Blood congealed upon his face and began to crust deep among the fibres of his beard. Licking his lips, the familiar taste sat warm and satisfying on his tongue, soothing the back of his throat, a sensation he found not dissimilar to the moment of orgasm. Each crimson patch on his face and naked form looked black in the obsidian night, clouds covering the sky as though shielding the heavens from the monstrosity of his actions. Then, the familiar pang of regret began to stir, slicing its way up into his chest, threatening to overwhelm him in anguish. But these feelings were something he had long learned to be prepared for. In the earlier years such emotions nearly destroyed him, crushing him beneath the weight of their terror. Today Rammal understood that the very best antidote this terror was to feed. Again.
From amongst the scattered remains of limbs and organs around his feet, a body stirred. Pulling himself along through the blood and mud, his face and body covered in filth and death, the man crawled away from Rammal and the small clearing they were in, heading towards the density of the forest. Rammal tilted his head in curiosity, something of a smile resting on his lips. The man groaned and gasped as he dragged his body, wounds reverberating with agony at every movement. His legs were now useless, Rammal having earlier torn the muscles and tendons away from the bone. Yet despite the agony he was experiencing, he continued to crawl, hope and an unflinching desire to live propelling him along.
Earlier that night, Rammal had seen the man exiting the gym, a huge figure bursting with muscle and confidence. It was perhaps that confidence and self-belief that meant he didn’t hear Rammal approaching. The next moment he had woken among the other bodies, confused and disorientated, but surprisingly not afraid, to begin with, not even when he saw Rammal in his true form. In fact, the man had jumped up and attempted to fight, clutching a rock and crashing a huge roundhouse into Rammal’s side. It was only then, in that moment, when Rammal absorbed the blow like a sponge in water, that the man’s fear erupted.
Rammal stood up from the tree trunk that was laying on its side, and raised his chin, sucking in the smells and scent of his surroundings. Far off, in the distance, he could hear the gentle crash of waves against the rocky shore, the smell of salt-air carried across the forest, its own fragrance mingling together, dancing across Rammal’s senses. Back to his immediate surroundings, and Rammal savoured every taste, blood and fear singing a symphony upon his palate, the air still thick with screams, begging, and the ferocious tearing apart of life. The intensity of each aroma paradoxically pushed regret down whilst stoking its power, hunger and desire urging him to continue. Rammal could see the man’s bulging muscles glistening with sweat as survival drove him forwards.
Stepping over the organs piled up in a heap, Rammal moved towards the man who had nearly reached the edge of the forest’s cover. Hearing Rammal approach, the man looked behind and groaned, willing himself on, yet collapsing, strength of body and mind dissolving under the sheer power of despair.
“Please,” the man said, his face buried into the ground. “Please, just let me go. I won’t talk about you to anyone.” The man raised his head as Rammal came and stood in front of him, deep brown eyes pleading to his captor for mercy.
Rammal crouched down and took the man’s stubbled chin in his hand. “What’s your name?” he asked.
The man gulped, forcing the words out. “Micah,” he said. “Please—” he continued, but Rammal cut him off.
“Listen, Micah.” Rammal stroked Micah’s head with his other hand, gripping his chin even harder so that Micah grimaced. “Life is nothing but desire, the pursuit and perfection of desire. Your life has no meaning outside desire, more specifically, no meaning beyond my desire. It is that meaningless that you now inhabit which truly sets you free, Micah.”
As he finished speaking Rammal began to transform once again, returning to his true form. Bones crunched, whilst muscles and fibres sounded as though air was being sucked through them. Micah looked on in frozen horror as teeth and claws grew and glistened in sharpened majesty. Rammal’s body pulsed with patterns of muscle, purple scales and white fur, an armour of intimidation and dominance. Micah screamed, yet his voice strangled in the back of his throat, as though it feared to approach and share the space of Rammal’s form and presence.
Rammal ripped off Micah’s jaw as though it were nothing but the petal on a flower, and stood up. Micah’s dead body slumped into the earth, blood and sweat soaking the ground beneath him, watering it in death and misery.
Picking the body up, Rammal went back to the clearing. Twelve bodies had already been placed perfectly in a circle, the heads facing inwards, shoulders touching. Their organs and insides had been torn out, half of it eaten, whilst the rest was piled up in the centre. Rammal set to work tearing apart the thirteenth body, until nothing but blood and mess remained, the destruction scattering the other bodies, and covering the ground around him.
Sitting down atop the pile in the centre of the massacre circle, Rammal crossed his legs and looked up to the heavens. The clouds started to part, and the moon cast a silver glow across Rammal’s face. Closing his eyes, he waited, as he had done twelve times before.
The bodies spontaneously erupted into huge flames, stretching high into the sky as though searching for a new home beyond the earth. Thick black smoke rose up, forming a tall cylindrical shape around Rammal, a wall that was impenetrable to sight. The power of the fire burned away Rammal’s fur from his legs, arms, and stomach, revealing further rough, jagged, purple scales. The intensity of the heat from the flames began to boil the blood around Rammal, the organs and remains that he sat on inexplicably melting around him. A thick, mucilaginous liquid formed around him, deep red, shimmering and shining. The edges of the newly formed puddle began to rise, pulling up and over Rammal, who continued to sit with his eyes shut. In a matter of a few moments his body was completely covered, wrapped and enveloped, as though he were now nothing more than a shiny red statue.
Just before dawn’s first light, the smoke dispersed, the thick, black wall dissolving and dissipating into the air, lost and yet free. The final fires died out, bodies reduced to ash, now blowing across the ground in the cool wind. Rammal remained entombed, his red covering now set completely hard.
As the first light of the day broke over the forest canopy, small fissures began to trace their way across the crimson shell, until large pieces began to break off, falling to the floor and shattering around Rammal. Stretching and bursting free of the final pieces, Rammal stood up, now in female form.
Walking towards the distant sound of waves breaking against the shore, Rammal would meet the morning tide and be carried off to wherever it would lead.