His eyes shone red. Through the swirling shadows, cast long by the guttering torchlight, I saw his chest rise and fall, through the eerie silence I heard his heavy breathing. The mist lay, a heavy, goose-feather blanket slung over the swamp. I stumbled, over the moss-slicked corpses of once-mighty giants, seeking the dry scraps of land between murky pools. The stench of decay rose from the mud as my heavy iron boots sunk ankle deep beneath the surface. The death of the cicadas’ songs – I knew my quarry was near.
He had been easy enough to track through the outlying fields at the quagmire’s border, the shattered barbed wire fences and unrecognisable chunks of flesh served as signposts. He was heading home. Heading deeper into his Evergladian labyrinth. Tracking such a beast into his lair was never too difficult; he was drunk on his own sense of power, and the stench of fear rising from the village led his bloodlust on. Each night he grew bolder, more powerful, more dangerous.
They had summoned me to the village too late, but as the King’s man my duty would heed no revolution. Like Beowulf to Grendel’s cave I would press on. It is a measly wage, that of the Monster Hunter, Second Class. A measly wage for such a dangerous task, although the villagers loathed paying, and each night that another lamb was taken, each night a poacher was found decapitated, each maiden defiled would halve my salary. And they have the gall to call me in twelve nights after the beast erupted from the mud. They called me in after the mob had moved, their empty skulls set up in warning around the beast’s sanctuary. They had let him grow more powerful with each night, I told the Head-man, had made my work infinitely more difficult.
His eyes shone red in the darkness. Sated he watched me approach, his twisted grimace raising into a smile as my eyes flicked toward his grisly trophies. No longer hungry, he was happy to see me approach through the darkness. My hunting rifle stayed at my side, my machete sheathed. “Are you happy now?” I whispered from twenty paces, and he nodded – his hearing was superb.
“We should move on, find some other village to relieve of their trouble-makers…and their fresh little lambs.” He chortled, his mouth gaping to reveal row upon row of tombstone teeth. I pulled him close to me, resting my head against the rough-bark grating of his skin. Breathed deep his musk as I slid his chain beneath his arms.
And so along the King’s roads we march, buffeted by the screams of the villagers, by the intolerance of those afraid of what he is. Always moving onward, looking for a moment of peace, escaping their united stares, seeking only serenity. They are afraid of what we have become, together.
Our love was never meant to be, and would never be accepted.
My beautiful monster.
Just an early morning (it’s 5:30) flash fiction for io9‘s great image (as always), this time of monster artist Alex Pardee. I also used one of this week’s BeKindRewrite‘s prompts: United Stares, as well as yesterday’s Sunday Scribblings prompt Revolution. Comments and criticism are always welcome!