#AtoZChallenge: Beastly

 

‘Beastly’ Beatriz. That’s what all the kids called her. Other girls might have thought it cruel or hurtful, but not Beatriz Villalobos. For her, it was a mark of respect. And she loved it.

Beatriz grew up in the slums known as Basurero, under the shadow of violence and fear. The streets were controlled by Los Reyes, a gang of neighborhood thugs who got off on intimidating others. Beatriz and her mother kept their heads down, trying to go about their business without attracting attention. But attention found Beatriz anyway.

Eduardo, the leader of Los Reyes, was only seventeen, but his swagger and his scars added years to his lean frame. He had noticed Beatriz, nine years old and prone to looking at her feet as she walked past him. One day, he got up in her face about it. Weak kids were easy prey. Beatriz was afraid. Eduardo was bigger than her and stronger than her. He had her backed into a corner. She didn’t like that.

Beatriz ran home in tears, shaken by the confrontation. Her mother tried to console her, but Beatriz didn’t want comfort. She wanted to fight back. To be tough. She went to speak with abuela.

Abuela was Beatriz’s name for the old woman who lived a few doors down from her, because she reminded Beatriz of her grandmother. Beatriz told abuela about her confrontation with Eduardo and how she hated to be afraid. Abuela listened to her tale and closed her eyes, deep in thought.

“I can help you, mija,” she said, after Beatriz was done. “I can help you become stronger, braver. You need not be afraid ever again.”

Beatriz was intrigued.

“But fear is a part of you, Beatriz. It makes you the person that you are. If you remove the fear, you will no longer be the same. It will change you.”

It didn’t matter to Beatriz. She wanted to be different. It was better than being afraid. Abuela urged Beatriz to think it over again and went to make some tea. She returned with an unusual tea cup, like nothing Beatriz had seen before. It was made of bone, and the handle was carved into the shape of an animal. It looked like a wolf, Beatriz thought, but no wolf that existed in this world.

“Drink this,” abuela said, “And your fear will be gone.”

Beatriz did as she was told, drinking the hot tea in a few short gulps. Her tongue burned and she could feel fire flowing through her insides. But she didn’t feel very different.

As Beatriz was leaving abuela‘s house, she spotted Eduardo out on the street. He saw her and called her down. Beatriz shook her head and kept walking. Eduardo called out to her again but this time, there was something in his voice that made her obey. She walked downstairs slowly, feeling her heart thud with each step. Eduardo met her at the bottom of the steps, then grabbed her by the shoulders and pinned her against the railing.

“Hey there, little Bee,” he said, reeking of cheap beer and expensive cologne. “where you off to in such a hurry? I just wanna talk.”

Fear swirled inside Beatriz, filling her belly and her lungs. She wanted Eduardo to let her go. She wanted him to leave her alone forever. The fear began to pulsate. She could feel it throbbing in her veins. And then that fear changed into something else. Something darker. Beatriz looked the boy in the eye, even though he towered over her. She stood her ground. And she fought back.

Nobody spoke of exactly what happened that day. Stories began to circulate around the neighborhood. Some said that Beatriz broke Eduardo’s nose, or that she punched his face into a bloody pulp. They said Eduardo was too ashamed to leave the house. But in the safety of their homes, they all told a different story, of how the little girl had transformed into something else. Something not of this world. And that this beastly child had banished Eduardo to the depths of hell. Or worse. In the end, stories were all that remained of Eduardo. He was never seen again.

Beatriz walked the neighborhood with her head held high after that. But that wasn’t all. She felt different. Powerful. Dangerous. Over the years, Beatriz took Eduardo’s place as the ruler of the neighborhood and kept it in order. Nobody dared cross her.

Once in a while, though, someone would step out of line. Someone would be foolish enough to believe that they could steal from the neighborhood or attack the defenseless. Someone would try to hurt those that Beatriz held dear.

And when that happened, Beatriz confronted them. She channeled the swirling darkness inside of her. And she showed them just how she had earned the name ‘Beastly’ Beatriz.

 

13 Tales of Terror: Vacant

The room was empty, except for a spider skittering across the floor. It didn’t make it very far.

“Damn bugs,” McDermott growled, scraping his boot across the floor boards. He looked around the room, nodded once, then walked to the far end of it and opened the closet. Empty. The boys had done a thorough job.

The old house had been on the market for a while. Richard McDermott knew its history well, including the murders. Three separate families had been killed in this house in less than a decade.

The Richardsons were strangled in their beds. Husband, wife, two kids. Three years later, the Browns moved in. Young couple, planning to build their lives there. Young wife was found in the kitchen, decapitated. Husband disemboweled in the tub. Then came the Dukes. Big family. Died in ways so gruesome that nobody even talked about them anymore. Just tried to scrub them from memory.

Everyone said the house was haunted, or more likely, possessed by the Devil. McDermott didn’t pay much attention to any of it.

There were no ghosts or demons to worry about in this place.

There was only the thing in the basement. McDermott had no idea what it really was, where it had come from or how long it had been in the house. He just knew he didn’t want it to get out. So he kept it fed, as often as he could. Everyone knew about the three families. Nobody knew about the others, the ones McDermott brought in himself.

It had been hungry for the past few months. But that was about to change. A new family was moving in next week.

McDermott walked out of the house and locked the door behind him.

Just one more week.

Blood Red

Don’t go into the forest at night.

That’s what the townspeople say.

It seems like common sense, or folksy wisdom, but there’s more to it than that. Nobody will say anything further.

Find a man in a tavern and buy him enough beer, and he’ll start to talk. He’ll tell you about the town and its secrets, of the mayor’s affair with the baker’s daughter and how nobody makes eye contact with Farmer Hill anymore, not after the rumors spread about the sounds that come out of his barn.

Buy him a few more beers and he’ll tell you about the girl. His eyes, though glazed with drunken pleasure, will show a flicker of fear. His voice, loud and jovial, will drop to a trembling whisper. He will beckon you closer and tell you about the red-hooded girl of the forest. Or at least, what appears to be a girl.

It’s believed that she is a spirit of some sort. She is definitely not of this world, and even her human guise is not without its flaws. Her eyes are too big, some say, and her teeth are too large. On nights when the moon is a pale shimmering disc in the sky, she is seen roaming the forests surrounded by wolves. They do not harm her and she does not mind them. They move as one.

He looks around, even though nobody is paying the old drunk any attention, then locks his glassy eyes on you. And if, he says, if you disregard the townsfolk’s warning, if you find yourself wandering through the trees in the darkness and you come face to face with the red-hooded apparition, tell her you’re going to grandma’s house.

She may let you live.

He runs a finger across the twisted scar running from his throat down to his chest and takes another swig from his beer mug. He will tell you no more.

As you leave the tavern, having paid for the old man’s booze, there is a sound of howling. The pale yellow moon shines down upon you, full and bright. Wolves. You turn away, but another sound follows the howls, a sound made by no man or beast of this earth. It is the sound of lost souls or vengeful demons or horrors yet unknown, wandering the land cloaked in a red hood.

A to Z Challenge: Attacked

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The creature plunged its icy hand into Anna’s chest and thrust straight for her heart, squeezing it and making it beat even faster. Pain radiated through her as she tried to writhe free of its grasp, but there was nothing she could do. Her heart hammered away while stuck in that cold grip, and her veins filled with ice.

She had really believed that she would escape this time. That she would find a way to evade the beast. But she had underestimated it. It found her and, within moments, she was cornered. Unable to escape. Trapped. Her breath reduced to cold gasps, desperately seeking air to fill her deflating lungs.

And now it was all over. The beast had won. Anna could feel the color fading from her vision, her body growing ever colder. Soon all would be –

“Anna, are you ok?”

Kate knocked again on the door of the bathroom stall.

“Anna?”

Anna gulped in a deep breath, her body drenched in a thin film of cold sweat.

“I’m…I’m fine, Kate. Just need a minute.”

Anna locked eyes with the beast, staring in to fathomless void. She couldn’t let it win. There were people she cared for, a life that, however imperfect, she had to live. She grabbed the beast’s wrist and slowly, painfully, extracted its hand from inside her. She would not succumb today.

 

Written for the April A to Z Challenge. Four days late, but I’ll catch up.

Literary Lion: Lady of the Lake

As part of my ‘MORE WRITING’ resolution for this year, I’m trying to get in some more flash fiction prompts. There were a few I participated in last year that ended up fading away. I think now’s as good a time as any to get back to those.

One that I really enjoyed was the Literary Lion challenge put out by Laura Feasey. In fact, I’ve written one of my personal favorite stories during one of those prompts. Alas, the Lion went on a small break as life got in the way and then I went on an involuntary hiatus as life got in the way and it all went downhill from there.

The Lion has started roaring again recently, and while it’s taken me a while to get there, I’ve finally answered the call. This fortnight’s prompt is to write a tale in 25 words or less on the phrase ‘Drink Me’. Here’s my contribution:

Drink me. Go ahead. You’ve heard all the stories. I can heal you. Grant everlasting life. A soul is such a small price to pay.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 20: All Hallows’ Eve

  
The party was in full swing.

Victor surveyed all of his guests from the balcony, his dark eyes piercing through the skull mask on his face.

Down below, in the grand ballroom, the dead danced with the living. There were aristocrats in elaborate costumes: ladies in long embroidered gowns and lords in sharply cut suits. A trio of witches had shed their filthy robes and wore dresses of finely spun spider silk, complementing their ashen complexions. Undead soldiers were in full uniform, their jackets pressed and boots shined, looking pristine in spite of the bloodstains.

In one dimly lit corner, a werewolf fussed with his tie, unable to fix it with his padded paws. Drool dripped from his jaws as he cast his yellow eyes on the crowd; Victor made special note of him. A couple danced sensually on the dance floor, then exchanged partners and immediately plunged their fangs into their throats. Victor scoffed; vampires existed only to satisfy their basest instincts.

Half-humanoid creatures lurched and loped around the room while spirits floated through the air. Gargoyles perched around the perimeter of the balcony murmured to each other in gravelly voices, occasionally swooping down to grab a guest and carry them to their shrieking end.

A smile spread across Victor’s face, mirroring the rictus on his mask. All was going well.

Soon it would be time to perform the ritual. Soon it would be time to awaken the Ancient Ones and usher in a new age of darkness.

Victor patted the ceremonial pumpkin resting in his hands, which smiled malevolently at the ghoulish panorama spread before him.

It was going to be a Halloween to remember.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 14: Faceless

  
You see us every day, but never notice us. We notice you, though.

Were we to walk past you tomorrow, you would not recognize us. But we know you all too well.

Who you are, what you do, who you love, what you hate. We know it all, down to every last detail.

To the world, we are faceless. Anonymity is our cloak and it is our shield. People like yourself, however, have nowhere to hide from us. We know your faces, your bodies and your souls.

Occasionally, we toy with the world by launching an attack. A lone murder, perhaps, or a massacre if we’re feeling particularly playful. One of our number performs a sacrifice, casting off the veil of anonymity to reveal his true face to everyone. It does not matter. Nobody knows who he is. They can only express shock and disbelief. Some say they’ve seen him around, others claim they’ve ridden on the bus with him every day, but nobody saw his true face before. Nobody knew the doom that lay waiting.

That is our true power.

We are the Faceless.

We are everywhere.

We are nowhere.

We will rise up one day.

And you’ll never see us coming.