It swept over the town like wildfire. There was nowhere to hide; it found every crevice, every corner. It came with the intent to annihilate us all. The elders were torn apart and found deflated in their rooms, as if all of their insides had been eaten. The newborn babies never cried and stared distantly off into space. The longest they lasted was only about a week. The other children were just as lifeless and eventually became emaciated and passed away. The adults spent all of their time trying to find a cure, but they found nothing, eventually dying themselves. The town, which originally had a population of roughly 8,000 people, had drastically plummeted to 153 people within one month. It was as if the town had been taken over by an invisible demon that was slowly devouring all of the people. Even I eventually fell victim to this horrid event, and I had only been there for a few days.My name, by the way, is Diana Erstworth. I am the only living member of the Erstworth bloodline. The Erstworths are one of the most wealthy and influential families within my town. They are also one of the five noble families that run the country. My parents, unfortunately, died in a tragic accident when their horse freaked out, pulling their carriage into the woods. Eventually the carriage crashed into a tree and killed them both. I got the news that evening after I was done with school. My parents had left me everything, but only when I turned 14. Until then, I couldn’t see any of the gold or even live in the house. That is why I came to live in a town called Herrienburg. My aunt lived there with her family.When I first entered the town, it gave me a chill. I felt a strange presence. It almost felt as if something inside of me was being eaten alive. I had a strange urge to stab someone. I wanted to attack something. I was enraged and ended up breaking the window at some old country shop. I apologized and promised that I would fix it, but I had no idea what had been going on inside me. I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like something was in me, forcing me to feel certain ways. After that incident I quickly made my way to my aunt’s house.I’m not afraid to say that when I came here I was as fat as a cow. Like I said, I was wealthy. No one was there to tell me not to eat anything that I wanted. My parents weren’t exactly there to yell at me either, and the employees would risk their jobs if they said anything. Anyway, after a week at my aunt’s house I had dropped so many pounds that I couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been eating either; in fact, I ate so much trying to keep my body weight up, I found my aunt having trouble finding food for me. No matter how much I ate though, come morning, I was skinnier. I always felt hungry, but not like a man-I’ve-got-to-eat-right-now kind of hunger. It was more like I wanted to eat. I saw something and my mouth started to water and my stomach would growl. However, I found it extremely difficult to eat. It was as if I was always full and my stomach couldn’t fit anymore. After that phase of the disease passed, I became very lethargic. I found getting out of bed in the morning a chore. Sometimes my aunt would literally have to drag me out of bed. She would give me these pills to increase my energy and body weight. I don’t know if they worked but I do have a feeling that it temporarily slowed down the progression of the disease.Unfortunately, my aunt fell victim to the disease as well. When I found her, it looked like someone had put a thousand pound weight on her while she was sleeping. It was horrible. My cousin Millie was curled up in a ball next to her, crying and sucking her thumb. All of my other cousins had passed away and Millie was officially the last one, but I could tell she wouldn’t last long. She wouldn’t even get out of bed after her mom died. I picked her up and brought her to my room where she just slept most of the time until she eventually stopped moving all together. I forced food down her throat and water as well. She never showed any kind of emotion so I just prayed I wasn’t hurting her or choking her. I do know that this kept her alive; I couldn’t and wouldn’t let my last living relative die. At the same time though, I came to the realization that I had been afflicted as well.I knew I was going to die soon if I didn’t do something. I was having trouble getting in and out of bed. I fell down the stairs countless times because my legs gave out on me. One time I ended up dislocating my shoulder. The sad part was that as much as it hurt, I was too tired and lazy to scream out in pain. I didn’t even cry. I just thought, “Wow, that really hurt.” I was definitely dying, and there was only one thing left for me to do. I had to find the cure. If I found the cure, I could find salvation for the few people left in the town. Earlier, I had overheard a townsperson talking about how a witch had cursed him in his sleep. That reminded me of something my father used to tell me.I remembered my father telling me stories about an old civilization that used to be close to Herrienburg. The town was called Umbridge. The people there were said to have upset God and he sent forth his furry in the form of witches. They entered the town and plagued its townspeople with a curse. It was horrid and left the town desolate and dying. In fear that the curse would spread, the towns around them exiled them and forced them to live in the woods. The woods connect five towns, Luninburg, Umbridge, Gulmatin, Quaker Ridge, and Herrienburg. In the center of these woods, the civilization found their new home. They built a temple in the very center of the five towns where they would pray for the curse to be lifted so they could return to Umbridge. They spent years out in the woods with no hope and no savior until one day a demon came to answer their prayers. He came and lifted the curse and allowed all of the people to live freely. However, as a price, they could never leave their makeshift town in the woods. The temple was not far from Herrienburg, and my best guess was that if there was a way to remove whatever poison was in my body, I could find it there.I traveled out of Herrienburg that day. I left Millie in bed with a note, even though I doubted she would care or realize that I was gone. However, I had to do this for her as well as for myself. I traveled through very dense woods. There were also some pretty deep rivers I found difficult to pass. The water came up to my hips and I was brought down many times by the current. I couldn’t give up though. I had to keep going. I was the only hope for my new town; I was the only one who could make the journey by myself.I was attacked on my way by many animals and other beasts. I have a feeling that I smelled like a dead person with rotting flesh. It attracted so many things, but the worst were the vultures. They kept pecking and ripping apart my skin. They tried to eat me alive. Over time my stamina became depleted. It seemed that leaving the town had not stopped the symptoms as I had hoped. Instead, I was sluggish and very hungry. I wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep. The chance of finding a cure was slim anyway and there was no guarantee that the temple even existed. It could just be a story. There was no way to know for sure, but I felt like I had to find out. I would die for sure if I didn’t find the temple so I got up and trudged on.Eventually, I came across an old building. It was decrepit with vines and moss growing all over it. I could tell this was the temple I was looking for. There were these makeshift huts all around it, but it seemed like the people who lived there were long gone. I didn’t know what to do, but I had come so far. I was basically a dead man walking. I couldn’t go on though, so I entered the temple. I just wanted to find a final resting place. I lay down and closed my eyes. Then, I felt a pressure on my neck. I knew about how the people died, so I figured that I was being crushed to death just like everyone else.Then I heard, “I think you’re alive.”I opened my eyes. I saw an old man. He had a long white beard and rotten teeth. He was wearing torn, dirty clothes. His eyes were glazed over and he looked very thin. I could see his rib cage and all of his other bones. He was sitting cross legged on the floor, and he had his hand on my throat. I think he was looking for a pulse. It was difficult, but I found the energy to push up on one arm to prop myself up.“Are you one of the cursed people?” I asked.He just laughed at me. He moved closer and handed me an apple, “You want to know about the cure don’t you?”“Yes,” I said.I tried to take a bite of the apple, but it fell out of my hand before it could reach my mouth. I tried to pick it up but my hand cramped and I retracted it. I sat there staring at the apple. I was so hungry. The apple might have been soft and mushy. It was probably rotten too, but all I wanted to do was devour it. I reached at the apple one more time, but the old man grabbed my hand.“We don’t have much time. Hurry let me show you something.”I couldn’t respond, so I just let him lead me to an entrance of some kind. It was in the wall furthest away from where we were. There were boulders and other debris around the edges, and it looked as if someone had deliberately torn apart the wall. In a way, it reminded me of a cave. Inside the cave was a bag filled with about twenty gorgeous white crystals. When I first saw them, I was enchanted. A feeling took over my body and created a warmth I had never felt before. For the first time in a long time I felt refreshed and alive. I couldn’t stop looking at them, and my blood was boiling. I could feel every beat of my heart. I had a desire to take the crystals and hold them close. I felt connected to them. I had to hold them.I took a step closer and looked at the crystals. They were small and looked as if they would fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. I took a deep breath in. They smelled so good. It was addictive. Then I looked closely at the color. They weren’t actually white. They were a pretty, see-through color with these funny looking white birds flying in them. At that moment, something inside of me yearned for them; it was so strong. I had never felt like that before, and then I found myself reaching out for the crystals. I hadn’t even realized how close to them I had gotten, but I wanted to touch them and hold them. I needed them.I got so close to the crystals. I could feel their warmth on my hands, but the old man grabbed my arm and pulled me back before I got the chance to grab one. He shook his head and made me leave the cave. There was a statue of an angel with its wings chained to the ground and he sat me down in front of it. It had red coming from its eyes. It was actually quite sad. I looked at the old man. He seemed to be in pain. He was grabbing his left hand. It had a strange wrap on it, so I assumed that he had broken it.“Who are you?” I asked.“I am a doctor who lived in a town similar to yours,” the old man said, placing his hand on my shoulder, “My town was also overtaken by a strange sickness.”“What’s wrong with me?” I cried.The doctor started to cry too, “Something has entered your body and is slowly eating away at your soul.”“What is it? What’s inside of me?” I begged.“I wish I knew. I wish I could tell you, but I don’t really understand myself.”“Well then, how do I stop it?”“You can’t. There is no way to destroy or extract what is in you,” he said, “but I do know a way to reverse it.”“Tell me,” I pleaded, “You have to save me.”“The only way I know to reverse the damage and cure you is extremely painful and God will punish you. You will have to live a life of torment. It will be like Hell.”“I’m sorry to tell you that nothing could be worse than the pain I feel right now. I’ve watched everyone close to me die. I have a six year old cousin at home who is on the brink of death, and I can’t do anything for her. I need the cure. I need to save Herrienburg. I need to save my new home.”“If you feel that strongly about it, then I guess I have no choice but to remove the curse. But swear to me that you will save everyone in your town. Take the crystals and do to them exactly what I am going to do to you. No matter what; you have to.”“I swear to you. Now, please save us.”He walked back into the cave and came out holding a jar of red liquid. He told me that it was the blood of doves. He dipped his fingers into the blood and drew a giant circle. Inside the circle, he drew a lot of squiggly lines and symbols. He made me stand in the center of it. He took one of the crystals and placed it at the base of the circle. I took a deep breath and calmed myself. Everything would be better soon. When he saw that I was ready, he started the ritual.“I call upon Leviathan. You, who were here long before man, come to this child of god and impale her with your fury,” the old man stopped as the ground started to shake.I thought I saw a giant sea monster in the distance, but at the same time, I thought that I was just imagining things. I took a deep breath and watched as the crystal started to shake and then levitate up into the air. It floated right in front of me. I took a step back; it was horrifying. I could feel myself crying. The old man’s beard and clothes were blowing as if he was caught in a very wild wind storm, but I could not feel even the slightest breeze. He re-established himself and continued.“Now, rid her of this curse. Carry away the sins of man and return to her what has been lost. Return to her the spirit and humanity devoured by the demons of Herrienburg. Return her soul!”With that, the crystal launched itself at me. The creature that I saw off in the distance before had now entered the room and attacked the crystal. He drove it forward with so much force. It eventually hit my chest. I cried out in pain and tried to push the creature away. It hurt so bad. Imagine someone taking their hand and driving it into your chest, actually penetrating your rib cage, and grabbing at your heart. Well, that doesn’t even compare to what I felt when the Leviathan tried to pierce my body with that crystal. I could feel tears flooding out of my eyes. The only thing was that it wasn’t tears; it was blood. I screamed in pain and horror. I could feel the crystal entering me. A strange energy started to circulate through my body. It was pulsating in time with my blood. I thought I would die right there, but I endured it.When it was all over and Leviathan left the temple, I felt a peaceful serenity wash over me. I wiped the blood from my face. I could breathe freely again and I wanted to go out and explore the world. I was my old self. I was so happy, but when I tried to stand up, a strange pain pounded in my chest. I grabbed at it and clawed at the pain. There was something else there. It was cold and hard; I looked down to where I was grabbing and embedded into my skin was the crystal. I quickly covered it up. I didn’t understand. What was this crystal?“What is this thing?” I yelled.The old man walked up to me and warned me, “Our people call these stitched crystals. They are literally crystallized souls, and they can act as a replacement soul to those who do not have one. The souls that are crystallized within them are literally stitched into your body and become a part of you. The effects are amazing, but they are only temporary if it is not fed. You have to feed the souls that are crystallized in that rock or your disease will return even worse than before.”“Feed it, what do you mean?” I interrupted.He didn’t say anything after that. His body started to contort and he slumped down to the ground. The wrap he had on his hand unraveled revealing a hole where a crystal was embedded. It had turned black from the snowy white color that mine was. He held his hand to his heart, and continued, “The only true way to get rid of a curse is to replace it with another one. You will find out all you need to know as it becomes hungry, but let this be an example to you as to what happens when you do not feed it.”The old man’s body started to constrict and loosen over and over again. It looked as though something was trying to suck the man’s insides out. Then I saw the color of the crystal changing again. It was turning red and there was blood seeping out of the embedment. The crystal was literally feeding on the man. He screamed out in pain, but in between the feedings he found the nerve to say, “Remember your part of the deal.” Eventually he flattened just like everyone else.I felt bad for him so I made a grave and buried him. I even said a few prayers from the bible. I didn’t know if it would help, but I felt this was something I should do. I was very appreciative for all that he had done for me. Besides, I couldn’t let the rest of the town see his body like that. After all, I still needed to save everyone else. I went back to Herrienburg and brought the rest of the survivors to the temple. We lost a few of the weaker people along the way, but they were reasonable losses. It’s not like I had an unlimited amount of crystals anyway. When we got there, I explained to them the ritual.Millie was the first one to be cured. I needed to show the town’s people that I would even allow my own flesh and blood to go through with this ritual. After that, they were begging me to save them, and I did. I saved everyone who was left and we all returned to the town. Life became happy and normal once again. It was as if the curse had never afflicted the people. Millie and I lived together in my aunt’s old house, and I became a surrogate mother to her. The town invited people to come to live there. We worked hard to re-establish the town and eventually even more people came to live in Herrienburg. The number of infected people were only 17 and the population overall was about 4,000. The town had returned to its old spirited self . . . until a month later.These crystals that saved our lives started to moan with hunger. They needed to eat. I could hear it in my sleep. It was calling for me and it wanted food. I didn’t know how to feed it though, and if I didn’t feed it, I knew I would die. I really had no idea what crystals ate though. The old man said that I would know when the time to feed came, but I was still lost. There was no way I would be able to survive at this rate. The old man was half dead when he was talking, and he probably didn’t know what he was saying. There was a good chance there wasn’t a way to feed the crystal and we were all going to die.I was proven wrong that night though. I was taking a walk to say goodbye to my life. I hadn’t been alive for long, and I hated the thought of dying. My whole body was pounding and my head was throbbing. I wasn’t hungry at all, but I was starving. I needed food. Well, the crystal needed food. It had started to drain my energy. I could tell that it had started to feed on me, just like it had on that old man. I fell to my knees and started to pray for forgiveness. I thought I was going to die, but just when I had given up, a boy from my school came running over to me. He had been in the woods stalking a deer for his family. He reached down to me and tried to help me up, but I ended up taking him by the neck and squeezing it. The crystal had hijacked my body and was using it as a tool.I saw a pure white light trying to escape from this boy’s body. It was so pretty and the crystal started to ache with pain. Whatever that white light was, the crystal wanted it. I couldn’t help but want it too, so I snapped his neck. The white light hovered above his body. I could feel the crystal in pain. I reached out to the white light. If I could only find a way to capture it. I touched the light, but I was unable to actually grab it. Then I felt a strange pain in my chest. I looked down to see what it was.The crystal was moving. It was tearing through my body. It moved, under my skin all the way down my arm. It pushed through all of my muscles and tendons. It was so painful. I thought that I was about to be murdered. It was a pain worse than having the crystal feed on me. I screamed bloody murder, but no one heard me. I tried to grab the crystal and stop it, but that only infuriated it. My head was pulled to the ground, my back was over extended and bent into an awkward position, and my right arm was thrust behind me. I couldn’t move, but my left arm was still trying to grab the light. The crystal continued to make its way down my arm.Eventually the crystal emerged on the back of my hand. The white light that I couldn’t grab before became a human like figure and I was finally able to hold onto it. The light slowly began to seep into the crystal. It was so soothing. It was almost addictive. It was such an amazing feeling. That light was a human soul and it tasted so good. I didn’t want to stop feeding. I wanted more.That same night, there were 14 other murders and 2 unexplained deaths where the victims seemed to be flattened. That’s when I realized that in order for the infected to live, we had to feed on the souls of other people. If we waited too long to feed, the need to feed became so overwhelming that we would be forced to kill our food. If we ate on schedule though, we could feed on portions of their souls. All we had to do was create a near death experience, like choking someone to the point where they would pass out. Then we grab onto the white light that comes out of them. If we grab onto the light with the hand our crystal is in, it will feed. When it is full, we can release the soul. It is an easy way to go undetected. We can’t exactly go around killing people all the time, can we?At first, it was only the 15 of us left, but as we started to reproduce, we found that the crystal reproduced as well. You see, it actually fused itself with our blood. That was how the crystal manipulated our bodies and was able to feed on us. However, this meant that our children were also inflicted with crystals fused in their blood. A few years after birth, the particles in their blood crystallized on the back of their hand. We tried our best to hide ourselves from other people though. We always wore gloves or wraps that would cover our crystals. We made sure not to show anybody anything that would put us in danger, but eventually they found us.It was bound to happen with our increasing numbers. There had been about 40 of us. That was when one of our children got hungry and fed. He was at the grocery store shopping with his mother when he killed a little girl and consumed her soul. It wasn’t long after that when the scientific community started knocking on our doors. When they first found us, they only wanted to study us. They swore to us that they would remove our crystals and cure our sickness. They brought some of us to laboratories and other places where my kind was dissected and tortured. However, after a few years, we were deemed dangerous to society and they hunted us down. Only a few of us were able to survive, and they were people like me who did not believe in the scientists’ lies about how they could save us. We knew that there was no salvation for us, and when they offered this false hope to people, we stayed in the shadows while we watched the rest of our kind step forward one by one. After the massacre, the survivors all got together and formed a new race . . . the Stitches. We have disguised ourselves as humans and are living amongst them, just like before. Only this time, we won’t be found out so easily.It’s actually funny in a way. I feed on some people who trust me with their lives. I mean honestly, humans are so simple minded. They would never expect their neighbor to be of a different race. They would never expect me to be a Stitch. Honestly, I don’t know how I lived before this. The Stitches are superior in every sense of the word. Millie and I moved to my parent’s old estate as soon as I turned 14. I now have three children and I am teaching them safe feeding techniques. I have gathered a large number of Stitches and we are planning to take our rightful place as rulers of this world. We want revenge on the people who tried to destroy us when all we wanted to do was live in peace.
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