The corruption that is his most malevolent self tastes fear on the wind. It is the sweetest nectar. What remains is to seek out the flower of his desire and remove it from its delicate stem. Surely the bloom will wither and die for the pleasure of his touch, but not before he has had his fill, drawing every last drop of delicious essence from her being. Just follow the scent and he shall feast.
And once fed, he will be free to roam the gardens of the world, taking in all that life has to offer. For there is much he needs to consume, his hunger being the bottomless pit of writhing vipers. Too long it has been since he last suckled upon the bosom of this world, since she last felt his fangs sink into her flesh and had his venom course through her veins. Soon, very soon they shall be joined anew and this world will tremble at his embrace. But first the flower must be plucked.
Growing ever stronger, the scent of fear becomes almost intoxicating, urging him on, calling for his attention. His path is evident, laid before him as a wisp of green smoke upon the eternal sea of darkness. Darkness that has been his realm these many millennium. And with every intake of her precious scent the hunger intensifies, the serpents within wrestle over the recognition of sustenance and the hunt. Life is nearby! It must be found! Devoured!
Too long it has been… too eager are the snakes. He anticipates a quick and silent approach, striking swiftly from the dark. But in their rush, they have spooked his quarry. Now she is aware of the danger. Perhaps not fully, yet certainly enough to add to her already tangible fear. The fine fragrance of panic and a need to escape the unknown have been added to her bouquet. She is attempting to flee.
No more is it a hunt, but a pursuit of prey. Her running only serves to increase his desire and the famine within. It matters not that she tries to escape. There is nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. The darkness may be endless, but he has long discovered all its secrets. Fleeing will only prolong the inevitable, and not for very long at that. And though he has waited time beyond measure for this opportunity to come, he is willing to stay his satisfaction a bit longer. The panic will so enhance the flavor of her death.
But what is this? What has allowed this bitter taste to seep into the delectable mixture of fear and desperation that has become his prey? The sweetness now seeming tainted with something foreign, something that has never been a part of his existence these many years. So alien is the concept that he must search the furthest reaches of his memory for its name. But there, tucked away like a useless thought from an ancient past, it sits. And its name is hope.
Hope? Where in all this emptiness can such an idea exist? Certainly nowhere that he has ever been… and he has been everywhere during the eternity in which this void has claimed him for its own. So where did this aberration come from? How is it here now?
It matters not! Her destruction is imminent, as is the disgusting hope this flower seeks to take hold of. His freedom is assured.
Despite his prey’s best efforts, he draws nearer. Close enough that her scent is no longer the only aspect to lure him on. For he has found her. Sees her, or that which passes for her essence within this place. And she is beautiful! If only in the feast she represents and the anticipated release that will come with her capture. In nearly every way she is perfect, excepting the spark of hopefulness that lies at her core. But soon, each will be extinguished!
There is no outrunning his hunger. Though he now has a better understanding of where she hastens to, where her hope derives from. For on the horizon – if ever such a thing could be in this place – there is a difference to the darkness. It is no longer empty save the two of them. There is something else, emitting such radiance as to provide another sensation long forgotten: anguish.
It is anguish beyond pain. For he knows pain all too well. He has known it in all its degrees and long enough to have dismissed its constant presence. So the torture he now feels is more than just pain. It is agony beyond anything ever suffered. But not so much that he would slow his pursuit. His desire to feed, to be free of this eternal prison, exceeds any torment that could be inflicted by this thin beam of light. So he continues his chase, quickly closing the gap between himself and his fleeing freedom.
But for the intrusion of a shadow, she would already be his.
As mysterious as the manifestation of hope was, so too is the recent intervention of a ghostly shade. Just how it came to exist in this darkened landscape he can only speculate. Perhaps the advent of this loathsome light has given rise to its opposite in silhouette. Whatever the reason, his hunger will only be deterred so long.
But what should be a small effort is proving to be far more of a struggle. The shade, transforming into a whirlwind force of energy, has begun striking with a thousand pinpricks of agitation and confusion. The attacks, though futile in their attempts to inflict serious injury, are relentless. And as such, he can not help but retaliate in anger and frustration, losing his true intent. But not so completely! The snakes are still ravenous, seeking to feed upon the life that runs before them. Thus, they compel his attention to refocus upon their escaping meal.
The shade has delayed him far too long. Now a much closer thing, the hope his prey runs to is almost at hand. And drawing closer to its light only intensifies the agony it inflicts. There is also the swirling shadow that continues to make effort at hindering his progress. But she is still at a distance from the light and he is yet to be defeated.
In a final effort, both hunter and prey reach for their escape. Her hand wraps around the promise of salvation. So too does his outstretched claw settle upon her shoulder. It is the briefest of contact before his want is spirited away.
She is gone! As is the light and its companion shadow. What remains is he and his hunger, joined by a deathly shriek issued in resignation of his failure. All three are easily swallowed by the endless void.
Gone… and he is not. But still… the briefest of contact was made. She will bear his mark. And that just may be enough.