This month we turn the clock back to April 2015, when we first published Shannon Peavey’s brilliantly bizarre “Some People Belong Inside”. This story is set in a surreal prison where inmates are charged with changing their daughters into trees, stealing people’s identities by literally turning into them, and other, nearly unspeakable things. The story’s protagonist draws inspiration from the real-life insatiable eater, Tarrare, the “hungriest man in history.”
They sit in silence for the rest of the meal, watching each other eat. He thinks they’re probably both reliving it, that deep shameful thing that brought them to this place chained like beasts. For Tarrare, it’s the rush of blood in his teeth, the visceral god, that’s good, that really hit the spot—and then later, only later, the knowledge that he had done something unforgivable and needed to hide himself. He’d licked the blood up off the linoleum.
The guard squashes Tarrare’s face to the vent letting air out of the kitchen, all hot metal against his cheek, and food smells and oil smells, and he can’t help it—he drools, actually drools, a little slug of saliva inching over his lip to roll down his chin.
The guard laughs and grinds his sweaty palm into the back of Tarrare’s neck. “Pathological,” he says.
With his hands cuffed short, Tarrare can’t even reach up to wipe his mouth. The spit starts to dry on his face. It’s not that the vent air smells good—it’s prison air, prison food. But he’s just so fucking hungry.
“Better enjoy it now,” the guard says. “You won’t be eating like you used to, in here.” There’s a note of disgust in his voice, and Tarrare thinks about saying that his appetite wasn’t so unnatural, he didn’t eat like that all the time—but he doesn’t. It isn’t really true.
Finally the hand on his neck lets up. Tarrare straightens, but keeps his head bowed. He likes to avoid trouble, when he can.
The guard prods him, and they walk on. This hallway is as long and empty as the one before it, all blank walls and closed doors without numbers or windows or knobs. The guard’s footsteps sound hollow on the concrete, but Tarrare is wearing soft-soled slip-ons and he walks silently.
At the end of the hall, a door slides open, gaping into the black hole of another room. A noise spills from it—a crackle and buzz, a soft sound like industrial lights or a TV set to an empty station.
They step into a little space with a door on either side, about the size of the walk-in closet at his house. His old house. The guard uncuffs him and the other door opens.