A Song for the Monsters
The three sisters scan the horizon for signs of the monsters. They see it in the distance, nothing more than a smudge at first but becoming larger all the time. When it’s closer, it materialises into a long and narrow beast that crests the waves with ease, its giant wings unfurled over its head. The monsters that ride aboard this beast have twisted faces with skins of burnt coal and fangs of unpolished gold. Matted fur crowns their lecherous eyes and they howl like the creatures of the night. The wind carries their stench to shore and the sisters shiver.
This could be it, one of them whispers. These could be the monsters who will reach the shore and tear into us with their claws.
Hush, my sister, says another. We cannot let despair take hold of us.
Aye, says the third. Let us keep the faith and sing.
So they sing. Their voices are sweet and powerful, rising about the rancid stink of the monsters. They sing of hope, and of the beauty of a world they have not seen in a long time. They praise the grace of the gods in their unassailable mountain but say nothing of their capriciousness. Their singing, its unfettered happiness, enrages the monsters. They howl in agony and work even harder to reach the shore. The sisters continue to sing, now praying to the sky and the ocean to protect them from the harm inching towards them. Like any other parents, they listen to the distress of their daughters and gather themselves to repel the invaders. The ocean roils and sends up a salty spray that stings and blinds the monsters. The sky sends a gust of wind so strong it tears into the beast’s leathery wings. Clouds gather overhead, the waves become rougher and as the singing of the sisters reaches its tremulous climax, a shard of lightning descends from the heavens to strike the monsters. Their charred remains are swallowed by the ocean’s maw, cleansing the world above of their presence forever.
The sisters stop singing and hold each other, reaching out their hands as far as the manacles that bind their wrists permit them to. They lay their heads down and slip into the slumber of the tired, the nubs of their torn wings twitching as they are haunted by the dreams of a distant past.
They wake up with their faces streaked with the passage of the tears shed in their sleep. They squint at the horizon and feel their hearts shrivel at the sight of another beast making its way towards them.
Will this never cease?
You know how fickle the gods can be, my sister. Mark my words, one of these days, they will send brave humans to break our chains.
Sing, my sisters. Let us not waste our breath on idle dreams.
They start singing again. The ocean and the sky darken at their behest but the monsters, showing a sense that none of their forbears ever exhibited, steer their beast away from the shore. Only one voice protests, a lone monster strapped to the beast’s head with enough rope to hang a hundred men. This monster’s cries rend the air as it thrashes around in anguish. Its brethren ignore it and whip the beast until it turns away and charts a course for the open sea. The last thing the sisters see are the eyes of the shackled monster, filled with insatiable anger and longing.
They treat their own kind like wretches.
That one was more savage than the rest. His companions were docile, not rabid like the monsters we have seen so far.
Hush, my sisters. Sleep now and rest your voices. There could be more monsters coming our way on the morrow.
Ajay Patri is a lawyer and writer from Bangalore, India. His work has appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Eunoia Review, Every Day Fiction, Star 82 Review, Spelk, and Literary Orphans, among others.
(Next: Words by Daniel W. Thompson)
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