The Bank of Flesh

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
A couple of miles down the decrepit villages and a few minutes walking along the white gravel path, you will see a weirdly inclined mountain crowned in thick vegetation. If you were to climb to its summit, there is a well-hidden tunnel below the bent willow tree, camouflaged marvelously under green foliage and stinging nettle. At end of the tunnel, a cliff presides the view, on which you see a greyish brick house, unimpressively painted but complete with three windows, a chimney, a wooden door, and every essential of a mildly antiquated dwelling. Here lives a recluse – a man who seldom interacted with secularity since his admittance here – on a contract he signed with mother nature, a truce to combat the vileness of mankind's mutual action with his non-cooperation and fervent curses.

The lone man kept a garden to sustain himself, surrounded by a layer of rudimentary fencing backed by pieces of granite he harvested from a landslide. Rows of potatoes, carrots, and onions comprised a conspicuous oddity in the disarray of trees, bushes, and flowers covering the entire landscape. Instead of hunting to supplement the lack of meat, he would occasionally visit the morning bazaar at foot of the mountain in a village nearby, trading his harvest and items scavenged along the way for a few pounds of fresh chicken or beef. The house contained a small furnace connected to the chimney, which burned logs and twigs when the weather becomes frigid, and its owner could watch the descent of silenced snowflakes while drinking some melted snow. Simple and laborious a life he lived, this man believed he cannot be happier, sadder, or impart any change to his benumbed feelings. "The world is never meant for humans." He thought, polishing the silver dollar his grandparents gave him as a present on his twentieth birthday.

On a foggy morning, in the dimly lit bedroom stacked with crates of vegetables, the weary man was rudely awakened by the clanging of pickaxes, striking harder and harder with a hint of frustration. He had slept poorly due to water leaking through the rooftop, constantly hitting the floor like a perpetually clicking metronome. Irritated and curious, the man put on his gear and ventured into the mountain, attempting to locate the source of the clanging noise.

"What kind of fool is here to mine?" He asked, still moody from an early rise. Indeed, the mountain has been largely uninhabited from his memory, devoid of tourists and human activity. As he walked further, the clanging sound seemed to be alive, swaying right and left playing with his senses. Suddenly, a sharp chill ran down the adventurer's neck to his hip bone, but no mortal will impede the advancement of this intrepid explorer. He reassured himself, determined that it was certainly just echoes.

Finally, the sound led to a rugged pathway, long abandoned and conquered by an overgrowth of weed and grass, where the sound appeared to emanate from. However, as soon as he entered the grass, the clanging instantaneously diminished, leaving no evidence of its prior existence. Alerted, the man backed away a few steps from the grotesque scenario, then decided to risk it anyway, as he vowed to not return empty-handed, having followed a long way here.

He spotted a dirty elliptical object lying in the middle, embedded in the dirt. The object emitted a strange smell inconsistent with its natural assimilation, most similar to the odor of freshly printed newspaper. Confused, the man closely examined it, excavated it, and dragged it home on his foldable wagon. The moon had already hung up high in the sky, eerily glowing with a pallid red hue through the congregated clouds.

After an hour of dedicated washing and scrubbing, the object had revealed its underlying enigma. It is a Piggy Bank, beautifully golden, boasting a disproportionately large belly and fitted with a knob labeled "Press for cash". A slit is visible on the underside of its belly, thick enough for a finger to enter.

"I wonder if this is a hoax." The man looked intently, bewildered by the design of it and internally attached to its glamour, a feeling he had not experienced in the last decade. He hesitated for a few minutes, stood up in a fight-or-flight position, and pressed the button with a shaking finger.

Immediately, the piggy bank began shaking, filling the room with mechanical sounds. There were gears, springs, and other parts working deafeningly loud, as if the thing would explode in the next millisecond. Our experimenter ran behind the nearest table and cowered beneath it, regretting his decisions and hoping to live to see another sunrise. Eventually the commotion paused, summarized with the dispense of an object through the belly slit. The man slowly crawled out and approached the piggy bank with extreme caution, terminated at the moment he recognized the dropped object.

"Wh...What? A bundle of a hundred banknotes?" He picked the cash up incredulously, overwhelmed by fright and delight. His family, as far as he could recall, was never affluent. He lived with his parents in a small apartment, ate cheap meals, and slept on a second-hand mattress during childhood, a fact which procured him contempt from everyone. Kids of rich families nearby would make faces and call him names as they drove by in deluxe sportscars, his teachers would belittle him, and no romance did he ever encounter. He saw through the glass wealthy businessmen dining and celebrating, while the beggar beside him was lapsing into a coma from weeks of starvation before demise. The recluse loathed the hostility and indifference of society, the pervasive inequality, and most of all his mediocracy, capable of living a satisfactory life but unable to improve the status quo for anyone.

It was already morning when the man finally regained his senses, falling to the floor from exhaustion. The floor was overlaid with bundles of cash thick enough to be sat on, comparable to a money factory on turbo mode printing stimulus funds. Quietly, he packed three duffel bags and hurried down the mountain, rode a bus to the capital city, and departed from the nearest exit. Never has he felt so light and unimpeded by precepts of the Darwinian world he despised.

The following day proved to be a spree. First, he ate and bought anything in sight, ignoring any concept of price or discounts. Later seeing the apartment of his former bullies, his anger had inexorably ignited and he sabotaged everything, leaving a pile of cash on every car he smashed and for every person he attacked. Soon enough he found himself kicking mercilessly at homeless people who begged from him, while clinging to his duffel bags like a rabid dog. A creepy smile appeared on his face, almost cutting into his cheeks as he looked sadistically at those he had hurt.

Upon returning to his now worthless shack, the crazed man noticed something disconcerting: every joint in his body felt dislocation, a sense of something amputating him from inside out. He later dismissed those thoughts and proceeded to the bedroom, but just as he passed the piggy bank his fingers turned gangrenous and dropped one-by-one, so did his arms, toes, and ears. Before he could cry for help, only a pile of blackened bones remained of him. The Piggy Bank, a bit fatter than before, disappeared from his bedroom along with the stockpile of cash. A pickaxe occupied where the shovel had been in the wooden warehouse, and the clanging sound once more could be heard across the desolate terrains.