Martin sighed as he took his seat on his private jet. It had been a long, trying month, dealing with all of the protests at the pipeline, and he was glad to finally be leaving the great plains for his home in upstate New York.
The entire ordeal with all of those Native tribes was getting expensive. The offer to just buy the land notwithstanding, between private security and the delay in construction, the costs were already in the low millions. Martin was smart enough to know that groups of brown people protesting always played well to the media, and the cost of the keeping the photos of the “poor displaced Native Americans” was draining his discretionary account.
Martin hated all of this. After all the lobbying to get the pipeline approved, schmoozing, donations to PACs, and campaign donations, his bonus should have already been transferred to his offshore account. But instead, a bunch of filthy savages were holding everything up. Even this trip to try and negotiate with the chiefs face to face was a waste – they had taken offense to the earlier water cannon incident, and refused to even listen to his more than generous offer to pay them for their troubles. When talks had fallen apart, one of them had even cursed his greed, saying something about him becoming a “Wendiigo.”
Martin had bottled down the rage when the medicine man shook his rattle at him. Martin gritted his teeth, took out his phone, and texted the team he had waiting back at the reservation. These people thought words and curses were going to do anything – Martin wanted to see them use magic to put out the fires he was setting to their homes while they were all out here protesting. He never liked having to resort to such unsavory methods, but if they were going to just insult him like that, after all he had offered them, he was going to do what he had to do to send a message. Disrespect would not be tolerated.
The clock in the cabin showed 9:15. Martin heard the plane’s engine roar to life. His pilot knew he valued promptness, and was acting accordingly. He hope to be back at his estate by midnight so he could get some sleep before the shareholder meeting tomorrow where he would have to really convince them on the idea that the pipeline would, in fact, be moving forward soon.
After a few hours of working on his laptop, Martin’s stomach growled as the Appalachians came into sight. He had just eaten a few hours earlier, but for some reason he felt hungry. Starved, even.
“Elaine.” Martin waved his hand nonchalantly.
“Yes, Mr. Tillerman?” His aide appeared at his side.
“Do we have any food onboard?”
“Of course, sir. We have a lot of flesh, ready to eat.”
Martin grimaced. “What did you say?”
“We have some fruit picked fresh, ready to eat, sir.”
Martin rubbed his eyes. The day must have been longer than he had thought. “Of course. Sorry. Do we have anything more hearty?”
“We have a fine selection of aged cheeses to go along with the grapes and pears. Besides that, we unfortunately don’t have anything else but I can order something to be prepared ready for your landing.”
Martin thought for a while, then nodded. “I’m feeling like steak. Rare. A bit bloody.”
“Of course sir.” Elaine turned away and picked up her phone to call in the order.
Martin watched her as she turned away, and realized he couldn’t stop watching her. He felt like he could see the blood flowing through her neck. He watched as her muscles shifted underneath her skirt, and saw her tendons in her hand as as gripped her phone. Martin licked his lips.
Before he knew it, Martin was out of his seat. Elaine looked up from her phone and covered it with her hand.
“Yes, Mr. Tillerman?”
Before he knew what was happening, he had knocked the phone out of Elaine’s hand and hand one hand on her shoulder and the other on her head as he bit into her throat. Elaine screamed, and tried to push off her boss, but Martin’s muscles rippled with inhuman strength as he tore into her.
Martin could taste the dried sweat on Elaine’s neck mixed with the sweet-bitter taste of her perfume, then the metallic and savory tang as her blood filled his mouth. He didn’t know why he was biting his assistant, but the taste of blood just made him more hungry.
Her screams turned to bloody gurgles, but this sound annoyed Martin, so he snapped her neck. His meal finally turning quiet, he began to chew, savoring the taste of blood and raw flesh.
The pilot had opened the door by then, and Martin looked up. The pilot stared at his employer. Martin’s eyes were glowing red, and his hair was disheveled.
“Oh shit.” The pilot turned to close the door, just as Martin was rising and running towards him. The pilot closed the small door to the cockpit, but he could hear Martin wailing and slamming his fists into the thin plastic door. The pilot got on the radio to call for help, but by then Martin had punched through the door and the pilot screamed.
Martin had no sense of time anymore. He wasn’t sure if the plane crash had been days or weeks or even years ago. He felt like his brain worked only half the time, and as soon as any animal stumbled upon him, he could feel the dark spirit rise up and he would immediately attack it.
Martin’s hair was slowly turning white, and he could fear the patchy hair growing over his thin, dried skin. He constantly felt like he was starving, and when he’d eat, it would never be enough.
The ravenous hunger he felt constantly was so bad that when he hadn’t found any animals for what seemed like only a few days, he started to tear into his own arm. He found that he had amazing regenerative powers, so much so that the gaping wound he had inflicted upon himself began to stitch itself shut; new, black connective tissue and grey muscles stretching and filling in the area he had bitten off.
After that day, Martin would pray that he would find something to eat, as when he got that hungry, he would simply sit there and tear off parts of his own flesh, swallow them, and then his body would be whole again. The process of self-cannibalization would then began anew.
Water burned his throat when he drank, but he was always thirsty. Martin stayed away from rivers and streams, as when he stooped low to drink, he could see his own ghastly visage. His face was emaciated, his pallid skin now stretched by his cheekbones and chin. His eyes glowed like coals and he found himself covered in patches of thin, white fur. His teeth had decayed and rotted into bloody, sharp stubs. He was a monster. He laughed a weak, cough-laugh as he realized that his view of the world was wrong this entire time.
Curses exist. Magic was real. And he knew he was now taken by the Wendigo.
After he had realized he had become something else, something not quite human, he had tried to kill himself. He tried to refrain from eating, but the Wendigo inside of him would spring into action, and he would start tearing chunks off of himself again. He had tried to impale himself on a tree branch, but that was just excruciating pain with no final relief, as his muscles and organs began to sew themselves together around the branch, and it hurt even worse trying to pull away from the tree.
He couldn’t die. He was forever starving. He was forever eating flesh, whether it was from his own body or another’s.
The seasons changed, but Martin’s life of pain stayed the same. Hunt. Kill. Eat. Repeat.
When the snow began to fall again, Martin could feel his skin freeze, break, heal itself, and freeze again. The cold was constant agony, yet there was no respite.
Martin sat down against a tree, his clothing all but shredded by now, his black and blue flesh really only covered by the patches of white, ashy fur. Martin winced as he used his jagged, black nails to peel off another section of his quadriceps off, and he wondered how long he would have to live this way. He watched his leg fill with black, viscous blood as the muscles quivered and began to repair itself.
As he sat back against the tree, he gave up hoping that his humanity might be restored, and instead hoped he could die soon. Was there more than one Wendigo spirit? If someone else was cursed this way, would the Wendigo would leave his tortured body and let him finally die? Martin hoped so, as he might finally be relieved of this terrible existence of pain and suffering.
After all, he did have a lot of friends at his company, who were just like him. Hungry for profits with loose morals. He smiled as he was sure it couldn’t be too much longer before someone else would finish the work he had started, and once they did, he might finally be released. At least, he hoped so.