In Part 3 of Cam’s series a mother must pay the ultimate sacrifice for her cub.
We found Victor two days after Toby released him from his cage. By then my eight year-old boy had ravaged enough bodies to send an entire town into meltdown. People fled. Emergency services couldn’t handle the panic. Men with badges and guns upturned every stone looking for “the beast.” They sent dogs and troops up the mountain, sniffing for revenge. I had no choice but to flee, to follow my brother to a place where, according to him, lives are reborn.
I didn’t believe him at first. This is the man who went against me and trained my son to give in to his blood thirst and hunger for human meat instead of learning to control the urges. To hear him confess to having performed “miracles” by giving humans his own blood made me laugh. The irony was too much. But when we arrived at a cabbage farm that belongs to one of his followers, I realised my brother wasn’t kidding, that he hunted us down for a reason, and that all along, he’s got a plan.
Toby’s followers are – were – either dying from something or hiding from someone. They were the damned, rejects, outcasts. Not anymore. Flowing in their blood now are Toby’s cells, the ones that are responsible for healing wounds, for making them almost invincible. Almost, because there is no stitching a head back on.
Once fed of his blood, these humans gain strength, shed their sickness, and inherited the ability to turn into beasts whenever they want. What comes with that package is the savage hunger for human flesh. The only catch with this “miracle” is that it’s not permanent: while the need for his blood maintains his followers’ loyalty, Toby has to keep feeding them, constantly making himself bleed.
This is why my brother went looking for me. And not only did he find me, he also found Victor, a child who is by now absolutely besotted with him. Two for one, what a bit of luck! With our blood, he’ll build his army of changelings. Together they will rampage cities, feed on humans but also put some aside for future stock, which means women will be forced to carry babies who will turn into future carriers, meals, rapists, murderers. I don’t know if his plan will work, but when it comes to survival, men will rape, men will kill. At least that’s what the last twenty years have taught him.
There is nothing ironic about my brother saving human outcasts. A mad man is still capable of doing a sane deed, as long as it serves his insane purpose. And Toby’s purpose is to watch humans destroy one another and to turn this planet into a kingdom of his own. It compensates for everything he could not control. It makes up for all that he lost.
I learned all this one week after our arrival. Today, I am leaving.
Toby knows he can’t stop me. So he gets someone else to do it for him.
Victor has been crying all morning and begging that we stay. I’ve tried to be patient but there’s only so much nagging one can take. By the time our bags are ready, I am a ball of stress. So I grab him by the arm and drag him out the door, trying to block out his piercing shrill. Toby runs after and snatches him back. They hug. Toby kisses Victor’s forehead, and whispers into his ear.
My son slowly turns around to face me, horror screaming in his big, baby-blue eyes.
He asks me why I stood by and let him eat his father.
I had no choice, I had no choice, I say.
He shouts that I’m a meanie, a liar, a monster.
I shout back at him and order him to come to me at once.
He stomps his feet and clenches his fists on the sides of his head, and screams and screams. He starts calling me names. So I strides towards him, and for the first time in my life, I raise my hand and strike my little boy across his head.
As the bubble of anger pops and tears of regret instantly rise in my eyes, I crouch down and pull him into my arms. I apologise, I kiss, I rub his head.
But it’s too late.
My boy has turned.
His claws shoot out and sink into my ribs as his teeth aim for my face. I duck just in time and throw him off my body, holding my sides and howling in pain. He lunges forward and pushes me back down, roaring and swiping at me. In my true form, I can easily break his neck. But for this human body I’m in, he’s strong, too strong. Grabbing his two front legs and holding him inches away from my face, I shout his name, blood flying out of my mouth. My ribs are broken and my left cheek is torn, and the pain is so great that not even knowing all these will heal by tomorrow helps. I call my boy’s name, tell him I know he loves me, that I will never turn into the beast that I am to fight him, that I would die for him. So please, come back, son, come back!
A few feet away, Toby stands and watches.
By the time Victor turns back, I cannot move and everything before me is red.
I hear my brother asking my son to go back inside. I hear footsteps on grass, lots and lots of them.
I feel teeth and lips and mouths latching onto every bleeding part of my body.
And then, the sucking begins.