29 The Monster in the Shadows*
Rassa was hungry. So hungry that he couldn't remember what it was like to not be hungry. Physically, he was exhausted, stiff and sore. His body had been getting progressively worse, and had not, after twelve days without feeding, had gotten to the point where he couldn't move without making a sound of protest. He vaguely knew his parents were there at different times. Watching over and supporting him. Both of them read to him, and if Rassa was any less hungry, it probably would have given him some form of comfort. But all he could think about was eating.
All he could think about was the feeling of his fangs sinking deep into the veins of something living, and the rush as blood filled his mouth and soothed his burning throat. And yet, at the same time, a nagging voice that he was beginning to want to ignore told him NOT HERE, NOT NOW.
Rassa knew better. He was hungry, why should he deny himself? Yet he listened to the voice all the same.
Rassa was vaguely aware of time passing around him, yet nothing really changed. He could blink and nothing would be different. He was still hungry, and that was all that mattered. The smaller part of his brain, the one that was telling him that constant NOT HERE, NOT NOW, was terrified. Terrified of the thought that someone he cared about could die, and Rassa would only think about the Hunger. The ever insistent and worsening Hunger that contained nothing but pain and emptiness. Such was his plight, one that nobody could ever understand because he was alone. There was nobody like him.
He remembered saying the words what if. What if there were others like him in the shadows. There weren't, Rassa was positive. The dark shadow that had creeped its way further and further into Rassa's empty hollow had confirmed it. There was nobody like him, and he alone wielded all the power of his race. Power he could only sustain through blood. Hence the hunger.
Hungry. He was so Hungry!
Distracting thoughts. Rassa needed distracting thoughts. Had his father gotten the Anthrite? The shadows hissed at that. The shadows called it the Draining Metal. The weapon of cowards and day walkers. The one thing that made their kind weak. Killable. That made them hunger even if they had just eaten their fill.
Hungry, Hungry, Hungry.
NOT HERE, NOT NOW.
With his eyes closed shut, Rassa's other senses alerted him to another presence in the room. A heartbeat, human, faster than normal. From the smell, it was the Doctor. Had something happened? Was someone hurt? Had someone died?
The shadows took over. Hungry, Blood, Hungry.
Rassa clenched his muscles, holding himself tightly. NOT HERE, NOT NOW.
The Doctor leaned closer, the heartbeat increasing. Rassa felt the Shadow rear up, and the itching pain of his fangs on the verge of poking through his gums. He clenched his teeth.
NO. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no-HUNGRY
NOT HERE NOT NOW.
As the shadow pushed for control, Rassa pushed back, pulling all the mental strength he had into this one command.
The Doctor paused for a moment, then gently touched his hands to Rassa's wrist. Rassa had no doubt he could feel the tension in his clenched muscles. No doubt it made it hard for the Doctor to feel his pulse. There was another pause, then the Doctor breathed out a short sigh before standing and moving away.
The footsteps receded, and the door closed behind him. Rassa released the tension in his muscles. The shadow hissed in discontent.
'Why do you not feed when the food is presented to you on a platter?'
The voice surprised Rassa. The shadow had yet to speak anything but the words 'hungry' or 'hunger'. As Rassa weighed his reply, he realised how remarkably similar the voice sounded to Red Eyes, the being who had made him commit to the seal.
Anger overcame Rassa. How dare the shadows continue to haunt him! Had he not sacrificed enough for their continued survival? they had taken nearly everything he was, and twisted him into some creature that everyone he loved feared. It didn't matter that his mother and father showed support to him now, Rassa had no doubt that is he had released that shadow just now, no one would ever look at him as anything but a monster.
'Do you think the terms of those mortals are so lofty? They are beneath you. You are the apex predator of this world, nothing can stop you.'
The shadow hissed in outrage.
'Perhaps we made a misjudgement, you are too tame, too caring.'
'Well it's a little late now isn't it?'
The shadow was silent as Rassa collected his thoughts, then thought of the answer to the first question Red Eyes had asked.
'It is not that I do not want it. It is that taking it would mean I gave in. Taking it would mean becoming what they believe I am.'
'You are still so naive.'
Red Eyes was silent after that. There were no more statements nor hissing. Just silence. Even the shadow seemed to recede, though it was still very much present, as if biding its time.
It was night when the door opened again, and very late. Rassa clenched his fists again in preparatioin for holding back the hunger. But what came through the door was wholly unexpected.
Despite it's quiet movement, Rassa could here its soft padded feet as it investigated the room. It's little nose twitched, and its eyes darted from place to place.
As Rassa thought how it was possible a rabbit had made its way into the room, he subconsciously unclenched his muscles, relaxing. His eyes opened slowly, and he glanced at the little rabbit that sat comfortably just a metre from him. All thoughts of possibilities went out the window. Rassa moved his aching muscles with such precision it was like he had not been bedridden for the past two days. He moved into a crouch as the sheets fell silently back onto the bed. His eyes set on his target, and his fangs slowly extended. He and the shadow relished in the feeling. And without further argument, Rassa moved across the room, snatching up the rabbit and taking it to the shadows in the far corner.
He let his fangs sink in without hesitation, and drank all he could, sucking the helpless creature dry.
For an instant, however short, the pain subsided, the hunger lulled. But it was not enough. Rassa knew it was not enough, and he had no way of leaving to get more.
Rassa closed his eyes in anguish. What had he done? All that work of keeping himself from the woods, and what had he done? Pounced on a bunny no doubt let in for this exact purpose.
Seeing no reason to hide, Rassa simply held the rabbit it one hand as he leaned back against the wall with his knees up and arms resting on them. His head dropped back, letting his fangs show on full display as he closed his eyes and accepted his mistake.
This was how the Doctor and the Knight Captain Jameson found him just a few minutes later. As they looked at Rassa in horror, a drop of blood having escape from the side of his mouth and rolled down his chin and neck, the Knight Captain drew his sword to point it threateningly at the twelve year old boy before them. Rassa simply spoke in a low tone bordering on amusement at their reaction.
"Thanks, I was hungry".