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I’m in the forest.
A cool, windless, lushly green forest consisting of moss-dappled earth and towering trees bearing a canopy of branches, so long and entwined only the faintest trace of sun filters through. The light bounces off the leaves in a way that makes them seem animated, alive.
My feet move quickly, nimbly, gliding along an unmarked trail with the raven riding high on my shoulder. His alert blue eyes scanning the area as a vague awareness tugs at my memory. Reminding me that I’ve no reason to be scared. I’m supposed to be here.
Our journey continues across densely forested terrain, and ending the moment the raven’s clawed feet squeeze my shoulder so tightly they nearly puncture the flesh. His wings fluttering, spreading, lifting him high into flight. And though I turn my gaze skyward, doing my best to track him, it’s only a blink of the eye until he’s vanished from sight.
His mission complete, I’ve no further need for him. Having reached my final destination in the form of this beautiful grass-covered clearing I’m in.
I run an anxious hand over my dress, hoping I look presentable, pretty for the friend who awaits to greet me. Sensing his presence well before I see him, I shutter my eyes, inhale his deep earthy scent, savouring the rush of adrenaline that kick starts my heart into a flurry of spasms, stretching the moment for as long as I can, before he calls me.
The sound of my name on his lips causes a smile to widen my cheeks as I admire him, in the way he does me. My eyes grazing over this beautiful, nameless boy with smooth tan skin and glossy black hair that sweeps over his face. His torso lean and bare, his shoulders wide and capable.
He reaches for me, entwines my fingers with his, and leads me away from the clearing, to the other side of the forest where a beautiful, bubbling hot spring awaits. It's clear thermal waters eliciting a fine misty heat that swirls and dances across the surface.
I’m the first to step in, the water claiming my dress until it clings to me. I wade toward the far bank where I eagerly wait for the sweet burn of his fingers exploring my flesh. My need like a fever raging inside me, relieved only by the feel of his hands cupping my face, his lips meeting mine, and the kiss so bewitching that it causes a spark of images to blaze through my mind.
Visions of flowers budding, blooming, falling from its stem. Only to rise up and bud once again, fading into one of a crowd of dazzling souls that shine brighter than the day. The souls becoming one with the elements, showing the sky’s constant recycle of snow, dew, and rain.
The images repeating until the message is clear:
I am the hydrogen in the very water I float in.
I am in the oxygen in the air that I breathe.
I am the small bubble of heat in this mineral spring.
I am the blood that courses through the boy that kisses me, as sure as I’m the beat in the ravens wings that lead me to him.
I am an important part of everything, and everything is an important part of me, a truth that was never made clearer, revealed in one soulful kiss.
His fingers move swiftly, trailing along the front of my dress, pushing the fabric down past my shoulders, down past my waist where he ducks his head low, and his lips find my flesh. His progress halted by the press of my palms pushing hard on his cheeks, needing to see him, really see him, in the way he sees me.
My thumbs smooth the sharp rise of his cheekbones. My fingers play in the damp tangle of his hair. Pushing it back from his temples, back behind his ears, revealing a pair of piercing laser blue eyes banded by light flecks of silver that mirror my image endlessly.
I gasp, unable to tear my gaze from his, unwilling to look anywhere else.
I move past my thoughts and press closer to him. Hooking my legs around the back of his knees, bringing him to me, and eager to claim his lips once again.
My lips swelling, pressing only to be met by cold empty space.
My friend is no longer before me. Someone else has taken his place. Someone who bears the same strong, lean body, the same sculpted face, but while the hair is black and glossy like my friend's, this hair is cut short, kept close to the head. And while the eyes share the same colour, flecked by the same bands of silver, the similarity ends there.
These eyes are cold.
And instead of reflecting, the absorb like the void I sense them to be.
“I’ll take it from here.” He gives my friend a hard shove.
“You’ll do no such thing.” My friend quickly recovers. His body tense, muscles coiling, prepared to defend me.
The boy laughs, moves to push past him, but doesn’t get very far before he’s blocked again. His words edged with a sneer when he says, “Not to worry, brother, it’s the soul that i want, the heart is all yours.”
My friend stands before him, a solid wall of protection. “There is no heart without a soul. I’m afraid you’ll get neither.”
The boy's gaze grows darker, deeper, more determined, and cruel, discarding the threat with the words, “Then I guess I’ll take yours.”
It’s a moment before it sinks in.
A moment before it begins to make sense.
A moment lost.
The threat realized so quickly I’m left wide-eyed and gaping as the boy becomes something else.
Something monstrous, demonic, born of dark fetid seed, and other wickedly foul things.
His mouth turned jagged, bloodied, unrecognisable, bearing sharp, fanged teeth that sink into my friend, flaying his flesh. Rendering his chest to a crushed, pulpy mess that stains the water a horrific red.
He rears his head back like a riled stallion and emits a ghostly growl. His eyes glowing the same crimson that drips from his chin as a hideous snake flares from his lips, taking the place of his tongue.
I reach for my friend, grasping, fumbling in a frenzy to save him.
I can’t lose him.
Can’t let this happen.
Not when it’s taken 16 years to find him.
Though the word has yet to be spoken, there’s no denying it is Love that we share, Love that brought us both here.
We are bound.
Some things you just know without question.
I lunge. Kick. Fight. Scream. But my efforts are in vain. I’m no match for the snake.
It swerves around me. Plunges straight into the now gaping cavity of my friend's chest.
Returning with a sacred, shimmering sphere, it sucks gingerly, gently before consuming it whole, snuffing the life it beheld like a flame.
The demon grins, a hideous sight forever scarred into my brain. Then he winks out of existence, leaving me alone with my friend, my one true love, my destined one, now an empty sack of lifeless flesh lying limp in my quivering arms.