Thorn

by Dexter Joseph

To consciousness a boy awoke, a groan muttered off his lips. He rose wearily to his feet, muscles laced with nothing more than excruciating pain. He stared around, and in the largeness of the landmass on which he stood were burnt houses, dead cattle, and animals, large and small alike. All around him also, regardless of where his eyes moved and fell on, lay dead bodies of men, women and children. Nothing lived, and they lay over the ground in hundreds, their bloods drenching the earth on which they lifelessly piled. Watching the horror, he burst into a sob, having been stained in the blood of others.

Scuffling forward, past bodies after bodies, his eyes darted around in search for someone, crying as he went. And for half a mile he walked, dead bodies from his left to right littered around so much that he could fairly see the ground on which he moved on. Some bodies were certainly not human, although they took a revert to human forms at the point of their demise. However humans were on a majority scale. Battered in claw marks, some ripped in half, spanning across variety of ages. And how one could tell that which was human, was those neither torn to shreds nor clawed open, were not.

He increased his pace as he felt he’d found whom he was searching for. Up close of the bodies before him, half a mile from where he’d woken, he shoved the bodies aside, away from the one which they had fallen on at death. Kneeling, he watched the body facing him, a young lady, stained in blood and with claw marks across her chest and face. Her eyes were cold and ajar, staring lifelessly at nothing. He began to sob all over, jerking her to wake up. His chest burned with pain, one he could not contain, and that pain caused his inside to hurt through every muscle of his little being.

As he held her in his little arms and cried, calling her to rise up, memories flashed of times before the violence kicked off again. She’d been the only one who watched over him, guided him, loved him, and nurtured him for a long while. He reminisced on when the rumours came to the village about the rogue creatures moving further down towards them in a few days, having ravaged five other villages and rapidly moving downwards for them. He could recall how fearful everyone had been. He, himself never was afraid per se, not in the way everyone else felt it. And although he had only seen the chaos from afar, and a few dead bodies as its subsequent result, he had never really lost anyone close to him. Not since he learned affection and knowledge of those around him. He was just ten in age, and she had found him two years earlier, alone abandoned in the forest.

He could remember how she stared at him when his changes began. She had always known he was different, he was like them: the monsters. She had always however teach him to keep his strengths and intimidating sense of reasoning as shielded from people as possible so no one else suspected. Because she feared rightly that such revelation was going to do both of them great harm, him in particular. He recalled the day she ran in, in search for him when the rumours spread across that the creatures were close and violence had already kicked off again. She had held him and tried leading him to a safer place. But nowhere really was safe.

They were savages, looked nothing next to merciful, driven by madness and the scent of blood and violence. They marched into the village, huge creatures, tearing each other and every other human apart, like enemies of both themselves and those around them. He never had time to expand his thoughts when the killings began, as to why they were killing each other in the same manner they killed humans. He however didn’t bother himself much with this, not as much as the thoughts of her safety stuck strongly to his heart. Of course he was caught when it got to them, claws driven through his chest and face. That was when everything went black.

He knelt there, her body lay on his as he cried for her to open her eyes. Everywhere was quiet, and the rain was heavy a fall. Every sound rang in his ear. Every droplet hitting the floor throbbed hard in his head. His voice was swallowed by the hundreds of noises which flooded his mind and tried to rip it apart. And yet even that was little compared to the rupture which had carved a rigid turmoil in his chest as he watched the lifeless body before him. He was alone again, and hurting.

He felt something move stealthily with the air and the rain. Frightened from the heightened emotions boiling within him, he spun around as something reached to hold his shoulder. He screamed, but the figure’s arm moved fast for his mouth. He was falling atop bodies in a second, with the figure all over him, the masculine hold on him was strong and suppressive. He struggled, but heard the figure shush at him aloud, a growl beneath the suppressed grit of his teeth.

“Stop making a noise, some loiter around still!” The figure growled a whisper.

The boy’s eyes widened, his muscles weakened, letting the stranger’s complete strength overwhelm his. As his heart thumped and his breath shook his lungs into endless pants, he watched the man slowly get off him. He watched the man, half frightened and half cautious. The man was huge, plump and with a small lips nearly hidden by dirt-stained chubby cheeks. His eyes as they moved from him to the entire surrounding in scout for any approaching presence, glowed yellow.

Watching as the man rose to his feet looking around, the boy stared at his height, five foot tall and certainly not one wanting to kill him. He turned back to the dead body, and the pain resurfaced in his heart, like poking needles against an injury. The man’s ears flinched, picking movements meters away. He turned to the boy and made to grab against him, but he wouldn’t budge, screaming and crying louder instead. The man moved a clenched knuckle straight for the boy’s gut, who gasped, eyes ajar as consciousness left him. He slumped to his knees, then onto the man’s waiting arm.
The stranger stared anxiously around, picked the boy in one arm and the dead body he seemed to have a proclivity to in the other, rose and hurried away from the mass genocidal scene.

The little boy groaned a few hours later, struggling in the nightmare he was having. When he sprang up from it with pants like a bull chaser, he darted looks around, anxious and the look on his face twisted into one of anguish as he found no blood, no stench of death, no dead bodies, and no lady he’d yearned for. He moaned in heartache.

“She’s here…”

He turned to the familiar voice, and not too far from where he sat, stood the stranger. But his eyes were on a pile of sand which looked freshly dug up and back in. Figuring what was beneath it, the boy rose and scuffled towards the newly grave. He knelt over it and packed a handful of sand into his hand, felt the tears pile up again, and he let it overwhelm him.

Watching him quiet and distraught with grief, the man shook his head, walked close and made a squat near him. He chose to not have physical contact with him as to likely not trigger a distress reaction or worst still an aggressive one.

“Do not weep,” the man sighed, unsure how to comfort a child who had just lost a loved one. “She probably is at a better place.”

The boy kept mute, but his facial countenance littered with sadness, implied nothing but pain and hurt, so much that even the man could feel his pain.

“Your mother?” The man asked.

The boy made response with nothing, rather knelt there, hands packed with sand and dust on which she’d been buried. The man exhaled, and for all the wrong reasons, he could sharply relate to how the boy felt.

“We’re in war times, boy. Pain is a frequent neighbour, even closer than bloodshed.” He said, stood and walked down the river before them flowing from a point through the West down to another at the East, scooped a sack of water and made return with it. Seating on a little boulder, he mused as he spoke. “Never been a violent person. But since The Rising two years ago, one’s been forced to do things they’d otherwise never do. Like killing to survive, man and wolf alike.”

The boy could sense the deep hurting in the man’s voice. He momentarily took a glance at him and realized he looked nothing but bitter and mostly resigned to fate, his gaze deep in thought. He turned his eyes back to the pile of his loss, sniffed, unsure what else to do, or how to fix the ache which had built a throne in his heart.

“This is no time to mourn. None for any of those. Been there, seen real pain and loss. And my attempt to wallow in it bred just more losses of other loved ones I had then.” The man said, and while his reflective gaze was on the river, the boy looked up to him with face wet with tears. The man exhaled. “You’re unfortunate to be born at a time like this. I guess everyone is. Everyone is in pain. Everyone is losing something, or about to lose it… Or them.”

He wasn’t crying anymore. He just knelt, staring at the grave, a lot of effort put in to understand what the man said. He certainly seemed like he could understand it, yet it seemed and felt broader, deeper than was being said. Like it was deeper a mystery which he had to understand, yet he could not seem to understand it in depth.

She had taught him love, love which was given in a world borne of so much hate, chaos, strife, wroth, disunity and pain. He had grown in a world of so much pain, and had experienced it half of his adolescent life, until he found her, or better yet, until she found him, throat slit at such tender age as seven, by those he identified with as brothers.

Nursing him to health, she had watched his healing move faster than natural, and quickly figured what he was. However, she’d go on to do the most illogical thing: she protected him for being a child than being a monster. She was the perfect human. She taught him love, its beauty and how it could heal virtually everything. She became his idea of a perfect world. This however didn’t dispute the fact that she indeed feared his nature. However, even in that fear, her affection was overwhelming.

Now with her gone, never to return, so much was shattered. The love seemed too weak. He felt nothing but pain. A feeling she had shielding him from for three years, a feeling her love had made him forget. He understood in his own way that he had lost something irreplaceable, yet this strange man was telling him not to ponder on it because he could lose more. He was oblivious of what it meant or what else he could lose that already hadn’t been lost. Was it his life? Even that was somewhat uninteresting.

The man turned to him. “I’m Ozil, by the way. What is your name?”

The little boy said nothing, but it was obvious he had something in need to be said. This got the man thinking. He, the boy, instead shook his head.

“What? You can’t say?” He said, then thought of another reason as the boy’s face fell back to the ground, sadness-ridden. “Or you can’t speak?”

The boy sniffed, and Ozil could sense something contagious about his mood. Even as a werewolf, never had he really felt anything from another other than natural empathy which was typical for all who were less wild enough to acknowledge its existence. Yet, the steepness of this young boy’s hurt and his understanding of loss, was strong. And he felt it strongly.

“Sorry about that…” He said, trying to get his composure back. He looked around, they weren’t that far further from the destroyed village, and while nowhere technically was safe, their current location was worse off. “…But we need to get out of here.”

The boy shook his head slowly, and Ozil seeing that interpreted it as a no. He sighed, rose to his feet, unsure the best way to make the little boy understand that it was only going to get worse. He knew this because he had seen almost it all. The endless chaos and killing. He had been in and out of pain, hurt and loss, and currently had lost everything except his life. But in times as this was when regardless of age, everyone had to be accustomed to the reality, that life was all pain.

“I really wish you would not let hurt overlap your choice to live. Having seen so many people, young and old alike butchered in the most savage ways possible, I can do nothing but put hopes on a time when all shall end. However, only the living hope. Only the living actually live.” He said. That to him was his final attempt to get the boy to buckle out of his wallow. He understood he was but a child, but the world currently was not for children. And as he turned and walked further into the distance, pushing bushes and twigs away to make way for himself, he hoped the little boy would follow, deeply, because he reminded him of another, a child whom he’d lost.

The little boy stared at the grave, so much thoughts wobbling around his head, all aching against his chest. He sniffed, fists clenched. Only the living hoped. He didn’t understand much of its meaning, but he strongly felt it made sense, and resonated with something underneath his gut. He made a bow to the grave, head touching the sand. He rose, turned and walked the path Ozil had gone. Stopping half way, he stared one last time at the grave, and that ache he felt press against his chest, was all he needed. With it, he was sure he was never going to forget her.

Hearing footsteps following behind, gentle and young in strength, Ozil couldn’t help but smile, glad the boy had listened. For a second he felt the boy wouldn’t come, like the last three he had encountered in the past. Because in his honesty, were he in the same situations, he would not follow himself, for in truth, there was no future he could see where the chaos was over, with nothing left to live for.

The boy followed him through the walk for a few hundred meters. He never spoke, and Ozil felt strongly it was best to not talk himself. They walked up to a spot on which a river demarcated where they stood from the other side of the land to which he was leading them past. However, they hadn’t stopped because of the water. It was not even as much as a hindrance. Instead, Ozil watched with shame ridden over his face at what stood before them. The little boy stared with eyes wide in repulsion at the redness of the fairly flowing water. Dead bodies floated stop it, some slowly washed down its tracks. His heart thumped, his fists clenched into themselves as he felt a burning sensation of infuriation shake the foundations of his chest. Yet nothing in resemblance to a solution could come to his mind. He didn’t even know what to think nor do.

“Likely no one around you was born when all these started. The tales of it anyway.” Ozil sighed, eyes moving across the exact same things the boy’s were, only in his case, he was used to the shock of seeing such waste of lives. “It was called M’bido: the night when the moon turned full and blue. The night the wolf world sprang into existence. The tales say we were borne from amongst humans.
And such rapid outburst of unrestrained bloodlust created chaos like wildfire, which spread like it is now.”

The boy turned to him, curious to hear his tale. To understand why all was how it was.

“Werewolves went on a massacre, into the human societies, killing both themselves and humans alike, in hundreds. And this occurred subsequently, worse every other night the full moon arose. It was like a curse, one which could not be controlled, all until a man arose. It was unsaid how, but he had a way into everyone’s mind. He forced order and control upon werewolves, and this lasted for centuries. The killings ended. The chaos was gone. There wasn’t absolute peace, but there was order, and this was equivalent to what the humans had…

“However, once killed by one of his very own —which is ironic that someone that godlike could ever be killed— the chaos kicked off again, and has been getting worse up until this moment. Beliefs had it that even in death, his power still held a fading restraint on werewolves. Now however, I think maybe such control is completely gone. That would explain why it’s all out of control now, and worse. That has to be the only reason. Then again, it is but folklore. There were many others like it, but this was the most popular. One of the most.

“I tell you this all because I see that look in your eyes which beg so much of questions. Eyes which portray a mind asking why, trying to make sense of the cruellest experiences we can’t explain.” He paused, and the boy noticed the sadness which shrouded his face. He exhaled. “I had a son. Was around your age, or maybe younger. He asked to understand why we were killing each other without reason, like animals. But he was taken from me even before he understood those whys. I was broken. I have never shifted since that morning, and the subsequent consequence was fast. I lost his mother too. I lost everyone else.”

The boy watched him, a sense of pity replacing his perturbed mind. He understood this to likely be the very reason Ozil had warned him to not dwell on his hurt. It had something to do with not letting the hurt blind one to alertness in times such as these.

Ozil exhaled, took the boy’s arm and led him into the water, pushing floating bodies aside as they swam forward. The stench of the bodies spoke in detail of how long it had been since they were dead. The boy covered his nose with his arm. He gasped and nearly missed his balance as a body made a float off the water right before him. Ozil pulled him off the water and sat him on his shoulder, walking on as the water got to his shoulders the further they walked in.

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Homepage
  2. You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always follow your heart.

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