“Witness” is an attempt at writing something a bit gross with a touch of horror.
The ritual needed a witness, so Moriel was brought before the raging flames, hands bound, and forced to watch.
The priest’s face was hidden behind a skull which he wore like a mask. “If Seron is pure, he will be unaffected. You know the rules.”
But Moriel knew his secret. She bit back screams of protest as the others brought Seron to be judged before the flames. The dark light of the new moon glimmered in his eyes. They were yellow. It was already beginning, but the priest didn’t realize it.
“Seron!” Moriel cried. “You can control it –!”
A votary slammed her staff into Moriel’s head. The priest swung around and said, “Stay silent, nullifidian!”
Her vision blurred, Moriel could only see a vague shape of Seron as he stood before the bonfire. Votaries holding staffs of bone and crystal formed a cage around him. Sweat beaded on his skin, but he peered into the burning depths without fear.
Two votaries forced Seron to his knees. The priest approached. Glowing flames illumined the sharp-tipped syringe held in his hands. Unceremoniously, he stabbed Seron’s neck. A sangoire fluid flowed into his body. Moriel knew first-hand the jolt that came from the frigid liquid. She braced herself for what came next.
Seron tried to fight the poison in his veins, tried to fight the transformation, but to no avail. He buckled against the restraints. His bones clacked within his flesh. Muscles ripped, tendons severed. The smell of blood and sweat stained the night air. The votaries, their courage suddenly depleted, scattered.
“You cowards!” screamed the priest, but no one could hear him. Seron cried out in pain. Something burst from his shoulders: wings of bone and cartilage. His flesh seemed to turn inside-out, a grotesque imitation of the man he once was. His human mind was gone – now he was a creature made of death.
The Seron-like creature burst down the hill after the votaries. They attempted to beat him back with their staffs, but their magic had withered from fear. Moriel watched in mute disbelief: didn’t they know what would happen? Isn’t this what they wanted?
Seron returned to the priest, his talons covered in ribbons of flesh. The priest leveled his staff at Seron and laughed. He stretched out his hand to catch the blood that dripped from the monster’s chin. The priest glanced at Moriel and said, “I knew your husband was infected. After all, you’re the one who gave me this gift.”
“I will not be part of your sick rituals. Not anymore.”
He turned his gaze upon Moriel. For a brief moment she saw a spark of yellow beneath the skull. “But don’t you understand? Those votaries were weak. They would never survive the coming epiphany. This cleansing is necessary for what happens next.”
“You can’t keep doing this to people. Eventually the monsters will turn on you.”
“They only turn on the weak, the cowardly – ”
Moriel tried not to panic as Seron approached her. She stared into the yellow pits of his eyes. He had no pupils. He couldn’t see her, nor would he recognize her if he did, but she wanted to reach out to him nonetheless, to calm the beast. He wasn’t to blame, she told herself. He could control himself no better than she could. Suddenly the monster collapsed at her feet, chest heaving. The poison wore off quickly. Already his human form was returning.
The new moon made the transformation difficult to control: Seron would never spread his sickness to another, not after what happened with Moriel long ago, but the dark, cursed fluid made control impossible.
Movement caught the priest’s attention. It was the lone survivor to the attack. She was missing considerable amounts of flesh, but she crawled up the hill in Seron’s wake.
“Only the strongest can be taught the magic of the new moon,” said the priest. He slit open his arms, peeled back his flesh, and exhumed a series of arcane instruments. First he removed a blood-soaked wand. Then he detangled his veins which clung to a vial. Moriel, stomach writhing, turned away from the scene. She heard him say, “Let’s get started.”
- Daily post: witness (www.wordpress.com)