8 The Hunger Pains*
Despite the fact that it was well past midnight, Rassa, his parents and the Doctor all sat down as Rassa was given a soup and some bread. Looking at it, Rassa knew it was mutton soup, one of his favourite meals despite its plainness. He smiled in thanks to his mother then took up the spoon, leaning forward to take a bite. It smelled nice, but...there was something wrong with it, and Rassa couldn't quite tell what it was.
He looked to his mother who eagerly motioned for him to eat up. What was he thinking? His mum had never cooked anything that made him sick. Rassa took a spoonful, and swallowed. It was warm, which felt pleasant, and it was okay to taste. But as Rassa continued eating, and the food settled in his stomach, he realised one very clear fact. He didn't feel the least bit satisfied.
He finished off the bowl, then looked at his mum sheepishly as he picked up the bread, "Can I have some more?"
His mum nodded with a smile, going to refill the bowl.
"Good," the Doctor said, "It's good you've still got your appetite".
The Doctor ventured away then.
It wasn't until Rassa had finished the third bowl that he realised something was terribly wrong. He had finished three large bowls of soup where usually one was plenty for him. Even if he had been asleep for a day, there was no way he would eat this much. Yet...he still felt terribly hungry.
Looking to his parents Rassa gave a small smile, "I'm sorry I worried you, I won't go past the boundary again".
His parents were silent for a moment, "Are you full?"
He wasn't, but he nodded anyway. They already seemed amazed by three bowls, Rassa didn't want to watch their expressions turn from amazement to concern as he polished off more.
"Come on then, we should go back to bed, you need your rest," Anna instructed as she stood.
Rassa didn't feel the least bit tired with his body still insisting he was hungry, but he followed his mother anyway. His father went as well, that strange look still in his eyes, and the three of them lay down on the spare beds, Rassa in between his parents. Rassa pretended to fall asleep quickly, and listened as his parents breathing and heart rate slowed to a steady pace and he was sure they were both asleep. Then Rassa opened his eyes and shuffled from the bed, taking the back door out into the garden behind the doctor's house. The dead of night was intriguing to him, but a more urgent problem was arising, the hunger was becoming painful.
As Rassa had waited for his parents to fall asleep, he had felt the aches begin on different parts of his body, aches that made it harder for him to move as quietly as he had before. As Rassa looked around, he realised that his vision was much better than it had been previously, he could see as if it was day, perhaps even better. He closed his eyes, tilting his head as he concentrated on his hearing. He could hear everything.
The heartbeats and breathing of the Doctor's sleeping neighbours, the shifting of the horses in the nearby stables, the wind as it passed through the leaves of trees hundreds of metres away, the spider in the corner of the eve three houses down weaving it's web. Raising his nose, he sniffed. There were plenty of plesant smells that he sensed, but they disturbed him. He knew without a doubt they were coming from all of the people asleep nearby. Rassa opened his eyes again, why was this happening? What had those creatures done to him?
Without waiting for permission, Rassa turned and ran in the direction of the orchard.
Diggory had been worried about Rassa ever since he'd disappeared into that cave. Finding him had not alleviated the guilt, for something had clearly happened to his friend. Rassa had been asleep in the doctor's house for over a day, and Diggory had only grown more and more concerned. Whilst his father, mother and older brother had all insisted that Rassa would recovered in the Doctor's hands, Diggory couldn't help the guilt in his gut. So, when he couldn't sleep, he decided to go out and check to see if Rassa had woken up yet.
Diggory was wringing his hands as he approached the Doctor's house, nervous. He had never been this nervous about anything in his life. Was Rassa going to be okay? Had he woken up yet? Was he going to die because Diggory had forced him to complete a stupid dare? When his father had heard he'd given Diggory a right good scolding. How could Diggory not consider the consequences of his actions?
Diggory looked up just as he was about to approach the main street, only to pause as a figure that Diggory could only see due to the moonlight, ran past the intersection a few houses away and towards the orchard. Diggory paused, was that Rassa?
Diggory's face lit up. He must be awake! It was great he was okay!
Diggory hurried after his friend, wanting to make sure. He couldn't shout in case he woke up the adults, but Diggory was confident he could catch up with Rassa anyway, he was faster and stronger afterall.
But, as Diggory chased after his friend, it became clear that Rassa was much faster than he had been before. Diggory had no chance of catching him even if he pushed himself. By the time Diggory reached the edge of the Orchard, he was out of breath. He huffed and wheezed as he entered the Orchard, then paused as he slid on one of the fallen plums. He sighed, frowning to himself about how embarrassing that would have been if anybody had seen. Diggory went to stand again, only to have something catch his eyes.
The farmers usually threw the rotten fruit on the ground, but this time around, Diggory could clearly see fresh fruit in a trail along the ground, each with huge bite taken out of it, different kinds of fruit and all from different trees. Was that Rassa's doing?
Diggory stood and followed the trail with concern, eventually, he found Rassa in the clearing between and forest and the Orchard. Rassa took a bite out of an apple then swallowed and waited for a moment before he threw the apple to the side. He threw it so far that it flew out of sight, and Diggory never heard it fall.
"Urgh!" Rassa shouted in outrage, "Why am I so hungry! I eat and nothing helps! What the hell is wrong with me!"
Diggory frowned, "Rassa?"
Rassa froze, then turned to face Diggory. The first thing Diggory noticed was that Rassa was still pale. So pale that his skin almost shone where the moonlight hit it. The next thing he noticed was Rassa's eyes. They were the same but...there was something different about them.
"Are you okay?" asked Diggory.
"I...I don't know," Rassa said honestly as he turned away, his movements were so soundless and graceful, but Diggory barely noticed as he stepped forward.
"Well did the Doc say you were okay?" asked Diggory.
"He said it was good my appetite was there," Rassa said, "I'm not so sure".
Diggory hesitated, then decided to asked, "Did he say anything about the mark on your back?"
Rassa froze, "What mark?"
Diggory frowned, "The black lines on your back. Everyone saw it".
Rassa pulled off his shirt hurriedly and attempt to look over his shoulder, then under his arm, desperate to see. Diggory sighed, picked up Rassa's shirt then took his hand, dragging him towards the pond that sat to the side, "Here".
Diggory pointed to the reflection of the pond, and Rassa turned, looking over his shoulder.
Rassa just stared. It was clear from his reaction that the doctor hadn't mentioned the mark, but Diggory watched Rassa take it in, waiting patiently. After a moment, Rassa dropped to his knees, leaning forward as he touched his face.
"I didn't realise I was so pale," Rassa replied, "I'm practically a ghost".
"I know, it's kind of creepy," Diggory said, "But...I'm glad you're alive...I'm sorry, I was being stupid, I-"
"Yeah, you were," Rassa agreed, looking over at Diggory, "But what happened to me isn't your fault. It was the cave's, or whatever was in it".
"You...don't know what happened?"
Rassa shook his head, "I only remember going in the cave".
"Then how do you know its not my fault?" asked Diggory.
"You can be stupid and impulsive sometimes Dig, but you couldn't do this," Rassa said as he pointed to his back, "Could you?"
Diggory hesitated, then nodded as Rassa reasoning, "So...you're hungry?"
Rassa nodded, "And yet when I eat I still feel just as hungry as before".
Diggory frowned, "That doesn't sound nice".
"It's not," Rassa agreed.
"Well what do you want to eat?" asked Diggory, "My mum says that when we're sick our body knows what food it needs, and tells us, but its up to us whether or not we listen".
Rassa froze for a moment, like he'd had a terrible thought, then shook his head, "I don't know, just something to satisfy me".
Diggory sighed, clearly he couldn't help here. He felt better now that Rassa had reassured him it wasn't his fault, but he still wanted to make sure Rassa would get better.
"Well, maybe you should just drink some water or something, maybe if you think on it you'll know," Diggory said, "Anyway, I should be getting back home. I'll be in a lot of trouble if dad finds me out of bed at this hour. You should get back too. I know your parents will worry".
Rassa nodded. Taking his shirt and slipping it back on.
"I'm going to sit here for a while first, it's peaceful".
Diggory decided not to pry, and left soon after.
Rassa stared at his reflection, denying ever part of the thought he'd just had. There was no way he was going to eat his friends, his family.