Beware... [mature content]
This is a work of fiction
If it wasn't...
The world would be a very different place
For the first time in his life, Cardinal Walter Benning couldn't satisfy his urges. There were no children on the island. In fact, he was sure there were no other people at all. He'd been looking for three hours straight, stumbling around as much as his wound allowed him to. But it was getting dark. And he couldn't stray too far from the banks of the stream where he'd woken up dazed and confused.
He wasn't like other people. He wasn't stupid. If he wanted to get off the island alive, to feed just one more time, he knew that he would have to wash the deep cut to prevent infection. Keep it clean. Patch it up. Somehow. Maybe he could mash some of the local herbs, seal the wound. He'd seen that on a survival show once. It couldn't be that difficult. Not for someone like him. One thing was true. The generous layers of fat around his belly had done more to keep him alive than the thick, bloodstained robes that covered them.
Had he been drugged? It certainly felt like it. He was hungover. He couldn't think straight. The pieces hadn't fallen into place yet. But they would. And then he'd show them. Whoever'd done this to him would find out what he was capable of. One thing was clear. And this burning desire kept him going more than anything else. If he found the piece of shit that had stuck him with a knife, he would wring his neck, string him up, and cut pieces off him daily to satisfy his urges. Not as tender as younger flesh, but it would certainly do for now. Anything to curb the cravings. Anything to make him whole again.
As the sun inched its way behind the horizon, Walter knew that he would have to find something soon, anything, an animal, a bird, whatever, in the next day or two or he would probably go crazy. Not from hunger. Not from loneliness. Not from the realization that he would die alone on a desert island. But from these damned withdrawal symptoms that were gnawing at him, tearing him up inside like a phantom medieval torture device.
Not being able to attend to his habit. That would be the most unbearable part of all this. Nothing else, no other flesh would be able to satiate him in the same way. He'd become attached to it. Dependent on it. Like a junkie to heroin. Satisfying his hunger for young blood was vital. He needed it like oxygen. And as the warm evening light receded, he could feel the panic setting in, his breath shortening. Before long, who he really was would drain from his body until there was nothing left. He would be alive. If you could call it that. But what remained would be a husk of its former self. An empty shell. Devoid of all meaning.
It was time to turn around. Before it got too dark. He wasn't going to find anything today. He'd try again tomorrow. Maybe his prayers would be answered next time. Maybe if he begged for forgiveness. In his sixty five years, he'd never had to stoop so low. But this was different. This was punishment. And if God was doing the punishing, Walter knew that he could worm his way out somehow. That's how well Walter knew God.
He shuffled back in the direction of the river at a good pace, hoping to beat sundown. If any of his peers could see him now, they'd be sure to have a good laugh at his expense, running along the rough terrain with his robes hitched up, hopping across the rocks, being careful not to slip on the soft moss.
"Aaaah!! Damn it!" Walter cursed as he stubbed his big toe on a sharp rock cutting it open. Exactly what he was trying to avoid, but his impatience got the better of him. He sat down quickly and squeezed his bare foot with both hands trying to stem the flow of blood and ease the pain simultaneously. "That's all I bloody need," he said rocking back and forth. "Should've kept your bloody shoes on ya fucking idiot!"
Earlier in the day, Walter had taken his ceremonial slippers off as soon as he'd been able to sit himself up and get his bearings. They were in tatters as if they'd been dragged across rough concrete for hours on end. The silky vermilion outer coating had been shorn off and the thin, carefully-crafted leather underneath was worn through on all sides.
He'd loved those slippers. They were his favorites. He liked to wear them when he was satisfying his urges. So regal. So divine. Like his robes and his rings. After kissing them gently, he'd tossed them into the flowing river and watched for minutes as they floated away, bobbing up and down until the water took them under. A fine burial, he thought, for a fine pair of shoes.
Walter tried standing up, holding up his robes away from his feet. He gritted his teeth and hissed, clenching his toes to provide support as he continued on his journey. Every step was painful now. His gut wound was festering. He needed to wash it as soon as possible or he wouldn't last another day. The toe would heal soon enough, but it would slow him down in the meantime. Along the way, he picked up a long stick. He used it as a temporary crutch. It wasn't perfect, but it helped. At least his toe wound could stay relatively clean this way until he reached the river, only pausing to rest on his heal occasionally while catching his breath.
As the darkness closed in around him, Cardinal Benning couldn't help but notice the strange noises that began to fill the cool night air. He slipped through a wooded area where brambles snagged on his precious robes, tearing at them and making him stumble more than once.
He cursed and cursed again, quietly now, under his stinking breath, so as not to alert the creatures that he sensed were waking in the woods beyond. He felt the fear rising in his blood and the usual demonic thoughts soaking his mind. Now he cursed God. "I know you despise me. You think I don't know what you're thinking? I know everything about you! You made me this way. But you also promised to save all of your children. Isn't that right? You promised."
The Cardinal looked around, peering into the void, making sure there was no one out there who could see what a spectacle he was making of himself. He sucked in the cooling air and drew courage from the many Bible passages that had inspired him throughout his illustrious career as a 'man of God.'
During his life, his public life, he'd been a shepherd to his flock, a father figure, a leader of men, a role model for many initiates into the faith, and a fountain of knowledge to his peers. His secret had no bearing on his other achievements anymore than the drug habit of an accomplished scientist, the philandering of a master politician, the not-so-secretive megalomania of the worlds most successful entrepreneur, or the outrageous hypocrisy sloshing around in the underbelly of society at large. In his experience... everyone had their secrets, some more 'interesting' than others. This is how he'd rationalized his weakness his whole life. He was just another multifaceted broken human like all the rest. No better, no worse.
Stepping out into an opening, Walter turned swiftly to find the source of the strange sound that appeared to be following him. Was that laughter? Was someone or something teasing him? Mocking him? He held his position for a few seconds, motionless, trying as best he could to control his breathing. It felt like an eternity before he could turn around and continue in the direction of the river. It was in sight now. He was sure he could see it. But still some way off. The sandy banks where he'd woken up earlier that day and the sound of cascading fresh water beckoned to him like an oasis in the desert. He was desperate now. He knew it. He could feel the fever rising to his balding head. Sweat was streaming into his old, blue-grey eyes. Nearly there, he thought. Nearly there.
As the night drew close, the air thickened. Walter felt the few hairs he had left on his arms stand on end. Electricity was everywhere. A storm was brewing. He was sure of it. But as much as he scanned the night sky in all directions, for the life of him, he couldn't see any clouds, let alone the dark storm clouds that any rational person would expect to see. He couldn't see any stars either. For the love of God and all that is holy, what the hell's going on? Was his mind playing tricks on him?
And then it happened . The first flash of lightning caught him by surprise startling him so much that he hunched forward as if in preparation for a sharp blow to the head. When the blow didn't come, he looked up and around at the light show. He exhaled, relieved. It was just lightning. Lightning that shouldn't really be happening. But lightning nonetheless. He picked up where he'd left off, still not quite understanding what was going on. Was he dreaming? Was he still hallucinating? Impossible. It was all too real. He'd taken enough drugs in his life to know when he was tripping. This was something else.
Upon reaching the sandy banks, he slid down and plopped into the freezing water relishing the soothing effect it had on his body and mind. The cleansing fluid washed over his skin, penetrating his wounds, bringing instant relief. It soaked through his dirt and blood-laden robes releasing particles of both into the surrounding pristine water. The heat in his body subsided. He could sense his fever dropping a notch or two as if someone had injected a massive dose of aspirin straight into his veins.
He began to sob but immediately corrected his self pity. Snap out of it you old fool. Pull yourself together. You're getting off this damned island. You'll be back in the real world soon enough. And then you'll be able to feed again.
Walter checked his wound, pulling his now-torn majestic robes to one side for better inspection. From what he could make out in the dim light, it looked bad. He splashed clean water directly onto the wound and squeezed out as much puss as his pain tolerance could take. He kept washing the cut until the inflammation around the wound went down. Right now, the cold liquid spilling onto his sebaceous abdomen was worth all the gold in the world. Maybe not as good as the virgin flesh of a youngling. But almost.
Spectacular storm flashes continued to light up the cloudless, starless night sky with uncanny regularity. Every few minutes, a blinding white, tree-like network branched up and outwards over the entire island, the pattern changing only slightly each time the light show happened. And unlike a typical storm, Walter noted the total absence of a thunderclap following the light show. All that followed was an intense buzzing and crackling sound in all directions as if the air was being torn apart by angry spirits.
Suddenly, Walter froze. He stopped attending to his wound and listened intently to his surroundings. Shhh. There it was again. Still sitting in the icy cold stream, he spun round, peering into the gloom, his eyes darting from left to right trying to pinpoint the source of the laughter. Yes, he was sure it was laughter. Mocking him again.
"Damn you! Damn you to hell!" he hissed.
Where was it?
There! Movement! Followed by another flash of light. There it was. He could see it now. A hulking figure. A cross between a large cat and a wolf. He couldn't quite profile the thing lurking at the edge of the jungle, but he knew he'd seen something like it before. Somewhere. That silhouette. On TV maybe.
The creature sniffed the air. It shook its head from side to side sending ripples down its thick neck, then let out a whooping sound and started cackling. Was it hunting him? Maybe if Walter stayed absolutely still the beast wouldn't see him. If he lay low in the water maybe it would pass him by. Maybe the water would hide his scent. Oh fuck! The blood trail! Of course, he'd been spilling blood all the way back to the river's edge. Oh Jesus. Walter's mind began to race. He ducked down as much as he could while keeping his eyes on the stalker.
There was something odd about the creature. Familiar, yet different. Walter still couldn't quite put his finger on it. But he'd soon get a better look. The menacing figure was moving closer, down the hill, towards the river. He dared not move now. He slowed his breath until his lips closed tight. Even his heartbeat reduced its rate as if his whole being knew that his only chance of survival was to play dead.
Another flash of silver light filled the air.
He could see it now! Clearly! It was a hyena! But not like the ones he'd seen on TV. This one was completely devoid of any body hair. It's skin was damaged, flaking, pale, diseased. But the most striking feature of all? It's eyes. The hyena was blind.
It was blind! Thank God! Maybe Walter could move back, further into the river's flowing water, without the hyena noticing. He breathed carefully, deeply and began to shift his body across the river bed as best he could.
Unfortunately, the blind, hairless demon wasn't backing off. It was tracking Walter's blood trail through the air now. Slowly, purposefully, the creature moved in on Walter's position, treading carefully as if wary of booby traps. But once it knew that its prey was only a few yards away, the hyena's milky white eyes widened and its snout wrinkled letting out a satisfied snorting sound followed by a giggling routine that sent chills down Walter's spine.
For a split second, Walter thought he'd seen a figure standing some way behind the rotting fiend that was now hovering over him, drooling onto his chest. Yes, there it was again. Standing motionless under another flash of lightning. It was humanoid, but not a man. Even though he knew he was about to die, he couldn't tear his eyes away. He'd never seen anything like it. Had he gone completely mad? Was this some kind of hell? Or was he in a fever dream? A rush of hope returned. Maybe he'd wake up soon. That's it, yes. A fever dream. He would be spewed out of this nightmare back to the land of the living soon enough.
For now, the humanoid blinked its large, dark, oval eyes—the dominant feature on its triangular face. It stared intently at Walter as if studying a test subject, observing, waiting to see what the novel life form would do next. Oh god! Walter's paranoia jumped back into his feverish mind. It's real! It's all real!
"Is this the face of God I see before me? Am I to be punished now?" he said weakly, testing for a response.
The hyena — much larger than the average specimen — grunted and shifted its footing slightly making sure that its prey wasn't trying to get away. The hairless monster's disgusting breath was on Walter's skin now, but the Cardinal was transfixed by the elegant, ashen form of the humanoid. It hadn't budged since they'd locked eyes. Walter could see its mouth now. It barely had one. Small. Expressionless. A slit under two, tiny, noseless nostrils. What else? A pair of shorts? Yes. Camo shorts. Hah! Military issue. Odd. And footwear. A pair of rugged sandals by the look of it. Smart. Not like him. The island demanded foot protection. Only now did he know how important this was, as the scent of blood continued to leak from his wounds, wafting up into the monsters hungry face.
The humanoid said something without barely moving its tiny lips, but somehow Walter could hear the single word more clearly than anything he'd ever listened to in his whole life. The intensity of the command made his jaw drop and his eyes bulge.
Walter blinked. His full attention returned to the executioner looming over his sad, sorry carcass. He couldn't contain his fear any longer. He'd already emptied his bladder and was about to empty whatever fecal matter remained in his shrinking bowels when he let out a bloodcurdling scream followed by a hopeless display of pathetic whimpering. A few nondescript words passed his blue lips. A prayer?
These feeble sounds were the last to come forth from the worldly presence once known as his Eminence Cardinal Walter James Benning, the last sounds before the creature sank its slavering jaws into his throat, thrashing from side to side, ripping the mans vocal chords like bloody ribbons until it snapped his neck ending the Cardinal's life once and for all.
During the next hour, the tall, slender humanoid looked on as his pet feasted on the dead Cardinal's flesh, savoring the contents of his generous belly, innocently playing with the offal, tossing it in the air like a pup with a fresh kill. The humanoid remained standing the whole time, never showing signs of fatigue, its eyes always bright, reflecting the ongoing light show like black mirrors. Occasionally, it would look around, surveying its surroundings, checking for threats, anything that would disturb his pets opportunistic feast.
Eventually, after having satisfied itself, the monster stood up, licked around the empty eye socket of the Cardinal's mauled skull, picked up a meaty thigh bone in its jaws, and turned to its master waiting for a command to head on home.
The humanoid patted the hairless beast on the head and said, "Good. Home now."
The humanoid's voice was firm, a little guttural, with a hint of innocence as if it had never been in the physical presence of other beings capable of the spoken word, as if it had learned to speak all by itself, as if recorded audio had been it's only companion throughout its life on the island. Yes, that's what it was. That's what it had sounded like to Walter just before he'd taken his final breath.
The hairless beast snickered, bumped its master's leg, then trotted ahead sniffing the ground, retracing the trail through the jungle to their point of departure.
Once both figures had been gone for a while, the light show stopped as quickly as it had begun, as if someone, somewhere had flipped a switch.