'Figment' by R.A. Martens

First, the air began to shake. Something was coming up the mountain. No surprise, in these troubled times. The villagers felt gassy and uncomfortable, as an old, familiar story began to fizz and bubble in their stomachs. This had happened before, to them or people like them, they were sure of it. It had been something threatening, hadn't it? There now: one villager had remembered the colour yellow; another, teeth; a third, a single red eye.  The beast began to form, lumbering towards them on the huge clawed feet imagined by another. A little girl knew there was the stink of rotten meat about the thing, and their noses wrinkled and twitched as the foul air drifted towards them.

A grandmother stepped forward to claim authority, having been there, she said, the first time.

"It is vicious, but eats only men," she announced.

So the men were hidden, protesting lightly, beneath the floorboards, until a little boy declared that it would go past the village, which it did. It paused by the well, shaking and flickering, and the men were pried from their hidey-holes to come and watch.

"Something must be done," said one of them. "I believe I have heard it secretes a deadly poison."

A mother pushed to the front. "Wait!" she called. "Listen – it has a cry like an abandoned child."

They listened. "I once read it is searching for a love that will never be found," she said, and the people sighed, hearts heavy with their own lost and broken loves.

The creature waited, and tasted the air. A little more talk of this kind, and it would cease to exist. There was muttering within the group, and ah! a tail grew, heavy and barbed. If that woman could keep her mouth shut, the others would soon make it strong and dangerous enough to take up weapons against. Weapons, it thought with furiously clustering brain cells; yes. Weapons, it thought as the people argued, and another row of knife-like teeth sprang from its gums; yes. Weapons; yes. Raise them up, we shall see who is a figment.


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