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hunger pangs

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Eve’s return is ugly. A grotesque dislocation not meant to be watched. 


She wrestles against a boundless grave, lone arm struggling to break through a shifting surface with desperation too blunt to cut through anything real let alone death. Like a dog chasing its own tail, Eve chases the absence of her shadow. So when the cold starts to creep in, Eve does not resist. She lets it settle like fog on windshield glass, lets it seep into marrow like the first frost of winter until it leaves behind a body too still. Until the human in her has fossilized into nothing but memory. 


That’s when Eve rips open her grave—not with her arm, but with teeth—hunger snagging itself onto the reeds as she gnashes like a dead thing, dirty river water, blood, and spittle mingling together like rot. 


And like a dead thing, Eve emerges from the water with a body unnaturally cold and pale, filled with untamable want. The sound that claws out from the back of her throat is a raw, animalistic craving for red-hot warmth—the kind that turns her into a vulture picking at carcasses. The kind that reminds her she’s a dead woman walking. 


There’s nothing reverent about her unbecoming. Especially when it’s not caused by her hands. Or her hands. Revenge trembles through her. Eve cups her bloody palms together, lowers them until they fill up with water, and watches as liquid slips through the gaps between her fingers the same way she slipped into death—through violent reversal. An invitation turned to warning turned to a hybrid monster of both. She blinks and a phantom heart rests in her hands. She cradles it violently, nails gouging into an unwanted fate, daring herself into rejecting it but being unable to follow through. Even dead things want to survive.  


And just like all dead things, Eve does not look back when she leaves. 



It is not hard to find Carolyn. Her ability to be unpredictable relies upon her predictability. She walks the thin line of doing exactly what others predict her to while thwarting every expectation laid in front of her. 


The door is already unlocked—not for her, Eve suspects it’s out of a general carelessness more than anything. Carolyn has reclaimed her throne now. She has taken care of her unfinished business. Now it’s Eve’s turn. 


Eve doesn’t bother to take off her shoes and lets them squeak against the tile, leaving behind muddy footprints on luxury runners and polished hardwood. She doesn’t need to concern herself with being inconspicuous, not when being dead is the most effective shield against unwanted attention. Tomorrow, MI6 will come to label evidence, take pictures, estimate shoe sizes and handprints, and gather samples of blood and sediment. They will calculate the inhuman amount of force it takes for a wine key to be jammed into someone’s skull. And when they do the autopsy, they will find that there is no brain left to examine, just a leftover congealed mess of fat sitting inside, like a runny cake batter that has been left out for too long. 


They will ponder on the impossibility of it all, scratching their heads as they try to recreate the sequence of events that might have led to this. If only they knew it all started in a corner shop under the guise of buying milk. 


In the end, the reports will be sealed and another case will be dropped into a stack of files long forgotten. They will pack their things and clean house. There was never a Carolyn Martens, certainly not one that worked for MI6. And certainly, not one that had her brain scrambled with a steel wine opener. 


It’s fitting. An invisible death for an invisible person.


Eve stops at the threshold of the kitchen, her waterlogged shoes making obnoxious squelches with every motion. She steadies herself at the doorway, half-expecting Carolyn to look up and let slip that big blink she does when you’ve just managed to catch her off guard. Or tilt her head the slightest degree, sharpen her brow. 


For a moment, Eve forgets that she is a dead thing because only the living give themselves away. 


But Carolyn does none of those things. She sits in the dark with shoulders hunched over the marble-top as she nurses a glass of scotch like a lukewarm consolation prize. With all the lights in the home turned off, the curtains have been thrown open to let the bloodshot night spill through the windows. Beyond the sliding glass doors, the moon remains distant and flickering, tucked behind rolling wisps like an unwilling witness. Like a prowling animal, Eve steps in to take the stage.


Her elbow bumps against the corner of the kitchen island and she freezes. 


Carolyn still does not turn.


Eve waits. Watches. Follows the way moonlight skips over the polished countertop. The way it traps itself in beads of sweat rolling down the nearly empty bottle of Lagavulin. Her eyes catch on the steel wine opener, the way it twitches red. Eve’s fingers skate across the marble, but she does not grab it. Yet.


Even as a dead thing, impatience begins to itch at her. The frustration of being caught exactly where they expect you to be makes something rise inside of her. Her fingers shiver against the wine key but Eve holds, then changes course and grabs the bottle to take a hefty swig, collapsing in an ungraceful heap on the barstool next to Carolyn. 


With the back of her hand, she swipes at her mouth, rough and uncouth. “Wasn’t the warm welcome you were hoping for?” Because Eve will always poke the sleeping bears. She deposits the bottle on the counter a little too harshly. It wobbles, glass echoing against marble. From the corner of her eye, she glances at Carolyn. “I can’t imagine they’d be entirely too happy with you.”


Carolyn lets out a funny little noise, strangled and stuck in the back of her throat. She rotates the tumbler in her hand, ice clinking against the sides of the glass as it melts. “Life so rarely turns out the way we hope to, Eve. The best we can do is salvage whatever comes our way by picking the bits that disappoint the least.”


Eve stiffens. She rubs at her shoulder, palm coming away dark and sticky. She looks down at her hand, inky dark warmth smeared across her fingers. She feels the phantom dig of the bullet and the thing inside of her unfurls. A drowned man can’t be reclaimed from the sea. Eve came out of that water like something new. Something worse. 


Eve braces herself against the counter, hand leaving behind a bloody fossil for tomorrow. She twists in her seat, all bared teeth and manic eyes, “Just like you, to make others do your dirty work so you can swoop in to salvage whatever’s left. Did it feel good? Taking something back, one last time?”


Carolyn hums and takes one final sip of her drink before pushing it away. “I suppose that’s why you’re here, Eve. To find out, I imagine. We’re quite similar in that regard.”


“Oh fuck you!” Her vision flashes red. Something inside of her chest howls, an empty sound. “I’m nothing like you,” Eve spits out.


“No, you aren’t,” Carolyn acquiesces with a nod. “If you were, you would have utilized a more sensible approach on that boat. But we both know the Twelve were only a means to an end for you.” Eve’s hand stills, bloody and coiled around the wine key. “As it stands, Eve, your instinct may be the best and worst thing about you.” Carolyn shrugs as if this is something that can’t be helped. 


Eve guffaws. Lets out the loudest, ugliest laugh. Hears it twist and unsheathe its claws as it echoes and settles in the emptiness around them. She watches as Carolyn tenses under the weight of it. Good. “Oh yeah? You wanna hear yours?” 


With a subtle nod of the head, Carolyn gestures for her to go ahead. “I suppose you’ll enlighten me, won’t you?” 


Eve’s smile cuts wider as she thumbs the wine key. In one smooth motion, she lunges across and grabs Carolyn by the back of her neck. Before Carolyn can even think to struggle, she brings her head down, slamming it into the countertop. Eve doesn’t hesitate—she adjusts her grip on the wine key and slams it into the back of Carolyn’s head. It goes in smoothly, the corkscrew sliding through the first few layers of scalp until it meets resistance at the skull. Eve grunts in frustration and pulls her arm back to try again. She ignores Carolyn’s thrashing and grips her neck even tighter. Eve’s hand arcs down again, and a sharp crack echoes throughout the room as she finally pierces through skull. Like a puppet with its strings cut, Carolyn’s body goes limp. Blood spurts out of the fresh wound and Eve lets it coat her hands. 


She releases a deep breath and slides off of Carolyn’s body, dropping the wine key on the floor, corkscrew mangled and dripping. She tugs the body towards her so that the head comes to rest in front of her, presented on a platter of red. Some of the blood rolls down the edge of the counter and splatters on her pants but Eve pays no mind. 


No, Carolyn. There is no enlightenment to be found in death. Her fingers dig into the cracked open skull, warmth digging under her fingernails. Eve lost a lot in the water. But she took some things from it too. 



Eve has not moved from the floor of her hotel room. Not since the night she dragged herself out of the water. Her clothes have dried unevenly, some parts rough against her skin, others still damp. She doesn’t know how long it has been. Time means nothing when you are dead. 


She lays there, tracing shadows as light turns to dark turns to light again outside of her room. The sun sets, the moon shifts across the sky; the tv plays soundlessly in the background, colors flashing—the only source of light in the otherwise dark room—and Eve does nothing. 


The second night, she tried to sleep. Hell, even the Ambien tried—and the bottle of vodka, but nothing helped. So she laid there, ignoring the sprawling shroud crouched in the corners of her vision, thrumming in time with the beat of her heart, unfurling and receding. 


The sun rises and Eve breathes. She rubs at her shoulder, presses in, does everything but look at it. She can’t. Doesn’t dare to for the fear of what she might find. A puckered wound or clean, unmarred skin. Instead, she keeps her hand there and lets it pulse in haunting. 


The sun sets and Eve forgets. She does not remember the wound, but the river. She does not remember the death, but the grave. She blinks and forgets that her boots carry evidence of the previous night’s outing—forgets that her shirt is wet with more than just her blood. Eve blinks and forgets why she is filled with sudden, solitary hunger.


She blinks and the world tilts into red. 


In the background, the tv flashes with a report of another murder. 



At first, Eve thinks she imagines it—the sharp, insistent knocking. Maybe it’s coming from the room across the hall. But then it happens again, a little more forcefully this time—enough to shake the door and cut through the haze of vodka. 


Eve groans. With shoes scraping against the carpet, she pushes herself up from the ground. She sways and one arm braces itself on the coffee table to steady her body. Her elbow slides against the surface and knocks over a few things—a stray mug, some hotel-issued magazines—but she finally pulls herself up to a standing position. She stumbles over to the door, vision tilting dangerously as lights and colors blur with every step. 


Now that Eve is here, it is very obvious that the knocking is coming from outside of her door and not anyone else’s. She eyes the door, misses her first attempt at grabbing the handle, and decides that she, in fact, will not be opening the door anymore. 


Eve does not go back to her position on the floor, but stands there and waits. Behind the door, she hears a few muffled curses before the knocking stops. She has a few seconds of blissful silence before the door handle starts being jerked, shaking almost violently.


She waits and continues to do nothing. Lets objects blur and sharpen with every passing second. 


There is a sharp click as the door unlocks and Eve finally has the thought that perhaps she should have grabbed a knife on her way here. Maybe approaching empty-handed wasn’t a good idea. Before she can even begin to back away, the handle turns and Eve stands there with her heart in her throat. 


When the door swings open to reveal a very sharply dressed ghost, Eve throws up at its feet. 



Unlike Eve, Villanelle is not wearing the same clothes that she was buried in and that’s how Eve knows that she isn’t real. 


“Are you drunk?” Villanelle stands in front of her with crossed arms and a funny look, like she’s constipated. Eve releases a deranged giggle, laughing even harder when Villanelle’s eyebrows do an odd little jump. It’s funny because hallucinations cannot become constipated. They cannot have eyebrows that do gymnastics routines. They are just two-dimensional mirages. They do not know mortality. They don’t know a lot of things. They don’t even know that they’re fake! 


Eve’s head lolls against the couch as the last of her laughs taper off into uneven gasps. She takes a stuttering breath and buries her head in her hands. “Shut up, brain,” she says because really, there is only room for one dead thing to exist in this world and Eve has already claimed that spot. Villanelle is just the lucky husk at the bottom of the Thames. 


Villanelle nods to herself, seemingly making up her mind about something. She crouches down next to Eve, snakes an arm under the back of her knees, the other positioned between her shoulder blades for support, and then lifts her—ha! What a talented hallucination—before depositing her onto the couch so that Eve can comfortably lay down. 


Villanelle leans over her, expression walking the very thin line between concern and pity. “I will wait for you to sleep it off. And then we will talk.”


“Fuck off,” Eve mumbles because nobody tells her what to do, not even an illusion conjured by her own brain. Sleep, what a funny little activity. Eve has not been able to sleep since the night she clawed out from her grave. She has felt it inside of her—the hole, this stretching yawn, a bone-deep rot that keeps her up at night and blurs her memory.


Dead things do not sleep, and yet, when Villanelle runs a fluttering hand through her hair, Eve can’t help but close her eyes. 



The next time Eve blinks, the room is bathed in warm evening light and Villanelle is leaning over her.


Wait. Villanelle. 


Dead Villanelle. 


Eve jerks up, arms flailing and making contact with a very solid face.




“What the fuck!” 


“Eve, ow!” Villanelle stumbles back, clutching at her nose while she blinks back tears. 


“You’re dead!” Eve accuses. “I saw you die!” Because she did. Watched Villanelle sink right down. Watched as she became all shadow, no shape. 


Villanelle blinks, slow and surprised. “Yes, well I thought the same about you. And yet here you are, rotting away in your hotel room.” 


Eve ignores the immature dig and runs a shaky hand through her hair. “Oh god, I’m going crazy. I’ve officially lost my mind.” 


She rolls her eyes as if Eve is being the dramatic one. Eve! “You’re not crazy, Eve. I am alive. See?” Villanelle moves forward to touch her but Eve is faster, dodging out of her reach and scrambling to the other side of the couch. 


“No. Don’t—No. Don’t touch me.” Her chest stutters. 


Villanelle does not listen and grabs Eve by the wrist. “Look,” she jerks Eve towards her until their noses are almost brushing. Her eyes bore into Eve’s own, reflecting the same eroded glint Eve saw in herself when she glanced at the mirror in Carolyn’s foyer. “Feel,” Villanelle commands, squeezing around her wrist. The pressure is sharp, grounding. Cold.


Eve slumps. “Oh god,” she chokes out. “Oh god, you’re actually—” 


“I had to clean your vomit off of my very new shoes.” Villanelle cuts her off, very clearly not interested in doing feelings at the moment. She scrunches her nose and looks down at her sneakers very despondently. “It was very gross, Eve. Vodka and stomach acid do not wash off Moncler very easily. You are very lucky I did not wear their boots today,  or the suede would have been ruined.”


The expression on Eve’s face must be ridiculous because Villanelle immediately stops wiggling her feet. “Seriously?” Eve feels crazy, “You just came back from the dead and your biggest priority right now is shoes?” 


She gets a response in the form of a one-shouldered shrug and wide eyes painted in faux regret. 


Villanelle, that little shit, breaks into Eve’s hotel room only to place a bag of fucking rocks on her chest and Eve hates it. Eve hates her. For doing this. For doing it now. 


Villanelle’s eyes flash in knowing, like she can read exactly what Eve is thinking. Like she came out of the water armed with an instruction manual for navigating this while Eve came out with something missing and a gaping hole where it used to be. 


“And food,” she adds like it should be obvious that this is exactly where her priorities lie. 


“Food?” Having a conversation with Villanelle was always like getting whiplash. Why Eve thought this one would be any different is beyond her. 


Villanelle nods. “Yes,” she says, giving absolutely nothing more. 


“But I’m not hungry,” Eve protests weakly. She can’t remember the last time she was. It seems so trivial now.


“No, but you will be,” Villanelle replies, as if that’s exactly what they’re trying to avoid. Her gaze is critical, taking in Eve’s appearance—her hair, matted and tangled, week-old clothes covered in dried blood, dirty river water, and who knows what else. Eve feels the self-consciousness start to creep in, she straightens her shirt and wraps her arms around herself. Says nothing. 


Villanelle opens her mouth then pauses. She has never worn hesitation well. She must know this too because she turns away, wandering over to the untouched bed and flopping down. Eve watches as the mattress bounces before sinking with her weight. “Go wash up, Eve. And then we can leave for dinner.” 


Eve turns, body poised and facing the bathroom door, leaning forward to all but bolt into someplace away from whatever she has opened her door to but at the last second, she hesitates. Because what if, what if she leaves the room and—


Villanelle must read the apprehension in her stance because reassurance comes immediately, “I promise, you can ask all of your questions during dinner.” 


God, Eve wants to cry. She wants to shove Villanelle off of her bed and yell at her to get the fuck out. Wants to scream at the effortless way she manages to peel back all of her layers while Eve struggles to find her footing. Her vision jerks and Eve feels it rising within her again. It climbs, on its hands and knees like a hungry scavenger, building and building and rising up and up until Eve can feel it scratch against the back of her throat until she can almost taste it. But then Villanelle shifts on the bed, both arms coming up to rest under her sternum, and Eve’s stomach rolls—enough to make whatever that was slither back down, out of reach. 


Eve takes an unsteady breath. Then another. And manages to hold it together until the bathroom door locks with a resounding click.