The Beast

22 Aug

By Lydia Donato
6th Grade

I can’t move. Its hot, wet breath chokes me, thousands of pounds of furry beast just above me, paralyzing me with fear. I am in the woods again, five years old, picking daisies after a day of swimming. I’m singing a little song I made up about chipmunks and mushrooms when it appears. It’s teeth as gnarled as the roots of the mangrove trees around me, yellow and stinking of congealed spit. It lumbers toward me, very fast for it’s considerable bulk. It is over me, and its black saliva drips onto my skin, burning me. “Papa!” I scream, but I know it will do me no good because he is too far away. The beast raises a massive paw as if to strike me, but instead takes the most prominent claw on his right forepaw and writes on my cheeks and forehead, “You will always be alone.” It is repeated over and over and over. Then my father charges out of the woods with his axe and chops the creature’s leg off. It growls and backs away, and I wake up, bathed in a cold sweat.

I feel the message flowing with blood again. “You will always be alone.” I sit up in my bedroll, and braid my bright red hair out of my face. I feel my raised scars and shudder. I am scared of confronting him again, even though I know I have to. When the beast first gave my scars to me, I thought they would never heal. I remember Zelda, the old healer telling me that they would, but I never was convinced.

I jerk myself back to reality and get dressed. Loose cotton shirt, black breeches. A versatile outfit that I wear every day. I lure my crow, Petunia, over with a juicy worm I found. Petunia the faithful. My grandmother gave her to me, and told me never to change her name or I would have bad luck forever. I always listen to grandmother, who is one of the most powerful mages in the world.

I head towards the creek. I take out my knife and wait. Within ten minutes, a fish comes into sight. I throw the knife, and it hits the fish’s eye. I wade in to fetch it. It is a large trout. I grin, and stroke it’s shimmering scales as it flops helplessly in my hands. I cut its head off with a clean sharp motion, killing it instantly. I head back to camp. Dead silence. Not a bird sings, not a mouse moves, not a breath of wind. I turn around just in time to see a man with bulging eyes and a bruised face stumbling into my camp.

He stares at me, mouth open, when a large red circle that looks like a scab pops out of his mouth and onto the ground. He starts spraying clear liquid, and I scream and run away, tripping over roots, running into trees, and making myself look like a blithering idiot. Then the world starts spinning, and I fall face-first into a mud pot with a satisfying splurch.

I am covered in mud. Stinking, beige mud that’s gummy on the surface sticks all over me. I let out a very irritating and unattractive sound as I attempt to free myself from the acidic muck. I get up and stagger away from the pool of mud. I am shaken from the encounter.

I stumble towards the sound of a brook, bumping into trees and roots before I arrive. It is the wrong color, it is a thick magenta, and burps out a smell of dung. I then realize I can’t take a bath, and sigh. I should at least see if I can wade across without getting seriously hurt. I bend down and brush my fingers, long, thin, and strong over the leaves under my bare feet. I find a nice fat worm and throw it into the stream. It explodes, spattering me with pink glop. It begins to climb higher and higher up my legs, and then I see it.

The beast has emerged from the forest across from me, and stands, waiting for me to move. All of a sudden, I feel a crunch. I look down, and my legs are made of ruby-studded jade. What was a moment ago flesh and blood is now stone, and I can’t move. Not an inch in any direction. I feel stones underneath me giving me strength, pulsing with life. It crawls up my body, and the beast is thirty feet away, twenty feet away, fifteen. I am stone, completely stone. My head, legs, torso, and arms are now stone and I can’t move. Ten feet, five. Petunia hops onto my head and pecks me three times, and I can move. I can’t fight it. I don’t have a weapon. I know what to do.

He walks towards me, and I place my hand on his nose, he wetly snuffles at it. “You smell like crow magic,” he says, confused. “I like crows. They are tasty. Are you tasty?”

“No, I am not. Why did you hurt me when I was a little girl?” I ask, confused.

“I do believe you are lying. You will be tasty,” he says, ignoring my question.

He smiles, and his teeth transform. They straighten out of the braided yellow mess and bleach to a pearly hue. They’re neat and small, perfectly spaced. He settles down, front paw curled, back paws relaxed, smiling. Then he pounces, so fast I can’t stop it or even hope to. He is above me, lying on my belly just like he did ten years ago. I think of my fingers as weapons, razor sharp points that I stab into his belly and reach inside with, finding his heart, which I snip open to get at his heartstrings, which I cut, and he reverts to his original form.

And suddenly, swaying on my chest is a perfect white dragon egg. I know the king will want this. And he will offer a good price. After that, I’ll go catch some monsters.

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