Beloved, Notte by Ruthanne Reid

Beloved, Notte, CHAPTER ONE

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MY FRIEND, I ASK that you pardon my strange manner of storytelling. It is not my intent to speak with lascivious detail, or to repulse you with strange gore. You know me, or have known of me, all your sweet, silver life, and yet the tale I tell you now is not one you have heard.

It is not a beautiful tale, but ragged, wet and sticky as the edges of a new wound. It is violence. It is truth.

You have asked me how I came to be. This is the manner of my birth: in joy, tears, and blood.


MY MEMORIES ARE NOT what they should be. I am aware that I was a young man once, human, a simple scholar, reading the stars and raising a family barely younger than I. That is, after all, how it was done in those days: once one could create children, one did.

All that remain are single images, frozen snapshots, viewed in amber as if from great distance or great age, and even these memories returned to me at great price. I do know this much: I was born, and later, I was made.

The ones who made me took me from my young family. They took me from my studies, from the protected city which I knew, and they changed me. They gave me to the stars I loved in a way no one had been given before.

I have wondered, at times, what difference it makes to be born through pain. My amber dreams of the changes done to me are accompanied by pain, such pain — but of course, I did not at first remember them, and so my question is likely moot.

My first real memory — my own, in color, with all senses engaged — was waking in the woods and finding that I lay under stars I loved but could not name. Waking and finding that the night was not dark, though I somehow felt it should be. Waking and finding that I desperately wanted something I could not name.

I could name nothing. Words had been taken from me, and all that remained was id.

The hunger, though – the hunger was so beautiful, delicious, intoxicating, blinding and at the same time rendering the world in vivid strains. I woke, and I hungered. The Beast became me, became all that I was, and I ran through the woods in perfect synthesis with desire.

The trees, the shadows, the darkness — all welcomed me, pulsing with sound and life and promised flavor. The earth had a heartbeat, and all life sang – from the tiniest mouse to the largest mammoth belonged to me, tempting me with their heat and essence, and I wanted them all.

I wanted life, all life, and tonight, it would be mine.

I was not clumsy, but I had no sense of caution. After a time of stomping around the wooded hills in wordless frustration, undoubtedly frightening off the very creatures I pursued, I finally found something that did not run fast enough to escape me: a wounded deer.

I do not know what began the damage, but I finished it, and ah, my friend, my friend, the blood! Glory! Bliss! Sweet, tangy, powerful, every drop lush with a thing I could not name but desperately required, and yet as I drank, for the briefest of moments, I knew this to be strange.

Blood did not taste like this, did it? Somehow, I had assumed something else, tangy and metallic, but no. No. This!

The Beast tasted blood, and it became his one true love, his beloved, to be caressed and treasured and savored until ever became evermore and forever joined with always! The blood was all! This life was all!

Then came the cold, strange shock of dead blood, and I bitterly learned the horror of rejection.

I cannot say what changes between one breath and another, between the blood that flows from a living heart and the blood a moment after that heart has stilled. It is not a thing measurable by any known magic, and yet when the blood’s creator dies, so does that blood.

Blood from the dead is cold, harsh, vile, and poison to my kind. It turned to foulness in my mouth, grave-dirt and rot, but I was naïve and wanting, and so I swallowed – only to turn from the corpse to vomit some of what I had taken.

The memory of bliss hurt. I wept.

Why had it left me?

I was aware there was more blood in the woods. I could hear and feel it, swaying together in a canto of love and desire. The deer was quite destroyed, but it was true that there were others, and besides — did not all experience loss of love at some time in their lives?

Strange that I knew this, and yet knew no name for myself. Stranger still that I understood without words, without the comforting scaffold of syllables, yet I did not question. These wordless thoughts were echoes, fading stimuli from neurons cursed to die, and they did not linger.

What mattered now was blood.

I kicked the deer with infantile petulance, then continued on through the woods.

I knew now to stop my feast before the creature died, but that did not mean any of those I took had a hell’s chance of living.

I left a war’s worth of dead in my wake, of suffering and pain and unmitigated terror. Each mewling body I dropped only left me hungrier for the next one, and it seemed I could find no end.

When the sun rose at last, I found it hot and sleepy. Instinct sang now, above the call for blood, and hearing it, I dug through the soft, rich loam of my new birthplace, pulled it in after me to bury myself, and hid beneath the ground.

I dreamed that day. They were strange dreams, writhing with gleaming eyes and ravening knives, strange sounds burning my skin and my veins trailing red fire. These were monsters, and I feared them.

But I was the Beast. I could not fear. What existed that could hurt me?

This dream displeased me, and I rejected it, spat it away like lukewarm water. I would not think of it again for several thousand years.

I woke and found dirt clinging all along my body.

I have told you in the past that one’s soul persists, regardless of physical transformations – that no matter what is done to the body and the brain, the core yet remains.

When I woke on that third day, my mind and soul robbed of any self that came before my newly bloodied life, I knew with sudden and shocking intensity that I hated being dirty.

But oh, I was! Covered in bodily fluids, in torn and clotted fur, I reeked of mud and the excrement that my victims had exuded.

My horror rose, like rotten food, apart from the Beast and the programming I had been given. I was not clean, and I did not like it, and worse yet, I did not know how to undo it.

The Beast was absolutely no help.

I loathed my skin snarled at its itching existence, clawed at it in desperation, and discovered only pain and mess by doing so.

Hungry! said the Beast, though never in words.

Dirty! I cried in nonsyllabic angst.

Caught between two needs, I ran blindly from my resting place, clawing at my face, uncaring where I went because I could not outrun my skin, and then –

Then, I ran into a tree, and impaled myself on a broken branch.

When wood enters our skin, it begins a systematic shutdown. When wood is in our body, cannot easily go to dust. When wood is in our blood, we cannot heal. Pain took me, scraped my mind and crushed my vision, burned away equilibrium and any poor reason I might have had.

It was the buzzing fire of electricity, the heat of white-hot metal, the airless struggle of drowning. It was the ache of hopeless cold, the crush of heavy rock, the terror of total darkness.

Wood. We may touch it, even carve it, but if it enters our bodies, it wreaks havoc. It is the reason, I believe, that the longer my kind lives, the more difficult it is to penetrate our skin.

Had it penetrated me more deeply, I might have died there, wordless and stupid in the woods, a vicious and pitiful infant. Yet undeserved fortune was with me that night, and I did not yet die.

I suppose I fell. I suppose I thrashed on the ground, frothed, perhaps even went to dust by some miracle, thus removing the invading splinters from my body. I suppose I might also have lain there twitching and choking days for all I know, sweating it out like so much rotten booze.

I have no idea how much time passed.

I know I woke hungry.

I did not have the capacity to wonder at what had happened. It was as if fog obscured the experience, leaving me with nothing but a vague new understanding that running into trees failed to produce a beneficial result.

What I did know was hunger. More hunger than could be imagined. More hunger than could be sated by the world.

I had healed, you know, and that takes energy.

I ran away from the offending tree, still dirty, still wounded, too hungry to care that the soles of my feet were fortunately thick enough to avoid further incidents. I ran, and I killed, as if that could free me of this vague shadowed bad dream.

I drank until I felt near to bursting and risked sorrow by drinking until every victim teetered on death, and still I needed more and more and more.

I soothed my childish fears with food, and left a greater trail of destruction behind me than before, and once I had what I wanted, I paid no mind to the many lives I destroyed.

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