Collision 

Floating                                                       Disconnected

    Moments

                                                       Emblazoned

        Triumph

                                                   Defeated

            Conscious 

                                               Scattered

                Fractured

                                           Skull

                    Trauma

                                       Ruptured

        

                        Open eyes

                              Amongst scattered

                         Shards of glass

                              Pain, lancing limbs

                         Harvesting harmony

                              Paid in blood

                         Reflections cast 

                              Upon twisted steel 

                         Steeling yourself

                               Realizing truth

                         Birthed in violence

                               Weighs more 

                               Than lies

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Fever//Oceans

Caress my brow as I lay in fever,

Telling me the madness will pass.

Filling my head with hopes for tomorrow,

But tomorrow never comes, 

Today is all that’s given. No promise,

To see the moon again.

Spinning the revolver one more time,

Press the question to the temple.

Pull the trigger, knowing full well the impact

Of words against the frail psyche.

As I sit in the shallows,

Letting the anger wash over me,

Telling myself that redemption

Is one step deeper, till I dive

Into the deep. Coming up for air

Eventually isn’t an option as I search

For the depths of your depravity.

Washed ashore, ashamed 

I wasn’t strong enough 

To brave the undertow. 

Under the Covers: Part 3

“Alright Sweetie, so ya big old bruiser of a pop’s been hurtin’ ma. Seem’s like he’s been a bit dickish to ya too. Yestaday, ya asked me to help in some way. Ya promised me pretty rich too, being able to feed from tha comfort of me home on the otha side of the closet. Do ya even gots a plan to carry this scheme out? If ya don’t, this is pretty deep water yer treadin’.” Terrance was perched on a bedpost at the end of my bed, his limbs thick set and ropy, a stout neck holding up a broad head with a large toothy jaw. He had no tail to speak of tonight. Amelia knew that she had to move quickly with this plan, as momma was out of the house tonight. With her gone, he was much more openly mean and spiteful.

“I want you to drag him back to where you live. Then you can close the hole to wherever you live. I’m assuming you can do it? I’ve never seen a portal in the closet before.” Terrence looked at Amelia shrewdly and nodded confirmation.

“Simplicious Sweetie, I have a rope that’ll work to keep him in my house, just gotta get ‘im inta the closet.” Terrence waddled into the closet as familiar heavy steps came down the hall. He closed the closet right as the room door was opened.

Heavy set, with a doughy jaw line, Amelia’s stepfather entered the room. Heart racing, she watched him approach, the stench of a night of drinking his special drink floating about him. As soon as he reached the foot of the bed, he pulled the blanket off quickly, despite Amelia’s meek protests. The cold air blanketed her immediately, causing a shake born of both fear and temperature.

“Alright you little cunt. Time to pay me what you owe me.” He raised his right hand, while his left grabbed Amelia’s ankle. The right hand connected with a loud smack to her rear, and Amelia let out a scream of fear and pain choked up by a sob. I reached… SHE reached with her free hand to the closet for help. Terrance’s eye was all that was visible from the crack between the closet door and the wall, watching with a cruel hunger. I remember in that moment, feeling a horrific fear of no one being able to help me…

It wasn’t until her step father had struck her for a third time that he reacted, darting out from the closet, and entwining his body through her stepfather’s legs. He fell down immediately, dragging Amelia with him from the bed. Her head struck the corner of the bedside table, which elicited another cry of pain from her. The stepfather, on the other hand, had reacted with more agility than could be expected from such a heavy set man. He caught himself with his free hand, letting go of Amelia and staggering upright to face the new threat to him. 

Terrance wasn’t giving him a chance to level the field, as he was already using his tail to slither up the main door to the room, and launched himself at the back of the stepfather’s head once there was a good enough angle. The largest issue with this entire fight was that Terrance was only half the size of Amelia’s stepfather. Even with Terrance clinging to the back of his head, he was able to stay upright and fight back.

Amelia, sitting up and trying to wipe the blood from her face, the bedside table leaving a nasty cut above her right eye. I realized after a moment of dazed assessment of what was happening, that there was no way Terrance could win this fight. So she threw herself at the knees of her stepfather.

She connected with a loud thud, causing him to stumble back into the hallway. He almost fell, the wall catching him and keeping him upright, Terrance between them, letting out a loud curse. The stepfather swung Terrance into the other way, attempting to use his weight against him. Realizing that he was losing, and quite badly at that, Terrance began to try to squeeze the stepfathers throat even more. 

Face turning a beet red, my stepfather grabbed Terrence’s tail, and began to pull forcefully. He managed to tear him from the back of his head, flinging him down the hallway, where he landed at the upper stairs with a loud cursive exclamation.

“Now what the hell is this Ames? You hiding some weird ass alien shit from me? Is that the way I raised you? Ungrateful little bitch, growing up just like your mother.” He grabbed a bottle from the counter in the kitchen at the end of the hall, slowly circling the stunned Terrance, as the monster under her bed tried to steady himself and stand up. The bottle struck Terrance’s head cleanly, and he slumped over silently. 

My stepfather raised up the bottle again, and I knew that this blow would kill Terrance, unless by some strange design he was stronger than he had appeared so far. I needed to act, and the only way to stop was to get in the way. In too deep, and desperate to make it stop, I threw myself at my stepfather’s knees again. I managed to land right behind the knees, causing him to fall onto one knee.

This gave Terrance enough of a chance to clear the cobwebs from his head, and he managed to stand up, a thick green liquid oozing from his head where the bottle had struck him. He used his tail to ground himself to the railing of the stairs, and lunged forward to grasp my stepfathers head. At the same moment, my stepfather tried to stand up, and Terrance’s grasping hands threw him off balance. He tried to grab the railing, but the green ooze had leaked down and coated it into a slippery mess.

I remember the moment in near slow motion. He fell head first down the stairs, blood spurting from a cut on his face. He hit most of the steps on the way down, dragging Terrance with him, the rail too slippery for his tail to grasp as well. My step father landed in a heap, with a loud crunch emanating from his neck. The next few moments were in complete silence, with neither bodies at the bottom of the stairs moving at all. Tears fell from my eyes, and I didn’t know what to do at all.

“He’s not breathin’” Terrance’s whimsical voice came up the stairs heavy. “I think ya killed ‘im”

“I didn’t… I did it… to save you.” The words barely escaped my mouth. “And he fell, I just pushed him onto his knee…” Terrance was up, his head cocked in a predatory way, and he climbed the stairs on all four limbs.

“Ya’are quite the broken little ragdollie. Ya deserve what’s comin’. Ya tricked me inta doing yer dirty work.” His eyes glowed a sharp red as he reached the top of the stairs, his words sharp and accusatory as he reared up. “I killed a man, because ya filled me head with yer stupid little plan. I broke tha main rule, I left more than a mark.” He was towering over me now, claws extended and shoulders hunched in rage. “But I’mma not break it again. I’mma take my time, get what’cha owe me. Just ya wait.” He traced his claws gently across my cheek, and the gentleness of it, combined with the rage and hatred in his voice, caused me to shudder with fear. He licked his lips at my reaction, his eyes full of hunger.

* * * * * * * * * * * *    
“And he ran to the closet from there. I never saw him again. But he was the one who killed my father. Like I’ve told everyone before, like I’ll keep saying, it wasn’t me who pushed him.”
The room was silent after I finished speaking. Most of the orderlies had left, having heard this story told to other psychologists. None of them cared. No one did really. My mother had a mental break in the months following the incident, not to mention her accusations when she came home to discover his body the next morning.

    “You switched into first person near the end of your story. You can’t separate yourself from that moment can you?” The lady in the brown pantsuit brought me back from my reveries. I looked at her, trying to muster apathy, but my response came out quite emotional.

    “I really can’t… I don’t know how. I’ve tried, but it’s always there. His hand pulling me from the bed, the blood in my eyes. Terrance’s moment of hesitation, of hunger at my moment of weakness. I shouldn’t have trusted him. Just another monster…” My voice broke, and I began to weep openly, bringing a sympathetic grimace from the psychologist. The director stood still, his face showing flickers of some inexplicable emotion, his eyes boring into my skull with a forced detached observation that brought shudders to my soul. He then spoke for the first time to the lady in the brown pantsuit, the first words I had heard him speak near me in months.

“As you can see Miss Gold, Amelia has had some incredible childhood trauma. It’s not even an issue on what happened on that day at this point. The poor girl is completely unable to reconcile with her reality, unable to exist in this world without some form of imagined comfort. Again, I have to state how impressed I am with your willingness to continue the questioning after the assault. Do you have everything you need?” His hand reached out, grasping at her elbow. Miss Gold allowed herself to be helped up and led out of the room. She turned and gave me a nod farewell, a thoughtful, sympatheti smile on her lips.

“Keep her here,” the director stated to an orderly as he left the room with Miss Gold. “I will be taking her to the solitary wing after, but we need to chat her and I.”

I waited, crying silently to myself, wallowing in fear. I had seen that thoughtful smile. It normally was followed by new ‘groundbreaking’ medication, things that would leave me curled up on the floor at three in the morning, screaming in pain at the side effects. But even worse, was the director’s mention of the solitary wing. Violent patients ended up there indefinitely until they had proven reform. Very few ever came back to the main population.

After some indeterminable amount of time, the director re-entered the room. He dismissed the last orderly, locking the door behind him. It was just him and I. Slowly, his hands behind his back, he walked towards me, his head slightly cocked to one side. Thinking about something that I wasn’t privy to yet.

“Well Ames,” he was acting informal, but the tension he carried in his limbs didn’t match his tone at all. I flinched at the use of my childhood nickname. “You have pretty much wrecked your last lifeline. That poor woman you assaulted was the last one the public help branch was willing to send to assess you. And you struck her, like some… animal.”

He was directly in front of me, tall enough that he was face to face with me, even as I was suspended from the floor in the holding apparatus. I felt fear wash over me again as what he said sunk in. The inexplicable emotion flickered over his face again, making him look very predatory.

“Unfortunately, this leaves me with no choice.” A smile slowly spread over his face as he continued, dropping into a familiar accent. “Ya broke ma first rule, so now ya have ta pay tha consequences, broken little ragdollie.” I began to scream, but he quickly muzzled me, leaving me squirming in my bonds, fighting futilely against the restraints. “Now that ther be no more of dat outside help, I can take ma due.”

A smug smile spread across his face as I stopped fighting, and stared at him in horror. I felt a sliver of cold spreading through my guts, and I shuddered as he got closer.

“Ya just didn’t geddit, did ya? I told you that I’d get me what was due.” He shook his head in a paternal way as he placed a hand upon my shoulder, gripping it a little too tightly. “Ya had to choose between two monsta’s, and ya chose tha wrong one. When thars no marks, it’s hard ta tell who’s worse, but trust me sweet Ames, I’ve been awaiting this here moment fer many’a year.”

He walked around to the rear of the contraption that restrained me, tilting the device back onto it’s wheels, allowing for single person transport of an occupant. With a start, I understood the strange emotion that had flickered across his face repeatedly today, it was hunger. His breath fell hot and fetid on my neck, as his voice dropped to a sing song whisper.

“…So many years, no one hears, now I’ll drink alla Ames’ tears…”

Under the Covers: Part 2

As she sat in the bed, Amelia twisted the bed sheets between her hands, trying to calm her heart so she could go to sleep. However, her heart continued to race as she heard her parents voices raise down the hallway. Sounds of a glass shattering on the kitchen floor, followed quickly by a curse sent her blanket flying over her head, a childish attempt to protect herself from the reality of what was happening.

She barely heard the scraping from under the bed over the din farther in the kitchen. Persistent, it grew louder as Amelia huddled under the covers, pretending to be on a magic carpet with anyone else, anywhere else. The scraping continued, growing louder for a few more moments, without any reaction from the little girl.

“For real? How fucking deaf are ya?” An elongated head popped over the side of the bed, staring at the blankets covering Amelia. It’s eyes were wide set, glowing a soft red in the darkness. The creature’s neck was so long it disappeared under the bed without showing any of it’s body. Amelia poked her head out, tears drying on her cheeks as she stared at the newcomer.

“Who are you? An alien?” Her voice cracked as she slowly regained control of her emotions, one last soft sob slipped out after her second question. The blanket remained drawn up to her neck. Her questions drew an exasperated sigh from her visitor.

“Yer a little slow hey? I’m a monsta under this here bed. Should be pretty damn obvious.” His head indicated vaguely to the fact that his body was under her bed. Amelia nodded her understanding, the blanket slipping down a little. “What’s not obvious is why ya aint scared of me right here now. Ery otha child I’ve hunted was terrified of me.” A long arm came out from under the bed, three clawed fingers at the end clasping themselves to Amelia’s bedpost as the monster adjusted itself and waited for her response.

“I dunno,” she responded simply with a shrug, “I guess I figured if you were actually going to hurt me, you would’ve already. Since you haven’t, I thought you just want to talk.” The beast moved it’s head to the side to indicate confusion and thought. In the background, the voices fell silent as Amelia’s parent’s bedroom door slammed shut.

“Well… nah. I’m not here ta hurt ya. Justa scare ya. Am I really not scaring ya? Fuck, kids these here days.” It pulled the entire length of it’s body out from under the bed. Amelia let out a little gasp as she saw how long it was. Coiling itself at the end of the bed, it seemed more like rope than an actual torso.

“Why do you just want to scare me? Wouldn’t it be scarier to actually hurt us? I really don’t want that, but it doesn’t make sense to me.” The house was entirely silent at this point, and Amelia’s voice had dropped to a whisper to match. The monster shrugged his shoulders in a nonchalant way.

“It fills tha rumble in our bellies, and puttin’ any mark on ya would ruin what little grits source we got.” He slithered, as Amelia now assumed it was male, to the closet door and looked back at her. “But since ya not actually ’fraid, I’mma move to the next victim, eat some of that terror.”

“Wait!” Amelia was trying to work through his words as they didn’t make much sense to her, but had a plan forming in her mind, pushing it’s way through to the front of her thoughts. “Can you help me?”

“I don’t help ya kind. Consider yourself alone in whatever’s ya wantin’.” Turning away, he opened the door with both claws, straining against the weight of them. “See-ya sweetie.”

“You’ll be able to feast from the comfort of wherever you are on the other side of the closet. I promise.” Freezing, the creature stopped it’s retreat into the closet.

“Magic words kid, but can ya pull that there rabbit from’a hat?” Slithering back, he extended a claw to Amelia in a handshake. “Teracerous Ncever, at ya horror.” Seeing her pause at his name, he sighed and shook his head. “Just call me Terrance.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *    
The woman in beige had been looking at me with a look of confusion on her face throughout everything so far. My annoyance had grown to the point where I could no longer just look at her stupid face and keep telling her about my past. As I stop abruptly to manage my anger, she interjects quickly.
“Your vocabulary was quite expansive for a seven year old. Did you read a lot as a child?” Her pen resumed its tapping as she spoke, and I glared at it in thinly veiled anger. Upon seeing my stare, she stopped and put the pen in the coils of her notebook. 

“I don’t know what a lot constitutes. I read most days, it was an easy cheap escape.” I shrugged, not wanting to give her any satisfaction, no feeling of success at probing me. “All I needed was my library card for hours of escape. But I also could be projecting some on the conversation, filling in gaps to show better the progression between Terrance and I.”

“So you’re saying that some of the story isn’t true?” Of course this bitch would latch onto something like that. I didn’t respond, counting to ten in my head so I wouldn’t come off as too aggressive. I could see the director watching closely, one of his hands half raised, ready to motion to the security in the room if I were to lose my temper.

“No, everything is true.” Teeth clenched, I spoke slowly and kept counting past ten, as the original ten count wasn’t working. “I just know that a child speaking to a monster in simple words doesn’t explain everything in the correct way. I want to show you more how things happened.”

“To be frank with you Amelia, telling me the flat, unchanged truth is much more likely to help me understand where your issue’s are stemming from, allow me to help you better.” Her statement blatantly showed that she didn’t believe me, that this was another stupid suit here to tell me I wasn’t right. That I was just some dumb girl who…

I couldn’t continue the thought, and having counted past forty-five with no lessening of my rage, I lost control. Throwing myself at her, my mind emptied into the moment, and my doubt, fears and insecurities melted away. I felt power as my fists connected. It didn’t matter if she believed me or not, I held dominion over her in this second. Blood poured from her nose, colouring me the victor of this battle. Stronger arms, ones who didn’t care about the personal victory I was claiming, latched onto my arms, another pair controlling my head. They merely removed me, holding my neck in a way that slowly shrank my world into a pinpoint.

My eyes slowly opened, and I greeted the world with blurry vision and an aching head. Padded walls materialized over me as my eyes regained focus. My arms were bound around me within a straightjacket, and my mouth was bound with a gag. The connecting pin between the jacket and the gag rubbed against the back of my neck, and I felt a chafe beginning to form already.

There were multiple orderlies in this padded room, finishing up with the equipment they had bound me with. The director was standing at the far end of room, his arms crossed. For a moment, it appeared as if a small smile of glee flitted across his face, but it quickly disappeared. The lady in the beige suit was beside him, spatters of blood now on her lapel. Blood had been washed from her face, a large black eye and bandaged nose the only indicator we had any altercation at all. She pulled an orderly aside, motioning towards me. He nodded, and walked over, removing the gag in one clean motion from my mouth.

“Still here eh?” I knew that any further provocation from me would result in weeks of a half aware, cotton-mouth, overly medicated state. But after years of people exactly like her parading through again and again, casting doubt on my story, stating unchecked rage as the cause of the incident, I almost didn’t care. It had me fed up, I was sick of it, and honestly, scared that maybe I was wrong. I just remember Terrance so vividly…

“Well you left your story unfinished, and I do want to help you. So please, continue the story for me. No more interruptions from me.” Her tone was composed, but a quiver in her lip showed me she was scared of me. I clung to that, knowing that I had some small modicum of power in this uncertainty and oppression.

Under the Covers: Part 1

Amelia shuddered quietly as the footsteps pounded closer to her room. The door opened with a creak, like it always did, the steps softening as they crossed her room. She peered from her vantage point in the closet as her step-father leaned over the lump of clothes and blankets in the middle of her bed. Even from here, almost across the room, she could smell his sickly musk. It consisted of a combination of sweat, grease and something more bitter than those two combined.

“Night Ames,” he tried to kiss the lump, nearly losing his balance in the process. Clumsily he turned, knocking a toy from her bedside table to the floor without noticing despite the thump it made. Once he had been out of the room for at least 5 minutes, Amelia slowly climbed from her nest of shoes and play clothes in the closet. Tonight hadn’t been bad, but his face wasn’t as red as it usually had been. Normally his goodnight’s came with a flurry of quiet insults, pinched elbows, and kisses with too much saliva.

Once in bed, Amelia moved the lump to the floor near her, hoping to trip up anyone who tried to sneak into the room at night. She knew many things, like counting by twos, how to write her name in cursive and that once the lights were off, the real face of people came out. Most people were ok, like her mom, or her granny. No matter what he did though, her step-father was the absolute worst. 

At night, she could hear him yelling at mom from their room, the words too muffled to be made out, but the tone harsh and unforgiving. Sometimes, she would hear her mom sobbing as he stomped away, back to the living room. Every day, when he got home, he would sit in the living room, watching sports, drinking his adult water. At some point, he would get angry at the TV, which would turn into anger at anyone who got in his way. Amelia learned to quickly avoid him in the evenings, to keep to her room, or to play in the backyard until the sun nearly set.

There were moments when he smiled, held her hand gently as they crossed the road together, or simply gave her treats with warmth and happiness in his eyes. It was all a trap however, he used that against her whenever his face got red again. Claiming Amelia and her mother just used him for his money and good will. This was normally accompanied by him grabbing her ear and roughly dragging Amelia down the hall for his type of discipline.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
“I’m sorry, why are you referring to yourself in the third person as you talk about your past?” The woman in the plain beige suit leaned towards me, her quickly thinking eyes betraying her calm demeanor and relaxed movements. “Do you not see yourself as participating in the events?” I could see her most recently written statement on her pad from her forward position. ‘Disassociation?’ was the only word, written in bold and underlined. 

“Look you’re just like the rest.” I folded my arms as I leaned back, “you come in, looking to prove your intelligence by ‘solving’ me. That’s what everyone wants to do. Fix the broken girl, the one who clings to a notion of monsters and innocence.” I adjusted my white robe, the kind I wore every day at the ‘retreat’. I knew it was a hospital, but most residents didn’t. “I’m not broken, my story is just unbelievable to those who weren’t there.”

“You never answered the question.” Tapping her pen in a four count as she speaks to me, I can hear the condescending tone in her voice, grating against my patience.

“Just shut up, you came to examine the freak didn’t you? Then stop tapping the stupid pen, and let me tell you about Terrance and where he came from.” I know my voice is curt, but I let it fall like daggers, hoping that it cuts a nerve beneath her relaxed demeanor.

The director, who I didn’t realize was there, moved into the corner of my vision. His disapproving glare showed me I was on the right track, but I needed to be careful with him around. Last time I had misbehaved, I ended up drugged on nearly double the meds, barely able to tell my left hand from my right. The thought of it caused a shiver of fear to tingle down my spine. An involuntary shudder happened briefly, and I hurried with my story to avoid thinking about it any more.

Baited

“Just a nice plump virgin taking a walk in this ill lit cavern!” I called out, probably a tad too loud as I walked between the mounds of bones. It looked as if hundreds of creatures had died down here throughout the years. This was one badass dragon. The whisper spell came to life in my ear, just as I was about to call out again.    “You do realize this dragon is highly intelligent? It understands sarcasm and bait. Jesus Lilan, you’re gonna scare it away.” Captain’s guttural tone rumbled in my ear.

    “Yeah, well, I’m getting bored. Why the hell isn’t it out here? We’re literally one room away from it’s treasure. Doesn’t it have a sixth sense or something about thieves?” Without seeing him, I knew the silence indicated a strong eye roll from our grizzled leader.

    “Well, technically, it will have placed a rudimentary ward in the entrance to it’s trove, I’m sure as a last resort we can trip it to summon it.” Thompson’s dry measured voice jumped in. I imagined he was pushing up his glasses as he said it. Although Thompson was an amazing wizard, he was smug as hell.

    “That’s what I’m doing then. We’ve been down here for at least two hours without sight of tooth or scale. I wanna kill this thing, then get back to the castle for the reward. There was a damn fine maiden back there giving me bedroom eyes. I intend to accept.” Casually I turned to where the treasure had been in the map drawn up by Thompson, and crossed my fingers for some action.

    “You’re not the one killing it Lilan, you’re the bait. And we like you alive, so don’t be too much of a pig headed moron.” Sterling, our bowman, had a voice like liquid silver. Even his insults sounded sexy, so I just snorted a laugh in response.

    The cave’s ceiling drew close as I approached the treasure room, almost as if the cavern had ended at this point, only to be dug out further by the dragon. Large deep scores in the walls gave credence to my imaginings. This part of the grotto had obviously been clawed by our resident pest himself.

    I looked back one last time before going into the area, making sure that the dragon wasn’t hanging from the ceiling, waiting till I was trapped in close quarters to be able to roast me alive. I had a death wish, but I still wanted glory. Not seeing anything, I entered the area with the riches. My first sight of the room brought a curse from deep within me.

    “God damnit guys. Dragons dead.” Before me, the large red dragon lay defeated upon it’s hoard. Multitudes of cuts and punctures covered its body, black ichor flowing freely from the wounds still. “That explains the lack of adventure so far, I guess. Did they contract anyone else on this? Guild’s gonna be pissed if they did.”

    “No they said we were the first. That’s super weird. We’re coming in,” Captain stated disgruntledly. As I waited I walked up to the still monster and kicked it out of mild frustration. I hadn’t gotten to bait a dragon yet, and now I probably wouldn’t. 

    “They didn’t take the treasure at all.” I turned in time to see Thompson push up his glasses. The obvious tic made me smirk. “Was it another creature? I mean look at the marks on it. Either someone with great strength, almost magical defeated it, or something stronger.” He started flipping through a book he produced from his pack, muttering to himself as he read.

    “Nah, he smelled Lilan’s breath, and decided his own death was a better option.” Sterling smirked at me over his shoulder as he bent down to start filling his pockets with coins from the floor. “You should consider us all heroes of legend for putting up with him Cap’.”

    “You’re sure taking a legendary heroes share for doing nothing so far today.” Captain scowled at Sterling, who immediately stopped filling his pockets and stood up nonchalantly. “If it was some beast that killed it, we need to figure out what and kill it. I won’t consider this job done till then.” Sterling sighed exaggeratedly at the decree, but it made me excited. Something more deadly than a dragon, that would be incredible to bait.

    “Perhaps a Gristlemuncher Sir?” Thompson looked up from his book at the captain. “They’re known to kill dragons who nest too deeply underground.”

    “No, they don’t come anywhere near this close to the surface. If it is though, we should retreat. You don’t screw with those things.” Captain was carefully cutting through the chest area of the dragon as he responded, pulling its heart out triumphantly, and sealing it within a sheep’s gut.

    Absentmindedly, I wiped the ichor off of the dragons hind leg scales, investigating the ruby reflection of myself it gave. My reflection was much more gaunt than I remembered, and my eyes were incredibly deep set now, giving me appearance of raccoon eyes. I almost didn’t catch the small flicker of movement behind us, I was so frustrated with how far my sickness had developed.

    Spinning around, I saw the creature begin it’s fall. It’s path would land it right on top of Thompson, who would be dead in a second if caught unaware. There was no time to call out. I leapt forward, pushing Thompson out of the way. I felt the claws sink deep into my back and I cried out involuntarily.

    “Shit, Gristlemuncher!” Sterling yelled out, his bow already in his hand, as he fired two shots at its head. The creature tried to pull it’s claws from me to block, but it had snagged on my intestines somehow. It’s screams from taking two arrows to the face drowned out my own at feeling my insides forcibly rearranged. 

    Captain responded with enough speed that for a moment I doubted he didn’t see this coming. His blade cut deep into the forearm of the Gristlemuncher, but stuck in the bone. Finally pulling his claws from me, the creature batted Captain away with ease.

    “Thompson, magic now!” Captain roared as he pulled out his short blade, hammering it against his shield to try to draw the monster away. “Heal Bait second, power up Sterling first.” 

    The next two arrows blinded the Gristlemuncher, and with a screech it tried to remove them, but it’s large claws were too clumsy, and it hurt itself even more. Then, darkness for me. Blood loss is a bitch.

    I woke up to Thompson’s face hovering way to closely, muttering quietly to himself about priorities, and battlefield healing. Sitting up, I found the Gristlemuncher dead on the floor, at least a dozen arrows protruding from its head. Momentarily, my vision swam, and Thompson steadied me.

    “You should take some time. I put a spell on you that helps level out the blood amounts, but it won’t hold up to too much strain. You lost a lot of blood. Also, why didn’t you tell us you had Witch’s Heart Rot?” His eyes held concern, but I pushed him away weakly. No one else had heard him, and I didn’t want them to.

    “Listen,” I whispered to him. “It’s incurable, and I wasted most of my life before I found out I had it. I’ve got a three year old son at home, and even though he may never hear of what I did for him, I’m gonna make as much money as possible so he’s got it easy once I’m gone. The guild wouldn’t accept anyone without training, so I made up a skill so get in, make the big adventuring bucks.”

    Understanding flooded Thompson’s face and he nodded his agreement, patting me on the shoulder. He helped me rise, and I stood to see Captains approving nod, a slight smile on his face.

    “Glad to have you up again. Would be a pain in the ass to find another Bait. In fact, I don’t think there’s anyone as stupid as you out there.” Captain wrenched his longsword from the arm of the Gristlemuncher, wiping it with a cloth to ensure it was clean. “But onto business. Something obviously drove that beast from it’s lower lair, as there’s no sign of it of it having lived here. Time to go deeper, find out what’s on.”

    “Where’s my torch?” Wearily, I grabbed the torch from Sterling and stretched my shoulders. With a false sense of bravado I continued, “I’ll lead the way.”

Cycles: Sunday

Regret

Pulling the covers up

Covering the disappointment, apathy

The disgust we’ve laid with.

Claiming possession of victory

As if we’re the only one

Sloughing off flesh

Like metamorphosis, exhausted

As we extol our faux progress

As I try to quiet my head and sleep