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The Beasts

By , Phoenix, AZ

The Beasts
Slowly, through the cold, thin air, the sun's first light strikes¬—a blazing deliverance from the chill that grips northern Arizona at night. The golden rays flow through the branches and pine needles, stretching its way westwards, towards the small wooden edifice perched atop a steep hill that still doesn’t reach the height of the trees at the base of the rise. The light first caresses the foreign structure’s arched peak and eagerly spreads, until the whole of the peeling, brown, dead walls are enveloped in golden light. The unusual mar on the land itself is silent, nothing stirs within its stiff exterior as the forest comes awake around it.
In the wooded area surrounding the top and base of the knoll, the underbrush is still concealed in semi-darkness where a small litter of peccaries follow their mother, snuffling and shuffling. In the tall pines, the sounds of a handful of doves and a couple wrens chirrup their morning greetings as they flutter and flit about, blurred glimpses of earthen brown and soft grey, barely registering as motion against the same overtone of the great, shadow-speckled trees. The forest is permeated with that distinct pine scent, almost minty in its freshness. The air is clean and clear and crisp, although it is warming quickly with the dawn.
To the left of the strange construct, a single doe and young buck gracefully make their way along a game trail shrouded by prickly, dark green shrubs, barely making a sound as they shift and graze on a few small bunches of dark red berries. The sky above has transformed from a dark, early morning gray to a startling blue, the clouds in the east painted with stark red and pale yellow. The transformation is breathtaking as the cold pre-dawn changes into the beginning of a new day as though by magic.
The pair of deer have lazed their way down the steep hill upon which the peculiar edifice holds dominion. Ahead there is a strip of alien rock, a cruelly black thing, completely flat, that snakes around the hilltop. Reaching this, the deer pause warily, knowing that here, there is possible danger. The male bounds suddenly across the foreign scar upon the land, and the forest seems to sigh in relief as wind rustles and shifts through the forest. Once across, the buck wanders and sniffs around the brush, possible danger avoided. On the other side, the doe pauses and inspects another cluster of berries, an alarmingly bloody color under the full glare of the sun.
From a distance that seems like miles, a low murmur can be heard, like a distant volcano is tossing in its sleep. None of the wildlife take notice as of yet; the sound is not even really audible over the rustling leaves and shrill, piercing cries of birds. The doe is hesitant to cross the unnatural zone, great beasts of speed and power frequent the trail, and it is not right to be in their territory. One by one the birds fall silent and look on with bleak eyes as the sound becomes louder, swelling and rising as the rest of the forest goes quiet. The sound is a continuous snarl, a growl so heavy and loud that it can only be from one thing, the fearsome hunters, shining and roaring eternally as they race down their trail, after some unimaginable prey. Rising to an unbearable, crushingly loud cacophony in comparison to the composed, natural stillness of the woods, the beast generates a terrible vibration, a wave of power that rips through the gentle forest, shaking leaves and branches to the ground, causing animals to scatter further into the woods. Still the terrible howl grows louder and still the doe is trapped, frozen in terror until every fiber of the deer’s being is screaming to GO—RUN NOW IT IS COMING RUN NOW and the deer can’t take it anymore, eyes rolling wildly in their sockets, she bounds forward, towards the safety of the glen and partner alike across the horrible uncaring ground.
At this moment the bellowing beast howls around a bend in the path, impossibly fast, a great gleaming thing, with rows of silver teeth bared and coming straight towards the deer. She turns and stops, wide eyes not believing that this monster is real, maybe it would pass, maybe if she runs fast enough, but no. It was simply too quick, faster than anything the doe had seen before. The nightmare rushes forward still, slowing as it nears its prey with a high, booming screech accompanied by the acrid smell of burning. It is still coming astoundingly fast, closing the distance in a heartbeat. In the thing’s glassy eyes, the deer recognizes a man inside the beast, a vision both confusing and unintelligible. Now it is far too late for anything and the doe watches its doom approach.
All is black for a moment and the deer opens its eyes. The monster is gone, must have gone right past, and the only sounds are those of the woods at peace. The deer staggers with shaking muscles and springs the rest of the way to the welcoming forest, where reassuring pine needles litter the soft earth. The doe shakes for a while afterwards, having looked its death in the eyes. She doesn’t notice that her partner is no longer waiting for her because then there are more berries and soft, golden sunlight shining through the trees, filling her with a warmth so profound and wonderful that all her fear becomes dust in the wind and all is forgotten.




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