Will Graham stood before his table, willing himself to eat. Two (or was it three?) days of only water and weak tea was taking its toll. But no matter what he tried, his mind, trapped in a feedback loop even he recognized as fucked up, served unto him the taste of blood. The scent of offal. This time, the cost of chasing the ripper's latest acolyte (copycat was too reductive a term for the exchange) – the victims all devoured or partially devoured, but in an ecstasy of gluttony and abasement – teeth marks and torn veins. The Terror Rip, Mr. Thrill Kill, the newspapers called him, had delighted in contamination, in poison and toxin spread. In Squalor. A diseased mind, not particularly refined, aiming at shock and awe, and arriving only at shock and disgust.
Thrill Kill had, of course, killed himself in the third act, as they'd closed in, a carefully staged for maximum effect scene, himself naked before the mutilated and abased corpse of his final victim, both killer and victim smeared in excrement and blood – both of their mouths filled with offal.
And now it was all Will could see. All he could taste: Blood and shit.
He'd tried everything. In the days before, when the tremors and the vise had clenched around his chest, before, when he could still leave the house, when the outside world hadn't felt oppressive, the sky a measured weight over him, he'd gone to the store, Hudson's – to the deli counter, stood before all the aisles of packaged foods and saw meat. Stood before the jugs of milk and juice and saw fluids, red and coating. In the produce section he saw each leaf coated with the smear of Thrill Kill's hand.
But that was when he could still make himself leave the house.
He had told Lecter the truth, when he'd said that he only felt safe looking back at his house, floating in the dark of night with the lights calling, amber and warm, like a ship in a fog-shrouded lake. The isolations made him safe. The water a separating cushion to everything else – stopping the buffeting chop of sensation. Emotions – everyone else's thoughts and feelings, desired or not, there they were, hidden or overt – their feelings battering like fists – and himself, assaulted.
But now he couldn't leave the house, the bird of panic, fear-caged in his chest – fluttered and bashed his ribs if he so much as touched the door knob. His dog pack used the kitchen doggy door, and Will stayed safe behind his.
"Eat something," he hissed at himself, causing Winston to whine at the tone. "For God's sake. Eat anything. Take your pick."
The detritus of two day's failure to eat spread before him on the table. The meager givings of his cupboard and fridge making way for box after box of delivery food, pizza, the deli, Chinese – the only ones that would deliver out to the house. Each offering boxed or spread on wax paper, each lovely to look at but ashes or worse in his mouth. Each only missing one or two bites at most.
The pizza. He'd try the pizza again. It was freshest, and only topped with cheese. And he'd nearly managed to keep down a whole slice before his mind had turned traitor and he'd heaved it all up.
"Eat something, just anything, you dick," Will said, and his voice frightened him. The cracking growl of desperation, the gnawing, perpetual gnawing, of fear.
How much longer could it last? He closed his eyes and picked up a slice of pizza – brought the crust to his mouth. Took a bite and chewed, fighting back nausea at the texture – at the images – sinew and meat, the taste of blood and offal. Human waste.
Moaning, Will rushed to the sink, leaned over it choking and spitting, his arms trembling as he braced himself.
"God, you freak," he sobbed on the ragged breath, stolen from the clenching of his stomach. "Fucking freak."
How much longer could it last?
Will laughed weakly at the ridiculous predicament as he shuffled into the sitting room. He collapsed onto the sofa. Maybe this was it – the breakdown he'd always feared. Maybe instead of becoming a monster, cold, calculating and lethal, he'd instead become a quivering mass of feeling, incapable of caring for himself in even the most fundamental way. His mind, self-destructing to take out the cancer, turning it all inward, ruining him from within.
How much longer could it last? And how much longer could he keep Jack Crawford at bay with a story of the flu?
He was sick, that much was true. Everyone had always known it, and now his mind was the surgeon – cutting the disease out through starving his body.
A tortured laugh clawed out of Will's throat. Will Graham put his head back and laughed at the irony
How much longer could it last?