Darkest Yearning

“Non, non, mon petit choux. Liberté, égalité,…”

“Fraternité?”

“Oui! Tres bien, Andre. I know you are young, but it is important that you keep your heritage.” His father had ruffled his hair affectionately.

“Do you know why this day is special, my son?”

July 14th. “It’s Bastille Day.”

“When the people rose up against their oppressors and stormed the Bastille, the last refuge of the monarchists and France was free.” He had then handed Andre the little French flag.

Andre had waved it in unison with the other French children of the neighbourhood, a small fraction of the immense population of the city. The other residents just looked upon them strangely and the little boy understood what his father had meant about keeping their heritage. In the faceless masses of America, their people had to hold onto their roots.

Earlier, his father had denied that America was “the land of the free,” in opposition to Andre’s teachers.

“Freedom? What of the poor and the rich that oppress them? The poor must work hard or go hungry and the rich grow fat on their labours. The rich are the new monarchists but the poor of America are not ready for revolution.”

Such passion his father had, for him, there was no such thing as doing anything by half measures. His intensity and socialist stance had alienated many of his peers at his work, his fellow poor workers that feared the long and brutal arm of the rich. Too scared of losing their jobs of meager wages; far better to have almost nothing than nothing.

Freedom in America was available, at the right price, which Andre’s family couldn’t afford. The little boy grew up as one of the have-nots but he had lots of company; other children of all other ethnicities and cultures.

Of course now, he would have given up everything to go back to that. To listen to his father’s socialist ranting, knowing that half his ire was to chase away the despair, the grief of losing Andre’s mother. It had kept him going, the rage, the hate against his adopted nation. Andre used the same technique against his captor, the ultimate oppressor far worse than anything his father could imagine.

His childhood just a memory now, an echo of another world reverberating within his mind. His captor, as was his kind’s wont, had abducted him as a child. When his father had warned him of the monsters on the streets of New York, he hadn’t thought the monsters were real …

No more time to drown in remembrance – he was coming home. Probably with food, which made Andre slaver uncontrollably. It disgusted him how his body betrayed his morality, but food was food, meat was meat. Andre hoped that the ogre would kill it first. It was an it. Not a he or a she, but an it. Only an it.

He’d already got into the mindset. When he was much younger, he’d known what the scraps of flesh were; his monstrous master had killed her and dismembered her in front of him as yet another level of abuse on his frightened mind.

Andre had let her rot, while his stomach had protested, wracking his little body with agony and exhaustion. He had thought that he could keep it up until he died from starvation but the survival instinct overrode those petty human ‘morals’ he’d been raised with.

Now, very humanly, he either avoided thinking about what he was forced to eat or rationalized his way out of it. “It’s already dead.” “The ogre will kill it now and I can’t save it anyway.” “It’s just the way things are.”

Thankfully, it was already dead. Andre ran his emotionally detached eyes over its limp form. Well-dressed, Western fashions. It might have come from Manhattan or the Village. Fashionable but still conservative. The sort of animal that his father would have hated on sight. Some rich parasite of a capitalist was the ogre’s banquet tonight.

The ogre visited Andre’s prior world regularly through the faerie mists that shrouded his home. The mists lead to other places beyond Andre’s ken; occasionally his brutal master brought back strange, inhuman fare from his travels. The ogre was a creature of the faerie, one of the Lords and Ladies, the Gentry: the mists accepted him as their master.

One time Andre had attempted to escape and the mists had caught him, their seemingly diaphanous tendrils holding him helpless in a grip of steel. His master had found him there and had laughed his guttural guffaw at Andre’s foolishness. Then he’d beaten him bloody and broken. The beating would happen again tonight as well – the ogre hadn’t had his fun with his toy today.

For the moment, the ogre was too busy with his gruesome repast. He had torn off one of the prey’s arms and was peeling the cloth off the limb like skin from a chicken drumstick. Previously, watching the ogre devour would have horrified and disgusted Andre but now his interest was purely pragmatic: what flesh would remain for me?

How arrogant were we, as a species, to think we were the highest creature on the food chain? Humans are the ogre’s prey and we are powerless to stop them feasting on us, the meek and docile prey. Even now, as he had grown, he knew his humanity was a weakness compared to the strength and savagery of the ogre. His master was the perfect predator, physically superior form with a soupcon of low intelligence, a measure of brutal cunning.

Licking his gore-stained lips, the ogre croaked at Andre. “Blood. Clean,” pointing with one thick forefinger to the crimson trail on the stone floor of the cave.

Andre sighed and picked up a dirty rag. It was a pointless chore because tomorrow the floor would be blood-spattered again but he knew the price of disobedience. He got on his knees and started scrubbing as best he could.

Suddenly but hardly unexpectedly, a crushing impact in his side, the force of the kick sending him sprawling, the prey’s blood soaking into the mismatched rags Andre wore for clothes. His master hooting like a gleeful child, ogre humour being human sadism. To apply such a standard to an ogre was a futile comparison – the ogre was not human, the faeries had morals bizarrely different to humanity – if the concept existed at all. If anything, perhaps their morality was too human, but Andre was witnessing it from the other side. What does the ant feel as the shoe presses down? The fly with its wings torn off? The test rabbit slathered in cosmetics? Did we ever even consider that they felt at all?

That’s all Andre was to the ogre, not an equal; a pet, a toy to be played with. If he broke, he would be replaced with a new one.

The ogre was enjoying this game, hitting him each time he tied to rise. If Andre wouldn’t rise fast enough, the ogre would hit him anyway until he rose, then knock him down again. This was one of the ogre’s regular games; he’d keep playing until he got bored and went to sleep off his meal.

Then Andre could scavenge what he could from his master’s leavings and curl up o the stone floor, trying to ignore his injuries. Same deal tonight, a bit longer today but the ogre had had an attack of twisted generosity to make up for the extra abuse – he’d left Andre an entire arm.

He ripped off the flesh rapidly, gulping huge mouthfuls of bloody meat down without even chewing. Andre’s mouth was overgrown with sharp and terrible teeth, perfect for tearing flesh off bones and cracking those bones to get at the sweet marrow beneath.

The faerie lands had changed him, evolved him, he ate the ogre’s leavings, suffered the ogre’s brutal abuse and he had adapted to his new existence. He hadn’t felt half the blows that he’d received, which was good, because they had become more savage and vicious as he grew up. Andre was losing his humanity, ever so slowly, he knew it. Even now, his prior life on Earth seemed like a pleasant daydream, an unearthly world of peace and happiness.

Even in the shoddy projects hovel he’d shared with his father was a palace, the poverty a paradise, the meager and badly-cooked food a distant ambrosia he could no longer taste.

More and more those memories slunk out of reach and sometimes Andre thought he was some creature of faerie deluding itself of a mortal life. He had to remember his father, that final Bastille Day, the tri-colour. Liberté, égalité, fraternité. His father always had said how important it was for Andre to remember his heritage, his culture. Truer words never spoken; now it helped him hold onto his ever-diminishing humanity.

Eventually he slept, with the knowledge that tomorrow would be very similar to today.

Another night, only a brief respite from that darkest yearning.


His master had gone hunting early today, so Andre spent time recuperating from his injuries. He wanted to be healthy for tonight’s after-dinner abuse.

The rest of Andre’s day was spent in apprehension and trepidation. What new torment would await him tonight? Who was on the menu? The two impulses of pleasure and pain were hopelessly intertwined. As he cringed from the blows, he slavered in anticipation of fresh meat.

What passed for ‘night’ came to the land of the faerie and the master of the cave came home with food. It was old and stringy, thin, almost emaciated. A poor feast for ogre and Andre – couldn’t the monster have gotten better prey than this pathetic mouthful? Chances are, Andre would not eat tonight.

It was still alive, mewling pitifully “Merci!” – French for please, maybe English for “mercy.” The ogre would not be moved by pleas or pity, the old thing was only meat. Andre watched the creature dispassionately – why could it not accept that it was the ogre’s feast and quit these bleatings? It was a foregone conclusion. There was nothing the meat could do to change the situation. Nothing Andre could do either. Foregone conclusion.

The ogre just held up the blubbering old meat and grinned at Andre, there was a malevolent gleam in the monster’s dark eyes. Almost throwing the wretch at Andre, the ogre announced, “Kill. Eat.”

Crossing his heavily muscled arms with difficulty, the ogre waited for Andre to act, that horrible grin painted over his brutish features.

Yet another abuse game, a new one, “Kill for your supper.” Andre had eaten nothing but human flesh and bone for years but the ogre had always been the butcher, slaughtering the meat. Now it was Andre’s turn.

The ogre, agitated by Andre’s hesitation, bellowed, “No kill, no EAT!” His master had made this into a game of survival, kill or be killed by the inexorable doom of starvation.

Andre knew though, with the cold-blooded murder of this pathetic old man he would lose his only remaining tie to his humanity. He would no longer be Andre but a monster of the faerie mists, just like his master. But without food, he could not exist on morality, on principles. The hunger for meat was nigh overpowering. Even today was just a waiting to be fed, like a tiger in the zoo.

It was feeding time.

“Oui. Kill. Eat.” Andre said hoarsely, as he stepped closer to the meat, which was cringing and befouling itself in terror. The ogre smiled widely now, eager to witness the slaughter of the prey. The monster’s long, grey, slug-like tongue lolled out in readiness for the arterial spray.

Andre turned and in one smooth movement, landed a brutal uppercut on the ogre, forcing those terrible jaws to snap shut on that obscene tongue. Black blood rained down on both Andre and the old man as the ogre screamed in pain and fury.

The monster lumbered towards Andre, fists clenched and ready to fight, ignoring the human huddled in the corner. The ogre opened with a violent swing that Andre only narrowly avoided. The momentum of the swing carried the blow into one of the cave walls. The roof shook and the ogre yowled with the impact.

Of course – the ogre’s strength could be used against it. The injured fist was leaking blood but It was still only a minor injury, like the severed tongue. The next blow the ogre threw himself into, Andre dodged again and counterattacked – not enough to damage the monster but enough to knock it off balance, sending it caroming off the wall. Its own immense bulk worked against it in this contest – Andre had made the ogre’s game change from one of pure force to one of tactics and strategy, a game that now favoured Andre.

After a few rounds of this deadly dance, the ogre fell to the stone floor but as it struggled to rise, Andre jumped on the prone monster, pinning it with his own body weight. Before it could throw him off, Andre landed a brutal tattoo of forceful blows on the ogre’s skull, rewarding Andre with pooling black blood and varied sickening cracks from the monster’s broken skull.

The feral savagery in the ogre’s eyes was starting to dim – Andre had finally bested his captor. The creature croaked out its final words as Andre sank his teeth into its neck, the words an echo of its former declaration: “… kill … eat.”

The still human part of Andre understood now, as the darkest yearning seized him, causing his starving self to feast on the body of the dying ogre. Andre has never been the ogre’s prey, never the ogre’s pet. The monster had been training a successor, someone to hand on its brutal legacy. The killing of an innocent human would have been the final test. A test which Andre had failed and the still-human part of him reveled in it as it was disgusted by Andre’s ravenous gorging

Eventually, there was nothing left and Andre felt sated, the first time in years, since he had passed the faerie mists.

The old man was still cringing; chances are he thought Andre no better than the ogre. Turning away from him, Andre said “You can go home now; the mists will not stop you anymore.” He repeated it in French just to make sure. There was the brief sound of scrabbling and the human was gone.

This place would fade soon, he instinctively knew, swallowed up by the formless chaos of the mists. Since no one had picked up the ogre’s legacy, its power would be lost over the mists. Andre wondered how long this little realm had existed, how many ogres there had been, each choosing a successor to replace them. His captor had been a human buy just like him, before he had accepted the ogre’s legacy – while Andre had refused to kill an innocent human, the ogre had been far from innocent with the seas of blood staining those hands.

But, as the saying went, the buck stopped here with Andre. No more innocent blood would be spilled.

Andre set off through the mists. It was time to go home, at long last.


“You’ve seen them. The Shining Ones.”

The mists had taken him back to Earth and even America, but this place was not New York, it was too hot, too humid. The hobo speaking to him had none of the manner or accent of the Big Apple, his speech was littered with little French turns of phrase and occasional words. It made Andre feel comfortable after his long absence.

“Oui. The Lords and Ladies.” This poor fellow had witnessed the faeries in some incarnation and had his wits addled as a result of their terrible majesty. Andre wanted to help the hobo some way but wasn’t sure how, the poor fellow was agonized and emaciated to the extreme and all Andre had was the rags on his back.

Before Andre could even do anything in any case, the hobo’s attention was diverted to a passerby. “Spare change, sir? I haven’t eaten in days. Please, have pity, have mercy. I’m sick.”

“Get a freaking job, you waste of space. It’s parasites like you that are a drain on our economy, I’m not going to encourage your panhandling, you filthy beggar. Get out of my sight!” The well-dressed and portly businessman raised a hand to strike the hobo but didn’t follow through, just laughing as the man flinched.

“I can’t work, they’ll find me if I work. They’ll get me, sir.” But the businessman didn’t listen to the hobo’s desperate denials and walked on. The fellow gave Andre a weak, sad smile.

Andre could barely stand it any more. “I’ll be back, mon ami.”

“I’ll be here.”

No one saw the businessman being pulled into the alley; no one heard the screams, the ripping and crunching, over the heavy traffic.

A little while later, Andre returned to the hobo who indeed had remained exactly where he was. Andre put a fat wad of bills into his hand.

“Mon ami? Mon ami indeed, this is too much! But do you not need this for yourself? You are like me,” the hobo pointed out, gesturing to Andre’s dirty rags.

Little tears glistening in his eyes, the hobo declared, “My new friend, we shall share it, with this amount, we can eat for WEEKS together. Come, come, my friend, we shall share your gift – neither of us will be hungry.”

Andre smiled; unseen through his fae glamour, his fangs gleamed, would have terrified the poor hobo. “You keep it all for yourself, mon ami – but I would be pleased to keep you company as you eat.”

Bobbing his head excitedly, the hobo agreed. “Of course, of course, that sounds wonderful.” It wasn’t just the food that delighted him, it was the acceptance.

Putting an arm on the hobo’s shoulder, Andre remarked, “Besides, I already ate.”

Darkest Yearning

Cailean

Adelaide, Australia

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