Monster or Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

What makes a man? Short story inspired by Berserk, adapted to fit the world of my stories. More of an experimentation.

 

What is a man? 

After spending a lifetime on the battlefield, I can tell you that out of all the creatures of the Earth, of all the creatures of the Heavens and all the stars beyond, of all the creatures of Hell and the darkest nightmares lurking beneath the void, that the one called man has always avoided understanding.  

I have killed more than my share of men. Large and small, smart and dumb, foreign and domestic. I have gutted and bled and skinned numerous kings and peasants, generals and grunts, women and children. I have tasted the blood of every known variation on the creature known as man, and never has my blade fallen to one of their species. Of my species.  

Never has my blade fallen to one of their species, and for every cut of my steel against their warm flesh, still beating with the rhythm of life, never once has any kill tasted the same on my blade. Never once has my blade fallen to one of their species, and yet that creature called man, plagued by love and hatred, ecstasy and pain, health and disease, is the one creature for which I am most afraid.  

What is a man? 

A man is not a monster. That much I can tell you. I can say with the utmost certainty that a man is not a monster because I spend every waking moment staying off a vast sea of monsters the moment God’s sun pierces below the horizon of this living world, descending into the deepest pits of suffering as it seeks shelter from the onslaught of the wolf of man. That wolf sits on the moon, and with its snarls of unyielding anger, calls forth all of the twisted desires of men into the ocean of darkness that engulfs the Earth. That beast of darkness is a herald, and its message is the only true purity that the mortal plane can ever experience. I can tell you that a man is not a monster, because beneath that beast, as I struggle against the chains of Destiny that bind me to my death at the hands of these monsters, never once has that darkness, nor its children ever lied.  

Even now, as I reach out into that darkness, the tip of my sword sliding deep beneath the flesh and muscle of the abstract horrors hidden deep within the black that surrounds me, I know the true intentions of these creatures. I know what to expect at all times. I know their dance. That’s the only reason I could have survived as long as I have, despite the looming presence of fate hanging over my soul. Because these monsters do not lie, they cannot kill me. I am used to fighting with liars.  

Looking back a hundred lifetimes ago, back in the days of my youth, even then I struggled against death. It was harder then. In the days of my childhood, it was not monsters that sought to snuff out my flames, but those creatures with the face of man. I was always on uneven footing as I danced with them. The politics behind why we fought, when we fought, where and how we fought. The language one needed to master before they could truly operate on the same realm of existence as another man. Such distinctions do not exist when your sole objective is to kill and be killed at the whim of fate. In broad daylight is when the worst atrocities lay before me. Promises spoken one second leading to betrayal the next. The ravens darting across the sky with messages of treaty and peace to one man, followed closely by its twin with messages of cruelty and pain to another. Comradery was a lie told between mercenaries to make sleepinbetween assassinations easier. Though I was the best at my job, I was the worst at that game men played, that game called ambition. It took me years of hardship before I finally fell into a place I could call home. My home on the battlefield.  

I left that place just as its ashes began to cool. I can still smell the foulness of the rotting corpses my friends left behind. No, they weren’t friends, were they? They were more than that. At first the arrangement had been forced but overtime I began to merge with them. I could see their dreams emanating out from within each of their campfires. A sea of dreams for which I could call home. And now those dreams had boiled over, their fires expanding to consume the fuel that it needed to push one man over the cliff of Destiny. And as my very soul, stitched together with the souls of a hundred thousand others, began to burn under the dream of one man, that white hawk soared into the kingdom of Heaven, propelled by the smoke of that sea of dreams. It was then that I fully understood what made a man.  

What is a man? 

A man is ambition unfettered by the chains of natural instinct. To be a man is to wear that mask of ambition, and give it the name destiny. Men flock to those guided by fate, like moths to a flame, seeking to take a piece of that destiny so that their own dreams may flourish. And as those wooden soldiers, playing in the sandpit of their master, reach up to take their rightful reward after following destiny for years, ambition is the master throwing his toys after they’ve fulfilled their purpose. Ambition is the follower never seeing the harvest take place after cultivating the masters destiny. To be of the race of man is to let ambition corrupt the true winds of fate. To be a man is to lie.  

Many times throughout the night, as my body, mind and soul race between exhaustion, rage, concern and fear, I begin to leave the realm of men. I can feel my muscles as they abandon my brain, acting on their own to meet the advances of the coming darkness. My sword no longer feels heavy, for it is no longer my sword. In the dead of night, as my mind gives way to the wolf, my sword has fused with my body, and as I parry and attack that sword has become my claws as it sinks beneath the flesh of another monster. I am lost to the world of instinct, and no longer does my mind have the ability to formulate lies. There is only room for the dance, that dance called death. As the wolf takes control, I become a monster, the only monster that could exist in this sea of blood and death. Ripping and tearing across the forest floor, I have no use for sight as I am led by that scent of life pouring from their wounds.  

It isn’t until I hear the women cry out that I return to my senses. My claws have reverted to their steel form, and as I struggle to swing towards the woman’s cries, I connect with my target, ripping through another monster, and digging deep into a tree. The woman lays on the tree, tears streaming down her face, fear the only thing she knows in that moment. I had forgotten her. How could I forget she was there? I reach out to comfort her in this moment of peace, but as my hand grasps her face, there is only the wolf, and the woman screams. She is afraid of me. Her cries of fear penetrate my mind, bringing me back to that burning campfire of dreams, and I recoil. The pain and anger fill within my soul, as the wolf reaches out to cover my eyes. The white hawk lays before me, threatening to take the girl. He will not take another person from my family. The wolf takes back control as I rip into the hawk, his life draining down his face. I want to taste his life, the way that he tasted the lives of all the men he threw away in the name of ambition. I want to know the taste of a main afraid. bring myself closer to the hawk, and as my tongue slides across his cheek, I can taste the ambitions that built him. I can taste all of the lies that he has told throughout his life, all in the name of chasing a destiny never meant for him. I relish in the power of taking away his false dreams. For having the power to crush the very idea of what a man is. My hunger grows 

As I reach out for another taste, my vision flashes, and for a moment the girl stands where the hawk stood. I hesitate. The wolf pushes me forward, but I resist. “She and the hawk are the same. Kill her so that you may be free.” The wolf echoes in my mind, calling out to all of the deepest parts of my essence that had been buried long before tonight. The only thing that holds me back is the campfire. While the ashes had almost burnt out, one fire remains lit. One dream remains undisturbed by the reach of the white hawk. I will not let that flame be snuffed out.  

What is a man? 

I know what I think a man is. A man is corrupted destiny, a false sense of fate meant to lead on other men. A man is a liar. I sit in the darkness, alone with the girl, and I wonder. I wonder, do I tell lies? Am I lying as I sit with her? Protecting her? Is it my dream to be with her? To continue on the dreams we all shared at the campfire an eternity ago? Is this my ambition or my destiny? Am I the man or the wolf? I can tell you all I know about monsters and men, but I cannot tell you which side of the coin I fall on. What I can tell you is that I have never been happier as when I watched that girl smile by the campfire all those years ago.   


Submitted: March 09, 2021

© Copyright 2021 TheDemonWriter. All rights reserved.

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