“Speak, I need the entire tale.”
“It started with a car accident. A tire blew out and the car spun and flipped. I was hanging upside down, pretty sure I was about to die when a monster came out of the woods and offered me a deal.”
“Allow me to give you a little backstory, an understanding of our side of things if you will. There isn’t a good versus evil slant to this. Not dark against light. It is two opposing forces that have been speeding at each other since the dawn of time. Is there collateral damage to be had? Of course there is. But everything always seems so one sided.
I was born the son of the greatest hunter in my tribe. Legendary in his ability to track and lead. He would have united all of the tribes. He was killed by the cowards. These same cowards raised me. After witnessing my mother die, this an accident, I fell into my more dark desires. A hunger filled me, insatiable and unholy. It was something out of my control. And I would not have tried to control if I could. The feeling of power, of righteousness. I knew at a young age I was more than the simple beings around me, greater than them.
I began to torture small animals. Now, in this day and age, this is text book for psychopathic or sociopathic behaviour. The beginnings of a serial killer. Then it was the possession of dark spirits. There was nothing that could not be attributed to the spirits. A successful hunt was a blessing from the good spirits, sickness the curse of evil. As my hunger grew I realized that I was as great as the spirits themselves. I could take lives, consume them, absorb there power and make myself more powerful than all.
Until they caught me cutting up my cousin and eating strips of his flesh as struggled. I had taken him to the same cave I hid in and watched my mother die. The particulars are not important, I took him during a hunt. The animals were not scratching the same itch they had and I needed to test my new strength on larger prey. I was sloppy in my need. Left a trail. The elders found me and what was left of my cousin. They did not recognize my transformation. They saw spirits to be vanquished. I played along with their foolishness. Pretended to be cured. Learned from my mistakes. Became deadlier, more powerful than even I could have imagined. But the rest of the tribe never quite trusted me, never quite forgave me.
A group of children disappeared the next year. No trace of them to be found. I had grown clever and hid them better Took my time with them. I flayed them as they screamed out of mouths with no tongues. Taught them of pain, learned the limits of the mind over one glorious season. Even without proof the elders knew it had to have been me. I protested but they judged the dark spirits owned me. They made me outcast. Used ceremonial knives with antler hilts to carve warnings to all in my flesh. They did to me in their justice what I did to the children in my hunger. I knew then that it was all meaningless. All the tales they told, the lies meant to make us follow the herd had made us all less. And with every ritual cut to my face I understood they were weak because they fear what they cam never hope to understand.
They took all and sent me to die in the wild. They took a hand so I could not use a bow. They took an eye so I could not judge distance. They took my tongue so I could not spread my truth. I never have them the victory of reaction. As they pelted me with stones as I limped out of the tents and into the wide open world, I smiled. As my blood ran from the cuts and down my throat I stood tall. As the agony raced through me I knew this was just a sign of life. Of the end of all things. And I burned to learn more.
Now most would give up after this shunning, this abuse, this betrayal. It only served to increase my hunger. It made my need to survive stronger and my will fortify. I would return one day, not the outcast or monster but a god. The returning conqueror, then they would all sate my hunger. I would find a way and I will have my vengeance.
My former tribe was good enough to not just maim and torture me but they set me loose as the winter winds began to freeze the lands. Perhaps they felt it was taking pity on me by sending me out then. A quick death by nature. A better death than I would find if I stumbled upon another tribe or if any of my former tribe stumbled upon me.
See, I was marked for death. Just not in the way they intended. Hatred is an agent for great strength and all I had remaining was hunger and hate. They sustained me through the quiet nights. I ate what I could forage, figured out rudimentary traps I could manage one handed. Stayed hidden. At first I trailed the tribe, stealing what I could from them. After a week in the women discovered me and began throwing stones until I ran off. They promised to tell the hunters and we both know how that would turn out. I memorized each of their faces.
That night something wondrous happened to me as I slept. A voice called out to me. Whispered dark secrets I could not quite make out. Of power and help. When I woke I knew I had to head towards the rising sun. Answers would come with the sun. So I walked. I don’t know how long I spent on my sojourn, days into weeks into months. I crossed the plains and made it to a mountain range. I was in a bad way by this time. The winter snow had begun to melt and my feet were frostbitten. The pain was overwhelming but whenever I stopped the voice kept speaking in my mind. Promises of power intoxicated me and kept me moving.
Luckily for me it was the edge of the mountain range and the trek, while difficult, was manageable. The voice grew steadily stronger the farther I walked. But my body was not able to finish. As I finally reached a great forest on the East side of the mountains my legs gave out. I fell into a river where I had stopped for a brief respite. The dark waters held me and as my consciousness began to fade the voice spoke clearly.
“Welcome hungry one.”
“I came. But too late, my feeble body has given up. Little good the trek has done as I die upon arrival.”
“I can fix your body, but are you prepared to pay the price?”
“You give willingly for this, knowingly and if your own accord?”
“Then an accord shall be struck!”
And all faded to black as my body slipped beneath the waves into the river. I heard the sound of a great bell toll and then nothing.
I woke. I know not how much time had passed, but I woke. And I woke hungry. Starving. Blinded to anything but the need. I stumbled to me feet and out of the makeshift tent I had woken in. And standing before me was a deer fresh off the spit, steaming into the air and a squaw ready to carve it for me. As I entered she flinched and I found it delightful. I tore into the deer launch with my teeth, no time for cutting and playing. It was delicious.
But left me wanting. Not satisfying the need. And in this feverish frenzy of desire I tore her apart. As I ripped flesh from her, blood spraying and her screams like a flute accompaniment to the meal I felt the hunger ebb away. Basic thoughts returned to my head and the first was I felt great. The pain was gone.
And my hand was back. In a fashion. Where there had been a smooth scarred stump I had a freshly grown wondrous new hand with long talons. With the subtlest flick of them I can carve into stone, through bone like water. My left hand was similarly formed, which filled me with such joy. The terrible things these new hands would allow me to do sent my mind racing. My feet were bandaged and I unwrapped them to see that they too had been changed. I stripped the rags from my body to fully see the changes.
I became a glorious work of art.
My lower extremities became like those of the goat. I stamped a given good on the ground and the earth answered with a thunderous shaking. Two boulders flew towards my head and my new talons shattered them. Power coursed through me and and I summoned a veil of water to take in my entire splendor. A shriek escaped my throat as I saw my new visage. My face was gone. A grinning skull faced me in my reflection with two jagged horns piercing the air. In the transformation I became on the out what I had always been inside. My inner strength became my armor. And I could not be more grateful. The dreams I had since childhood had come true. And at such a low price.
So you see Chad, we don’t ask much of you in order to fulfill your dreams. A book given as a gift. Maybe a conversation or two. Nothing too expensive. What do you say?”
He looked at me, the poor human in such agony. And delicious fear emanating off of him in waves.
“Answer soon, I fear your wife and children will not last if the car were to explode and the gas is getting dangerous close to the open flame. Tut tut.”
“Just a book?”
“Just a book and you will be paid handsomely for it.”
“You have a deal, damn it. But I have one more thing I want?”
“You are bold Chad, what else would you like?”
“The rest of your story.”
“Then a deal is struck. Take your family and wait for further instruction.”
“And you did what he asked? You gave the book to your cousin?”
“Yes. I had to. My family was going to die if I didn’t agree.”
“But you continued to work for this monster?”
“Who are you? What does it matter why? I fucked up. I had no choice in the matter.”
“I hoped to learn more about why he was interested in Haley. I wanted answers.”
“Very well, don’t tell me. What happened next?”
“Haley was in the hospital and almost died. I gave him the book as I promised. So he came back to visit me.”
“He told me more of his story.”
“I have nothing but time, continue.”
“He came back the day Haley left the hospital…”