Physical Manifestation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Imagination Station
Negoogunogumbar has been terrorizing the People of the Tree for too long, and when Jade discovers one of the beasts, an embodiment of the demon, during a foraging expedition, she decides to hunt it down. But is there more to the beast than meets the eye?

Submitted: August 16, 2015

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Submitted: August 16, 2015

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Physical Manifestation

“Let me down, Aren, now!”


“Why?”


“I saw one.”


“We’re here for honey.”


“But I saw one.”


Aren shuffled back and crouched. Jade jumped from his shoulders and landed on the root of the large tree. Her foot lost its balance, slipping from the root. With her weight straining the outer edge of her foot, it bent inwards. She collapsed as pain exploded through her foot and landed into the bowl of honey they had spent the past two hours collecting.


“Jade!”


Jade stood, trying to ignore the pain that gripped her foot. She forced herself to stand on it.


“Forget it. If we catch the beast it won’t matter.”


Aren dropped to his haunches and scooped the leaf-covered-honey with his hands.


“Give me your bow,” Jade said.


“You know you’re not supposed to –”


The bow was taken from its pouch on his back and snug in her hands before he could complain. She took an arrow from the pouch and readied the bow; surveying the area.


The sun cowered above the canopy, but Jade didn’t need her sight.


“We should go. It’s over twice our size, and even the elders hunt them in bands of five. Not to mention the Father is sleeping, we haven’t performed molimo in a week and we’ve had more rain and heat than even normal, and the beasts have taken three infants from their cribs in the past two nights.”


“That’s exactly why we need to get it. To avenge our brothers and sisters.”


“We need to alert the tribe. Let them handle it, or soon they’ll be avenging not three, but five.”


“Shh.” She tilted her head in the darkness, focusing her ear on a rummaged tree spraying down collected rain.


“We’re going to die,” Aren said.


“Don’t be stupid. We’re not going to die.”


“You think you can beat that thing on your own? You’re mad. You’re a girl, you’re not even allowed to hunt, and it’s protected by evil. And the Father’s asleep. He’s asleep. And we’re toast.”


“I’m not gonna beat it on my own, I have you. Grab that honey, quick.”


Jade turned slowly as the encircling trees began to shiver.


“Aren?”


Aren got to his feet and ran.


She cursed in her mind. She would have to do it alone.


Throwing the bow over her shoulder, she grabbed hold of the tree, feeling a soothing release of tension in her foot as it lifted off the ground. She climbed ten feet before shuffling her rump across a thick branch and crushing a few dozen ants in the process. She batted a couple poisonous frogs that appeared to be mating, and sat waiting, allowing her legs to hang freely either side. She took the bow from her shoulder and readied it once more. She aimed it at the honey and waited.


Jade never did understand the fear for the thing. It was an ordinary animal and would make a great snack for the tribe. They’d been surviving on berries and honey the past couple days, and she’d be as famous as Great Mamba once she hauled the beast’s carcass into camp. Aren wouldn’t be getting any.


The beast revealed itself, bulldozing its way through the thick vegetation and crushing plants in its path. There was nothing special about it; no great horns or demonic wings, nor was it made of stone like the stories suggested, it was just like a pig – a bigger, smellier, hairier pig, granted, but a pig nonetheless.


And it was as stupid as a pig. It licked the honey without so much as a moment’s hesitation; its great snout grunting with pleasure as it satiated its greed.


Jade shot the arrow straight through its eye. It squealed and ran deliriously into the tree she sat.


The tree rocked much like a crib in a tempestuous wind, and as she imagined this beast waddling into camp and snatching a defenceless infant to take into the forest, she flew through the air and landed on the beast’s back.


She landed on her stomach and the impact knocked out all her air. She began to understand why the stories said it was made of stone.


The beast ran in circles until it found an opening in the thick vegetation and ran deeper into the forest.


Rain was pouring now, much like she was trapped under a waterfall. Rather than let go and escape with a few scrapes, Jade snatched the beast’s wet, fetid hair. Though the beast had an arrow lodged in its eye, it showed no signs of slowing down.


She leant down and hugged its head, stretching over to pull out the arrow while avoiding vines and tree branches that darted past. She did so, and plunged it into the beast’s neck. Just when she thought the rain would suffocate her, the beast slumped to the ground, making a tkkkk sound as its body splashed into the sodden vegetation. With its last pant, the rain stopped.


Jade sighed, rolling off its back in exhaustion. Well, it wasn’t that hard, she thought.


She looked at the filth covering her; the damp mud and the beast’s blood and what smelled to be its excrement, tainting both her leather garment and her hair. She smiled. She had actually killed the vile thing.


One problem: she didn’t have a clue where it had taken her.


She set up camp in a small opening where most life was dead; though the tall trees that reached the skies still loomed overhead. There, she made a fire. After some scavenging, she found a couple large jagged rocks and grinded them together until one formed a sharp edge. The beast was far too tough to slice with the little stone, but she managed to cut off an ear. She cooked it over the fire and enjoyed the delicate taste. It wasn’t chicken or pig, but it beat honey. Once she was finished she licked her lips and fell asleep.

 

* * *


Jade was woken by the sound of footsteps and shouting.


Aren stood before her with none other than Great Mamba.


“Hi, guys,” she said, smiling.


“What’s a pretty gurl doing in these parts?”


The filth had dried and crusted her clothes. It crackled as she stood. Her face was mottled with dirt.


“Great Mamba. I have killed a beast.” She pointed to the carcass beside the fire. “Easy peasy.”


Great Mamba frowned.


“What?” she asked.


Great Mamba backed away.


“Dear Child, what became of its ear?”


Jade exchanged an anxious glance at Aren, who gulped.


“Eat it, you did not?”


Silence.


“Eat it, did you?”


Jade widened her tight lips, leaving ripples around her cheeks.


“…only a bite.”


“Oh, Khonvoum.”


“…a small bite, really.”


Great Mamba began to whisper. She couldn’t hear him, but knew he was praying to the Father.


“What’s wrong?” she asked.


“Meat bad, Kweri. Consumed the beast, you have. Absorbed the evil, you did.”


She crept closer to him. He distanced himself.


“Is there anything I can do?”


“Molimo.”

 

* * *

 

The great fire illuminated all the sullen faces surrounding it. Jade stood in the centre of its hollow circle while the flames flickered around her. The heat made her sweat and feel drowsy. She could hear the drums and the singing, a loud singing that combined prayer with want for mercy. How had she been so stupid? All she had wanted to do was catch the beast, prove she, a girl, could hunt as well as any other, but all she had proven was her ignorance, and because of it, she wouldn’t be known as Great Jade: The Beast Conqueror, but Inconvenient Jade: The Summoner of Evil.


She didn’t know what came next, but knew they were all at risk.


She stared high up and saw the wooden elephant’s head, the leopard and the chameleon, that together formed the tribe’s totem. The skies opened and the rain cascaded on her and her alone. She felt a rage, and let it out with a grunt. Then another. She felt her joints crush between her growing bones. She felt the hairs pierce out like billions of bee stings. Her spine cracked and bent forward and the smell of rotting meat overwhelmed her. She looked at the visages surrounding her and sensed their terror. She leapt from the fire and grabbed one of them by the torso. A thought came to her: Great Mamba, but she had no idea what it meant, she had no understanding of language other than the obscure formation of sounds. The sky cast a green shadow and she tossed the tiny body through the fire. It went through the fire and past it, blazing alight and colliding with one of the little straw huts that ignited on impact.


The little creatures surrounding her were chanting something, “Negoogunogumbar,” and she thought it was aimed at her. It made her angrier, and she swiped a hand along the floor, killing four more of them.


Then she focused on another. A smaller one than the first, one associated with the sound “Brother.” She looked at it. It wasn’t running like the rest. It was idle and whimpering. It held something in its hand. It dipped its hand inside this thing and threw the contents at her. It landed in her snout. She inhaled it, and the sweet consistency burned her nostrils. It worked its way into her brain, and she vomited.


She grabbed the little creature and waved it in the air.


“Let me down, Jade!”


She wanted to kill this thing, shred it to pieces, maybe eat it, but something stopped her, and every moment that passed the thing appeared to grow.


It wasn’t growing; she was shrinking. So small now that she couldn’t fit the thing into her mouth, and then even smaller until she was smaller than it. Her body was hairless and she now looked similar to all the frightened faces around her.


“Jade, are you okay?” the thing said.


She choked out pieces of meat with her hands on her knees.


One of the things ran at her and struck her leg with a large stick.


The thing and brother shouted at one another. The thing left brother alone with her.


“…Jade?”


She was frightened. The faces around her no longer seemed to be scared. They appeared relieved and angry and vengeful. She was weak, and had no idea what “Jade” was, but was worried it might mean harm to her.


She limped away from the light, away from the creatures that had somehow mutated her into their form. She scampered deep into the forest on all fours, and found a cave to hide in.


She prayed the beasts could not find her.
 


© Copyright 2019 Obscure. All rights reserved.

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