As always, this is roughly unedited – though we’re getting closer to a final draft. Woohoo!
Long of body and snout, this monster’s teeth curved inward to grip and never release. It propelled itself with its alligator-like tail and simply came at me. Even had I been paying attention, I’d have barely had time to react.
He had me, and I discovered in that instant that neither my Beast nor I enjoyed being eaten.
The pain of broken legs barely compared to the sick compression of gastric equipment. There were other bodies in there, only half-dissolved, and unable to see or move, I panicked – it was too close to the cage and wooden torment I had already endured. Mad with sudden fear, I dug through flesh and fat and bone and cartilage like an insane burrowing thing, desperate for freedom.
Obviously, the giant did not enjoy this. Its roar rumbled through me, followed by a lurch, a twisting shudder, and then in one of the least pleasant sensations I have ever known, I was expelled in a river of vomit and decomposing human bodies.
The wounded monster fled, leaving a warm river of bloodied spew, and doubtless cursing the day I stumbled naked into his territory. I, on the other hand, could not swim.
Wounded and terrified, thrashing ineffectively, I sank. An infant’s instinct shut off my breath, so I did not inhale any water, and my own healing abilities took care of the rest before I touched bottom. I settled into soft silt, stirring up billows until I could see nothing.
The pain stopped. The fear ebbed. But more than this: I could no longer hear and feel the heartbeats of the world.
Everything changes beneath the water. Distance is illusion, and living creatures feel cold. The Night Child cannot subsist on the blood of aquatic vertebrates; there was nothing to hunt here, and I was tired. Silt settled around me, on me, and gentle currents rocked me, and in that moment – lulled, silenced, like a child with nothing to distract – my Beast went to sleep.
That moment, that precise moment, is the reason that I am speaking to you today, fully clothed and in my right mind. The beast slept, and in his wake was I.
In all my tiny, limited life, I had never been alone.
Alone, sitting in silt so soft that it pleased me to sink my fingers into it, alone, without any drive to seek and devour life, alone, I looked up.
The sun had risen, and the water played with it, shattering the light in a million pieces to dance with the flitting, dark shapes of fish.
I sat there while the sun crawled across the whole of the water-filled sky, sat there while curious fish swam up to stare at me with wide eyes and nibble harmlessly at my skin, sat there while silt settled around my ankles and hips in soft welcome.
The waves became my cathedral, the playful glints my own rose window. It was never the same, always changing, always beautiful.
Had the Beast been quiet this long at any point since I woke? No. And in his absence, I found peace.
I do not know how long I spent beneath the waves. I have memory of three sunrises, but my early mind was so fractured I cannot trust this. What matters is this: I had discovered a state of existence other than hunger, and I wanted more. Tranquility spins a siren-song of its own.
I almost chose to stay below those waves. What would have happened if I had? I know what becomes of my children who refuse to eat. One and all, they go mad, hunger ravaging their minds until they feed blindly in self-preservation. Would I have succumbed? Would I have been strong enough to resist, or would I have remained below the water, watching the sun arc overhead until I died?
There was no opportunity to find out. Long before hunger reasserted itself in my mind, this watery temple was invaded, and humans once again peopled my world.