Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes the inside of Shiv's head being a dicey place, minor medical details, Shiv's hesitant progress on sleep tracking, trust issues, truth and lies, hiding past injuries, malnutrition, discussion of permanent damage from past neglect, current dietary issues, limited tolerance for cooperation, body shyness, endorphin rush, consensual pain and fear, contemplation of kinkiness, mixed feelings, Shiv's memory of eating food that had been thrown away, self-control issues, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"Silent and Vital"
After his call with the Finns,
Shiv just had time to put away
his artwork before hearing
a knock at the door.
Mr. Vanburen walked him
to the infirmary. "Slow down,"
the guard said. "Don't get
so far ahead of me."
Shiv spun on his toes.
"Can't keep up with me,
old man?" he teased, but
there was no real edge to it.
"Behave, or I'll take you outside
and run you into the ground
again," said Mr. Vanburen.
Shiv slowed down. "We're
almost there, anyway," he said.
"Yeah, and you're awful bouncy
for a guy who's heading for
a doctor's appointment,"
Mr. Vanburen said.
"Dr. Bloch doesn't suck
much at all," Shiv said.
"Besides, I'm out of lollies."
The guard laughed. "As much
as we appreciate you taking
the appointment between
wing transfers, I'm glad
that he's paying for it."
Shiv tried not to let all of
the free food sway him,
but he had to admit ...
it was becoming a habit.
"Good morning, Shiv, it's nice
to see you today," said Dr. Bloch.
"If you can behave yourself, I've got
some special goodies that I think
you'll appreciate -- and remember,
everything's worth double points
for a transfer appointment."
Shiv knew that was meant to
encourage guys to take the deal,
by giving them a chance to make up
for the points they spent to move,
but the manipulation just didn't
bug him as much as usual.
It was a sweet deal, he
was almost broke ... and
he really wanted to find out
what was fancy enough for
Dr. Bloch to call it 'special.'
"I'll try," Shiv said, which was
as close as he'd ever come
to promising good behavior.
It was too hard for even him
to predict. He'd learned that.
"All right then," said Dr. Bloch.
"Do you have any complaints
or accomplishments to report?"
Shiv hesitated, then said,
"Yeah, um ... remember we
talked about the Microfyne?
You were right about it helping
my sleep. I started out with
the easy worksheets, then I
did one of the longer ones."
"Permission to access that file?"
Dr. Bloch asked, his long fingers
hovering over his tablet computer.
He already had access, of course,
but it was still nice that he asked.
"Go ahead," Shiv said.
Dr. Bloch made a happy hmm
as he read the worksheets.
"What's your overall impression?"
That he couldn't have pried off
the blanket with a crowbar, but
Shiv wasn't about to say that.
"I'm only sleeping a little longer,
but I have a lot less nightmares,"
he said. "It's more just weird stuff
now, and the bad dreams mostly
happen after therapy days."
"Well, you can take that up with
Dr. G, if you like. Therapy can stir up
all kinds of things, and sometimes they
come out in dreams," said Dr. Bloch.
"My concern is the quality of your sleep,
rather than the content of it."
The tablet gave a cheerful chirp
as he logged the points and
then turned it around to show
Shiv the new tally.
"Wow," Shiv said.
"And we're just getting started,"
Dr. Bloch said. "Let's move on
to the basic health checks."
Shiv sat more-or-less patiently
through the usual round of
gentle poking and prodding.
Then Dr. Bloch fingered
his flashlight, and Shiv flinched.
"Never mind, we can skip
that part today," said Dr. Bloch.
"Really?" Shiv said with a wary look.
"I know you hate the flashlight,
and there's no point hurting you
unless I need that information,"
Dr. Bloch said. "It's always useful
but rarely crucial -- unless you'd like
to tell me what's wrong with your eyes."
"I'm fine," Shiv said automatically.
Dr. Bloch cleared his throat. "We've
talked about you fibbing in here," he said.
"I'm not an eye doctor, so I can't pinpoint
the problem, but I know that something is off
just based on your behavior. It's probably
connected with your headaches, too."
Shiv scrambled for another way out,
then snagged on what Dr. Bloch had
been saying. "It's, uh, not something
that I want to talk about," he said.
"Understood," Dr. Bloch said. "Let me
know if you ever change your mind."
Shiv nodded, though he had
no intention of following through.
"Do you feel like giving me a blood sample
this morning?" Dr. Bloch went on.
"Yeah," Shiv said, hustling his sleeve up.
The quick pinch of the needle was
familiar and comforting, in ways that
Shiv was really coming to rely on.
"You seem a little more settled now,"
Dr. Bloch said as he dressed the puncture.
"Ready for a more detailed discussion?
It's worth a good pile of points."
"Sure," said Shiv. Maybe he wasn't
the only one starting to rely on this.
"Looking over recent test results
confirmed my suspicion that you're not
getting enough to eat, and that's not new,
either," said Dr. Bloch. "Regrettably some
of that damage is permanent unless you get
an excellent healer or super-gizmologist
for it, but most of it is easier to fix."
"Like what?" Shiv said, unhappy again.
"I suspect that you've been at least
borderline malnourished throughout
most of your childhood," said Dr. Bloch.
"That's probably why you're so small. It can
also cause behavioral changes like apathy,
irritability, anxiety, and attention deficits.
If ... you're having eye problems, that
correlates with Vitamin A deficiency."
"That would explain a lot," Shiv muttered.
"I was always getting flack for wanting
more than my fair share, or worse trouble
for going out and finding my own damn food."
"I can see why people would object if you
ate things that 'fell off a truck,' but they had
an obligation to feed you right in the first place,"
Dr. Bloch said. "Any competent physician
should have noticed the warning signs and
told your foster parents to feed you more."
"Kinda hard when they roughed me
to where I wouldn't sit still for them,"
Shiv pointed out. "You're ... different."
"Thank you for the vote of confidence,"
Dr. Bloch said with a smile. "I'm glad
that you're finally getting to see what
decent care can do for you, despite
the limits of our circumstances." He
waved a hand at the prison infirmary.
"Best I've had so far," Shiv said, glancing
up at the doctor and then back down.
"I'm starting to get the hang of this."
"You're not used to regular health care,
are you, Shiv?" asked Dr. Bloch.
"Haven't really had a chance,"
Shiv said. "People were always
tossing me around like a hot potato,
and most of the doctors never
wanted to see me a second time.
Which was usually mutual."
"Then I'm glad we've managed to get
over that very low bar, at least enough
for it to show some results," said Dr. Bloch.
"Is there any good news in that batch,
or does it all suck?" Shiv said, heels
idly kicking against the exam table.
"On the bright side, you're gaining
a little weight," said Dr. Bloch. "Sorry
I couldn't get a real nutritionist to come in
here, but I've consulted with a few of them
and also talked with people at SPOON."
"Yeah, why?" Shiv said.
"I wanted to put together a diet
more tailored to your exact needs,
which meant researching soup care,
such as it is," said Dr. Bloch. "So far
nobody's made much progress with it,
hence the nutritionists being of limited use,
but I had better luck in the SPOON files."
"So ... you said you could maybe
fix some of this?" Shiv said.
"Yes, I have started sketching out
an improved diet for you," said Dr. Bloch.
"Larger portions, and between-meal snacks,
to begin with. If you'd like to give me input
on your preferences, I can include those too."
He offered Shiv a tablet, and showed
him picture pages and text lists of
foods rich in various nutrients.
"Follow the key on the side, here:
Cross out anything that makes you sick.
Put an X by things you dislike. Checkmark
the ones you like. Circle your favorites.
Put a question mark by anything that you
haven't had but want to try," said Dr. Bloch.
"Keep an eye on your points, it pays a lot."
They'd done this with fruit, before, and
there was some fruit on here too, along with
vegetables, grains, meat, and other foods.
Shiv took the tablet and stylus, then
went to work marking his tastes. He
tried to be as accurate as possible, but
his mind started doing the sidle thing.
"Here," he said. "My head's going funny."
"Thank you for telling me," Dr. Bloch said
as he accepted the tablet. "We can try this much,
and then tweak your diet as necessary later."
"If I can afford it," Shiv said glumly.
He couldn't come here all the time
looking for handouts, and food treats in
the cafeteria or commissary weren't cheap
once you got beyond bite-sized samples.
"No extra charge," Dr. Bloch said. "As long
as you're here, the state is responsible for
your care. Technically you could sue both
the prison and me for not catching this earlier."
Shiv shook his head. "Nah, I got enough
legal shit to deal with already, don't add more."
"Well, that's a relief," Dr. Bloch said as he
looked over the results. "We're in luck.
Several of your favorites overlap with
different nutrients -- red meat, eggs,
sweet potatoes, and apricots. Peppers
are good too. Pity you don't like broccoli."
"I can eat it if I'm hungry," Shiv said.
He'd only crossed out a few things.
"Let's concentrate on what you like first,"
said Dr. Bloch. "It's easier to stick with
a diet when you enjoy the foods. We'll
ramp up the calories slowly so that
it doesn't overstrain your digestion."
"Oh, good," Shiv said. He had
learned the hard way that pigging out
after going short was a good way to get sick.
"And that'll make up the shortfall, eventually?"
"It would take a while doing it that way,"
Dr. Bloch said with a smile that seemed ...
almost impish. "If you want the gap filled
faster, I have supplements for that."
He lifted a metal tray on the counter,
revealing a smaller tray underneath it
with a row of bottles and five needles.
"Five?" Shiv whispered, completely
captivated by the display. "Really?"
"Well, that's up to you," said Dr. Bloch.
"Most people want me to cram everything
into one big dose, and then they wonder
why they have awful cramps the next day.
I'm guessing you'll take the smarter option."
"Which is what?" Shiv said. He
couldn't take his eyes off the tray.
"Five separate doses, just like that,
Dr. Bloch said, tipping his head toward
the set. "It's a little extra sting up front,
rather than a lot more ache later. What
do you say, will you trust me with this?"
Shiv ran his superpower over
the row of needles, as lightly as
he could because Dr. Bloch
didn't like him moving things
around in the infirmary.
"Let's do it your way," Shiv said.
"Excellent," said Dr. Bloch.
"Roll up both sleeves, please,
I'll need to space these out."
"Okay," Shiv said. Then he
hesitated, fingering his cuff.
"Would it be easier if I just took
my shirt off? The sleeves
only roll up so far."
"Yes, if you're comfortable
with that," Dr. Bloch said. He was
loading the first syringe, standing
sideways rather than with his back
turned the way doctors usually did.
It didn't matter to Shiv: he could
always sense it with his superpower.
He just liked to see it coming,
liked to know exactly what was
going to happen before it did.
It made him feel ... safe, in a way.
He wondered if that was why
Dr. Bloch had laid everything out
like that, or if it was just convenient.
"I've got a tank top under the shirt,"
Shiv said as he shucked off
the zebra-printed top.
The cool air made goosebumps
dance over his skin, and his nipples
stood up. Shiv looked down, but
at least they weren't showing
through the ribbed white fabric
of his undershirt. Fine then.
Dr. Bloch grasped Shiv
by the shoulder, and then
gave a thoughtful hum.
"You're tense," he said.
"Try to relax a little, or this is
liable to be more uncomfortable
than it usually is for you."
Shiv wasn't tense so much
as he was excited, but he
didn't care to explain that.
"It's fine," he said.
"Don't worry about it."
"All right, now's as good a time
as any for this demonstration,"
said Dr. Bloch. "Sharp touch."
The prick of the needle was familiar,
but it was followed a piercing cramp.
"Ow," Shiv protested, flinching away.
"Sit still, and I'll take care of that
for you," Dr. Bloch said, swabbing
over the puncture. Then he pressed
the heel of his hand against the back
of Shiv's arm, gently rocking the muscle
back and forth. "Breathe in, hold it
for a moment, and then exhale."
Shiv obeyed, blowing a gusty sigh.
Under the doctor's hands,
the knot untangled, taking with it
the rest of the tension. "Better?"
Dr. Bloch asked him.
"Yeah," Shiv said. "Why did
that hurt so much more? You
didn't do anything different."
"I didn't; you did," Dr. Bloch said.
"Here, let me show you."
He rummaged in a drawer and
took out a multicolored plastic cube
made of funny shapes twisted together.
Popping out a smaller cube from
the puzzle, Dr. Bloch offered it to Shiv.
"Hold out your hand," he said.
Curious, Shiv opened his hand
and Dr. Bloch set the cube on
his palm. "What do you feel?"
the older man asked.
"Not much," Shiv said.
"It's so light, it's barely there."
"Close your hand around it,
and tell me what changes,"
Dr. Bloch said next.
Shiv closed his hand.
"I can feel the corners now."
"Pick it up with your other hand
and pinch it between your fingers,"
Dr. Bloch said. "What happens?"
Shiv squeezed the cube
hard enough for the corners
to dig into his fingertips. "Ow!"
"Now you get it," Dr. Bloch said.
"When you exert greater force on
a small object, then it digs in more --
and if there's nowhere for that force
to dissipate, then it hurts. When
your muscles relax, they're soft;
when they tense up, they're harder.
That's why it feels different."
Shiv recalled something
that Mr. Vanburen had said.
"So it's like stepping on a Lego."
"Yes, exactly!" said Dr. Bloch.
"That's a very good leap of logic.
You can have the rest of the puzzle."
He poured the pieces into Shiv's hand.
Shiv sighed again. "It's rigid.
I can't keep it in my cell."
"You couldn't in private confinement,"
Dr. Bloch said. "In the standard wing,
you can have small rigid items, up to
a certain size. That's why I keep these;
they're made with a 3D printer. If you
get bored with that one, then you can
trade it in for a harder pattern."
Shiv stirred the colorful pieces
with his finger, trying to imagine
how they went together. "Thanks."
"Ready for the next shot?"
Dr. Bloch asked, turning
back to his tray.
"Yeah," Shiv said, reminded
that the show wasn't over.
Dr. Bloch took hold of Shiv's arm
a little lower than before. "Good,
you're more relaxed now,"
he said. "Sharp touch."
This time the needle went in
so easily that it was gone
almost before Shiv had
time to appreciate it.
"Huh," he said, trying to keep
the disappointment from showing.
Dr. Bloch caught it anyway.
"Still not quite what you were
hoping for?" he said, smoothing
a bandaid over the spot. "Try
closing your hand. I'm about
to switch to your other side."
Shiv curled and uncurled
his fingers, feeling the play of
muscles shifting under skin, and
trying to remember how it usually felt.
He listened to the quiet patter of
Dr. Bloch explaining what he was
doing and what the supplements
were for and what Shiv's body
was doing, all laid out so that
it made perfect sense.
The needle stabbed gently
into the meat of Shiv's shoulder,
pulling all of his attention to
that one pinpoint and clearing
his head of the worries that
built up like dust mice.
"I think we hit the target
that time," Dr. Bloch said.
"Three down, two to go."
"Yeah," Shiv said, letting
his eyes close and following
the sharp points just with
The last two rounds were
exactly what Shiv liked best:
a long, leisurely twinge of
metal sliding through flesh,
without the unpleasant cramp.
"All done," Dr. Bloch said as he
covered the last puncture and
gave Shiv a little nudge.
Shiv realized that he was leaning
against the doctor again, and sat up.
He felt about half-a-joint worth of mellow,
but minus the part about getting drowsy
or wanting to eat everything in sight.
"Uh huh," Shiv said lazily,
watching through half-closed eyes
as Dr. Bloch moved around him.
"You might still get a little cramp
tomorrow, nutritional supplements are
notorious for that," Dr. Bloch warned him.
"If it's only sore, just ignore it, you're fine.
If it gets bad enough to interfere with
any kind of motion, come back here."
"Sure," said Shiv. He made
no move to do anything more,
content to wait for further instructions.
"You can put your shirt back on now,"
Dr. Bloch said, patting Shiv's knee.
"Thank you for trusting me."
"Is that what this is?" Shiv said
as he slipped into his shirt.
"It's just I haven't really ... had
good experiences after anyone
saying 'trust me,' you know?"
"Trust is like blood pressure.
It's silent, and vital to good health,"
Dr. Bloch said, "but when abused
... then it can turn deadly."
Shivers raced down Shiv's spine.
He knew how dangerous it
could be to let his guard down.
Yet he was also discovering
a certain fascination with
that little edge of fear, of risk,
the possibility that this time,
Dr. Bloch would go too far.
It had happened before.
Every time it had, though,
the older man had noticed
and apologized and found
some way to make up for it.
That made the gamble ...
all the more compelling, to Shiv.
It was a lot like playing with pain.
He didn't enjoy it much when
he had no choice, but as long
as he did, then it was kind of fun
in a funny sort of way that he'd
never been able to explain.
Shiv wasn't even sure if
what he felt was trust,
because if he really trusted
Dr. Bloch, then he shouldn't
also be afraid of him, right?
Except that was part of the appeal,
that zing of adrenaline that made
him feel so alert and alive, like
the sting of a needle focused
his mind before it left him
feeling limp and relaxed.
Maybe Shiv was just bent in ways
that 'queer' wasn't enough word for.
He turned away from that tender topic,
focusing instead on the puzzle that
Dr. Bloch had given to him.
"Can you fit that back in its box?"
the doctor asked, holding out
a hollow plastic cube.
Shiv looked at the tangle of pieces
in his palm. "Uh yeah, probably ...
but not right this minute."
"That's all right, I'll get you
a bag for it," said Dr. Bloch,
pulling one from a drawer and
writing down the intended contents.
"For now, you can play with this under
supervision and then once you move,
you can keep it in your own cell."
"Okay," Shiv said, handing over
the jumble of puzzle pieces.
"It's not like I can afford a trip to
the craft room right now, though,
or anywhere else like that."
"You haven't been tracking
your point budget, have you?"
Dr. Bloch said. He tapped
on his tablet, then turned it
around to display the result.
Shiv's jaw dropped. He had
almost five hundred points.
"What -- how -- this is --"
"What you earned in here, mostly,"
Dr. Bloch said. "I pay for value.
You gave me a lot of excellent data
that you didn't have to share."
"Wow," Shiv said softly.
Dr. Bloch tucked everything into
the bag, sealed it, and said, "Give that
to Mr. Vanburen when you leave."
"I will," Shiv said. The bag
chinkled softly as he took it back.
"How long will it be until ...?"
"As far as I can tell at the moment,
you're fine," said Dr. Bloch. "I should
have the other test results in a day or two.
After that, I expect you'll be free to move."
Shiv wasn't sure whether he felt
more excited or terrified by that.
"Yeah, I guess," he said.
He shrugged, and the motion
rolled through his shoulders,
waking just enough lingering pain
to help him settle back down again.
"It's just a wing transfer," said Dr. Bloch.
"You may feel unsettled for a little while,
but you'll get used to it just like you
adapted to the private wing."
"I can try, anyway," Shiv said,
lazily swaying on the exam table.
"You've done a great job today,"
said Dr. Bloch. "Ready for your treat?"
"Yeah," Shiv said, perking right up.
"This one has the nicotine," Dr. Bloch said,
holding up a red sucker, "and this one is plain."
The second was green and shaped like a cactus.
Shiv put the first one in his mouth and then
mumbled around it, "Wha' fla'ors are they?"
"Both prickly pear," said Dr. Bloch.
"I got them from Desert Medicine, it's
a company out west that makes
some traditional medicinals."
Shiv recognized the flavor then.
He had it for Christmas one year --
well, all the kids had funny suckers in
their stockings. He'd actually gotten
the horchata himself, but nobody else
had liked the pomegranate-tangerine
or the prickly pear, so he got extras.
The grownups had gotten boozers
but hadn't cared for theirs either,
and left them in the ashtrays.
Shiv rinsed them in the sink and ate them.
The absinthe had been his favorite
of those, although the bourbon and
almond were pretty good, and even
the champagne was ... interesting.
The tequila one had tasted like armpit, though.
Not even Shiv wanted to eat that one.
"This's fan'astic," Shiv said.
"Just remember that it is medicated,
so don't eat the whole thing at once,"
Dr. Bloch reminded him. "It has
the same strength you're used to."
"Yeah, okay," Shiv said. He didn't
really need it right now, so he tucked
the red one back in its slickery wrapper
and switched to the green. "This is
the wrong shape of cac'us, though."
Dr. Bloch laughed. "I did actually
know that, although I'm surprised
that you do," he said. "Most people
don't notice the difference."
"I like sharp things," Shiv said,
finally taking the sucker out to talk.
"Cacti have all those thorns."
"Point taken," Dr. Bloch said
with a wink. "All right, you're
finished here for today. Shoo."
"See you later," Shiv said, and
pushed himself off the exam table.
He felt oddly energized and
relaxed at the same time.
"You look perky," Mr. Vanburen said
when Shiv returned to the waiting room.
"So what did you get this time?"
"Two prickly pear suckers, one
with nicotine and one without.
Promise of a lot more food,"
Shiv said, then shook his bag.
"Puzzle that I haven't solved yet.
It's rigid, so you're supposed
to keep it until after I move."
"I'll be happy to take care of that,"
Mr. Vanburen said as he took the bag.
"I meant to ask about points, though."
"Uh ... lots," Shiv hedged.
the guard said. "We want you
to succeed, Shiv, and that goes
a lot better when you work for it too."
Shiv gave him a side-eyed glance
as they left the infirmary. "... yeah,"
he said. He still felt weird and suspicious
about people praising him for things.
He rolled the plain green sucker in
his mouth, tongue following its branches.
The taste of success, now ... that was sweet.
* * *
"Trust is like blood pressure. It's silent, vital to good health, and if abused it can be deadly."
-- Frank Sonnenberg, author of Follow Your Conscience
Shiv has multiple handouts on sleep hygiene. See Sleep Tips 1, Sleep Tips 2, a simple sleep diary, a more detailed sleep diary, and some more tools for healthy sleep.
Malnutrition is a lack of protein, energy, or vitamins/minerals. This can cause measurable damage to body composition, functions, and health outcomes. Read about the diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition.
Risk factors in children:
• Young age (<5 years) - most vulnerable are premature babies and infants at time of weaning
• Children with co-existing chronic illnesses or developmental delay
• Neglect by care-givers
• Poverty and its complex relationships with:
• Political and economic situation
• Food production and security
• Cultural and religious traditions
• Availability and effectiveness of nutrition programmes and health services
Presentation in adults:
• Increasing fatigue
• Cold sensitivity
Presentation in children:
• Poor weight gain
• Slowed linear growth
• Behavioural changes - irritability, apathy, anxiety, attention deficit.
• Impaired cognitive development
• Reduced growth
Vitamin A deficiency
• Night blindness
• Immune deficiency
• Increased childhood illness and death
(Some of these links are ugly.)
In local-America, prisons sometimes starve inmates or torture them with a monotonous diet. In Terramange-America, the law provides for certain automatic rulings. Once the state takes responsibility for a person, it is obligated to provide adequate care. Therefore if inmates are provably malnourished due to diet (not due to illness or injury) then the state is automatically liable. As a result, many prisons encourage inmates to garden, which saves money, improves diet, teaches skills relevant to both personal care and potential employment, and lowers recidivism. For similar reasons, inmates are also employed in the commercial kitchen for the cafeteria and have access to cooking classes in the smaller social kitchens, so that they can learn about food preparation. Inmates who learn life skills and healthy eating habits will have fewer health problems and clearer thinking, which makes it easier for them to function as citizens instead of getting into trouble again.
A nutritious diet is essential to good health. Eating well requires access to a variety of healthy foods. Iron-rich foods benefit the circulatory system and muscles. See a guide to iron-rich foods. Foods rich in Vitamin A help the eyes and other organs. Here are some tasty examples.
Taste tests may gauge food in many different ways, as shown in this slide show. Doing this sort of thing at home for fun can help in learning the qualities of food and exploring new foods. Here is a discussion of a rating system, which went from a simple 4-point smiley scale to a sliding scale. T- America makes more use of such visual gauges, usually with a 5-point scale, and Shiv is becoming fluent with those.
Healthy eating is important if you need to gain weight. Here are some healthy high-calorie foods. When increasing calories, it's essential to scale up gradually from lower-calorie plans to higher-calorie plans, to avoid shocking the digestive system into unpleasant protest. Depending on body size and activity, an ordinary diet may range from 1600 to 4200 calories. An average 2000-calorie diet will maintain current weight for many people. Here's a 2200-calorie diet for active people. This 3000-calorie diet is designed for healthy weight gain. Bodybuilders may want a 4000-calorie diet for serious bulk. This automatic diet planner can help you figure out what to eat.
Superpowers all require energy; some of them run on calories, while others draw from different sources. Super-strength and super-speed are known as high-burn abilities, but others run up the appetite too. Typically, calorie-driven soups need from two to four times as much food as ordinary people. Shiv probably needs half again or twice as much as usual, so around 3-4,000 calories. When he's not using his powers much, the demand isn't as high, and he can squeak by on just the typical 2,000 calories a day -- but he's always hungry, and that does not help his behavior. The more he uses his abilities, the more fuel he needs; as shown in previous poems, it doesn't take a very long workout for him to burn through every bit of available energy and then bonk.
There are many variations on the basic puzzle cube. Here is an example of a printable interlocking puzzle. Watch a video of a slightly different one being disassembled and reassembled. T-America has oodles of these files available to print, many of them free, in designs that vary by difficulty level. You can also make a wooden puzzle by gluing together sets of wooden cubes.
(These links are very intimate. Some of them may be off-putting to some readers.)
Kink relies on trust and surrender. Most of it follows the guideline of "safe, sane, consensual." Some extreme kinks, such as blood sports, fall into the range of "risk-aware consensual kink." (Even the modest amount of catering to Shiv's proclivities that Dr. Bloch is doing would probably get him fired if the wrong people found out about it, but it is much better than Shiv cutting himself or stabbing nonconsenting bystanders. It's also the healthiest outlet Shiv has had for these urges. Dual relationships are complicated, but sometimes the best or only choice.) For some kinky folks, uncertainty is part of the appeal, while others prefer knowing what will happen. Shiv likes the frisson of edgeplay, skating the fine line between fear and trust, but he also relies on the security of knowing what comes next. He's just barely beginning to learn that some surprises are safe, not horrible. Something which is violently controversial in mainstream society, but pretty well known and not rare inside the kink community, is the use of BDSM to help people recover from rape or other abuse. It takes a very delicate touch, but it works, and it can fix some things that nothing else seems to help. While the details vary, much of it looks like what you see here: offering some type of intense stimulation in a safe space, where the recipient knows they can stop at any time. The elements of power exchange are important to most kink, but crucial to this kind. Consider exploring kink on your own. There's a lot more to it than the rough stuff, and most people find that something in that massive list of hawt ideas will appeal to them.
The fruit of the prickly pear cactus has various soothing effects and can modulate blood sugar. It is popular in suckers such as this one. Desert Medicine is a T-American source of traditional medicinals. They make a nicotine sucker with a blobby red shape and a plain one ludicrously shaped like a saguaro. Sadly, the prickly-pear-nicotine version is not available in L-America so far as I know.
There are many types of weird suckers. Among the examples mentioned here are horchata, absinthe, and bourbon. What Shiv calls almond is actually amaretto, an almond-flavored liqueur. What he thinks of as champagne is really chardonnay, although it is possible to make champagne lollipops. The habañero-tequila sucker is also real. You can make your own alcoholic lollies.<br /