5 ▪ Identity

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My skin feels wet, my lungs aches, everything hurts. I’m exhausted, my mouth as dry as sand. I open my eyes and nearly cry out, the first rays of morning light too much. Why is everything so painful?

Suppressing a groan, I lift my heavy head, cheek dragging along the pavement. I grit my teeth, seething as I roll onto my back, every joint and muscle protesting. Feeling overwhelmed, I throw an arm over my eyes and try to wrap my mind around what’s happened.

Only one thing comes to mind— Alexandra.

Her rules, her mark, her damned powers, her planet and people, her ruinous torture! She did this!

Something wet fills my eyes, stinging like acid. I scrub them too forcefully, making it worse. Beyond frustrated, I growl, the sound strangely hollow, lacking its usual vigor.

How did she even do this? What did she do?

The bright sun reflecting off the water and pain in my eyes is too much. I can’t concentrate. Shutting my eyes tight, I roll onto my forearms and crawl through the mist to the nearest den of shadows. I realize I must’ve lost consciousness after she left, lying here for hours. The stack of crates rattles as I drag myself into a sitting position between them and a staircase, my back against the brick wall.

Once I catch my breath and the trembling subsides, I chance opening my eyes again. It takes a while to adjust, blinking rapidly against the sun’s reflective assault, but the pain slowly becomes a dull ache. Sidling further into the shadows, I unbalance the crates, the top one crashing down. Every muscle tenses as I wait, but no one comes to investigate.

Looking around, I’m in an alley, but not the one I drained that human in last night. And with that one thought, it all comes back. The male’s weak power barely filling me, Alexandra going from coy to rage. She toyed with me, then tortured me. Changing me, I realize as I lift my hand.

My skin is still dark, but my veins are a deep purple-blue. My short claws are gone, replaced with useless flat nails and bony fingers that couldn’t possibly break anything. Taking in my arms, chest, and legs, my muscles look deflated, sickly. I’m little more than skin and bones, held together by universe knows what, my strength and power gone.

It’s hard to breathe, seeing all this and knowing what it means. But I shake my head, unable or unwilling to fully grasp the idea. There’s a broken piece of shiny metal nearby. With shaking hands, I reach out and drag it towards me, holding it up. And there, reflected back, is a face I don’t recognize. Deep brown eyes, oddly placed hair that serves no purpose, teeth that aren’t even sharp.

Oh no, no… She actually did what she said. She meant it literally. I thought— I thought it was a metaphor or that I’d misunderstood. She said I’d know what it’s like for them…but this?

With trembling hands, I hurl the metal as far away as I can, like it’s deadly. Because what it just showed me is. I thought Alexandra would kill me, but this is worse. Somehow, she’s made me human.

In prison, I thought maybe that was worse than death, but even there, I never lost myself. I was still me, only chained and tortured. They temporarily took my freedom, my will even, but Alexandra has taken the only thing I never thought possible.

She’s taken…me.

She’s taken…me

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