Chapter 4: Stir (Part 1)

Deep in the charred remains of the once golden forest, down a secret cavern squirreled away where none could enter, the Creature waited.  It slowly unfurled itself and pressed its ear against the makeshift cage of scavenged bones, listing to the unfamiliar noise that was echoing against the stone walls. It was a noise the Creature had not heard in quite some time, possibly years, possibly more. A noise the Creature once longed to hear, begged and pleaded to be given just once small chance to listen. A noise that now signaled the most terrifying thing the Creature could comprehend.

Silence.

There had been so much noise before, always noise. Screams of horror, of dying things clawing for their last breath. At first the Creature had tried to distinguish between the cries of animals and the cries of those that understood their fate, but in the end they all sounded the same. The Creature knew that one day its cries would mingle with the rest, wondered why it was constantly deprived of that honor. Waited for the day it would be released.

Now there was nothing.

Two hunters had come, a fat one and a female one, and with a single action, the Creature’s master was dead.

The Minotaur was no more.

The Creature opened the cage door. It took a step forward and found that it could barely stand, its legs curled with atrophy. Holding a bar with one shriveled hand, the Creature looked around the tiny enclosure. It waited, but there was nothing to give an order, no inherent threat to avoid. For almost as long as it could remember, the Creature had lived in fear that its master could return at any moment. The cage was safety. The stone was home. But in some reptilian part of its brain, the Creature could sense the tidal wave of change flowing over the forest and out into the land beyond. It was too powerful, threatening to destroy anything in its path. And perhaps without consciously realizing it, the Creature was already swept up.

Outside the cavern, the Creature followed the rotten stench of death to the remains of the Minotaur, scattered across the forest floor. Already, smaller creatures had begun to infest the pieces; small maggots and parasites burrowing deep into the decayed flesh. To the Creature, it almost looked like the pieces were moving on their own…

No. They were moving on their own.

As if pulled by some primal magnetism, the individual sections of the Minotaur were shuffling along the ground, finding each other, merging together into a new whole. Not the Minotaur, something less refined. There were no distinguishable arms or legs, no features that conveyed a basic connection to humanity. Rather, this new shape was almost serpentine with multiple pudgy phalanges lines along one side, like a centipede’s legs, only thicker and less coordinated.

And yet, the aura was that of the Minotaur. Whatever this new form was, The Creature could still sense the hunger radiating from it, the desire to kill, to rend flesh from bone. The new form took a tentative lurch forward, and the Creature fell upon it, stomping down in blood soaked tennis shoes, savagely kicking until the form was just another pulpy mess.

The Creature stood there, panting, daring the pieces to move.

And they did. Whatever was happening had been delayed, but not halted. Something was forming, slowly but surely.

The Creature ran.

At a clearing, the Creature stopped to look upon a ruined and shattered tower. The Creature knew it had once been majestic, and yet it knew that the tower stood as a symbol of an immense tragedy, something pushing its way into the Creature’s head, and yet just out of reach.

Instinctively, the Creature traced a hand through the charcoal dirt at the base of the tower, grabbing a handful. Carrying it along, the Creature left the forest.

There was a mound of dirt on the edge of the hill outside, and the Creature sprinkled the handful it had collected on top of it. It just felt like it belonged. There, free from the forest it had spent the last few years in, the Creature cried.

 It was days later when the Creature found its way to a stone outcropping jutting out from the fire-baked ground. Like the rest of the world around it, the stone had become cracked and tainted over the years, yet the image carved into the stone was clear. It was a female face. A face that pushed against the blocked memories hidden deep in the Creature’s mind, the same way the ruined tower in the clearing did.

The Creature didn’t know why, but the face evoked intense feelings of anger and betrayal. Of being left behind. It was all connected, but it was loose, confused fragments of a former life.

The master was gone, but the Creature had a new goal. It would find the owner of the face and force the owner to explain, to make everything clear.

And then, once that was done, the Creature would join her cries with the rest.

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