“The Bountiful Hangnail,” by T. J. Young

Dec 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I’ve never met a cannibal named Harvey. When my mother gave me that name, I suppose she also doubted the credential could ever find itself attached to those banal phonemes. But nay she was wrong; I am eater of flesh, connoisseur of the Homo sapiens, taster of gammy knees and tennis elbows. It is I who dines on the crème de la crème of the food chain—the dastardly human. Does that make me king of the food chain, then? An emperor?

It just so happens I’m about to complete my master stroke, to earn my place in the anthropophaginian hall of fame, along the likes of Dhamer; the Stella Maris College Rugby Team; and of course the master, the man, the legend—the good Dr. Lector.

I have, since this June, shared a flat with Gavin James Neworth. He is 32-years-old and has a fiancée, and soon will be moving in with her—that is, if he were not so daft as to select for a flatmate one with an irresistible appetite for human tissue. He’s sitting on the couch now, playing Mario-Something.

He works in IT. His skin is pasty like that of a Christmas turkey. A plumage of curly hair sprouts from his scalp. He has a hook nose and an under-bite—not the best breeding, but then I’m interested in a specimen of plumpness more than character.

He sits now like a content Waygu cow, nursed in the folds of the couch as though in the terraced slopes surrounding Mount Fuji.

“What?” He pokes his nose toward me, beady eyes blinking.

I realize I’ve been staring, and so I break from my trance. I mumble an apology and slip into the kitchen, where the tools await. The tools and the spices and the condiments.

I am salivating.

I’ve already prepared a Cajun rub. The dishes are done. The empty refrigerator is humming in anticipation, as is my stomach. I prepare the beverage that will carry him off into sweet darkness. A little lime juice and soda water. Two shakes. Ice and a crushed sedative.

(I felt so embarrassed purchasing that maligned pill from the strange beanie-wearing fellow by the gas station. I had to tell him over and over again that I WOULD NOT be using it to diddle-up some unfortuitous young woman. He kept nodding and winking and saying ‘yeah, dude’ and ‘I gotcha, dude’… oblivious to the greatness in my coming endeavour, to the macabre of my methods.)

I swing into the living room and lower two perspiring glasses onto the table.

Gavin doesn’t shift his precious eyes from the screen. I push the tainted tonic temptingly toward him.

“Go on, Gavs,” says I. “Drink up, friend.”

His eyes flicker to the coffee table. He mumbles something about boundaries and moving out and how even his fiancé doesn’t treat him like this and blah, blah, blah…. I’m about to take a sip to show him it’s okay, just as a dog-owner might lap at a puppy’s new bowl.

I freeze, lips hovering before the rim. It is this glass, isn’t it, into which the crushed pill was deposited?

It’s not too late. I lean across the table and exchange our beverages with flawless dexterity.

Mr. Neworth is none the wiser. The tampered glass rests invitingly upon his table-space.

I glance down at my own, and I begin to think that it looks curiously like the one to which I remember adding the tincture.

With the stealth of a KGB hitman, I lean forward and switch our drinks again. I watch Gavin’s blank expression just to be sure. The flashes emitted from the screen reflect on his glazed pupils.

But I second-guess myself.

I switch the glasses again, with the silent grace of a Zen bartender. There.

But I third-guess myself.

Again I switch the drinks without Gavin batting an eyelash. And again, just to be safe.

And one more time.

“Can you not!” bellows Gavin, in a voice far too explosive to be described as indoor-friendly.

I’m wearing my mask of deception, as I reply with two quick blinks and an innocent, “Whatever is the matter?”

“You know what I mean. Jesus!”

Salute. Tres Bien! My opponent has scored a withering goal. I rattle off a stream of lies that paint the switching of the glasses as some unrealized habit, an unconscious tick brought on by excess caffeine.

He returns to his screen.

He believes it. Ha!

I twiddle my thumbs for a minute. I literally twiddle them. This is the action that people perform when they are bored or waiting for something. It is a shrewd display of body language designed to force my opponent’s hand.

He looks across at me irritably. “If I drink it, will you just go into your room and let me play the game?”

I nod. Yes. Yes, indeed, Gavin. That is what I will do.

He raises the glass and gulps down its contents in three gargantuan motions. His oesophagus throbs like that of the pelican at lunch, and I ponder on the taste of Gavin…. Is it a meat like pork, or like fowl? Is it a sprightly venison, a salty squid?

“You’re doing it again.”


“Stop staring at me,” he snaps.

“Oh,” I say again, and return to my thumbs.

Soon the serum shows its effects. His eyelids hang low, his head dips. He’s close now, nearing the darkened tunnel into which he may enter but never leave.

I confess to Gavin then, in the final moments before he dozes into a sleep that will make even Snow White seem an amphetamine-addled maniac, that he’s my first. That’s right, you read correctly, dear reader; unlike glorious Lector to whom I say my daily prayers, I am yet to dine on a human supine, to gnaw fervidly at a deep-fried femur. Though embarrassing to admit, I have not even nibbled on the softer parts of a person’s face. Presently, the pugilist Mike Tyson is a greater cannibal than the narrator of this tale. But now that Gavin has slumped sideways and is emitting a growing snore, all that shall change….

I lift one of his eyelids. It falls back into place. I yell into his ear.


I quarter a lemon. I sprinkle Gavin Neworth in salt and pepper and lay upon him a few sprigs of thyme. I retrieve a hacksaw, and I pluck its blade with my thumb. The thin strip of metal makes a satisfying twang. I roll up his pant leg, make a mark just above the knee, and begin to….


Wait, wait, wait.

His thigh is soft and the hairs on it are a light, silken blond. The crime I am committing will be written about by scholars for decades—nay—centuries to come, for being the most perplexingly vile, indescribably inhuman thing ever perpetrated. But a leg, an upper-thigh, the soft flesh that clings to it, is far too erotic a meat for friends to share. What Fruedian frolicking might ensue, shall I continue along this path? Surely there’s a still-palatable, still-platonic part of dear Gavin for me to swallow….

I sigh aloud. I roll his pant leg back down.

So instead I tug Gavin’s limp arm across the coffee table. I draw the saw through the air where I intend to make my cut. And then I press its teeth down to the flesh above the middle of the radius and ulna. And then I….

I hiccup.

“Okay, Harvey,” I whisper to myself. I take a deep breath and force a lick of the lips. “A delightful feast awaits ye.”

I lower the saw blade again. Immediately, the thought of running it part-way along the underside of Gavin’s arm initiates my gag reflex. (I was never good with the sight of blood.)

“Okay,” I say, shifting my imagined line further down the appendage, to the wrist.

I start to think of the hammering of the nails through James Caviezel’s hands in the Passion of the Christ. I dry retch.

“Okay, not there,” I tell myself. “You’ve got a bit history with wrists….”

I go further down, to the knuckles. I decide I’ll begin with an index entree, but when I press the saw-blade down, a terrible chill snakes my spine. So instead, I explore further along the digit, and settle finally on a protruding keratin slither—a delectable hangnail.

This, I decide, shall be my first Sapien-Snack.

I cleave it free from its bonding. Every nerve in my body tingles. I have taken the first bold step into a dark and maddening future. I hold out my tongue, poised to drop the hangnail into my insatiable maw.


You should savour it, I tell myself. Appreciate it. The act of ingesting the very being of Gavin Neworth should occur slowly enough, through several bites, that I can wholly appreciate every nuance of the change it will enliven in me.

Back in the kitchen, I add the hangnail to a bowlful of generic-brand chili. The can instructs the user to ‘heat to desired temperature’. As the microwave whirs, I catch my reflection in the darkened kitchen window, and grin in an evil kind of way. My lips are set in a scowl. One eyebrow sinks lower than the other. I look totally twisted.

It’s awesome.

I sit down alone at the little table in the kitchen as I spoon the chili into my mouth and chew and swallow. I wash it down with a glass of boxed merlot—a fine vintage 2014. With the last few scrapes at the bowl, I smack my lips a couple times, pattering my tongue to separate the many flavours. And there, beneath the sucrose and ground tomato and preservatives and the cheap wine, there lies the distinct and esoteric flavour of the flesh of the human—of the very, palpable soul.

I drive myself to the police station immediately.

It’s late. There’s a single female officer at the front desk. She has a nice auburn ponytail. She asks what she can do for me.

I give her a stare that turns her bones to icicles, and I then shatter them when I announce: “I have committed the crime of cannibalism.”

She looks at me, forehead furrowed in terror.

“The victim is one Gavin James Neworth,” I tell her. “You will find his remains at 32 Greenwich Drive. I have eaten his flesh. It is inside me. It is inside my stomach. Along with some chili. But it’s there.”

The officer stares at me, dumbfounded, panicked. Dread stifles her words. She manages to feign mild irritation, and mutters, “You’re going to need to take a seat.”

“Fear not, child,” I whisper. “I am not here to harm you. My hunger is sated… for now.” I hold out my hands then, cast them toward her in hopeless abandon. “Here, I am ready for the chains. Lock me away, as a monster should be locked. Cast the key into the abyss! Bolt the door, electrify the fences!”


Here I sit, at a small desk with cuffs on my hands. A cup of instant coffee steams warmly under my nose. The woman from the front desk is talking with another officer. They look at me. I tug my face into a distorted, mangled smile.

I make a little hiss. Not like Hannibal’s thing—something different.

I don’t quite know what I’m doing. I only know that this particular expression, from this day on, shall be my signature look.

I’ll have to remember it for the newspapers.


Defenestration-T. J. YoungT. J. Young is an aspiring author of speculative fiction who lives behind a computer monitor in a dimly-lit room, somewhere in Melbourne, Australia.

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