This story is by Jose Liriano and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
What if an herbivore became a carnivore? Would the predator still consider them prey? Would it matter?
Fierce winds knock me back into reality. He is almost back from his morning run, and His food needs cleaning. I shouldn’t be at this door. Nothing about this door makes sense. It stands alone in a field of drifting grass. No date of origin or any knowledge of its creator. Nothing except the whispers of the other women. Yet it calls me. All I sense is darkness from this door. But He needs me.
What would He do without me? His food needs washing and his mane needs brushing. I should go back. I walk six feet back, and the winds become less volatile. It brings me both comfort and dissatisfaction. Every bone in my body screams for me to open that door yet they relax as I walk further away. I heard tales of women who opened that door; some never come back. Some come back different, yet attempt to hide it. Should I take that risk? I could and without His protection I’m nothing.
Suddenly, the door opens a crack. I can almost hear the echo of a whisper. Maybe just a peek. I lunge forward and put my hand on the handle. It takes every ounce of my power to force this door open. It fights back as if telling me to try harder. With all my might I swing the door open.
Suddenly, the ground shakes. I hear thunderous hoofs smack against the ground at an increasingly closer distance. I see a towering figure enter the fringes of my peripheral vision. It’s Him. He dashes towards me at full speed with no intention of stopping. I try not to turn around but I feel His call for attention. His black mane dances through the air in a flurry creating a majestic sight. I finally look into His eyes and it’s as if they scream at me. With regret, fear, anger; I can’t tell. I’m not sure if this is the first time we truly met. Or the last.
Instinctively, I run for the door. The longer I stare at Him, the more He signals for submissiveness. Without one more thought, I rush into the entrance of darkness.
There’s no wind. There’s no sound. Just pure silence. The kind of silence that your mind breaks on its own. Interestingly, occupying the endless foreboding halls are dozens of chicken. The barn smell takes a few seconds to hit but I’m not bothered. These chicken don’t cluck or fight. They walk and remain silent. As if they fear for their lives if they do.
Every direction visible from the doorway is littered with chicken and paraded with doors. Each door is either a different color or a different shade of one. It’s bizarre. Yet it calls me. The chicken’s excrements stick to my bare feet as I journey through these halls. The chicken split as I walk past as if I’m some sort of royalty. Or, as if they fear me.
THUD. Suddenly, the door from which I came bursts open. He stands just outside like an eagle outside of a meerkat’s borough. I take no chances and start sprinting in a random direction. The chicken, once silent, start clucking and screaming as I race past them. I look back, and I see Him unnaturally squeezing through the door. The doorframe cracks and bends from His aggression. The moment He breaks through, I rush through a door and close it behind me.
I still faintly hear His heavy hooves smash against the floor and the death cries of the chicken in His way. I hesitate to turn around and see what I’ve walked into. I quickly turn around and brace myself for whatever this space has in store for me.
It’s paradise. The sun’s rays beam down during the prime of the day. Chicken walk around casually as if He, or anybody like Him, can’t just run through here and kill them. However, these chickens are extraordinarily different. They stand at varying sizes that reach several feet. They wear clothes, shoes, and from what I failed to notice when I ran in here, they speak a language with some semblance to my own.
My jaw drops in awe at how something so unnatural can appear so perfect. As if this is how they always existed or have existed long enough that there would be no difference. Further in, a wide plain of space is populated with elongated tables holding a plethora of fruits and what appears to be meat. The tall trees surround the area as if to hide them from any predators or wrongdoers. Cabins populate the distant limits of my eyesight. This is not just a paradise; this is their paradise.
I’ve walked far enough that they begin to notice. The talking transforms from indescribable to quiet chatter. I can’t make out what they’re saying, but their body language screams bewilderment—almost amusement. Consequently, one chicken steps up ahead of the rest. The tallest one. This one stands at least six feet high in an elegant dress and her beak proudly raised.
“Good afternoon, darling.”
“Do you know why you’re here?”
“What is this?”
“Do you know what called you to this door? Nothing in The Room happens accidentally. So do you know?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know why this place called to me or why I came. But-But I don’t want to leave.”
“That’s all you needed to say. Please call me, Vee.”
Vee extends her hand, and I take it. She leads me past all of the others. They stare at me, but with smiles and looks of wonder and fascination. As if they’re recollecting a memory. She leads me towards a massive pond of mud in the middle of the gathering.
“This is where your new life begins. All that happened before will be forgotten. All you have to do is walk in.”
Without hesitation, I walk into the mud. It isn’t a pleasant experience. The feeling of critters crawling up and down my skin and hair sends me into an uncontrollable shiver. The deeper I go, the bigger the critters get until I hit a sweet spot that fills me with warmth and comfort. I walk far enough that my entire body submerges in the mud. I let the mud take control as I feel my body morphs and transforms into whatever it’s meant to be. Once I sense that it’s finished, I walk out.
I’m met with gasps and applause as I reveal myself to this forest of friends. Vee, who was at least a foot taller than me, looks at me from an equal height.
“Beautiful. Now, what is your name?”
Instantly, a name reaches the forefront of my mind.
“Please call me, Arym.”
A few other of my sisters walk up to me to admire my elegant dress and the newfound feathers on my body. Handing me, a leg of meat.