Photo © Al Forbes
It destroyed the Tvoga, but not before they named it: Zhabenik, their word for horror. Then it came for us.
Nobody knew what it was. A magical experiment gone awry. A once-man, warped by evil. The moon-worshipers believed it was the prophesized Vast, frozen for eons, reawakened to end the world.
Rumors bounced off each other, eager for definitions. It was spider-like, lizard-like, ogre-like. It was impervious to everything: blade, fire, lightning, ice. Everyone agreed it was faster than thought. Nobody who paused to look survived to describe it.
We armed, quaking against the inevitable.
When I first saw the Zhabenik, it seemed small, solitary. Then it tore in, flitting from target to target, skipping the spaces between.
The moon-worshipers crooned for their savior-killer, a high-pitched wail.
The Zhabenik stopped. I saw it clearly then. I won’t describe it.
Such a human gesture: “hands” covering “ears.”
Soldiers attacked in vain; it could still defend.
I added my voice to the wail, building in unison.
It shook, struggled, shimmered, and… disappeared. The wail became stunned silence, then cheers.
Celebrations spread across the land. Me, I cannot rest easy. I saw. It didn’t die. It left. And what leaves may someday return.
Word count: 200. Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge. Big thanks to our host Alistair Forbes for the inspiration. Just like that, I have a new monster for my world, and a new legend! Click here to read the other stories, or submit your own.
The first draft was over 300 words (I think; I saved over it). Permit me the indulgence of sharing my favorite cut passage:
Still, how could a single creature kill an entire battalion?
One by one, they said.