One Good Meal To Last A Lifetime
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The dark plumes of smoke rose from the carcass of the gargantuan fire beast as Parcoon tore another chunk from its charred hide. Parcoon couldn't help but smack his lips as the heavy soot clung to the roof of his mouth as he gobbled up each bite. The wounds oozed viscous, scarlet blood, glowing red as the molten lake around them and twice as hot. Parcoon had been pleasantly surprised at the delightful spicy flavor his meal had presented him with. It had been so long since he had tasted something new.

But the spicy flavor had given the rotund predator an impromptu case of the hiccups. Parcoon snarled in irritation as a hiccup interrupted yet another bite. Tossing the chunk of meat, he watched it bounce and sizzle on the scorched ground. Perhaps this wasn't going to be as enjoyable of a meal as Parcoon once thought. What good is finding a new flavor if you couldn't even savor it properly? Too many meals lately had just been bland, unfulfilling mush. It filled his stomach, but there was never any satisfaction to be gained from it. Come to think of it, Parcoon hadn't had a truly enjoyable meal in some time.

The Library had been Parcoon's home for a long, long time. And it was great! There was plenty of space to run around and play. Parcoon found enough books, bones, and bits to build the coziest nest he had ever made! But more important than that was the food. Parcoon had never eaten so much in his life! So many flavors he couldn't have imagined laid out before him. The years spent tracking down every last delicious snack he could find were like a dream come true. Parcoon had been happy there, for a time. But something changed. The bone nest lost its luster and the smell grew stale. And while he tried to ignore it for a while, Parcoon gave in to a nagging longing to move on, leaving to find new snacks.

Parcoon had certainly found plenty of new snacks and visited plenty of new places along the way. He… wasn't actually sure how he was getting from place to place, though. Dozing off after a big meal only to wake up in unfamiliar lands. Maybe he was just a hungry sleepwalker? It all confused him, but more often than not Parcoon ignored it. Worlds and meals all went by in a blur anyway, why should he care where he ended up? All Parcoon ever knew for certain was he had eaten his fill. But there was one world, in the endless succession of meal scavenging, that Parcoon remembered well.

And he'd loved that sandy place! Parcoon had shown up to find himself in a sea of dunes, blinded by the glaring sun overhead. Parcoon hated the sand. It was coarse and rough and got everywhere in his fur. Parcoon would've cleaned himself of every last bit of sand, but he started to sink! He had to keep moving to avoid being swallowed up by the dunes. Parcoon was looking for something to eat, he wasn't going to let the sand eat him! Parcoon had to run for a very long time, which he found rather difficult. His stocky little legs were better for short chases, not long distances. Besides, running made him even hungrier.

Parcoon was saved from a sandy grave when he noticed a shadow creeping up from the horizon. Parcoon wasn't sure what it was, but it was clearly massive, putting mountains to shame. It moved at impossible speeds for its size across the sands with a soft, yet solid *thump* every time one of its eight, steely grey legs plunged toward the sand- a sound that could be heard for miles. Even from such a far distance, Parcoon noticed each leg was outfitted with 2 gigantic anti-gravity turbines, humming and straining with power, barely supporting the weight of the colossal form to keep it out of the sands below. He couldn't help but think it looked like a giant robot crab. It would’ve been better if it was a real crab, but nothing grew that big.

He couldn't quite see the top, but even from miles below on the ground, Parcoon smelled something good! Was there food up there? He watched the colossus with an acute curiosity, bouncing from the force of its approach. Waiting until the crawler got close, Parcoon hopped onto one of the legs and climbed his way to the top. Ages of desert winds had eroded pockets and groves in the legs, allowing Parcoon to climb with ease.

Parcoon noticed a few things when he finally reached the top. The first being: it was roasting. Parcoon had climbed for what felt like ages up the metallic limb. All the while the air got ever warmer, each step becoming that much more uncomfortable to take as he hauled himself further above the ground until he arrived at the top. But being at the top meant being that much closer to the sun, the ground now sizzling with each step he took. The heat soon stopped bothering Parcoon, however; he was too distracted to care. There was so much to see!

Parcoon took a look at the city before him. He had never seen such an odd place before. Buildings were speckled around the landscape in varying-sized clusters. Lumpy, uneven stone mound huts bleached white under the relentless sun lined the central alleyway. Parcoon began to lose sight of some of the buildings as the heat haze began to obscure the buildings ascending up the summit. Awnings of silk dyed in rich hues of blues, reds, and purples inlaid with intricate gold and silver patterns were pulled taught over the roads, providing shadow bridges to cross the otherwise scorching ground.

But more important than that were the people! There were food vendors, utilizing the heated ground to cook the food for their customers. Some were threading more silks together, and many more simply rested against the sides of their homes in an attempt to escape the heat. Some paused their daily going-ons to look at the odd creature before them, wispy veils lightly covering confused faces. Parcoon hadn't eaten in so long, the thought of snacks and drinks after traversing the desert was too much to bear. Maybe they would feed him?

The afternoon sun bore down with a savage intensity on the moving city, but Parcoon didnt mind. Sitting in the shade with a tasty snack was a great way to beat the heat, after all. And for a while, Parcoon had a pretty big supply of treats. Leaving them in the stone huts warmed the meats rather quickly, offering a toasty alternative to his usual snacks. But there were only so many people, only so many snacks for Parcoon to enjoy, and the day quickly came that there was nothing more to find. Parcoon figured it was time to climb down the sand crawler and look for something to eat.

But something caught Parcoons attention. A deep rumbling shook the ground beneath Parcoons paws. The remains of gnarled bones, clay pots, and various discarded remains flew over the edge as the shaking continued. Parcoon had to hold on to the doorway of one of the numerous stone huts just to avoid being tossed around himself. By the time the rumbling stopped Parcoon was very dizzy, yet curious. What had caused that shaking? There was nothing around, so maybe it was coming from down below?

Parcoon struck the ground, leaving the slightest of scratches on the ashen-colored surface. The blow left a bit of stinging in his paw, he had never encountered such a sturdy material before. Parcoon tried for a while longer, progressing a sliver deeper with each strike. Why was Parcoon bothering to dig like this? There was nothing to be gained from it, besides pain. There was bound to be food elsewhere if he started looking for it, he should give up and… and…

The doubts faded as an unnerving wave of calm washed over Parcoon. Like a murky dream, all other thoughts and concerns vanished, clouded over by an urge to consume. A sheer hunger that threatened to tear him apart. It was an unconscious action, as Parcoon put his mouth to the ground, but one that felt so natural, so right. Parcoon began to eat.

It took Parcoon three days gnawing, scraping, and biting to get through the ground before he took a break. The ground was harder than expected as if the world itself was trying to spite his efforts to continue forward. His teeth ached and his jaw bled with every bite. It hurt, so much. Why was he digging this hole again? His mind was still too foggy to fully remember. He was so hungry. Was that the reason? To stop the hunger he hated so much?

Parcoon wouldn't be able to rest quietly so long as the hunger remained, ignoring the pain he pushed on, desperate to silence the unyielding urge. The growling of his stomach drowned out the sound of the rumbling around him. Deeper and deeper he dug his hole, until the ground below him finally crumbled, giving way to a warm and humid cavern. Parcoon expected to continue to fall until he splattered against the other side of the cave, yet something cushioned his descent. It was too dark to see, but his nose knew what he landed on. It was all meat! A gigantic pile of meat! It had been years since Parcoon had seen so much food in one place.

But why would they put it down here? There were a lot of them up top, sure, but this was too much for them to eat at any one time. The meat too warm to be stored away and buried too far down to reach. Parcoon thought it was odd, but he was grateful for it. His body couldn't handle another day munching through the endless rock. He needed true food, meat full of protein and nutrients. Blood and life. He tore a slab of the meat from the mound below him, the stringy mass melting in his mouth with every bite. The softness of the meat eased the pain from his journey down. This meal after so long was worth the suffering it took to get.

Evidently, Parcoon was the only one happy with his new meal. The rumbling returned with an intense ferocity, disrupting Parcoons long-awaited relief. What had once been enough to shake the ground felt like a hundred landslides to Parcoon. A deafening series of clicks and popping broke through the ever-present *thump* as the carrier walked across the sand. Each sound, like grinding gears and canon fire, reverberated through the meat-filled cavern. Parcoon could only wonder what was making that noise…

It dawned on Parcoon as he took another bite, that there was no machinery to be seen. The hum of the leg engines, along with any other metals had long been left behind on his journey to the city above. Was this actually a crab?! The realization was a sudden but simple one. Parcoon sat for a moment and looked around, weighing his options. He hated all the distractions and sounds, the reverberations causing his aching bones to throb. But the crab meat was so soothing. The pain, no, the hunger, melted away with every bite. Surely, the crab wouldn't mind sharing some with Parcoon? So long as he just had a little nibble here and there…

Parcoon snapped back to the world around him as another smoldering lump of flesh fell out of his paws. He missed that place dearly. He spent months eating the crab from the inside, basking in its comforting warmth. He felt complete, able to run and sleep as he chose. The cold, steely grip of his hunger had subsided, and for the first time in a very long time, Parcoon had found peace. But that happiness, like all of Parcoon's other meals, disappeared before long. The engines failed under the stationary weight of the hollowed corpse, causing the mighty crustacean to sink below the dunes. Parcoon had many more meals over the years, but it was never the same. That ever-constant urge to push forward and eat sapped all the enjoyment and flavor from his meals.

Drearily, Parcoon looked up and watched as the inky black volcanic clouds parted and a fleet of starships entered the night sky. The horizon, covered in warships humming with power, illuminated the once red molten world in hues of blues and greens. Parcoon wasn't sure what they wanted, and he didnt really care. His stomach growled in empty anticipation. Maybe they had something onboard that would finally satisfy him.

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