PART two: omli
Chapter 9: The Hunger
OMLI walked about the slum with his SKIMMA, slowly, his eyes searching for the smallest sign of food they could find. All he wanted was a bite, a tiny morsel. It had been days since he had eaten. OMLI was used to hunger, but not like this. This was the first time he hadn’t managed to find any food for more than a week. He was used to being hungry for hours, and more recently, for days. His childhood had trained him for it. It had made him used to eating a single meal every day. The concept of breakfast, lunch and dinner were alien to him. These were things that he had never experienced. OMLI’s entire existence revolved around a single thing, his daily meal.
Everything OMLI did, he did for his daily meal, just like he had seen his parents do when he lived with them; before they had discarded him. OMLI knew nothing else about life. For OMLI, each day started with a hunt for a daily meal, and it ended with the consumption of the meal. A meal could be found in various ways, depending on a number of circumstances that varied drastically each day. If an OSZA had a job, then a daily meal was guaranteed for as long as the OSZA could hold on to the job. If an OSZA was out of work, then a daily meal was tougher to come by, but not impossible. An OSZA could beg, an OSZA could plead, an OSZA could even steal if an opportunity presented itself. OMLI had been through his fair share of all three ever since he had started living in the slums. None of them had been all that successful. The OSZA who lived in the slum weren’t moved by begging and pleading. They instead shared their food with OMLI whenever they had enough to share. And on the days they didn’t, OMLI and his hunger were not their problem. Stealing had a higher success rate than the begging and the pleading, but it was rather risky as well. OMLI had attempted it a few times, but had stopped after he had been caught red handed. A few of the OSZA in the slum had given him a good trashing, and no amount of begging or pleading had convinced them to share food with him for a long time after the incident. That had been the first time OMLI had had to forgo his daily meal for days on end. He still remembered how it felt, and how sure he’d been that he was not going to survive. Fate, however, had thrown him a bone, and he’d pounced on it. A job had opened up in the mine, one that needed a tiny body to squeeze through some very tight spaces, and he’d jumped on it.
The hunger had never returned with such viciousness since then. The OSZA in the slum had eventually forgiven OMLI, and given him another chance. Things had gotten back to normal. Scraps of food were shared with him again on the days the mines had no use for him. And on the days the mines did require his services, his daily meal had been highly satisfying, with almost as much food in it as the daily meal his mother prepared for him.
The good times had, however, come to an end. There had been nothing for OMLI at the mine for the last few days, and the OSZA in the slum had nothing to share either. OMLI had been able to get past the first two days more easily than the last time. The pain had been as severe as back then, but he had expected it, and had therefore been mentally prepared for it. The hunger had been easier to ignore for the next few days, almost as if it had gone away. But OMLI knew, from his previous experience, that it was nothing but a ruse. He knew that it was about to return, and with a vengeance no less, just like it had the last time. And so it did, and it was unbearable. It attacked his insides even more viciously than he had thought it would, and hugging his SKIMMA no longer gave him the kind of comfort it did on the first two days. Laying down didn’t help. Curling up into a ball and crying did nothing. Caressing his stomach only made it worse. Before OMLI knew it, a light headed feeling had taken over him, and everything had begun to hurt.
OMLI had managed to overcome the pain, at least temporarily, and walk around the slum as best as he could, hoping that he would find something edible lying around. But he found nothing. He searched for as long as he could, fearful yet undeterred, before he finally collapsed in one of the slum’s streets. OMLI had no idea about what would happen next. He had never allowed the hunger to stay around for so long before. It seemed like everything around him was becoming hazy. Even his SKIMMA, which lay right next to him, seemed to have become blurry. OMLI tried to get up, but his body refused to move. Even keeping his eyes open soon became a major feat. OMLI had never felt such fear and hopelessness before. He wanted to scream, he wanted to cry, but he had no energy to do anything. He wanted to fight the hunger, but his body refused to cooperate with him. OMLI looked at his SKIMMA one last time, before his eyes shut themselves down completely. He tried to give his friend a parting smile, but the darkness the hunger brought with it took over before he could, refusing him even the smallest of mercies.