34. Monsters

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"You think you understand this, do you?" The Spanish accent in her words was thick now. "What did he tell you?" She stood erect—a matador about to kill his victim.

"He told me enough." I took a step back.

She huffed. "So you think you know who he is? A poor man with a disease and an unfortunate urge, a victim? Did he tell you that he killed and that he reveled in the blood of his victims?"

I nodded, remembering his tale of how he had taken revenge after he had turned, and I took another step back from her.

"You mentioned restraint," she said. "But there was no restraint in what he did, right?"

"No," I replied. "But then he learned to control himself. He learned to cope without..." I swallowed, knowing I was about to challenge a being so much stronger and more violent than I was. But this was about Farid. "He learned to cope without killing innocents."

I braced myself for her to jump at me, but her fists unclamped and her shoulders sagged.

"Innocents?" She shook her head. "There's no such thing as innocents. Have you ever been in a war? Have you ever seen what normal, innocent humans are capable of? The atrocities they commit, the brainless, senseless bloodshed?"

I took another step downslope.

"There's nothing good in humans," she continued. "Their talk about morals, about doing the right thing... it's all idle talk. If pressed, they'll kill just like any one of us. They are no better than the... monsters you think we are." She pointed at herself. "No, they are worse. Their killing lacks reason. When generals and politicians send their troupes into battle, it's for mere greed, patriotic vanity, or vile cunning. And when soldiers have killed, they start joking about it. Humans don't kill for hunger, they kill for naught."

She took a deep breath, then she continued. "And still, if you humans knew about us, you'd think we're the abominations. You'd try to heal us." She air-quoted the word 'heal'. "That failing, you'd imprison us, or you'd kill us. You're the monsters."

"You're killers, too. At least some of you."

She eyed me, then she glanced out at the water again. "Yes, we kill, too. But we kill to survive, to feed. There's nothing wrong with the predator's lust for blood, it's just natural. It serves nature's purpose." Her arms were limp at her sides. "Farid never got that. He believed in the good and the noble that humanity has dreamed up. And at some point he despised me for seeing the world as it is."

She bit a finger, her gaze still on the sea.

It was now or never.

I turned and ran.

"Wait, coward," she yelled.

Before I even had gained the edge of the hardened field of basalt, she caught up. She grabbed my arm and swung me around, then she let go of me. I fell, the momentum carrying me downhill. I tumbled, crashed my head against unyielding rock, hitting arms and legs on hard stone, and finally came to a halt.

I rose to my knees. My chafed arms and legs screamed with pain. My vision lacked focus. I fumbled with strands of my messy hair, pushing them from my face to see her approaching. Blood ran from cuts in my fingers.

She strolled down the slope towards me, her footsteps making a hollow sound on the rock.

She stopped two steps away from me. "As I said, we kill to survive. It's not for enjoyment... usually. But killing the one who got Farid killed, there's something sweet in that."

I was a few yards uphill from the ragged edge of the rock and from the scree beyond it.

Rock that would be nothing but a thin slab under me—a fragile, thin slab.

I groaned and sank to the ground. Giving in to gravity, I let my body tumble, let it roll over the stone and fall onto the scree, chafing and bashing it even more. I ended up on my back, facing her.

One corner of her mouth pulled up in a grin as false as my swooning. "Oops, a fainting spell? Come, let me help you." She started towards me.

When her feet broke through the rock, she cursed.

And I was ready.

I jumped to my feet, my right hand gripping a stone of black obsidian the size of a fist.

She stumbled and fell, face forward, her legs trapped in a jagged hole. Still cursing, she rose to her hands and tried to disentangle her feet.

I lunged at her and brought down the stone against the back of her head, nearly losing my grip on it.

She yelled.

I hit again.

She fell forward and groaned, face to one side, eyes wide open.

I swung the stone and planted it in the skull above her ear.

She went limp.

I wielded it once more, mustering every vestige of strength remaining within me.

Something broke under its impact. Blood was everywhere.

I hit, again and again. The sharp edges of obsidian cut into her head as well as into my hand. Everything was drenched in red.

Her blood and mine—I didn't care.


~~~


I spent the next hours adrift, walking the island without aim, ending up at the lagoon where the soldiers had shot Chris and Nita. A heap of ghastly ashes was all that remained of them.

The stone was still in my hand—the stone that had killed Bruna. Killed her so easily. It obviously didn't take a wooden stake nor a silver bullet to do that.

But, it wasn't the stone that had killed her. It had been nothing but a blind instrument. I had been the one to wield it, to lend it its deadly purpose. I was the killer.

She had said that we humans were monsters. She was right.

The water of the lagoon was crystal clear. It invited me to step in, to cleanse her blood from my hands.

But I didn't deserve the cleansing. I wasn't worthy of the absolution that would come with it.

A stranger's reflection looked up at me from the liquid's still surface—a woman with smears of blood crossing her face where she had wiped spittle from it. Her gaze lacked a soul.

It took an effort of will to relax my hand, and the bloodied stone hit the water with a splash, shattering the reflection of that woman.

Tendrils of red floated away from my weapon.


~~~


Next morning, I was dying.



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