12 The Loss of Innocence*
As Rassa drew further and further into the woods, he could feel anticipation filling his being. He couldn't believe he was going to do this. If this parents knew...if anyone knew...what would they think of him? Rassa knew it was more than likely they would be repulsed by him. But if his intuition was right, Rassa had no choice in the matter. This was his reality now, it was time to stop denying it.
Finally, his body aching so much he was standing through will-power alone, Rassa came to the edge of the rabbit meadow.
Just like two days before, the meadow was filled with rabbits, undisturbed by Rassa's soundless approach. Raising his nose into the air, Rassa inhaled, and scented the meadow. It didn't smell as good as any of the humans he'd smelt, but his stomach was craving so badly that it readily let him know that this would be enough.
Rassa hesitated only a moment before he gave over to those instincts. He was so hungry, so pitifully sore, that in that moment he would give anything to feel full.
The meadow grew still for a moment, hanging suspended in time, before a small figure sprinted across the meadow and snatched up one of the rabbits so quickly that the others barely knew what happened. Rassa stopped against a tree on the far side of the meadow. The rabbit struggled in his hands, trying to get away. Rassa turned his back to the tree and slid down, looking at the rabbit with sad eyes, tears welling as he did so. The fact that he could hear its heart accelerate, and see its eyes darting, yet hold it before him so still. It made Rassa realise in that moment how utterly helpless it was against him.
"I'm sorry," Rassa spoke softly, his voice cracking, "If I had another choice...but you are my other choice".
Rassa's gums ached painfully, and he groaned as he felt two of his top teeth extend down at least an inch. He had to open his mouth to accommodate them, and he whimpered at the pain. Then, looking at the rabbit one last time, he turned it and bit down where he could see the unmistakable pulse of blood.
It was easy, like cutting threw butter left in the sun. There was no resistence, and if instinct had not stopped him at a certain point, Rassa was positive he would have bit the rabbit's head clean off.
The rabbit struggled against Rassa, but Rassa held it still as he took a breath, then sucked.
As soon as the blood hit his tastebuds, Rassa knew this would satisfy the hunger. The taste left something to be desired, it was only slightly better than the way normal food had tasted to him in the past two days. Okay, but not enough flavour. Rassa breathed, sucked then swallowed in a continuous sequence until he realised there was nothing left. He withdrew his new fangs carefully, then took a long look at the limp, dead rabbit in his hands. He felt his tears fall, and hugged the dead rabbit as he bowed his head in shame.
He'd killed it. And the worst part was, the hunger was still there. Rassa knew he'd barely scratched the surface.
He cried for forty minutes before he finally accepted what had happened, by that time, the other rabbits had reluctantly returned to the field. Rassa placed the read rabbit carefully on the ground, then turned to the field.
He had no choice.
Despite the fact that his tears had long dried out, it was the second kill that was the hardest for Rassa. He was no longer testing a theory. He knew. This was what he needed to do to survive now. Blood was the only thing that could satisfy him, knowing that he would have to kill for the rest of his life whatever defenseless creature he came across just to satisfy this part of himself...he was a monster.
Regardless, the second rabbit wasn't enough either.
It was well past midnight when Rassa finally felt full, and by that time, thirty rabbits had been accumulated around him. With no other choice, Rassa picked up a stick and dug deep into the ground, then buried the evidence of his extended meal. Looking down at himself, he felt disgusted, he was caked in blood and filth. Rassa growled in anger at what red eyes and the others had done to him. This was not his choice. Feeling the need to vent that anger, Rassa turned and punched the tree behind him. Unexpectantly, the tree, a good fifteen metres tall and its trunk wide enough that Rassa could only wrap his arms around halfway, let out a thunderous crack.
Rassa watched in shock as the bark around where his fist had hit blew clean off, and then the tree creaked and fell back with the almight crash, taking another two tree with it and leaning on a third. Rassa looked down at his hands, his fist was on marred, he'd barely even felt the impact. This strength...it was no wonder he could no longer feel it when his parents hugged him tightly. They were but feathers in his shadow.
Rassa turned and ran.
He arrived at the river much faster than he thought possible. The river was attached to the far end of the pond by the orchard, it would have taken him nearly an hour to walk that far normally, yet...he'd reached this point in under ten seconds.
Strength, Speed, his senses hieghtened beyond belief. It was like...he was a born predator. A true monster.
As Rassa furiously scrubbed his skin and clothes, he couldn't help the tears that fell again. He brushed them away. He'd been brave. He'd had courage. He'd faced his new reality. But it was abundantly clear that it would take him time to accept it. In the darkness of the night, with the moon and stars as his only witnesses. Rassa prayed that time would come sooner rather than later.
In the woods, sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree, Phillip looked down at the grave he had uncovered in turmoil.