Before the Beast, Pt 1
I peered out into the open with my hands gripping the balcony’s railing. I was overseeing the destruction that was fast approaching in a mighty unstoppable stampede. Of one.
I stood taller than twenty men on top of the last wall standing. The beast, alas, stood higher.
We never had a chance.
The catapults and cannons might as well be firing pebbles. It looked increasingly annoyed by them but in no way deterred, or even slowed. I looked down and ahead at the three levels of walls, each bigger than the farthest and distanced by dozens of yards, to look upon my men: ants. Ants under my command, working hard to defeat a thing that was beyond their efforts.
I knew they would all die that day. Along with me, most likely.
I looked up to aid my mind in filtering out the noise of fear and violence around me so I could remark on the weather in peace. And disappointment.
Despite the death. Despite the doom falling upon us all, the sadness and misery setting into the hearts of all my people who trembled behind me inside the actual city. Despite the war… it wasn’t raining, it was even scarce for clouds. I could see a rainbow in the distance and feel the warmth of the sun shining on my brow, all refreshed by the slightest of breezes that kept on moving. Peacefully.
It was a pretty good day.
It made me feel so insignificant I damn near cried. I had always expected…when I woke up that day, to make my last stand, I expected my end to be worthy of rain and thunder. Of dark clouds, cutting winds and moody lightning.
The day, however, did not care about me. Or my nation.
I clenched my fists, and though my face remained stoic, I allowed stubbornness to spread across my body – to seep into my heart. I bit my inner cheek. I looked forward, focused on the beast again, and forced my resolve to harden.
“I will not die on a beautiful day.”
Before the Beast, Pt 2
You have certainly experienced it.
You are sitting in a tavern or standing in a crowd or walking down a street and, for some inexplicable reason, you sense it. Someone is staring at you.
You look around and happen to look in the right direction right off the bat. And you were right. How we feel this, I do not know, but I put all that I have, all that I am…into doing it to the beast.
Despite us calling it that, the way the beast has set upon our cities and defenses demonstrated intelligence. A reasoned will. My last plan, our last hope, hinged mostly on that being true.
I hoped my stare would bother it.
All other walls had fallen, only mine was left.
“Steady, men,” I said, hoping it could not hear me. “Stand as steel. And ready.”
I saw it pause. It sensed my stare. It looked around, unexpectedly staring in my direction. I hoped it was curious enough to take a closer look.
“Continue bombarding it.” With the pebbles.
I hoped it believed they were the last of our strength.
It stepped forward once and then leaned in to bring me nearer. I had hope it would come close enough.
It wished to focus on me, it wished to catch my eyes and see my stare. It wished, I imagine, to make me blink. To make me wince. It wished to fulfill its ego by taking out the last of the fight in me with just its stare.
No mere beast indeed. As to me, I had a hope its eyes were as fragile as our own. It had two, and even though they were akin to that of a bird of prey, they did not appear to be as rock-solid as its skin.
The monstrous face occupied my entire field of view. One eye was large enough to fit two of me side by side. The smell stemming from its head, mostly all from its breath, almost made me pass out. I had never smelled so much death, I had never felt it so appropriate to add “putrid” as a descriptor to “smell of death.” I could feel it on my skin such was its density.
I hoped my men were still responsive and ready to act; I could not, for the life of me, look to them.
I held its gaze, exuding as much defiance as I could muster. Making use of every last ounce of courage available to me, I lift my hand in a hard breath and stare back.
I had a hope that it did not know what a ballista was.
And if it did, that it did not recognize the two stacks set up behind me.
Before the Beast, Pt 3
Its bellow instantly ruptured ear drums.
A few of my men went deaf in the first instants of its scream. I myself felt my left ear drum burst while the right one whined into a whistling shock. I finally winced looking away, but the Beast did not notice. It had done so first.
It arched back in pained reaction, a dozen of gigantic bolt projectiles sticking out its eyes, needles in comparison, but needles can blind any man.
He tripped over a half-crumbled tower and fell back, violently spreading itself across all the half-destroyed walls and battlements it had left in its wake. Amidst the booming generated by the several points of contact between its body and the things it was landing on, something cracked. Even in my near-deafness, I could recognize a bone snapping. The bone must’ve been the size of a tower and twice as thick.
In reaction, another bellow blew up and hit us in an audible and terrifying gust of wind. Its foot wildly lunged in a spasm, bursting part of my last wall.
It just burst like a massive explosion had taken effect.
I witnessed as half my men were projected back to rain down on their city amidst the debris. Like everyone else who had not been kicked, however, I was too overwhelmed to manage any kind of reaction.
I stood still. Gaping. Eyes wide. Frozen before the enormity of it all.
The sheer scale.
I was a farmer once. There was a moment in the past when my biggest worry had been how to milk a cow properly. When my biggest failure was to have clothes dirtied by muddied rain.
Ten cities. Four castles. Twelve to fifteen thousand lives and the greater majority of the royal family. My left ear. Things I had been responsible for, things I had failed to protect.
An orphan farmer from the kingdom’s most humble of territories.
A beast so big and mighty we thought it a mad god was laying in front of me, its bellow shaking the earth hundreds of feet beneath the wall over which I stood. Its wild kick had effortlessly shattered a third of said wall, of the last wall.
I had climbed through the ranks with all of my ability and sought to glorify my family name and my nation only to now realize I had made myself responsible for so much. For too much. My failures were impossible for me to perceive, let alone fathom.
Much like the beast before me.
In the madness of it all, I noticed clouds were forming. The noise and violence it had produced and was still echoing had upset even the weather. I must have been crazy by then because I felt relief.
Lacking the ability to heal, the beast would forever be blind. That was all I could hope for; that it, at least, would be unable to seek out other nations. Other people. I had a hope that, for all my failures, they would be outweighed by what we accomplished that day.
As for me?
I watched as its foot claw approached like a falling building. The size of one, too.
I noticed the unholy hell that was stuck to its base, an agglomeration of ground, buildings and corpses all pressed together in a muddled mess of despicable visage.
The last thing I heard was the sound of thunder.
Of a storm unleashing.
In the Beast’s Shadow, Pt 1
The beast stands taller than mountains. Or at least, any that I’ve ever seen.
Bigger than most all walls and big enough to rip down any that can be built, it roamed the lands at first. It blind, unsure where to go, unaware of what it’s even eating to survive – or maybe I’m wrong, maybe it can tell by taste – the point is it was a threat but no longer as capable as when it had the ability to seek out cities and direct itself.
Thanks to my father.
I was two that day. My older brother succeeded him, being in his twenties, to lead the relocation of our people while the giant sought to take revenge, blindly, on our once mightiest citadel.
He came up with the plans to poison the beast, all of which fell flat. Then he had the idea to lead him to Lake Parish, hoping the beast would be remiss to leave a constant source of water and fruit, and he was right.
We have lived twenty-five years of peace. Scouts have reported daily on the beast’s stationary location for years, themselves stationed on a military post that started out as the greatest sign of nobility and courage that one could demonstrate. The job has since degenerated into the lowest of posts one can take, worst yet than sewage disposal for, at least in that, you still live in a city.
That is my duty. Even with my father’s name and my brother’s say, it was the only one I could get.
I look at the beast and I try to fathom how he did it. Of all the legends and stories I’ve heard, myths and history, the tale of my father’s stare down with the beast rings the most awesome. Because it is true. Most days, I cannot even stand to look in its direction…let alone at its ankle, the foot that crushed him. I have only looked at its blind-staring eyes once, I cannot imagine meeting a full stare. A stare that actually sees me.
My father was born of nothing, an orphan child sold as a slave to farmers. My brother was a bastard born of a barkeep, dad, and some maid. I, on the other hand, was born to royalty, at the time my father held the highest office as he tried to contend with the mighty beast that had surfaced to destroy us all. My mother was a true-born princess fallen in love with the mighty general.
I have never been able to hold a sword correctly. My wrists care not for its weight or form, my feet fumble in any attempt to attain proper balance. Blocking a strike with a shield hurts as much as getting hit with a punch. My heart is weak, both emotionally and physically.
I will be the downfall of my line. The “then” to “his lineage fell through”. I knew it the moment I looked away from its blind gaze and into the bottom of my flask, on my first day at the job.
I am the true-born son of the savior of the world, and for the longest time, I’ve felt as if…I am but a disappointment waiting to be realized. Always have been.
I look out the window as it again goes dark. We camp near the beast, close enough we practically live in the shade it casts when it gets up to walk around, or even when it sits on our side of the lake.
I read the short tale they based off my father every other week. Based on his writings. “Before the beast,” is the title. Epic and foreboding.
I do not even live in my father’s shadow, I realize that day, as I look up at the beast’s back. I live in the beast’s shadow…the thing he defeated.
That would be the title I have earned, and will ever earn, with my life. In the beast’s shadow.
I brush away my long slimy hair I cannot bother to wash or comb anymore and I look at the wall of skin that is its back. And I envy it. As low as the beast has fallen, I am yet lower.
In the Beast’s Shadow, Pt 2
The corner I hid in is now drowned in sounds of sobbing and a slow, rhythmic breathing. The sobbing comes from me, the patience from it.
It waits for me to move. It waits for me to lead it.
If anyone can read this, know that the beast has learned to listen!
It first attacked us during night time. We thought it had been unlucky, we blamed the smell of the excrement we had amassed due to having been lax in handling their disposal. Either way, none of us who survived its attack were brave or courageous, we immediately fled to the nearest city.
It attacked the city the next day. In the effort to evacuate and flee, amidst the destruction, I was left behind buried under the rubble and debris, assumed dead. When I woke up hours later, I found the beast standing just outside the city. It was waiting.
It was the first thing I saw and fear gripped me so tightly I could not move. I did not move. I hardly even managed to breathe.
It waited for long hours, and so did I. Then suddenly, it found purpose and started off. I recognized the direction, it moved towards a village that was a few miles away.
It has learned to discern our footsteps! Or our voices. All that time, it was listening. It did not hear me because I was quiet, as quiet as I could, out of terror. Once it was moving, of course, it would not hear me beneath its thunderous steps.
If it stands still, however! If it stands still, it can do this!
I fled to another city, a further one. Four days later, runaways from the village I had assumed it walked towards arrived. Sure enough and to my dismay, one day later, the Beast arrived. That was when I realized it was following the survivors, it was leaving survivors and then following them to find the next city.
That was when I realized that was the only reason there were any survivors in the first place.
I panicked. There could be none, not this time! What I’ve done…I had to!
Its attack was stronger than it wanted it to be, I think. Few people were left. And me. They all tried to escape, all five of them, but I used the crossbow! I had to, they wouldn’t listen to me, they wanted to run at all costs! I told them, they would just lead it to the next city, I had to!
You must believe me, I had to.
Now, alone, here I lie.
It waits for me to move. It stands still. I am the only survivor, it knows it can’t kill me. I walked out for a few hours, I went around, next to it, came back, and after all that, it still stood like a giant…building. Like a tower. Eyes staring out into the distance, blind to everything.
It was then I stopped. I just stopped. For more than a day have I lain immobile in this bedroom floor, hoping every second that the ground will tremble as a sign that it is leaving…or otherwise doing something beyond my power.
A hope that continues to go unfulfilled.
I don’t know what to do. I want to run away, but I can’t, I will only lead it to others. I wish you were here, brother, you would know what to do. But me? All I can do…I think of running to the next city and attempting to evacuate everyone before the beast arrives, but we all have to go somewhere, we can’t keep walking and even then, it can just be impatient and get us on the move. I guess?
I can grab a mount and just race through everywhere, but on the other hand, it is now currently stuck. Because I am not moving, it is stuck.
No…I have to stay. I have to hope it can’t hear me writing this and I have to stay. If there’s one thing I have to succeed at, it is at dying.
I cannot believe I will die like this. Hungry, thirsty, frail and weak and sobbing…and all, as ever, in its shadow.
Curse my life.
Curse my lack of ideas, curse it all. But above all, curse this shadow.
In the Beast’s Shadow, Pt 3
I stab and I stab for there is nothing else to do.
For days, I stayed still, catatonic, under the shade it cast. For days, there was a glimmer of hope that they would come for me.
My brother, my uncle, my countrymen. Someone would come with a plan, someone would come with a care.
The reality of my life has always been the opposite. No one ever comes. No one ever cares.
So I grabbed a sword and walked to its massive foot. Whatever fear I had ever had was a distant memory. I was hungry. I was tired beyond belief and besides it all, I was hung over. There was nothing else to distract me from my heartbreak. From how low I had fallen. From the perfect knowledge of the human being I had grown to become: such a stark opposite to my father.
I don’t care if I die.
I stabbed it. I stab its foot for what seems hours but it doesn’t react. It doesn’ kill me. I assume it doesn’t know how to hurt me without killing me, that would leave it alone in the city.
It seems pointless but there is nothing else to do. I keep stabbing and it keeps ignoring me. It takes me hours and ten different blades, but eventually, the rock cracks and opens to show flesh and blood.
Because it ignores me, and because I’ve gone crazy, I see what nobody has ever seen: the color of its flesh.
My hands are already pretty hurt, pretty cut up, just from handling the swords.
I know the hour approaches when it gets too hungry. It will eat me then, before trying to make its way back to the oasis. Now, the idea of being eaten is horrifying but I didn’t feel any fear. What scares a man after the horror he’s been forced to familiarize himself with? After days dealing with the sight and the smell of a city of corpses and all their vomit and excrement and blood.
I suddenly, looking at the wound, am overwhelmed. Thirst, the hunger I am so…out of it.
Before I know it, I’m bent down, biting into the flesh of a gigantic killer. So my bites would be akin to that of an ant you couldn’t even feel, I’m not worried about harming it, I’m just hungry.
I gather myself minutes later. I stop and looked at my hands and realize the taste inside my mouth, and I heave.
Why I do not kill myself, I do not, or will ever, know. It is an odd mentality to have, to throw yourself at death and yet refuse to bring it in yourself.
When I open my eyes, in that moment of self-pity and self-hate and just bundle all the negative words in conjunction with self…in that moment, something occurs to me. As I look down at the negligible wound on its foot, I remember a soldier I had seen die from a splinter to the finger.
It had gotten infected. He had gotten sick.
I do not know what it was but, with bloody teeth inside a parasitic mouth, I grin. I grin with all the passion of a murderous psychopath, looking up at its patient stoic expression, slimy hair grabbing onto my forehead.
I don’t worry about how I will ever live down doing what I think of doing. I don’t want to think, I just want to do. Whether in the hopes that it will work or that the Beast will kill me for it, I do not know. I do not care.
I snatch cockroaches, bugs, I catch a rat, and I shove them into the wound. I grab a piece of a corpse that was more fly than meat and I scrape the Beast’s bare flesh with it.
For what feels like hours, like a lifetime, I try to infect that very tiny, very negligible wound. I grab hold of a spear and pass it over multiple corpses, across puddles of dried up blood and maggot-filled meat. I infect it as much as possible and then I go back to the stabbing.
I stab until my arms die on me.
And the whole time, I am laughing maniacally. I surrender to the madness. I allow myself to go the lowest a man can go. I betray every shred of honor and dignity I ever had or could ever have and, quite simply, go crazy on that wound.
“You keep me in the shade,” I yell out, “you ignore all that I do, and all that I am,” I scream. “That will be your downfall!” It barely feels me, it hardly cares about what I’m doing or saying, but I’m insane. Incapable to care about what makes sense to say or not. I just say it. I let emotion run my mouth.
“I WILL BE YOUR DOWNFALL!”
I am an ant biting at a Titan. At a god monster destined to slaughter us all but I cannot care, I instead laugh and spiral worse and worse. Just get filthier and filthier as the day goes by. And as much as I laugh that day…it turns out to be nothing. Nothing compared to two days later.
My madness spent with my stamina, I again lie on the ground…having given up. My mood again flatted, my tears again running, my whimpers repeatedly hiccupping.
“No one is coming,” I tell myself, “no one cares to come for me.”
And then I hear it.
As usual, it is thunder, always like thunder, but this time, it’s not intimidating or scary, it’s actually exhilarating.
It was a cough.
I have lowered myself to such lengths that I have overlapped! And came out on top! I’ve killed the beast!
It’s sick! As I write this, it reaches for me, to eat me! I hope! Hahah!
Because I’ve been coughing blood all day!
It can hear me writing! It can hear so well! I wonder if it understands me?! I will curse it all the way through, all the way until I die!
Finally, it’s ov–