The Beast of Old Oxway

January 9, 2010
By , Cambridge, MA
Buried deep in the rancid hay floor covering of her dungeon, Ama slept with the rats that inhabited the high tower she had called her home for the last five years. Her jailers had taken to poisoning her rations, keeping her in coma-like states for long periods. In fact, this was the way her mother, a fellow prisoner, had died two years ago. Ama had watched her wither away and could not do a thing. Now, she feared for her own life, but at the same time contemplated giving up trying, for what type of life was this?

A few drops of rain fell on the stone windowsill, oblivious to the severe metal spikes barring the window. Ama shivered in her sleep as a rat gnawed on a piece of her hair. Far below the high tower, the citizens of Olde Oxway went about their daily business, clueless to what atrocities occurred around them each day.

Meanwhile, deep below the sewers of the city, a beast was crouched in the everlasting darkness of the Oxway catacombs. He feasted on the fresh corpse of a sheep, caught an hour or so earlier. Born a normal young boy to wealthy parents living in the merchants’ district of Olde Oxway, he was now cursed with a pair of incredible wings that terrified any who caught a glimpse of him. His oily black feathers lined the dismal burial chamber; home sweet home.

His belly hungered for the blood of a human as the midnight hour approached. He tossed his meal aside, an animal instinct pulling him to hunt down his next meal. His eyes were accustomed to the constant dark, and he found his way out of a sewer entrance, out on to the streets of the town.

Ama glanced around, shooing the rats away from her. She stood up, brushing the sticky pieces of hay off her dilapidated peasant’s dress. Sometime during her unconsciousness she had reached a resolve. She was getting out today.

The streets were filled to the brim with fog and foreboding that night. The beast’s strong footsteps echoed on the cracked cobblestones as he made his way looking for a worthy victim.

She wildly knocked on the door of her cell. “There’s someone scaling the tower wall!” Ama shouted, her voice surprisingly strong for her weak body. She hoped she could get the guard’s attention. If this plan didn’t work she was going to kill herself that very night. She had nothing to live for. “Help!” she screamed. As she heard the hurried footsteps of the guard coming up the stairwell. He fumbled with the lock, and the rotted door swung open. “Oh, thank you,” she breathed a sigh of relief to the overweight man dressed in a soldier’s uniform. He scowled at her and walked to the window.

“What’s th’ pro’lem here, miss?” he said, sporting a heavy Oxway accent.

“I thought I saw someone scaling the tower wall,” she lied. Quickly, she took off, slamming the door behind her as the descended the steep flight of stairs.

“Where d’ you think you’re goin’?” he shouted after her. Her heart beat faster, her mind willing her to run faster. Suddenly, her foot caught on a sharp stone, catapulting her down the stairs.

His life was a lonely one. The only humans he had contact with were the ones he hunted, and even then the conversation was usually limited to their begging to be spared. But he had never spared a single one, no matter how young or old, pretty or ugly. It was a savage life.

She rolled down the stairs, her body like a rag doll. Her head hit a step and her body crashed to a halt at the landing. She could hear the guard approaching at a considerable pace. She stood up, feeling immediately dizzy. She held her head, and when she pulled her hand away it was damp with blood. Still, she pushed on, leaving more and more steps behind her. She was nearing the bottom, and the taste of freedom was sweet in her mind.

As she approached the bottom, though, she saw with disdain that the door was locked. The black iron entrance was ornately decorated, with colorful panes of glass. Not thinking twice, she smashed the windows with her fist. It took some effort to pull her emaciated body through the thin window frame out onto the street, but finally she lay in a pile outside the tower. She dragged herself to her feet, fleeing to the alleys.

The smell of blood was thick in the air. The beast could smell it, his sharp senses aching with the intensity. It wasn’t so hard to find it, a bloody mess in front of the broken windows of Lord Edmund II’s tower. A chubby guard stumbled out into the street, panting heavily. It took a moment for the guard to see him, so well he blended into the night. The fear was obvious in his eyes the moment he caught a glimpse. He fumbled to let himself back into the tower.

He smirked to himself as he returned to the task at hand. The beast usually didn’t have a taste for weak victims, but already the smell of its blood was on his mind. He dragged his finger through the puddle of blood and broken glass and tasted it. The filth of Oxway tasted like home.

Ama cried and bled. The rats of the gutter kept her company in her relief.

The beast stood in the entrance of the narrow alley. He watched her in her corner, barely able to restrain himself from taking her immediately. Instead, he walked over to her, stroking her dirty hair. She turned her face towards him. It was covered with blood and tears and dirt, and he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. “Come with me,” he whispered to her, taking her by the hand and leading her through the darkened streets.

She was saved. She smiled faintly as she followed in his footsteps. He was clearly a beast, she could tell by his enormous black raven’s wings, but the way he looked at her had made her shudder inside. She stumbled over the sharp rocks lining the street, blindly following her savior.

Back at the entrance of the catacombs, the beast took Ama over his shoulder, carrying her down into the dark underground. In the catacombs, he laid her on a bed of bones and feathers, saw her relaxing in his grip. She wasn’t afraid, and part of him was happy. Another part of him wanted desperately to strike fear into the heart of this beautiful creature. But she remained strong.

Ama smiled gently as she lost the final traces of consciousness. It was dark in the catacombs, so dark she couldn’t see, but she knew he was there. She could feel him looking at her. She slipped away with the happy thought of seeing the next day.

The beast watched her slip away. She was still alive. He felt his heart become human again for a moment, felt the want to care for this girl. He stroked her face, running his hand down her neck and side, feeling the shriveled flesh and prominent bones. Her heartbeat sounded strongly in her chest, filling the chamber with its echo. He felt his own pulse, but it was weak and uneven. Tears welled up in his eyes for a moment, but instead of letting them spill over, he cradled Ama’s head in his hands. He tightened his grasp for a moment, securing her shoulders with his other hand.

And in a moment it was over. Her life and his emotional struggle were all over with the satisfying crack of her neck as it broke.

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