By the Pale Moonlight by Thomas Neil

By the Pale Moonlight by Thomas Neil

I still remember how it snowed that winter, this was surprising because it hadn’t in many years and I’d missed the way it blanketed the rolling hills and roads of my small village and made everything beautiful.

At the height of the flurry I stood outside building a family of snowmen in the garden. A mother and father made of snow; both dressed resplendently in their winter hats and scarves. I followed them up with two smaller snowmen, one of them wore my own winter clothes. I didn’t need them anymore, the cold no longer bothered me. The remaining snowman was dressed in my brothers winter clothes, he wouldn’t need them either, he was gone now.

I put the finishing touches on them as I waited for night to come, I was expecting visitors when the sky grew dark. I just continued to prepare my snowmen, the coals from the fire became their eyes. Somehow now that they could see me I felt more conscious of my own appearance. With my body, all skin and bones. I looked like a badly packed tent, with poles sticking out at odd angles. My clothes were torn and frayed and my hair was long, matted and unkempt. My mother always told me that it was important to look your best in case god called you up to meet him. Reflexively as I looked at the snow family I tried to flatten my hair down to look smarter.

It was a long walk from the village and no one made the walk without a reason. Smoke rose from torches in the distance, it seemed like the whole village had decided to come visit. I opened the door to the little house and was met with a smell that attacked the nostrils and burned my eyes. I entered the room and saw a mess of broken furniture and shattered memories.

My mother taught me the importance of being a good host. So as they drew closer I did the only sensible thing and made some tea. As the water boiled I also set out as small selection of biscuits. They were a touch hard, but it was them or nothing and tea simply wasn’t right without a biscuit or two to go with it.

The house wasn’t fit for visitors, only an animal would live here. As they drew ever closer I tried to make things better. I picked up the overturned table and righted it before setting aside a few teacups and the now steaming teapot, along with the plate of biscuits. Afterwards I retreated to a small chair in the corner.

I could hear loud voices, a group of them panicked and standing right outside the door. I could smell the anger and fear that radiated from them. I stood up and approached the door, which was on the verge of being hammered in by my visitors, they sure were eager for their tea and biscuits.

Before opening the door I took the time to straighten the tatters of my shirt and slicked my hair back by licking my palms and then running them through it. The door was forced open and I was tackled to the ground. I was being held down by two large bodies, I tried to fight back but I just wasn’t strong enough. One of the men struck me hard and I blinked; dazed and disorientated for the moment. They pinned my arms behind me and trapped them in tight shining metal shackles, which cut deeply into my wrists and burned.

The bigger of the two men grabbed me by the hair and dragged me out into the cold. I was thrown face first into the snow. I felt a few tears break free and slide down my cheeks. I tried to look up again, but a hand was pressed firmly onto my neck. I whimpered and submitted to it. I couldn’t see them but I could hear their voices. They called me a monster and an abomination. I felt hands and feet strike at me. I cowered in the snow, bleeding and openly weeping. I wanted to speak but my throat felt hoarse and my words came out as a jumbled growl.

I forced my head up to meet the eyes of the man in front of me, he held a broad axe, and sharpened it in front of me. I saw hatred in his eyes.

It was then that I saw the snowmen, they’d trampled the family I’d built out of snow, I could see them now, the bodies of my own mother and father, and my older brother nestled amongst a mass of snow. They were a mess of blood and flesh. I remembered what happened. I’d tried to put it out of my head, but I could see them now, I was struck with the haunting realisation of what I’d done. The axe man grew closer.

I could no longer picture them as pristine little figures made of snow, I was met with the corpses of those that mattered most and I lost it. I gave into the anger within me, letting it fuel me and take me away from the pain.

Something deep within me snapped, no longer was I weak, whimpering and begging. Now I roared. I felt my blood burn inside me and I felt dizzy as the slow agony slipped through me and dissipated to be replaced by a raw, vibrating energy. The restraints which had bound me had snapped off me as my body changed and while I was on the ground my face was no longer pressed into the dirt and snow. I stood low and powerful and in my element. The mob that surrounded me parted and I saw the same look replicated on their faces. Terror and the dawning realisation that they’d made a very stupid mistake.

I approached the bodies of my family, which lay discarded in the snow, and sniffed at them, a low whine escaped me. I felt all of the anger and guilt and shame rise up inside of me and turned it on the villagers. I leapt at them as a group they thrashed and fought against me but I was built to kill and tear and rend flesh. I felt throats come apart in my teeth, and bodies become raw and bloody at my claws. They managed to hurt me, deep groves in my side from their weapons. But the pain only fuelled the beast and made me stronger. I could taste blood thick in my mouth, and found that I enjoyed it. The corpses of the villagers littered the ground, and their blood stained the snow. Everything was red. I stood on all fours, panting heavily. I was the last thing left alive. The red haze of anger cleared and I realised what I’d done.

So I ran, first on all fours, I kept running until suddenly I was running on two legs. Desperation and fear had made the shift almost painless. Almost. It would never not hurt. The sudden transformation a furred and four legged beast from hell to a man was not an easy transition.

I kept running, I needed to get away from the bloodshed. I knew with absolute certainty that I could never again return to my little house on the hill. Never again would I see my family. Never again would I see the snow cover the village where I’d grown up. From now on I was an animal and I’d be hunted like one till my dying day. All I’d wanted to do was see my family one last time, and say I was sorry. All I’d wanted to do was go home.

-The End-

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