It was quiet, almost dead still among the stars. A rare feat considering that not but 100 yards away sat idle rifles and loaded cannons waiting to eat them alive. Scattered among the tattered trees and burned topsoil lay the wrecks of flesh and steel that bore no more allegiance save to the dead.
But in the silence of night, these tombs shined like beacons of hope. Rations of food saved from the weather by the broken bodies of the men who once carried them. Guns still carrying half or even full magazines. Pristine shells to pull from shattered tanks and brought back to their ranks. It was for these treasures that they dared to crawl out of their line and forward to the teeth of hell.
“Sarge, check this out,” a low voice called to the dark. He’d found something. Or, more to the point, he’d crawled onto something.
“What is it, son?” came Sgt Haxeburn’s reply as nearly clicked helmets with the younger soldier.
The clinking of a bandolier against the ground told him all he needed to hear, but the reflection of metal against moonlight made his blood run cold. “Okay, now listen very carefully. I’m gonna feel around the box for the wire, and then I’m gonna cut it…”
The reply was scared, and rightfully so, “Yessir…what’d … what should I…?”
“You just stay right there, and stay calm. Can you do that for me?” Hax asked, unsheathing the knife from his hip.
The younger man nodded, sweat from his brow hissing as it hit the dirt.
And the moment he dug his blade into the dirt, the veteran knew something was wrong. There was no wire to cut, no trigger to defeat. Instead, all he found was a smooth edge. Any other day, he would have breathed sweet relief and counted this as nothing but just another piece of rotting metal, but not this time. For the moment he tapped it, the box tapped back, then tapped again, shaking in the muck by something inside.
Suddenly, it jumped out of the ground, propelled by an open end, carrying itself and the unlucky youth barely a meter high. Though barely a fist-sized hole, it began to ingest everything around it like a great pit. The moment it caught the poor man’s bootstraps, it began to feast. Screaming aloud, the man flailed like torn paper, which Hax could not hold onto. Shattering bones and rending skin echoed among the night as it feasted.
Scrambling back from the carnage, the sergeant could not believe what he witnessed. He’d seen people shot, detonated, impaled and otherwise torn apart, but never lapped up like so many snacks to a spoiled pet.
Once it was full, the small container fell and cracked open, a nebulous cloud of emerald and ruby released from its prison. Around Hax it swirled, which was already sickening, but to then hear it laugh in a dead man’s voice froze his blood still.
From the cloud, an eye opened, then another. Then a smile full of razors and perverse humor.
“What the…? This don’t make sense! What …what are you?”
“Make sense” it answered him, shrugging vaporous shoulders, “now, where’s the fun in that?” Slowly, it took a complete form. Though it wore the face of a man, its body was anything but. One arm sectioned and scaled like a lizard, the other muscular and furred as so many jungle cats. A leg long and slender like a spider’s oddly balanced by a crustacean’s stilt. From its back sprouted wings, full and feathered on one side, veined and buzzing on the other. And a tail, slim and wagging was tipped by a scorpion’s stinger.
The feeling of it wrapping itself around his torso like a temptress made Hax nauseous, but the knife snapped in two against toughened skin. Chuckling at the notion, it looked up an him with pleading eyes, “Oh come now, is that any way to greet me? After all, you’re the one who knocked on my door…” Swooning up at him, the demon wrapped Hax up completely, using a claw to raise his chin to its level, “Now then, what is it you want?”
He just stared at the abomination in stupefied silence, which made it chuckle, “You know, I never get tired of that face, even though I haven’t seen it in ages. But I do bore easily, so make your wish.”
“Anything?” Hax asked, barely above a petrified whisper.
“But of course, my silly little fleshling. Because you brought the sustenance I needed, I am oblidged to thank you. So, what is it you want in all the world’s value? Wealth? Pleasure? Perhaps an end to this little game of war you seem to be in? Simply say the word, and all of those men in that trench will cease to be. Or would you like to see some old faces again? After all, you mother misses you so terribly much. Or did anyway, until that airstrike brought the shelter down on them. How many people were in there…two thousand and some?”
Every thought brought a punch to his gut, bending Hax at the knees until his fists were also buried in the dirt.
“Shut up! SHUT UP! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU, MONTSER?”
“Moi? Why, I am everything that is right and wrong in the world. Everything that is up and down, inside and out. I am in your mind, and theirs as well. But if you would like a name, Discord will suffice.”
It wrapped its tail around him picking him up into a cradling embrace “So, what is it you wish for?”
An entry inspired by this week’s Free Write Friday by Kellie Elmore, though one I probably won’t submit. It’s been a while since I wrote a monster, but tonight brought on the touch of viciousness, so it fit.
I hope you all enjoy.