Something between the rocks glinted in the morning sunshine. Narl slipped through the rusty chain-link fence and picked his way across the field of debris. He scrambled over a pile of broken desks and reached carefully into the crevice. His fingers latched onto something smooth and he and pulled out a CD, still in its jewel case. It sparkled like a tiny circular rainbow in the sunlight. Narl smiled and put it in his pocket. He had no way of accessing whatever was on it, but with a little work, he knew he could turn it into something beautiful to offer her.
As he made his way back to the fence, Narl caught his reflection in what used to be the window of a university building. His grizzled beard softened the impact of seeing a face so riddled with scars, but contributed to an overall look that made many people whisper monster when they thought he couldn’t hear them. What they didn’t know was that the fallout from the Ending had gifted Narl with superior hearing. His blessing and his curse.
But she was different. Coralie didn’t see a monster when she looked at him. She saw the man he used to be, before he became Narl. The computer genius, the loving husband, the devoted father. She saw the man who lost everything, just like she did.
And he saw a leader. Strong, compassionate, and wise beyond her years. Narl would follow Coralie into the flames and lay down his life, if that was what it took. In the meantime, he brought her gifts to demonstrate his devotion.
Narl heard the crunch of feet on broken stone as he reached the fence. Whoever was coming was trying to be quiet, but Narl could hear the pebbles rubbing together under the weight of several different feet. His heart squeezed against his chest as his body squeezed through the fence. Narl’s scars didn’t just cover his face. His whole body was covered with them, a consequence of falling six storeys as his office tower collapsed around him. He survived, but was left with a bad limp, shackled by his twisted body. So Narl knew he would have to face whatever was coming around the corner.
A group of five teenage boys emerged from behind a broken slab of concrete. Their leader’s eyes gave away their game before he ever opened his mouth.
“Well if isn’t the monster,” the young man spoke confidently, clearly amused by himself. He turned to his friends, “I wonder if monsters bleed the same way we do?”
The other boys shrugged and snickered.
“Maybe we should find out?” The boy pulled a knife from his pocket. “After all, it would be good to know we can defend ourselves against monsters, right?”
Spurred on by his friends, the boy stepped closer to Narl, while his friends formed a semi-circle behind him. Narl stood in silence, awaiting the inevitable. The boy lifted the knife, gently touching Narl’s cheek. He traced the knife down one of Narl’s scars, then down his throat and onto his shoulder. The boy pressed the knife against the skin above Narl’s collarbone. Narl held his breath.
Suddenly, breaking the silence, a rush of wind came from behind Narl. He heard it before the boy even noticed, and moved to the side just as a beast leapt, knocking the boy down and pinning him in place.
The boys who were still standing stared over Narl’s shoulder in awe. He knew exactly what they were staring at. He could remember the first time he’d met her like it was yesterday. Small in stature but huge in presence, surrounded by her pack of dogs and hybrids, Coralie was truly something to behold.
She walked over to the group, placed her hand on Narl’s shoulder and met his gaze. “Are you okay?”
Narl nodded and she turned her attention to the boys.
“You don’t think there’s enough cruelty in our world?” Coralie asked, looking each one directly in the eye. One by one, they all lowered their gazes.
“Storm,” she addressed the dog that still had the leader pinned to the ground, “you can release now.”
Storm sat up and the boy scrambled to his feet. Coralie stepped into his space, “If there’s a next time, I will let my dogs show you as much mercy as you demonstrate.” Then she turned and took Narl’s hand, and they walked back to the camp together.
This is also my submission for the Speakeasy #126. You should really check it out—and not just because I’m the managing editor! It’s a fabulous creative writing community, with a great group of talented and supportive writers. We’d love to have you visit. You can read all the other fantastic submissions, then come back and vote for your three favourites on Thursday.
We had to open our piece with the following sentence: Something between the rocks glinted in the morning sunshine. And we had to reference this image: