The Choice (Story by Risa Peris)

Cannibalism is a choice. Most often, at least for those weaned on Western Civilization, it is a very desperate choice. I have heard, the Royal Geographic Society and general talk amongst Navy men, that there are some cultures or groups of people that regularly practice cannibalism.

“It’s really extraordinary,” said Captain Wentworth as he sipped port by his fireplace. “Eating the flesh of the dead in some cultures is an honorary task and imbibes them with the heathen spirits they worship. I really can’t imagine. They aren’t starving when they eat the human flesh.” He sipped some more port. “But I’ve also heard that people from Britain, good and God-fearing Brits, have practiced cannibalism in order to survive terrible hardship. It’s illegal you know? If the Royal Navy finds out…there will be a court-martial. Do try to exercise good caution on your ship Captain Davies.”

“We won’t become cannibals.” I laughed and Captain Wentworth poured me some more port when the maid came into the Great Room and announced that dessert was ready. Plum pudding and cake.

That was three years ago and now Captain Davies was drifting in a small boat. His ship had sunk. Something, likely a whale, had formed a large hole in the hull. There were four smaller boats. We moved whatever rations we had to the boats. Scottish biscuits, salted pork, fresh water, rum, and some rotting food acquired in Argentina. The ship went down 2000 miles off the South American coast.

On day 45 we were depleted and sunburned. Men were dying of scurvy and malnutrition. At first, we said a few words from the Bible and then dumped the body into a watery grave. But we were losing our minds. Slowly and painfully. When dawn shattered the darkness we discovered another man dead. We hadn’t had protein in six days. It was as if all the fish were avoiding us. The men were about to dump the body without Biblical words as God had long since left us on our arduous journey to South America.

“Let’s eat the body,” I said.

The men squinted at me. Every man looked like a barely breathing corpse. No one said anything and Boatswain Malcolm unsheathed his boat knife and cut into the flesh of the man. We all shared in the meat. It tasted wonderful and there was still a tiny amount of fat on the body that made my mouth water. We drank the blood as our water rations were running low.

Cannibalism was a choice made out of sheer desperation and that white flame in my chest that was determined to survive. I won’t bother you with the rest of my journey. I write these words in a land called Rapa Nui. Only two others of my crew survived but they roam the beaches as they are now mad. The natives laugh at them. I am learning the language. I have kept the cannibalism secret but there is some talk on the island about the practice of cannibalism in the past amongst the people of Rapa Nui. I do not know if that is true. My grasp of the language is poor. All I know is that I survived and could never return to England with tales of cannibalism on the boats striving to reach South America.

Pray, do not judge me harshly. I’m still a religious man and my Bible survived the terrible journey. I read it every day but no words can erase the black mark on my soul of cannibalism or erase the eager hunger for human flesh and fat.

THE END

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