So here is another from last year, with a bit of tweaks.
The slow, hoarse voice that echoed on the trees barely belonged to me. “I. Am. Jane.” They were words that had hardly mattered anymore even though I said them automatically.
I recognized so little about myself now: my voice, bold and commanding; my choice of clothes, rags left over from salvaged scraps of cloth. I was no longer the sweet, innocent, weak young lady I had been. I no longer shed womanly tears nor shrieks of surprise when I encountered something unexpected. Surviving on my own in the jungle, witnessing the death of those around me and the destruction of all that I knew made me realize that I could no longer deny the most primal urges civilization had tried to hide. I tried to remind myself of who I was each day, but there were days, hours, weeks where I forgot myself. My former life in London and the trip to the jungle with my father merely a suggestion of myth in my new harsh world.
And it is my world. I walked in the twilight, the last rays of sun dappled the floor of the jungle. My eyes took in every movement from the flick of a lizard’s tail as it disappeared around the base of a tree to jewel colored insects jumped from my path. I breathed deeply, the sour scents of the jungle floor, the faintest scent of floral attraction, and the musk of the beasts that dwell here below do not alert me to any danger. Birds sang sleepy songs as they flew to their perches for their evening rest. A small deer crashed through a patch of undergrowth at my approach. I raised my spear for just a moment, blood lust rushed through my veins. Slowly I lowered my weapon, tonight’s hunt was for the Beast.
We had not realized we were being pursued, so slowly and carefully the beast stalked us. The only traces it left were things slightly out of place. It took out what it perceived to be the strongest first, the apes, a few at a time until the band left the valley. We tried to find out what was happening, but the beast left no trail to follow nor evidence of what had happened to those it hunted. It was unnerving, terrifying, and thrilling at the same time. I found myself in a position that I never imagined myself in, afraid yet strangely aroused and curious of this creature that hunted us.
Perhaps that is why it left me for last. Curious itself as to why a human female would venture where even men had reason to fear. The jungle swallowed those who were weak and timid and the bones littered the ground, gnawed on by those who survived. Finding myself alone, I remembered what I had been taught, I tested my own resolve and I found a part of myself that was vicious, dangerous, and deadly. Terror clarified my mind and gave my body strength. I embraced it. I survived.
Twilight deepened into true night as I stalked my territory. My lip turned upward in a silent snarl of its own accord. There is a change in the air, a stillness as though something waits for me. I my nostrils flare at the faint scent of some new creature. I crouch lower in the brush as I listen intently but I hear nothing. To my left, a branch moved out of time with the slight breeze. I turned slowly, shifting my grip, my spear ready to throw.
Something out of my nightmares leaped from the shadows. It howled frantically as it passes, all striking limbs, snapping teeth and divine madness. I gave chase, but the beast was swift, and all I had to follow is its trail leading to the caves above the falls. I slowed my headlong pursuit, cautious of the slippery rocks and the sudden twists in the path. Finally I reached the top, the full moon bathing the cliff in soulless clarity. The only place shadowed was the cave but some deeper shadow moved within. I dared not move closer, least I startle the beast into deeper cover, instead I raised my spear and hurled it at the demon that had haunted me these last months.
I froze at the sound of shattered glass, expecting screams of the wounded beast. Nothing moved in the crevice before me. Bones laid scattered around the mouth of the cave along with pieces of my father’s scientific equipment. The last pieces of a tattered tent flaped lazily with the breeze. This is where the beast has hidden, where it brought its trophies of slaughter. This is where it would end.
Nothing moves as I peek inside. As I moved inside, something crunched beneath my foot. I looked down at shards of silver scattered along the floor. Bending down I pick up a piece of a mirror, my mirror. I turn the silvered glass to catch the pale moonlight. My face is caked with dirt and traces of blood, my hair hangs lank and matted, and my eyes glare back at me with hints of madness. I look around me at all the things that litter the floor like unwanted bits of history. Pieces of my history.
I looked down at the mirror again, a reflection of my nightmare looks back up at me. I tried to make my mouth move to deny what I saw but the beast spreads my lips in a slow feral smile. The beast was not dead, it would never die. Not so long as I drew breath.
As I stand there frozen, a slow hoarse voice whispers, “I. Am. Beast.”