Oh Ye Of Little Faith
In the end, there is no good deed, no good man. The mighty does not stand victories; no God will drink himself stupid with the success of another creation. No demon shall feed upon the weak. In the end, there will only be you and me. We are you and you are us.
“Oh God! Please make it stop!” His screams seemed endless in the haunting darkness. They echoed, and when they should have faded away into nothingness, they grew louder. Our hands clenched his limbs as hard as we could to hold him still. Like a savage beast, he fought back, writhing and struggling, fighting a pain that distorted his features into something less than human. In my two hundred years of knowing him, never had I seen him like this. Not a tear, not a hint of fear had ever graced Daniel’s face until now. But it was only a matter of time before he broke. We all break, in time.
Bailey’s voice woke me from my thoughts. “Bloody hell!” he started. “Hold the boy down! Quiet the lad before the nasties hear him!”
His hands moved with a hint of grace I didn’t know he still had. For a man stripped of his gift, he didn’t miss a beat. Bailey’s paw-like hands moved to Daniel’s chest, tearing open his shirt. Daniel groaned and spasmed, trying to break free from our grasp, or maybe he was trying to break free from something else altogether. He was a giant of a man, easily the strongest of all of us. It took everything to hold him. Nicole tried feeding him muggy water; each mouthful escaped his mouth with a disguising sound that only promised vomit.
It was when Bailey fully exposed Daniel’s chest that the haunting reality of how grim our life was set in. To think of a creature, to allow your imagination to wander, could be a troubling and terrible thing. However, to see your imagination fail, to live up to the nightmare that creeps in the shadows, is a bloodcurdling thing.
Whatever “it” was moved with haste beneath his skin. The vile thing ripped through tissue and flesh. The echoing of crackling bones breaking as it moved freely inside of him was like knives to our ears. Daniel’s blood-red eyes widened as he watched his body become some foreign creature’s playground. A scream so monstrous, so full of pain and torment, escaped him. I was left grimacing.
Without warning, Bailey smashed a rock into Daniel’s face to silence him. His body went still, but was still tense, and the creature was still struggling against us. Each time the creature moved, his body twitched. Nicole gritted her teeth as she stared at Daniel.
Bailey’s left hand softly rested on Daniel’s chest and he used the same rock, pushing it into Daniel’s stomach. Softly at first, then harder and harder until liquid began to flow out. Nicole shivered and stared away. Sergio stood behind Bailey silently, keeping watch for the nasties. He was not surprised at all when it wasn’t blood that escaped the wound, but rather this black, muggy tar-like ooze.
Daniel twisted and groaned softly in his dream state. Bailey sliced open his stomach, just under his chest, down to his belly button. Satisfied with his incision, he placed the muck-covered rock down as he slowly maneuvered his paw-like hands inside Daniel’s stomach.
“Now, here comes the fight,” Bailey said, taking a deep breath. His right arm jerked as a loud, wet-sounding crack escaped the wound and Daniel eyes shot open. He’d awakened from his dream state only to be driven into a madman’s rage. His massive arms flexed, revealing his animal-like muscles.
With ease, his arms broke free of us and he knocked Nicole away. Before I could react, Daniel’s elephantine hands gripped my throat, squeezing the life out of me – or so I wished. Sergio only watched in fear, not of the crazed Daniel, but that he would draw the nasties to us. Because a crazed Daniel was heaven compared to the nasties. Back tensing, vision fading, my neck felt as though it would break. Suddenly, Nicole sprang to life like a deranged dog, hitting Daniel in the face rapidly with the rock. Daniel’s arms went limp, releasing me as they fell to the ground with a mighty thump.
“Keep the lad still!” Bailey cried. “This is hard enough without the extra stress!”
Sweat rolling down the side of his face, Bailey stared at Daniel’s chest with such intensity as if he could see inside him. He knew this was our last chance to get whatever this thing was out of Daniel. It would be days or even years before Daniel agreed to a third attempt. But it wasn’t about fixing Daniel. Bailey knew there was no real fixing him or any of us. We were like old worn-down cars: once you fixed one thing, ten more broke.
No, this was about something else. Something personal. Bailey, before he was here, was a surgeon. From the tales he told us, he was a damn good one. He wasn’t in it for the money or for the fame, but to help people, to make a difference. Bailey McCovey, his hands were his gift. His mind was his power. But, “All” took that away from him. Like he took so many things from us, he took away Bailey’s gift and his power, turning his precise hands into these unsteady paw-like hands. His genius mind, robbed and replaced with that of an animal, of a savage. Each day, every moment he fought not to give in to his savage mind.
Sometimes, I catch him. Late at night, when he believes us all to be asleep, staring at us with unnerving eyes. I don’t know if it’s the hunger or the beast within, but he watches us, claws out, mouth watering. He mumbles things I don’t dare repeat, knowing that if he only eats a little, it would be damage done forever; however, if he eats too much, to the point of death, if he ate himself stupid with our meat, he would provoke the wrath of All. We would live, be given a new body, but he...he would be punished in ways that made that creature seem like a nice annoyance.
Bailey’s hands quickly retreated from Daniel’s body as something black toppled to the floor, flinging black muck and bits of foulness on us.
We watched it dance in silence. Sergio, with a quickness never seen in all my years of knowing him, silenced the dance with three blows from a rock. “Vile! Vile thing!” he cried. A pointless thing to say. It was true, the creature was like nothing I’d ever seen; even now it still oozed black tar like water from a waterfall. However, we all knew what it was now. A name would be given later, a new disease for our journal. But whatever the disease it carried or the poison hidden within, it was simply…dinner.
Vaguely do I remember life before this. Before the endless pain, before my dreams and ambition was simply death. Maybe those memories are simply fantasies; maybe this has been my only life. But they are fresh, and they visit me every now again at night. When I manage to sleep, when I don’t dream of death and nightmarish things, I dream of a life before this, a life after this. Those, however, are the true nightmares.
Every time they appear, I can feel him. Anytime I think or look for a bright side of this pain, he’s there. Never does he speak, but he watches. I can feel him, his eyes watching from afar. I can hear him, whispering sweet nothingness. No words, but noises that used to be words. It clear what he wishes to whisper: nothing but hate. Hatred for us, for everything. His whisper of hate and laughter of torment.
But what is he? What do we call him? Is he even a he? Do we call him God or the devil? He created us, the river of Nein as we call it. A river of rot and decay. The sewer-like water that we must drink to silence the endless thirst. Gave us…these bodies. Bodies that are cursed to never fade, to never die. Bodies that rot and break, that bleed and shatter. That start anew each time they reaches the end.
He gives us never-ending pain that we call life. What should we call it, this all-giving, almighty giver of pain and hatred? I call it “All” because he is all I hate. All I wish to see burn. He is all of my pain.
Sergio lifted the rock to reveal a twisted mass of decaying thew and razor-sharp fingers. “Was this the source?”
Covered in blood and foulness, Bailey slowly nodded. With a soft sigh, Sergio kneeled beside Daniel as Bailey took over his watch. Thanks to his new…hands, Bailey was ill-prepared to finish what he’d started. The task of sewing Daniel up fell to Sergio. The look of blank terror lingered on Nicole’s face as she bent over Daniel, feeding him the muggy water.
Her kindness and compassion fooled no one. At least, not anymore. Maybe before this, before the changes, she was a decent person. Now…now she was a heartless bitch, driven only by her own twisted ideals of greed and pleasure of the flesh. She was not afraid of the monster but rather envied it and its ability to cause such pain. Torment, pain…the things we have grown very accustomed to have become her fixes. She hides her true self, behind the mask of who she used to be.
Daniel, however, was always her favorite, so her compassion and fear were very much real in this case. Daniel’s size wasn’t the only thing enlarged by All. He was her favorite plaything. When we first met, before it had its go at all of us, she told us tales of a life of innocence and meaning. She was an activist, a veterinarian, and a kind-hearted soul. She believed in people, that we could change for the better.
She fought for the rights of many, for animal and man alike. She gave back to so many and asked for nothing. A smile, a stranger’s laughter was her reward. It was a life that was truly lived for another. “If I can make one person smile a day, that was a day well spent,” she would say with pride. It was a quote which she lived by.
But that person, that stranger, is no more. She has been touched by the cold hands of a demon, transformed into everything she hates. One by one, it took us. At night, always at night, we would awaken and notice that someone was gone and days later we’d find them, changed and different. She could hide it the best. But I would catch her, staring at us with eyes of love. It was not love that she offered. She would give us her body. Daniel was the first and the most often.
The first night he would return to us, hand clenching his neck, in tears, covered in blood. “She bit me! The bitch took a chunk out of me!”
I would see her, when she thought no one was watching. Sitting there, clawing at her face, ripping skin and tissue away in such large degrees bones would be visible in seconds. But this was the new Nicole Yates. Her appearance was left the same, only so she could draw us in so much easier. She, went from a woman with meaning and innocence into a living succubus.
“No flames tonight, I fear,” Bailey said with a heavy sigh. It wasn’t that big of a surprise; the last time we had flames to cook with was ten years ago. But I understood his sadness. The flames were the only thing that kept the nasties away at night, that or pure luck. But the night didn’t last long; what little rest we did receive was quickly taken from us with haste.
Rain poured down hard. Each drop stung us and made our skin boil. Daniel stumbled to his feet as we started our endless journey. He stood almost seven feet tall. Nicole huddled close to him to reduce the rain reaching her. We walked until our feet bled and then we walked further. We were in an unforgiving land that was covered in sharp rocks and broken glass.
We took shelter within a small cave, barely enough room for three, let alone five, but we huddle inside. Bailey ripped and broke pieces of the foreign demon that once called Daniel’s body home and passed it out to us. My first bite, it bite back. My second filled my mouth with a mixture of my own blood and black ooze. As I swallowed I could feel its razor finger slicing open my throat.
The acid that once ate at my stomach quickly attacked the food and dissolved it. My stomach screamed for more and more is what it got. What little meat and bone it was gave me only a second of relief and hours of pain.
“Is this…truly how we must live?” Sergio mumbled, staring out at the endless void of broken rocks and glass. “Is there no end? Has it now had its fill of these silly games of torment in all two hundred years? Can we not rest and sleep?” We said nothing. No one stared at him or even hinted that they cared. This was normal for Sergio, to dream of a life that was out of reach. To wish for fool’s gold. Because All was not bored; he had drank his drink and refilled it with more. There was no coming storm, no endless wait for the hammer to fall and for all to end. No, the hammer had already fallen, the storm had already come and gone. We have had our judgment and were sent to the gallows.
This was simply what it was. Our life, our pain was his drink, and oh how thirsty he has proven to be. He will drink us forever and we will beg for a death that he will ignore. It simply is what it is. We have tried to end things. Oh, how many times have we tried to end our lives. Once, Bailey ran mad into the darkness, screaming for the nasties to attack, and they did. They broke limbs and ate him alive and he lay there, half the man he used to be. He felt it all; there was no off switch that caused his body to go numb. No, he felt every bite, every rip and poke. Then, when his eyes finally shut, they reopened and he was whole.
Nicole once leaped from a cliff into a pool of sharpened rocks and crazed birds. She was there for weeks before she was left beside us one night in tears, but whole. Our bodies are forever, or so it would seem. There are moments – maybe All was not looking or was not paying attention – that we would be cut or sliced open and once we restarted, that wound was still there. Did he miss it or did he just not care to fix it?
Daniel once was impaled by a spike through his thigh. It sliced through veins and tissue and he said as the blood flowed he felt something he never felt before. Cold – he could feel the life fading quickly and he felt numb. But then, before our very eyes he was gone. And when he returned, he was fixed.
Was it a sign? Could we escape this nightmare, or was he simply toying with us? Was the light at the end of the tunnel simply false hope, his greatest torment? The very thought of it was too much to bear.
It was a cold day; the rain lasted longer than any of us wanted. But the rain wasn’t the worst part. Oh no, the worst of it came now. The wind. Wind so strong, that it caused even Daniel to struggle. But we marched on.
“I’m sure of it!” Bailey yelled with excitement. “Food! Real food! It’s a little past the Iceland!”
His stomach growled loudly as he spoke. There was no hiding his excitement. There was no hiding my disappointment. Even after so many years, Bailey was still willing to believe in fool’s gold.
He told us, days ago, about a dream he’d had. At first it was simply of food. But as the nights came and went, the dream returned, revealing more and more of the treasure. It wasn’t just a dream, but a vision! Within this dream he saw food, enough for all of us. Days, even weeks’ worth of food. Its location was slowly shown, bit by bit, within each dream. It wasn’t uncommon for us to dream of something we desired, but normally once we awoke, we knew it was only a dream. But Bailey, he was not willing to accept that.
With nothing better to do, we agreed to go. None of us believed in his silly little dream at first, but the more he talked, the details he gave caused the others to believe. Before it was only Bailey thinking and singing songs of joy. Now it was all of them. The fools. All of them fooled by All’s little game, all but me.
“God, I hope there is chicken or even apple pie!” Daniel mumbled weakly. “I haven’t had chicken or pie in so long!”
“You can keep the chicken. Give me some ribs!” Sergio chimed in.
The air was full of endless chatter about all types of food. Pies, cakes, meats of all kinds. Nicole eyed me as she smirked a most devilish grin. I was the only one not taking part in their silly little game. I had no interest in it; however, she saw this as a chance to cause chaos. This was a normal thing she would do.
Every chance she got, she would cause chaos between us for her own twisted amusement. Her favorite was the feud between me and Daniel. At first it was hard to do. I was no one compared to the pretty boy Daniel. The model, the superstar, the lady killer. But now…now things were different. After All had his fill of Daniel, he was no longer the pretty boy.
Daniel was a model. A very successful one at that, praised for his looks. Everything about him was perfect – until All took that from him. One night, he was gone. The five-foot-nine perfection was taken in the middle of the night. Unlike the others, who returned only days later, he was gone for months. We thought he was dead, gone forever. Then we ran across “it.” It, the only fitting word for it, for him: Daniel.
He was no longer the five-foot-nine perfection. Now, he was a hulking seven-foot-six-inch monster. His body was mixed with that of a hippopotamus and elephant. His right arm was almost the size of his former body. It was so large he had to to hunch over when he walked, using his arm as a third leg. When he talked, his voice boomed.
Like the others, his mind was changed too. His mind went mad. A man that spent his whole life becoming perfect suddenly turned into a freak. Into a monster. He hated all of us for staring at him. He stared at us, breathing heavily. His eyes were full of hatred for himself and more for us. He has killed Sergio three times, crushed him under his foot like an ant. I fear I am next; I fear I will die only to awaken to his wrath once more.
Nicole takes great pleasure in her games, but we all have our games, our toys. We are all puppeteers pulling the strings of our favorite puppet; all the while, we’re nothing more than puppets ourselves. Is it done out of spite or simply as a distraction? I don’t believe we are all truly this heartless, this evil and uncaring. But I believe these games are something that must happen.
Even with all of the resentment, we have become a family. Our pain, our hate binds us all together. The venom that swells inside us, that boils without rest in the darkest pits of our hearts, brings us together. All of our disguise, all of our perturbation is because of him. For him or her, whatever you wish to call it, for All is what we hate the most.
However, there is another. Another thing, that brings them together. Another dark soul that hollows their souls, that causes them to whisper in the night and plots schemes: Me. I am not like them. I share their pain, their misery, but I do not share their torment. All of them have been taken in the night. Changed and broken, transformed into the very thing they hate. Yet I, I have been left whole. Untouched, unviolated by All’s cold, rough hands.
They did not hide their schemes. Was it simply confusion, or was it envy? Sometimes it was jealousy, but the schemes were always plotted for all to see.
“Why him,” they would chatter. “Why has he not been taken?”
Like a song, it would echo endlessly in my mind. Questions filled the dark parts of all of our minds. Questions I have asked. Did All have some grand plan for me? A plan so great he hasn’t yet became prepared to carry it out, or was making me their target the true torment?
“So Preacher…” Her tone was dry; she tried to hide her wicked intentions behind a crooked smile. “What are you excited about? What food do you hope will be there?”
Their eyes shifted towards me. The afternoon fell silent with their eager ears. I was quiet for what felt like hours. I didn’t believe and she knew I didn’t. I didn’t look at them; I didn’t stop walking. My answer would not be one that they would agree with. It would not be one that would gain me any love.
“Ah!” Sergio cried loudly, walking in front of me. “Who cares what piss pot thinks? He is nothing but a fool, after all! A man who prays endlessly to a God who has forsaken him! Who prays for the grace of the almighty who has left him to rot in hell with the rest of us! So tell me Preacher, where is your mighty God?!”
Each word lingered longer than the last. I stood there without words, without a defense against his onslaught. Nicole smiled and flicked her tongue, licking her lips like a lizard. Sergio was the last one, the last one to be taken. Oh, how he has always held a hatred for me, for not going over the edge. For not losing my faith.
He was a soldier in his past life. He would tell us of battles, long nights of gunfire and longer mornings of bloodshed. How he was a sergeant, known within his unit for having no fear. He was the bravest of the brave. The best of the best, always the first person in and the last one out. But in a single night, that was taken from him.
Now he was a coward, scared of his own shadow. He spoke such words because he knew I would not strike him. Because this small rush was enough to make the soldier boy feel like a man, and replace his neutered pride with a hollow feeling of success. He smirked and smiled like a boxer standing over a defeated foe. His rat-like eyes stared into my eyes, and his hands were tucked in his pockets to hide the fact that they were shaking.
Before I could speak, my mind was taken away from me. I was gone, far away from them, but still I stood in front of them. My mind burning like a wildfire and then I heard a voice I’d never heard before. A whisper that I could not understand, and just like that, I knew what had happened.
All had went into my mind, into places that burnt my soul. Into shadows I didn’t know existed, into areas I wish that didn’t. He lifted different blocks gently and moved with such care it set the fire to rest. He stared at all of the things he had created in two hundred years and smiled. His fingers touched everything as he walked, healing me. He stopped as he stared at the child I used to be, smiled as he watched him cry within his dark, wet corner. With a stillness, All said, very politely, in a voice that felt so foreign to me but so familiar, in words that I couldn’t understand but I knew:
“Guten Abend, Herr Smith. I have seen you, I have known you. You wish to ask me things, things you could not understand, will not understand. You wish to know why, wish to understand who plays with you like a toy. You say you hate me. You claim to hate me with a hate so large, so wide that it would fill the ocean. You say that I could never understand the pain I have put you through. You do not know pain. You do not know hate.”
Images flashed before my eyes and I knew him. Tears of blood poured down my face. I screamed and pleaded for him to stop; I prayed and asked for it to stop. But it didn’t. The images burnt like a fire I’d never felt. Not my body, not my mind, but my very soul. My eyes bled; my bones twisted and curved in ways that would make a normal man fall to pieces. My mouth moved to form words that were overshadowed by his words. His polite tone was gone, replaced with that of an angry father.
“You! Man of faith! You, man of a higher power! Do you feel my pain? This is only but a taste! Only a taste of the pain you have put me through! You could not fathom my pain! I hated being me, I was mad at my brain. All the hurt that I felt made me this way. You have made me this way. Hate, my hate is endless for you. If you were to peel my skin inch by inch and stretch it to the ends of the universe, you would not scratch the surface of my hate. When you ask for more, beg me for more pain, ask me to share all of me, to explore the wrath that humans have put me through, then I shall let you die.
In an instant, he was gone. Left violated, used and broken, my body collapsed. I was dreaming. All I could see were those pictures playing on repeat in my mind. He knew me and now I knew him. He had left me undone, a shell of who I used to be. But within that, he had made his first mistake. He allowed me to know him, to know his pain, and within his pain is our salvation.
As I awoke, I heard the cheers of the others. My body laid in the snow as the sound of their snowy footsteps echoed.
“It’s here! The food! It’s all here!” they cheered and shouted. But those cheery shouts soon turned into bitter howls.
As Bailey reached for the food, it faded away in his palm. The sweet scent of food quickly was replaced with a stomach-turning smell of rot. Instantly the food spoiled and rotted away within his hairy paws, leaving only sharp bones and maggots. All at once, the wind’s hollow woos changed into a soft laugher.
“No!” Bailey cried as Daniel grabbed him with his oversized hands, pushing him into a tree. Daniel didn’t speak; he only howled like a mad animal.
His face was only inches away from Bailey as he roared. Bailey only roared back with blind rage, his paws slapping Daniel across the face, slicing open his right eye. Sergio watched from a distance. His body shook like a baby tree within a hurricane. The scent of piss escaped his body. Nicole screamed and shouted for them to stop, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
The wind’s laughter grew louder and louder. All watched, drinking himself stupid. He smiled and laughed; he cheered and demanded more. As I rose to my feet, the chaos played out in front of me like a scene from a movie. Beast against beast while the gods simply laughed at the amusement. But within this, All was at fault. He didn’t change me, didn’t break me and within that he lost. He showed me that he is us and we are him.
Do not go gentle into that good night
Digits moving with haste, gripping the bones, I moved like the wind. We were not immortal; we were not forever. Sergio was first. Before he could react, I drove the bone inside of him. His eyes widened as the bone passed through his flesh and pierced his heart. He took a deep breath and then went limp. I twisted the boney blade as I pushed him off it. Nicole stared at me as she watched him fall to the ground.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
My eyes were that of a madman as I stared at her. I raced towards her as I stabbed the knife into her throat, twisting it then jerking it to the left, halfway cutting off her head. Tears formed in her eyes and with her last movement she whispered, “Thank you.”
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Daniel slammed Bailey on the ground as he screamed at him, cursed his name. The wind boomed with laughter, and before he noticed the shift in tides I was on Daniel’s back, stabbing the bone into his eye repeatedly until it reached his brain. The moment it did, he fell silent, toppling over on top of Bailey. The wind grew quiet, the laughter slowly fading, showing All’s confusion.
They do not go gentle into that good night.
Bailey growled and groaned under Daniel’s body, scratching at the air howling like a craze beast. I stood over him, covered in blood that was not my own. His eyes stared into mine and at long last, he knew death. As the blade entered his heart he drew his final breath. The wind boomed and took me far away from them. It carried me through rocks and woods. All would spend days trying to bring them back. He would spend forever, making me suffer.
At the end, he knew me. He knew that with all his hate, all of his rage, he could not break me. That was because I knew him, because I knew his hate. It was love that set them free, a foreign language he knew nothing about. Something he did not fully understand and could not control. He chained me. Hooks dug into my skin, wrapping around a spiked rock. Thorns covered my body as birds pecked endlessly at my stomach, feasting on my innards, only for my body to reform for the birds to eat once more.
A snake sat above my body, leaking its venom into my eyes; I was unable to close them or even look away. He sat in front of me, thinking of new ways to show me his hate. All of his hate was mine now. I was alone, alone with him. He was alone with me. I am him, and he is me. I have never given up faith because heaven was always within in my brain. Even as I walked through hell, my ideas are what got me through the pain. All allowed me to keep my mind, only so he could invade it and rape it with his cold, rough hands.
I am his…his forever. Never to know a second of relief. As I scream, I laugh. Because for all his hate, it serves as a reminder – that a foolish man defined a God.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.