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Read my short fantasy story, Feed the Beast!

FEED THE BEAST


by Dana Gricken

 

They came in the middle of the night.


They took me from my bed, placing a bag over my head and chains around my wrists. I tried to struggle, but they were too strong. Much stronger than me.


The next thing I knew, I was thrown in the back of a van with a thud. The van jolted forward, then I went slamming into the side of the vehicle. I felt someone reach over and rip the bag from my head and the bright light of dawn hit my eyes.


I was lying next to a woman, chained just like I was. Her hair was as red as a rose and she was wearing her pajamas. They must’ve taken her in the middle of the night as well.


She gave me a small smile, but I could see it in her eyes—she was just as terrified as I was. I looked up and noticed the metal boots of several tall soldiers, the same ones who had freed me from the bag. They looked down at us with a mix of pity and remorse but said nothing.


I knew exactly who they were—soldiers of the Order of the Beast. If they had taken me, my time left on Earth was going to be short.


The van came to a screeching halt. Seconds later, the soldiers were lifting the two of us up, dragging us inside the castle. The arena was a few meters in the distance and I saw curious civilians crowding around it to see who would be the next sacrifice.


The Beast inside the pit of the arena roared, filled with fury and hunger. It shook the ground beneath my feet and I gulped as the soldiers continued to drag me inside with the others.


We were thrown at the feet of the Emperor—middle-aged, greying, and adorned with a gold crown and a robe. He sighed and walked closer to us, lifting our chins to look us in the eyes.


“And so they have arrived,” the Emperor said. “Do you know why you’re here?”


I nodded. “I have a pretty good idea. Why don’t you tell me your version?”


“Beneath our city of Ethos lies a terrible Beast—one that eats humans to survive,” he replied. “When we built this city, we built it on his lair without knowing. A century ago, we made a deal with the Beast—we would offer a sacrifice every month to appease him if he swore to leave the city alone.”


The woman scoffed. “So, we’re the Beast’s next meal? Lucky us. Don’t we get a say?”


“I’m afraid not. Now, we don’t offer sacrifices without guilt,” the Emperor replied. “The names are chosen at random. Believe me—we wouldn’t do this if there were any other options.”


“The names are chosen at random?” I asked. “What if your name is called, Emperor? Why haven’t I ever seen you in the pit?”


He looked offended. “I simply haven’t been chosen yet. The name drawing is fair—and I would sacrifice myself if it came down to it.”


Why did I doubt that?


The Emperor snapped his fingers at the guards. “The soldiers of the Order will escort you to the arena now. Godspeed, my friends—and thank you for your sacrifice. You may die knowing you’re keeping others safe.”


The woman started to shout obscenities at them, but they weren’t listening. I said nothing, knowing there was no point as they dragged us into the arena outside.


The arena was large and circular with a hole in the ground. Covering the hole was a metal grate, preventing the beast from breaking free. I could see its tentacles moving around below us, trying to grab our limbs.


I had never seen the Beast before, though I had heard about it. Apparently, it was the stuff of nightmares. I backed up instinctively.


“Don’t fight it,” one of the soldiers said. “The more you struggle, the angrier the Beast gets. It’ll be over before you know it.”


The soldiers took the cuffs off us. The woman tried to lunge forward and attack them, but they removed their guns and aimed them at her. After she backed down, they opened the trap door to the pit.


“Go on,” the soldier said. “Jump in. Don’t make this more difficult on yourselves.”


“Well, at least I’m not going alone. Silver linings,” the woman said, looking over at me. “What’s your name?”


“Alistair. Alistair Kane,” I replied. “And yours?”


“Rana Pierce.”


“It’s nice to meet you—”


I didn’t even have time to finish before the soldiers pushed us down into the pit. We fell with a yelp, then I heard the grate above us lock in place. The soldiers ran, getting out of the way like cowards.


We had fallen into the mud, and I could feel it smeared across my skin. It was dark, humid, and smelly in the pit as I tried to feel my way around.


I heard a growl. My head whipped around, trying to see anything in the darkness, but nothing was there—yet. The Beast was playing with its food. Playing with us.


“Where is it?” Rana asked. “I can’t see anything! Oh God, it’s going to hurt when it eats us, isn’t it?”


I picked myself up and helped Rana to her feet. “Don’t worry, Rana—we’re going to survive.”


“What? How can you be so sure?”


I reached for my dagger, relieved when I still felt it in my pocket. “Because I always sleep with a weapon—just in case.”


Her eyes widened once she noticed the dagger in my hand. “Are you crazy? You’ll never be able to kill it, especially with a dagger!”


I shrugged. “Maybe not—but if I’m going to die, I’m going to go down fighting.”


I grabbed her arm, keeping her close to me as we walked through the underground pits. I could see small slivers of light peeking through the grate above us, illuminating the dingy and dirty pen. The beast was there somewhere, waiting for us to walk into its trap.


There was another growl. In the darkness, I saw four sets of eyes—bright and yellow, just like the sun I’d never see again. It looked at the both of us and licked its lips.


The sun hit the creature at the right time, highlighting its strange features. I noticed what it was—a giant worm with two tentacles. It had two mouths, a large protruding tail, and scales across its snake-like body.


“Two more meals. It’s about time,” the Beast said. “I’ve been waiting a whole month, as per my deal with the humans.”


“You’re wrong,” I replied. “You’re not eating us today. We’re getting out of this pit alive.”


The creature laughed and its rumble tremored the ground. “You’re a feisty human. I like it.”


“Wait,” Rana said, looking at me with wide eyes. “You…can talk with it? You understand the Beast?”


I furrowed my eyebrows. “Yeah. You can’t?”


“No—it just sounds like growls to me!” she replied, gasping. “Do you know what this means, Alistair?”


I shook my head. “Nah, no clue. I never paid much attention to history, though.”


“Well, you really should have. You’re a Speaker!” she cried. “It’s the legend! A seer once told of a person who could communicate with the Beast. Centuries ago, it was a Speaker that made the deal with the beast. I guess you’ve got that power too. This is good! You can try to reason with it—tell it to stop killing our people!”


“You’re mistaken,” the Beast replied. “I can’t be persuaded. I will take what is mine, what was promised to me. I will feed.”


The creature lunged at us, then Rana and I dove out of the way. I landed in the mud again and my dagger flew out of my hand. Rana was the one to reach for me, pulling me to my feet and handing me my dagger.


“Talk to it again!” she cried. “Tell the Beast to leave us alone!”


“It can understand you too, you know,” I replied, looking up at the creature. “Hey, Beast? Any chance you won’t eat us for dinner?”


It snarled and attacked us again, its tentacles shooting fiery acid at the two of us. After we dodged out of the way, I sighed. “I guess there’s no talking him out of it.”


“Come on!” Rana cried. “There has to be a way out of here!”


The Beast thrust its tentacles under the mud, trying to trip us up as we ran through the pit. We were running down a large corridor that stretched on for miles, and I feared we’d never find an end to it.


In the distance, there was a flicker of light. We were getting closer to the surface now—I could feel it. The corridor was getting brighter and I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.


But then we came to a dead-end. I could hear the Beast following us, its tentacles causing little bubbles to appear under the mud. It would reach us any minute now.


“No!” Rana cried. “This can’t be it!”


A tentacle poked out of the mud, pulling Rana down. She screamed and tried to pull it off, but it was tightening its grip around her neck. Her face was turning beet red.


“Get it off! Get it off!” she cried. “Alistair, do something!”


With one swift stroke, I used my dagger to cut off one of the Beast’s tentacles. It cried out in pain and let Rana go, then she was able to rise to her feet and kick the creature in the stomach.


With the Beast weakened, we searched the end of the pit. I felt around the walls and the ground, still in the darkness, for anything that could help us. I wanted out—and I wanted revenge.


I heard something click, then a small hole opened above us, like a secret door. There was a note attached to the door which read: FOR THE EMPEROR’S QUICK GETAWAY.


Rana gasped. “They must’ve set this up for the Emperor to escape in case he had to face the Beast. What a cheat!”


I shook my head. “There’s no time to talk now. We’ll confront the Emperor later. Let’s just get out of here!”


I climbed through the hole first, pulling myself up with my arms. I reached a hand down at Rana, gesturing for her to take my arm to safety.


“Come on—I’ll pull you up!” I cried.


She was shorter than I was, so she needed to put her foot on the wall to hoist herself up. As she did that, she slipped on the mud and fell to the ground.


The Beast was right behind us, and I could see its tentacles at Rana’s head. She screamed, trying to claw her way up the wall again.


I reached down as far as I could, feeling around for her hand. I caught it and pulled it up—only to find that it wasn’t attached to her body.


The Beast had torn her to pieces with its large mouth of a thousand teeth, spraying blood across the walls of the pit. She was being eaten alive one limb at a time.


“One down,” the Beast said. “One to go. Such a tasty meal, humans are.”


The Beast saw me and tried to reach for me, but I was too far away. I threw Rana’s arm at the beast, knowing there was no hope for her, then rose to my feet.


I was standing in a narrow passage with only a torch to guide the way. I had hoped it was sunlight but that was wishful thinking. I ran as fast as I could, covered in mud and blood and old feces, until I came to a wooden door. I pounded on it, and after a minute, it opened.


A soldier stood there, his mouth agape. “How…how did you get out of the pit?”


I pushed him out of the way. “That’s not important. I know your secret. I know you set up an escape so the Emperor wouldn’t be killed if his name was drawn.”


A cluster of guards swarmed me. I thought they were going to kill me until the Emperor pushed through the crowd. 


“Soldiers, restrain him,” the Emperor said, then the soldiers grabbed my arms.


“Rana was a good woman,” I said. “She tried to help me—and the Beast killed her for it. You said the sacrifice was fair? You’re wrong. There’s nothing fair about any of this.”


I spit in his face and the soldiers gasped. The Emperor didn’t seem too upset about it, using the sleeve of his silk robe to wipe it off.


The Emperor nodded. “So, you know my secret. Yes, I created a secret tunnel that would spare my life. I would do anything to survive—like you proved by leaving that woman behind to save yourself.”

“I didn’t leave her behind,” I said through gritted teeth. “I tried to take her with me. The Beast got to her first.”


“Or so you say. It seems we’re at an impasse,” the Emperor said, sighing. “I can’t have the people knowing my secret. Would you be willing to make a deal? The Beast is fed and I could agree to let you go, promising to never sacrifice you again.”


“The only deal I want is that Beast to die,” I replied. “It’s terrorized Ethos for too long. The deal must be broken.”


The Emperor laughed. “Do you think we haven’t tried to kill it? That our soldiers haven’t died for it? It isn’t an easy feat, Mr. Kane. It needs to feed—and this is the only way to stop it from destroying our city. Human sacrifices, just as we promised centuries ago.”


“You sure about that? I managed to slice off one of its tentacle,” I said. “It can be killed. Just give me a chance!”


The Emperor shook his head. “The tentacles will only grow back. The Beast can regenerate its limbs—even a severed head. We’ve already investigated this.”


“Then I’ll do it again and again until it can’t regenerate anymore,” I replied. “Look, the Beast said he’s expecting two meals. We can pretend we’re giving him another sacrifice, then I’ll be waiting to stab him again!”


“The Beast…spoke to you?” the Emperor asked, wide-eyed. “You could understand him?”“Yes! Why does everyone have a problem with that?”


“Surely you’ve heard about the legend of the Speaker,” the Emperor replied. “My God…you might be the only one to save us.”


I shook my head, interrupting him. “I don’t care about some legend. I’m not the one you’ve been waiting for—and I’m sure as hell not some hero. All I want is to see that Beast killed for what he did to Rana and so many other innocent people. And for this sacrifice to stop.”


The Emperor sighed. “If the legend is true and you are the Speaker, there is only one way to kill the beast.”


“All right. I’m listening.”


“As I said, you cannot kill it. It will regenerate its health,” the Emperor replied. “You must get on its back. Once you do that, as the Speaker, you should be able to control him.”


“Control him? How?”


“Mind control, Mr. Kane. The creature is susceptible to it when the Speaker is on his back,” the Emperor explained. “Then you must convince it to kill itself. The only way it can die—and stay dead—is through suicide. A self-inflicted injury.”


We started feeling tremors underneath our feet again. The door began to jolt, then it felt like something was going to bust through at any moment. The Emperor and his guards began to back away slowly, leaving me defenseless.


“What’s going on?” I asked, glancing around.


“We thought the Beast was contained within the pit,” the Emperor said, his eyes wide with fear. “But I think it’s finally found a way through. You must’ve showed him the way when you escaped!”


Two tentacles ripped the door off its hinges, sending it flying. Some of the soldiers and servants of the castle ran from the Beast as it crept toward us.


“At last, I am free,” the Beast said. “Thank you for the guidance, human.”


“What about the deal you made to leave us alone if we gave you a sacrifice?” I asked.


The Beast chuckled. “That was before I was free. This kingdom will suffer for imprisoning me—and now all of you will be a sacrifice.”


“What is it saying?” the Emperor asked, slowly moving away from us.


“That it’s going to eat us all,” I replied. “Run!”


With the Beast hot on our heels, the Emperor and I rushed through the castle’s corridors. The Emperor pointed at the chamber doors of the castle.


“You cannot get on its back inside. It’s too cramped in here!” the Emperor said. “Lure it outside, get on its back, and have it kill itself once and for all!”


One of its tentacles extended, pulling the Emperor back. With one quick yank, the Emperor’s limbs exploded in every direction. The soldiers tried to protect him, but once they saw that he was dead, they left me behind and ran for safety outside.


As the Beast chewed the Emperor’s corpse, it chuckled at me. “Now that I’m free, it’s time for a great feast to begin. I plan to begin with you, human.”


I ran as fast as I could, sliding under tables and throwing furniture to block its path. I made it to the front door of the castle, jumping through the archway.


The Beast followed like I knew it would, pulling me in with its tentacle. I used my dagger to cut off its limb and it released me, howling in pain.


“Foolish!” the Beast cried, regenerating its limb. “You tried that before. I cannot be stopped.”


There was a fence nearby that would give me the leg up I needed to get on the Beast’s back. I ran towards it, jumping on top. The Beast continued to chase me, and as soon as it got close enough, I lunged on its back.


I held on for dear life as the Beast tried to push me off. I managed to stay on, keeping myself upright on one of its scales.


“Enough, Beast. It’s time to die!” I cried. “Why don’t you do the honors?”


The Beast was hypnotized. It reached up, grabbed the dagger from my hand with its remaining tentacle, and slit itself across the throat.


It collapsed on the ground, finally dead.


I fell off with a thud as blood trickled down the city’s sidewalks. Half-chewed corpses slid out of its mouth, and I noticed a limb that belonged to Rana. I did this to avenge her death and all the others that were sacrificed.


A group of people crowded around me, shocked at what I had done. When I rose to my feet, they cheered.


“All hail our new Emperor!” they shouted. “He is our savior!”


After that day, I became Emperor—dubbed a hero through all the land—and didn’t need my Speaker powers again. The Beast never bothered the city of Ethos after its death.


The time of sacrifice was finally over.


THE END

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