His face haunted him. No, his old face. It wasn’t his. Not anymore. Now it belonged to a different life, it belonged to a stranger. A stranger who hunt him in everywhere. But it didn’t bother him. Even it had been just a few days since he lost his old life, he had already resigned to his fate. Though his face didn’t bother him, the ignorant people cursing and blaming him made the blood inside his veins boil.

He closed his eyes and listened to the TV while drinking his beer. It was a rare moment of peace in the last few days; the match was almost over and his team was winning and the cold drink felt nice in the warm bar. But when the referee pointed to the middle of the field and the news came on, the peace left him as if never had existed.

The first news of the night showed his old face. It wasn’t the photo that made him keep the rage in him—it was one of his best—but the word wanted under it, along with his name, brought all the pain back.

He didn’t have to listen to the TV anymore. Even without paying attention, he already knew the topic. “Samuel Alexandre da Silva is still at large…”, “The police is offering…” or “Guilty for the death of thousands…” or anything along those lines.

“Son of a bitch!” “That bastard must die!” The screams filling the bar died out the news anchor. Sam wasn’t sure if he should be happy or angry for that.

It’s time to go, he realized when other people joined in and a small crowd formed near the TV. Sam was there only to watch his team and forget his troubles for a couple of hours. Shit… I could swear this bar wouldn’t have so many people. Since the destruction still affected most of the town and electricity still hadn’t returned to many neighbors, any bar open would have clients.

That was stupid of me. Off course everyone would have the same idea, he thought, handing the money to the closest waitress before leaving. No one paid him any attention when opened the door. Why should they?

Sam glanced at the TV. He barely looked like the image; not only he had lost most of his hair, but the color was gone as well. His skin wasn’t the same and the photo hadn’t the scars either. With the hood covering half his face, it was hard to recognize at first glance. Only if someone looked me right in the face might recognize me.

Even if it wasn’t necessary and didn’t make any real difference, Sam pulled his hood closer. The simple act made his breathing and his heartbeat slow down. Sam closed his eyes and felt the breeze on his face.

He hadn’t taken ten steps outside the bar when he felt something sharp against his back. “Don’t move,” someone whispered and pushed Sam to the alley nearby with the free hand. “Give all you got.”

I’m a huge idiot, Sam thought, holding his urge to press his temples. Even before everything, the city wasn’t safe enough for people to walk alone at night, but now it had become much more dangerous. Mugging became the main source of income for many, especially those who lost all. He had seen it during his search, but he never imagined it would happen to him. A crowded bar was obvious to attract that kind of people.

Keeping the rest of his body still, Sam moved his left hand to his pocket slowly, looking for the battered wallet he had. The mugger grabbed it the moment he pulled it out, opening and taking the money.

He’s gonna be mad, Sam thought, half holding his smile, half thinking what he should do when his prediction became true. I doubt that money’s gonna satisfy him…

“That’s it?”  The bandit roared as he stared the single twenty reais note.

I called it, Sam thought, smiling.  Still holding the knife against his back, the mugger threw the wallet on the floor and looked through the other pockets. If you’re looking for a phone, I got more bad news to you. Mine was destroyed and I have no reason to buy a new one. There’s no reason to… not after everything… The thought made the smile on his lips disappear.

Sam had only one thing he valued, and when the mugger’s hand closed around it, he widened his. His breathing became short and rapid and he had trouble holding the urge to kill. Shit! Shit! I won’t kill him… I’m still human… I’m still human!

“What the fuck?” The bandit stared the small red stone in his hand, turning it around.

“Don’t… touch it…” Sam managed to say, the other blood inside him boiling. Crap! I’m losing my senses…

With a hand on his head, Sam turned around before the bandit could do anything. He meant only to grab the bandit’s wrist, but used too much force and felt the bones crushing around his fingers. Fuck! I forgot to control it, he thought, letting go, half his vision red.

The mugger screamed and fell on the floor holding his broken wrist. He raised his head to stare at Sam, his eyes full of rage and pain. But then, after just an instant, the rage was gone and all that was left was horror. “The monster!” Still on the floor, he backed away screaming, pointing with the good hand.

Fuck, Sam thought when he realized his hood had fallen, exposing his face. He pulled the hood back, but before he could grab the stone, the door of the bar burst open. Everyone rushed outside and gathered in the alley.

The crowd looked between him and the mugger. The bandit pointed at him and little by little the people realized who Sam was, the horror filling their faces. It was only for an instant, but the hesitation was enough for him to run.

Sam knew the city. He grew up on these streets. He knew where he was and knew where alley ended. Thanks to that, he only needed half his mind to decide the escapes routes that kept coming to him. The other half of him tried to calm the blood. I’m human… I’m still human, he said to himself over and over as he turned around the corners.

But the city he knew was gone. The destruction had changed the city, and the new paths were unknown to him. The debris of the supermarket his mom went every Sunday blocked street that led to a narrow alley, his best path. And before he could think of another route, he heard the crowd coming from behind him, the screaming reaching his ears. A moment later, his path was blocked.


“Because of you… because of you, my daughter died!”

“And my wife!”

Sam didn’t bother to face those who spoke. They were all a faceless mass to him. He kept his mouth shut, suppressing the urge to talk back. What can I say? That I saved you… that I saved this city…and all their worthless lives, Sam thought, breathing hard through his nose. I lost my eye, half my face…the place where I belong… everything… and that’s how you thank me?

“Sam…so it’s true… you really are the monster…”

The only familiar voice made him look up. At first he felt nothing as he stared his best friend, but when Sam saw Thiago’s eyes, rage filled him. He’s almost like a brother…and now he stares at me like that, he thought, his hand burning on the inside. No…No! He clutched his arm with the other hand with all his strength. I may have been turning into one, but I’m not a monster yet! I’m still human, he said to himself as his vision blackened now. I’m still human…

Before Sam could control himself, someone threw a rock. Even in his state, he dodged with no effort. The same for the second and third. But as the crowd closed in and threw more rocks, Sam was hit in the head.

He breathed deep to ignore the pain and blood, using half his concentration to consider his options, the other half keeping his mind human.

The other blood wanted to fight, to kill every single one of those ungrateful trashes. Just the thought made his arm quiver. Sam had to close his fist to keep the hand from transforming. That’s not the best choice, he thought, backing away. The police will be here any second and I can’t be chased all night long. I still need to…

“Samuel… so it’s true… you have become a sinner,” another familiar voice reached him. The priest of the church his mother forced him to go pretty much every Sunday stared him, his eyes empty of any feeling.

Sinner, huh? That’s a cool way of saying, padre, Sam thought, a hollow laugh echoing inside him. At least it’s not a lie like the others. The moment I chose to drink that blood, I became one. He closed and opened the transforming first. At first, it the blood boiled like that when he wanted, when he needed or when he lost control of himself. But little by little, it had taken him, and now he could barely control the blood.

No one had to tell him; Sam knew the only way to stop it would be with his death. If it was just that, it would be too easy. I’d have ended my life after I killed them, he thought. But Sam knew what will happen the moment his heart stops beating. He would die as human, but the blood would take over, and he would live as a beast. If I can at least kill those responsible for all this, I’d die happy…

Yeah, just like in the movies. The hero dying with a smile on his lips. Sam knew it was stupid. Even if he fulfilled his vengeance, he would die as the monster who killed his own family, thousands and destroyed the city. There would be no glory for him. But the idea at least entertained him as the crowd closed in. At least they’re out of rocks.

“The house of God is no longer open for you,” Padre Nathan said, taking charge of the crowd.

The moment the priest was within reach, Sam’s arm became a blur and closed around the throat. Sam had to use all his concentration to stop the fingers from tearing the flesh. His breathing was hard and irregular, but the plan had worked.

“Using Nate as hostage…”

“You’ll burn in hell for this!”

Yeah, this will be the least of my sins, Sam thought, barely registering what else they said. With the priest as a shield, Sam managed to climb the ruins of the supermarket. “Thanks for the help and sorry for this,” he said to the Priest when he reached the top. He threw Nathan on the crowd, who hurried to catch him.

Before he could confirm the Priest wasn’t hurt, Sam ran. When he was far enough, he pulled the hood back rested his back against a wall. With deep breaths, he managed to make the blood cool down. He jammed his hand into his pocket and closed his fingers around the red stone.

I need a place to hide, I need a place to hide… It was all he could think as the police sirens reached his ears. When he realized where he was, he almost laughed. There’s no place here, he knew at once. Sam would have to go to the other part of town. The one I destroyed, he said to himself, feeling nothing as he thought those words.

You’ll burn in hell… Sam heard the screams echoing in his head and suddenly knew where to go. Don’t worry, I’ll end up there anyway, but not yet.

Sam waited in the shadows until the path cleared. He lost track of time as he watched the people coming and going for food, warmth, closed or any other help. When the last family left, Sam sneaked his way into the church, aware of the irony that he hated wasting his Sunday mornings coming here all his life.

As quiet as he could, Sam walked through the corridors until he found the bookcase in the middle of a hallway. You’d better be right about this, Padre. Or I’ll send you first to set up my room down there, he thought, pushing the furniture enough for him to pass.

The wall behind the bookcase was just like the others, with nothing difference from the rest. Breathing through his nose and closing his eyes, Sam pushed the wall. The anger vanished from him when the wall moved backward. He went into the room and pulled the bookcase back, hiding the entrance.

The old room on the second floor of the church was forgotten. According to the priest, it was a secret room to protect revolutionaries centuries ago. Then it became a deposit until after many renovations, the people simply forgot it was there. Better for me, Sam thought, walking between decades-old dust and furniture. Despite window barely let any light in, he didn’t consider turning on the switch. It will be tiresome if anyone finds out about this room.

After walking around the room once, he found a space between a rotten wardrobe and the wall just big enough for him. Since it faced the door and the window at the same time, it was good enough.

Sam rested his back on the wall and closed his eyes. He didn’t sleep. After everything, all he could do was let his mind rest for a while. The images assaulted his mind, but now he had learned to ignore it for a few hours. All he had to do was keep his mind empty.

The moment he heard the faint sound of something heavy being pushed, Sam was alert and opened his eyes. A few seconds later, someone knocked on the wall. “Morning,” Padre Nathan said in a somber voice before pushing the passage back. Just like Sam, Nate pulled the bookcase back and pushed the wall back. The priest had two plastic bags on his hand. Sam nodded his head in greeting. “I take you didn’t sleep well?”

Despite everything, Sam ended up chuckling. Sleep? I’d rather not go insane, he thought. Whenever he closed his eyes and let his mind drift, he could hear the voices, the screams, the accusations. He could smell and feel the blood in his hands, could relive the sensation of bones crushing under his foot. “I’d rather kept my mind sane for now,” he said in a hollow voice.

Padre Nathan opened his mouth and but closed it right away, avoiding Sam’s eyes. “Here… I brought you some food,” he said, taking a bread and a carton of milk from one of the plastic bags. “Sorry it’s not much. There wasn’t anything left from the yesterday. More people came than we thought…”

“Thanks,” Sam said, taking the food. “And sorry for throwing you. I had to run and all, but I’m glad you’re in one piece.”

“I’m glad too,” Nate said and they both gave a weak chuckled.

Despite not being hungry, he took a bite of the bread. It’s been awhile since I felt hungry, he realized, somewhat surprised by the fact. He trying to remember when was the last time he felt hungry. He couldn’t. His old life, even if it was less than a week ago, had become harder and harder to remember. After all the fight and running around, I still don’t need food… guess I’m less human than I thought.

“Here,” Sam said when he finished the bread, tossing the red stone to the priest.

Nate caught it, closing his hand tightly around it. He took a deep breath and opened his palm, staring the stone, his face losing the rest of its color.

Sam had finished the milk, but the priest still stared the solid blood.

He closed his hands. “Now we need—”

“I know, I know,” Sam interrupted him, pressing his eyes with the hands. “Flesh and bone. Flesh and bone. You don’t have to keep saying. I still have enough mental capacity to remember those two words.

The Padre said nothing as Sam lashed out his anger at him. “I’m sorry. It’s just that—”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just that… Do you have any idea how hard it is to look for anything when every fucking idiot on this town is after my head?”

Nate stared at Sam. “How is the blood? Can you still control it?”

“For a few more days. That’s my limit. I… I can feel it.” Sam closed his eyes and rested his head on the wall. “The problem is… whenever I get near my house, the voices scream in my head. I almost passed out getting that stone. It’s… hard,” he said, closing his eyes resting his head on the wall.

The Priest kept quiet again. “I can’t help you with that. And I wished I could more than this…”

When Sam saw the red wig on the priest’s hand, he laughed for real for the first time in what felt like ages. “For real? A red wig to a black guy? Are we trying to get more attention to me? I already stand out plenty enough without that, thank you.” He laughed again, but his voice soon died. Sam stared his reflection in a dirty and dusty mirror standing on a corner. Even on that surface, he could tell; his skin had lost most of its color, and now had become a dead pale greyish.

“I’m sorry…”

“It’s not your fault.” Sam grabbed the wig. If I can hide my face with it and the hood, I might work, he thought. “I’ll go as soon as the sun’s down. Electricity isn’t back in that part of town yet, is it?”

“No. You… the fight destroyed the lines. It will take weeks to put everything back together. Even with the help from the capital.”

Sam felt nothing as he heard those words. “That means I can look for Flesh and Bone without people screaming for my head,” he said, closing his eyes again, waiting for the night.

The dead face stared at him, the pale eyes and empty accusing him. Sam wasn’t certain if it was just his imagination, or if the soul of the dead really stared at him.

As the numbness overtook him, he turned around. What’s done is done. Crying about it won’t change anything and won’t help you move on, he thought. His eyes searched the destruction under the moonlight. It’s gonna be impossible to find it.

Sam looked at his hand. It’s the fastest way, he told himself, concentrating. As the blood boiled, he clenched his teeth, opening and closing his fingers to keep the beast from overtaking him.

As the blood burned and transformed, his senses heightened. Now, even under the faint moonlight, Sam could see. He closed his eyes and let the sounds reach him. He heard a faint and rhythmic sound. A heart beating, Sam realized. There’s someone still alive here, he thought, realizing he felt nothing with it.

Walking to the sound, he realized it came from under a house. As he pulled the debris, light as feather to him thanks to the blood, Sam realized with a queer feeling this was once his house. But he didn’t stop.

When Sam pulled the rest of the collapsed wall, he felt his legs losing strength and fell to his knees. He knew that face. The face of someone he loved for years. “Mirela!” Her heart… how… I saw her dying with my own eyes… He pulled and threw everything until she was free. “Hey, talk to me,” he said, caressing his girlfriend’s face gently. “You’re alive… I heard your heart…”

No matter how much he called her, Mirela didn’t answer. He placed his ear on her chest. It’s not beating.

Turning his head, he found the source of the sound. Next to Mirela, there was a heart still beating.

How did things ended like this, he thought and hugged Mirela, the tears falling for the first time since he drank the blood.


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