The booming sound with each strike of light causes me to flinch as my mind travels to a place of terror. Too long has that sound haunted my nightmares, too long has the coming storm followed my every step. It was time to take back my freedom so I could survive for just another day.
I could only watch the sky brighten as the bolt of fire and light streaked across the sky. It wasn’t the lightning that bothered me, nor the coming storm. Those things didn’t matter anymore. Instead my mind focused on the sounds around me. That thundering upon the wind, the way it started so softly in the distance, but then became unbearable as the rumbling came closer. And closer. So close it makes my heart shake and pound with each beat.
I despised that sound, almost as much as I despised the creatures who made me fear it. It’s too similar to those who hunt me and the horses of hell they ride on. It almost made what I was about to do easier, knowing that soon those monsters would ride no more… almost.
The first time I did this it was on accident. I fought off the reaction, tried to retain my humanity, but the monster got the better of me. My body shook, my hands twitched. I felt unnatural, disgusting, as my body separated from my mind and acted on pure instinct. My body sought out its victim without any remorse. It beat down, ripped open, and devoured the first meal it stumbled across.
Only when the deed was done, as one life sustained another, that my mind came crashing back. I remember trying to wretch, sobbing over the life that I took. But it was too late. I had become the monster that stalked this destroyed earth. I had become the creature I prayed that I would never become.
But then a feeling overtook me. I had always wondered what became of those that were turned. Did they remember their old lives? Did they ever feel pain? Why did they come after those who still had their humanity? I understood in that moment. It wasn’t that they had lost their humanity, it was that they had found a second life and simply wanted a chance to live it.
Life rushed back into me. The meal I had consumed caused an almost euphoric feeling to overtake me, a strength I hadn’t known rose in my body. It was so sudden, so unexpected that I never thought to open my eyes to see the world in color again, to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. I wasn’t a monster, as I had thought when that one bite changed my life. I was just a girl. And I wanted to survive.
The others of…my kind…never took notice of me after my change. They left me be as I fought against my mind. As much as I wanted to live, I had to ask myself if it was worth it if it meant I would claim another’s life. In the dark nights I would wander alone, debating the best course. If I continued out here, eventually the hunger would take me again.
Could I let that happen? Could I let my hunger take such a hold that I lose my humanity and feed on any innocent I come across? Could I live with those lives on my hands?
But…Was it so monstrous to want to live? All animals, all creatures, need to feed. I was no different. The only thing that changed was my food. Was I really a monster if I did it only because I wanted to survive? Needed to survive?
Those questions rummaged around in my head for three days. Three days until the hunger began to nag at me. Three days before the thunder began to follow my every step.
When the rumbling came up the road, I didn’t think what could come along with it. I had wrongly assumed that if I stayed still and kept to myself, they would pass. But those who carry vengeance with them do not leave those who killed their friend.
The First. My first…meal. He wasn’t alone in this world, as I had tried to tell myself after that day. He had friends, a family of sorts. All of his brothers wore the same crest, rode upon the same thundering machines. And when he fell, his brothers became enraged. They would stop at nothing to hunt and kill the creature who took their brother from them.
When they came for me that night, it wasn’t the hunger that caused me to act. It was the want to survive. I didn’t want…I wouldn’t die like this. The man came at me, a sharp hatchet in his hand. He swung, but in the darkness, he couldn’t see, and I overtook him easily.
I heard their cries and screams of anguish as I fled, when they had found the Second, their brother’s body. As I ran into the wilderness I heard them following behind me. The storm of hunters had mounted their machines and were ready to hunt the monster.
I can’t recall when I decided to fight back, to take action instead of reaction. Perhaps it was between Two and Three as they quickly caught up to me in the woods, or maybe Three and Four when I hid in a hollowed-out tree and took them unaware. I decided I would fight for my survival when they attacked, and in that instance, had a way to survive. But the anxiety of the hunt was too much. Every sound I heard made me shake as I wondered if that night would be the night I would fail to survive. That was no way to live, so I made a final decision.
The hunters became the hunted.
The Angels of Vengeance, that was what they called themselves. That’s what was emblazoned on each of their backs. It was a little detail I noticed on Five, or maybe Six. It didn’t matter anymore. If I wanted to survive, they had to die. This hunt had to end.
One by one they fell. I would find them as they followed my trail, or maybe fixing their ride, or loading their weapons. Each one taken by surprise by a creature they didn’t expect to haunt them in return. Survival was my goal, the only reason I was doing this. I just wanted…to live.
Seven, Eight, and Nine fell by my hand over the course of an hour. It was easy when I just let the monster within me play. Only with the final one left, Ten, was I able to find a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I would soon be free to live. Soon, I wouldn’t have to fear the sounds of thunder and engines. I wouldn’t have to fear those distant lights and sounds.
Ten knows I am coming for him, of that I have no doubt. Why else would he have circled back to this place? This was the place where One had fallen.
I paused at that thought. One…that man. Surely, he had a name, but I never knew it. A small part of my mind chastised me for calling them by numbers. But how else would I know of them? They were hunters, killers. And me? I was just a survivor.
As night fell, I watched as Ten walked past the window of the run-down bar. He knew tonight would be his last night.
This last one would be the end of it. No more would the roaring sounds of the bike engines haunt my mind. No more would the smell of exhaust or smoke make me tremble in fear. I would be free. I would be free to just survive.
Just one more.