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The Cycle
By: Kathleen Rowan Fraser

I can't recall exactly how long it's been since I've told this story. I've been around so long now that time has no meaning.

It all started centuries ago in ancient Greece, when the world was young.

You're already confused. You ask how I could possibly have been around that long ago. Well, that's the easiest part of the story.

I am immortal.

I have been immortal since that fateful night, the night he gave me his kiss.

I was young and no one in particular, just a local merchant's son. My father had often told me I would fall into trouble one day, but I didn't expect what came to me.

I was on the way home from the market, carrying the items my mother had sent me for, and found a man lying in the road.

Wounded and bleeding, he was white as death.

Realizing that I could not just leave him lying there, I knelt beside him.

"What can I do?"

He could barely talk. His voice was almost a whisper.

"Give me life."

Now I had always been a believer that the Gods favored us, but here I was, faced with the dilemma of a man asking the impossible.

“How can I do that?" I was confused.

His answer was baffling. "Bring me a small animal. Catch him alive."

Wondering how this could possibly help the man, I nevertheless set down my goods and began looking for any live animal I could find.

After scrambling around for a half hour or so, I finally came across some small game... rabbits scurrying in fright as I chased them. Undaunted by the difficulty of my task, I ran after them until at last I was able to grab one by its back legs.

I carried my prize, wriggling and trembling in terror, back to where the man still lay on the road and sat down next to him.

"I found a rabbit, but I don't see how this could…" I stopped in shock, for the man had the rabbit in his hands and was tearing its throat out with his teeth, blood spraying everywhere. I couldn't remember seeing him move from the ground, nor did I remember handing it to him… but there he was, gorging on its blood.

I was riveted to the spot in which I sat, fascinated by such bestial behavior, yet terrified at the same time.

The man finished with the rabbit and tossed its torn and lifeless carcass away. "Thank you," he said, turning to look at me.

His face was covered in blood, dripping from the corners of his mouth to run down and stain his clothes. His eyes were deep black pools that reflected the stars in their depths.

He growled like a lion stalking its prey, and something inside of me screamed a warning.

I jumped up and ran, leaving my goods lying in the road, my only thought being to get away from this man.

"No, not a man," I thought in terror. "A thing."

I didn't go very far.

I felt the impact as he hit me, much like boulders had come down from the mountain to bury me under their weight.

I cried out as he threw me to the ground, crushing my face into the dirt and filling my mouth with the soil and insects that dwelt there. I could feel the blood beginning to run where my cheek had encountered a rock and had torn open from the jagged edge.

Grabbing my hair, he snapped my head back.

I was gasping for breath, my arms flailing as I desperately tried to fend off my attacker.

He was moving so fast I couldn't touch him.

His growls were inhuman, more like a caged animal then a man.

Pulling me almost to my feet, he spun me around to face him. Like a doll, I danced in his hands, as helpless as a babe newborn.

He fell on me, ripping into my flesh. I could feel his claws tearing at my chest as he opened me like he had the rabbit only moments before. My blood poured from the gaping holes in my body to soak the ground beneath me, even as my innards began to bulge from within my body...that is, the blood he didn’t lap up as he chewed on my entrails.

Vainly trying to hold my stomach together, I fought to keep my intestines from falling to the ground. I could feel the cold air as it dried and crusted the coating of blood that covered me.

Unable to move him from my chest, I watched as he sat gorging on my life's fluid.

I tried to cry out, but a gurgling sound came in its place, and somewhere in the back of my mind I realized my throat was gone. Panic hit me then, as I understood with finality that I was going to die within minutes.

I closed my eyes and waited.

The creature on my chest grunted contentedly, apparently satisfied with his meal.

I opened my eyes again as best I could, wanting to see the face of the thing that had just stolen my life.

My body was already going cold. I could feel myself slipping into the oblivion that would take me to the river Styx.

He was sitting there like a bird of prey, chewing on something in his hands. With horror, I realized that it was from my stomach.

"Coins..." My voice was jagged and faint.

He turned to look at me. "Eh?"

I struggled to say more, but found I could only gasp as the blood still oozing from my tattered throat drowned out anything further.

"Tasty, sweet. Nice morsel, more to come, sure."

It rambled on as it picked at pieces of my insides.

I could no longer feel pain and my body had ceased to obey me. I couldn't move.

Crawling across my open wounds to stare at my face, the creature came down close to scrutinize me.

Its foul breath was akin to something that had lain in a grave for weeks and stank of rotted corpses.

"You were very helpful," it said. "I would have died without you. Coins? No." It cackled and tore open its wrist, emptying some of its contents into my open belly.

"You won't be needing them."

My eyes closed as it bounded away into the night, and in moments I knew nothing more.

My story doesn't end there, though.

I awoke sometime later.

I have no point to measure how long I was unconscious, but when I came to I was in a box, the four walls of which were just big enough for me to fit in.

In a panic, I realized that it was a box meant for those who were dead. Even more horribly, there was loose dirt scattered across my face and body.

"My body," I thought then, remembering the attack. "I should be dead."

I found I couldn't move my hands. They were bound in front of me.

I had been buried alive.

Screaming, I fought my bonds, banging against the wooden casket with all my strength. I was severely limited by the ropes around my hands and so terrified that I would die here, I gnawed on them with my teeth, trying to break free.

Fear that I would run out of air or bleed to death spurred me to greater strengths. It must have.

I chewed through the ropes in seconds.

My hands free at last, I began to claw at the wood that held me prisoner beneath six feet of soil. One piece at a time, I tore the planks away, and dirt began to fill my casket.

In terror, I moved my hands faster.

As I pulled away the remainder of the wood, the earth collapsed on top of me, crushing me.

I shouldn't have been able to breathe or move, suffocating in a matter of seconds.

I didn't.

Long moments passed as I waited for death.

I could feel the crushing weight of the soil on top of me, but I was still alive.

"How is this possible?" I wondered.

I hadn't been able to see how my wounds were faring as everything had been pitch black and now was buried under dirt and rocks.

I was terrified, but knowing that my only chance of survival would be to not panic, I forced my fear down, concentrating instead on how I would get out of here.

My hands were pinned up near my face, and in wiggling my fingers, I found that there was a pocket of very loose earth that I could dig my fingers through.

So I dug...and dug.

After what must have been hours, I had my face and upper body sitting almost upright, but the earth was still packed around me.

The only way I had gotten this far had been to shift the soil around my body, much like an earthworm does when it crawls through the ground.

My hope was beginning to fade as I sat encased in the earth, and I wanted briefly to just give up and die. The problem was, I wasn’t dying...I was getting better.

Sitting there in the dark, with no one but the insects for company, I could feel myself getting stronger. My muscles felt as though I had been working them for months, growing buff and defined.

What in Hades is going on?” I wondered, frightened and fascinated by these new changes.

It was obvious to me now that I was in no danger of dying. For whatever reason, the Gods had spared me. Or so I thought...

I must have been in there for several days before I finally dug my way to the surface.

I hadn't rested, but ironically enough I wasn't tired, just thirsty...really thirsty.

As I climbed out of the hole that had been my grave, I looked around. I was not far from the town and my parent's house, so I headed up the hill toward home.

After I had only taken a few steps, I realized that they must have been the ones to bury me, and that it might be somewhat of a shock if I just went strolling into town that way. So I sat down, trying to figure out how to get in touch with my parents without frightening them into their own graves.

Things were worse than I thought.

As I sat there trying to work out my problem, my mind wouldn’t cooperate. It kept returning to the night I was attacked and all the blood...

"Blood." I thought to myself and my mouth started watering. This surprised me. Even more surprising was that the thought of blood didn't turn my stomach, it excited me.

Ever so slowly, my thoughts turned to how I could satisfy that desire, and I started to wonder how I would kill my first victim.

Fate answered that question for me.

The sound of whistling in the distance told me that my first meal was not far away.

I drooled in anticipation as I thought of the coming encounter.

A sound much like the growl my attacker had omitted came from deep within my throat, surprising me. I began to understand what had happened.

I had become just like my killer had been. I had transformed.

Crouching down, I lay on the roadway, waiting for the approaching person to get close. I closed my eyes, feigning unconsciousness.

Minutes later someone was crouching down beside me.

"What can I do?" he asked quietly.

"Give me life." I had changed my voice to sound weak.

My new companion sounded confused.

"How can I do that?"

I sounded feeble and near death. "Bring me a small animal. Catch him alive."

He left my side and I could hear him scrambling around, chasing some small animal. An instant later he was back.

"I found a rabbit, but I don't see..."

I grabbed the rabbit from his hand, not waiting for him to finish. My thirst had taken over completely and I gorged on the rabbit, its fresh blood flowing freely into my mouth as I sucked it down greedily.

My companion watched in silent shock.

When I had drained the rabbit of all life, I found that I still wanted more. Tossing its useless carcass away, I turned to the youth.

"Thank you," I said, my eyes taking in the juicy prey right in front of me.

He must have gotten spooked by the sight of me because he ran.

I knew I couldn’t let him go, so I chased him down, pinning him to the ground as I tackled him.

He was injured in the fall. I could smell the blood. Its sweet scent filled my senses and drove me crazy with hunger.

Pulling him to his feet, I spun him around and attacked. I devoured him, tearing him open and feeding on the juiciest, sweetest parts of his body.

After I had finished, I crawled over to inspect the damage.

"He asked me for something," I thought as I stared at the face. "What was it? Ah yes…coins."

He was worried about crossing the river Styx. Well, I could change that couldn’t I?

Laughing, I leaned toward him.

"You were very helpful," I said. "I would have died without you. Coins? No," I laughed again. "You won't be needing them."

I tore open my arm, allowing it to bleed into his open wounds.

Then I bounded away into the night, leaving him lying on the open road, his body a mess that spelled out death.

I knew he wouldn't die. We never do. So I left him on the road, just as I'm about to do with you.

"You won't die either."

I hear myself talking, and I lick the blood from my fingers.

"We never do. You were very helpful. Last rites? No, I don’t think you will be needing those..."

I can see myself looking down at my latest audience and I smile. I know what lies ahead for him and I revel in it.

Now, as I leap away into the night, I am still laughing.

 
The End