Shortly after midnight, the thing that was Suzanne Jaeger sucked in a deep, rasping breath and coughed blood from its burning lungs. Trembling arms forced its gaunt, skeletal body to roll over as milky white eyes blinked open. Unbearable pain ate away at her stomach, consuming the whole of her attention for several long minutes.
Her nostrils flared and the scent of blood stirred that hunger to greater urgency. Stroked inner fires that fueled her body into motion. Blurred shapes and shadows took on greater detail while the steady ringing in her ears slowly cleared. The sounds of ripping fabric and wet chewing pulled her attention towards one figure kneeling over another in the field’s tall grass.
She struggled to her knees and caught the scent of something. Her damaged brain fired signals of warning. Danger. She scented danger. But the hunger was all consuming. A feral snarl rumbled painfully from her savaged throat as she lashed out. Blood meant meat. Meat meant food. Fists and fingernails and teeth served as weapons when she fell upon the kneeling form. It fought back in kind but her strength was greater with the burning pain of raw hunger fueling blow after blow.
Teeth rendered flesh as she ate, then vomited dead flesh painfully into the tall grass. Neither would stop the hunger. Both were too dead. A ragged cry of frustration and rage tore from her throat. It was answered by a loud noise in the distance. Danger, one part of her mind told her. Food, said another. A second gunshot rang out and she caught the strange scent. On hands and knees she crawled through the field.
The wall was a blacker form in the darkness as it stretched out before her. Her chin lifted. Nostrils flared. A sound drew her gaze to a figure scrambling over the wall. She smelled sweat and a subtle, familiar scent. Meat. This food moved more quickly than the other two as that-which-was-Jaeger crouched in the tall grass and waited. It jumped off the wall and landed with a soft thud, then held still for a moment. This was prey, her mind told her, and she was the hunter. This was food. Meat. Blood. Life.
Toes and fingers dug into the dirt as she leapt. The prey yelped in surprise and fell backwards. Teeth bit down on something that was not meat and the thing Jaeger had become growled its frustration. Her hands clawed at the covering while the food fought and struggled. She could not feel the blows striking her. The entirety of her world was wrapped in raging hunger and the pain it caused. Drool flowed freely from her lips as fingernails tore into flesh at last. Her head lowered and teeth ripped chunks of meat free. There was pain as damaged throat muscles worked to swallow but that faded by the second bite. Her lips took suction, pulling in draught after draught of delicious hot blood.
The prey was dying as her hands wormed their way under its rib cage, ripping organs free for the feast. She heard it weakly moan a single word over and over again.
That meant hunter, she knew somehow.
The blinding hunger pain faded as rain began to fall. My head throbbed as I lifted my gaze upwards and swallowed water as it fell. Bits of flesh slid down my throat and the scent of blood was overwhelming. There were sounds to my left. Men’s voices. An engine starting. I could see little in the darkness as I lifted a hand to my throat. A raised ridge of thick scar tissue met my probing fingers but the wound had healed.
A soft moan pulled my gaze down and I saw a body before me. Little was left of its stomach. Ribs were sticking out at odd angles from the devastated chest cavity. Bright light swept over the corpse and the pale flesh of its face shone brightly. Nathan’s face. A gunshot rang out as the corpse, Nathan’s corpse, tried to rise. There was too little muscle left in its torso for it to sit up properly. Instead it began to crawl using its hands. Another shot was fired, the bullet close enough to feel the wind of its passing. The third struck Nathan’s head. I ducked low and belly-crawled deeper into the field.
Memories, vague and blurry, slowly began to form. I remembered the deputy slitting my throat. The hunger and pain when I awoke. Sheriff Brown kneeling over the Senator’s body, feasting until the flesh grew tainted with undeath. I remembered its taste. Then Nathan. Eating him alive as he called out my name. The feel of his still beating heart crushed between my teeth. Hot blood squirting down my throat. The searchlight swept before me and I froze, waiting for it to pass.
I had killed Nathan. Eaten his flesh to fuel the healing of my own. With effort I shoved the thoughts and memories into a dark corner of my mind. Pushed it away until cold rage and burning anger overwhelmed guilt and sorrow. I would kill them all. The rain fell harder and a steady breeze swept over the field. I crawled in darkness for awhile, then rose into a crouching run until my bare feet hit pavement. They’d taken my boots. For several moments I stood there scenting the air and listening for signs of pursuit. None could be found. A hand lifted to my throat again, fingertips tracing along the raised scar tissue. I felt strong and steady. Full and alive.
And very fucking pissed.