Any ideas what is next for Peter and Gwen? Please do poll and leave comments! Did anyone catch Spider-man references?
Why should I even wait? It’s worthless, it’s inevitable. I’m just waiting to die, why should I wait to have it be by his hand? I’ll give it a day, then I’ll decide. I try to get some sleep, but it evades me.
I feel so alone. So helpless. If I die, I’ll be with Peter. And then we’ll be together. I’ll be not alone.
“Does bad deeds include killing sheep?” Asks Liz, “‘cause I don’t really want to kill anyone, but I know I need ta do something. I want ta survive.”
“Liz, you’ll survive, but not live. There’s a difference ye know. Ye will survive for a little while, but what ye do will be nothing ta what those boys have done or will do. Liz, just give up and come over here. Please Liz.” I don’t know if I’m pleading for her sake or mine, but either way she needs to come.
“Ye were always a softy and quitter, Gwen.”
She slaughters 3 sheep.
She cooks the sheep.
She eats the sheep.
She doesn’t offer any to anyone.
She is not scared to be out in the open.
A day passes.
I know I’ll be next, if not Felicia. I need a plan.
6 hours pass.
I have a plan. But I need help.
“I have a plan ta escape, but I need all yer help. Will ye help me? I won’t tell ye the details because he might be listenin’ but I’ll tell ye all ye need ta know. Will ye help me?” I hope they don’t hear the waver in my voice.
“Yes,” says Norman.
“I’m up,” Mary Jane says more hopeful.
“I’m with ye, Gwen,” Liz says weakly.
“Sure baby girl.” Jeb can still be annoying at a time like this?
“All right, when Xing comes again we all need ta be close ta the entrance. And when you think ye’re ready, and ye will know when ye are ready, just run and don’t look back. Got that? I will be movin’ over there in 2 minutes if ye would like ta join me, but not hurt me.”
Everyone in the cave moves to the entrance.
An hour passes.
“I believe everyone knows who is next. Step forward foolish child, no need for a chase.”
“All I ask is ta see the sun one last time, Xing. Then ye may do what ye will with me.” Please work, please work.
“So you want me to open up the doors, so that the others might escape? Ha! Silly child, don’t you understand? I have no control over any of this. I’m locked in here, too. You remember my paw, do you not? I took the energy, for there was no one to take from. I go out to feast before the doors close on me, too. I stay if there is a bountiful feast to be had. But one day, I woke late and the doors were already closed. And that is how my paw is this way. I’m trapped, too. You’re trapped by your master, and I mine. But my master is no physical person, but my rightful fate. I’m the cruel joke of life. So I say unto thee, my creator, ‘Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mould me Man, did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me?’”
“Paradise Lost,” said Calvin.
“Ah, you are schooled barbarians, are you not? Either way I must feast.”
He lunges at me and I let him come, for there is nothing I can do.
I’m ready for death. Death is ready for me.
I don’t even feel him as he pushes me out of the way.
Norman saves me, only for his death to come sooner.
“Norman? Ha! I was already for the girl. I’m not use to eating out of order, but two meals at once will delight me still!”
Xing glows, his light means my death. They always say, ‘you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.’ But my tunnel is the cave – closed off.
Mary Jane dies. But not by the tail of Xing.
Horrible acts are partaken. Liz is the last girl left and she pays for it.
Fang kills Fing. Brother kills Brother. Evil kills Evil. Terror kills Terror. Survival kills Survival.
Foom kills Job.
“Let us have one of our last feasts. If I can kill half o’ the lambs, ye can the other half,” Jeb says.
Foom kills Jeb.
When the worst become the best.
“Can one still sin, if there is no one ta sin against? Am I able ta sin anymore? But there is no reason ta, I can’t beat anyone anymore. But I need ta – ta save the future generations from this beast. But can I sin anymore, if there is no one ta sin against?”
Foom is dead.
The doors open.
“Gwen . . . Gwen . . . Gwen, it’s Peter. Gwen? Gwen! Gwen, what happened in here? Gwen!”
A day passes. A day of watchfulness and little sleeping.
Why do they kill us? If they feel this absolute need to kill, why not kill each other? If Peter was here, he’d know what to do. But he’s not, he’s dead. The soldiers killed him.
“I see you are trying to lessen my meal for me.”
“What about the lambs, are they not innocence?” Grandpops pleads from his alcove next to mine.
“Have they done any good for the world? No.”
“Xing, I’m a good servant of yours. I already have yer next meal ready, her name is Felicia.”
No! Someone must have grabbed her when she was crying by the door 3, 4 hours ago? I have to do something! Not Felicia!
“Fool! She is not next. Oh where are you old man?”
Quietly as Gwen can, she searches for something to hurt Xing with. She finds moss.
Xing comes closer, and I’m ready.
Sniff, sniff, sniff.
I jab the moss into his tail-mouth, and yell, “Run Grandpops!”
A hurricane of a snort comes at Gwen as Xing laughs, “Child, how foolish of you to think you could overcome me. I’m more powerful than you’ll ever know!”
“Xing! Let’s make a deal. Ye get ta do whatever ye do ta me, I’ll go willingly, as long as ye take me back ta wherever ye go, and not them all of them see the horror. Do we have a deal?” Why is Grandpops doing this?!
“No. I want all them to see how much good you’ve done, but not the same as Anna Marie. They NEED to see.”
Xing’s body radiates. He consumes Grandpops goodness. Grandpops says nothing.
Grandpops is now dead.
The numbers are dwindling, the group is down to 14, with a cold-blooded murderer in their midst.
. . . And the beast, don’t forget the beast.
Minutes pass what feels like hours, and hours pass what feels like days.
Only 3 hours pass before brave Mary Jane says, “If no one is going ta kill anymore, I’m hungry and I will be willing ta make whatever mealtime it is. I’m comin’ out.”
Silently, the encampment of scared refugees walk toward her for their meal.
All is well.
No one talks. The refugees keep to themselves, not knowing who to trust. Some try the entrance to see if it will budge. The act is fruitless, but most try anyway. None try together, for together one can hurt. But alone . . .
All is well, until talk comes of what to be done with the bodies.
Fing, not willing to be out done by his brother says, “We should eat them, to harness more of a chance of survival.”
Felicia not understanding the magnitude of his words, “GROSS!”
For the first time that I can remember Grandpops yells. It echoes throughout the cave. “ENOUGH! EVERYONE WHO IS WILLIN’ TA SUCCUMB TA XING’S TRICKERY, GO TA THE EAST SIDE OF THE CAVE AND EVERYONE NOT, WEST! NOW!”
Grandpops is separating the good from the bad. He’s taking the light out of the dark.
Foom – East
Fing – East
Fang – East
Liz – East
Calvin – East
Jeb – East
Job – East
Gwen – West
Grandpops – West
Mary Jane – West
Norman – West
May – West
Ben – West
And Felicia is just standing in the center. She stands in the center twisting her shirt, and crying softly. Every so often, she lets out a whimper and sucks up her snot.
“Felicia, come here. Felicia come ta Aunt Mary Jane.”
“Sweet baby Felicia, come ta Jeb. Jeb will take care o’ ye.”
“I don’t like it when ye guys yell. I don’t understand what’s goin’ on.”
“Aunt Mary Jane will tell ye, if ye come ta me.”
“Yer friend Jeb will tell ye not only what’s goin’ on, but everything . . . if ye come over here.”
I didn’t see him until she screamed. He was so quiet. He was always so quiet.
Calvin stabs May.
Rose petals fall from her torso, with a black hole in the center. Little violet petals still in her eyes.
May is dead.
Ben rushes over to May, but it’s not like in the movie scenes where everything is slow. No, this is moving too fast. Too much emotion, too much confusing emotion. Who to watch, May and Ben or watch out for Calvin? My heart aches.
Ben can’t take it, “My May Flower! No, no, no. May.” Ben begins softly, then increases convinced that it is the right decision, “With great power of morality must come great responsibility to uphold that morality. I’ve failed you. I can’t maintain my or other’s morality in this . . . this place. I’ve failed you.” Taking the bloodied stone dagger out from May’s gut with a scunk, he jabs it into his own. “I’ve failed you, I’ve failed you, I’ve failed you, I’ve failed you, I’ve failed-.”
We all scattered to the alcoves nearest to us, for we know not where the beast was coming from. I was with the 3 year-old, Felicia. She was whimpering, and I tried to quiet her, wishing someone would do the same for me.
Wait . . . “Purest of Heart,” great! Who could be more pure than a three-year-old?! No, I can’t think like that!
The one with the darkest heart, the most defiled, survives. Then what good is morals, if it will only get you killed?
Then the question remains: would I rather die with dignity, or survive with no soul? To die is to survive, to survive is to die. Are morals worth dying for? Are MY morals worth me dying for? If I sacrifice this child to survive, then part of me has already died.
What if Felicia isn’t the purest? What if someone else out there is more so? Would the beast, Xing, take one of the shepherd’s lambs?
Minutes pass, and silence follows.
Why isn’t the beast doing anything? Does he like to see us squirm?
If Peter was here, he would die first. But he’d think he was somewhere in the middle.
If father was here, he would die last. But he’d think he was the first.
But what of me? What of now?
I feel busts of cold air on my face. What is it? I reach out and feel smooth cool air, but how can air be smooth?
I’m touching Xing.
He moves on.
I guess robbery of food, makes one not pure anymore.
In an instance, Xing aluminates from his very body, and lights up the whole cavern to let all the refugee see what comes next. His light casts shadows on the scared, frighten, and unsure faces of my encampment. I see past the light and look at him, no scales or fur, but no skin either. He has a small – what passes for a face – with two eyes, with no ears of what I can see of, but if he can talk, there must some. No nose or mouth, but dangling jowls beneath his eyes. I am in unbelieving awe at his uncanniness.
Xing sniffs and snorts at one of the sickly patients. His tails wags, thumping the ground making the pebbles bounce. From out of the tail comes a . . . mouth? The tail looks smooth like what I touched, and has this weird opening that in no other way to describe, but a mouth. The tail must be no longer than three or four feet, the rough tongue of the mouth extends to five more feet.
“Let this be a lesson to you people, the oldest among you is the purest. The longest amount of time to sin, but does not succumb to MOST temptations. She is not perfect, no I’ve never tasted perfection, but this one will be delicious nonetheless. “
Anna Maria does not resist her impending doom, accepts it with heave of her chest, and a single silent silver teardrop. Her wavering voice of time gushes into a well-repeated verse: “‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ My Savior, my prayer has been answered, I will see you now.”
At the sounding of the last syllable, the tail-mouth opens and injects a venom the color of retribution. The frail old woman’s now limp carcass arches upward as a fluid enters through her eye sockets. Yellow blips seem to be called to the surface of the weathered wrinkled skin as her face twists in contortions of the purest form of agony. The blips breakthrough Anna Maria’s wan skin, as if each one symbolized a good deed committed. There were thousands of them. The blips molded into one gigantic golden glowing globe and Xing devoured it as if it was his first food in years – it probably was. He grasped the orb in his paws, clawed into the center, and sank his fangs into it. Golden ooze dripped down his chin but before it hit the ground it changed into scarlet blobs. Xing defiled Anna Maria’s pureness.
Xing seemed to be choking on laughter. Disgusting.
“I absolutely adore it when they pop! It is like what you eat – cranberries, boiling in a pot. Pop, pop, pop. Bubbling to the surface. The juices that you people suck out of yours, is the warmth that this woman has brought to the world. Pop. Pop. Pop. Although none of you have come close to her. No meal next will be as delicious or nutritious. Take a lesson from your elders, people!”
Xing peeled the benevolent energy from her flesh as one peels an orange, except he was eating the rind. He was dining fruitfully.
“I’ll give you a hint, my future feasting. The darkest of heart survives the longest. Continue to sin – continue to live. The one with the wickedest soul will put me to sleep for as many months as that person committed a foul deed when they could have committed a good one. Hold out hope for you do not know when the doors will open, or if someone will rescue you. I will be back in two days.”
“Xing,” Grandpops steps out from his alcove, “are you willing to make a deal? What if I gave you the purest ever? Will you stop doing . . . this forever?”
“Yes, but I have searched and found no avail. Who do you have in mind?”
“Tell me how do you find the purest of heart and I’ll tell you who you seek, Oh great and powerful Xing?”
“Do not appeal to my ego, others have tried and look where that ended up. All you people have energy from your previous acts, and I can smell it. There is no masking it. Tell me of this person who is the purest of heart.”
“You are. You take care of the evilest in the world, but also the purest. You are the best of both good and evil. Absorb yourself and you will find your solution and problem. You are beyond good and evil, Xing. Think over this.”
“Do you not see? I have already tried.” He began to limp away.
Xing’s paw was withered and mangled. It was blacker than the rest of him, and shriveled into almost nothingness. His limp was a characteristic he now dared to show. He showed weakness. Was there hope? As he went the light became dimmer and dimmer, until the cave was darker than before the idea of Xing had took captive of their minds.
Xing said someone might rescue us. Could Peter still be alive? Could Peter save me? No, I saw him die.
Everyone waited a few minutes before coming out of the alcoves, but Grandpops just stood there thinking.
“Everyone gather ‘round. We will go in a circle ta voice our opinions. No one interrupts. Though our situation is fearful one, doesn’t mean we should be in a panic.” Grandpops stops and looks around for someone to start and chooses Calvin.
“I know this may sound twisted, but why did Xing choose Anna Marie and not Felicia?”
May begins in almost a whisper, but Ben puts a hand on her shoulder and comforts her to go on, “Calvin, Xing said not only is it the bad acts, but also how many good stuff ye do, too. Felicia didn’t have enough time to do good acts.” Her voice breaking now, “She won’t e’er be able ta! We’re all gonna die in here . . .” She turns and sobs into her husband Ben.
“May . . . that’s just a possibility,” Grandpops soothes. “We are gonna try everythin’ we can ta keep us alive. We just gotta keep our heads. We just gotta keep our heads.”
Job is the next to speak, “What if . . . what if we did what the monster said -”
“Under no circumstances!” The power and strength behind my voice startles me. But once I say it, the more I believe it. “You either die a hero, or live long enough and become the villain, and I am no villain!”
What Liz says next surprises me, “But ye ain’t a hero either.”
“Whoa, whoa! This is what he wants, for us ta turn on each other. Do ye really think he wants the purest, or does he just tell us that so we hurt each other, and become more evil and give ‘im what he really wants? Huh? He could be lying ta us.” Grandpops levels the free-floating anger in the cavern.
A weak voice over by the stream calls out, “Do ye really think he can even sense it at all?”
“Wasn’t this suppose ta be in order?” Mary Jane says, trying to bring humor to the dark situation.
Sharp crisp movements in succession at the deeper part of the cave. Was Xing back? No, fear and hatred was back. Foom sprints across the crackled cavern, while in motion he rips the end of a stalactite clean off. With a horrifying sneer that ripples to the very soul, he impounds the stone dagger into a sickly old man by the stream. Without even hesitating, he jabs again and again, then goes over to the other wounded patient, shrieking in hysteria, and plunges the stalactite into her eye.
With crimson life-liquid streaming down his forearm, he raises his arms, climbs a nearby rock, and bellows in triumphant immorality, “I will survive!”
The cave erupts into chaos.
“What does these pictures mean on the cave walls, Jeb?” Asked the girl with long blonde disheveled locks.
“Gwen, my pretty girl, they are ancient folklore of a man-eating beast who eats the purest o’ heart on the other side of the mountain. That’s why we’ve ne’er heard of ‘im. Crazy superstition if ye ask me. But legend tells that the beast, called Xing, comes out ‘round this time o’ year. Ye scared pretty girl? Huh?” Explained Jeb, tending to his sheep near the stream in the cave.
“Ye called me what?! We’re hiding in here because of the war. Those men, the soldiers, were plundering our refugee camp and lite fire to our huts. Ye didn’t see what went on down there. Ye didn’t see the horror. My mother took the kitchen knife and stabbed it through her, so that I wouldn’t come back to rescue her. She killed herself because she knew she was ta slow ta keep up with me, and she didn’t want to be tortured by the soldiers. I have her blood on my hands! I have her blood on my favorite green army jacket. I have her flesh on my boots. So Jeb, I’m not scared at an ancient legend. I’m rightfully scared of what’s out there,” Gwen motioning to the green smoggy heavens, “I’m justified, ‘cause down there is no legend.” Gwen’s tears dripped down her dirt stained check, clearly a path of lovely pale skin.
“Calm down, Gwen. We’re all a little frazzled, but there is sick to be tended to. Jeb was just making light of the situation.” Says the old man, clearly worn out from the fleet up the mountain.
“I know, Grandpops. What needs to be done?” Jeb has always had a thing for me, but there is no time for that in a situation like this. Especially after what happened to Peter.
There are few of us, only 17, who made it to this haven of a cave, from the refugee encampment of 700. There was supposed to 50 of us, but the soldiers got to the second group . . . The group that I came in, the first group, original had 28, but 9 died in the rock slide. That’s what kept the soldiers from coming up. But two of us stayed behind just in case.
The ‘just in case’ came in handy. The ‘just in case’ died. The ‘just in case’ died, so that we could live. Peter stayed behind and fought with his friend Bernard.
There were two of our shepherd boys already up here, before the attack started. That’s Jeb and Job, two very annoying brothers. In the cave here, there is 3 sick or wounded, and a 3-year-old.
That leaves me, Grandpops, Mary Jane – the 3 year-old’s aunt, Calvin, the weird guy – Norman, the triples: Fing, Fang, and Foom, the married couple May and Ben, and Liz – my best friend. And 13 sheep of the shepherd boys.
Grandpops startles me out of my thoughts – good, I couldn’t take the survivors to causality ratio. “Okay people, we need a fire, beds made from the straw over there, and fill up yer canteens with stream water. When it gets dark, wait ‘til the last moment and share light, ‘cause we don’t know when we’ll get out of here to get more oil. Mary Jane says dinner will be served in 10 minutes.”
It’s just like Grandpops to still give orders; well I guess we need that now.
The refugees start a line near the fire, where Mary Jane is cooking lamb stew. The fire is close enough to the small cave entrance to let little puffs of smoke out, but far enough away that the soldiers don’t see enough smoke to cause a need to investigate. The cave had an entrance of four feet in diameter, and five feet tall. The cave continued like this for twenty feet, growing larger until the cave opened up into 40 feet across and twelve feet high. The cavern was dimly lit, but one could still see the alcoves every six feet diving in and out. There was too many stalactites and stalagmites to see farther in the cave, but the cave grew thinner as it went on. The stream, which ran from an unknown source, came from the back of the cave and out down the mountain into a small waterfall. Gwen could see why the ancients and now the shepherds would take their flock here during bad weather: protection, running water, and peacefulness.
Suddenly a billow rumbled out from the back of the cave. The groan echoed off the walls and almost seemed . . . in a desperation of hunger?
“It is my time of awakening. My slumber is no more. Now is the time for feasting. The purest of heart is my desire. I have no need to go to the other side, since you are trapped in here with me. “
As the roar echoed throughout the chamber as also to the hearts of the refugee’s, the opening to the cave became covered in darkness.
No, it wasn’t of darkness, but an actual covering came over the entrance, but how?
The legend is true.