When he’s eaten everything else he can and the snow is coming down thick and fast, Orlando eats the chyme.
“Now, I did research on this,” he says earnestly over his shoulder to the empty room he’s built into a rock face. “These musk ox, they live on grass. We can eat grass too—grass is edible—but we don’t have the right teeth to get all the nutrition out of it. But the ox, man, he does. He chewed up all that grass out there, and swallowed it down, and spit it up so he could chew it again.”
It’s dark but it’s early. Too hungry to eat, to cold to move, too dark to play dice, and he doesn’t carve. “It’s my birthday today,” he says flatly, “and my mother died. Here I am, in a hole, eating grass, nobody to talk to but you. Shoulda gone to the funeral but didn’t. Shoulda gone to her before she died but didn’t. I don’t know. Shoulda done a lot of things but didn’t.”
His knife cuts into the bag of the stomach he’s been saving for over a month. Deep breath. “Smells sour. That’s good, that means it’s fermented, and that means it’s edible. They got special bacteria in their stomachs to help break everything down like that.” He pulls out a handful of semi-digested grass and shows it to the empty room. “This is dinner tonight. Arctic kimchi. Polar pickles.”
He heats it in a tin can he found on the beach. “We didn’t get along, her and me, once I got a little older. Didn’t get along with either of them, really, but her in particular I just— I know she probably did her best, and I respect that, but—” He chews the chyme meditatively for a few minutes, wondering at the taste. “Sour milk,” he mutters.