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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #2303969
contest entry for the 23rd birthday no dialogue contest
Twenty-three. That was how many he could sustain in his own little group; how many he could protect from the harsh realities of the god forsaken world. It hurt his heart every time he found another survivor, only to have to turn them away, to leave them injured in the dust, exposed to the elements and beasts. Even worse when they were children. He’d never grown used to ignoring their cries for help. ~1~

         Twenty-three was the number of years he and his ragtag group of humans had wandered the world, hiding in hovels while he fought to keep them safe. The Demons were everywhere, always looming over the horizon, roving like the wild, bloodthirsty beasts they were. They tended to move during the day, making it safer for the humans to sleep and move as the beasts did. ~2~

         Twenty-three thousand. That was how many he estimated he’d killed in his time. Each one he’d taken down with nothing but his sword, striking true to protect his own solitary group. He cared not for the ravenous animals, turned a blind eye to their natural urges and instincts as he cut them down. They were nothing more than beasts, after all, trying to survive in a world that had been as cruel to them as it had been to his group. ~3~

         Twenty-three cities. That was how many they'd visited and seen ravaged by the Demons. Despite the abundance of supplies left over, miraculously unrotten after years exposed to the wild, the streets were packed with the monsters. They roamed in droves, idly shuffling along, kicking up dust wherever they traveled. It made it simpler to track their movements and forage, while minimizing the amount that needed to be engaged. ~4~

         Twenty-three eternities. That was how many lifetimes worth of sins he would have to atone for. His failure to prevent the fall, his inability to protect the humans as a whole, his continued rampage against the Demons which had wrought the apocalypse. They had all been easily preventable, yet he’d taken no action when they’d occurred. Now, however, he had strength on his side, and all the time in the world. He would correct what needed to be corrected, even if it took him centuries. ~5~

         Twenty-three sets of eyes opened to the truth. That was how many he’d converted to his cause, how many he’d convinced his ways were right, how many turned their noses up at the Demons and scoffed at the lower life forms. That was how many had said the Demons were nothing more than that: Demons. Monsters that had brought about the end of the world through their own selfish desires. Beasts that had turned the world into a utopia for themselves, while forcing inhospitable lands on all others. Ones that had chosen greed and power over survival of the whole. ~6~

         Twenty-three prayers, which he said before facing the Demons. Twenty-three simple sentences to tide himself over through the bloodshed. It made it easier to ignore how eerily similar the Demons looked to the humans he protected. It let him go deaf to their calls for help, their screams as he brought them to their knees, their gasps as he ended their lives. ~7~

         Twenty-three prayers are what he gave to the Demons in an attempt to rescue what little of their souls remained. After all, they weren’t human anymore — not after what they’d done to the world. He felt no remorse for them, no guilt for what he had to do. They were Demons, and nothing more. ~8~
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