Later, once everyone else in the house had fallen asleep, I pulled out the box, and studied it, rubbing vigorously at the lid with my sleeve. It did nothing. Trying not to laugh at how clichéd it felt, I blew on the lid, and almost dropped the blasted thing as dust flew off. It coated my mouth and eyes and made me cough. When I could see again, through streaming eyes, bright silver letters glittered on the dark wood. Homo homini lupus, I read, wishing for once that I'd taken up my father's idea of going to church so the Latin didn't stick in my throat. I scrambled for my laptop, and searched the phrase. The internet in my room was slow, and it was liable to cut out completely if I provoked it too much.
I found myself absent-mindedly stroking along the letters with my finger as I waited. The results popped up with a beep, making me jump again. I then winced as I felt a sharp pain in my finger. I looked down.. to see the blood seeping into the wood, like ink into water. I put my finger into my mouth to staunch the bleeding, and shook my head. Too many horror movies, I chided myself. Wood is porous, especially old wood. Of course the blood would seep in! I scanned the screen for the translation, and had to read it a few times before it sunk in fully. Man is a wolf to man. It was a warning of human brutality, of how we were capable of unspeakable evil against one another. It sounded Old Testament, to my atheist eyes. I ran my fingers through my hair, and sank back onto my bed, shutting my eyes to try to obliterate the shining letters in my eyes.
I woke hours later, shaking violently with a violent pain across my stomach. I pulled up the tshirt I wore, and almost screamed. The letters were branded onto my stomach, the skin black and weeping. I squeezed my eyes shut, convincing myself it was a horrible, horrible nightmare. The pain spread to my limbs, and radiated up into my chest. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. I begged myself to wake up. When I finally did, I gingerly peeled back the duvet and checked my body. Scratches littered my arms and legs, but I had no idea if they were self inflicted. I pulled up my top again quickly. The veins around the brand, if that was what it was, were black too, now. I put my foot down, and the sock pulled tight over my foot, sending pain up my leg. My toenails were gone.