"Alone. Yes, that's the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn't hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym." Stephen King
... ... ...
The world stood, bathed in its perpetual grief and pain. Horrific screams, ones that were not as loud but still held the agony only a being tortured endlessly would have, echoed throughout the deepest and darkest corners of the universe standing silently around it. Fire and ash rose from the battered remnants of the atmosphere, and toxins were ever present.
It had been months since the fighting had started. Months that seemed so much longer. I guess if humans lived on for centuries, then that would be the case for this and how slow time was moving now.
The sky was dark, the sun a dying ember barely illuminating the diseased world beneath it.
I sat upon the battered rocks, the hot material burning through my worn and tattered cloak. The ash coated air swirled around me; the thick acrid taste of smoke covered my tongue in a rough and coarse embrace. The fire roared around me, a beast at bay merely waiting for the chance to pounce and tear into my flesh like the insignificant insect it believed I was. The decaying, bloodstained bodies were strewn across the field, broken and bruised, frayed and crumbling like decade-old tombstones eroded by harsh weather and the relentless hand of Time. Decomposing flesh hung in tattered strips from the shattered remains of bones; the ghostly and jagged remains of each individual crumbling bone peered out from beneath the flimsy veil the slimy remnants of torn muscle provided. The stench that emanated from the carcasses was oh so horrible; the ever-present aroma of burning and charred flesh and boiling blood whisked through the moaning wind.
The ground was stained with an endless cloak of overwhelming terror. The slightest glance towards the decimated field would render the mind immobile from the fiery beast of fear that would dig its claws deep into the metaphorical flesh of the mind of its host. There would be no way out should the signs of infection show. The ailing being would have no remnant of hope.
My thoughts were drifting. My memories were hazy; I remember when they had been better, easier to recall, once a part of a field of high-quality perception able to sense the slightest anomaly in my systems. My mind is fragmented now; my memories are corrupted, stained and muddied, obstructed by the clouds of misery and pain and death and sadistic desire.
The laugh that escaped me was one of pure insanity. Oh yes, I remember when I had sanity. That seemed like it was such a long time ago that I can barely recall it. Ah, no...must not let my thoughts stray from the rickety old train track.
Wait...the memory I had been trying to catch but had evaded me: this gory battlefield had once been a playground for little children. Yes, I remember...complete with the sticky plastic of the bobbing toy ponies and dragons skimming through the sand, accompanied with the screaming children as their older relatives pushed them high into the sky to make them believe they were on top of the world—this decimated field had been that. It was hard to imagine that this bloody haunted battlefield had been a place where innocent—no, they were not innocent; no one was innocent—children had played.
The gore-crusted wind continued to swirl around me. How could I have grown so accustomed to the thick scent of scalding blood and flesh? I was so used to it that I waited for it every day; as if it were a signal I waited for that moment where I could sample the delicious taste brewing in the poisoned air. But now, with the gore and violence that surrounded any being that had been powerful or lucky enough to survive the war that had ravaged the entirety of the monster that had been known as Earth...what else was there to wait for? Everything else was dead and dying. They were all delicious corpses.
Hidden deep in the mesmerizing horror around me, there was a sound, so faint it was as if a mouse had whispered. It gnawed at my ears, just at the edge of my enhanced hearing. Something was coming towards me, moving with hesitant and light steps. Those steps were oh so faint, so soft—but predatory, in a strange sort of way. My mouth widened into a vicious grin. No surprises today...
My dagger slipped out of its sheath, the icy curved metal welcome in the palm of my hand. Long and piercing nails, comparable to the talons of a carnivorous monster, slid against the slick and poisoned surface of the icy metal. The wind screamed at me, taunting what I was about to do with a slimy and deceitful forked tongue. The steps faltered as my cloak hood flew off, uncovering a long mane of thick and unruly black hair, tangles cascading in monstrous curls down the curve of my back. My teeth were exposed now, dangerous points capable of tearing through the toughest of flesh and sharpened only through my time stranded in the empty world, the time before I had found the others and created our small band of refugees.
An overwhelming scent poured over me, and a hungered almost pained groan escaped me as a bout of violent tremors threatened to race through my lean and toned body. A hiss of morbid anticipation escaped my lips, a demented sound that tore through the thick blanket silence had cloaked the diseased world with.
Oh, yes. The prey was moving ever so closer—so close...
Just a little closer, my precious prey...
I moved with inhuman speed, pinning the unwelcome visitor to the rock that had served as my perch. Teeth bared and eyes narrow, my arm pressed into their throat, cutting off all air. I growled, leaning close as my hair spilled over my shoulders like a curtain of dark ominous silk.
Two narrow, blazing tawny eyes glared up at me. The lashes that framed them were thick and long, yet all feminine aspects were crushed by the sharp-boned features of the man's face. Bronze skin gleamed in the diseased light, marred only by the gruesome jagged scar that scored across most of his right cheek and turned the skin eerie silver similar to the fine strands of a spider's web. Thin lips were pulled back, revealing long and pure white teeth that reflected the sun and nearly blinded me.
"Enough, Makilin." The man sighed, shifting beneath me as my weight increased. Muscles rippled beneath powerful arms as tendons and joints audibly shifted and cracked. The wind laughed, playing in his dark messy hair and making it wave like a child greeting a friend.
I only snarled in response, narrowing my eyes even further. Crimson boiled in the depths of hell, and manic beasts roared with a fury nowhere near comparable to the dark and demented recesses of my own mind.
He shifted, brushing something ice-hard and cold against my skin. A rumble came from deep within my chest as a cruel grin curled back my scarred lips. Oh, no, my precious prey. No escape for you tonight.
I leaned close, hair roaring wildly around me and my grip on his neck tightening. No, no, no. My prey, all mine, all mine.
A sharp pain lanced through my neck, directly through the main circulatory veins. An acid like substance carved its way through me, and I moaned and tossed my head like a beast in agony. Hissing in pain, I reared back and realized too late that I had let him free. No, I could not—would not—let him escape. He was my prey—my delicious food—oh, how I needed the sustenance...
Making to lunge at him, the attempt was short-lived as vertigo overwhelmed me and nausea rose deep in my stomach. I gasped, wrapping my arms around my middle, bile rising in the back of my throat as I forced my stomach to stay where it was. The prey, the food—it was getting away. No, it was not—I could not let it escape. Stay, please. Please, stay with me.
The world came crashing back violently, an unrelenting storm pounding against all available parts of my body. My legs buckled, but I was steadied by two hands, one considerably colder than the other, and braced against a broad and heated chest. A shudder ran through me; I could feel and smell the oh so delicious blood that flowed through the man's veins. My hunger rose with a violent fervor, and I moaned and swayed.
Something warm and wet trickled down my side, aggravating one of the many wounds that resided there. A ruthless fist curled itself around my lungs and my slow-beating heart, and I coughed hoarsely, weakly, scolding myself for showing such pathetic and disgusting weakness.
"It's okay. You're okay." The man whispered soothingly, pulling my hair back from my face. Long, thin-boned fingers glanced over my sweat-slicked skin. "Everything is okay." With one strong arm he steadied me, and with the other he pulled a syringe from my neck. A thin trickle of dark blood followed, and my head swam with the liquid so close to me. No, no, no. I couldn't—I needed it—
I trembled and gasped, forcing my breathing to return to normal. "Did I hurt you?"
"Not any more than I already was," he replied, absentmindedly fingering the bruises appearing on his neck. I looked down at him, concerned. He noticed my stare and scowled. "Makilin, I am fine. There is nothing to worry about."
Except your health went unsaid. We both knew it was deteriorating rapidly, and only rest and meditation improved it.
"Why are you here, Aiath?"
He shifted the light gleaming off of his refined metal hand. "There has been a...misunderstanding at the trade and checkpoint. A fight had broken out."
I hissed lowly, my eyes narrowing as I attempted to stand on my own. "What happened?"
Aiath shrugged, but his grip did not loosen. "It is unclear. They have our men gunned down."
Shock hit me like a punch to the gut. "Gunned down?" I pushed him away a bit too roughly, as he nearly fell but caught himself before he did so. "What do you mean?" My voice was cold and inflectionless.
"The dispute occurred about two hours ago. There is a man who wishes to speak with you and you only." Aiath seemed to be half listening to what he was saying and his orange eyes were unfocused.
"Very well. I will see what I can do." I turned and made to walk away, but before I could pain erupted throughout me. I groaned quietly, swaying on my feet. The daggers of the ache tore through me, making every breath a burden. The world swam before me, hazy and murky like the world beneath a dirtied body of water. Aiath was there instantly to steady me, his reassuring grip stilling the tremors racking through my body.
"Makilin, you are in no condition to fight. You need to rest," he murmured. "The rest of us can handle it." Almost imperceptibly, his hand wandered down to rest on the small of my back, and he pulled me closer to him, warm breath fluttering against the cool and slick skin of my neck.
I shook my head. "If..." I had to pause and collect the little breath left in me. "If my snipers...could not handle this...what makes you think you will?"
Aiath sighed deep in his chest, the noise rumbling through me. "We were trained by you, not some fat oaf who merely called himself General."
I drew in a ragged breath. "Take me to them." He made to protest, but my glare destroyed whatever was about to come out of his mouth. "Now."
Aiath let out a deep breath. "Fine." He continued to steady me as he led us to the check and trade point.