The Scourge

Alex McHaddad, 3/18/2018

What did being a follower ever get me? I mean, it was never about me - being a follower was supposed to be about helping other people, the ones threatened by the Scourge.

Once upon I was the most faithful soldier in our battle. I rallied men to our cause, reinforced our cities, changed hearts and minds among the people. But the hatred for the sSourge was stronger than love for its victims, and all who tried to strike a balance between safety and compassion were washed about by the Premier’s campaign.

I knew many people affected by the Scourge, family, friends, classmates, coworkers all ravaged by the disease. When they knocked on our doorstep, I was the first to respond with force, but I spent all of my spare time in the lab with the Professor, working on a cure. In time, our scientists discovered several keys to defeat the Scourge, but the time for compassion had passed.

Every day the paper brought news of the hordes attacking villages, travelers losing limbs on the road, prominent figures succumbing. Something had to be done, and I believed that security and a cure were two sides of the coin that would free us of the Scourge.

Of course, worse than those who sought destruction without a cure were those who believed the Scourge was our destiny. They would open our borders to the darkness, tear down our city walls, and bear their flesh to the beasts and succumb.

The Emperor made no move against the Scourge, and it was up to the next Premier to fight. I pledged my sword to the steadiest hand, but as local lords and elders bloodied battlefields for the prize, one voice rang out more clearly in the streets than the rest.

To me, the voice was insane - to defeat the Scourge, we must become the Scourge. One by one, this new voice gathered the masses to his side, slaying and dethroning the princes around him until there was none left to stand against him. The Emperor was cast out of the palace, and the Premier took all power.

I remembered reading his coronation speech in the paper, horrified at the sight of the transformed lycanthrope bearing the crown, surrounded by dutiful soldiers and jeering crowds.

“Humans first!” they screamed, echoing the sentiments of the wolf they had just crowned. I heard them all, I knew their pain - children without parents, men without wives, shepherds without sheep, all had lost something, and nobody could blame them for their heartache. But the loudest voice in the crowd was for extinction, and those who sought the cure were drowned out by the cries of anger.

And so humans marched beneath the banner of the Scourge, rounding up the plague’s victims and destroying them, rather than considering the cures and even attempting to bring healing. As the tide turned against the Scourge, the Premier only gained new glory, and his followers traded in the battle against the werewolves for a war on the Premier's detractors.

Those who had hidden their true nature walked openly as wolves, invoking the Premier’s name as they transformed into beasts and struck those who spoke ill against their dear leader. Several of his followers joined in, exposing themselves to the Scourge just like the Premier, until he had an army of wolves at his disposal. They were dispatched throughout the realm, marching alongside our soldiers to seek out the opposition and stamp them out from under the sun.

They have come for me now, just as they came for the Professor, for the princes, for many of my friends, and no matter my service to the realm, or my own fight against the Scourge, I will be forced to join them or lose my head. The bells rang in the village not an hour ago, and I knew that they would scour the countryside, even the Professor's old farmhouse, just for the prize of confronting a single non-beliver. I had to write the truth somewhere, locking it away in this bottle in case one human being survives the resurgent Scourge and finds himself rummaging through the burnt shell of this house as he takes shelter from the darkness outside.

I can see them outside now, a few soldiers on bayonets, a rider on a jittery horse, and a lycanthrope at their head, lurching angrily as he prepares to rip my entrails from my stomach for the crime of wanting to cure him. The soldiers will come to my door and ask as others have whether I support the Premier. I can lie and speak of the positive results of his leadership - at least there are far fewer wolves in the world - if only to stay in the shadows and fight another day.

But I look in the distance and see smoke rising from the village, the short work of soldiers whose weapons I can now describe as crimson. What use is there in being the last man alive in a world of monsters, holding the secrets of a cure for a society composed solely of plague victims? In a few years time, I will be the destroyer, the monster in the woods who seeks to end the way of life brought by the Scourge.

Perhaps it is better to tell the lie, or even succumb to the Scourge, joining the ranks of my enemies and carrying the Premier's banner to the next village myself. They're knocking on the door now, treason for to ask. And my answer? I pray that God has words for me, because my tongue will not move in betrayal or survival, and they may kill me just for that.