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The Beast in the darkness

A small light shines very dimly by the wall. It'll be coming soon. Every night this week it's tried to get him, the damn beast has his scent. But that's why I'm here, to make sure he's safe and that he'll stay that way until the morning. I've fought things like this before, I know how they operate. They love the dark, it's where they're born and it's how they move. Sticking to the darkest places and sliding from one shadow to the other so quickly that you almost don't notice. That's when they strike, lashing out with claws that freeze the soul before clamping down hard for the kill. I've seen it happen, the teeth sinking into the head of another poor victim as they thrash uselessly to be free. But that was then and this is now.

The weapon is new, only got it today, but already I like the feel of it. It's a strong sword, don't know if it'll cut the beast's hide but it doesn't need to. It's the eyes that are the key to victory. Windows to the soul and all that. You stick the pointy bit through the eyes and they're done. No more sleepless nights, no more waking terrified because of the beast's low ominous growl or it's burning touch. Tonight I'm gonna get this thing and then he'll be safe. For awhile anyway. When he's brother was under my care I had to beat at least ten of the beasts. There was something about that kid that just seemed to call to the beasts. One year they came every night for a whole month and not always one at a time. I blame that trip the kid took without me, they can smell when their prey is vulnerable or unprotected. He must have shone like a beacon in that old house, the smell of his fear drawing them in like moths to a small fragile flame. Poor kid, but when I was back by his side I done for those scaly critters. It took me the rest of that month to kill the last one that was onto him but when I did it must have sent a message to wherever they crawl from that this was one piece of prey they should not try for again. The rest of that year went without so much as a hint of the beasts being onto him. After that I think they couldn't get his scent anymore, kid must have reached that age where they don't smell as ripe to the beasts as when they're young. I tell you, it's those few years when a kid is just getting they're barrings that you have to watch out. That's the time to be watching the shadows and listening for anything that might go bump in the night. And when it does, you make sure your there to bump back.

I hear the faintest whisper of movement from the cave they like to enter through and I know that something is coming. I jump down from my perch near where he's sleeping and quietly stalk my way around the room. I can't make a sound or he'll wake and the game will be up. As soon as the kid wakes up they go slinking back to the darkness and are gone till the next night. But that's no use because as long as they have his scent they will come back, unless I finish them once and for all. That's how the game is played, no mercy, no surrender and no sound. Except for the beasts growl. It's not a noise, it's a feeling you get when they're near. Your insides quiver at they're approach and there isn't a thing you can do to stop it, as I've learned for myself. You just have to accept it's there and get on with the job anyway. You tell yourself that as bad as it is for you, at least you know what you're fighting. In their sleep, the kids don't see it but they feel the growl because that's what the beast's do. That growl gets under the skin, into the head and that's when they have sleepless nights. That's when the beast's strike, when their prey is made ripe by the fear of whatever is out there stalking them. So that's why I'm gonna try something new tonight. The last few nights I did the standard bit of placing myself squarely in the critters path and staying there till the morning but last night it got bold and made a swipe for the kid anyway. I have to finish this thing tonight, no matter what. I creep up over the entrance to the cave and wait for it. Waiting to pounce on the creature that loves to strike when it's prey is most afraid, well tonight I'm gonna teach it how fear feels from the other side and then I'm gonna break it. I'm gonna play it at it's own game and make it slink back to the darkness where it can tell all the rest how this place is off limits. There will be no more attacks on kids under my care and the new little one that's due to enter this family soon will never have a sleepless night. Not if I get this right, not if I teach them how to be afraid!

I can feel the creature's growl rattling through me. Second by second the growl grows stronger as the beast approaches. Quieter then a mouse I creep to the edge of the cave's entrance and get ready. My feet are shaking from the closeness of that scaly nightmare, but I'm ready. I can't see it, but I can feel when it slides it's way through the caves entrance. It's moving slowly though, trying to figure out where I am. It knows I should be here but when it doesn't see me guarding the kid it decides to make a go for him. That's when I strike. Jumping down from my ledge I strike at the beast's eye with my sword. I've hurt it but not enough, the creature's claw comes up and swipes past my face. I feel something rip and then I'm on the ground and rolling to get back on my feet. I can't see through my left eye but a smile comes to my face when I realise that the critter is half blind as well. I've been ready for this, planning how to do it and where to keep my weapons in case I didn't get it first time. I find one of my spears and get ready to throw it at the beast to get it's attention. I don't think I needed to, the loss of one of it's eye's did that for me. It's behind me before the spear leaves my hand so I spin and jab it upwards hoping to pierce the scaly armour that protects it. I don't. Instead I'm lucky enough to get it through the critters mouth, which scares me more then anything yet, that's how close it is to me. The creature rears up in a silent scream and I notice that I don't feel it growling anymore.

But I am. A joyous exultant thing that rumbles from me in challenge and defiance at this predator's approach into my house. It's one eye focuses on me in rage and fear before I do something it would never expect. I run straight for the darkness under where the kid is sleeping. Straight into the same kind of black pit that the beast's love to slither from and I can feel it follow me. Good, I'm gonna teach it some more lessons in pain and fear. I'm barely to my goal when I feel the claw miss my foot, it's right on me and I can't help but smile. My hand close's around my next weapon as I become enveloped in it's home turf. The utter total darkness that these things call home has got me just where I want it. I feel the beast right behind me and that's when I turn to spring my trap. Blinding light pours from the torch I had hidden here, forcing the creature out of it's house and causing it so much pain that I actually her a little whimper come from the silent stalker.

I'm out the other side now and quickly place myself between the kid and the beast. It's still staggering in pain, but I don't move. I'm waiting for it to see me, I want it to see me. I want all it's kin hiding in the shadows, the small ones that aren't big enough to skulk from they're hiding places, to see what I do here. I could feel them when I was in the blackness trying to claw me. But the light did for them when I got they're big brother.

Here and now I want the ones hiding in the cave to see why they should never hunt in my house. Finally the beast see's me and does just what I want it to. With the barest whisper of a hiss it lunges just as I jump at it. I can feel it's teeth in my side, but I don't care because my sword is so far through the beast's remaining eye that I can feel the socket around my grip. I go down with the beast and force it's jaws open from around my waist. I don't know if I'll survive these wounds, but I do know that anything left in the darkness just got a lesson in what it means to be afraid. Even if I don't make it, I can go out knowing that whoever my replacement is they'll do what they need to do to protect this kid and the next one. But I doubt they'll need to do it for a good long while.

The following morning James woke to find Ted on the ground near his bed. Grabbing him very carefully he ran with him to his mother, “Mammy, look at Ted!” he cried. His mother took the bear very gently tutting as she did, “I'm sorry baby, the cat must have gotten at him. I'll get you a new one tomorrow.” “No!” cried James, “I want Ted!!” “Oh, alright” said his mother, “I'll get a needle and tread and see what I can do. Your brother was the same way you know, wouldn't let us get rid of this old thing. He kept saying how Ted was the best and no one beats him” That night there was no growling from the darkness, just a stitched up bear and his kid.