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“I think I was born hungry,” she says softly. She doesn’t mean the squalling, innate hunger that drives every young thing, or the graceless curiosity that gets chipped away at until it’s something beveled and respectable. Sometimes, she’s not entirely sure what she means herself.

It’s a quiet kind of hunger, the kind that creeps in at dawn with the sun and grows in strength throughout the day, refusing to be sated no matter how many meals its bearer eats. It’s the kind that people fill with large glasses of water and liquor with the dying of the sun, so they can try to sleep. Put it off ‘till the morning. It’s not complacency, not quite, but sometimes it dims when the body is busy but grows when the mind is engaged, like an old soul with a toothache.

Sunlight doesn’t cure it. There’s a void beneath her skin, somewhere between her stomach and her heart, where the fungus grows strong and slicks up her molecules like a path of stone in a shaded courtyard.

She’s not sure if anyone shares her hunger; they never say, and she’s never quite asked.

But there are times when she sips spiced water from a cup and the hunger dims, a little, as though recognizing a kindred spirit. There are times when she catches wind of a familiar scent, just beyond the veil of nostalgia, and grimaces at the fleeting peace she can never quite replicate. So she fills the ebb and flow of the thing, the systole and diastole of its heartbeat, with the miasma of stale grease and the prick of flavorless salt. She all but forgets the warm spices, watery soups, and creamy vegetables native to the parts of her soul. She remembers a shadow of the strong chocolates of her youth in the sugary syrup she plucks in chunks from the boxes into which they were poured.

She keeps searching, but doesn’t think to look behind. Her people rarely do.

Occasionally she whispers her question to someone who might know, but she’s inevitably disappointed. She used to guard her secret closely until she realized that none of her listeners understood anyway. The fare that salts their stomachs has chased away the memories in the furrows of their blood, too.