A Strange hunger
Pablo Jorge Diaz Varela
From the beginning, Carlos thought that his stomach discomfort was the product of an unfortunate experience, which occurs when one overeats at night and wakes up feeling dizzy. But the problem began to escalate after his girlfriend and he saw that film about a man who devoured another in Rothenburg. His stomach was not shocked by the grotesque scenes, nor did his eyes shrink before the screen. His body’s sole reactions were deep salivation and a growl in his stomach that made him feel empty. Anyone in his place would have thought his body was experiencing hunger. But Carlos did not feel comfortable with that explanation, from his perspective it was something different, he felt as if his body was inviting him to try something new. Meanwhile, he was smoking marijuana with his girlfriend, wondering if his hunger was due to the drug or if he really wanted to taste human flesh.
Delusions due to cannabis use are rare, however, many studies indicate that the consumption of this plant can accelerate or trigger psychotic processes, especially in people with a history of Schizophrenia or mental illness in their family.
It was common for Carlos to wake up with an empty feeling in his stomach, no matter how much he ate the night before. That convinced him that his ailment must be caused by something else, rooted deep in his body. He had never told a doctor about his discomforts, he preferred to keep those ideas to himself.
The only evident thing was that his nightmares began after watching that tape. They were added to the usual stomach discomfort that woke him up in the morning together with a feeling of hunger and fear. The dreams were first like flashes, they were blurred memories of his childhood; in some, he chewed wooden pencils until they splintered and in others, he ate cake until he was stuffed. But over time those dreams changed, they became an image of Carlos biting his brother Jacobo’s arm. In the dream, he bit the skin until he exposed the muscle while his brother cried in silence.
The dreams caused him such despair, that he started to change. The first month, he didn’t know if the nightmares were caused by the movie or if he was turning into a cannibal. That was why he preferred to get away from his girlfriend, thinking that one day he might want to devour her. From the second month, Carlos became lonelier, his only outings were to attend school and little by little his friends stopped talking to him.
His mother began to worry about the behaviour of Carlos, who had always been an outgoing boy, willing to go out with his friends even if he was not given permission. So, one morning she went into his room to force him to talk to her. Carlos didn’t feel confident enough to tell his mother the truth, but as the nightmares dragged on, he dared to describe some details to her. For the young man, those nightmares were like memory, and the more he saw them, the stranger things he encountered in them.
It was the discovery he had in his third month locked up that caused his greatest fear. One night he dreamed about the second birthday of his younger brother Jacobo. They were in a 90’s style children’s restaurant with ceiling fans, colourful chairs, and games. In the dream, his brother was being carried to blow out the candles on the cake, but in doing so one of the fan blades sliced a piece of meat from his cheek. At that moment, the piece of skin the size of a pencil sharpener fell on the cake, and Carlos, barely four years old, before the horrified look of his family put it in his mouth to eat it.
The dream was a perfect match to Jacobo’s small scar and it felt so real to Carlos that he thought that it could have happened. This is what he told his mother, hoping that she would comfort him. To his surprise, that scene was a real memory. The events had occurred in a similar way to his dream, only that, instead of his family, it was the mothers of other children who were looking at him in terror.
For Carlos’s mother, it had not been something serious but simply something that children do. However, the lack of tact she used to explain it to her son made him feel even worse about what happened. During that week Carlos passed by Jacobo in his car to take him to his soccer practice, but when he got out of the car, he bit him hard attempting to tear a piece of skin from his shoulder. He was unsuccessful and his brother cried as he punched him in the face to run away. Jacobo told his parents about the event and Carlos was taken to a psychiatrist the next day.
At the psychiatrist, the doctor on duty questioned Carlos for several hours. Then he left him in the waiting room and asked his father about any relatives of his with a history of psychosis or Schizophrenia, to rule out other problems.
Carlos’s mother had heard rumours about the great-uncle Esteban. His family was saying that he had gone crazy from drinking water with lead. So, when he found out about his son’s possible diagnosis, he went in person to tell the psychiatrist everything. That same day Carlos escaped from his house through a window. He was found hours later by the police; he had sharpened his teeth with a file; between his gums were the remains of an unknown child’s arm and fingernails.
Pablo Jorge Diaz Varela (Mexico) has been a resident of Mexico City for more than twenty years. He is the son of a migrant woman of Chilean origin. He graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He currently works as a proofreading assistant for some NGOs and web pages such as the Academy of Arts of Mexico. One of his most recent texts “Doctor Sangre” can be read in the Herederos del Kaos literary and artistic archive.