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Surinical t1_janrke7 wrote

“What is it?” I asked, a foolish question. I stared down at the thing, the posioned promise of a life I didn’t deserve.

“What does it look like? I don’t care what your family will think, or mine for what that’s worth,” He said, impatient but tender, staining the knees of his slacks on the forest floor. This is why he’d been nervous all day, not something else.

The silver gleamed, drawing up the bile in my gut. I could smell the caustic air off the thing that he held in sweaty fingers, liable to slip and send the fearsome threat popping towards me.

“I don’t know what to say.” I wanted to embrace him, I wanted to weep, I wanted to sprint off into the trees. I stood there, waiting, heart beyond the human register.

His wasn’t far off.

“Maya, will you mar-”

“Don’t!” I yelled, surprising myself with the sharp tone. The hurt in his eyes was immediate and terrible. “I can’t take that ring.”

He looked up at me, facing twisting in his own warring mess of emotion for another second before hardening. “And why’s that?”

“I’ve let this go on longer than I should have, that’s on me. I can’t be with you. I can’t be with anyone, not like that.”

“You’re always saying things like that, like you’ve committed some great sin and the only solution is to deny yourself everything, forever.” I could smell the salt on him over the deer upwind. “I want this, I don’t care what you did.”

He reached out to touch me. I didn't protest, feeling his warm, strong hand.

A mad idea struck me. Give him some excuse, take the ring, coat it in lacquer or tell him I reacted to silver, hives perhaps. He’d have a gold one tomorrow. We could keep this going.

“Marcus, did implies it's over. My sins continue, unrepentant. Find yourself another girl. One that can give you what you want.”

“I want you. No one else. What are you doing that’s so bad you can’t be with me, start a family?”

“I’d tear the baby up in my womb before its heart beat. I’m the one that’s been killing the livestock, leaving the mangled messes.”

“What? How? Like a ritual thing?”

“Not really, I’m a beast, wearing the skin of a girl. An imposter.”

"A beast?" He let his hand drop.

"Yes, for many years now. I go from town to town, leaving when the suspicion is too great."

“There’s a doctor over in Novoberg. We can talk to him about these thoughts you’re having. My aunt-”

“I’m not your crazy aunt, Marcus,” I said, this time surprising myself with the chill calm in my tone. I grabbed the ring. The crackling of sizzling bacon came from my palm. I spasmed and dropped the smoking thing to the ground. A small fire started to catch on the pine leaves.

“I am not worthy of this life.” I held out my sagging hand, showing him the angry red circle. "Cursed, damned."

I stared, daring him to argue further. He looked away and I nodded bitterly. I ran. Tonight was the night, after all.

After a few breathless miles, I curled my sore body under a boulder. As sick as it was to admit, I craved the change and the clarity it brought. I focused on my breathing and tried to seperate myself from my thoughts, my mangled disaster of a human life. My pretend life. I slept until the cracks of my bones breaking woke me up.

I breathed the forest air, sweet and deeper in meaning than any song. There was no fear, no sadness, no concern at all. I could not recall why that was notable. I shook off the thin rags of the clothes I’d forgotten to remove.

I ran to the rhythm of my heart, planless save for the instinct of movement. I was limping on a front paw. I stopped to lick the wound, content.

I perked my ears up to a foreign sound. The yelping of the smelly ones, the smokey ones. I crouched low as I stalked. Stinking oil came from a fire it held as it twittered louder, scaring away any nearby food no doubt. That was fine. This one was larger.

I could never tell them apart, the faces a blurry hairless mess, but this one looked familiar and large, indeed. I crept closer, easily hiding from the yelling thing. Seeing its back, unaware and undefended, pulled me, begged me forward but I was still. I knew not why. I was going to let this go, the biggest meal in quite some time.

It turned then and stared at me, squawking again, softer. I rumbled deep as I stepped into his light. Brave idiot did not run, but I saw the awe in its eyes.

I stepped closer, sniffing his many confusing smells, not wholly unpleasant. He did not move. I let my hackles drop.

 A roar of thunder crashed above and the man thing flinched. I lashed out at the quick movement and sunk teeth into its leg, cold and weak as a doe. The metallic song on my tongue overwhelmed whatever had slowed me, and I thrashed with more vigor as it fell.

The cracks and tears of the man thing's unmaking competed with its shouts. Eventually it stopped, leaving only wet dripping softer than bird song.

I spit out something burning that had been tangled up in the mess of the thing. Tomorrow, there may be regret for this, but tonight there was only two feelings ringing through me, the hunger, deep as screaming black, and its sister, gulping eager satisfaction.

Forgive me.



Ambereldus t1_jaoi7mj wrote

Bravo, the duality of her inner beast is almost frightening.


MyLifeisTangled t1_jap15xq wrote

I want to express how well executed this is but I’m practically speechless. There isn’t much that makes me finish a piece and sit and stare dumb and silent afterwards. This is powerful.