concede to me the quietude to recognize the effects I should not alter; the
bravery to transform the conditions I am able to; and insight to recognize the
distinction,” he leaned against the chain link fence, covered in less blood
than he first imagined and prayed to the moon.
Not the Moon, not Luna, the
other one, Mǣnōn, the illusory moon that sat back and to the left, that was
only visible every four years on the twenty-ninth of February.
never been so disappointed in himself as he stared at the nubiles sauntering in
and out of the afterhours bars and nightclubs that lined the strip. The
passersby, those who bothered to toss him a sideward glance, sussed him as an
alcoholic, but his problem was far more severe than that.
His affliction stemmed from the
fact that everyone had two sides, no matter how open and honest they appeared
to be. There was the side they showed the world and the beast side that only
revealed its face when they were all alone. And it wasn’t necessarily as evil
as it sounded, but it was there nonetheless. And there was no way of really
knowing someone’s true nature unless they revealed it to you.
But he saw it. On this night, with
the gift he had been granted by the Goddess of a moon visible to no one but he,
which wasn’t a present as much as a curse that gnawed at his sanity. He saw the
true faces of evil that hunkered down within the tall brush of fashion, cosmetics,
and innocence. And sometimes the evil saw him.
He caught sight of a woman as she
appeared from one of the clubs, ultraviolet stamp still moist on the back of
her hand. Ten years his junior, she was stunningly beautiful in an exotic way
that unsettled him. Her auburn hair cascaded over the shoulders of her white
satin dress and gave her the appearance of an old-world masterpiece come to
She walked past a Chinese take-out
joint and the exposed ATM before she realized she was being followed. When she
turned, he knew she had seen him for what he was as clearly as he had spotted
her. Her countenance shifted from serene beauty to that of a woodland creature
frozen in the headlights of a speeding vehicle. But it wasn’t fear that
registered in her eyes—she was making a decision, flight or fight.
The moment her face tightened with
determination, he knew she would rabbit. And she did. She spun on the balls of
her feet, kicked off her heels and bolted out into the street, dodging cars as
she ran against the traffic, inhuman toenails ripping into the tarmac.
He grinned as he whipped out past
the parked cars; he loved it when they ran. His reflexes, sharp normally, were
amped under the light of the illusory moon and hope blazed in his mind as he
was about to overtake her easily. In this mode, before what had to happen
actually happened, he saw himself as a savior. What he had to do was in
everyone’s best interest, even hers. He would not fail this time. He intended
to honor his duty. And as he was about to lay his hand on her shoulder and set
things right—he heard a wet thumping sound and felt pain down to his marrow as
a car bumper made contact with his hip and sent him sprawling into a lamppost.
Nausea and blood mixed his mouth
and as he looked up through blurred vision he could just make out her lithe
frame turning down a side street. A voice cried out amidst the murmurs in the
background, I’m sorry! it said. You came out of nowhere! I didn’t see
you in time!
Voices shouted and people rushed to
the scene from both sides of the street. He fought the pain and forced himself
to his feet. He had to leave before the police showed up. Too many witnesses.
He couldn’t have explained why he was chasing the girl in the first place. Who
would have believed him? To bystanders, he surely must have looked like a
psycho ex-boyfriend or worse, a perverted sex deviant.
He kept his head low and shielded
his face from camera phones as he pushed through a crowd of people asking if he
was okay, hobbling towards the side street, hoping against hope that he hadn’t
lost her trail.
couldn’t fathom why he was chosen. Had he been a cop or any other branch of law
enforcement, this might have been so much easier. Easier to pursue, apprehend
and deal with a special brand of evil one night every four years. But as a
thirty-seven-year-old accountant, what was he supposed to do? How long could
this go on before he was caught, or even worse killed? He had no social life
and how could he? This thing made him unfit for human consumption. And what if
he managed to hook with a woman only to see, come February twenty-ninth, what
sort of demon lurked beneath her cool surface? He knew he had to quit at some
point. Maybe tonight, if he was able to resolve this in time he would petition
Mǣnōn to find a replacement.
Along with his heighten abilities
came the urge. He needed to scour the streets and rid the city of
pestilence on this very special of nights. It was a basic bodily function to
him, as much a part of his continued existence as breathing.
He limped around the corner, his
pace picking up as his fractured bones knitted themselves back together and his
muscles and internal organs returned to their optimal state. The neighborhood
wasn’t the safest to begin with and those with sense stayed on the strip in
crowded well-lit areas. The side street was dark, streetlamps busted on both
sides, which was probably why she chose it to escape into, to hide in.
He moved into the street and swiped
a finger across a bit of dug up tarmac, touched it to his tongue, and smacked
his lips, processing the taste of her. Motionless, twilight settled on him as
he cleared his mind—then he picked up her trail.
don’t have to do this,” the woman called out from somewhere in the dark.
“Yes, I do,” he stood at the mouth
of the alley and scanned the blackness as his eyes adjusted to the starlight.
She was well hidden.
“I haven’t hurt anyone.”
“Yet,” he spat. “You should come
out, you really should. It’ll be so much easier for you than if I have to tear
this alley apart to find you.”
The woman eased herself to her feet,
stepping from a darker shadow within the shadows, shaking off the alley debris
like an octopus coming out of hiding.
“Please, let me go,” her voice, as
soft as a butterfly’s footfall, was the sincerest plea he had ever heard from
one of these demons. She stared at him, eyes watering, lips pursed into a small
quivering bow. It was clear she wanted to live.
“That isn’t the way this works. The
earth must be cleansed of all unnatural beasts.”
“W-wait…” her shaky hand reached
down to fumble at the clasp of the handbag slung across her shoulder.
He thought she was going for some
sort of weapon but what could she have been carrying in such a tiny purse that
could hurt him we he was like this, at the zenith of human abilities? Although
he wasn’t afraid, his body tensed reflexively, ready to pounce. And he was hit
with that thought again, of how incredibly stunning his prey was even in her
beastly form. Her hair, slimy from alley gunge, hung in her face like a tangle
of dead eels but it couldn’t hide her eyes which were larger than he had ever
seen on a living creature.
“All beasts must be cleansed? No
exception?” she asked.
“Have you seen yourself?” the woman
pulled a compact mirror from her bag and held it up, catching the faintest bit
of night light.
His expression shifted from
predator to absolute horror. His jaw clenched, clamping down upon a shriek, and
the grip loosened on his anger. He dropped down on his haunches. She was right.
In the reflection, he could see that he was a beast, no different than she. It
took a beast to catch a beast, he supposed. And he did the only sensible thing
he could have thought to do.
Up against the chain link fence, he
dug his claws into his own chest and tore out his heart, marveling at how little
blood there was.
“Living one moon at a time;
enjoying one solstice at a time; tolerating adversity as the conduit to
tranquility; acquiring, as you do, this aberrant humanity as it is, not as I
would wish it; believing that you will set all things right if I submit to your
command; that I may be satisfied in this life and rewarded with you forever in
the next,” his guttural voice trailed off to a whisper.
And when he had completed his prayer, Mǣnōn, the
illusory moon, embraced his spirit with open arms.
©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys
About Beast of The Illusory Moon:
story inspirations, come from the unlikeliest of places and often strike when
you least expect it. This one came about while I was viewing a trailer for the
Kevin Costner movie, Mr. Brooks, that begins with him reciting the
Serenity Prayer while staring at bottles of liquor on a shelf, so the logical
assumption is that he’s an alcoholic but his actual problem runs along a
different, darker line—if you’re interested in the true nature of his problem,
view the trailer, the movie isn’t the subject of this introduction, the thought
that it inspired is.
The trailer made me think about the
dichotomy, the two mostly equal parts of peace and war, love and hate, and
the black and white delineation of so-called good and evil that exist within us
The story itself doesn’t really
tackle or explore the characteristics of duality but that’s the nature of an
idea, isn’t it? It never ends up on the page the way it began life in your grey
matter before being put through the meat grinder process of dramatic structure.
C’est la narration.