For me, I was nothing and then I was something.
What could I possibly mean by that phrase? I wasn’t born. I was formed by the darkest creature to walk three worlds. Once an angel, now he was far from it.
He created me and my brethren in seconds from the void. The first was Fear. This entity was a feeder on emotions—more like a terror than anything. The second was Harvest. He was true to his name—a player of faces and a creator of havoc, just like the one who fathered him.
We were alike in many ways. The Devil gave us pieces of who he was to create us. Fear fed on emotions and killed because it was what he was made to do. Harvest was a little different. He could appear to be anyone depending upon the circumstances. Not only that, he collected people, demons and things and made them different.
Then there was me.
Jackal. Shapeshifter. Plague dropper. Wherever I walked, I left behind the most destruction. My body was a channel of deadly diseases. Although, I couldn’t change into any human form, I could shift into any animal or demon. My touch brought upon the very demons the Underworld knew as shapeshifters. A single bite placed upon one demon many moons ago plagued him with my gene. The disease spread like wildfire just like any other damage I caused.
The three of us were feared throughout the Underworld for very different reasons, but those reasons were what the Devil wanted. He succeeded in us. At least, for a while.
My tale began where I thought it ended. Just like any other time I stepped into the human world that one was no different. I set out to create a monstrosity to place upon the humans—famine, disease, death. I was a conqueror from the Underworld. A deliverer of destruction who no one knew existed, but everyone had felt in one way or another.
The worst part was, I didn’t have to do anything. I just had to walk through a poor village and what I carried, stuck. The result was often instant. One person fell with a disease, and then another while I set back and watched, seemingly without an expression. This was all I knew. All I served and followed—everything I was made for.
There were no emotions for me. I didn’t feel anything although I saw and witnessed every emotion. The dreadful feelings were to be witnessed every time I watched humans.
Only I wasn’t invisible to that village. Someone that wasn’t a human at all had recognized my touch, its destruction since she had lived there. Those she had loved and cherished had been there with her. They had been human. The witch had gotten the sickness as well. She had been tiny and frail, but she was the last of her village to take my plague. She knew I watched and waited for days—I know that now because once every heartbeat in the village stopped but hers; she ventured outside of their tents and approached me. I was in a wolf form, and she leaned on my tail as she could barely walk. Her eyes were sunken in and blisters covered her flesh. My plague was mere minutes from taking her heartbeat as well and she used it to get to me.
“You must be the infamous Jackal.” She coughed several times, never bothering to cover her mouth. “Death bringer that the Devil has created. A mutiny, you are…” When I was unmoved by her words, she tilted her head at me. She saw something then, recognition dawned over her sunken features. “You don’t even know. Your eyes may let you see but you miss everything. You know nothing, nor do you feel it. Today that changes.”
I never moved from my spot. I never knew to be wary of what was to come. In my eyes, the witch was at death door and I stood by waiting for it to claim her.
“There are 137 people you have killed from this village. I went ahead and counted my own.” She swayed but righted herself as she rubbed the blood she coughed up over her chest. “That is 137 hearts. Your time of ignorance is gone, Jackal. If you shall kill, you shall feel it from now on. For every life you’ve stolen and every pain you’ve caused, you will know it—you will live it. I give to you a curse that may one day become a blessing. Live with 137 hearts, feel pain 137 times over, feel fear and regret and heartbreak for every one of my people.”
Just as the witch uttered those words, she slumped forward and landed on top of me. Her weight became the significant turning point she had burned into my soul. My wolf form slumped forward, and I whimpered as I scooted myself out from underneath her lifeless body.
Something raw, so untamed and intense, caused a fever deep in my lungs. I couldn’t breathe through it. It was unbearable. I was in pain—I knew what pain looked like. I saw the agony it brought to people, but it was never known to me before. Even with bleeding wounds, I felt nothing. And although there was nothing physically wrong with me, I could feel the agonizing fever crawling through me. Their pain. I could hear them. One hundred thirty-seven hearts beating furiously out of sync with each other. Blinding rage, sadness, agony, and death take over me.
For an entity who felt nothing, I suddenly felt everything, and it was too much. The overload shifted my form into a whimpering pup.
Make it stop.
I can’t handle this. To feel. I don’t want to. I’ve never wanted to. Never been curious.
But I did feel. One hundred thirty-seven fates flashed before my eyes. One by one their memories shifted through mine. I saw the moment they became sick, and witnessed their loved ones die. I heard and lived their final thoughts before their ragged breaths ceased. I felt their loss like it was mine. Then came the torment from the survivors. I experienced every agonizing plea and desperate thought before death stole each life. Over and over to the point where I couldn’t decipher between my thoughts and theirs, and then I remembered my emotions were a rarity at best before.
None of them were mine.
Their anger was directed at me because of what I did. Foreign emotions tormented me. I tried to walk away but stumbled. Beat down by nothing but feelings.
I didn’t know how to appease them or ease my newfound guilty conscience. I could only port back to the Underworld where I passed out. While I slept, I realized that emotions could no longer reach me, so I found a cave hidden far from roaming demons and put myself to sleep with no intention of waking.
For thousands of years I slept while the Underworld and the human world shifted and changed while I forever remained unaffected.
Until someone finally awakened me.