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Tumbling Down

Tumbling Down (Tumbling Down, Tumbling Down) His mouth was sandpaper. His eyelids were sticking to his eyeballs. He was thirsty. So terribly, dreadfully thirsty. There were so many hearts beating, just outside of Marcell’s cage. So much blood. Everywhere. Animal, human, it didn’t matter. They were so close, but he was so weak. He could not bend the bars even if he wanted to. If only he’d ever had the blood-strength to do it. He could have simply broken down the walls and devoured anyone in his way. But he hadn’t wanted to do it then, because it was wrong. He’d rather have feasted on filth. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why would he crave their blood if they weren’t there for him to drink? They were put here for him to have, he wasn’t cursed by death, he was a servant of Her. No, no, that wasn’t right. That was the thirst talking. Stop it. Stop. And then there was Cindy. Cindy, with the sweetest blood he had ever smelled. Was that the reason he loved her? He hadn’t thought so, but now all he could think about was how she would taste. And she had been close. So close. Just through the bars. But she was too strong, not easily tempted. He had helped to make her that way. Curse him and his stupid goodness and stupid morals and all the rest. The werewolf was gone. Good. All she had done was watch him, look down on him. And she had taken Cindy with her. She’d promised to come back, to save him. If she did, she would die. Don’t come back, Cindy. It was too late for him. If he saw her again, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself. He’d tear through the bars and drink her dry. He had no idea how long he’d been down here. A long time left to rot, to suffer. He wouldn’t die, he didn’t think he could, but soon he would shrivel up into a mummified husk. Was that Raz’s plan? To get back at him for something someone clearly did to him long ago? Well, he supposed there was no point speculating about it now. It was just... funny, really. Two-thousand years. He’d lived two-thousand years and this was really how it’d ended up? He’d met Cleopatra and gotten his head chopped off in the French Revolution, and it was here in this cell, underneath some deranged redneck’s arena, that he’d have his final conscious moments? Could it really just come to an end like that? From someplace several worlds away, Marcell heard the dull whirr of the mechanism that moved the cages. Ah, so the slight buzzing on the edge of his hearing wasn’t just in his head. The fights were beginning. It wasn’t until light shone ahead of him that he realized it had been his cage they were moving. Just what they expected from him in this state he had no notion; he could barely even move. Yet as the cage was shaken up and down slightly as the front slid open, Marcell somehow managed to stumble forward towards the noise and light. Everything was reduced to a big smear across his vision. The floodlights and the colors and sound all ran together until it seemed to him that he had stumbled into some toddler’s finger-painting. He got halfway up to the main ground and simply collapsed. The lord god that he’d never managed to believe in had been merciful. He would much rather be torn to shreds and burnt in the sun than spend another minute down there with the thirst. So, accepting his fate, Marcell didn’t really pay too much attention to Raz’s words, but what he did catch seemed a little odd. “My brothers and sisters,” the man began, and Marcell couldn’t help but notice how very tired he sounded. “Today we gather to observe a very solemn event.” There was movement at the far end of the arena, but it was too blurry for Marcell to make out. “Several of our former friends, comrades, family, allowed the interloper to escape with our Truth. They have failed us, and for that they must be punished. Their laziness, their laxness, allowed this betrayal to occur.” The crowd booed and hissed audibly at whatever it was that was slowly coming closer to him. The shapes were growing clearer now. Several men and woman were being led into the center of the arena in chains. “This negligence must be punished. Let this be an example to anyone who fails us.” Marcell’s ears slowly perked up. The people in chains had been shoved onto their knees in the very center of the dirt. He could hear it; their hearts were beating; their blood was pumping through their veins. It was calling to him, singing nearly, and he needed it. It lifted him to his feet, strung him along like a fish on a hook. A hush fell over the arena as he stumbled upward, closer to the blood. Somewhere far away, something was trying to hold him back, something trying to stop him. But it was simply an annoying buzz in his chest, and he shook it off, inching towards the terrified looks on their faces. He probably looked like a monster. He was a monster. He’d spent so long trying to deny it, to be human. There was no point trying to fight it now. The blood smelled so good, so sweet. Their fear made it sweeter still. Adrenalin was his favorite flavor. Nearly there, nearly there, he could see the bloodshot whites of their eyes. And it was then that he laughed. He knew those shivering mounds of flesh. They were some of the goons hanging out in the bar back in Anaxi. They were probably the ones who had kidnapped them. And here they were, at his utter mercy. Each of their faces displayed various expressions of panic and fear. The girl’s heart was beating the fastest, a vein pulsed quickly in her slender neck. He tried to draw it out, stare them down to heighten the fear. But he was so thirsty that he didn’t think he got the timing quite right. Didn’t matter. He swooped down upon the girl and sank his teeth into the soft flesh of her neck. She cried out, then began to shake uncontrollably. Though she tried to make some sort of noise, all that came out was a pitiful moan.

It was so unbelievably sweet. It had been so long since he’d had human blood. Real, fresh, human blood. Some spilled out of his mouth as he guzzled greedily, struggling to get as much of the metallic syrup down his throat as was possible. More, he needed more. Yet soon the vein dried up, and he found himself sucking on air. He let the body fall, her blood coating his mouth and chest. The crowd went wild, cheering loudly. He could hear it now, oh so clearly, with the clarity of a dog’s ears. The world suddenly regained its colors, and detail, and all sense of fatigue left his body. It was the best he’d felt in centuries. But it wasn’t enough. He needed more. The other two men began to cry and scream, their eyes locked on the girl’s body. The crowd was waiting to see what he would do. He smiled, and faster than anyone could see, pulled apart the chains binding their hands together. “Run,” he told them. But of course, there was nowhere for them to go. The smaller of the two stumbled to his feet, and did as he was commanded. Caught like a rabbit in a trap, his head turned this way and that wildly, looking for an escape. He caught up with the man soon enough, nearly walking. The crowd went ballistic as the hope left the man’s eyes. Cornered finally, he went limp as he too succumbed to blood loss. Lucius was nearly dyed red now, as he approached the final man, the bigger one. He hadn’t moved, his eyes still glued to the first corpse. “I told you to run,” he said to him. But the man said nothing. Lucius snarled and kicked him in the head. “I said: run.” But the man just shook his head. “No point.” Narrowing his eyes, Lucius stared at him for a moment, then turned away, and walked off back towards the prison. “I don’t drink from those who just give up. Too sour.” They locked him back in his cell, and he sat back and watched the varied shades of black dance. It wasn’t until later that the guilt began to set in.

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