The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday January 26, 1995
A well-worn videotape of Hawk the Slayer was playing on his TV as Warren Talbot sat on his bed and picked idly at a bowl of chips. He hadn’t done more than nibble on one or two. Where was his appetite these days? Warren hoped his wasn’t sick, his father had always told him that being overweight put him on the fast track to stomach cancer. Warren didn’t really believe him because that was one of his Dad’s regular parenting tropes- stop picking your nose or you’ll get nose cancer, stop touching yourself or you’ll get dick cancer.
Warren Talbot had to laugh at that last one. If it that had been true there would be a special strain of the disease named after him by now.
A sharp pain arced in his abdomen, it ran from his navel to his heart and back down again. Warren rolled into a ball, kicking the bowl of chips high into the air. He hissed from the agony of it, “What the Hell?”
Then a terrible thought occurred to him, he looked around the room, “Tristam? Is it you?”
Warren staggered off the bed and steadied himself on his dresser. “It is you isn’t it?” He said, “What did I do wrong? We’re friends now!”
It felt to Warren like his belly was exploding. He looked down expecting to see a knife sprouting from his gut but there was nothing there.
Warren tried to take a step, lost his balance and fell forward. Everything in the room rattled when he hit the floor. His father shouted up the hallway, telling him to quit crashing around. Warren curled into a ball.
What if this wasn’t Tristam at all? What if he was finally getting what he deserved, the punishment for being fat? In this world you could be retarded or crippled or poor and someone would give a damn about you, someone would see you as a human being beyond a stereotyped caricature. But if you were fat all bets were off. You could get made fun of, you could be pushed around, screwed over or held back. It didn’t matter because you were fat- you carried evidence of your own weakness for everyone to see.
His mother came barging into his room and was at his side instantly. “What’s wrong honey?” She asked. “Did you fall down?”
“The Crucible of Damiea…” Warren spoke the words but didn’t know what they meant, didn’t know where they had come from. “Save me from the Crucible of Damiea...”
Then the power went out and strange thunder filled the air.