People had found Anna unsettling since she was a very small child. She was used to it. But you never got used to it. Very few adults are willing to tell a little girl that they find her creepy, and other kids didn’t talk that way to her. But she knew. She knew before she had words for it.
It wasn’t her fault that her long black hair hung in bedraggled strings that tended to cling to the pale skin of her face. It wasn’t her fault that her strangely shaped bones made whatever clothes she wore look ill fit upon her frame. And she certainly didn’t try to play so vigorously that all of her clothing existed in a perpetual state of raggedness.
None of that really mattered. She could wear a hat to cover up her hair. She could spent more time in the sun and try to get some color on her skin so she looked less like a corpse. She could be very careful with her clothing, only wearing the best materials and discarding them when they tore.
She had a photograph of herself from her second grade picture day, dolled up like a princess, and in one shot where the photographer caught her from a specific angle she looked perfectly normal. Even on that day, she remembered, everyone looked away. Adults and children alike. Even the photographer could barely keep his attention on her long enough to take the picture.
The others didn’t know what is was about her that unnerved them. But Anna knew. It was her eyes. Her eyes were hungry. They were always hungry. She asked her mother about that, once. Why her eyes were so hungry. Her mother just looked frightened, and told her not to talk like that.
It didn’t matter. Anna didn’t her mother’s help with her eyes. She could feed them herself. It had been agony when she was little, when she didn’t understand. All she knew was that her vision ached something awful and it kept her from sleeping. Sometimes it ached so much that she couldn’t eat, couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. Maybe that was why she was so skinny.
Her mother told Anna she had almost died as a baby because she wouldn’t feed on mother’s milk. Anna remembered. It was because her vision hurt. Hunger pains. It was her earliest memory, and it was sharp.
When she grew up a little she learned she could feed her eyes with colors and images. Not the normal kind. They liked red things, bright and runny and vibrant, in as many shades as possible. Streaked through blue and green, screaming their contrast. They liked sharp angles, pressed together. Twisted and broken shards and shreds of glass and metal and paper, strewn over empty tables so her eyes could drink in ever contour.
And they liked to look at flesh. Maimed, mangled, bleeding raw. She had learned that more recently. Anna didn’t like to look at these things, but her eyes did, and she had to keep them fed. They were so hungry.