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Will tells me where to find everything I need, and tells us to leave whenever we're ready, as long as we leave enough time to be finished by sundown. He promises to be close behind. I'm not completely sure that I believe him, but I'm hopeful. Worst come to worst, I'll get my ass kicked, he won't help, and I'll leave him here to deal with his own problems. He might be able to keep me prisoner if he wants, but he'll have to get me first, and I won't make it easy for him. Or at least, I hope I won't.
As we walk through the woods, looking for the banshee, Enitan continues her long story.
Now, with the rage the True King felt for Adam, the land became barren and all people worked to produce the fruit of the Earth. However, there came a time that no matter how hard they worked, the land gave no fruit nor vegetable for the people to eat.
One day Citlali, feeling the pain of hunger, decided to visit one of his admirers for dinner. He looked up at the angry sun and decided to visit Nizhoni's seven demon daughters, and travel by the light of the moon. Nizhoni's daughters are: Wrathful Ibinu, Greedy Yoku and Gluttonous Lōlupatā. When he arrived, they were waiting for him.
“Hello, my darlings. I've come to share meat with you,” he says.
“Share with us? Do you mean that you've finally hunted meat and have come to make our meals for once, or did you come to continue to be a parasite?” says Ibinu, angered by the pain of hunger.
Citlali is puzzled, for he had come the day before and was fed, and the girls were happy to see him.
Before he could respond, Yoku speaks up, “We have given you everything we could for many years. It's time for you to give something back.”
“But I have nothing at all to give. All I have are the clothes that you've given me and my own flesh.”
Lōlupatā examines his flesh and licks her lips. “I have tasted the meat of frogs and lions, pythons and flamingos, but I've never eaten the body of a man.”
“Citlali! Give us your left arm to make into a stew,” Yoku demands.
Citlali is deeply wounded by the demands made by the half-demon sisters, and firmly refuses.
Ibinu, angered by Citlali's response, attacks first, ripping a large chunk out of his shoulder. She gives the chunk to her sisters and they all eat.
Citlali is made to run for his life, as the taste of fresh blood makes the half-demons ravenous. They chase Citlali for more until daybreak, when they are forced to take refuge in the shadows.
Citlali then goes to take refuge with Kanda's angel daughters, Primanka the Bait, and Sumira the Hook, thinking they would tend his wounds and maybe cook him a nice meal. When he arrives they are waiting for him.
Upon seeing him in his state, Sumira asks,“What is that wound on your shoulder?”
He answers, “The demon daughters of Nizhoni have attacked me. They ate of my flesh.”
The half-angel sisters hear this and become very jealous. They had known Citlali for just as long, and given him just as much as the demons, but the demons had gotten to have a piece of him that the angels never had.
Sumira, fueled by her jealousy, slashes his injured arm into many pieces for her and her sister to eat. Citlali flees as they slow roast, then devour his flesh. The sisters enjoy the taste, and go to find Citlali for more, once they are done.
Now with only one arm, Citlali runs until he finds the place where many humans have settled, the grandchildren of Adam and Eve. They see his wounds, and show compassion for Citlali by tending to his arm stub and hiding him amongst them.
By the time night falls, all of the peoples of the fallen angels surround the camp, wanting to taste the unique flavor they had heard about. The peoples of darkness follow close behind, driven by a ravenous hunger and blood lust. They tell the humans to present Citlali, or they would kill all the humans in the vicinity, but as the humans go to the place where they had hidden him, they see that Citlali has run away, yet again, leaving them to face the monsters alone.
Wrathful Ibinu punishes the humans by tearing the ear of their leader. Motivated by her hunger, she eats the human flesh, and becomes instantly addicted.
That night, the carnivorous peoples of the earth feast on one sixth of the human population, This becomes the largest feeding frenzy in history. From this day forward, the humans were prey to these creatures. Their lives were uncertain, so their actions resembled those of the peoples that hunted them, selfish and wicked. The world became hell for all creatures: the humans who could never rest in peace, the carnivorous peoples who were ruled by their addiction, and the wo'at who were tormented with constant scenes of horror.
So the world is until The One True King releases the first rain.
As the world becomes tinted with a soft orange, I wonder if I should have left a bit earlier, but unfortunately, it's too late to change that. I breath deep. Will should be close, though I'm not sure if I should count on him.
Enitan and I step high, navigating thick patches of tall grass and leafy foliage. The parasitic vine, that covers nearly every part of the woods with a thick, inhospitable blanket, rocks gently with the breeze, giving it the effect of one giant breathing creature, inhaling and exhaling, and patiently waiting to swallow us both up. We trek through the woods alone, but armed, walking against the flow of steady marching insects. I notice Enitan clutching her elbows tightly and occasionally flinching as she walks.
"Are you OK?" I ask. She makes a thin whimpering sound, and turns her head to both sides. I take that as a no. "Are you afraid of bugs?"
"No," she says in a wobbly voice. "I just don't want them to touch me."
Her wide-eyes and nervous movements tell me otherwise.
“You know you don't have to come."
She responds with a flat expression, as if she is insulted that I would even suggest that to her.
“Is it odd,” she says “ that he would send you to hunt a banshee for experience, when he told us that his first experience was a human?”
My heart pounds in my chest as I'm reminded that I'm hunting a monster. I breathe deep to quell the fear, and review what I was told.
Banshee are both psychic and empathic. Some can see your pasts, others see your future, some will look right into your mind. They are known to use this to confuse or distract their victims, so don't listen to anything it say's about you. This one has the cannibal's curse. When a banshee eats another banshee, it emits an aura that scares the shit out of other creatures. This helps other banshee to avoid the cannibal one, and makes it really easy for me to find it.
All I have to do is follow the trail of migrating bugs.
I fill my lungs with moist, stagnant air and hold it there, enjoying the sensation in my chest. I'd asked myself that same question before ever stepping foot in these woods. Yes. It was odd. And thrilling.
I get a cold, churning sensation in my stomach. I look over at Enitan as she gazes expectantly ahead and her grim expression tells me that she feels it too. The constant screech of cicadas has stopped, making the space eerily silent except for the rustling leaves of the vine blankets. We stop simultaneously.
I begin to hear a faint voice in the distance, a young girl singing in a language I can't understand.
The bugs become frantic darting away from the sound, making a mad dash towards safety, towards us. Fields of roaches, spiders, ants, and a few bugs that I've never seen before, scatter, running away from the sound, scampering across the vine, around trees and shortly, over our feet as they begin to crawl up, rather than around. I hear a blood curdling shriek and look over just in time to see the heel of a boot and the hem of a shirt waving behind Enitan as she vanishes down the path we took to get here.
I brush a particularly juicy insect off of my shoulder, and snort a collection of ant-sized, winged creatures out of my nose.
The child’s voice gets louder. She's getting closer.
I shudder as something crunchy crawls over my lips. I immediately attempt to cover all the places where something could creep in to.
The voice becomes even more clear. She's definitely approaching.
I can't keep standing here with my lips rolled in, my eyes closed and my nose pinched until she comes. I have to move. Now.
I run full speed, toward the sound, smashing insects under my feet, until coming to a clearing in the woods and slowing to a stop, then brush and shake the remaining insects off me.
I realize that Enitans screams have become fainter.
“ENITAN!” I shriek, panicked. I turn back to get her, heart racing, legs numb. “ENITAN!” I should have went with her, not in the other direction. Now we are separated.
I chase her voice down the path, then off the path; its sometimes ahead of me, others to the right and other times behind. I call her name and chase her voice until the woods become completely silent.
My surroundings have changed. The trees are taller and closer together, the vines are more sparse, the ground is soft, covered in dead leaves that had been there so long they they are turning into soil. I am lost.
What should I do? What can I do? How did I let this happen to myself? Where is Enitan?
The singing that Enitan and I heard before has returned. This time, it's vibrant and clear. A youthful voice lined with brass.
“Who's there?” I say, turning towards the sound. There is no one there. “Come out!”
I feel eyes on me and spin myself around quickly, almost frantically, to see who they belong to.
Two tall, identical women walk briskly in my direction, one slightly behind the other. The woman in the front walks gracefully, taking long, purposeful strides, as her slightly curvier counterpart strains to keep up, carrying a very long bag as if it was a baby. The slimmer woman’s thick locks have been twisted forward to the crown of her head and pooled into a crooked pile of hair, and yet, every aspect of her appears flawless: her ill fitting khaki's, and ragged sandals, the well defined cheekbones one her long, ovular face, her scowling eyes, her gaudy gold necklace. She looks back occasionally, observing her equally gorgeous partner as she hobbles along, the edges of her hair freeing themselves from her puffy bun, making a dark halo around her face. I flinch as they get near, but neither woman seems to notice me. Instead they walk right by.
The lady with the locs turns suddenly. Her partner and I freeze.
“You're slow,” she says, speaking lazily, as if she was bored with the entire world, and has always known all of it's secrets. Yet she speaks with authority and confidence and her stern eyes pierce her companion as if she were her enemy.
In a voice that reminds me of trickling water, her partner responds,“I know Miss Phakade, but the weight,-”
“I told you, if she got too heavy, drop her.” Phakade says wearily.
“I can handle it-”
“Drop her. She can survive. You can't, and I need your mind. She'll serve me best by taking my place.”
The voice of a child enters my thoughts: Your mother didn't even want to bother with you. You should give up your life. No one cares about you.
The willowy, russet-brown woman, no, she was most likely a witi, stands motionless for several seconds, unresponsive to the order she had just been given. Finally she asks, “But what about her? She's a child.”
Phakade quirks her head to the side, lips curved into a humorless smirk.
“Did raising that murdering human boy make you forget what you are, Nine Forty-Two?” She spits those last words as if they are a curse.
The larger woman shakes her head no, a defiant look still burning in her eyes.
“Then don't ask me questions. Just do as I say.”
The woman stares at the lady in front of her for a moment, then makes a show of slowly lowering the bag to the floor. “Will she get hurt,” she asks, despite of Phakade's ban on inquiries.
“Did you put her in my robes like I told you?”
“There's your answer.”
She turns and continues her stride. Nine falters a bit, then follows the one she serves.
I shouldn't be witnessing any of this right now. In fact, I know I'm not. Not really. It’s just, somehow, I managed to go to my past. Or, rather, she managed to take me.
I remind myself of what I'd learned, some banshee can see the past and they can use this to distract there opponents. I don't know why I wasn't warned about hallucinations, but here I am hallucinating.
I have to find a way out of this.