I suppose I had a pretty happy childhood. My parents were loving, I was schooled at home, and I can't recall a day when I was every hungry or in need of anything. Me, my older sister Tilly and my twin brother Jake would play outside almost everyday during the summer months while we stayed at a commune. It was located in a clearing deep within a forest, far away from prying eyes. You see, only certain people were allowed into the commune. That is, people who ate the flesh of other people.
My parents, and pretty much everyone else in that commune, shared the belief that the only meat truly worth eating was that of other humans. I can still remember the talks given by some of the members about the importance of human flesh. It was always very casual, as if we were at summer camp.
A girl called Lisa-Marie would frequently give talks to us younger members. She was sweet sixteen with a dazzling smile and long, red hair. She would gather us all around a fire during those breezy, summer evenings, just when the sun had set. She always wore flowy, white dresses, and often had flowers in her hair. My fourteen-year-old self was absolutely smitten with her.
'I'm sure you've all heard the phrase "Food has to have soul", am I right?' she began one evening, to which everyone nodded.
'But what does that mean?' she continued. 'Well, to put it simply, it has to fill not just your stomach, but it must nourish your soul too. You see, a real connection has to be made with your food, and are we not strongly connected to other human beings? Their feelings, their hopes, their dreams? Do we not all share the human experience? That's why something like chicken or pig meat could never possibly nourish you the way that human meat can.'
I suddenly felt someone jab me in the ribs. I had a good idea who it was, and sure enough, it was my twin brother Jake. We had the same dark brown hair and hazel eyes.
'What the hell was that for?' I hissed.
'Just wanted to announce my presence.'
'Well, you've achieved your goal, now go bug someone else. I'm trying to listen.' I whispered as aggressively as I could.
Jake's eyes sought out Lisa, and he licked his lips. 'She does look delicious, doesn't she?'
I furrowed my brows. His words made me uneasy.
'Do you think she'll offer herself up for us to eat? She'd be tasty, I bet. Not like that lard bag we had to eat the other day. I almost threw up with how greasy he was. Eurgh!'
'Just shut up, Jake. And don't talk about eating Lisa. She's our friend.'
Jake scoffed. 'Since when is she your friend? You've never even talked to her.'
My face reddened in embarrassment and I turned away from him. 'Just go away.'
To my relief, Jake decided to sneak out of the gathering then and there. I wondered what type of trouble he was going to get up to while there was no one to see him. His remarks about eating Lisa had rattled me. I had eaten plenty of people before, but never anyone that I actually knew. I began to chew my lip anxiously. Somehow, I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen.
I woke up the following morning feeling sick to my stomach. Although it was still early, there was an unusual lack of commotion outside. And there was a distant sound of crying. I immediately got out of bed, and tiptoed carefully around Tilly and Jake, who shared my tent.
I took a tentative glance outside as I unzipped the entrance to the the tent. The sun was still rising and the air was crisp. My heart began to race when I saw that my mum and dad, along with all of the adult members of our community, were standing together. I couldn't make out their expressions from where I was, but it was obvious that something was wrong. I realised that the crying I heard was coming from their direction.
Not even bothering with shoes, I ran as fast as I could to where they were all standing. It felt as if miles rather than a few metres separated me from them, and when I finally arrived, I thought my heart would give out from how nervous I was. My mum and dad were embracing each other; my mum's head was on my dad's chest. She was crying. In fact, almost everybody was. Silent tears.
It then registered that they weren't simply gathered together, but that they were gathered around something. Something that was upsetting them all.
'Mum? Dad?' my voice was quiet, but it cut through the crisp, early morning air like a knife.
Everyone turned their heads in my direction. They all looked horrified to see me standing there.
'Jamie…' my mother's eyes were wide with shock. 'I thought you were still asleep. None of the other children are awake, are they?'
I couldn't take it anymore. What was so terrible that they didn't want me to see? And I wasn't a child anymore! I ignored my mother's question and pushed through the crowd to see what it was that had upset them all.
'Jamie don't!' my mother pleaded.
But it was too late. It felt like my heart had stopped when I saw her. She was motionless on the ground, her usual rosiness gone and her eyes staring blankly at the sky. It was Lisa.
I barely noticed when my parents pulled me away from the scene. They took me away from the crowd and tried to comfort me with words, but I was not interested.
'Who did this?' I asked curtly.
My dad shook his head and sighed. He looked exhausted. 'Nobody did anything, son. It was an accident.'
I turned my head to try and get a glimpse of Lisa, but she was hidden from my sight once again. It was killing me that I didn't even speak to her when she was alive, not even once.
'How can this possibly be an accident?'
My parents looked at each other as if they weren't sure whether they should tell me. In the end it was my mother who spoke up.
'She… she had an allergic reaction after accidentally eating some nuts. She suffocated before anyone could…' tears filled my mother's eyes once more but she kept going, '...before anyone could do anything about it. But don't you worry, Jamie! Everything is going to be alright. We'll make sure her body doesn't go to waste. You know how she hated for good food to go to waste. At least this way she will always be a part of us...'
My mum continued to ramble, as she often did when she was stressed. So Lisa was going to be eaten, after all.
I wanted to throw up. And I did.