by Shiawasena Ryokō-sha
In the woods, in the roots, in the bones of the earth, there is a cave, and in that cave rots the dreams of the whole wide world; and at the bottom, amongst the jagged, ever-growing teeth of stone, where living mortal should fear to go, I dwell.
That is the sort of thing that I am.
I have no compunctions about it and there is nothing so human about me as to regret. There are many names for beings such as me, more than a fear but less than a cosmology – old gods, small gods, perhaps (when humans have some notion we might be helpful) trickster gods – but I find them pitifully self-centered. There is nothing in my nature of you. I am not by you, and I am not for you: I was before you were, and I will still be, in some sense, when all of you are gone – though I may find, in time, that I dwell elsewhere.
But enough of me.
This is a story I am telling, but not of my grandeur, my magnificence. I like to think it might have gone just the same had I not been at all; there is some divinity to the idea that humans can concoct such things as I, can, as sterile earth bearing grubs of its own accord, touch beyond their realm of possibility… while I am no human thing, I do marvel in you as you marvel in me.
In any event, it was a day where I peered, seemingless, from the murky pools amid the moss – I exist, after all, on the edges between places, and need not constrain my facets as you do – that I saw him first. His boots were neatly laced but covered in mud, and he had a pack heavy with the gear he needed for some human sort of quest.
I found the muck of him quite lovely. So often, when I do peer at humans now, they are neat, manicured to smoothness like their smoke-metal-dust machines. It seems as if you must loathe the animal nature of being; you scrape the hair from your skin and the sweat from your pores, and replace it with false-smelling scents of fruit that bear none of the sugars, none of the cloying stickiness that makes the true produce so sweet and good. In any event, at that juncture at least, he had not done such things – his slightly ragged shirt clung to his underarms with dripping sweat, a scruff of chest hair visible where its collar had stretched, with the dust of crushed leaves and their mold smeared over his clothing and face as if he’d rolled in it. I took interest.
Through the crevices of bark and the little crawling plants that curl from the cracks, I followed him as he hiked. It seemed he must have been travelling for some time: the edges of weariness caressed him like a mother’s curse, and his pace was almost stoic. I do not trade in names as some things do, so I played games in loops around his heels, pondering what such a fellow might be called. You’ve given many names meaning over the years, for your trades and occupations, for the ways you might look, for the qualities you hope your children have, but it is rare indeed that they align – in that sense, I laugh at the ones who find truth in names, because there is none. They are simply a way one might be labelled, the least of honors that might be bestowed. As I said, I hold no truck with them. I am a different kind of ‘monster’ than that.
He found the bed of a seasonal stream, still slightly wet from some late-summer rain, and started to follow it back. It was at this point I saw the thing he held – I have seen such things before, forged of metal and electric thought; they smell the winds and waters, and feel their touch, and make sense of what has no sense, so many of the humans who brave my domains are quite fond of them – but this one was made of wood, and had no cord to tether it down, no numbers or dials to transmute the world to logic. It seemed, in fact, that he must be following the twitches of his own hands – there was nothing else to guide the motion of his piece. Perhaps, somewhere, there is a thing which grabs the essence of whittled twigs, but I have not met it yet. His feet landed surely, no tripping over fell rocks or clinging vines, but his gaze remained distant and glassy. I wondered at what he might have searched for, then; what fire burned in the fibers of his muscle. I find fire weak. It bores me.
My perturbations caused a dead pine to fall in the distance, the crackling crash enough to draw his ears. He jerked, afraid.
“What the hell,” he said, hoarsely. His voice was hot and dry, gritted like the desert winds gone too long without an ocean. I am not a moist thing, unlike some of my brethren, but I have some affinity for the damp. I wondered if, given water, he would drown in it.
Hesitant as a spring fawn, he crunched through the underbrush towards the sound. I’d hoped for that: a lure, a curiosity. A flirtation.
Like the winged whisper of the dragonfly, humans fascinate me; it is unfortunate that, where I am thickest, there is real peril for them. In the youth of my acquaintance, it was not uncommon for me to kill outright. Rapt with the flash and dance of their bodies, lithe and sleek like something meant to swim or climb the skies, I’d lead them to me until they were lost, or fell, or trapped in the embrace of rock too narrow to escape, the air of rot or rock too wretched for them to breathe, and they’d flounder there, doomed.
I make shrines of the places those husks lie, limited reparations for the beauty I’d so stolen. Mortal memorials fade in time: mine do not. They are constructed beyond your perception, crystalline cobwebs along the shards where the world folds; gossamer, delicate, bejeweled, dripping with simile and metaphor like your artists might capture flowers to a twist of enamel. Still little more than trifles; there is no replacement for what I’d destroyed.
…Perhaps I misspoke. Perhaps, sometimes, I do regret.
In any event, I understand you better for those mistakes, what limits that you have, what tolerance. I edge along, finding the space between my strengths and yours, wiggle that which I wish to bring into my domain from one to the other so it might in turn escape it when the time comes–
Although what I’ve obtained cannot escape me. My touch is like a brand: That which I’ve touched embodies me forever, a mark that loops around itself, self-containing. The memory of a true wildness, that which one cannot control, is a crack I might slip through like a snake. I need nothing else, when revisiting one of my supplicants piques my sense of humor. In that sense, I suppose such favor is both gift and poison. The capricious, the changeable, the incalculable – these things are what plague your minds and ride you to ruin, and so my recall lurks with menacing potential. This notion bores me. In fact, most of the lot need not quiver so – there are precious few who amuse me to such extent, so such a one might as well be gift to me.
Bah, I tell on myself; read these intimations like reading the leaves of tea. I’m sure they’d amuse you.
(I do like tea, and the reading of it. Its juice is dark and bitter, like rock dust and slow-running creeks where the oak leaves swirl and mayfly larvae nibble, and there’s no sense in it at all. Cards and dice and fallen bones have too much logic to them. Not as delicious.)
This man, like so many before him, held bright curiosity in his heart even through his fatigue, followed my clues. Here, a flash of leaf overturned, there, a flash of beetle-wing brightness in the soil and a worn track between two trees – catching to his mind as a pattern’s hook, the thread of a song he craved to follow along. I am skilled at such things now. It took little time before his boots stood before an alcove cradling a path to my deep.
It was then I waited, with what a human might call “bated breath.” Long experience told me there was little I could do to sway your folk through such a liminal choice: your curiosity overcomes you, or it does not. You know what you should fear, or you do not. You step forward, or… you do not. You consider my acts magic – well, to me, in these moments of decision are held the whole magic of the world, quivering on the edge like tea at the lip of a cup.
“Oh,” he whispered. It echoed, soft as the wind through fresh-born leaves. “Oh this – this is–” he continued, looking down to the stick in his trembling hands. “Here. It was here.”
And he stepped forward, pulling an electric torch from his pocket.
The rest was simple.
Caves are dangerous things for you. Less so for what lies in wait, though in your ancestral memories lie the distant imprint of bear and lion, but for what doesn’t: light, guidance, and space. Once you’ve entered, one turn is quite like another, and the strange geometries of rock carved by ages are unfriendly to your minds. Caverns, the effluvia of lives above well-lived, well-grown, and well-died flowing through them in every trickling stream, every wash of hard water, entrap you with confusion, despair seeping from their substrate and choking out all hope of release should you stray from your path.
I, who crawl between possibilities with the twining of the summer sprouts, am not limited by such things as distance or solidity. I have already crossed every bridge of rock, every spire of stone in my domain, each alone and all at once, blanketing the sum of it in a comprehension no human could ever receive. So, for my weary, sweat-stained traveller, I chose a path with care – not too steep, not too rough, no narrow passages to squeeze or crush him like death’s embrace or wet floors to slip him. I wanted him whole and complete, a fruit of the waking world delivered to me unblemished by transit, tempered to a mettle by whatever obscure processes brought him to my lintel, wrapped in sweat and dust and the scent of the square-stemmed plants he’d crushed under his boots.
At the time, I worried his mind might already be fogged by some force other than me – herb or salt or ooze of toad, enough to render his journey, his passage into the heart of my existence, simply one more bad dream. As he tread, he kept referring back to his twig, though his hands trembled less. Occasionally, it seemed he divined something in the feeling of it under his fingertips – then, he would halt, tilting his beam of illumination over the rock intently, inspecting every crevice and rill he found there. While the pads of his fingers were yet clean, his cuticles and the ragged half-moons of his fingernails were black with accumulated dirt; the chill of air long undisturbed brought goose pimples to his skin, made him shiver lightly in his too-thin shirt with the vulnerability of a deer mouse curled in its nest. He cut a striking figure like that – warm and soft against a world of cold stone.
I need not eat, but – in human terms, I drooled.
Down, past the shells of cave-crickets long-passed, past the trails of lime left by the trickling remainder of spring rains, over the crunching surface of tiny crystals so weak they collapse under their own weight to line the floors of their bowers, beyond the reach of even the most persistent molds, down and down he travelled, heart beating in time with curiosity itself. He was not unafraid, which I found most intriguing – curiousity alone doesn’t overwhelm such a true fear. Something else powered him, something deep, intrinsic, and undeniable. Something, perhaps, worth more than life itself. A powerful thing.
Ill luck, for one powerful thing to bring a man to another. Many others would simply have devoured him wholly. A waste. I am glad he stumbled across me.
And stumble he did, most literally. I think he’d realised the region before him was the end of this path, no clear exits before him, and it made him cautious. Here, the shine of his torch seemed feeble in the face of encroaching black: stalagmites and stalactites casting wild and changeable shadows and the drip of the water that fed them echoing baroquely through the hall. Here, human touch was merely passing fashion, nature itself reigning eternal and supreme. Here… a place beyond places, one end of the world.
A gap. A crack. A seeping-through.
“Hello,” I said.
The shock of the unexpected sent him reeling, boot catching against rough stone and sending him tumbling to the floor. He lay there on his back, gasping and shivering.
His pack propped him forward somewhat and gave him a view into the darkness of the cavern, a place apt enough I seeped and pooled my truth without reservation, altering the shape of it further to my nature. His eyes darted, seeking a form to match my voice. (There was, of course, none.) The dowsing rod lay by his side, forgotten.
“It has been a long time since I had a visitor,” I said. In tendrils, I slipped down the neck of his shirt and up from where it rucked at his waist to feel out the solidity of him. Humans are unlike the rats or deer or other mammals of my acquaintance, being pleasantly broad their whole length; I found myself involuntarily curling with pleasure at the soft give as I wound between the threads of his sparse pelt, so sticky with sweat. His skin pulsed with heartbeat – live, animate power harnessed to its clever yoke, clever enough to grasp beyond the edges of its existential bounds.
“You’re not a ghost, are you,” he whispered. He was doing an admirable job breathing through his fear; I could feel the hitch as his diaphragm paused amid each breath, metering them out.
When I can’t pull the wool over mortal eyes, I prefer awe to terror. Terrified creatures shy away, make themselves scarce – they sense the uncanny, and deep instinct informs them it means death. I do not mean death. I merely… may be accompanied by it.
“I am not a ghost,” I replied. His face reflected a mind flicking through other possibilities like a leaping minnow. “Nothing died to make me. Nothing dies to keep me. I simply am.”
“I’m… looking for something,” he said, “Someone. Someone who… died. I think.”
That gave me pause. I pondered. He was pleasantly warm, full of life and the summer sun, and I had no desire to let him go immediately. “I have not lead someone to doom here in a very long time,” I said. This was, of course, a wrong thing to say – were I human, I would have cackled at the way the statement made him twitch. “Some hundred years or more, so I do not think you look for them. But I do watch, and I see a great deal.” I pooled some of myself in the shallow dip above his belt, enjoying the fragility of the skin there. “I certainly possess more knowledge than a whittled aspen-stick.”
He took a sharp, steeling breath. “What would you share that knowledge for? Blood? Some other kind of sacrifice?” He halted, stuttered, my expectant silence overwhelming. “Are you even a kind of thing that… trades favors?”
I had not gotten a favor in a very long time. As your kind are well aware, many trade in them, require them, and are held to them… by word, and not by deed. I am not one of those – just as I hold no truck by names, I cannot be bound with words. I am the only thing with the power to determine what I do. However I… like favors.
They are, like names, an honor bestowed.
“Perhaps,” I hedged. I looped around the canvas of his pants, letting a coil stroke the malleable tenderness over the arteries on the inside of his thigh. I thought it was a shame he’d tucked his pants into his socks – probably to ward off the bite of ticks and worse, an understandable goal, but it also warded off me, at least for the moment. “But to trade while holding an empty basket would be poor form; I consider such tricks the domain of facile fools. You would need to tell me of your quarry first.” I pressed in at the crease where his leg and buttock met lightly. He pulled his knee up – I think, at that moment, he did not quite understand the sensation, merely felt it as a restlessness brought on by racing blood.
“But if you did know, what would I be trading you?” he asked, fresh sweat wetting the hair at his brow.
Two phantasmal things enough like human hands to be understood squeezed his hips, slid their thumbs under his belt. “Your favor for mine; for my knowledge, I know you in the oldest sense.” I gripped his leg more tightly, lest he misunderstand my lack of human constraints.
“What–” he gasped in confusion, “Sex? Are you a demon – some kind of… incubus? I haven’t heard of something that seduces men but is…” He trailed off, suddenly unsure. I suspect it occurred to him my voice need not mirror my nature.
I did chuckle then, for his sake – deep and rich enough to make him shiver in something less than fear. In his ignorance gleamed a cannyness of the kind I love best, groping about in the hollow darkness for sense and answers. As I spoke, I took advantage of his still-folded leg to caress one, two, a half-dozen phantom hands and feelers around his crotch, his rear, his hip, the inside of his thighs. “Why should one that doesn’t breed regard such boundaries? I am not like a Mother Nature or an Allfather in the slightest, and have no need to pretend it.” I pet his half-interested member gently through the thick cloth, pleased to see some wetness bleed through from below. “I am, however, bored.”
He swallowed dryly. “Ah.”
“So, knowing for knowing. A fitting trade?”
His hands shook. “Can – if I fill my end first, will you still–“
“Of course. I will fill your end, and then I will fulfill mine.”
(I would have done such no matter how he replied. As I said, I merely like favors, I do not require them, and – no matter their fate, the lost dead become close to me. Leading a live human to one is an easier motion than guiding them away from my domains entirely.)
“Okay. Okay, yes, let’s do it that way.” He slipped his arms from the confines of his pack and unlatched his belt, exposing more of the soft hair, the tender flesh, the animal musk I find so delightful, and I swarmed eddies of myself to touching, holding, grasping, lifting his hips from the ground with ease. He yelped lightly.
I also pulled the legs of his pants from his socks.
When he realised the ways I groped, he moved to assist me, sliding his trousers and the sorry excuse for linens underneath partway down: an unnecessary courtesy, but almost sweet in the thought so clear behind it.
Is it that which made the act sex? I am not flesh – though I might have as many phalluses as I please, there’s no mortal member among them. I neither spill nor plant nor grow seeds. I lay no eggs, not even like the spawn of frogs that becomes the spring tadpoles. (At least, I never have. Perhaps I could – such things are not so complicated to create.) I have no nerves, brain, or chemicals with which to orgasm, and neither do I eat or require sustenance; to describe my debauchery with such words is mere metaphor. At least, it can be agreed both acts form a connection of matter and mind…
I looped and furled around his legs, driving upwards, squeezing at the join between torso and thigh where the curves of muscles meet at an indent, running along all the hard places where bone neared skin to frame the softness of pectorals, throat, the vulnerability of his guts. He panted, fears giving way to a hot exhaustion as he relaxed into my support. I threaded over his lips at their corner, the sensitive pad of his tongue, and felt his breath stutter. While the reaction pleased me greatly, I prefer clever mouths unrestrained; I retreated to pet at his cheek as I swelled along the cleft of his ass.
Being immaterial, I needed no oils or waters to open the orifice of a thousand euphemisms and trail my way inward. The muscles of his taint shuddered under my efforts, the strength of core muscle forged through natural application giving them ample pressure to work against. His cock rose hot against his belly, adding patches of slime to the sweat and dust of his journey. In the ages when humans lust for men, such a scene is their very concept of allure, the targets of their lechers and rakes.
Should it have escaped you, I am, of course, both those things.
To leave such rich offering untasted struck me as unfortunate, but I could feel delight in the very shift of his blood, the subtle squirm of his hips, and decided to let him absorb my other methods first. To one such as I, let in so absolutely, reading the chime of his nerves was elementary; I could keep him from the brink as long as I pleased, or force him to repeat it faster than his chemistry allowed. That day, so long since I’d last played such a game, the glorious torture of letting him brim with pleasure without end in sight drew my lust.
With care, I tunneled further in, past where human phallus could ever tread, to parts of the channel only the most foolish of you risk to tear at the less-than-tender ministrations of insensate toys. In this, I need not fear; the minutiae of stretch and strain and the limits of what I touch are self-evident to me, the glorious window before danger my greatest amusement. Instead, I may – and I did – coil slenderly deep, deep into the gut, until the place where the passage narrowed. His brow wrinkled, aware of the unfamiliar sensation without a comprehension of it. I let a chuckle ring out, deep and low with promise, as I fed bulk into him. Perhaps he’d expected me to move like an eel or a worm, thinking of familiar forms like tentacles, of muscles that pull and push each other; I am sure he’d expected me to touch the pleasure of his prostate first, make the explicit anticipation of it tacit permission for other things. Humans simply don’t seem to understand how much it pleases me to touch something – someone – both within and without, feel it conform to my ministrations.
Besides, I’d promised to fill him, and, when it suits me, I am a creature of my word.
Rolling soothingly to make it a pleasure, petting and cosseting every inch I touched, I poured into him until his breath labored against the bulk of it and his gut swelled with the intrusion. “Oh – oh shit,” he murmured, muscles of his back shaking slightly with confusion. I thickened at the base, pressed forward to his pleasure as I pulsed inside him, reminded him of my depth, the inhuman largeness of the feeling. His dick was slickly drooling, carnal senses blurring into one.
In the darkness, amid the stalactites, I drew together a shape. My simple senses might be more acute, but the sensations of hands and tongues lend themselves to some experiences, and enjoying such a delight as this indolent mortal man was one of them. In my haste, I gave it only the vaguest semblance of an appearance – you might have seen it as a sparse coat of ochre over an empty shell, incomplete and showing through in places but sufficient to convey the idea. I pursed my fresh lips and whistled beseechingly, made his half-lidded eyes widen and fly to where I stood so I could feel his reaction to it.
Entrained within him like that, it was easy to shift the form to one that suited his conceptions of me. I’d expected to take on the form of a man – what else would I have been, avidly thrusting in my power until his belly bulged? – although the details surprised me somewhat. A sharp face, perhaps cunning, with the rough scruff of middle age, hair long enough to brush the sides of my face and the back of my neck – I’ve seen many of your modern images of men since then, photographs and movies of the famous and noteworthy, and I’m sure I’ve seen hints of that face in theirs. And I do agree, knowing of those persons and the roles they play – this face suits one such as I.
I drew forward, let eyes gleam at him from the darkness. There was something of shock and dismay in his reaction, but perhaps more for not having expected such a trick than it being unwelcome. I pressed against his prostate, pulsing lightly as I came to kneel between his knees – I’d placed no restraint whatsoever on his arms, but he didn’t move to touch himself or the mortal form, waiting to see what I intended.
“You impress me,” I said, brushing one finger against his cock where it lolled against his skin in time with his heartbeat. “Brave, to bargain with what you don’t understand. Bold, to come so very far in search of answers. You must be eager for… fulfillment.” I smiled, baring teeth that flashed in impossible light as the part of me that cradled him writhed and curled over his skin, leaving goosebumps in its wake.
He smelled very, very good. He felt even better.
I licked the precome from his belly, salt and grit coming along with it on the tender cat’s tongue I’d selected for myself. He shivered, tickled; whenever it seemed I might have lost his rapture, I slid within him, the pleasured pain of it yanking him back, leaving the chambers of his shaft engorged while my hands roamed over his chest, his legs, his ribs. With my hand over his navel, I could feel my own presence within him, measure the depth of him between, sense how it pulsed with life. He made some incoherent plea, hips twitching slightly.
I took his cock in mouth and swallowed around it, pressing hard into his prostate in the same instant – too hard, hard enough a wash of pain shuddered through him and he gasped with it. The sensation eased back, gentler, an accompaniment to what I did with my mouth rather than a distraction.
Sex was sweat and musk, the must of the forest dirt he’d tracked in and the taste of the things he ate in his fluids, and it fufilled me, delighted me. As I rolled over his glans, flowed through his gut, danced over his skin, I lost the coherency of my form in the pleasure, split like prisms into pirouettes of shards, followed the curves of his form and his mind and his history to, for a moment, the exclusion of my own. I came back to the act as he reached the very edge, the precipice of creation and – I swallowed again, pulled him over it, let his seed plant itself in the facsimile of a stomach the faux form bore. Felt his awe and his delight course through his mind as though they were my own, felt his edge become one with mine.
Rarely has even this act I find so suited to me been so pleasurable. I knew, even then, he would be a favorite of mine.
I withdrew gently, set him down on the floor as I had my visible form step away into the half-black.
“Wow, wow. Okay,” he murmured, still shaking and unconceving of what he had done there. He hissed a small noise, as if to begin a thanks, but cut himself off, perhaps aware what debts thankfulness might induce.
“Tell me of whom you seek,” I said.
The details do not matter. They were human. They had a face, a name, a gendering; skin that was dark or light or any of a million middling shades, eyes that glittered when the light was just right, hair that grew strong in health and brittle in sickness; they moved under the sun, and thought under the moon, and turned the years over with the courageous striving you all do. They were like every last one of you, and for that, they were beautiful and unique.
I understand from his words – Gabriel’s words, so he is named – that your people consider honor in death to require repetition: of names, of memories, a preservation of the deceased as they would have craved to be known. But that is a human rule, for human memories. The lost dead are ledgered forever in my annals, static and empty of what made them glorious.
And yes, this poor soul was dead: dead, by the hands of a pack of inverate cowards – dead, because such packs fear what they cannot understand – dead, because such cowards see in the image of their killing a death to fear itself. Rended away when the simple presence of their reflected light, some conflux of traits too ordinary for mention betrayed cowards’ limpid, limping dreams, sketched skulking terrors in the eddies of their minds. Repeating draws likeness as drawing curtains brings in the light – for reasons supercilious alone, I am insulted such things occur. The craven holes where conceptions decay are my place alone; those claimed by them are my supplicants, not those becoming them.
Let the recalling stay to those who loved this dead one so:
To Gabriel, looking when all others had despaired.
To the rest they’d called friends, finding not relief but absolution in the knowledge.
To all who remembered them properly, still holding memories fond in their hearts.
I had never seen them alive; I had no such claim. I know only that they had been one more senseless waste, one more lost shell left to rot away its last splendor on my doorstep.
I kill rarely. Humans – humans kill often, and with purpose.
As I’d promised, I took Gabriel to his friend. I stayed there, unseen, as he pulled his phone from some inner pocket and powered it on, stayed as he made the long, shaking call. I stayed through the long, dark hours of the night while he waited there, waited by the hideous mockery of scraps that should have stayed a person. I stayed when the uniformed men in their beetle-dark star-blazoned car came to see the mess they’d abandoned so easily – when they asked questions Gabriel had no answers for – when they finally, finally decided he was a simple hiker and let him aside. Stayed until safer human hands came, swept him into a tearful hug, held him close as the bundle of them cried, and cried, and cried.
(I stay with him still. But not always so intently as that first night.)
So his part in this story ends: fell prophet on a mad quest, thought lost to the wood’s ages just as the friend before him – one more tally on a grim ledger of verdant lives ended too soon, one more tear in their weary people’s hearts – come back anew, treasure of knowledge in hand with no words as to how he’d divined it. The flock of little birds reunited to grieve. A hole made whole, a grave filled in with the work of worthy hands. The stories that can be told by the ones who yet remain.
Only my part remains: the story left with the decaying morass of all the hopes already long-lost, in the fetid, stinking, aching hollow tainted sour by dread where human instinct knows some fell predator must lurk.
I am not a predator.
Predators seek prey: they hunt it down, they kill it, and, when they can, they eat it. Should they stop, should they refrain, their being saps and weakens, until finally, they too perish. For a predator to hunt is necessary; a predator that does not hunt inherently creates its own demise.
I need no sustenance, and thus exist outside such mortal categories.
I am not a predator.
But my hedonisms, I find, strike you much the same. Between human nature and mine, a perfect complement: in my wildest, rarest-achieved indulgences, the precisest nightmare of the Epicureans.
To have success in my seeking, I rely usually on luck. Your awe, your gratitude delights me, and when I have it, I do like it – but it is simpler to obtain, requires no specific knowledge of your persons. However, the evocation of human displays I achieve least often, the rarest and most esteemed of my games require firmer hooks, stronger nets – or weaker targets.
Those humans who think their power over death conquers fear often think themselves safe near the domains of those such as me. Think the wild things of the world like them better, or can all be turned aside with their spears and guns. Think themselves stronger and fitter than those that came before them. (They are, of course, wrong.)
I did not destroy the ones who did this. They are still, in the end, quite human – as I’ve said, I find your form and nature quite beautiful. Worthy of preservation, a thing to indulge myself in observing – In every state it can occupy.
So they did not die, and they have not died, and they may not die at all.
Or run. Or hide.
In my domain, that is no favor at all.