Flashing teeth, hungry mouths, sightless eyes, hooked claws—the only things I saw before my blood augmented the already considerable amount of red that had been supplied by the struggling sun. They came from the tall grass, quiet and vicious. They might have been dogs or even some kind of wolf, but I wasn’t sure. After they tore me apart, they withdrew and crouched down somewhere in the field, where I could detect them only by their monstrous breathing. My once astonishingly rehabilitated body was now laid open. I was a clutter of ruined flesh that hung in gory flaps. Breath still haunted my lungs, but my strength was nearly gone.
The very tops of the grass seemed aflame with the last touches of twilight, and a calming breeze played against the savagery of the previous moments. The creatures, whatever they were, seemed to be waiting for something. After a few minutes had passed, I heard footsteps coming toward me through the field. It was a calm gait, one that possessed only two legs. I think it might have paused a moment to appreciate the spectacle of my blood mixing with the rays of the dying sun. The movement of the creature was light and graceful. It was a woman.
I gathered the silence of the field, inhaling it while I listened. The night began trickling in as the sun grew colder. My sisters began to giggle softly, like children deliberately betraying their hiding places. Large storm clouds tumbled grey and ominous through the distant sky, mumbling. I determined my target—what I took to be the leader of the pack of monsters, as its breathing was the deepest and most measured of the horde. I couldn't convince myself to attack until I learned what the gathering of killers had in store for me, so I mustered what strength I could recover and waited.
The woman's voice slipped between the grass and the breeze without creating so much as a ripple within the calm. “You travel like a thoughtless bird, Family Man, straight and unwavering—and wholly predictable. The train is one of the worst ways to access the city. I really didn’t think you’d take such an obvious route, but she assured me that you would. I should know by now not to question her.” Her voice seemed to come from the grass itself. No figure appeared to which it could be attributed. “Did you really believe she wouldn’t know you were coming? Where did you think your dreams were going? After everything I’ve heard about you, you turn out to be nothing more than a simple-minded brute. You lack the cleverness of your art, monster. Well, I’m certain you must've at least learned enough about us from her dreams to know what comes next. Or were you foolish enough to believe that you would have the honor of being devoured by our mother?”
With a heavy heart, I surprised the massive beast from behind. I had crept beneath the sound of the woman’s monologue to get close to it. Its strength was fierce and feral as it tried to struggle free of my grip, but my strength was greater. The creature’s neck snapped with a loud crack, alerting the other creatures of their leader’s sudden death. They came forward to investigate, and I took a moment to study them. They were beautiful, like wolves from another world. Their eyes were opaque and blind, their teeth and claws designed to hunt creatures far larger and fiercer than any earthly prey. They were the size of mountain lions and the color of summer storms, and they moved with the killing grace of predator shadows. My heart broke when they attacked.
My father met the first beast in the air. The creature became nothing more than a shriek wrapped in blood. A second wished to test my balance by lunging at my knees. The sharpened butt of my father’s handle passed through the creature’s brain, continuing through its lower jaw and down into the earth. Still another beast leaped at my back. I spun around and sunk my deadly forebear into the thing’s ribs, chopping the creature from its trajectory and sending it spinning and bleeding into some brambles. I detected the nimble retreat of the woman who had spoken at me. She had wisely determined that her pack of deadly beasts was not likely to outlive the dusk. The last two monsters tried to assist the woman’s escape by rearing up in front of me in a show of intimidation. My sister slashed their throats in a wide arc before taking flight and plunging into the fleeing woman’s back. She stumbled into the low-hanging limbs of a dead tree, just outside the point where the field met the woods. She tried desperately to hold herself up using the lifeless branches, even as many of the limbs tangled her hair and poked at her flesh. Yet the brittle wood kept snapping off in her hands as she slowly collapsed to the ground.
I wanted badly to spare the remaining creatures, but I couldn’t let them apprise Miss Patience of anything beyond what my wayward dreams had already let slip. The beasts came at me almost passively, as if they had nothing left to fight for and wanted only to discharge their lives as quickly as possible. I made their deaths brief and gentle, their blood mixing with the few tears I wiped from my face.
The woman was still breathing, as I had intended. I moved to look upon her face. She was blind and terribly beautiful. Her eyes were a marriage of glass and spring rain, and I immediately recognized her from my dream.
“Less like a thoughtless bird and more like an eagle,” I said. “An eagle has nothing to fear, and you will find no critics of its tactics among the littered bones of its prey.” I had intended to probe her for insights into the mystery of Miss Patience, but I had destroyed far too much beauty that day to summon any lingering sense of purpose. I couldn’t bear to look at her. As I turned away, I could hear the rain falling behind her beautiful, sightless eyes.
She gathered what breath remained and spoke. “I didn’t know . . . eagles could cry.”
In the next moment, the blind woman and the sun were dead. The newborn darkness drifted across me, washing the remains of the daylight from my broken skin. I sank into the darkened field, defeated.
Comments will be approved before showing up.