Marcus woke to the hunger.  The little light entering the room caused him a kind of pain he’d never known.  He was hungry, a hunger he’d seen in Gregor’s eyes and he knew he’d been changed in a way he could not understand.  The rat lay beside him almost drained, still Marcus lapped up what remained.  He wiped tears from his eyes.

         “I don’t know,” he spoke through tears, tears Gregor would never see, “if I can do this.  I did not know, only hoped.  Once again I have lost.”  His head fell into his hands.  They trembled and he pulled away unable to still them.  “This is a pain I do not understand.  I do not know how to…” he shook his head, long tawny hair swinging about his face.  He looked once again to the rat, wishing it had more blood to give.  His voice growled.  “Where are your kin?”

         “How long have I lain here?  I cannot tell.”  The rock that had been his pillow invited him to try. Picking it up, he closed his hand around it, squeezing.  He saw the rock, now sand spilling from between his fingers.  His shoulders squared, back grew rigid. “I will get stronger now.  I know what I must do.  Will he remember that I did this once before?  I have nothing else to offer.  I will have that last look at the sun, when he can no longer see the dark.” 

It rose.  

Marcus felt his neck, the wound had healed and he wondered how long he’d been out.  He could not tell. He looked at his hands, willing the trembling to stop.  They stilled. 

Breathing slowly, his tears dried and he easily wiped away their traces.  “I have been hungry before.” He replayed his victories. Watched Gregor’s growing hatred, his frustration and found himself smiling.  “You will not understand, you never have, but even as this…whatever it is you’ve made me, I will still beat you.”

It was coming. 


“Don’t stare.”  His mother had held tightly to his hand.

He remembered turning quickly away.

“Marcus, I want you to look at him just like you look at everyone else.”

“But he…”

“Is a person.”

“He looks…”

“Different.”  She bent to look into his eyes.  “No matter how different he is on the outside, he’s the same as us on the inside.   That’s what I want you to see.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”

He shrugged.

“It was hard for him, growing up, I mean.  He has a special diet, can’t do things we take for granted.  He’s done the best he can.  It could have defined him, his disabilities.  He could have chosen to hate.  Instead he found a way to make the best of it.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I went to school with him. You know Marcus,” she squeezed his hand.  “Sometimes we blame things, things that happen to us, for our actions.

He looked at her, confusion in his eyes.  “Like blaming a broken leg for a reason not to walk.  You may not walk like everyone, but you can still walk. Our responses to what life throws at us are a choice.  A choice we make.”  

 She studied her son’s serious face.  “It’s kind of like when you ate the apple pie.”

Marcus hung his head.  “I didn’t share it.”

 “Yes and it was wrong.  You were hungry so you ate it.  You didn’t think about us.  Don’t look so upset.  It was a long time ago.  You learned to control yourself.  Not everyone does. This may be hard to understand, but I’ll do my best.”  They stopped walking and Marcus could not look away from his mother’s serious face.  He could tell that this was important to her.  “Not scratching an itch is a choice, a really hard one too.  When you have poison ivy, you have to ignore the itch even though it’s more natural to scratch.  It may seem automatic, but it’s still a choice. You need to understand.  No matter what happens to us, our response is a choice.  Do you understand?”

“Maybe.  Is it like, we’re studying world war two in history, when people chose to ignore what was happening, then later said there was nothing they could do about it?”

“That is exactly what I mean.  Sometimes, even if it hurts, you have to choose to do the right thing.  Like him, he ignored the teasing.  He didn’t let it make him bitter or mean.  He could have hated those kids, hated the world.  Instead he became the nicest person I know. ”

Marcus turned back, tugging on his mother. He smiled.  “Hi.”

“Hi back at you.” 

The smile transformed a face that had been born with unusual proportions, and Marcus had forgotten the differences.


“I will find a way.  I don’t have to be a.. What am I saying, he turned to face the wall.  “I am a monster.”

“I see you are awake.”  It waited, but Marcus did not turn.  “I can see that you are finally angry.  Will you beg now?  You can still die.”  He growled.  “Why won’t you ask me how?  Surely you want to know.  You tried to die.”

Marcus turned.  The hands held behind his back began to bleed.  

“I am glad you saved me.” He looked down, “I do not want to die.”

Gregor tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come.

“I have begun.. I do not know the words.  The pain, I am used to it.  It is the only life I know.  I want to stay with you.”

Gregor backed away.  “You lie.”

“Have I ever lied to you?”

Rushing forward, it grabbed Marcus by the throat.  “You’ve hardly ever spoken to me.  I could send you into the sun, watch you burn.”

“Send me into the sun, if you wish.”

Grabbing the glass, covered with blood, he slashed Marcus’ wrist.  Marcus watched, ignoring the pain.  The wound healed. 

“Will I always heal like that?”

 “It is good to hear your voice.  I feared you lost it. Over time I will tell you what you can and cannot do.  I will explain the gift I have given to you.  For that you must talk to me.  No more silence.”

 “I will talk sometimes, but I have lost many words.”

 “You are hungry.  I will bring back food.  I do not trust you to hunt. Blood makes us strong.  I have lived a very long time.   The blood has made me stronger than you can imagine.”

Marcus looked at his wrists, “I do not have to imagine.”

 “Yes.  Of course you know.  The chains will hold you.  I will not feed you enough to break free.  Do not think I have done this to you only to lose you now.  Now you truly are my son.”

Marcus couldn’t help himself.  “Did you not tell me how you, the son, killed the Father?”

The slap sent him sprawling.  He did not look up.  He heard Gregor leave.  Alone, he angrily lapped the blood off his hands.  “He will not trust me if I taunt him.”  Still he grinned.  “It felt good, but it cannot happen again.”

Marcus did not ask where the blood came from. He fought, trying to refuse, but the hunger was stronger, the smell intoxicating. He drank.

It left him then, heading to where it slept.  Marcus had never seen the places it chose for itself. 

“I do not have to kill people.  Mr. Rat gave me meat.  It must now provide blood.  I am glad I cannot see what I have become.  My time is soon to end.” 

He looked at the dead animal.  “I did not feel for you before, why does it bother me now.”  He carefully hid the carcass.  “It must be that this hunger is unnatural.”

The dead animal brought others looking for meat.  It was not difficult to catch them.  There were so many and he was faster now.  “There will be other things to hunt when I am free.”

Marcus knew he must now be sleeping in the day, but day and night had meant nothing to him so there seemed to be no change.

Bored, he let his mind wander, remembering what he could, making plans, all ending in Gregor’s death.

It came to him, once again a bowl of blood in hand.

“This is for you.”

Marcus ignored the blood dripping from its chin. 

“Don’t you want to know where it came from?”

“Why should I ask?  It is yours to take, it does not matter who was sacrificed.”

Gregor lowered himself to the floor, sitting beside him.  His face wore a keen expression as he looked into Marcus’ eyes.  “Have you really changed so much?”

Marcus shrugged, moving closer.  “Why should it surprise you?  You, this life is the only one I know.  I am what you have made me.  I barely remember a before.”

“What is it you do remember?”

Marcus took a long time answering. There was so much he would like to say, so much he couldn’t.  “I remember pain, darkness where there had once been light.  I remember a farm where boys were used as slaves.  The …”

He looked at the dark walls trying to remember. “He told me to call him Master, took me to his bed.  I got away from him, the boys escaped and you rescued me.”

“I remember that too.”  Slowly his forefinger tapped his chin.  “Is that how it was, he took you?”

“Yes, no he took them all.  It was my turn, but I did not let him.  That is what I remember.” 

He hung his head.  “You came for me.”  He turned to look at Gregor, who was still examining his face.  

“Have you no interest in me now?”

“I have not been interested in you for a while.”  He reached out, running his hand down Marcus’ cheek.  “Do you have need?”

Marcus swallowed bile, forcing himself to keep the hatred from his eyes.  “I am… I no longer know what to say.” 

Gregor reached to him, pulling him close.  He spoke in a whisper.  “If it is something you want, I will not give it to you though I have waited a long time.  I filled my needs tonight.  Perhaps if you prove yourself to me, I will help you with yours.  It is almost dawn.  Time to sleep.”

Testing the chains, he made sure Marcus could not break them.  “I think tonight you can have a blanket.  It will be cold and we are already cold.”

Careful not to change too quickly, Marcus spent many hours not speaking.  He did not ask Gregor the questions he knew Gregor longed to answer, but he carefully listened when Gregor spoke.  When Gregor fed him, he made sure to touch his hand, stand closer than needed.  The signs were not unnoticed.

It was early; the sun had not fallen when Gregor entered the room.  Marcus, lying on the floor, heard him approach.  This was the test, the price he had to pay.  There was no choice.  Hands reached around him.  The touch was gentle.  Marcus turned, returning it.


Time had passed too slowly, and Marcus had found it difficult to wait.  She was there; the face that had once turned to him was turned to an older boy.  Marcus felt anger rise within him.  He had known, but still he had hoped. 

Once again he found himself waiting.  As the bell rang, students heading to class, Marcus caught her arm, turning her to him.

 “I thought…”

“What did you think, that this is a true enduring love?  We aren’t even fifteen.  It’ll be years before you become a man.  I’m not throwing my youth away waiting for a boy, a poor boy.”

 “I am,” his voice hardened, “more of a man than he will ever be.”

He’d pulled her to him, pressed her against him.  The kiss was at first harsh, then it had softened and she’d leaned willingly against him.  Marcus stepped back, holding her away.  The longing that had once showed in his expressive grey eyes, faded and he’d turned away, walking quickly out the door. 


 “It is time to eat, my pretty one.  I will return with food.  Tomorrow we will hunt.  I will teach you.”

Once again alone, Marcus struggled with the pain.  “I had to.  Father, Mother, I had to.  I am glad now I can no longer remember your faces.  What would I see in your eyes?  Will I ever forgive myself?”

He had no answer.

Gregor removed the chains; careful to stand where he could keep an eye on Marcus’ every move.  Marcus shook his arms.

 “Feel light.”

“Yes the chains were heavy.”  He looked out to where the suburbs surrounded the city.  “I have been hunting here long enough for many to be cautious.  The city is careful, but those around it feel immune.  It is always that way.”  Gregor’s smile was cruel.  “Always those that have just crawled from the gutter despise those still crawling.”

“They feel safe.”

 “Yes the disease is not where they are.  We will feed there.  It is a test.  Stay close.  You do not want me to chase you.”

 “I do not want to leave you.”

They heard her long before they could see her.  She sang, a joyous sound.  Marcus had to force his feet forward.  He was determined to escape, but knew he could not let her die for it.

 A Darkness Descending

Gregor reached out, grabbing the swing.  The young girl slammed onto the ground.  Leering above her, Gregor pulled her into his arms.  For a moment she could not scream.  

“Take her.  She will be easy.  Your first kill.”

 “I won’t.”  It was a whisper spoken through tightly clamped teeth.  She looked up to Marcus, blue eyes turning green.  There was trust in those eyes.

Gregor’s eyebrow rose, surprised.  “I will take her, but you will feed.  It is time.”

“I won’t.  She will not be my first.  There will never be a first.”

“Oh there will.  Will you beg for her?”  A look of upcoming victory crossed his face.

Snarling, Marcus’ voice grew louder.  “I will not have to.”

Stronger than Gregor believed he could be, Marcus squeezed Gregor’s wrists and he was forced to let her fall.

“Run.  I will return for you,”

“You will pay for this.”  Gregor began to chase her, but Marcus was able to push him away and she made it into the house.

There was the angel.

“Azazel.”  Gregor howled.

Light flooded the yard, snaking into the woods.  Gregor turned. Marcus saw the woman behind the light.  He didn’t stop to wonder.   Running into the light, ignoring the pain, he was free.

The blaring sirens were like knives to his ears but Marcus could not stop.  He ran towards the sound, to the smell of fresh blood.  

The road twisted and suddenly Marcus was there.  Once, when he was alive, the misery before him would have forced him to look away, but today, there was only blood and hunger.

The man stood by himself, staring at the wreckage of what was once his car.  The ambulance stood before him.  The medics were working on a child. Her arm lay cruelly twisted, its pose unnatural.  Two shrouds, again so small, lay to the side, where a weeping woman screamed her husband’s name.  He did not move.  Blood streamed down his cheeks, pooling in the road, mixing with the chill rain puddling by the roads edge. 

“Are you close?”  Marcus looked over his shoulder; afraid he would see Gregor there.  It was the angel, his fear of her, her light that sent him running.  The light Marcus ran to.  He was alone.  With no one watching, Marcus began to drink.  He felt his muscles strengthen, a surge of energy giving him speed he was not used to.  Once again he chose to run towards the lights.  He saw the medics shiver as he passed.

Lively Literati

On July 28th the Greenwich Hotel will host the Association of RI Authors Lively Literati. There will be two authors speaking, Christine Lajewski and Christopher Paniccia, followed by open mike. Come and enjoy these wonderful authors and join in the fun by sharing something of your own creations: a poem, a short story, or a segment of something you’ve written. The event runs from 6:30pm to 8:00pm The address is 162 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI 02818 phone 401-884-4200

I will be there, so please join me. The conversations are always interesting.

The Next Chapter of A Darkness Descending

( A new more defiant Marcus leaves the camp he helped liberate behind, realizing he has more strength than he thought he had. His defiance is answered by Gregor’s next move. Is it Gregor’s final victory or the beginning of his end. I leave you with the unanswered question, is the love Marcus experienced as a child, the lessons his family taught him, enough to overcome his new reality.

Chapter 4
This memory tells him, freeing Jason and the others, while remaining behind is the honorable thing to do.

He remembered how the casket had frightened him.  It had seemed to fill the room, though it only took up a small portion of the sanctuary.  His mother standing to the side had held Cathy’s hand, crying.  He had known she would, but the sobs racking his Father had been unexpected.

“Dad.”  He whispered, putting his hand inside his fathers.  He thought to be rebuffed, but his Father knelt beside him.

“Mark, I know you must be scared.  It is hard.”

“It’s not that.”

“Then what?”  Furrowed brows over dark stormy eyes looked down at his son.

“Can I help you?  What can I do?”

The hug was rough, almost painful and Marcus felt his father’s sobs through the jacket he wore.

“You just did.”

“You can stay here awhile, dad, I can hold you.”

“I know you can.  I love you, Polo.”

He hadn’t been called Polo for a long time and even under these circumstances it made him smile.  “Love you too.” 

How long they knelt together, he could not tell.  Around them no one was talking.  Finally his father rose, still holding his son’s hand.  “You don’t have to go up.”

“You do.”

 “She is my mother.”

“She’s my grandma.  I’ll hold your hand.  You’ll be safe with me.”

Holding back tears they made their way to the casket.  Marcus could hear his father whisper his farewell, brushing his tears away.

The ride home was a long one.  The car was quiet.  Then his father began to sing.  It was the lullaby he’d often sung to his children and Marcus understood that she must have once sung it to him.  


The song stopped.

“I have a question.”

“You always do, I’m sure you have more than one, go ahead.”

“If it hurts to talk about Grandma, I won’t.”

“Go on.”

“I heard Uncle Ab say something about her being an honorable woman.  What did he mean?”

“Big question for a little boy.  Let me see if I can get the best answer for you.  My mother was a very honorable person and sometimes it was hard.  We didn’t always understand.  Looking at you and Cathy, I understand her more.”

Marcus waited patiently.  He loved talking to his father, who never spoke to him like he was a baby.  Cathy was sleeping in her mother’s arms.  Mom was so quiet Marcus thought she must also be asleep.

“There are some people here, you’ll meet many like them.  They think that people who look different, believe different aren’t good people.  Seem to forget that God made us all.  When the Pagers moved here, bought old Rosseaults farm, people tried to get them to move.”


“Well they’re black.”

 “Everyone I know is trying to get a tan.  They just jealous.” 

He heard his father’s laugh.  “Wish that was all there was to it.  No son.  They don’t have a great tan.  They’re black, meaning their ancestors were from Africa, they were brought here to be slaves.”

“Slaves like the Jews in Egypt.”

“Exactly.  Glad you know what that is.  Can be a bit hard to explain.”

“Not hard to explain, but hard to think anyone could think like that.  Anyone could be a slave.  There’s always someone who has more.  I heard you telling Uncle Ab that just the other day.”

“You got it.  The city folk were pretty hard on the Pagers.   Didn’t want black kids to go to school with whites.  Your grandma brought over welcome pie, you know what that is?”

 “Yeah.  It sucks though.  Wouldn’t welcome me.”

Once again his father laughed.  “It’s a traditional dish.  Your grandma walked with the Pagers.  Took them with her to church, made a face at anyone who tried to stop them.  The next day she walked the two kids into school.  Friends said they could hear people yelling at them as they walked down the street.  Your grandmother held her head high.  Said she was doing the honorable thing even though she lost most of her customers. Cost her a fortune, but she didn’t change her mind, never apologized.  Said once that you don’t apologize for doing the right thing.  Uncle Gray never understood.  He blamed her when no one wanted to be his friend.  If you’re not a friend when you’re needed well then you never really were.  Do you understand?”

 “Think so.  I think you mean that sometimes it hurts you, maybe even your family to do what’s right but you should still do it.  I think you mean real friends stay.”

 “For a boy your age, you sure do get things right.  That’s what I meant.  I’m proud of you, Polo.  Thanks for holding my hand.  It was hard, saying good bye.”

“It was hard for me too, but it was the honorable thing to do.”

Allen Rollins had been smiling when he pulled into the drive.


     The night was quiet and Gregor was hunting.  Marcus looked to the chains, they were strong but he’d been working on a few links, there were weak ones. The factory was filled with debris and Gregor, so certain Marcus did not have the strength to fight him, had not looked to see what was in it.

The screwdriver was heavy, the edge sharp from many uses.  Wedging it in the gap between the links, Marcus was able to open them enough to break them apart.  Each chain had been prepared.  It did not take long before his arms were free of its weight, only a few links hanging from the manacles he wore.  

“Later.”  He told them, but his words were raspy, he could barely hear himself.  The building was large.  Marcus followed the smell of fresh air forcing its way past the long dried oil, the smell of perspiration that even after all these years, lingered.  There was no light to follow but still he found the way.  He was out.  He did not hope to remain free, had no idea where to go or what to do.  He did not trust the world he had been so long removed from.

Even in the dark, able to see well, he did not run.  Sniffing, he followed the scent of the water he had been led past when they arrived.  Ignoring the cold, he dove in.  Would it disguise his scent, it didn’t stop the following dogs in the movies he had once seen, so he had little hope.  It did remove the filth.  

He heard them.  The family.  The barbecue made his mouth water.  Hiding between bushes he had once known the names of, he watched hoping for just a moment the food would be unattended.  

It was, and Marcus moved as quickly as his stiff legs could.  He ignored the heat, the burns to his fingers as he grabbed the steak.  He ran back to the bushes.  Continuing beyond the next yard, he suddenly felt bad for the dog blamed for the theft.  A few houses down, clothes dried on the line.  He inspected them, deciding which ones would fit.  “So far so good. Now for shoes,” He knew he would keep the clothes even if Gregor caught him.  The soft cloth felt good.  From back yard to back yard he passed unnoticed.  There were boots, mud clinging to the soles after hours of working in the garden.  They were too small, but the jagged rock easily sliced holes big enough for his toes to slide through.  He sat below the apple tree.  The fruit, not ripe tasted bitter, still he ate. 

He walked aimlessly not knowing what he was looking for, what he would find.  The tree house was high up in the large oak, the ladder lying at the base. Marcus stretched his arms.  Ignoring the ladder, he was able to reach around the tree.  He climbed.


  The boys had been chasing him.  He wasn’t supposed to be better at anything, specially their favorite sport, but twice his bat had connected with the ball. 

The team won and he’d been voted MVP.  They had waited for school to end, when he would be alone.  Marcus would have stood his ground even though Ryan was bigger, but he had not waited alone and against the four of them he could not win.  He ran, but they’d been gaining.  There was no other choice.  He jumped the first four feet, pulling himself onto the lowest branch.  He’d climbed.  Below he heard their taunts.

“Farm boy, you can’t stay up there forever.”

“You have to go home too.”

“Fuck you.” The largest boy was in another grade, two years older and far more muscular.  “I’m going up there, show this prick his place.”

Marcus turned on the branch securing his position.  The face peeking over the branch was met with a forceful kick and he landed on his back, gasping for air.

 “Whose next.”  The face that looked down made the boys nervous.  

Marcus slowly climbed down the tree.  Lying on his back, the older boy was moaning, blood pouring from a broken nose.  The others looked at each other but only Ryan looked ready to fight.

“Shit,” the smallest of the three frowned.  “He ain’t worth a broken nose.”  He turned, walking quickly away.  

“I think so too, going home.  Ry, I think you should too.”

“What about Andy?”

“Stupid shit, chasing him up a tree, but we can’t leave him here.  Come on help me get him up.  We should take him home.  Think MVPs gonna pay for this.”

Two days later Marcus had found his baseball career had quickly ended and though he’d enjoyed the game, he hadn’t been upset.  Bad temper, the coach had said.  No one had said anything about four boys chasing one.  


Sitting in the tree house, looking down at the yard he could barely see, Marcus smiled.  “I remembered.  So many things are fading.  Father, I can no longer see your face.  I had a sister, have,” he quickly corrected, “but what she looked like is a mystery.  Did she look like me?  What do I look like?”  The night was chilly.  Marcus curled into as small a ball as he could, hugging himself.  He didn’t believe he would sleep.  The morning light woke him.  

He heard the boy and backed into the corner.

Two frightened brown eyes followed a whispered “OH”.  The owner prepared to climb back down.

“I won’t hurt you, please.”  Marcus was certain his raspy voice would frighten the boy even more, but he climbed into the house, sitting as far away as the tree house allowed.

“Who you?”

“Marcus,” he cast his mind for something to say.  “I’m running away from home.  It was cold so I came up here.  Please, can I stay until it is safe for me to leave?”

The boy frowned.  “You’re too old to be running away from home.”

“But I am.”

“You hungry, you’re awfully skinny?”

“I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

“Shit, won’t be any trouble, Ma’s always giving me too much food.”

 “Then I thank you.”

He climbed down the tree and Marcus wondered if he would return and if he did, would he be alone.

 “I’m Teddy.”  He returned, two blankets and a blueberry muffin in hand.  “Your old man must be a real,” he grinned, “Mom would give me a time out for this, bastard.”

The smile could not be ignored and Marcus returned it.  “Yes.  He’s not my father but he is a real bastard.  I can’t thank you enough for this.”

“I’d bring you coffee, but ma never lets me have it.  You can stay here a while, my friends don’t come here too much anymore.  They say it’s baby stuff, but I like it.  It’s quiet and I can be alone.  Kinda like being alone.”

“You’re not lonely?”

“Nah, got an older sister who never shuts up, a baby brother who wants everything I have, do everything I do, but he’s afraid of climbing so he don’t bother me here.  Dad knows I sit up here, so I can stay with you if you’d like.  I brought a book.  Would you like to read it?”

“Could you read it to me?”

The smile that crossed his face, made Marcus laugh.  “Yes sometimes adults, I guess that’s what I am, need help reading.”

“Sure.”  The book, a story about three boys solving a mystery was entertaining, well read.  All too soon, they could here Teddy’s father calling for him.

“I’ll bring you dinner if I can.”  The hand was gentle as he patted his shoulder.  “Sorry you got it hard.

Marcus sat in the tree hoping that for this one night the tree would hide him.  As the light began to fade, Teddy’s expressive eyes peeked in.  “Here, it’s the best I could do.  I’m not supposed to be out at night, so I can’t stay.  Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Maybe.”  Marcus knew it was a lie.  The sandwich was a banquet.  He listened to the night.  It was the furtive footsteps he’d been expecting.  He could almost see him sniffing the air, Marcus shivered.  It passed.

As the morning light peeked in, he rose.  He was careful to leave before his friend would rise.  He could not do the good bye.  The respite had been too nice and he didn’t want to spoil it.

Marcus, walking in the sun, was glad to see the miles pass.  All too quickly darkness returned.  Walking the quiet streets, he was searching for shelter when he heard of a boy’s disappearance.  He did not wait for morning, knowing he must return.  Retracing his steps, he walked to where Gregor had kept him. The boy lying on the floor was small, unchained and Marcus was glad to see he was a stranger.

He shook him  “You must go, hurry.  The sun will be up soon.  You’ll be safe then.”

Not hesitating, he ran.  Marcus, shoulders slumping, made for the door, certain he would not make it.

Gregor walked over, closing the door.  “I see he is gone.”

Marcus looked beyond the broken hinges, seeing the morning sun beginning to rise. 

 “I thought that would bring you back.”  He snarled.  “I don’t understand this need of yours.  You got away.  I could not have found you, not if you had gone far enough.  You are not that important.”

Marcus knew this was a lie.  Beneath the smug expression he could see Gregor’s rage.  That Marcus  returned, sent the boy to safety enraged him more than the escape.  Finally his frustration bested him and he shouted.  “Where do you get the strength to come back?  You know what I am, what I can do.  Tell me.”

Marcus sat down, crossing his legs.  He did not fight as the chains secured him to the wall.  He put Teddy’s face before him and smiled.  The clothes were warm, he was clean and full and once again Gregor was powerless.  There was nothing he could do.  Gregor walked closer, fists clenched.  Marcus lifted his head, ready for the blow, but it did not fall. Hands falling to his sides, Gregor left.

The sun had once again journeyed to the other side of the world when he returned.  

“Will you never speak? Have you forgotten how?”

Marcus didn’t answer. Studying the silence he had learned many sounds, even gentle hardly audible sounds could tell him what insect was about.  He could not name them, but he knew them well.

He tuned in to the sounds of the night.  They grew so loud; he could no longer hear Gregor, even when he was near.

Gregor reached out, putting his hand on Marcus’ shoulder.  Marcus did not move.  “I haven’t touched you in a long time.  Why would I want too?  It is worse than touching the dead.  We have been together a long time.”  He looked at the scars.  “Twelve years now.  You have long been a man.  Have you no needs?”

In his head, Marcus heard his reply.  “None that you could fill.”

 “Are those petty victories worth what I have put you through?  You have saved lives.  I do not count them, but one cry and you would have peace.”  He squeezed Marcus’ shoulder.  Blood flowed from the wound.

Marcus, playing with his sister, dressing up her dolls and drinking cup after cup of imaginary tea, did not notice.  Instead he looked at the dolls, their numbers growing.  ‘I have counted them.  I think it will soon be sixty lives, all of them important to me.’

“Tonight I hunt more than food.  Tonight I hunt for you.  You need a companion.”  The grin was terrifying.  Marcus ignored it.  When he was once again alone, he dug in the soft dirt of the mud floor.  It was where he had seen it, the glass dagger.  It could not be used to great affect on Gregor, but there were other things it could do.

He heard the footsteps, the faltering steps beside Gregor’s purposeful stride.

She was terrified, weak and beautiful.  Hands bound behind her, dark brown eyes full of tears; make up carefully applied running down soft cheeks.  Her long blond hair was held back by a headband that matched the light blue of her blouse.  She had a full figure, and though her clothes accentuated her curves, he could see that she was modestly dressed. In her eyes he saw resignation and shame.

Gregor held her. Without him she would most certainly have fallen.  “She is pretty.”  

Marcus remained unmoving, watching as if he were not to participate.

“I will set her free if you make love to her.  Surely you must have the need, or is it me you want?”

If he was looking to shame him, it did not work.

 “Take her, or watch me tear her apart.  Maybe I need to show you what to do.”

Still Marcus did not move.

“How can you do nothing?”

He did nothing.

Angry as he had seldom been, Gregor threw her at him.  “You are her only chance.”  He stepped back, waiting.

 “I will not take you.”  Marcus looked at his chains.  Her eyes followed his.  “He will kill you no matter what I do.  I will not make you suffer both.”

She did not move in his arms.

“I am going to stab you, a carefully placed wound. It will not be gentle.  The rat has bled for you. Hold your breath so that he thinks I killed you.  The farce does not need to last long.  The sun is almost up.  I will stand between you.  Run into the sunlight. Don’t look back; do not try to help me.  There is no help for me.”

She said not a word and he could only hope she understood.  He thrust the knife; it sliced through the blouse, nicking her skin.  The rat was used to stain her shirt before he cast it aside. He threw her to the floor. She gasped, and then her chest fell.  Marcus stepped before her.

Gregor screamed.  “What have you done?”

The silence grew.  She breathed quietly, holding still until Gregor walked to the stairs.  “Wait till you see what I do to what is left of her.”

Marcus helped her rise.  She ran.  The sun was blinding.  Still she did not look back.  Soon her sobs faded and Marcus stood looking into Gregors’s eyes, smiling. 

 “I have not punished you in a long time, he turned to the mace laying by Marcus’ mat.  The glass knife was used quickly. His whisper did not carry. “I cannot let you use me as a reason to kill.”

Gregor smelled blood, too much blood, familiar blood and he turned, screaming. He looked at the man he’d held for twelve years, the man escaping.

Marcus was surprised to see Gregor bending over him, its wrist bleeding. 

Gregor pressed his bloody arm over Marcus’ wound.  “Did you think I would let you go?  Foolish toy.  I thought to make you a man, now I will make you a monster.”