The air was thick and the clouds were tumbling towards the city, gathering darkness while they rolled undeterred by the wind. They seemed to move with purpose, faster and faster.
Then came the crash that sounded like chairs and tables being thrown down a flight of stairs. I liked that sound, it was almost musical.
I was seated on a bridge between two towers with the sky flashing angrily behind me. I was supposed to be afraid of heights, but here, I wasn’t. Far from it — as the fear slowly left me, I kicked my legs out carelessly, enjoying the lack of it. I felt like a god; invincible.
It was such a rare feeling, to not be afraid. I should have been afraid though. It was one of those bridges made entirely out of glass so you could see right through the bottom. Best part was, I was not sitting inside, but on top of it. Perched precariously, I was like an egg balancing itself, danger increasing as the glass was fast becoming slippery with the drizzle of rain that threatened to pour.
This was a recurring dream.
Sometimes, I’m so hungry, I’d chew on my own lip and the blood that trickled into my mouth has a taste I revel in. This was not a city of generosity.
Every penny and morsel would be squirreled away, kept for a rainy day. It was hard to get by. When you have not had a good meal for as long as I’ve had, you yearn for a taste, a taste of anything.
I dug out the few coins I had managed to scrounge up over the past few days. The others in the neighborhood always came to sweep me clean of the money I had beggared. I looked at the few cents I had lying in my hand. These were all I had.
Money is hard to come by, and these few coins I had in my possession amounted to nothing. There was nothing I could buy with this money. Was there any other purpose to it?
So I took one and I looked at it. And I could not help but be reminded of those little sweets that came in stacks, wrapped in fuchsia colored paper and topped with a green cap. Little thin stacks of a meaty-looking candy from my childhood.
That’s right! That’s what it reminded me of!
Thinking about it that way made it quite appetizing. Tentatively, I sniffed the candy. It smelled like something I could not quite put my finger on. I licked the sticky residue of the candy off my fingers. It tasted salty, with a hint of grime. I licked the coin. It tasted coppery, like something else altogether. Then an idea hit me. I would make a soup out of this coin. That would be how I would make it worth something.
I pushed the coin through my lips, feeling all the ridges, all the imperfections on its surface and on its side, and I mentally laughed at the idea that in that moment I was a postbox. I was like the piggy-bank I once owned as a child and I almost choked at the thought of my childhood, but I moved on as did the coin.
I had let the coin sit on my tongue while I waited for my saliva to accumulate to a good-sized swallow inside my mouth. I waited. And waited. And waited.
When there was finally just about enough saliva to cover the top of the coin, I left it to soak in the liquid.
And there it was. That metallic taste. I remembered it now. It tasted like blood.
This sudden revelation sent me reeling, exultant and joyful. I did not quite know what it was that had me on such a high, but the coin reverberated and threw itself into the depths of my throat. I felt my throat close, and I felt myself claw at the ache.
I kept choking. It didn’t feel like it was ever going to end. No one had been there to stop it. All that I had with me was the copper taste of blood that filled my lungs.
Feature image by Mardiana Sani for ISSUE Magazine
Ying Xian is doing her English Language and Literature in University College London. A couple of months ago, she had heard a poem about a kid who swallowed a coin in class out of boredom and was inspired. This is a darker take, but hey, she really liked the idea of eating money.