That is all I can sense, along with the crushing depths of the bog surrounding me. My flesh is numbed by the cold, my limbs locked in place with atrophied muscles. I can’t see beyond the murky depths filling my eye sockets, but I can hear… and I can sense a flicker of something I haven’t felt in a long while.
Life. Like a candle in the dead of winter’s night, a flickering light dances some ten feet above me. I can hear noises, talking. Another flicker of light walks close enough for me to sense it.
Two motes of light stand just out of reach, their palpable warmth the cure for my dire situation.
I slink back down into the mud, my head bobbing back and forth loosely on my neck, held on by the leathery skin rather than the bone proper. I can barely move, and I doubt they’d just let me crawl out of the bog and claim them as my own. I know my people would have viewed me as a monster and likely speared me into the air before dousing me in lantern oil and setting me ablaze.
What would these two do?
I can feel my fingers on my left arm crack and pop as they wriggle about, my hand reaching up into the muddy riverbank on its own accord. I try and fight it, but the other arm soon joins it, grabbing onto a root and pulling me bodily up the slope.
No! I scream at my body mentally, doing my best to wrestle control over my frame and failing. I don’t deserve their warmth! They have full lives ahead of them!
But you hunger…
Yes, I acquiesced to the darker voice in my head, grimacing as my hands sought purchase in the chilly mud. I know I hunger, but I’m down here because I was a curse upon my people! I don’t wish to bring this curse upon anyone else!
But you have a right to feed, to thrive even in death. The darkest blossoms are often the most beautiful after all.
Shut up! I growled at the voice, bubbles slipping passed my leathery lips. I can sense the two warm lights moving towards the edge of the water, most likely noticing the movement within the bog. Run! Run away!
They won’t. They’re here for you to feed upon my dear druid.
My hands pull me up until I’m mere inches below the surface of the brackish water, causing twin screams to echo from the two people standing at the edge. Good! I think victoriously, maybe they’ll run now!
My hopes are dashed when I feel hands plunge into the water and grope at my chest, trying to pull me up out of the water. I can feel my head push forward through the grimy water, my teeth bared as I sink them into the forearm of whoever is trying to save the poor drowning man. The warmth slides down my throat as I tear away strips, not even bothering to chew as I try and drown out the screams of a young man coming from above me, instead guiltily savoring the warmth spreading through my stomach and into my limbs.
I grab the front of his shirt, one desiccated limb breaching the water like a diseased whale, and pull him into the bog with me. He splashes about in the water, calling out in his strange language for what I must assume to be help. My body moves to silence him, my teeth sinking into his neck like a viper going for the fattened calf. His muscles tear away messily, leaving strands of meat to float around us as we begin to wallow in his blood, the precious warmth that had flickered like candle mere moments ago, now blown out by a harsh wind.
The other person jogs away, leaving me to my feast. I need to eat as much of him as I can, barring he rise like I did when I was slain. I may not have control over my body when it counts, but now that the killer instinct is gone, I need to clean up the mess I caused. I spend countless minutes tearing away at his flesh, consuming him even when he goes cold from the bog’s foul water.
He begins to stir, causing me to stop eating as his meat is no longer edible. I’ve eaten away most of his legs and arms, along with a good deal of his torso. He’s in even worse condition then I am, and I’ve been down here for seasons… countless seasons.
Now, don’t you feel better? The foul voice in the back of my head asks me.
I ignore it, instead choosing to crawl back to the bottom of the bog and re-bury myself within the silt and mud. My new comrade has other thoughts, crawling out of the water. I can feel his darkness rise as he takes in the world as a cursed being. Whereas he’d been a candle, now he was a twinkling star, dim and far while awash in a never-ending sea of darkness. He flits slowly onward, stumbling over the mire that surrounds the bog.
What have I done? I think to myself, bringing my hands to cover my eye sockets as I weep what tears the dead can shed whilst underwater. I killed that person! I spread the curse!
And now, he’ll spread it even further! The voice cackled in my head. Look!
Swiveling my head to gaze up towards my spawn and his movements, I sense three bright motes of life, human life, heading straight for him. All he needs to do is deliver one bite, one scratch, and he’ll pass on the curse just as I have done. I feel his roiling darkness grow ravenous at what must be the sight of these three people, and sense as he rushes forward, tackling into one of them. I see a sliver of darkness inject itself into the candle light of the middle human as he or she tries desperately to fight off my wayward minion.
I turn away, refusing to watch as the plague starts up once more. The curse from the Gods was terrible enough back when I experienced it, and has been even worse now that I suffer from it personally. But I can’t sit by and watch as it spreads.
Somewhere in my mind, the voice chuckles darkly.