5 min read

Have You Eaten? Part One

A novella in four parts
Have You Eaten? Part One
Cover by Shing Yin Khor

Have You Eaten? is out this week!

If you’re thinking “what do you mean, you have a new project out? I haven’t heard of this!” don’t worry – you’re not alone. Have You Eaten? is a project that has been years in the making, under cover of darkness, and now I finally get to tell you about it!

In a near-future world where you can't trust anyone but your closest companions, nothing matters as much as the family you choose. Have You Eaten? is a serialized novella about queer dirtbags on the run, searching for their missing best friend. It's the story of how they nurture and nourish each other with their limited emotional and material resources. The entire novella is out this week over at Reactor, with sections going up each day between now and Friday. You can read Part 1 through 4 now, or keep scrolling for an excerpt below.

Each installment of Have You Eaten? is accompanied by an original recipe from my recipe box. You'll also find stunning original art from friend of the newsletter and genuine superstar, Shing Yin Khor. Thank you so much to the whole team at Reactor for getting behind this wild-ass project–I am so proud of what we've made together!

Excerpt: Daneka’s Birthday

It’s Daneka’s birthday, so everyone in the squat is being quiet and trying not to make eye contact with each other. The problem is that everyone’s known for weeks that Fen is worried about Daneka. At first they all rolled their eyes at Fen—people go missing all the time, and worrying over that is as useless as paper money. Then they tried to get her to snap out of it, because Fen’s the one who makes decisions and plans, and her anxiety over Daneka has been occupying her mind so thoroughly that she hasn’t been deciding or planning anything.

Now, after weeks with no Daneka and no word from her either, everyone in the squat privately shares Fen’s suspicion that something bad has probably happened to their friend. Nobody wants to be the first to say something, though, so they’re all finding reasons to be on their palmsets, reasons to look out the window, reasons to attend to their least-favorite chores.

Fen isn’t making it easy for anyone to speak up, anyway. She’s not talking about her feelings. Four months ago, she overheard Quan calling her a “neurotic clinger.” Quan didn’t know she could hear him—she had just walked into the room and was standing right behind him, like in that movie everyone in the squat makes fun of but hasn’t seen. He said it in a mean way, even though he’s not a mean person, except when he sort of is. And she wasn’t supposed to hear, but she did.

She sort of melted off into her bedroom after that. When Morrow checked in on Fen later she made all the right noises about understanding that she needs to manage her anxiety and Quan’s mastery of incisive language but still, damn, it must have stung to hear. Since then, Fen’s been “managing her anxiety” by quietly vibrating, crying when she thinks nobody can hear her, and saying nothing about her feelings to anyone, ever.

Her silence isn’t keeping her secret, though. The housemates know each other even better than they know hunger, and they all recognize the signs of Fen’s worry. Her lips are ragged from chewing. She keeps asking thinly anonymized questions like, Do you think people have responsibility to each other? and, How would you handle it if a friend suddenly grew really distant? Every time anyone catches a glimpse of her palmset, she’s looking at Daneka’s profile, refreshing over and over again, her eyes locked on the location status that hasn’t updated in a month.

At first, Harper told her that some people thrive on independence in relationships. At first, Morrow told her that it probably had nothing to do with her. At first, Quan told her that she could talk to him if she was freaking out about something, but she responded with a patently forced smile and said that she was fine, and then Quan spent the rest of the day asking Harper and Morrow if he’d done anything to upset her because he still didn’t know she’d heard the thing he’d said about her in the first place.

And now it’s Daneka’s birthday, and Daneka still hasn’t come home or answered anyone’s private messages, and everyone is just as worried as Fen’s been for weeks but nobody wants to say so because that would mean admitting that Fen was right all along, and then they’d have to try to figure out what to do.

Fen is usually the one who figures out what to do.

Around noon, a patrol car passes the squat. Quan watches it through a gap in the boards that cover the windows. Once the car has passed out of sight, he lets out a short sharp sigh, slaps his thighs with both palms, and shoots to his feet. His square jaw is set, his thick brows furrowed, his slim fingers balled into fists. “Okay,” he says. “Where the fuck’s Fen?”

“Kitchen,” Harper answers from the floor, where they’re using their fingers to fill a gouge in the laminate with a mixture of sawdust and wood glue. Their dark scalp-stubble grows in continent-like patches around old burn scars on their scalp. The scars are from their life in Old Chicago, which it is a mistake to ask them about. Harper isn’t a leader in the same way Fen is, but they could be if they were less irritable about other people needing things and making noises about it. “Step careful. Glue’s drying.”

Quan obeys, tiptoeing past the collection of cushions and camp chairs that Harper’s stacked against the wall to make room for this needlessly intense project. He makes his way to the kitchen and finds that Harper was right: there’s Fen, red-eyed and purse-mouthed, clutching a potato and staring into the nearly bare cupboard.

“You freaking out or what?” Quan asks, looking into the cupboard too so Fen won’t feel like her tears are being noticed.

“No,” she answers, her voice too wobbly to stick the landing. She twists her neck to wipe her nose on the shoulder of her cardigan. The movement makes one tight-coiled curl fall across her forehead. “A little worried that they might finally turn off the electricity this month.”

“Any reason to think that might happen, or are you getting upset over nothing?”

“Probably the second one,” Fen answers, not too defensively. “It’s just. You know. At some point the developers that own this block are gonna remember that this house exists, and we should have a plan for what to do when that happens.” She closes her eyes, takes a long slow breath. “But we’ll deal with it when we get there. What about you? How’s your day so far?”

Quan lets out a dry laugh. “Not great. I’m worried about Daneka.”

Those last four words strike Fen like a match. She explodes with relief. “Oh my god, me too. Where the hell is she?”

If you’re a paying subscriber, come by the Stone Soup Supper Club and let me know what you think of today’s installment! (If you’re not, now’s a good time to sign up.) 

No matter what, please do share Part 1 of Have You Eaten? far and wide. This story is so personal to me, and is such a swing for the fences – it’d mean the world to me if you’d tell your friends about it.