He loved the taste of his own skin.

He discovered that quite early in life. He was a compulsive thumb- sucker, and when he acquired teeth he used to gnaw on his flesh until it bled. Blood he didn't care for at all, but with the short- sightedness of the young, he kept trying until measures were taken to prevent him.

As he grew, he learned how to gnaw the skin from places where it wouldn't bleed--around his fingernails, from the soles of his feet. He got very excited at his first peeling sunburn, but decided eventually that the skin didn't taste as good, and certainly not good enough for the discomfort he suffered.

It was years before he managed to successfully make the experiment to determine whether others' skin was as delectable. A calculated nip which he attributed to the heat of passion(in one of the few dalliances of his youth), at an already loose flap. It wasn't the same, although not bad.

Eventually, he moved away and lost contact with his family, with whom he had never been close. Resentment from the restrictions they had put on him as a child, perhaps. None of his friendships had lasted, either.

He lived a quiet life. Through careful ministrations, he was able to keep himself supplied with enough skin to stay satisfied. By stripping the epidermis by turns from designated areas, he was able to ensure that by the time he returned to a given area, it would be replenished. He tinkered endlessly with his diet to speed the process, and also to determine its effects on the skin's flavour. He devised a method to collect loose skin flakes from his bed and his clothing. He put them in a spice jar and used them to season his food. One of his biggest problems was the inevitable re-encroachment of hair, to which he never found any satisfactory solution. He adapted.

Occasionally, though, he didn't ration himself properly, and was left without a fresh supply. In those circumstances, he had to take a somewhat more risky course, and deal with a product he still considered inferior, but better than nothing. He was forced to make several adaptations to his way of life, but managed to get through the first few clumsy stages without unfortunate incident. By the time he'd made do thus a half dozen times, he was moderately skilled, but he never considered it more than an interim measure.

Sometimes he felt bad about letting all the blood go to waste, though. A few medical courses, and some judiciously acquired equipment, and he started making anonymous donations.

It was the least he could do.

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The Den of Ubiquity / Aaron V. Humphrey /