Every night spent beating back entropy
Was a night we spent in glorious vain,
Conducting our bodies passionately,
Musica humanis, rhythm, refrain.
We movers got older, became less prime,
But the movements became more glorious,
Layered and nuanced, polished, refined with time
(We trained like artists, drilled like warriors)
(Film finds the best way to do a thing once;
Theater strives for perfection each night,
And so did we, animals on the hunt,
Tongues tasting the air, ready for a fight.
Night became day and time kept advancing
(The world was ending, but we were dancing)
Tag Archives: time
Every night spent beating back entropy
Iohan’s lips pulled back in a grin that turned into a snarl, his eyes ablaze with joy and malice in equal measure. Yes. Fear me. Fear me!
The beast stumbled backward, its limbs flailing behind it in a decidedly human attempt to catch itself. But that only meant that its serpent-like arms could do nothing to stop Iohan as he strode forward and swung his sword at the creature’s neck, severing its head from its body and sending a fountain of the thing’s black blood geysering into the low-hanging branches.
Iohan stood over his fallen foe’s body, his shoulders heaving with every panting breath. Sweat dripped from every inch of exposed skin. His pupils were dilated. His body tingled with the joy of the hunt. He wanted the killing to continue, his ears straining to hear his next prey, his nose sniffing the air for his next victim’s scent. He was a cazador. He lived for the kill.
“Iohan,” he heard. A voice. Human. Jimeno’s. It was a whimper, the sad sound of a dying animal. It brought him back to reality. “Iohan, please, help me. I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel my legs, Iohan.”
Iohan said nothing to comfort Jimeno. He let the voice guide him instead.
The boy was laying against a tree looking for all the world like a discarded doll. One leg lay folded underneath him at an unnatural angle. The other stuck straight out from his body. He lay motionless, his arms limp at his side. Blood ran from his mouth and nose.
“Iohan, I can’t move. I don’t feel anything.”
“Quiet, Jimeno. Let me look at you.” Iohan poked at the boy’s legs, lifted one of his arms and let it fall. “Your back is broken. Your spine is severed. And I think you have a broken rib that has punctured your lung.”
Jimeno’s eyes were wide, glassy. Shock. “Iohan, what will we do? How will we get out of here?”
Iohan said nothing. “Jimeno,” he said softly. “You’re going to die.”
“There’s nothing I can do for you. It will take too long to get you to a cirujano. Even if I could get you to a village, it would be too late.”
“Iohan! Cazador! Please, you have to help me!”
Iohan shook his head. “The only help I can give you now is a quick death.”
“No, no, no–”
“The hunt continues, novice. You will not be forgotten.”
Jimeno protested. He screamed. He wept. And then he never uttered another sound.
Iohan stood from where he knelt by Jimeno’s body and wiped the his sword on the boy’s shirt. You would have understood, he thought. Had you had the time to see the things I have seen, you would have understood. But it was a moot point. The boy hadn’t, and now he never would. But it didn’t matter. The beast he’d slain had been neither Maria nor Pol, he was sure of it. And so the hunt continued. There was work to be done. Deep, steady breaths. Hunt. Work. Kill.
Iohan walked deeper into the woods, where the beasts dwelt.
The end! Something short on Wednesday, and something new on Monday!
Jimeno might have been more clever than Bartolome, but Bartolome was the greater warrior. Had the dead boy been the one the beast charged, he would have had the wherewithal to raise his weapon and strike the creature. Whether he was frightened, too slow, or lost in his head as he tried to remember what to do, the boy stood motionless as the beast slapped at him with its paw. The blow was effortless, but it launched the boy through the air. He didn’t even scream. All he could do was grunt as the air was forced out of his lungs, as his ribs splintered, as he smashed into a stout oak. The beast leaned forward and roared its triumph at the boy before moving in for the kill.
And then Iohan drove his sword into the creature’s side and its cry of victory turned into a howl of pain. It’s not Pol, he thought. Not Maria, either. Neither of them would have been that careless.
The creature tried to stagger away, but Iohan twisted his blade and planted his feet. He and the beast pulled and struggled against each other, their steps turning into a macabre waltz over the corpse of the fallen novices. At last, the creature seemed to remember that it was the stronger of the two by far, and it began swiping at Iohan with its blood-soaked paws.
The cazador dodged the beast’s blows effortlessly. Time seemed to slow down as the beast struggled in vain to slay its aggressor, but Iohan’s defenses were perfect. One didn’t survive as a cazador if on were anything less than perfect. Iohan pressed the offensive, using the gaps in the creature’s defense to pull his sword free and slash at the monstrosity in earnest. Blood the deep color of a clot poured from the creature’s wounds. The stench of death and disease filled the air. Just as Iohan was certain that victory was within his grasp, he saw something he’d never seen before.
Fear. There was fear in the beast’s eyes.
Iohan leapt into the air and caught the beast in its arms with his blade. The metal sunk deep into the creature’s flesh, the weight of Iohan’s body turning the sword into a chef’s knife shaving away chunks of meat. The creature let loose an inhuman howl that echoed through the trees, that set the birds and animals of the forest crying out in fear and skittering away from the melee.
“Jimeno, grab it! Grab it and pull it from the trees!” Iohan didn’t check to see if the boy was following his orders. He was too focused on struggling with the beast, on maintaining his grip on his weapon, on planning his next move. If we don’t slay it here, it will escape. We can’t possibly follow it through the trees. If we don’t injure it beyond healing, it will take us again, this time out of spite. They’re not so stupid that they don’t crave revenge.
If this is Maria or Pol, they won’t rest until they get our blood.
“Jimeno!” Iohan shouted, a note of urgency creeping into his voice. If Maria or Pol had transformed, it would be very bad. If this beast was one of them and he didn’t slay it, that would be even worse.
Before Iohan could shout again, Jimeno’s hands joined his own where they were wrapped around the creature’s sinuous arms. Together they pulled, and the beast fell from the branches above like a cat falling off a roof, hissing and spitting.
The beast landed on the ground with a thud, but faster than a human could ever hope to, it righted itself. It’s entire body was covered in coarse black fur. It’s four limbs were each as long as its body, and as it shuffled in place studying Iohan and Jimeno, it moved like some kind of unspeakable spider. And it was indeed studying them. Its eyes, white and cloudy against its dark fur, spoke of incredible malice. It looked at the cazador and the novice with unbridled hatred. It was not merely angry at having its meal interrupted and being wounded in the process. It was planning how to make its aggressors suffer for their sins.
Its mouth opened in a snarl, white teeth stained red from Bartolome’s blood, and with a roar it charged at Jimeno.
Iohan stood with his sword raised, one hand on the hilt and one on the blade itself near its tip. If the beast attacked again, he’d be prepared. Swinging his sword through the air would take too long, would be an impractical movement if it grabbed him, but a quick chop might be enough to deter the creature. He could fight with the beast’s paw around his throat, he was sure. He had fought with broken limbs, with open wounds, with a beast’s claw embedded in his flesh and the monstrosity snarling in his face. It wasn’t a matter of fighting an entire battle while incapacitated; it was simply a matter of making the creature unwilling to fight and then regrouping.
Jimeno had drawn his sword, at least, even if he was holding it unsteadily. His eyes scanned the branches of the trees methodically, his ears cocked and listening for an indication of what the beast would do next. Santi, meanwhile, had dropped his blade in his fear, and had not yet bothered to retrieve the damned thing. He looked for all the world like a frightened animal. At least he had stopped screaming.
“Is it gone? Is it gone?” the boy asked, his voice far too loud, doubtless giving his position away to the beast up above.
“Santi,” Iohan hissed through clenched teeth. “Shut your mouth and pick up your sword.”
“It’s gone, right? Oh, gods, it’s gone and it took Bartolome with it.”
“What do we do, cazador?” Jimeno asked.
“What are we going to do? Bartolome’s gone. We can’t even bring his body home to his family.”
“I want to go home! I want to–”
Bartolome’s body fell from the branches mere feet away from Santi. The beast’s hands followed, fingers entwining around Santi’s neck. The boy fell backwards, the creature struggling to pulling him into the trees. Jimeno rushed forward with his sword drawn. Iohan pushed him aside.
The boy was too young, not yet trained by spilled blood and the passing of time.
He would try to save his friend. That was a mistake. The first and only goal was to slay the beast.
The world grew darker as Iohan and his charges followed Maria and Pol’s footsteps into the woods. The high walls of the citadel and its castle and the flags that the nobles flew from the towers disappeared through the ever thickening wall of trees. The branches twisted like grasping fingers, like claws frantically reaching out to claim their prey. The ground grew soft, like walking upon the flesh of some massive beast. The air turned thick and cold, and their breath hung and trailed behind them like ghosts.
The nobles’ hunting parties didn’t ride out this far. The paletas wouldn’t venture this deep in search of sustenance or firewood. Not even cazadores, alone or in groups, sought their quarry in such dark and distant places. If these thoughts flitted through Iohan’s mind like creatures scuttling through shadows, then they were surely gnawing at the novices’ with ravenous glee.
“Bartolome,” Iohan said, his voice the first noise other than their own footsteps and the sounds of animals that they’d heard in quite some time. “Get in front and follow the trail. We might as well do something productive with this time.”
The boy moved deftly and sure-footedly now that he had been given a task he could focus on. Even as the trail became muddled, two pairs of footsteps presenting a scene that spoke of an argument and a splitting up, Bartolome pressed on with certainty, following the heavier tread for he assumed it to be Pol’s. Iohan watched on, pleased to see the boy’s skill and pleased to have a distraction from the dark thoughts that troubled his mind. The boy would likely never be a great leader, too temperamental and not quite intelligent enough for a field marshal. But he’d make a fine colonel some day.
“Cazador. Cazador, you should look at this.”
“What is it, novice?”
“The trail… disappears, I think. I don’t see any footsteps.”
“What? How?” Santi asked.
“Pol surely didn’t take off his boots and go around barefoot,” Jimeno said with a snort.
“Don’t you take that tone with me,” Bartolome shot back. “I don’t see you up front, brave enough to be the first line of–”
Bartolome’s words ended suddenly, a single wet cough slipping from his lips. An arm, thin and impossibly long, reached from high in the branches of the trees, the fingers of its hand as long as serpents and wrapped around Bartolome’s neck like a noose.
Jimeno was silent. Santi screamed. Iohan drew his sword from its sheath and ran forward, ready to put the blade to work. But before he could close the distance between the two, the arm retreated into the trees, dragging Bartolome’s body up with it.
To his credit, the boy didn’t scream. But Iohan knew that was only because he couldn’t.