I’ve come to slay the beast. My scabbard feels light as it dances with my stride, exhilarated for what’s to come. A wretched thing: that what is to come. Killing, I mean to say. Ahead, on the path, there’s a thing that I’ve come to end.
Above, the stars bore into me with ferocity. I’ve never been this close, I didn’t know they could burn like that. The trees scream of age, the branches dead and sharp as though warding off those who would transgress. I will not camp here, once the deed is done so too will I be done with this place.
My own weight begins to burden me, and I feel my warmth abandon me, leaching into the black. The woods surrender to an opening, the soil morphing to black crag. At the center lies a pit with perverse symmetry. My legs march forward, though unwillingly, and my insides twist at the sight of it, as though smelling rotting meat.
My blade slips from my grasp, as my advance falters, and I lurch into a prayer before it. It’s dark inside, as though every sun had had their light snuffed out. And then, the murk reaches into me, and by my very heart, I am wrenched inward.
The drift is long and cold. And then my limp figure strikes the bed. As my eyes adjust to the light, I look out. I see something that I cannot, should not.
I see my father and I, bickering about my service. “You shouldn’t leave” he sighs, defeated. And then he stares at me, and through me, and into me. Then, vicious light plays across my retinas. The room changes, I see my mother; “I’ll miss you sweetheart.” The same stare. Again the light. My sister, playing tag: “I’m gonna catch you!” The same stare.
The ground swallows me, and rips me back into the world. In a fetal position. I look forward. I see it.
It: as tall as a house, a dozen legs, spots of fur, a barrel chest, and then the face. Its mouth has an overbite, sharp teeth but no gums, stretched into a grin. Its eyes are ripped from the firmament, as though infinity itself was bleeding. We stare at one another, it cocks its head, and speaks.
In my father’s voice: “You shouldn’t leave.”
In my mother’s: “I’ll miss you sweetheart.”
My sister’s: “I’m gonna catch you.”
Maybe it’s god, maybe the other? I don’t know. I feel weak, and alone, and afraid. So I turn, and I run. Through the trees, and into a clearing. I collapse, every breath a labor. It occurs to me that there is no wind, no crunch of snow, no stars in the sky, nothing but the dead trees.
I hear nothing.
Then, I hear running.