By Julie Carpenter
The girl stared at the Thin Hungry Man who was busily sniffing the flowers. He seemed quite content. His clothes hung in rags. He had a pair of what might have once been khaki shorts that continually slid down from his waist and caught on the bones of his hips. What might once have been a white t-shirt had a gaping hole under one arm and it was stained green and brown. He did not have shoes and his feet were rather ghastly with thick, calloused skin. He had strange patterns on his arms that appeared to be….blood. She had never seen anyone thinner. His elbows stuck out sharp and pointy and his knees….he was a bag of bones encased in pale white flesh, with only a breath of air to fill him. The only thing that appeared healthy about him was the shock of curly brown hair above his eyes. There seemed to be a terrible cowlick in the front and it stuck up and then bent back over into his right eye.
The girl walked over to him. "Who are you? Did you say you were my cousin." She assumed the little red haired bastard had been lying; but you always wanted to get the story out of whatever freak landed in the garden. Then you could convince them that there were people who wanted to buy their insurance in the forest or circuses to join a couple miles away or you could give them fake maps to fairyland or the North Pole. It took some effort but you could usually have them on their way to nothing before too long.
But this time a sudden vague uneasiness washed over her. There was something unsettling about the strange man. She reminded herself that all of the creatures that she met here made her uneasy. No, that was wrong. Most of the creatures she met annoyed her or flat out made her angry.. He definitely made her uneasy and a little sad. And maybe a little angry. How had he let himself get into this shape? She let her self go with the anger. She was annoyed that he had decided to drag his starving carcass here and make her feel sad. She felt a little more in control now that she was angry instead of sad. She felt a little more equal to getting rid of him. That was the important thing.
“Well,” she said, “Did you say you were my cousin?”
He stared at the girl. "What do you mean? What’s a cousin?" he asked.
The girl looked at his thin happy face and tried again. "Where did you come from?"
"I was with those guys," here he pointed vaguely in the direction of the dwarves' house "and we were throwing beer bottles and then he brought me here," said the Thin Hungry Man.
"I know that, but I also happen to know you couldn't have been there long. I just talked to their mother yesterday and she said nothing about you. Where did you come from? Before the dwarves’ house I mean?"
The Thin Hungry Man looked in the direction of the void. He pointed. "From the blackness." he said.
"That's odd," murmured the girl, really more to herself than to the Thin Hungry Man. "You don’t often see people fall from the void. And they don’t usually know they’ve been in the void. They always have some cockamamie story about their lives and where they’re going."
The Thin Hungry Man smiled hopefully. The girl looked at him. She sighed deeply. She was in no mood for foolishness today, or any day for that matter. He made her uncomfortable. It wasn't that hard to find food on the edge of the void.
She looked at the Thin Hungry Man. "What is your name?" she asked him.
"What do you mean?" he cocked his head like a confused and stupid beagle. A confused, stupid and painfully skinny beagle.
"I mean, what did people call you where you came from?" she explained, none too patiently. "For example, my name is Adelaide, so when someone I know sees me they say, 'Hello Adelaide.’ That sort of thing."
"Well," said the Thin Hungry Man slowly, "There weren't any others like me where I came from. Just me." A great sense of inadequacy came over him. He felt sad again and his stomach rumbled so loudly that the girl jumped back from him.
"There were no others, no names and no food," he said sadly.
"No food?" the girl asked him. "When was the last time you ate?"
"Never" said the Thin Hungry Man. He looked sadly at his finger, which had recently quit bleeding.
Adelaide looked at him, bloody and ridiculous, so thin he looked as though he might break. Flower petals fell from his hair now and again and a deep sadness had spread over his face.
"I know I'm going to regret this," she muttered to herself, shaking her head. "Come on in and have some lunch."
"Lunch?" said the Thin Hungry Man.
"Food." Adelaide explained. She was seriously annoyed at herself. Why didn't she just send back out to the void to pick up some snacks? It seemed wrong somehow. Well, she would feed him but then he had to go.