|panda-like calm through fiction|
1576. The plague. It was a good time to be alive- and a better time to be a predator amongst men. The dead were everywhere, and the dying were plentiful, too.
I died every night, then, like all of my kind- at sunrise. And every sunset, I was reborn. It seems to be triggered by light, or heat, though a rudimentary biological timepiece may play some role, as well, as I’ve “awoken” in the deepest part of caves far removed from either. Regardless, as the sun disappears, my mouth snaps shut, catching my elongated teeth on my lips. The thin, trickle of blood awakens my body, a primer to the engine of my flesh.
It was always safer to rest in my home after a night’s excess, but the nature of excess is such that safety was rarely my priority. It was after one of these nights, discovered in the arms of a woman believed stolen by the plague, that I was buried.
The burial customs at the time required a burial shroud over the head. My kind carry greater degrees of bacteria than a “normal” human, by virtue of a compromised immune system. This usually isn’t a problem, but if you overeat, and vomit blood in your “sleep,” bacteria from the mouth spread to the shroud, and will eat a hole through it. Which is of course how I was caught out.
I can’t imagine how the humans discovered it; it had taken years for me to understand the nature of our rebirth firsthand, but their solution was simple in its elegance: a brick in the mouth. If the jaw could not close, cutting the lip and restarting the body, I could not be reborn. My body, even at its slowed pace, devoured itself, until there was nothing but bone. Over time, the brick ground my lovely fangs down, to the point where they were unrecognizable from human teeth.
By my estimation, at some point in the 1700s my jaw stopped moving; this last vestige of life had been moot for at least a hundred years, since that was the last my lips had held blood.
It’s been twenty-seven days since my bones were unearthed. The brick was knocked accidentally from my mouth during the excavation, and I remember a vague awareness of this. To my fortune, one of the worker’s fingers had been cut, and the tiniest smattering of blood touched my bones.
The transformation wasn’t immediate, but I was awake. The blood proved only enough to grow the stub of a tongue. But it was enough to lick the soil and minerals from my mouth- enough to start. For the rest of the week I ate dirt beneath an excavation tent, and gnawed my fingers for what little nutrition remained in my bones.
Muscles began to grow sparsely, enough meat sticking to bone to crawl in bursts. I drug myself to a pile of unsorted bones, and chewed them for sustenance. And tonight, I finally felt… real again. My mind was motive, if not agile. And with great pains, and difficulty, I was able to rise.
One of the doctors overseeing the excavation was a night owl, did most of his work when the site was dark. Tonight proved no exception. He stepped inside the tent, a torch in his hand. He lit a lamp and extinguished the torch, but paid me no mind, standing hunched at the corner of the tent.
I jabbed my right forearm, gnawed down to a pointed fork, into his neck. He fell to the ground, staring, convulsing as his life pulsed out of his throat. I still had no lips, little skin, so I knelt over him, lapping at his blood as it pooled, like a dog.
Already my mind is clearer. Bits nag at my mind- how unheroic my rebirth has been- but I brush this aside as irrelevant. More pressing is my escape. The sun will rise soon enough, and I have to disappear from here. But as I leave the tent, a single thought courses through me, accompaniment for the dull thump of blood through dry veins: I’m back.