7 1 4

I feed on nightmares. Anguish, fear, horror and sweat. I lap it up. It fuels me, soothes me after a long day.

What is day, really, but a human construct. Humans— those juicy, soft creatures— so simple. Just a shove here, a tug there, and I nestle in and get comfy to stay awhile. Human flesh, bone, muscle. Human thought. Mine to tug and twist for my own satisfaction. They're like those wooden puppets that they craft, with strings attached to control the doll's moves.

I am the puppet master.

But I was banished to the dark, surrounded by spindly tree limbs of another world, the murkiness of death in the air. I drifted over the ragged earth. Where a shadow should have been cast below my smoke-like form, bugs scrabbled, unshaded and unafraid. I had long ago given up on a search for light and sustenance in my desolate purgatory. Creatures moved through the world with no blood pumping through their veins, no breath in their lungs, damned from the living world just like me. So I drifted. I mingled with the mist in the air, my darkness barely distinguishable as my hunger grew. The yearning gnawed in me with no reprieve.

I was once the shadow humans feared, now I was lost, unsee, and forgotten, trapped by the almighty gods that had promised me power for my service. I helped them, did their bidding, and they sealed be behind the gateway to human life, forever.

Before the gods tossed me aside, they enlisted me to topple nations, raise men to power and bring others down, playing them like pawns in chess. In chess, the gods were the kings, but I was the Queen. I invaded the human minds, became their puppet master,

and bent them to their knees. Women worshiped. Men fought. I gave the gods all they wanted— blood, tears, betrayals, lust— but the empires still fell. The humans and gods alike continued to fail and my service grew to threatened the feeble gods.

So, they casted me out to fester and rot, while banshee shrieks echoed through the unending fog and gremlins scavenged for their own salvation. With the gods above me, damnation below, I waited in my purgatory, malnourished, but never broken. Sure, the gods sealed themselves off from humans too, but they enjoyed eternity in the stars, while I was deemed unworthy to join.

No matter. Others may have cried and kicked and screamed, but I remained calm. I continued on, wafting in the stagnant air of my prison. I sharpened my ingenuity, intriguing the creatures in this world with my enumerable forms. While I faded some, I was still the creator of angst, unstoppable, with seductive power beyond the scope of tiny minds. So while the gods basked in their heavens, I waited patiently in my prison, knowing that they couldn't hold me forever.

The gods have always fretted. But now I heard them above me, fighting amongst themselves. They bickered and moaned like children, lashing out tongues with venomous words and I relished each moment. I understood. There would be no compromise, no agreement. Like the war that drove the gods and me off the Earth so many years ago, the familiar unrest brewed. I trembled with excitement. It's the time I'd been waiting for, all the patience, all the suffering. It was time. They battled and I watched.

Then, just as I knew would happen, one of them slipped.

The world began to crack above me, fracturing and breaking away. I saw the light,

brighter than I'd seen for thousands of years. The last time I'd seen light that bright, the sweltering sun warped the air above golden sand. Only the pointed tops of kings' tombs stood higher than the dunes, while I sat over it all, just as imprisoned as I am now, but with a better view.

At least in the light I had souls to nourish myself.

In my purgatory, the gateway opened wide. I scaled the trees, and my smoky form rose through the fissure. On Earth, just past the gateway, the foolish gods bit and scratched at each other. Some of them wanted to leave, some wanted to stay, none submitted to other. And they had forgotten entirely about their most dangerous weapon.

RavenousWhere stories live. Discover now