The Zhabenik

SPF.201-05-may-28th-2017 - Copy

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.

46 thoughts on “The Zhabenik

    • Thanks Sammi — chilling doesn’t come so naturally to me, so I’m glad to hear it worked! I liked the cut line too (which is why I snuck it back in like that), although I think the first line is my favorite. Of course, now I should really think through the rest of the story on this, to get my religious legends and history/time line straight.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I tried finding another monster image, but I couldn’t find one as scary looking. The Predator from the movie is bad enough, but I think my Zhabenik is actually more deadly. Not that I’d want to see either of them in a dark alley — or anywhere, for that matter!


    • Thanks Mike! Yes, they were lucky they accidentally hit upon the one attack that hadn’t been tried before. Of course, that’s why you’re hearing this group’s story, and not the story of the last few towns — because nobody survived to tell those.


    • Exactly — I’d imagine a lot of people who survived that, or even just heard about it, would develop a nervous condition, never feeling safe again. Glad you liked it – thanks for reading, Neel!


  1. Ooh, chilling tale, Joy. I love how it’s described, how it seems to be many things to different people and though it’s so fearsome, how it runs at the sound of singing! Nicely done Joy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh, what a terrifying creature. The notion it was “skipping the spaces between” makes it even worse. I loved your descriptions of it. The chilling thought that it isn’t really dead is…well…chilling! Great story, Joy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, the bit about skipping the spaces between is my favorite: it makes it especially deadly! It does seem pretty terrifying, doesn’t it? Now I need to figure out why, if it’s so powerful, it hasn’t destroyed my world. Hm. Thanks for reading, Eric!

      Liked by 1 person

      • My pleasure. I’m wondering if the Zhabenik has a certain life-cycle, so maybe it only emerges periodically, like a 17-year locust. Or maybe it’s sensitive to a certain kind of stone or plant. So it can’t venture everywhere. Lots of possibilities there.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mm, good ideas; now you’ve got me thinking. Having a “life cycle” sounds like there’s a whole species of them, in which case, the planet’s in serious trouble No, I was thinking this one is alone, maybe the result of the magical version of a mad scientist experiment, or perhaps shifted here from another plane or planet (yes, I also have *aliens* in my universe, ooo!). In the first case, maybe he was built overpowered and uses the shadow-shifting so much that he burns himself out, either giving himself a heart attack or just losing his magical ability long enough for someone to do him in. In the second case, maybe some atmospheric thing is slightly differently on his plane, and doing the same thing here that’s fine back home is slowly killing him. Aw gee, now I’m starting to feel sorry for him!


    • You’re right, Al — if it can find a way not to hear, it’s safe from this particular threat. Although being deaf would cause new problems for it, and it did try covering its ears with its hands and that didn’t work, so maybe there’s hope. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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