Feel fear and terror, from the demon-possessed remains. Praise and worship, the karma of overlapping yin and yang.
I first heard tell of her in a town I visited toward the end of my pilgrimage.
This town, shielded from the sunlight in a cloak of white mist, was no stranger to attacks by shades. The denizens all lived in fortified, tank-like dwellings. The way in which the town was built reminded me a giant spider’s nest, the houses eggs.
As I do in all the towns I visit, I gathered the young people in the square to deliver a sermon on the virtues of tolerance and peace. Just as I was commending them for their bravery in facing each day under the threat of shades, one of the youths stood up, scowling.
"You don’t understand anything. Listen, it isn’t the shades we’re afraid of. There’s a worse monster lurking here… that damn shade-possessed woman."
As those words left the young man’s lips, all gathered let out sighs and soon an oppressive silence descended upon us. When I became flustered by this, the young man, called Dimo, laugh sarcastically, his tone turning more derisive.
"Do you feel like preaching the value of tolerance to someone like that? Eh, little miss do-gooder?"
I’m used to people regarding me with jaundiced eyes for being both of educated mind and attractive build. My ideals of a truly tolerant world may not mean much to the ear of one uneducated and living hand-to-mouth, I realize. I’ve been sneered and belittled throughout my journey by many unenlightened people, but because I realize their ignorance I can find it within myself to forgive them. At such times, I only smile at them. I never give into hate or fear. I just continue to try and deliver those less fortunate than I, such as this Dimo.
"I hear the mere touch of a shade upon the skin causes pain worse than death. I have never met anyone possessed by a shade before, but their suffering must be unimaginable. It brings a tear to my eye to think of it. I can hardly understand how you could treat her with such disdain."
When I finished speaking, I was met by a dozens of hollow stares.
Having learned of the prejudice against this person, I travelled door-to-door, aggressively collecting information about her. Some of the villagers refused to speak of her, as if she were cursed, but most were more than happy to discuss -and in the process, slander- her.
Apparently she became possessed the very same day she lost her one relative, her grandmother. Consumed by grief and loneliness, they say she had relations with a shade, which caused half her body to take on an inhuman shape. She now kills shade and man alike in order to devour their corpses. On the days she is not killing, she tempts men… as I listened to these obviously fabricated rumors, I felt my sympathy for this woman growing. My desire to shield her from discrimination was sincere.
When I said I wished to speak with her, the villagers appraised me suspiciously. Not disheartened, however, I ended up paying Dimo a fair bit of coin to lead me to where she lived.
"Paying good money to go gawk at a half-shade… some moral pillar you are, huh? Wouldn’t it be easier to just go to a freak show?" Not letting his words get to me, I held my head high. Soon enough I would have the opportunity to deliver that poor and sorry soul.
Around the time the mist began to mask my view of the town in the distance, we came upon an open clearing. Within it, one of the tank-like buildings I saw in town stood half-collapsed. Its outside walls were red with rust and cracking, full of enormous holes.
"This is it." Said Dimo, but I could hardly believe anyone could live in such a place.
I rushed toward the house and called out, but got no answer. No one was inside. Peeking in, I caught sight of a ring of lovely flowers and what looked like a children’s drawing scrawled in colorful crayon hanging up on the wall. Feeling deeply reassured, I turned to Dimo full of confidence.
"Look there. Her heart is human enough to value beauty. I have no doubt she is as human as you or I."
The moment I’d said that, I heard the sound of many footsteps. The atmosphere became unsettled, and I saw Dimo’s face pale as the scent of something rancid met our nostrils.
"Damn! Must be shades-"
Before he could finish speaking, before my eyes a geyser of blood had erupted from Dimo’s side. It sprayed over me like rain. A shade emerged from the thicket, its body encircled what looked like gold-colored rings. The only reason I could not let out a shriek at the sight of its ghastly form was thanks to the rain of blood having already dulled my senses. Joined by three or four more, the shades circled me, inching closer gradually. With each step their feet made a wet, hateful sound upon the grass. The mist, grown thick, choked me and my nose was assaulted by the smell of decay.
Would the shades kill me, or would I suffocate first? As I pondered my fate in some far away section of my wavering consciousness, my attention was caught by a glimmer in the corner of my eye. The next thing I heard was a roar of wind and the sounds of soft meat being sliced.
It hadn’t taken a second. Before I could even blink the shades, still screaming, had been cut into pieces. Rubbing my eyes, I saw a woman standing with two large swords in either hand. She was wearing a tawdry costume that exposed her shapely form to the elements. She wore a smile on her face that seemed to extend from ear to ear.
"How the hell did you like that, huh, you goddamn shit eaters?! I’m not going to stop chopping until I’ve diced you into a fine fucking mist!"
I could hardly believe the words that were spilling happily from her open mouth. Her sharp eyes seemed to burn red, and her clothes, wet with blood, glistened as they clung suggestively to her body.
This was… this was the poor soul who had been possessed by a shade?
Forgetting the fear I’d held for my life, I stood agape, staring at this woman who could not be further from the image I had of her.
It wasn’t until she had made good on her words and the last shade stopped screaming that I registered Dimo’s pained wails.
"A-are you all right?" I asked, drawing near him.
"You saw that, right?" He gasped at me. "She’s as bad as those monsters! She kills the shades even though she’s one herself… and she has fun doing it, too! She gets off on it! There’s no way she won’t end up killing a human some day soon! Take my word for it and get the hell out of here!"
Cradling his wounded side, Dimo got to his feet and made to leave.
"Wait! Did she not just save our lives? She killed those shades to protect us! And still you’d shower her with hate? She’s a good person… why can’t you see that?"
Dimo looked at me blankly. The sarcasm and meanness was gone from his eyes; in their place I spied a gaping void. Narrowing those eyes, he proclaimed in a dry, rattling voice:
"That thing isn’t human. Can’t you understand, preacher? I’m not being prejudiced; it’s natural to hate a monster!"
Dimo then left on unsteady legs. Despite his deep wound, he fled with surprising speed.
Alone now, I steeled my resolve and approached the woman. She must have overheard the conversation between me and Dimo, but she said not a word about it.
"Are you injured?" I asked. She remained silent. She wouldn’t even meet my eyes. I saw blood running down her inner thigh and removed my scarf, thinking to use it as a bandage. Splattered with Dimo’s blood it wasn’t completely sanitary, but I thought it be better than nothing.
"Allow me to wrap a bandage around that." I thought she might stop me, but instead she just stood still. Taking this as a sign of acceptance, I hurriedly began to wrap the scarf about her thigh. I noticed each time my fingers brushed her leg, she gave a little jump, and that struck me as so human… so girlish… I couldn’t help but smile.
"Could I speak with you for awhile? I’d like to be your friend."
So saying, I followed her into her home. I realize I was being pushy, but recognizing she was obviously awkward when it came to human relations, I thought it better to act a bit familiar. Hesitantly taking a seat upon the wet and semi-rotting floorboards, I began to speak of the wonders of tolerance and good-will toward man, just as I always did when reaching a new village. This time, however, so aware of her personal plight as a victim, my speech was even more impassioned.
Before I realized it, by the time I had finished speaking it was already well into the night. When I looked toward her, I saw the woman had fallen asleep, back towards me. Attacked by shades and forced to sleep in this hovel… oh, this poor, courageous woman! Had the bleeding of the wound of her leg let up? I wondered as my own eyelids grew heavy.
I don’t know how long I slept, but I awoke from the coldness of the night air piercing my skin. It was still quiet and dark outside, the sun not yet having risen. When I looked to my side, the sleeping form of the woman was no longer there. Straining my eyes, I saw drops of blood on the floor leading to the door.
Alarmed, I rushed out myself. Making my way through the obscuring mist, I soon felt the presence of someone off a bit further into the bushes. I raised my voice to call for her, before realizing I had yet to ask her name. In this night previously muted by silence, the sudden sound of pained, ragged panting pierced my ears. There was no mistaking it, that was her voice.
"Ugh… hah… hah, hah, hah, hah… haaaah…"
Had her wound reopened? Did she come out here to withstand the pain alone? Needing to know, I stepped forward.
"Are you all right? I can redress your wound…"
The mist lightened enough for me to see her form. I gave a sharp gasp once I had.
She really was possessed. The left half of her body swelled with unfathomable darkness, peculiar lumps circulating within it. It seemed as if another creature, with its own will, separate from the rest of her.
She had noticed me by then, so I did my best not to look disturbed. Repeating ‘all men are brothers’ in my mind like a prayer, I showed her a smile. But her gaze was turned downward. I followed it, my eyes were pulled toward what she held in her demonic left hand. The moment I comprehended what it was, all the hairs on my body were standing on end.
What she held in her hand was… a large, engorged male member… yet it was hers. Upon the swarthy organ there were littered many veins, which I could even clearly see throbbing.
She wasn’t merely possessed. She was of both sexes!
"On nights after I kill shades… …I can’t stop myself…"
Lifting her head to face me in the mist, the woman spoke her first words to me. Her eyes were narrowed, her thin lips opened like a thin cut on her face. Her pupils locked onto me as their target, her left hand began to move up and down furiously. Her breathing became even more ragged, and her upturned eyes began to lose their focus. I knew what was coming next.
I cried, averting my eyes from the moment of climax.
"Don’t come near me, you… you monster!"
As I scrambled frenziedly away, her shrieking voice seem to pursue me. It was an ear-splitting wail that seemed to be both laughing and crying.
Scared. I’m scared. Disgusting. Revolting. Hateful. I hate you. Disgusting. Revolting. I can’t understand. I don’t want to understand. Disgusting. I’m scared.
From within my heart surged hideous feelings that hitherto did not exist there. I realized I too was crying. Crying at the top of my lungs. I then promptly vacated the contents of my stomach.
That is the entirety of my experience with that woman. In the one night I spent with her, as if a screw had come loose within me, ugly and hateful feelings continue to overflow, uncontrolled.
I hate her for making me like this. I despise her. I fear her. She’s disgusting. Hateful. Scary. Scared.
Oh, but please do not misunderstand me. I’m not being prejudiced; she’s not human. No one with a body as hideous and terrifying as hers could possibly be. It’s natural to hate a monster, to wish for its death. Is it not? Can you honestly tell me I’m wrong?
I’m not wrong… am I? Am I? Am I? I’m not being cruel. I’m not the ugly one here. I’m an upstanding person. Am I? Am I wrong? I’m not wrong.
Am I? Am I?