This story is by Dawn Van Beck and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I froze in place with a determined resolve to finally slay the monster within, ending its reign of unforgiving terror. Vanquishing this monster was paramount to the restoration of my soul.
A rancid odor emanated in the air. The suffocating, dank smell of sweat was akin to a dry creek bed on a blistering hot day. Stepping back, I pinched my nose to stifle my throat from retching and shut my eyes against hot tears. Involuntary shudders shot through my body as a wild fear pounded my heart.
I’d spent years battling this monster. My scars, like streaked war paint, evidenced my struggle.
The familiar, snarling growl brought forth gruesome memories of repeated attacks. This bloodthirsty monster hungered for darkness, thriving best in dark places. Emitting menacing, guttural groans it would lurk, detecting its prey. Once its victims were in reach, the monster’s claws would shoot out in an assault, releasing a lethal poison from its tongue. Vicious, savage attacks repeatedly left behind trails of destruction.
I had grown to know this monster well. I knew its ways. Ours was a sick, twisted relationship. We didn’t like each other, but we understood each other. Mesmerized by its piercing gaze, all I could do was watch in mingled horror as one victim after another suffered cruel mistreatment, cunning deceit, sabotage . . . devastation. I was a numb hostage to its power. Even now I could visualize its paralyzing slime oozing from its pores. Could I break free from its grip of evil? I longed for the day to take the beast by its jaw and remove its tongue, making it easy to subdue and defeat.
Over and over, I fought hard, screaming in battle, but my efforts proved futile. The monster always got the best of me, leaving me in a crumpled heap of defeat.
Then . . . something happened. A battle fever shot through my veins as a righteous anger boiled up inside me. A clawing pain in my belly forced my rapid breaths and my neck pricked. Armed with a desperate hope I changed my war strategy. This time, instead of shouting in anguished contempt, I cried out . . . in prayer. At first, the monster fought back with a vengeance. Its eyes swiveled wildly as its ominous voice issued a sinister warning.
“Watch it little girl—you’re swimming in the deep end now.”
With trembling hands clasped together, I continued to pray as the monster’s pendulous lips and callused, knotty fingers writhed in self-defense. With silent precision, I backed the monster into a corner as it absorbed my fear. Finally, there erupted a muffled cry. The monster’s wheezing hiss gave way to a whimpering murmur as the tangy salt of tears trickled to my lips.
I’d found its weakness. The monster’s insatiable hunger for darkness could be fought with the light of . . . prayer. Prayer caused it to retreat, cower, rendering it helpless. Prayer diminished its power to strike venomous barbs. Prayer made the monster exposed, causing it to surrender.
A flash of cold sweat coated my body, stiff from the passage of time. I spotted the monster’s tangled mess of arms and face across the room as I took measured steps closer. Continuing to approach the monster, it spotted me. It threw its head back and opened its arms, willing a sacrifice.
Finally facing the monster head-on, I looked into the mirror. What did I see? I saw it, the monster looking back at me. The once soul-less eyes now cast a soft glow. A faint sprinkling of freckles fell upon its face. A sharp ache stabbed at my chest as the monster was . . . decomposing.
Balancing tears at the corners of my eyes, I anchored my hands on my hips, setting my shoulders back. With a crisp nod, I addressed the monster.
“You were once my cup of tea. I drink coffee now.”
Walking to the corner of the bright room, I opened the window to encourage a breeze. I released a jagged sigh, weary from the battle. A quiet peace hung in the air as a faint smile crossed my face.
I decided I would guard my tongue from now on.