Far to the North (Chapter 16)

An arctic hare bounds through loose snow and darts beneath hanging rock. Pausing in the night, it hears a shrill cry. Beady eyes go wide while large ears twitch to discern the threat and location. Another cry comes, louder and longer, and the hare scrambles from the cave opening to seek shelter in nearby bushes.

Inside, deep within the harsh caverns, one life comes to an end while another is born again.

The body of Marissa Pickens strains in total darkness. Muscles bite with tension, and another scream pours into the pitch-black cave. Bare hands slick with sweat push against frozen stone. Lungs burn. Contractions stab like searing needles pressing deeper and deeper, and the body pushes again. A seething growl of hatred escapes from her throat as the deviling controlling her struggles to endure each passing wave of pain. Soon, there is a breach. Flesh tears and fluid spills as a creature the size of a toddler tumbles into the world. The deviling sheds a mental layer, releases control, and the screams from Marissa Pickens cease. With the role of host fulfilled, her body is abandoned and left to fall lifelessly upon the stones.

Freed from her mortal suffering, Marissa joins her husband in an ether of existence beyond existence.

The deviling fumbles on the frozen floor of the cave in its fledgling state. Human-like hands covered in burnt skin reach and grab and soon find a ruined heap of fleshy warmth once called home. Already, precious heat is departing. Tearing blood-stained clothes from its mother’s corpse, it hurries to dry and cover itself, struggling in its efforts. Once clothed, as well as it can be, it curls into a ball and nestles next to the body left in ruin. Already, hunger broods, and Marissa Pickens serves one final role: first meal.

Wasting no time, the deviling tears into the body from whence it came with ravenous hunger.

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