Dognahnyi - Part Two 

Dognahnyi - Part Two

The starving man crouched like an insect with raised elbows, dry tongue flickering…

He held out a wooden bowl containing a few dull coppers seeping sickly lamplight from their milled edges. I had been walking for miles in the oppressive heat of the City, night catching up with me still within the confines of the centre . . . I was attempting, in my innocence, to walk straight out of the City, but the place was far larger than I ever imagined. I hit upon a likely alleyway to sleep out the rest of the dark hours which, hopefully, were shorter at this time of the year. It was leaning against some restaurant’s backyard gate that I found the starving man or who, at least, I assumed to be in the process of starving, from the haunted look of his demeanour.

“Jus’ one coin, gent, not too much to ask…”

He croaked, more in tune with the constrictions of his throat than the empty echoing husk of his belly. His bulging eyeballs were partially engulfed by the surrounding wrinkled-fanned folds of flesh as he swallowed hard on the noiseless words he found impossible to utter in continuation of his initial attempts at communication with me.

“You can’t eat coins,” was my only rejoinder.

He seemed to derive a new lease of life from my tentative humour. “Yeh, but you can save ‘em up for the good ol’ days, can’t yer?”

“I don’t think those old days will ever arrive. How long have you been starving, anyway? Has it been a long haul, or have you had meals in between?”

“I’ve been force-fed many a time, but I’ve come back down ‘ere and sicked it all up . . . put me longest feeler down the longest part of me throat...”

He pointed at a glistening pile of melts further along the alley, fingering between the surrounding cobbles.

I sat down beside him, trying to ignore my own disgust. I opened the ruckbag which I had been toting like a hunchback from the cathedral areas of the City: offered him a disused sandwich which was still weeping wild honey at the sides: on finding him unreceptive, I gobbled it slowly myself, in the hope of wakening his taste buds. True, beads of cuckoo-spit eased from the corners of his mouth: even his long nose began to dangle a thickening green-veined froth. However, I could not tempt him, even with a walnut whirl that I had stashed below my spare pair of boots at the bottom of the ruckbag. It was then that I decided I could only sit and listen, in the hope of receiving some enlightenment to which my plod had brought me, perhaps accidentally, but more likely, as I thought at that time, by some devilish device of destiny.

He went on: “I don’ wan’ none of yer walnut whirls, sir, I just need money to hoard, so that I can invest it with time. Food’s no use to me, for I wan’ to sup on interest. My mind’s ablank t’otherwise, ‘taint it? You’ve got to have an int‘rest, a good yield growin’ from me bowl into the sky...”

I saw a shaft of yellowy light reaching from the bowl skyward... or, if I imagined it, I still saw it, nevertheless.

“...I ‘ave innards feedin’ off innards, like all critters with bony spines do ‘ave ... and the more int’rest they ‘ave, the more those innards whip about inside, cleavin’ one t’other, chewing each other’s ends and enticles, feastin’ off the oozin’s that the tubes’ self-syphonnin’.”

I had to interrupt. I could see that he was more intelligent than him self-imposed, mannered consonant and vowel elisions would indicate. Could this have been the New Man to whom the natural course of the world had finally brought us: someone who could live off his own thoughts, rather than the false metabolisms dependent on the injection of edible structures?

“Are you sure I can’t offer you something to eat, before you...”

“Die? I’ll not die, old ‘un.. .“ (I was not then old, but I knew what he meant.) “. . .except when my brain’s prime for swallowin’ by ‘tother innards that creep up into me head from me bowel-systems...”

At that point, his eyes fully appeared again in all their bulging glory, as the flesh folded back, almost out-shining the lamplight and the rediscovered moon.

I rose quietly, ensuring my departure did not disrupt his nirvana. I left the walnut whirl by his side, just in case...

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