Racing home from school on his bicycle, Trent let out a whoop of joy. He’d aced his math quiz, and made a B- on his science test; all in all, a good day! He was waiting for report cards as he knew his would have good grades (for once) and he might be able to get his father to crack a smile on that stony face of his. Hopping up onto the curb, Trent wove between a bench and a bus sign, much to the chagrin of Old Lady Shipman, who yelled after him. He just turned partially and flipped her the bird before looking forward once more, smiling as his apartment complex came into sight.
The Rampart Apartments weren’t the lap of luxury, but they were what his Dad could afford with his contractor job at the tech company he’d recently been hired by. He was hoping they’d make him a permanent employee at one point, and all signs were pointing in that direction. Trent was sure that they’d soon be moving to a more upscale home and out of the crumbling brick and mortar that was their home.
Rolling his bike into the lock and fastening it to the bars, Trent spun on his heel and made his way towards his apartment, number 201. When he got to the weathered door, he brushed away some stray paint chips before unlocking the door, stepping into the darkness of his musty two bedroom apartment. The living room had a sofa and a big screen television that Trent knew his Dad was five payments behind on; not that the store was going to do anything about it other than hit his Dad’s credit score. Dropping his backpack down by the sofa, Trent walked over to the large window set next to the door, the slated blinds allowing a filter of light from the dying sun. Wincing as the glare caught him full in the face, Trent rolled the blinds tighter, preventing the glare from coming through.
Turning, Trent was surprised as he was tackled to the wall, a rough hand grasping his throat, lifting him off the ground several inches.
Looking through dancing spots in front of his eyes, Trent saw a shaggy man, huge in size; he was easily six foot ten, with at least three hundred pounds of muscle. He had a scraggly beard and long, unwashed hair, which cascaded down over a dirty coat he bulged from. He was glaring at Trent with dark eyes, hooded by his own bushy eyebrows. He looked angry, his lips pulled back into a snarl, revealing large yellowed canines.
“You’re not Jim,” the man growled, low and deep.
“No,” Trent choked out, his hands grasping onto the lone arm holding him up. “I’m his son!”
“His son?” The man repeated, blinking. He loosened his grip for an instant before gripping even harder, making it difficult for Trent to get oxygen. “When does he get home boy?”
“At night, around nine!” Trent gurgled. “Please don’t kill me!”
The man scoffed at that, dropping Trent like a sack of beans to the floor where he gasped for air. “I’m not here for you boy, so count your blessings while you have ‘em.”
“Wh-why do you want me Dad?” Trent coughed, slowly getting the blue out from his cheeks.
“That’s none of your concern,” the man growled, this time louder. He walked over to the sofa and plopped down in the middle of it, one large hand going to the remote. “How do you get this damn thing to work?”
Trent would have laughed at the absurdity if he weren’t scared beyond reason. The man looked even more… feral at a distance, his nails long and curved, dirty but not cracked. And thick, like the claws of an animal. Trent got up off the ground, rubbing his neck, and walked over to where the man sat, holding out his hand. The man stared at it for a second before looking up into Trent’s eyes.
“What?” He grunted.
“Give me the remote and I’ll set it to the TV so you can watch something,” Trent offered, summoning up courage he didn’t know he had.
The man stared at Trent for a few seconds before idly tossing the remote at him, forcing the young boy to snatch the remote from the air before it struck his face. “Nice reflexes,” the man quipped. “Must get them from your mother’s side.”
“You knew my Mom?” Trent asked, surprised at this. He pressed the TV option and handed the remote back to the giant sitting on his couch.
“Knew her well enough,” the man said, pressing the power button. “Things gone differently I may have been your Daddy.”
That made Trent feel a little disturbed but he just shook it off and walked into the kitchen, grabbing himself a soda and chugging half of it, trying to calm his nerves. He could hear the bog man in the living room flipping through channels, his grumblings low enough to where Trent could barely make them out. He seemed to have on odd fascination with someone named “Aural”, and spoke of them every other sentence, but Trent couldn’t make anything else out.
“Hey runt,” the large man called out, “you got anything to eat in this joint?”
“Yeah… I got, um, some frozen pizzas and some sandwich meat, so you could have a sandwich if you want-” Trent rattled off before the large man was suddenly towering over Trent, his head scraping the ceiling.
“You got meat?” He asked with an animalistic growl.
“Uh, yeah… yeah, we got some steaks. Dad loves steaks so he always keeps some handy,” Trent said, moving deftly out of the way as the large man shouldered past him to the fridge, opening it up and gazing into the soft glow. He smiled, his yellowed teeth illuminated by the refrigerators dim glow, as he reached in and pulled out two steaks, wrapped in plastic wrap from the meat market. Trent let out a grunt as the steaks were thrown into him, pushing him back an inch on the kitchen tile.
“Make those, extra rare. Lots of pepper for mine, yours add whatever you want,” the man grumbled as he walked back towards the living room.
“Oh, sure, but I’m not going to need one,” Trent said with a weak smile. “I’m a vegetarian.”
The giant wheeled around, eyes coming level with Trent’s, the baleful yellow glow causing something deep within Trent to shiver. “You’re what?”
“I-I’m a vegetarian?” Trent repeated with uncertainty.
The man snorted, as if it were a joke, before poking Trent in the shoulder with two fingers.
“No wonder you’re a runt,” he grumbled with a sarcastic smile, “you ain’t been eating your meats. How long you been this way boy?”
“Oh, I’ve been a vegetarian for about six years. One of Dad’s girlfriends was one and… she…” Trent explained, trailing off as the man pulled one of the steaks from the plastic wrap slowly, bloody droplets falling from the raw meat.
“Eat this,” the man said, holding up the fistful of meat. “Or I break your fingers.”
Trent swallowed the lump of fear that suddenly formed in his throat. “O-O-Oh, bu-but it’s r-raw.”
The man gave a wide, toothy grin. “Some of the best things in life son are done raw, and eating some bloody meat will be good for you. Kid your age needs protein in order to grow, not… plants. Now eat it, you got two minutes before I begin breaking bones.”
Trent took the partially squeezed meat from the stranger’s hand, looking at it with barely hidden disgust. It was drizzling bloody water to the tile below, some dribbling down his arm as he cradled the meat carefully with his forearm. He leaned in and, holding his breath, took a large bit out of a section of brilliant red and soft white, tearing it away with his teeth after shaking his head back and forth several times.
It tasted like iron, and was cold in his hot mouth. His teeth ached at the temperature, and the bloody flow of juices seemed to only increase as Trent took another bite into the steak. Slowly, he devoured half of the steak, the meat settling uncomfortably in his stomach, which gurgled unhappily. The man stood there the whole time, smiling with his arms crossed, watching Trent with smug satisfaction as the boy ate the raw slab of beef.
Choking down the last bit of gristle, Trent swallowed the fatty tissue with tears at the corners of his eyes. The man nodded approvingly before patting him on the shoulder with a large rough hand. “Should have done that years ago,” he said as he turned and headed back into the living room. “Remember, I want mine rare.”
Trent looked at the other steak, one much larger than the small bit he’d just choked down, and gulped. He walked over to the sink and washed his hands before pooling water into one hand and drinking from it, swishing the taste of raw meat from his mouth. He was surprised he’d been able to do it without puking, but when faced with what seems like certain death, you find a way to manage.