30 The Boy who became a Monster*
When Jane heard in the early hours of the morning that the Monster had been caught, she was ecstatic. Finally! Finally she could venture out after the sun had set without fear. And just in time for the Summer Solstice too. She had decided that this year she would ask Rassa to dance. She had practiced all year with her mother so that she would not make a fool of herself when the time came. Falla her danced with him at the last solstice, and many had complimented them. Rassa's movements were as elegant as noble courtiers they'd proclaimed, despite the fact that very few of them had seen such men.
But this time? This time it would be her they complimented, she was determined.
Despite her relief though, there was also curiosity. What had been plaguing their town for so long? What did it look like? Was it human? Was it as intelligent as the Hunters had theorised it was? Was it true that it fed on...blood? That was just impossible. Right?
Jane dressed for the day and headed towards the Doctor's house, hoping that she'd be able to see Rassa before she went to the Orchard for the day. He hadn't been doing well these past few days, a terrible flu the Doctor said. He made sure nobody but his parents saw him, and even then they were only allowed a short window for visitation. The only thing Jane had managed to hear was that he was bedridden, which didn't bode well.
On her way, Jane spotted Phillip and Anna as they too approached the Doctor's office.
She waved to them and hurried over, "How is Rassa today, have you seen him?"
Anna smiled and Phillip shook his head, "We're headed over now. Hopefully he is better than yesterday".
Jane nodded, "Do you mind if I join you?"
"Of course," Anna said before Phillip could protest. Jane had always seen Rassa's father as rather quiet and private. He was a nice man in general, but there were certain parts of him that Jane could sense he would never let come to light.
The three of them approached the Doctor's house together, and as they drew closer, they noticed a crowd increasing outside. The whispers reached the ears of the three of them, and they paused in their tracks.
"He was the monster? So terrible".
"It's true! My gosh I can't believe it".
"The Doctor is quite perceptive to have thought of that incident three years ago".
"How could nobody have noticed the changes?"
"Surely his parents knew".
"Oh my gosh, there they are, do you think they know yet?"
Everyone hushed as Phillip and Anna were spotted, then the crowd parted to where the Knight Captain Jameson and the Doctor stood beside an iron cage on a specially made cart. The cage itself was no bigger than that used for a wolf, but it was not the cage that shocked Jane to her core.
It was the boy inside it.
He had been stripped on his shirt, displaying his black lifelines completely. His black hair came down just past his shoulders and his pale skin was an immense contrast to it. His eyes were closed, and he was sitting in the cage almost comfortably, but the thing that had frightened everyone, the evidence that the Doctor and the Knight Captain were intent on using, was the trail of blood from the side of his mouth down over his chin.
It was dried, and darkened, but there was no doubt in the world that it was blood.
Jane covered her mouth in shock, "Rassa".
It was only whispered, but Rassa heard it. He had smelt her before that, but had wanted her to realise first. To realise what he was. The sun burned his eyes, and he raised and arm to sheild them as he looked over at her, and at his parents standing stock still behind him, a mixture of shock and anguish on their faces.
Seeing movement, those around the cage stepped back. Their heartrates increased, they were terrified of him. Horrified by the mere thought of what he was capable of, of what he had done already. After all, the Doctor and Jameson were holding up the dead rabbit as if it was a trophy.
"See! Such terrible eyesight in the day, hence why he could only hunt at night!" shouted the Doctor over the crowd.
Rassa ignored him, his eyes fixed on Jane and his parents. His gaze softened as he tried to show them his sincerity. That he was sorry it had turned out like this.
"Such a beast, his greatest camoflage is being in the body of a child! If he grows into an adult, what kind of destruction can he then cause? What kind of risk is he to our humble and safe way of living?" asked the Doctor.
Once the shouts and jeers began, they didn't stop. Rassa felt the first rock on his back, right on his lifelines. It hit the metal as it passed through the bars, hurting his ears with the resounding ringing.
Rassa flinched at the hit, and curled away from the bars, but it didn't stop. Rocks, rotten fruit and vegetables, even dung. They threw it all at him and he was forced to endure it.
Until his father stepped in front of them.
They paused, shocked someone was stepping so close.
"Phillip, what are you doing?!"
"Rassa," Phillip called, ignoring the warnings of those around him, "Rassa are you okay?"
Despite the hunger that tormented him, Rassa inched towards his father's side of the cage, only to flinch at the ringing of metal on metal as Jameson whacked the iron bars with his sword.
"Don't get any ideas, boy!"
"Stop it, he'd not going to hurt me," Phillip snapped through the cage.
"Don't, father," Rassa insisted, his voice cutting through everyone like a knife. His gaze hardened as he turned his gaze upon the Knight Captain, "I was hungry, and they were kind enough to let a rabbit into the room. I spent twelve nights without food just so they could repay me by sticking me in a cage. If I have to live in here for the rest of my life just because they're stupid and proud enough to stick a boy who is a little different in a cage for everyone to fear and jeer at like I'm a monster so be it".
Rassa then turned back to his father, "But I won't break. I promise. Not to them. So promise me you won't either".
Phillip could see the conviction in his son's eyes, the unspoken words he had said. Don't let them get you too.
Phillip didn't care.
He turned to the Doctor and Jameson, "He only needs the equivalent of a cup of blood every day once he is full. He functions just the same as everyone else then. He has never taken blood from a human, and when he has killed before he mourns every death. He was not born this way, he was forced to become this after he was trapped in a cave with some very dark and evil entities. In the three years he had been like this, he has been in full control of his actions, and I believe had he been allowed to live in peace, he would endeavour to hurt another soul unless necessary. Just like everyone here. But you will call him a monster anyway. So when my son the monster is finally free of you. After you've starved him and carted him around to every nobleman under the son for entertainment fees, I hope to whatever gods there are that he decides your life is worth more than his years of shame and humiliation. I highly doubt he will judge you so".
Then, quite to the surprise of everyone present, including Rassa, Phillip stepped up to the cage, pulled up his sleeve, and shoved his arm through the bar.
"Drink, I know you need it".
"No," Rassa said, turning away.
"Rassa," Phillip warned, and Rassa turned back slowly to look at his father, "It's okay. Drink".
Rassa looked up at everyone there, at all the terrified eyes and vicsious smiles. Then he looked to his mother and Jane, who was still frozen where she stood.
Finally, Rassa's eyes settled on his father.
Rassa wanted to say no. He really, truly wanted it. But he was so hungry. Any relief would do. Rassa carefully touched his father's arm, then opened his mouth.
The crowd moved back with gasps and screams as Rassa's fangs extended from his gums, then, as his eyes welled up and his tears fell, Rassa carefully sunk his fangs into his dad's arm.
Phillip froze, the paralitic becoming active, he winced at the pain, though did his best to hold still for his son. Rassa knew it was hurting his father and after a minute, he drew back and carefully licked his father's arm before shoving him out of the bars so that he wouldn't go back for more.
Phillip fell to the ground, dizzy as the paralitic began to wear off and the pain receeded.
Rassa had curled in on himself, and people witnessed it as his wounds received through the thrown rocks healed over quickly, replaced with pale skin and his solid black life lines. Rassa's shoulders shook and the sound of a child's sob clearly cut through the crowd.
In that moment, nobody quite knew what to do.