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By Julie Carpenter
Link to Chapter 1
The Thin Hungry Man felt himself in midair, and then he felt nothing. The nature of nothing being what it is, the Thin Hungry Man had no concept of how long he was in it, or exactly what was happening to him while he was - nothing happened, one may assume.
When he began again to know what was going on, he seemed to be on the very border of nothing still. His surroundings were almost black and he seemed to be still in midair. He could not see anything solid in any direction around him, and he seemed to be spinning a bit so that he had very little sense of direction. As he continued through the darkness, his eyes began to adjust themselves. He began to notice that other objects were traveling with him, some moving faster, some slower, but all in the same direction, the one he considered to be forward as best he could tell, as if they had all been flung out from a massive but innocuous explosion. After a bit longer, he began to notice what some of those shapes were but without real understanding because his experience was so limited. As such, he had no idea of the immense oddity of the company of creatures and objects that surrounded him. There was a lion in purple trousers talking loudly into a toy phone; there were sweaty dogs in business suits trying to do physics, even though one of them kept violently insisting that it was beyond their grasp because they were insurance salesmen; there was a small man who kept putting his toe in his ear because it was trying to tell him something but didn't seem to be talking loudly enough. He also saw many peculiar inanimate objects floating by. There were picture frames, spoons, old bits of cabbage and candy bar wrappers drifting along discussing the various fortunes they expected to make at their destinations, while some very ugly green living room furniture seemed to be at war over whether existentialism was still a valid point of view. It was all quite different from the forest where he had spent his life previously.
He so thoroughly enjoyed the newness of his experiences that he almost forgot that he was hungry. Once again, he had no idea of time. He occasionally slept and woke again, still spinning in midair.
At last one day or one hour, soon after he had awoken from a strange spinning nap, he noticed something in front of him that he hadn't seen before. There appeared to be a great dark something in front of him, so dark that it made the darkness behind him look gray. The dark something stretched out before him so that when he looked in its direction he couldn't see anything else. It was rather frightening because it gave him a sense of his own speed, and he seemed to be moving faster than he had previously noticed. He got the impression that soon he would meet the great dark object without slowing down at all. It was not a comforting thought by any means. He waggled his arms a bit because some small instinct within him seemed to be making a last ditch effort to save his hungry body and complete the quest for food. Unfortunately, this did not seem to work and he thought all in all it would be better to stop and meet his fate with some dignity, but his arms were determined to make the odd feeble waggling attempts regardless of what his mind tried to tell them. So he let them waggle and closed his eyes and resigned himself, much as he had when he had thrown himself into the void. He opened his eyes only once and that was to see the object coming at him with such sickening speed that he promised himself he would never open his eyes again in what he believed would be his very short life span.
He managed to keep this promise for some time. It was because of this that he did not realize that what was happening to him a few moments later. The Thin Hungry Man was falling through a roof. Fortunately it was a poorly thatched roof, and a rotting one at that. Whumpf! He hit the thatch. He fell through in a shower of straw and landed on a bed. He wasn’t dead at all. He sensed this with some relief and felt hungry again.
He opened his eyes, despite his previous promise to himself not to, and looked around. He immediately noticed a great deal of noise, more noise than he had ever heard before, in fact. There were creatures running round the bed in circles, at great velocity, shrieking and shouting. The creatures happened to be dwarves, the kind you see in stories with red caps and shiny boots and beards, singing happy songs on their way to the mines and convincing innocent young girls to keep house for them for free. These particular dwarves had put their caps neatly on pegs as soon as they returned from whatever work they had done, and now they happened to be throwing things at each other. This was all so interesting to the Thin Hungry Man that he failed completely for one second to remember how hungry he was. He also completely failed to notice the dangers involved in the dwarves' game and was quite unready for the blunt thunk of a thick, brown beer bottle bouncing off his head. He passed out.
When he came to again, it was entirely of his body's own volition because the dwarves seemed to have taken no notice of him. The fight seemed only more violent and chaotic than before; and The Thin Hungry Man noticed the violent and chaotic way his head seemed to be chastising him for making the trip. Nevertheless, he was a little more prepared this time. Having learned his lesson about being hit on the head with large heavy objects, he managed to duck a ceramic beer mug and an old piece of cabbage, which he sincerely hoped was not that same piece of cabbage that he had seen so happy and hopeful in the void.
As a matter of fact, even though his head pounded and ached, the fight excited him more than frightened him. One small bump with a beer bottle was little enough to worry about when you've spent your whole life being hungry. So instead of fear, he felt himself experiencing elation at being among other people.
He could not understand all that was being said and done; he assumed that things were as they should be. The dwarves might be simply interacting in ways that were, for all he knew, quite normal. So he sat on the bed ducking the flying mess the best he could and laughing and yelling, and really rather enjoying himself after his long life alone.
After a great while the fight seemed to slow a bit. The fact that it had lasted as long as it had was pretty remarkable. Most of the dwarves were not at all young and all were a little fat. The swearing had become apathetic and silly and most of the throws were completely off target. One of the dwarves tripped and slid under the table, which seemed to content him because he immediately fell asleep and began snoring loudly. Another sat down on the floor and satisfied himself with half-heartedly tripping the others as they ran past him. At long last the fight was over, and each of the dwarves stopped to catch his breath. It was then, for the first time, one of them noticed the Thin Hungry Man.
It was the Red-Haired Dwarf, who had sat in the middle of the circle tripping the other dwarves. He looked at the bed as if he were seeing a ghost. His Eyes boggled out and his face turned red.
"Hey!," he screamed. "Hey you! What are you doing on that bed? That isn't your bed, you know! Hey! LOOK! You stupid lumps, there's someone on our bed." The other dwarves had not noticed the Thin Hungry Man until this point.
All the little eyes in the room turned toward the Thin Hungry Man. He was smiling from ear to ear. He had never in his life been so happy. They saw him. He was not alone.
He hardly knew what to say. Their eyes pierced him with hostility. The dwarves glared their best glares. There were some muttered whispers among them as they pulled at their black beards, except for the dwarf who had noticed the Thin Hungry Man. His beard was red.
The Thin Hungry Man cleared his throat. His voice, now that he finally had the opportunity to use it, was choked with the happiness he felt. His eyes stung with joyous tears.
"Hey, you stupid lumps," he screamed elatedly. "This is a good bed. A very good bed!"
He hoped he had properly conveyed his excitement at meeting them.