“Meat for the Beast” appears in Encounters Magazine #14.
An Excerpt from “Meat for the Beast.”
We huddled over the fire with our blankets tight around us and talked of the events of the last few days.
Franklin was in a foul mood and spoke of the end of everything. “I had me a dream,” he ranted as we passed around the beans and meager bits of a rabbit that Reynolds had caught in the bush. “In the dream, death was a looming figure. A creature that stood near me on the battlefield.”
Franklin stood and lifted his hands like a fire and brimstone preacher. “In this nightmare, my courage was more than it would be now. I walked towar’ the Beast, for a beast it was, shrouded in darkness. As I got closer I could see the dark red gore crusting its body.”
He rubbed his hands down his sides as if he was covering himself in the blood he spoke of. I shuddered and pulled my blanket closer around me.
“Shut your lying mouth, horse thief or I’ll gladly shut it for you!” called out Ashwood, and I could hear in his voice that he was as chilled as I.
“I asked it,” Franklin continued without even hesitating at Ashwood’s warning. “I asked it what was the mean’en a war?”
“Ha!” barked Fields nervously. “You have a question for death and you ask it something that no one…”
“HE ANSWERED!!” Franklin screamed, more like a wild animal than a man. There was fear in his voice and in my spine as well.
“Dammit, Man!” Someone shouted back as we all sat frozen by his scream.
Franklin stepped back from the fire and brought his hand across his body to take us all in. “Death raised one large arm covered in thick black hair and swept it across the men gathered. His voice was so deep, I knowed I could never make you understand what it sounded like. It vibrated like what an earthquake feels like. Like a loss of control, of falling in a pit with no bottom.”
Franklin paused for a moment and I could feel the tension around the fire.
“What the hell did it say, man?” I asked.
“MEAT!” It said. Franklin held his head proud, like he was a prophet being told the secrets of the dark universe. “YOU ARE ALL MEAT.”
Franklin looked down at all of us. “Then he turned his head toward me and I saw the white tusks jutting out from his huge mouth. His eyes had a fire in them, that would consume me, but I could not look away. He looked at me and his mouth opened for speech once more. ‘WAR PROVIDES MEAT FOR THE BEAST!’”
We fell into nervous, but relieved, laughter at Franklin’s ludicrous ravings.
He smiled weakly as he sat back down and took his turn at the food. “That’s when I woke. I woke to a playing of the bands and the feeling of a spook or omen. Something telling me I’d fall in the coming fight, but here I am. The Blues seemed to ignore me. As many that died, and I killed my share, but never even felt as much as a bullet break the air around me.” Franklin shook his head seeming like a man lost, “Never a one.”