A fantasy story involving spirits, magic, and a catgirl.
I ran, not knowing from what, only that whatever chased me was intangible and omnipotent. There was no recourse to such a being such as this. Fighting against it was meaningless, when so many others had died trying. I was no different from the thousands, maybe tens of thousands that’d died by its hands. I ran for what felt like months, years. Not in the exaggerated sense either. My sense of time was perfect in this forest, and I knew that time was passing me by without hesitation. There was no mercy in time’s eyes as decades and centuries passed. Yet, I never tired. If I stopped, there would be no restarting, only rest. So I kept on, running from this invisible monstrosity that hunted me. Others entered the forest, but weren’t as lucky. I heard their screams, and felt their blood spatter me not long after they entered. They never lasted long. But now...
The forest burned, and with it, the monster that had chased me through the ever present twilight. The flames licked at my skin, but they revealed the monster in all its hideous glory. Its face when described simply could only be seen as ‘demonic’, with a more complex answer adding that its eyes were the most haunting thing about it. Its teeth were filled with its victims— yes— but the eyes watched, every present. They were the kind that children had nightmares about, and even after they grew up and long forgot that sleepless night— would always remember the monster’s name, Fear.
The Beast cackled, amazed that it still existed after almost being consumed by the flames. Or rather, a singular flame that was quenched soon after it started. Why it was spared it did not know, but it was intelligent, and therefore withdrew into the depths of the forest— further than I had ever gone, and would ever dare go. There wasn’t the sound of screams, that would too easily sate my fears. No, there was only a silence that not even bugs filled. Only the restless dead occupied that accursed part of the forest, waiting to devour me on sight.
Only my demon was now waiting indefinitely. Did that mean that I could cease my escape from this forest of the damned? That there was salvation?
I was answered by the laugh of a cat demon.
It would never leave me, and it cruelly reminded me of that fact. Yet I laughed back, tears filling my eyes. For now, I had won. The flame hadn’t quite killed The Beast, but it was consuming the forest. Trees cracked and fell, and animals would’ve fled in droves if there were any. Even air escaped, but I laid down for the first time in several millennia, and watched as the embers crackled and danced above me. They saw it fit to entertain me one last time before disappearing forever. Their dying act, as the flames consumed me.
It was morning, or rather just before it. The sun would be rising shortly. Which was strange for numerous reasons— the biggest of which was that I forgot that the sun rising was a daily process. The forest held no such logic. Which meant that...
My eyes proved it with the wooden ceiling lit by oil lamps. I was no longer in the forest. I would’ve leapt for joy if I didn’t feel like I was dead. Although my eyes moved normally, my arms and legs felt foreign, unable to move even after I tried my hardest.
“You are awake.” A boy commented. I hadn’t noticed him, but he was sitting right next to me. “Who do you think you are?”
“Do you not know, or do you not wish to respond?”
“I see. You may call me <Fantasy>. You are the host of The Beast, one of the longest lasting and evasive of all spirits. Can you comprehend what this means?”
“Then I shall explain. At this moment, there is another entity within you. I was only able to partially seal it, as I was interrupted during the process. One major side effect of this is flux in your current form. I cannot repair this, without risking damage to the seal.”
I looked down, but it was a pointless gesture. I don’t remember what I used to look like. I guess I could say my legs were pretty long, but that’s it.
“But do you truly understand what The Beast is?” He asked, his arms folded. I would’ve shook my head if I could.
“The Beast is a killing machine with a mind. One without honor, that relentlessly hunts those of the fairer sex. It has killed for several thousand years, torturing its prey before death and ensuring that their last moments are as full of terror as possible. With its ability to create a world of its mind’s eye, it is nigh impossible to hunt without being hunted yourself. That is how it— and therefore you— have survived ‘till this day. But you— I have yet to trust you. Spirits do not randomly choose their hosts. Whether it be by birthright, gender, or power— there is one commonality. Every host chose, in one way or another, to give up their free will.”
He watched me like a hawk, unblinking.
“Your face betrays you. You willingly became a host for this foul incarnation. While asleep, I checked your blood. Indeed, you are of animal-kind, a female, but there are two more requirements. Do you know what they are?”
“Correct, why the ability to hold The Beast manifests in such a way I am unsure, but it guarantees that in time— you will be its host. That is the curse of ones with such eyes, ‘a circle filled with a cross’. But you only met half the question, and miss the important half.”
“I don’t know.” I answered honestly. Swords appeared behind him, all pointed at me. It was pointless, I couldn’t even move with the shackles on me.
“Make a guess.”
“I don’t know.”
He gazed at me for a while, and I stared back, my eyes heavy. He waved a hand and the swords disappeared. “I see that threats against your life would be pointless. Rest assured that I have no will to put you through what your victims endured.”
“In that case, I shall explain what happened. Through both conjecture and knowledge, I know your story. By such time that the story ends, if you do not have the answer, I shall end you, as you are no better than the monster that you hold. But should you find the answer—”
He grasped my hand. “We shall see.”
“Your story starts in a small village in a forest. You were born normally, and your parents gave you all their love— as they were unable to bear any other children, despite the propensity that animal-kind have towards large litters. This lack of siblings was in itself a bad omen, with you being a runt, and several miscarriages strewn behind you. Life proceeded normally for you in the tiny forest community, your neighbors beginning to fall in love with the small cat eared babe. They forgot all about the ill signs of your birth, not at all suspicious of how an infertile women could birth a child. For how could they know?”
He gripped my hand harder, his eyes half closed.
“At the age of six, the eyes manifested. Rumor and myth were what kept your village afloat and sane in a world of magic and anomalies. Oral history was synonymous with word of God. Things were said and repeated for a reason, and they knew to fear those eyes. Tales told that those eyes would birth a monster that would not raze villages— yet even still decimate them. The method was unknown to them, just that this monster was a harbinger of death. Your mother had never known this tale, it was one that even her mother had a passing memory of from her grandmother. It took a week after your sixth birthday for one of the eldest of the village to act. His words saying as much of your fate in other cultures would have been taken for old age, yet here his words were regarded as absolute. Fearing what you might become, you were ordered to be burned at sunrise the next day. Your parents took you home, fought over what they should do. What exactly transpired is unknown to me, but their final decision is known. They decided to send you into the forest, alone.”
He shifted his hand, resting it on his leg while he kneeled.
“You were not mature enough to understand what was happening. You were only perceptive of the fact that your parents were fighting. When you tried to comfort them, they decided to do it then and there. They told you a fantastical tale, one of how if you were to walk through the deep forest at twilight— you would happen upon a light that would guide you. They asked you to find this light, and being the obedient daughter that you were, you searched for it. Your parents gave you warm clothes, food to last the night, and shoes that would ensure safe travel. Off you went, searching for this damned ‘light’. When morning came, and you had yet to find this light, you cried, feeling that you had failed your parents. Unable to return, you continued on through the next night, and the next. For a week, you were unable to find the light.”
His eyes were fully open now.
“But on that night, you found it. It hung beautifully, justifying your sickness, hunger, and pain. Just before you could reach and touch it, The Beast at your front. It came directly at you from the shadows, not quickly, but not slowly either. It had no fear, and recognized you as its new host. But there was one thing missing. You were a child, and yet to have the capacity for it. It would be at least another year before you would normally have the capacity for it, and so you rode on its back, covering what had taken you a day on foot in a few minutes. When you reached the village, there was only the scent of burning. That is your story. What was it that you missed? What emotion? That is the question you must answer.”
“Incorrect. Even infants can feel anger. They throw tantrums.”
“I... I don’t know.”
“Think, or be executed. You missed only one thing in order to become fully in tune with The Beast. Something that only the strong can control, and the weak exploit.”
I gulped. I knew the answer.
“You came back to find your parents burned at the stake, in hopes that it would be enough to stave off this harbinger of death.” He continued. “But in doing that, they achieved only in securing their deaths. Even at that age, you understood what exactly had happened. Your parents sent you away to save you, possibly prevent the spirit from ever appearing in the first place. But...”
He sighed. “No males in that village were hunted by The Beast. Except for one. The elder that proclaimed your fate. At the end, it was a self fulfilling prophecy, but a prophecy nonetheless.”
“But... you do not seem to have learned your lesson, even after several millennia. As their judge and executioner, I sentence you to death.”
Swords hung in the air, surrounding me like an inverted porcupine. It was at that moment, that I remembered. Not my name, no, I remembered the night that I came back to the village. He was wrong, I felt no anger that night. There was nothing personal in my actions, no fury, no rage.
I gained not one, but two things. The first is what allowed me to break my constraints— my will to live. Reality warped and bended as I twisted it to my will, breaking space in order to escape the swords. He was quick to react, but I was quicker as I grabbed him by the throat before he could even blink.
The second was empathy. I could taste his fear, his terror at me escaping. He struggled against my hand but I slowly closed it around his throat, watching as his mouth foamed. It would be so easy to just crush his windpipe, but that would be too quick— he’d been planning to kill me afterall. So I soaked in his despair, bathing leisurely in it as his heart beat faster in an effort to make up for the lack of oxygen. I could feel his life draining, his eyes grew darker with each passing second as I held him.
And then it was over. He was dead, and I was alive. I laughed, but quickly stifled it. Someone might hear. Even so, I crouched next to his corpse, putting my mouth close to his ear.
“My parents threw me out. The only reason I lived was because I escaped. I could smell their terror when the Elder named me as The Beast. They didn’t help me, they were part of the manhunt to find me. I wasn’t lost looking for a light, I waited for them to stop searching so I could attack them at their most vulnerable. Oh, the joy I had burning them! Killing them in the way that they had planned to kill me. Burned with wards to ensure their damnation, ones to prevent curses from being placed upon the mob.
“It was wonderful! The villagers couldn’t stop the flames, they were forced to hear them scream as I watched from afar, delighting in their fear. But, you know, it wasn’t just then that their fear was the peak. It was later, just before their sleep, when they wondered if— or when— I would come for them. There is no replacement for that sort of joy, knowing that they fear you with every fiber of their body. Oh sure, they offered up sacrifices. Two young girls were burned at the stake, just as I would’ve been, but do you think that sated me? No, all it did was make me hungrier.”
I wiped the drool away from my mouth. “But now, The Beast no longer holds me! I’m free! My parents did always tell me to say thank you, so thank you for freeing me mister!” When it didn’t reply, I kicked it. “Dick, not even a ‘you’re welcome’.”
With nothing else to do, I looked around the room. The architecture was unfamiliar, and it wasn’t a type of wood I knew of. Just as well, I could feel other people around me. Even when someone wasn’t wetting their pants, they always had a small amount of fear within them. I opened the door, salivating at the idea that I would be able to feed off even more people’s fear.
But then a thought occurred to me. Why did I need people to fear me? I wasn’t The Beast, I didn’t need it in order to survive. So why—
The Beast was in the hallway in front of me. It didn’t do anything but smile, its teeth clean of blood and guts. I flinched at the screams near me, and The Beast was already gone, rampaging. I watched through its eyes as people were herded apart, isolated, and injured to instill even more terror in them. I clutched my head as I was forced to watch the monstrosities take place, unable to do anything about them. The Beast wasn’t weak, it didn’t hunt women because they were weaker.
They hunted them because it was more fun.
I cried, the screams of my mom and dad filling my head as I could no longer stand. They hadn’t died because of me, right? It was The Beast, not me. I would never hurt them, never do anything to cause them pain. I looked at the dead boy through bleary eyes. I should’ve let him kill me, I couldn’t bear it anymore. I could barely move from the guilt crushing my legs, and the shame weighing down my arms.
The dead boy moved, gasping as his lungs received much needed air. His eyes looked half glazed, but they drifted to me. I expected hate, or fear, but it was something far worse.
It was glee.
“I should not be surprised. After hosting the beast for several thousand years your psyche has been permanently molded to The Beast’s liking. Assisted in controlling your emotions and your body. You truly are beyond saving. I will finish the mission entrusted to me by the gods themselves.”
There was a crack of thunder as a sword shot out and pierced The Beast’s head, causing it to howl and bound away somewhere else.
“You are no different than that intelligent beast, Iona, but I will hunt you both equally. I shall bestow upon you a boon despite my best judgement. Ten seconds, that is your advantage. Hide, girl, lest I truly repay your favor to my throat with interest.”
I ran. I don’t know why, but I felt that if I approached him, I wouldn’t survive a second time. This place made no sense. I thought I was in some sort of foreign land that the Elders had described to me, but that was not the case. I passed through a door, into a cave, that led into a giant banquet hall, which in turn led to a dead end at a giant cliff overlooking a vast forest. I returned to the banquet hall, which was now full of people that were all sorts of different sizes. Some were ten feet tall, while others were only a few inches high. The only commonality was—
“Would you like a mask, madam?” A man asked me, holding out a horrible looking demon mask. “You look... unique, shall we say, at the moment.”
I slipped on the mask.
“And here are some clothes for the madam.” He said, cloaking me in a fantastical red dress.
Before I could thank him, or even process what was happening, he was gone.
I’d never been to a banquet hall. It was a memory that The Beast had given me— I don’t know why. I knew what they consisted of, which was mainly of people eating and dancing. That’s what occurred, people were dancing to some sort of off key instrument, and eating strange dishes that I couldn’t quite place.
“Would you care to dance?” A boy asked me. I knew that I was supposed to decline him but I felt strangely compelled to agree. I didn’t even know how to waltz, but I was already moving perfectly in sync with him as we were on the dance floor.
“You are quite good.” He said. He was slightly shorter than me, and he felt familiar. I had no idea where I was, but his voice sounded comforting. “Where did you learn?”
“I do not remember. I apologize.”
“Yes, memories perish mere moments after they occur. It is the truly special events that you remember for a lifetime, is it not?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Then let me tell you from experience, people do not come to these events— these halls of decadence— to create memories. They come here to forget. They come because they wish, if only for a moment, to end their suffering and be free of all worries.”
The crowd was larger now, but it could’ve been my imagination.
“They dance with these masks— why? Why Iona, why do they wear these masks, hmm?”
“I... don’t know.”
“They wear these masks because you cannot remember their faces.”
“These people— they look odd to you, yes? Of all shapes and sizes. Iona, why is this?”
“I... I don’t know. Who are you?”
His face was masked by a simple cat facade. I couldn’t even see the color of his hair at this angle, let alone anything remarkable.
“Iona I made a mistake, do not look at them.”
But now that he brought it up, it was impossible as we spun. Their faces were blurred behind the masks, but their features were familiar.
“Yet, why? Why are they familiar to you Iona?”
We were waltzing faster now. “Is there some reason that you cannot remember? Or do you just not wish to remember? Why? Do you remember me? Or rather, how could you have forgotten?”
“I don’t remember you!”
I wanted to pull alway so badly but we were going so fast I was worried I might crash if I did.
“Then think harder. I am not your enemy nor friend, but I am your ally. The other guests— well. Keep focusing on me.”
As the world became blurrier, the masked people became clearer. One stood out to me, but I didn’t know why. It was a young woman, maybe 18 or 19. She was from my village, I could tell from the ears popping out over her hockey mask. Her arms looked so perfect that I wondered if I was truly dreaming when I saw them. They were elegant, masterfully toned. So full of fresh meat and sinew that I wanted to tear into because of how delicious they looked, ripe for the harvest.
“Ah, you are almost there. Slowly now, slowly my ally. I shall not lead you astray. What are your thoughts on this fine young lady? Is she not beauty incarnate? Many a man kill another to have her hand, would they not?”
“But yet she is ethereal, why? You could end our dance and touch her, could you not?”
“Truly? Why do you believe such a thing?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Because you do not remember her. You remember her beauty, you lusted after it. The Beast did not force you to kill— no. It rampaged for thousands of years because you were unique. You were careful— none of the other hosts were as cautious as you. You struck and left like an assassin. Untrackable and unkillable. But one day you were greedy. Do you still not remember?”
Something hazy jumped out in my mind, grasping at my thoughts. It was there, but it spoke a language I could not understand. She was there one moment, and she was dead the next.
“Your one mistake was greed. The Beast feared what you desired, but it was trapped in a web of its own creation. You knew only of taking what you desired, as that was what had been ingrained in your mind. So you followed this woman, waited until she was alone, and took what you wished. This was your decision to do so, to the point that The Beast tried to sabotage your lone wish for fear of its termination. The Beast is constantly in fear, as it is intelligent. Yet, one thing and one thing alone terrifies it. Death. Not the spirit of <Death>, no, the aspect. It fears what it inflicts on others to such extent that it will go any length to ensure its survival. But for once, it was not in control of its host. Her death was what allowed it to strike, sealing you forever in its forest.”
The woman wasn’t gone, that would be more comforting. Instead she walked towards me, blood pooling behind her as it dripped from her legs. Stains appeared on her front, growing darker as the light from the chandeliers above grew dimmer.
“The Beast is paradoxical, as it is savage, but intelligent. It would snatch girls and kill them, trying not to arouse suspicion. But you, you were the first host to hunt them. You fed off their emotions, not just their fear. That forest was of your making, not its. You trapped your victims there, playing with them like a cat does prey— but after a point you were so full that you no longer did it solely for survival. That woman was the breaking point. I repeat myself for a reason, Iona. You were possessed, but are you anything but blameless.”
We stopped dancing. We had stopped quite a while ago but it only now occured to me that I was still spinning. The other attendants carried on like nothing was happening as the woman ever slowly shortened the distance. I could clearly see now why she was so slow. Her feet were missing, nothing more than jagged stumps like from a felled tree. Her arms were gone, leaving only stubs for which she could crawl on she fell. Finally, I saw her eyes gone, their sockets black as I clawed out her eyes so she could no longer see the light that I hung in front of her.
She lay below me, not dead, but nearly so. She wheezed, the rules of my— not The Beast’s— world elongating her life, making sure that she would not die until I deemed fit. I took her life, biting her swiftly at the base of the neck.
But that wasn’t real, it was just a memory that became too real as I was lost in the dance. It was real in the sense that it happened, but I silently followed my partner’s lead as the woman stood on the sidelines.
“That was your first mistake.”
The woman moved like a doll, her arms breaking back into position as she groaned in pain. Limbs didn’t so much grow as reappear on her, white and black fuzziness covering her as her body regenerated. She gave me the same feeling as the boy, and so I ran into my own forest, watching as she stood up, fully alive and holding cleavers in each hand. A white mask covered her face as she bent her neck at an odd angle.
But no, she didn’t chase, she simply left. Not through my exit, not in any way possible, but through the shadows. I hid for years, waiting for when she would come for revenge, but that day never came.
“You think that day never came? Nay, it did. While our dance is over, the night is young, and I suggest that you mull over your actions. For if my ears do not delude me, a monster is nigh.”
That meant that The Beast and he were coming. I ran to the balcony, looking desperately for any sort of escape for a second time. Nothing had changed, and the rocks below looked just as daunting as before hand. I peeked inside the ballroom, hiding behind a door frame. People had yet to realize what was upon them, but I too could hear the sound of it rasping, making its way through the cave to find me. There was no possibility of fighting either of them, and I would not be able to bend space far enough to reach the bottom. The rules designated that only the one known as The Beast was unkillable, and I was technically not The Beast.
The door burst open, people yet to realize their fate as they continued to chat. It took half a minute for people to panic and rush through the door. I was pushed to the front of the throng, sucked into the undertow of the crowd’s stream. Once again, my hands were pressed against the balcony. It was suffocating being the crowd, packed together tightly with them. I released the pressure by standing up on the balcony. My balance was perfect. As long as I was not pushed, I would have no troubles standing there and overseeing the situation.
Which was not looking well. I could see The Beast sniffing at the air, eating anyone that dared to run in front of it with a single bite. It looked bigger than it had before, its teeth and claws even longer. I watched, and could feel the people around me becoming anxious and fearful.
It was at that point the first person jumped off the balcony. Others followed, not willing to face such a brutal death by The Beast. I lost my footing, caused by someone hurtling past me. I had nothing to grab, nothing to save me as I fell. It was so quiet as I fell, there were no screams. Only pure terror filled the air, and I could do nothing to stop it.
I hit the rocks on my right side. I didn’t feel any pain, but could see my right foot and arm were mangled. Laying there for a moment, I wondered why I wasn’t dead. Most people would be after falling from such a height onto rocks, and yet I was still thinking.
“Plagiarism is the highest form of flattery, Iona. Do you not recognize your own work, albeit twisted?”
The man from earlier asked, standing over me.
“This is your own world, and yet you refuse to acknowledge it as such. Has your sense of reality become this twisted? I suppose it is only natural, for how are you to know how the real world works, when you have spent so little time in it. Iona, you must find the light. Test your mettle as so many others have and go through the torment you have put so many others through. Be hunted, not by one, but two monsters of equal caliber. Your sins can never be atoned for, but perhaps, one day, you will forget. I have two boons to grant you. Your wounds shall be healed, and your understanding of this world shall be perfect. Yet this only evens the playing field, as both monsters have this ken. Complete these trials and overcome your fear, for your monstrosity was born of it, and shall die from courage. I bid you ado Iona, forget me, but do not forget the light.”
My body was healed, and I felt more awake than I had ever been. I sprang to my feet and dashed towards the forest. Screams came from the castle, but I focused only on the safe haven of the darkness. The boy would have trouble seeing in the dark, and while The Beast might not, my eyes could see through the forest as if it was day. Only a few feet of rock and patchy grass divided the castle grounds from the forest, and I willingly sprinted into the darkness.
I was not the sole reason for why the victims of The Beast had long, drawn out deaths. For I knew its secret, its sight, smell, and hearing were truly awful. It could not see things standing still, even when it was close enough to reach out and touch. It relied on fear to have them move, and chase them. Walking slowly would work too, but panic and fear controlled the victims, forcing them to reveal themselves. Only one person had found the ‘answer’, and they had not done it intentionally. Their weakness and frailty forced them to walk slowly, and avoid The Beast’s attention.
I would have to follow suit, mimicking them. I walked with purpose, not necessarily paying attention to where I went, but listening for the sounds of the monsters. My hearing was just shy of my sight in potency, and in this forest I could see no living things. Not a soul wandered, not an insect cried. The stench of death blanketed the forest, and it was impossible to determine any other scent. This worried me, for I had no idea what the origin of it was and couldn’t avoid it.
I heard a howl behind me. This was its first means of distraction, and I knew that. It used it to force its prey to move, to shiver in fear. But I would do no such thing, and walked forward, making sure not to fall and alert it to my position. It would not be hard to avoid, as long as I paid close attention to where I stepped, roots in such density performed the same as snares, and if I did not heed them, they would be my end. I avoided several pitfalls only because of my sight, and several roots that seemed to move with the intent to trip me.
I could feel it breath on my neck, but I dared not turn around for fear that it would confirm that it was me and strike. The Beast actually waited a few feet to my left. Something concerned me, but I made an effort to forget and ignore the thought lest I become panicked. Another thing that concerned me was how much brighter the forest was. I was close to the light, but that was yet another trap. It was impossible to touch, placed there to force the prey into action, making one last desperate dash.
But the words from the man I had already forgotten stayed. I didn’t create this world, it could be the exit and that itself was the ploy. Without my enhanced senses, there would be no reason for me to even attempt to reach the light. But, I would have to try. The light naturally appeared after a set amount of time, although I had experimented with whether or not it would work better to have them be injured first before displaying its grandeur.
I could still feel its breath on me, why was it so persistent? If it truly believed it was me, it should bite. Even if it was wrong, it was better to strike. Was it not as intelligent as I had thought? Or was there something that I was missing?
I was blinded by light, my vision filled with it. The boy was now in the forest, and I could feel The Beast’s attention on me waver and fade. The breath stopped, and I continued as I had before. Sounds of something slamming into trees and bursts of light filled the forest, creating an eerie music in the forest with nothing living in it. I could see the light, the doorway to the outside world. It was there to tempt me, but I had to make sure.
I scanned the ground carefully, crouching to see if there was anything hiding beneath the dense brush. When I found nothing, I moved only after I made completely sure that the patch of ground in front of me hid nothing. It was slow, but I gradually made progress. The sounds of the fighting became more and more distant, but I knew not to trust that. They could be directly behind me and I would be none the wiser. Sound was easy to manipulate in this world, but illusions were always tricky. I’d never quite mastered them, and thus it was unlikely that my eyes would ever deceive me.
I reached the portal. It was directly in front of me, close enough to touch and enter, yet I felt that I had missed something. A trial this easy would be no trial. It pained me, but I had to search the forest. I turned my back and was frozen solid by the mass of animals in front of me. An unholy abomination of every animal that I’d ever seen, and a few others. It had no logic to it, it moved with twenty limbs, and saw with forty eyes.
I knew, in this moment, that if I moved, I was dead. For all the eyes and limbs it had, there was at least three claws at the end of a paw or tentacle. Even looking at it made me wonder if I had ever truly encountered The Beast. It moved on instinct, driven by a smell here or a touch here.
And it was coming for me. It was slow, but I could see it was heading in my direction.
The only thing that stopped it was swords of light which pierced through it, causing it to scream and enrage. Yet it still did not give up on my trail, doing its best to ignore the loss of its body while swords impaled it. There was a seemingly endless amount, and yet The Beast paid little more attention to him than a fly. Even from a distance, I could see that the boy was never going to finish the job, even with all the light that he could muster, he would never down it. Never fully finish the job.
Not for lack of power or will, the swords passed through The Beast with ease and were innumerable. But for all that, The Beast shrugged it off, why? Had I ever truly been the embodiment of The Beast? Or had I just been a poor imitation? This was a true monster, one that could not be allowed to exist. What the man had told me came together, and so I started running towards it.
Without hesitation, all forty eyes locked onto me and it roared a symphony contained of all the animals that comprised it. Yet I did not back down, I did not run. For only in the destruction of this beast— no— monster— could I eventually find peace.
“You!” It seemed to scream. “Come back! Join us!”
My claws, while razor and sharp, would do little to it. Which is why I had to change the rules of this forest. The only obstacle was where they were located.
Directly inside the belly of The Beast.
“Boy!” I called out. “Please, do not hit The Beast! Let me work, and wait until I say.”
I don’t know why he listened to me, but he did, and so I faced The Beast, waiting until the correct moment to strike. If I struck to early, I would miss. Too late, and I would be crushed under its weight. I slashed with my claws, carving upwards as The Beast fell on top of me. I braced myself as it moved, feeling my orientation change as it yowled and tried to remove me from its insides. Paws and tendrils crept inside below me, grabbing at my legs as I dug myself further in with my claws. The Beast became more desperate as I became closer to the rules, slamming itself against the trees to try and make me lose my footing. But I didn’t, focusing only on what was ahead of me.
And there they were, the rules laid plain to my eyes. They were the same ones that I had created, apparently the plagiarism had extended to this as well. It was easy enough to change though, so I touch—
My hand was paralyzed by red sparks that emanated from the very rules, protecting them. It was limp as I moved it, I was unable to curl even a fist or move anything above my wrist. I watched as my light grew dimmer, The Beast’s wound closing around me. I had to work quickly, or risk being swallowed. There was only one path I could take.
I thrust my hand up again, pushing against the red sparks. I lost feeling down to my arm, but I just barely managed to touch it, and change the rules. There was nothing visually impressive, but I could feel The Beast freeze. I had planned to end it from the inside, but my right arm was useless, hanging without feeling. I couldn’t swipe and stay inside The Beast, so I retracted my claws and fell. The instant I touched the forest floor, cracks akin to a gun were had, caused by the swords piercing The Beast. Blood dripped from it, showering me as I lay, too scared to get up as The Beast was pulverized.
A full minute passed of this before I heard a groan, and the fake night sky was revealed to me. The Beast was dead. It would no longer haunt the world, preying on the innocent and vulnerable. But...
“You confuse me. Why come back? You were at the exit, were you not? Yet, you helped me slay this foul beast, comprised of humanity’s fear. Why is that? Tell me, beastman, before I end you. Perhaps now you will talk, as opposed to our earlier conversation.”
I didn’t know, but if I said that, he would kill me. So I thought about it, truly I did. When nothing came up, he said, “Then I shall allow you to live. Do not forget this mercy. I impose only one thing in penance. Take on this spirit.”
“Just kill me. I can rest in peace now. I found the light, The Beast is done, and the souls of those I have killed can go sleep.”
“Incorrect. The Beast is not dead. It will never die, and never can. This is merely a representation of its form, it is incorporeal, and without you as its host, it will simply lie in wait. So, beastman, your punishment is to host this spirit and tame it. You have already proved to have the skill, all that’s left is the courage.”
“Why should I? If I go back—”
“Your eyes are unrecognizable. Your guilt resides with you, and you alone. Actually, Estelle may have a fair bit of bone to pick with you, however besides her, only you remain to forgive your transgressions. But as for why to keep living...”
He thought, sitting down next to me.
“I have no good reason. But, have you truly lived yet? You were so young, your growth stunted. Your mental faculties were groomed by The Beast unintentionally, yet your experience is nonexistent. You will simply have to trust that there is a reason to, just as I trusted you.”
“Then... okay. Can you help me?”