It woke in the dark of night. The sky above was shrouded in a curtain of black and the creature rolled Its eyes upward and saw that embedded in the infinite darkness were speckles of diamonds and light. Inhaling the chilling air, It raised Its head. A cool wind breathed softly upon Its sensitive skin, sending ripples of goose bumps and delight, and It shivered under the moonlight. It was there that It finally stood, the claws on Its feet gripping the soft, moist earth, and soaked in the radiance of the moon as it shone upon Its back with luminosity that invigorated, strengthened, and perplexed. But in one brief moment Its mind seemed to touch on a dim thought. Something lost, forgotten. Like a fragile glass flower it grew, blossomed, and in an instant the creature felt a release of confusion, terror, and staggering grief. Pain. Amidst it all was an agonizing warmth that snaked around the creatures heart and clenched. Impregnated in Its mind was euphoria, bliss- and it burned. It felt clarity… and something else. Trepidation, a foreboding of a dawning realization. The weight of the memory pressed upon It and It faltered. It loosed it into the abyss of Its mind and in an instant it was empty again. It was well again. It felt nothing but the illumination of the moon and the rubble between Its toes and the night chill. The creature gazed blankly at the moon, peeled back Its drooling lips, and cried.
It had been crawling through the woods for some time now. It would take refuge in the shade where it could, but often times the sun would boil mercilessly upon Its back and blister the exposed skin. It was weak. For days the creature had not found sufficient nourishment. The few furry meals it found scampering along the grass were much too small with too little meat to satisfy Its large stature; and at this point, It was too frail to even give chase. In the forest there was an unhappy abundance of vegetation. Tiny pearls of ripe red and purple fruit dotted the delicate branches of shrubbery and foliage, but when the creature attempted to consume them, the juice of the fruit would erupt and produce such a rancid and foul flavor that it proved inedible. Instead, It learned to rest near the bushes and await his downy victims that, to Its disgust, had no trouble eating the fruit.
Days went on like this. The brevity of the pleasure in devouring the small mouthfuls of hairy flesh and the long dearth in between was unbearable. The creature once venerable and strong, was wasting away, just as the awesome moon waned to nothing.
It was the day after the moon’s light had dwindled to but a sliver that It came upon the other creature. It had been resting near the fruit bush waiting and nearly asleep when a strange yet familiar scent assaulted Its nose. It was an odd smell, unlike any that It had ever encountered, yet it prickled that same bubble of recognition buried in the recesses of the creatures mind. It remembered the pain of that night and quickly shook Its head to rid the probing thoughts. The memory felt unpleasant and foreign. The creature avoided pain. However, It could not avoid the building curiosity that plagued it. It wandered ever deeper into the forest, nose lifted slightly in the air, following the alien musk until It was lead to a small clearing in the wood. The trees were tall here with long full branches of leaves, canopying the mossy ground and providing a cooling shade and sanctuary from the sweltering sun. Briefly It wondered why It had never discovered this haven before- and then Its eyes rested on it.
It was not as large as the creature. But still, its size was far greater than that of the small fruit-eating things. Crouched low and with piercing intensity in Its eyes, It watched the alien. Its bizarre appearance was startling to the creature. It had neither a full body of fur nor the large ears expected of what It was accustomed to, rather it was nearly hairless with only a soft mat of fur atop its naked face. Layered over the creature was what seemed to be a colorful covering that billowed gently in the mild wind. A pleasant sound arose from it and permeated the air around them with a melody so tender and sweet that It flinched, then relaxed to the soothing tune. Softly the hums of the creature brushed Its ears like tender kisses and It no longer felt pain or hunger, only a calm and comfort that eased the tense muscles, the grit jaws. With sleepy eyes It watched the creature, seeming so at home, so natural, amongst the vibrant green of the trees and dewy grass. Rays of sunlight leaking through the lush foliage formed dancing spots of brilliant light on the creamy skin of the creature as it created its gentle and melodious music. The prickle once again itched the back of Its mind but It paid no heed. It slumped to the ground, exhausted suddenly and terribly fatigued. It closed Its eyes.
“You have a little something on your lip,” the man said over his cup of coffee- black, splash of milk, with two sugars. Even without looking up the woman could hear the small laugh, mirthful smile in his voice. She swiped one hand over her mouth and rubbed away the cream cheese on her lips, suppressing an embarrassed giggle but feeling the heat of her blushing cheeks betray her.
“You have a little something all over your face, Adam,” the woman countered teasingly. She nearly stuck out her tongue but reconsidered. They had only just returned from their honeymoon, she didn’t need to show him her childish side just yet. Adam rubbed his scruffy stubble thoughtfully. During the trip he had forgotten to bring his razor and started cultivating his own scratchy face warmer. The woman put down her bagel and low fat cream cheese and reached over the table to touch her husband’s stubble, then cheek. Adam caught her hand against his face, kissed the softness of her palm and gave a second peck on the gold ring on her finger.
“I don’t know… I kind of like it. It sort of makes you look like a lumberjack,” she smiled, “You should keep it. Very sexy,” she said laughing, only half serious. Adam raised one eyebrow in mock surprise.
“Why, Lily! I had no idea you were into this kind of stuff…” He took another sip of his coffee and peered at her again over the edge of the cup. Suddenly, in one fluid motion he set down the cup with a small splash and leaned across the table to kiss Lily fully, bite of bagel in her mouth or no. His stubble prickled against her skin.
Adam broke away with a triumphant grin and downed the last of the coffee Lily made for him.
“A little dessert goes great with coffee,” he winked chuckling. The rosy blush staining her cheeks grew ever warmer as she struggled to catch her breath. Though they’d been dating for nearly a year and married for a week, Lily still couldn’t get used to Adam’s unpredictable sudden displays of affection. She wanted to just grow accustomed to it already, but more than that she wished she never would.
“I’ve got to get going. Can’t be late for work,” he kissed her forehead and straightened his tie, “Be good,” Adam smiled gently before opening the front door.
“Just leave already!” Lily exclaimed, feigning an annoyed pout. Even after the door shut behind him, she could still hear his soft laugh echoing from the porch. She tried to finish the bagel but found that she couldn’t. Her husband’s voice was still ringing in her ears and a warmth spread through her chest. There was no doubt, this was love- Lily knew because only love could hurt and bring such elation at the same time, only love could make someone feel so happy, so blessed, yet so miserable and desperate. A vice gripped her heart painfully, pleasurably, and she closed her eyes for the onslaught of Adam’s face in her mind. Lily smiled.
A shrill scream shocked It awake from the dream. It was nearly dusk now and It fought with Its heavy eyelids and lethargic limbs. It looked up to see the foreign creature standing over It, no longer humming its pleasant little song but staring at It frozen in horror. It held a wooden stick with a bright orange light on the tip. The light was too close to It. It had thrust the lighted stick near Its face and the heat was singeing Its fur, producing a foul stench of burning hair into the air. It understood it was only frightened, It wanted to gift the creature the same comfort and reassurance it gave It. It stood on Its hind legs just like it to demonstrate camaraderie, a connection between the two creatures. However, the stranger only widened its eyes at the enormity of It and uttered another unpleasant, repulsed shriek and plunged the light stick at Its chest, lighting Its fur aglow with a burning, searing pain. It was hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. It reeled back in astonishment, chest ablaze with the rippling orange and yellow light and it hurt. It was hurt. Confused. Angry. It bat away the pain, the light, smothered it in Its blackened fur and advanced toward the creature. It had been cowering behind a tree watching It, waiting for It to die or watching It with horrified fascination perhaps. But before it could turn and run, escape, It had grabbed hold of its colorful coverings with Its claws and dragged the screeching creature toward It. With one deft black blade-like claw It tore through the sheer delicate material and through the fragile white skin. An intoxicating aroma poured forth, saturating the air all around them with its thick, metallic scent that It could almost taste its sweetness. It salivated on its stained whimpering form and allowed the hunger to consume it.
It was only until well into the morning that It finished the meal. It had been leisurely picking at its bones for hours and for the first time in a long while, It felt entirely satisfied. The only part of the creature It had failed to devour was its head. It cast a sidelong glance at the lonely head for the first time since tossing it from the slaughter and saw it in all its grisly clarity in the new light of the morning sun. It rested upon the fresh dewy grass, little droplets like jewels glistening on the matted bloody mop atop the head and on the ragged edges of the stump where meat and skin came apart. Somehow more disturbing to It, was what had been the face. So unlike how it was the day before. It had left it relatively untouched, but as It looked into the dull milky eyes and slack mouth slightly parted, It was struck by such sudden unease, such uncanny dread that It violently turned away from the gruesome sight. Another face, much like its, bubbled up to the surface from the depths of Its mind.
It was so familiar, this face.
Suddenly, as if compelled by some force, It stood on shaky legs It barely recognized as Its own and started Its descent toward a faraway destination It somehow knew.
The man leaned against the porch railing and looked up at the full moon above the wide expanse of the countryside. Sparkling specks like brilliant diamonds dotted the deep velvet black of the night sky and he sighed at the beauty and melancholy of it all.
“Adam?” came the voice behind him. One svelte arm hooked through his and he turned to the pretty brunette that came from inside the house.
“Oh hey, Evie. You scared me,”
“What are you doing out here? It’s so cold!” Evie said, rubbing her arms exaggeratedly to demonstrate this.
“I’m not that cold,”
“Of course not,” she laughed mischievously, “You have that huge hairy scarf on your face!” Evie playfully tugged on his now fully grown beard. No longer was it a disheveled mass of stubble, it had developed into the lush thickness of nearly one year of cultivation. “Are you ever going to get rid of it? It’s scratchy,”
Adam raised a hand and stroked his beard slowly, fondly.
“I don’t think so. I’ve got a lot of memories with this,” he smiled sadly, “Besides, don’t you think I look like a lumberjack?”
“…It’s been a year already, Adam. I know you can’t forget her but you have to move on. Lily would-” Evie put a hand on her mouth and looked up at him with apologetic eyes, “I’m sorry..”
“You can say her name,” Adam smiled faintly and turned toward the moon again, “I’m not that pathetic.” Even with his face illuminated by the soft haze, a dark shadow seemed to cross it that furrowed his brow and glistened in his eyes and cast an impression of vulnerability, loneliness, in regal features that fought to maintain the facade. A year had passed since Lily disappeared. A year of fear. Of waiting. Of torture. As he looked above him, Adam wondered when the wait would be over- and what would happen when it came.
It gazed at it through the throng of trees. Nearby It heard the hateful incessant chatter of another, but Its eyes saw only it. The strange and familiar creature so like the one It had encountered before, yet it invoked a surge of tumultuous, excruciating excitement. It had never felt more alive. Teetering between the brink of pleasure and pain, It vibrated intensely with smoldering heat and vitality as It watched the enticing and beautiful creature under the moonlight. Red glazed over Its eyes and It saw blood. It watched the sack of throbbing tender flesh and crimson and It bared Its fangs as they lengthened, sharpened and Its loins were engulfed in exquisite penetrating flames. It was hungry. It wanted it. The creature took a trembling step forward but before It could rip through the trees and bound to it, the prickle came again from the depths of Its mind. It tried to shrug it off, force it away, but the sensation stayed, and grew. No longer a faint impression of something scarcely remembered, an irritation, it pierced the creature with defiance and certainty. Staked the wretched heart with clarity and warmth. Love.
The red faded but the pain stayed.
She woke in the dark of night.