[This short story contains descriptions of graphic violence.]
He remembered when the earth was young. He could recall a
time when the Nephilim roamed the earth, deathless and free, almost careless in
That had been eons before they became cursed; before
whatever it was that had caused their need for blood had changed them.
Not that they weren't a bloodthirsty enough lot in ancient
times—they were, after all, surrounded by the savagery of ancient humans, in those
days. Egathel himself believed that his own people would never have sullied themselves
with so much violence, if they'd been left to their own devices. Perhaps the
curse would not have fallen upon them, then.
But did not most thinking creatures view themselves with the
same sort of biased hindsight? It mattered little, for such times and thoughts had
long since passed.
This was not a lofty age of nobility, but a lowly one of parasitism:
the powerful race of the Nephilim reduced to a breed of reclusive, humanoid
mosquitoes. Leeches. Vampire bats. Yet they were more ferocious than any of
those other blood-suckers; the parasite analogy served less well to illustrate their
method of feeding than it did their current significance in the world: a
barely-perceptible buzz in the night. A creature unable to thrive without
lapping at the life force of another.
At this thought, Egathel had to remind himself that no
animal was fundamentally different in that respect, though most were much less
violent and more discriminating than his kind. He smiled a bare-toothed smile
that would have chilled the blood of any who saw it, had there been anyone
capable of seeing in the pitch darkness of his lair (and were it not the case
that he would slaughter anything or anyone he encountered there).
Certainly his kind had power still, well beyond that of mere
mortals, but what was it worth when they were addicted to death, cultureless
and monstrous? What could you create when you had a constant craving—a
thirst—to destroy and devour utterly the lives of all other beings, and nothing
more than a gaping void where once there was a sense of pride and meaning?
He shuddered, recalling what he’d seen the change do to some
of his companions. To call it insanity or depravity would have been
In many ways, there was some mercy in the utter loss of
reason. It seemed to Egathel that he was trapped, tortured by memory; tortured
by conscience and the knowledge that his was a broken people—and his a broken
mind. For all he really knew, his comrades felt the same way beneath the
apparent oblivion of intellect that was their ever-hungry façade.
To an onlooker, there was no reason in the creature that Egathel
now was; his insight, though sharp, was beyond irrelevant. He knew that he could see his numerous defects, but also
well knew he had no means to correct them. There was no reason to suspect his
brethren were any different.
There was only hunger, now. That was all that mattered.
And when he smelled it—human blood—three was nothing but
frenzy. Oh, Egathel could remember everything that happened; relive in perfect,
vivid detail what he did to each of his victims. Every bit of it was there in
his memory, ready to be analyzed, agonized over, and paradoxically enjoyed. He
wished he could stop himself from revisiting it, wished he could eliminate his flawless
recall—just as he wished he did not take such perverse pleasure in his bloody actions—but
he could not.
It was very little consolation that he still had a
conscience. In actual fact, he was a monster. What happened in his mind made no
difference whatever to those he had killed.
And yet he continued. Seemingly, he could not himself be
killed. Immortality was his prison, he noted with an ironic appreciation for the
terror of humans facing their deaths; something he’d become intimately familiar
If only human legends about supernatural creatures were
true! Some alleged methods for killing vampires had worked on him, but only
temporarily. It had been a surprise and a welcome respite, penance even, but
never true release, never the end he sought.
Every time he would arise again after his body had healed;
sometimes after years.
Beneath all of these rational thoughts and anguish about his
existence, there was something else lurking in his mind. Deeper knowledge
accumulated over the millennia, lapping like an ocean at the continent that was
his true self, eroding it away, one grain of sand at a time.
How many trillions of moments would tick by before it
succeeded in submerging him utterly?
Try to deny it as he might, deep in his heart where the
poison had crept over the eons, he knew that what he did was not wrong. It was
all too right. It was perfection; it was completeness; he knew this when he hunted,
felt it in his every fiber.
The Nephilim had originally seen themselves as being above
most other creatures and their petty struggles to survive and multiply, but
there was ancient knowledge, wisdom as old as life itself that had begun to take
over these attitudes, creeping further to the fore each time he fed.
Truly, his people were completed by reincorporating this
basic desire; they were baptized in blood, and it washed away the sin of their
pretense, the stain of their arrogant presumption that they were somehow above the
brutality of nature, above mortality.
This was the one fact that all life had always known—
—Even the smallest creatures had to metabolize something else—
—No creature on earth had ever turned up its nose to the
idea of making some other creature a meal—
—when it was truly hungry, except perhaps those physically
incapable of it—
—Like grass-eaters. Prey animals.
It became too much for Egathel. The hunger had taken his
last rational thoughts, subduing them to its own ends, forcing him to
acknowledge the rightness of the violent impulse as he rose, his body
responding to the need with a flood of exhilarating energy.
As was always the case, the rationalization was preceded by the
Creeping at first from his lair, deep in the bowels of an
ancient city buried beneath the pretended civility and abundant population of
the modern age, soon he was running, leaping obstacles and bounding off of
walls until he emerged, nearly flying, from a little-noticed hole in the side
of a hill overlooking a disused factory. After he landed, stopping to sniff the
night air, he froze; the moon was unexpectedly bright above him, exaggerating
the pallor of his skin where his flowing, mangy, knotted cobweb hair was not
draped over it.
Turning his head through an arc as he sniffed from left to
right, he suddenly froze after making it halfway.
The hunt was on.
Into the city he charged at impossible speed, hair trailing
behind him in this wind he made with his own remarkable power. Each footfall
brought him closer to ecstasy; now past the factory, now through a vacant lot,
over the chain link, chasing the invisible trail of a meal, senses keen and a cautious
predator’s instinct apparent in the way he hugged the shadows and crept
silently through the vegetation. No rational thoughts occupied the mind of this
creature as it ran; it was pure being,
pure experience; pure sense. The entire effort, though effortless, was a
performance, an act as well practiced as the hunt was old.
There it was: a
Saliva starting in anticipation, a slight tremor through the
spine arced it into pounce-readiness as his torso was smoothly swept along by
fluid limbs. Invisibly shadowed by trees and shrubs as the prey strobed
impossibly slowly in and out of streetlights, spaced far apart in this edge of
The moments stretched out for eons as an unlimited patience
stilled his hunger, as the distance closed at an infinitesimal rate; the
difference and distance between prey and predator closing, though this
relationship was known only to one of them.
Egathel was no longer Egathel; he was an ancient rite, an
actor playing a role from time immemorial, which had spanned cultures and
species, pervasive since shortly after life had begun, when the first predator
emerged to feed.
Now he was positioning himself for his final run, and as
that moment neared, his rage, his hunger, still restrained, strained against
his instinctive self-control, the slow motion almost too agonizing for his frenzied
mind to endure.
The dam of his control strained until it burst, releasing a
torrent of violent motion and feeling that would engulf the hapless prey. Legs
springing, a lunge and a twist in mid-air, claws ready to strike a disabling
killer blow, he soared through the air like a raptor diving for a fish.
The splash upon impact was not water, but flesh and blood.
With a grasp quicker and more precise than that of a fishing
eagle’s, the hunter was assured of success.
His prey was overcome before the human had realized
precisely what was happening. The man had no time to scream; Egathel struck
precisely, clawed nails raking a path that severed anything in his neck that
might have allowed the man to react. Had he been intact enough to struggle, it
would have been equally futile.
And then there was blood and sweet satisfaction.
Despite his decreasingly conflicted feelings about feeding,
in more lucid moments he would recall with great clarity the sheer perfection
of the moment prior to striking. The sense of inevitability that the blood meal
was now his immediately prior to
taking it was beyond compare. No ancient power or status held a candle to that singular
All was taken from the prey, the hunter draining it of the
salty crimson nurturing stuff of life, that potent substance that was the only
thing capable of satisfying the fathomless depths of thirst now known to the
First he let the victim’s continuing heartbeats force the
blood out, siphoning life into Egathel; when this action eventually ceased, he
held the body above himself, draining the blood from the open wound where he
lapped at it with his abnormally long tongue.
As the human slowly died, the hunter watched its eyes
blankly register the change from life to unlife, all the while uncomprehending.
After some minutes of this, watching the dead eyes, Egathel’s
reason began to return. His meal complete, hunger subsiding, he discarded the
body carelessly, not even watching its descent. Sinews, muscles, and bones were
of no interest. Egathel’s attempts to explain this fact had thus far been
unsuccessful, though it seemed that blood alone should not be enough to sustain
The empty corpse landed heavily with a sickening crack.
Never mind—it was enough for leeches, and there had always
been aspects of Nephilim physiology that defied any naturalistic expectation.
Why should this feeding behavior, this contagion, be any different?
Seemingly exhausted while paradoxically refreshed, he
returned to his lair with none of the vigor with which he’d emerged from it,
though he kept himself hidden from any prying eyes that may have been around and
his steps were silent.
Dawn was approaching as he slipped once more underground, to
sleep the sated sleep that always followed a meal; the one time when the hunger
stopped tearing at the insides and the ancient mind knew true peace.
Vivid dreams of grandiose days long past began to play
behind his nictitating Nephilim eyelids as he curled into a corner in his catacomb.
In the first dream, Egathel and his kin had been victorious in battle and were
feasting in celebration. They raised jewel-encrusted goblets of blood to honor
each other; mad, snarling gibberish was spoken in place of a toast before they drained the blood, which gushed out of the cups in spurts as if issuing from a still-living thing.
In fading light of setting sun
Summer's end hits me like a beam,
The realization dawning upon me
Like the dayside of a sunrise
Dawning on one who watched its magic
Transform night from atop a mountain.
The young thing I watched wax from
Wee hours now wanes away from me;
Turning on my timid expectations,
Its sparse gift turns to abundant
Avarice, swiftly engulfing the earth,
Eating the infant day out from under me.
I am awakened but not consoled by
Cool mountain air breezes blowing,
Biting reminders of the pre-dawn chill.
I steel myself for the trek ahead,
As the long descent down the mountain
And into the underworld begins.
Holding your hand in the gom jabar
hurts--does not harm.
It begins to burn.
We're well beyond thresholds now
and into endurance.
Learning the difference between
desiring a thing
and reaching to grasp it:
is it the pain or the fear
that kills the mind?