Freedom From Want

📅 Published on November 11, 2021

“Freedom From Want”

Written by The Vesper's Bell
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 8.80/10. From 5 votes.
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The lavish banquet that had been so expertly laid out on the long, elegant refractory table before me could only be described as perfect. Truly, utterly, perfect. It was the most sublimely archetypical Thanksgiving Dinner that I could imagine. The table was draped in a red velvet cloth and adorned with white doilies. All the cutlery and serving dishes were hand-polished sterling silver, all the drinking goblets were dazzling, prismatic crystal, and all the dining plates were gold-trimmed, antique porcelain, passed down from generation to generation longer than anyone could say for certain.

Despite all of that, the food itself still managed to be the most coveted thing before me. It was still steaming hot, its beckoning aroma wafting upwards and unbidden towards me, as though trying to lure me in. There was garlic mashed potatoes, mashed turnip, buttered peas and carrots, creamed asparagus, stuffing, giblet gravy, hot rolls, sweetbread, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and a literal cornucopia overflowing with fresh fruit and candy.

And of course, the centerpiece was a stuffed turkey, the biggest one I had ever seen.

“Tantalizing, isn’t it?” the girl in the dress asked from the opposite end of the table.

I knew who she was, and I knew her name, but I shall only be referring to her as the girl in the dress. It was both proper and expected that I would be accompanied by a girl in a dress upon such an occasion, and as far as I was concerned, it could have been any girl in a dress.

How I wished she was just some random girl in a dress.

“Tantalizing in the sense that your situation is reminiscent of the mythical Tantalus, wouldn’t you agree?” the girl in the dress continued, this time failing to suppress a sadistic little smirk.

I wasn’t sure how long it had been since I had last eaten, only that I was ravenously hungry, probably the hungriest I had been in my entire life. And yet, the sumptuous feast before me was just out of reach, as the girl in the dress had bound me to the chair with chains made from the same fine silver that glistened on the table before me. I had sat there, helplessly watching as she set the table with meticulous and seemingly obsequious care, making multiple trips to and from the kitchen with an adorable little cart. The turkey she had brought out last, it taking all of her strength to hoist onto the table.

“You really went to so much trouble just to torment me?” I asked hoarsely. My throat was parched, which made sense, as I hadn’t had anything to drink in some time either. But for some reason, either the situation itself or something else she had done to me, the hunger was much more prominent in my mind.

“Compared to everything else I’ve ever done for you, this was no trouble at all,” she replied glibly. A Grandfather Clock in another room softly chimed the hour, though I didn’t bother to count the bells. “Oh, good; dinner time. Food’s getting cold, dear. Carve the turkey, so we can eat.”

“And how would you suggest I do that, dear?” I sneered at her, clattering my restraints against the mahogany armrests of the chair I was in, wondering if maybe I could pull hard enough to break the wood.

“It doesn’t matter. Thanksgiving Dinner is a ritual steeped in antiquated traditions. I upheld my end, spent hours making everything from scratch, and all you have to do is carve the damn turkey,” she hissed vehemently through her teeth. “But, per our usual, all my hard work goes unappreciated while you can’t even fulfill the most trivially token of your obligations. And, also per usual, I expect you have an excuse rather than an apology, yes?”

“You’ve literally chained me to a goddamn chair!” I roared.

“No, you see, that’s the wrong answer,” she claimed. “You’re going to have a lot of time to just sit there and think, and what I want you to think about is whether it’s really my fault for putting you through this, or your fault for driving me to this in the first place.”

I spat at her. It wasn’t hard, considering my mouth held an overabundance of saliva as a result of the bounty of mouthwatering food, but my projectile fell short of its target.

“And that’s why I went with the refractory table, even though it’s just the two of us,” she smirked, smugly placing her chin onto her folded hands.

We were both silent for a long while after that. I decided there was no point in wasting energy on screaming and threatening her. It would be futile, and any display of impotent rage would likely only amuse her.

I wouldn’t beg, either. Not for food, not for freedom, not for anything. It would be just as futile as threatening her, and far more humiliating. No, instead I focused on turning my arms back and forth in the hopes of using the chains to saw through the wooden arms of the chair enough for me to break them. That’s all it would take, me breaking out of the chair, to put an end to her little power fantasy and remind her who was boss.

The chair was just ordinary wood. It really seemed like I should have had the strength to break it, especially if it was potentially a matter of life and death. But I was weak with hunger, and the hungrier I got the weaker I got. My limbs lacked nearly all of their usual strength, and felt like wet noodles hanging limply from my torso. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t muster any strength in them.

Not that I was actually trying all that hard. The feast in front of me made it hard to focus on anything else. I thought that I could ignore it easily enough, that simple sensory saturation would soon render it an obscure background detail, but I was wrong. As my hunger grew, the feast seemed to grow with it. The food more sumptuous, the portions more decadent; every moist, succulent morsel glistening in the candlelight. It was still warm, somehow, which made me wonder how long I had actually been there.

I forced myself to look away from the glorious meal before me for just a few seconds, to see if I could spot anything that might give some indication of the passage of time. I glanced towards the window, but the curtains were drawn, and I couldn’t really remember what time of day it had been to start with anyway. I looked around for a clock, but found none. Instead, what I saw was a painting hung behind the girl in the dress, depicting a mid-twentieth-century American family sitting down to a holiday dinner, albeit one which was austerely meager compared to the one in front of me now.

“Do you recognize it?” the girl in the dress asked.

“What?” I asked groggily, unsure what she was even talking about.

“The painting,” she clarified, pointing behind her. “It’s Freedom From Want, by Norman Rockwell. I chose it very specifically because I think ‘freedom from want’ is exactly your problem. I don’t believe you’ve ever had any non-trivial desire that has ever gone unfulfilled, which is why you’re incapable of appreciating anything. You need to learn gratitude, which is what this holiday is all about, after all. You are going to want this food in front of you more than you’ve ever wanted anything, and when I’m convinced that you’re truly capable of appreciating what I’ve made, of appreciating me and everything I’ve done for you, then you can have some. Maybe.”

I slumped my head then, in the hopes of falling asleep, and that sleep might see some of my proper strength return to me. I was tired, there was no denying that. Exhausted, even, and yet my weariness was nothing when compared to the hunger. The hunger would not allow me to sleep. It obstinately demanded that I satisfy it, and in doing so deprived me of the strength I needed to oblige it. It was a hell of a Catch-22, to be sure.

The hunger gnawed away at me from the inside, deciding that if I couldn’t feed it then it would feed upon me instead. I could feel the overproduction of acid start to dissolve my stomach walls, burning ulcers growing like cancer as the scorching bile shot up into my throat and driveled out of my mouth. My innards growled and spasmed, sending waves of hunger pains radiating throughout my body. I was thrown into convulsions, and I dared to hope that these paroxysms might finally give me the strength I needed to break free of the chair, even if they had to break my bones in the process.

My bones did break. I know, because I saw their jagged, bloody ends sticking out of my mangled appendages. Despite this, I still could not wriggle loose from my chains, nor did I manage to break the arms of the chair. I was probably in the most pain I had ever been in my life, and yet somehow it was still insignificant compared to my exponentially growing hunger.

I was stewing in my own urine and excrement at this point, of course, but it had been some time since I had last evacuated my insides. My bodily stores must have been spent, I assumed, but this sparked a sudden realization in my sleep-deprived, dehydrated, hunger-ravaged brain; the girl in the dress hadn’t once left the table in all that time.

She had not yet taken any food or drink, still insisting that I be the one to cut the turkey, nor had she slept or gone to use the restroom. And yet, she still looked as picture-perfect as she had when the whole ordeal started. It was the same with the food. It must have been days, it had to have been days, but the food was still as warm, fresh, and enticing as it ever had been.

“This isn’t real,” I groaned. “This can’t be real. The food wouldn’t still be like this if it had been sitting out this long. You can’t have been sitting there this whole time without eating or sleeping or shitting yourself.”

“Watch your tongue, dear; it’s Thanksgiving,” she gently scolded me.

“It’s not fucking Thanksgiving! It’s probably not even still fucking November anymore!” I screamed. It was then that I heard the sound of Westminster Chimes as the Grandfather Clock in the other room signaled that it was now a quarter past the hour, and to my horror, I realized that this was the first time I had heard it since dinner had started.

“What are you babbling about? It’s only been fifteen minutes, you big baby,” she taunted me. “But dinner is getting cold, and I’m getting hungry, so carve the turkey so that we can eat.”

“No. No, that, that’s impossible,” I murmured, the state of my body a testament to the fact that I had been bound there for days. And yet, the girl in the dress, the food on the table, and the chiming of the Grandfather Clock all stood testament to the fact I had not.

“How?” I asked, more to myself than to the girl in the dress. I could think of no explanation for the gaping contradiction before me, nor did my hostess offer one. The horrifying implications of this paradox were obvious to me, even in my famished and exhausted state; if what felt like days to me were just minutes to her, then how long would she be able to keep me here?

I got my answer soon enough. I was well past the point where I should have died of dehydration, and yet I continued to starve. I should have been hallucinating from the lack of sleep, and yet my hunger kept me lucid. The hunger, along with its effects on my mind and body, were distorting my experience of time. And the stronger my hunger grew, the more distorted time became. I sat there helplessly as my body wasted away to a mummified skeleton over what felt like weeks to me, only to break down into tears when I heard the Westminster Chimes once again, letting me know that it was now half past the hour.

The hungrier I got, the slower time moved, which meant I would probably be in a seemingly perpetual state of endless starvation without ever actually dying. Though my salvation was within arm’s reach, I could not move my arms. I lacked the strength to even struggle against the chains now, and I feared that even if they were removed, I wouldn’t have the strength to feed myself anyway.

“Do you think that’s enough, then?” the girl in the dress asked. “If I unchain you, will you actually be grateful, for once? For the food, for your freedom, for your life? For me? Just say it. If you can say you’re sorry and mean it, say how much you need me, say how grateful you are to have had me in your life, and then beg, beg me for help, I might do it.”

Considering my severe state of bodily degradation, I knew that I would likely only be able to muster a couple of words. I think she realized that as well. With that in mind, I chose those two words very carefully.

“Fuck. You,” I coughed.

Without warning, she slammed her hands down on the table and, for the first time since she had sat down, stood up from her chair.

“You absolute fucking bastard! Why can’t you let me have this?” she demanded, angry tears now rolling down her hot cheeks. “I literally offer you a feast when you’re fucking starving, and you still can’t appreciate me? I’m trying to help you, trying to make you a better person, and you still don’t fucking care!”

“You’re… not… the… one… chained… to… a… chair,” I forced myself to wheeze out. “If… I’m… so… much… trouble…, leave.”

Her face contorted wildly then, as if I had somehow just stabbed her through the heart. The angry tears gave way to ones of unadulterated sorrow, and without saying another word she sat back in her chair and began sobbing into her hands.

It was then that the chains holding me in place finally slackened and clattered to the floor, and whatever sort of spell I had been under was broken. I was, at long last, free to slake my hunger. But, as I reached towards the table, my hopes of gorging myself upon a bountiful feast were cruelly snatched away.

Now that my experience of time was in sync with reality’s again, it seemed that some toll needed to be exacted. The food which had remained miraculously preserved for so long now looked like it had been sitting out for weeks, swarming with flies and swimming with maggots. Everything was discolored, and desiccated, and smothered with hideous mold. A fetid reek of rot hung heavily in the air, slowly creeping out and infusing its stench into anything it came into contact with.

And, as I shoved the first handful of rancid, moldy, maggot-ridden turkey into my mouth, I felt… thankful.

Rating: 8.80/10. From 5 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by The Vesper's Bell
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: The Vesper's Bell

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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