“Hit it again!” they jeered.

Crowded around an ancient willow, the godlings pointed and sneered. “Eww! Gross. Look at it!”

When the man approached, he wondered what they stood over; why they slapped a dusty old plank against the tree. Bored maybe, or curious; children always were.

“What is that?” one asked him, pointing. He couldn’t tell: it was mostly crushed, bulbous and oozing–all but destroyed.

“I don’t know…” said the man, squinting, humoring them.

“It’s a cicada!” one announced, proud. Wrong. A soul. Nothing to them, of course, but still, the man fought back his sadness.

“Don’t look like one no more,” he replied instead, before continuing on his path. What use was it to dissuade them? The cicada–the soul–was beyond repair. There would be others, he knew.

Crack! said the plank again. The cruelty, the giggles.

But the man was calm. He knew it would end soon enough; everything would. He’d seen it: a flash in the darkness, even chaos undone. Rue. Damned Rue, wreaking havoc, immune even from Death.

And damn Kyle most of all, for feeding the fire.

Rue: A Missing Prologue
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