. Our birth rate isn’t high enough to replace those who feed the town anymore. Our population has been dwindling for years. Soon it will just be us elders. The town will have to let us die then, if only so it will have a source of food. I wonder what it will do after the last of us is gone? How will it satisfy its hunger then?
I live in a hungry town.