New and Improved
Ezra T. Gray
The man-beast perched on the limb. His massive chest strained against the shreds of cloth that had once been his shirt. Soon, he knew, the shirt and the pants as well would be gone. Along with them would go the man part of him. He would no longer be a man-beast, just a beast. Once he had been just a man, puny and pathetic, but now he was better, stronger, faster. Just better.
The night air burned his nostrils as he sucked it in, but on that night air was the sweet scent of meat, flesh and blood, manís flesh. He was a man hunter, a man eater. In fact man flesh was all the beast could eat, nothing else would sustain him. And the more he partook, the further he slipped into the beast. Soon, very soon, the thoughts of man, the things of man would be gone. He would be wild. Better.
But he had not always been this way. Once, not so long ago, he was a man. He lived, loved, worked, drove a car, just like millions of other men, but since the implantation he was born anew.
It had started out innocently enough. The technology was supposed to help man make that next evolutionary jump. It was a good thing, so everyone thought, but there were unforeseen complications.
The Prometheus implant, as it was called, was a very simple apparatus. Implanted in the human brain, specifically in the medulla oblongata and amygdala, the implant emitted minute electrical impulses. Those impulses hyper-stimulated the parts of the brain that control strength, intellect, sexual pleasure, enjoyment of food, and a number of other areas. Once implanted, it was almost impossible to remove. Truthfully, no one wanted it removed, at least at first. Hell, you were superhuman. Better.
The man-beast remembered when he first had received his implant. The euphoria, the new found strength, and of course the sex. He remembered the endless hours of it. He remembered this mate. He strained hard to remember the word ... wife? Yes, it was wife. He had a wife, but now she was ... He could not recall what had become of her.
Like many others of this new race, he had enjoyed the fruits of science, the superhuman traits, the glory, the power. But science had not foreseen what was to come. The superhuman physical prowess granted by the implant had led to regression in the mind and -- for those who believed in such things -- the soul. First to go had been inhibition -- drunk on the intensity of sensation, the feeling of power, he had ceased to care about how others might judge his behavior. Then morality -- the ingrained rules of conduct -- had been swept away in the Now, the overwhelming urge to satisfy his own primal needs without restraint. He had become -- was still becoming -- less than human in many respects. Still, the increase in strength remained, was even enhanced by the shedding of civilized restraint, although still limited by his relatively-weak human muscles and frame. That was all that mattered to him now; the strength that allowed him to satisfy his hunger through the hunt.
The man had watched as much of the population regressed into a feral state. He had held out longer that most but then ... Yes ... he did remember. His mate ... his wife. He had killed her, devoured her ... and ... his offspring. A tug of sorrow pulled at his heart strings, the last remnant of the man. But he really could not feel, not like he had.
He pushed his humanity further away and sucked the night air in deeper. The man, his prey, was closer. Soon he would feast. He lusted for blood. He yearned for the blood, always. He would gorge himself on the man-meat, and blood. Sometimes during the daylight, when he lay curled in whatever den he had chosen, the blood lust would fade. As the sunís radiant light began to flicker, though, it would return with a vengeance. It would drive him to kill, to devour. He hated man now, but he loved the flesh, the taste ... the scent.
He pushed hard, driving the last remnant of humanity from his being. In that flicker of time, that frozen moment of history, he knew, although he could not form the thought, that he was no longer a man. He had taken the mark and now he was the beast. Born new, fresh, not like puny man. He was above man, stronger, better. He was a hunter.
The man-prey was nearly beneath him now. He could barely hold back. He sniffed deeply. Another scent flowed into his nostrils - a second human. His beastly cravings intensified. Better than one human, now he would have two. He would gorge himself this night.
Even as he noted this, he detected another scent, a scent that made him uneasy. It was dog. Dogs hunted the beast. They hated the beast as the beast hated the men. The beast drew in upon himself, near to panic. His super hearing picked up the dogsí breathing, their panting now growing quicker. He was now the hunted, where seconds before he had been the hunter.
He started to move and then froze. The first man had closed in close to him, too close. Caught off guard by the presence of the dogs, he now realized that he was cornered. Adrenalin surged through his body as scent and sound revealed that several dogs had surrounded him. His only avenue of escape lay past the first man. He would not have time to devour him but he would certainly kill him.
He rose from the limb to jump, tearing off the last of his human raiments. As he did so, he looked down at the man. Something seemed vaguely familiar about this particular human. The dogs closed in. With an eerily human yell the trapped beast leaped. He knew he would kill the man.
A blinding white flash appeared before the beastís face. Something struck him, hard. He hit the ground on his knees. Sharp pain flashed through his legs and was gone, but the spasms radiating from his stomach doubled him over and refused to dissapate. He struggled to his feet. He was tired, very tired. The hounds were almost upon him, but the beast no longer cared. Escape was now his only concern. He tried to run, but a second blinding flash erupted and there was only darkness for the beast.
The man holstered the magnum and gazed down sadly at the carcass. The beastís features had been twisted almost beyond recognition by the changes he had undergone but the man knew who he was. The dogs snarled and growled, held at bay by their handlers. Another man walked up cradling a rifle in the crook of his arm.
"Big John, you got him, huh?"
"Yes, yes, I did." Big John was surprisingly soft spoken for his size. Dressed in dark clothing, except for a tan hunting vest, John had an ease and grace about him that was equally unusual. "Billy, I hate this."
"I know, John." Billy was a small man, but his confidence and capability made him a comforting presence during this crisis. He reached up and patted Johnís shoulder. "I know, buddy, but now heís gone. He canít hurt anyone else. Come on, we have a lot more hunting to do tonight." Billy walked purposefully into the darkness, followed by the dogs and their handlers.
John kicked the carcass. He knew the beast was dead but just wanted to be sure.
"How could you?" he whispered. "I told my sister not to stay with you after you took it, but she loved you. And you ate her and your own children. How could you?"
"John!" Billyís voice interrupted the moment as it came over the two-way. "John, we may have another one! We need you."
"I hope youíre better now," John said. Then he turned and walked away.
A few feet away a ghostly apparition stood watching. He had once inhabited the bloody husk on the ground, the man-beast. He had committed horrible atrocities, but all he had really wanted was power. Now, as he looked on longingly, his brother-in-law was walking away. They had once been friends, but now that was gone. The apparition had to go, also. He did not want to, but he was being drawn away. Now he turned from his disgusting earthy shell toward a light. To his dismay, though not to his surprise, it was not the light of eternal peace. It was, instead, the light of eternal judgment.
© 2005 by Ezra T. Gray
Bio: Ezra T. Gray currently resides on a small homestead in the mountains of Montana. He was educated at Southern Illinois University