You feel it, don’t you?
The voice was impossible.
One moment it boomed like thunder, shaking the space around him and making his ears ring. He was sure his bones would be shattered to pieces if the sound lasted much longer.
The next moment the voice was a whisper, an intimate breath of wind against the nape of his neck that made him want to shiver. Each word slithered over his skin like disembodied fingers sliding up and down the length of his body.
And for a moment, somehow, it was both, though he could not fathom how that could possibly be.
Even in the silence that followed he could still feel the after-echoes, the words lingering in his mind like ghosts.
But even those were swallowed up by what followed, by a feeling even greater, and more terrible. He could not deny the question put to him. His stomach rumbled and ached, his traitor of a body calling out for food. In all his years he’d never been made to go hungry, had never known a day without the bounty of the farms and jungle at his fingertips. Never knew a night without the sweet taste of wine on his lips. But he also knew instinctively what hunger felt like now, as if his stomach would fold in on itself. The emptiness, the fatigue, the sheer force of need. It was as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks or, he realized, as the warm coils around him tightened, a millennia.
He was going to die if he didn’t eat something. Of this he was sure.
Only, he realized with growing horror, he couldn’t die.
He was immortal. No, the god inside of him was immortal, and he would live so long as that god made use of his body. He was sure it would leave him to suffer the gnawing hunger for all eternity. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t his mind; his stomach still felt the pain and the desire. The god hadn’t feasted in so long, and so neither had he. The sweet fruits and succulent meats he’d glutted himself on for his last meal seemed a lifetime ago, though it had been less than a day. The god’s hunger wasn’t just inside of him, it was him, and he was powerless to separate himself from it.
“I do,” he muttered.
It was too much, and he cried out. He felt invisible fingers sinking into his mind, peeling his thoughts back like banana leaves. They sifted though his memories, nibbling at the edges of his last meal, draining the color and taste from them. Before it went too dark, however, the feeling stopped, and he felt a wave of distaste wash over him.
It is as ash. Your food does not satisfy my hunger.
For a few moments the presence went still, letting the hunger grow and fill the void until it overwhelmed him, and he couldn’t help but wonder if this was some sort of punishment. It hurt, more than any wound could have, as if a pit had opened in the very core of his body.
He would eat anything at this point to make the pain go away, anything at all to stop the terrible hunger. He would gratefully gnaw a leather sandal strap, suck the skin from rotted fruit, gobble raw meat upon the ground.
The being inside of him shifted, practically purring at the last of his thoughts. A single phantom finger slid down his cheek, warm and dry, moving so smoothly he almost didn’t feel it.
Do not worry, my little vessel. I would not have us eat off the ground.
The words were like a gentle wind through dry grass, announcing the coming of a stalking jaguar. It sent a sickly shudder through him. It was a promise, he had no doubt.
What was more concerning though was that his body did not mirror that shiver. Up until now he’d been content enough to stay still but now he tried to move his arms and, while his mind registered that the motion should have occurred, nothing outside happened. It was the same with his legs, his fingers, even his eye lids. He started to panic, trying to reach out for something to grasp onto, but there was nothing, as if he were floating below the black surface of the nearby lake. He drew in several quick breaths, forcing his breathing to even out, even if his heart thrummed away in his chest.
Strangely enough, he could look out through his own eyes and observe the world around him. Even as he struggled in the nothing, he found himself looking into the large polished glass set into the wall of his room. His lips pulled back in a predatory smile, exposing his teeth. His brown eyes flashed, quick as a snake striking from the brush. His fingers ran deftly through his long raven hair, teased over his cheeks, and brushed across his lips. He looked pleased with himself, but he felt none of it, not his skin, or silky hair, nor the press of the fine cloth draped over his slender form.
He was trapped in his own body, tied, unable to do anything but watch and feel whatever the god wanted him to feel. Surely he would go mad like this, stuck amid the smothering heat and hunger.
The great serpent moved his legs. Down they went, through hallways, and stairwells, to the special ritual chamber that lay in the belly of the temple. He’d been there before, and longed to feel the smooth hewed stone, cool under his feet and the sense of mild dampness that seeped in below. The senses were there, vaguely, but he wondered if the god even felt such things. They were small feelings, perhaps inconsequential to one so grand. The god seemed to need powerful feelings and sensations to take notice of them. Always needing more and more.
The chamber they entered was small but empty, though as he approached he caught a whiff of the burnt charcoal and reed smell that usually clung to the high priest. The man had been here, recently no doubt, to prepare the room. As far as the man knew he was gone, and it was only the god that now walked the halls. No doubt he was eager to serve in all ways, pleased his ritual had been a success.
All the candles were in their proper places, bathing the room in flickering light, and flowers and cuttings from the surrounding jungle festooned nearly every surface. But their sweet scents were completely overpowered by another, far more sickly smell, that he didn’t have to stretch himself to catch.
In the center of the room, on a small altar, sat the great obsidian cauldron, its surface polished to a near perfect black glass, with sharp edges that could cut the careless. He knew what it was for, had seen it used so many times, but it seemed today it was all for him. It was filled, near to overflowing, with what the god had come here to find; recently harvested hearts. It only made sense that the god made flesh would need to feed, and there had been plenty of stock to pull from.
This. This is what we have hungered for, is it not?
They approached. Steam rose from the pile, and he could almost feel the warmth radiating from it without even touching it. The air smelt of iron, like the edge of a sword. The offering should have sickened him, turned his stomach. But, with a growing dread, all he felt was that ravishing hunger, washing away all other thoughts. It was exactly what he hungered for.
He flew forward, plunging his hands into the pile of meat and, for a moment, he couldn’t tell if he’d guided the move or if the god had. In that moment it didn’t matter; they were one step closer to what they wanted. He pushed deeper into the slickness, the heat inside feeling near enough to burn his hands, but he didn’t stop until his arms were sunk in to the elbows, and there they rested.
The smell of blood and offal assaulted him, but his stomach rumbled pleadingly, and he could feel his lips drawing upward in a pleased smile.
The god reveled in the heat, the sensation, the knowledge that all these hearts had been torn free for him. The serpent wanted and so he wanted.
His hands closed over a pair of hearts and drug them free from the rest. His arms were painted red that smeared over the pale linens he wore, but that was of little matter. He lifted one of the hearts and stuffed it into his mouth, biting out a huge chunk. Warm wetness filled his mouth, but he felt no disgust. He tore and bit, and pulled the flesh away, and swallowed in one great gulp. And for a moment that impossible hunger eased, and he held a glimmer of hope that this could, finally, sate him.
The feast began. He ate until his body was half covered in red. Ate until the heat began to cool. Ate until he felt as if he were going to burst from the inside. How his stomach could contain this much he would never know. But it soothed the horrible ache, and suffused him with a sense of strength and power that was not his own. He felt powerful, invincible, ready to strangle the world in his coils.
Through it all he was aware of being both apart from himself but still there, as if someone had lashed him to his own body, and drowning in the desires and being of another, near the threat of losing himself. He knew, deep down, this was how his life was going to be from now on. Watching every moment, but helpless to change it. He may as well have died. That, he thought, might have been a kindness.
Finally the god finished and rested for a time. He took some small comfort from the hearts filling his insides. But as the time passed he began to realize, with a great dismay, that the hunger began to creep back inside of him. He gave a cry and felt the god stir.
An amused chuckle sounded right against his ear.
The hunger never really dies. That is the fate of a god. A fate you now share. But there is power to be had. You will see.
Now that I possess flesh to walk in I will feed, and drink the life blood of this world. There are not enough beating hearts in this world, on any world, to sate my hunger. Not forever. But this world has mortals aplenty to appease it.
Again invisible fingers slid over him, dry and soft, and no matter what he did he could not escape them. He shuddered.
Oh my little vessel, this is just the beginning. I have so many wonderful things to show you. It will be truly glorious.