Two men sat in silence around a small fire, watching as insects burnt up in its heat. Small bursts of red jetted from the fire as they were ashed from existence.
“Why do you think they do it?”
“Why, who do what?”
“The insects, surely they feel the heat. So why fly on?”
“They are smarter than we are, obviously.”
“How do you reckon? I am still alive, and their lives went up in seconds.”
“They are dead, and you live on in pain. I mean fuck Alex, your arm is not only handless but split all the way up to your elbow, and why? Because the guy who owned you thought you looked too happy.”
Alex looked down at his arm, the wraps holding each side of his burnt arm now split in twain.
“Thanks for burning my arm; I would not have done it. Probably be dead if you had not.”
“Yea, well, I wish I hadn’t because as soon as I did, the chamberlain got pissed. So not only did I have to drag your unconscious body out, but I had to keep that stupid arm from rolling in mud and killing you. Your more trouble than your worth, Alex.”
Alex lowered his head in shame, pulling his split arm into his lap and covering it with what little clothes he had.
“Maybe your right. Don’t worry about the morning, Atticus; just leave me here. I am sure I can figure something out.”
“Fuck you; I saved your life; you owe me. Your mine now, and you are going to work to get that title of freedom back.”
“Oh… I thought we were friends.”
Atticus tilted his head towards Alex, “Friends? No, you were just having a conversation. A conversation that made me have a moment of weakness that cost my life.”
Atticus lay down next to the fire closing his eyes.
“You take the first watch; at least you can still use your eyes.”
Hours went by as Alex kept the fire at a low heat, but as soon as he sat, he felt his eyes droop. Right before they slammed shut, his eyes widened; he watched as the bugs started to burn a vile green as they collided with the flames.
“Ill’akese…” Alex whispered under his breath; looking at Atticus, he recalled the last words spoken to him. It only took a single moment before Alex grasped the largest stick that was sticking out of the fire before heading off over the nearby hilly plains. From the top of the first hill, he could see Ill’akese approaching the fire from the opposite direction; without looking down at Atticus, he turned and left.
Atticus awoke due to buzzing in his ears; before opening his eyes, he spoke.
“Damn, Alex, can’t you sort out these damn bloodsuckers?”
Atticus was greeted by a cold silence; his eyes opened slowly, and he noticed a dead fire and a gone Alex. Slapping at his arm, he killed the small insects that now feasted on his blood.
“Should have seen that coming; coward probably left as soon as he was sure I was sleeping.”
Another fly landed on the back of one of his hands, smirking he slapped with the other. He turned over his hand to see his triumph; he watched as his blood mixed with the green and black goo of the insect mixed together.
“Oh shit, no. That means…”
Atticus turned to see a hooded figure slowly wandering towards him, stabilizing himself with a stick in hand.
“Ill’akese you can leave me be. I was deserted by a coward; claim him instead.”
Ill’akese turned till he was facing Attics directly before letting his deathly throat speak from behind his plague mask. Each word was drawn out and spoken with heavy breath.
“You don’t deserve a quick death.”
Ill’akese waved his hand, releasing a swarm of insects from beneath his robe; Atticus stared the swarm down, stepping forward, he accepted his fate. Atticus tried his best to take it, but before long, he was writhing on the ground, screaming as the insects chewed his flesh and contaminated his blood. Before long, they dove down his throat, scaring his throat as they dived his stomach. Ill’akese sat watching till he felt enough damage had been done; raising his arm again, the insects returned to his robes.
“You’re more trouble than you’re worth.”
Atticus shook the blood from his body as the thousands of cuts took their toll on his convulsing body. Ill’akese slowly walked over; he watched as the blood turned septic before he called his helpers over. Kids in plague masks robed much like Ill’akese ran over. Giggling, they siphoned his blood with large needles that ran to small glass tanks on their backs. Gurgling, Atticus spoke as he was being drained.
“I was with another. Will you find him, make him suffer?”
“I never left.”
Atticus managed to turn his head upwards to see Alex sitting on the top of the nearest hill.
“You said that I was only a conversation to you. Well, if you had listened to those conversations, you would have remembered that Ill’akese is the god I worship.”
Alex started walking down the hill.
“I had planned on leaving you to your fate, but I figured that I was not going to survive long with this arm. Ill’akese, I am ready to become a champion for you. I have nothing else; I am all yours.”
Ill’akese’s head turned from Atticus to Alex as he slowly wandered over a thin, bent needle extended from his index finger. He stood in front of Alex, his finger aimed at his chest.
“This will hurt. If you recoil, you die the same.”
Alex braced himself as the needle was pushed against his chest; it was pressed in slowly as Ill’akese’s hand struggled to move forward. The children finished Atticus with hast so that they could watch. They danced around the now-screaming Alex.
“It hurts; it hurts bad.” One of the children yelled as he kicked at Alex’s legs.
“Walk screaming, man, walk forward. Push it in yourself.”
Alex let out one final scream as he lurched forward, consuming the whole needle into his chest. He felt as if the fluid was released, burning his heart, and his breath deepened while the needle was withdrawn.
Alex fell to the ground clutching at his chest as his heart beat faster and faster.
“What is happening to me?” He yelled as his split arm started to throb with increasing pain.
“He made you better.”
“You will power.”
“You will be cured of being broken.”
The children continued to dance around Alex, their fluid cylinders sloshing with the blood of Atticus. Alex’s vision started to blur, and his blinking became long and drawn out. With each blink, he noticed his split arm would change. Where once they were two halves of an arm, now a pustular hollow cylinder. Scabbed skin now covered where the arm had been split, leaving the front still open; he watched as his pustules would deflate and insects would fly out of the mouth of his arm. Lurching forward, he vomited a caustic bile that dissolved part of Atticus’s remains; finally, his vision started to return, and he could see what he had become. He thought the effects were just happening to his split arm, but as he inspected the rest of his body, he realized he was consumed by his new blessing.
“We have a new one.”
“An interesting one.”
Alex rose, his form larger than before, now standing at seven feet and as wide as a bear he
let off a sickened roar.
He took the time to take in what had happened to him. He looked at his malformed body, how his bones protruded from the fingertips of his left hand, his right arm now a colossal tube littered with nodes of living insects, ready to infect at his command. Bringing his hand to his face, he felt the lack of features he obtained. His ears and nose were all gone. He had grown extra teeth that lazily sliced through his cheeks and lips; the more he moved his mouth, the more it shredded the nearby skin until his cheeks were no more.
“Feast, death, increases, your abilities.”
Alex grinned and lurched forward onto Atticus, tearing him apart as he consumed his drained corpse.
“I get to name this one, Ill’akese. It is my turn.”
Ill’akese gave an agreeing nod to the excited child, who ran over to Alex to examine him better as he ate.
“I got it, The plague artery.”
The other children rejoiced in agreement, repeating his new title.
“Come, you, should, meet the others.”
The plague Artery finished with Atticus standing in front of Ill’akese; looking down at him, he spoke with a deathly voice.
“Where are we going?”
Ill’akese lifted the base of his mask, breathing a toxic gas that pooled on the ground, killing all the plant life beneath it. The gas swirled into a large pool that covered the feet of everyone around Ill’akese. Moments later, everyone started to sink slowly into the planet. The plague artery started to panic as he tried to claw his way out.
“Scare not Plague, we going to the god realm.”
“Yea, us angels get to go there all the time, but Ill’akese also hides his champions there too.”
The plague artery calmed down as he sunk into the green gas; he grinned as he sunk deeper. Het let off one last triumphant roar; raising his right arm, he sucked all his pustules dry and expelled a small cloud of infectious insects into the air. Eventually, he fell completely from sight, and the gas disappeared.