Disclaimer: This story is my property. I own it, so no stealing! Every person, organisation or name is entirely fictional: any coïncidence with any real person, living or dead, is therefore unintentional.
I rubbed the sweat of my brow. Hunting took a lot out of me, certainly when I'm busy the entire day! I tied the four ends of a rough piece of cloth together. I waited until the blood of the deer I caught had stopped dripping before hauling the bag over my shoulder and made my way back to my cottage.
“Hmhmh.… Tonight on the menu: reindeer ragout!” I hummed to myself.
It wasn’t long until I reached my cottage. Well, cabin might a better word. The building only had two rooms: a kitchen and a bedroom. The only furniture between its four wooden walls were a table, two chairs and a bed. I didn’t know how to make anything else either way.
I pushed the front door open with my left shoulder, feeling the shape of the wooden nameplate rubbing through my thick woollen coat. Sange, it said. That’s my name. Or at least, that’s the name I remember.
The first thing I did when I came home was light a cosy fire. I grabbed a big copper pot and hung it over the fire. While the metal was warming up, I raced to the nearby river and filled a couple of leather pouches with its ice-cold water.
After I returned, I filled the pot halfway with the water. While it warmed up, I cut some vegetables I grabbed from a nearby farm. I didn’t have the money to buy things anyway! I dropped the carrots, onions and celery into the scalding hot water along with the meat. When I saw bubbles appearing once more, I walked outside and took a sip of water.
When I looked around me, at the trees and rocks surrounding me, I was finally at peace. My days were filled with me hunting for food, eating and sleeping. And the occasional debate against myself, that too. It was boring, yet I was perfectly fine with this kind of life for the rest of my days.
Suddenly, a pungent smell pierced my nostrils. I sniffed around and put my wet finger in the air to determine where the wind was coming from. It came from down the valley, from the nearby village.
The smell was unlike anything I’d smelled before: it was a mixture of rotten eggs, mixed together with a distinct metallic undertone. Disgusting! I quickly ran back inside and checked up on my food. But it still smelled good, even better than before!
I stepped back outside, and felt the wind caressing my right cheek. The smell intensified for just a second, just enough to make my stomach roll over. But it carried something else than the smell as well. It was faint, but I was certain I could hear echoes. Carried a long way by the wind, they were barely audible, but I was certain: Those sounded like screams!
What is going on around here?, I asked myself before I climbed into the biggest tree I could find. When my head popped out from underneath the thick canopy, the smell got even worse. I followed my nose, and looked in the direction of the wind.
Smoke? Are they holding a bonfire?
However, that thought was immediately erased when I noticed more smoke plumes reaching to the cloudy sky. I could feel the blood disappearing from my face when I saw a massive flare reach up. It was definitely bigger than 30 feet.
“Not good!” I climbed down and fell the last couple of feet before I dashed towards the village. Not that those people ever did something for me. I was more concerned about the forest catching fire and burning down my own home than the villagers, to be honest. The closer I came to the village, the more pungent the disgusting smell became. But my own curiosity forced me to continue on.
“What…? What is going on?!”, I thought. My voice stopped in the middle of my throat, letting only a shocked whimper escape. I could feel my knees tremble before I collapsed on the charred grass.
Everything was burning. Houses and people alike were being devoured by the orange flames as the inferno tore a way through the village.
“AAAAGHHHH!” My head snapped to the terrified scream. A woman came running towards me, clutching her bloodied child to her chest.
“H-Hey! What’s going on?” I yelled at the woman. However, before she could answer, a hooded figure jumped up behind her. A second later, a long scythe pierced the woman’s heart. Her eyes looked at the heavens before she fell unto the earth. I could see the life slowly dripping out of her eyes, or were it her tears? I could feel my blood turn to ice when I saw the woman drop dead right in front of me, but I couldn’t scream. My fear was strangling me.
“I pity you, humans. Such weak flesh you possess.” A calm, yet creepy voice cut through the carnival of bloodcurdling screams. My head snapped in the direction of the voice.
Amidst the carnage, the burning wreckage and human remains, a single woman licked her bloodstained lips. Her white hair, adorned with scarlet streaks, cascaded chaotically over her shoulders. She raised her eyebrows slightly when an elderly man fell on the ground before her. Her blue eyes didn’t even flinch when she smashed him through the nearest wall.
I need to get out of here. That was the only thought in my mind. I scrambled back on my trembling legs and dashed towards the relative safety of the forest.
“My, my … Do you think running can save you from your fate, human?” The woman’s voice sounded behind me, stopped for a second before immediately re-appearing at my left side. I glanced towards the voice, and met her cold gaze. However, when our eyes met, a twinkle of recognition shimmered in her eyes.
“Huh. So the boss was right!” With those words, she rammed her fist in my stomach.
I wanted to scream, but the punch knocked all air out of my lungs. The only thing I could do was whimper pathetically as my body flew through the air, like a helpless doll. I landed in the muddy bed of the river, skidding several feet backwards before I finally came to a stop.
I carefully touched my chest, but quickly stopped. Everywhere I touched screamed in agony. I coughed up a lot of blood. The woman’s echoed close to me, maybe a couple of feet to my right.
“You’re still alive? I have to commend you on your foolhardiness, if nothing else.” I could hear her scoff before she kicked me in my right side. I coughed up a lot of blood while jolts of pain wrecked my body. The blood stuck to my hands, and made me think back to a similar situation 5 years ago.
It’s now or never., I realized.
I could feel the blood on my hands reacting to my will, creating tiny razor-sharp blades. Never thought this power would help me one day. This accursed blood-controlling power of mine. I slowly rose back to my feet again. I tried ignoring the pain that shocked through my entire body, which only succeeded partially.
“My, my… Still clinging to life? I have to commend you: You’re at least better than those other humans. A little.” The woman turned to face me. Her cold blue eyes stared at me while I took a deep breath.
Oh, just you wait. You’ll soon see that I am totally different than them!, I thought confidently. A small voice at the back of my mind told me this was a bad idea, but my fear and the adrenaline in my blood quickly drowned it out.
Without saying anything, I gathered all of the power I could still muster in my legs and jumped towards her. Not unlike a wild cat. The small blades, created from my won blood, appeared on my palms. But the woman was less than impressed.
“You’re pathetic. I can’t believe the boss thought you were ready.” She shrugged her shoulders and took a swift step forwards. Surprised by her move, I tried re-adjusting my trajectory. But it was far too late.
In one fluid motion, the women reared back before she plunged her right fists straight into my stomach once more. The blades of blood disappeared immediately when my body folded double. It took an awfully long time until I fell back unto the ground.
“You want me to what? Boss, he isn’t worth our time, he—Yes, yes, I understand.” She sighed while she talked to someone. My eyes were covered in blood, so the only thing I could see was red. I heard how she sighed, before her footsteps sounded less and less loud.
I wanted to yell for help: maybe someone survived the onslaught. But I couldn’t. The blood in my lungs prevented me from yelling.
I could feel my consciousness slipping through my fingers as the world around me darkened. Black spots bounced around my vision while the cold water of the river washed over my bruised and bloody body.
Well… This is it, I thought with my last strength. After that, everything went black.
“N-NO! Let me go, you’re hurting me!!”
A… child’s voice?
I blinked a couple of times. Only darkness surrounded me. Was this the afterlife? No matter how many times I blinked, the darkness remained the same. I couldn’t even spot my hands right in front of me. At least, I thought they were in front of me. I couldn’t actually feel them being a part of my body. It felt like I was floating.
“N-NOOO! Help me! Help me, please!” The voice cut through the darkness like a hot knife through butter. But whose voice was it? I didn’t recognize it… Did I?
Suddenly, images flew through the darkness. They glued together in a fluid motion, as they showed a young girl struggled against people wearing lab coats who brought her to a metal examination table.
Why does this feel so familiar?, I asked myself. I saw how the images continued, how one of the lab-coated people plunged a syringe deep in the girl’s arm.
“Ahhh. Ahhhhrgggurgl, AGGGGHHHHHHHH!” The images showed how the girl started spasming uncontrollable. Her eyes were getting bigger with every passing second as an unnatural scarlet hue spread over her skin, like wildfire. It morphed her skin, turning it swollen and infectious. I wanted to close my mind off of her terrifying screams, but I couldn’t use my hands. I was forced to watch this horrifying scene.
When the girl suddenly stopped screaming, her lifeless body dropped on the cold steel examination table. The scientists dragged her body away. From behind a curtain, a voice resonated. A gloved hand appeared from behind the pieces of silk, embroidered with an oval shape in gold thread.
“Hmph, only 23.7 seconds. These children weren’t even worth the hassle.” The voice sounded masculine, and uninterested. He waved at a couple of nearby scientists, and then pointed at something I couldn’t see.
“Get the next one.” The scientists nodded respectfully at the hand before they walked out of the image. The next one, what was he talking about?
“Number 528! Come here!” The images started cutting out, like someone took some seconds out of them. They started to get blurry, as they faded into the darkness.
“Hey, when we get out here… You’ll stay being my friend, right?’ The kind, soft female voice echoed in the darkness once more. I could feel a huge pressure on my mind as I slowly drifted into unconsciousness once again.
“Ah, you’re back!” Somewhere, far away from anything, a mature voice yelled at a certain white-haired woman. The silver-haired woman walked towards the voice and nodded.
“Yes, I am, Boss. But… Really, he was even less impressive than I’d imagined. He went down in two hits.” The woman sounded annoyed, before the woman sighed.
“I feel kind of bad, though… Murdering all those humans, just for our plans. They already are such a fragile species.” The other voice laughed.
“Maybe it was a bit cruel. But our goal justifies the means. And tell me, did you expect anything else when you applied to my group, the group of the Reaper?” The silver-haired woman had to admit her boss had a point.
“Fine. What’s the next step?” The voice chuckled. “We keep our eyes on that boy while he figures out things on his own. If he strays from the intended path, we will put him back. By force, if necessary.” The silver-haired woman nodded and walked away.
“Now, my boy… Show me what you’re made off.”