Devourer

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She was alone and beautiful.

The thin rays of the coal-red sun slanted through the oblivious pines. Her coat was bright, the colour of warnings. Her breath misted in a frosty veil in the air in front of her, breaking apart as she walked on through the deep dark woods. Needles crunched beneath her feet, the only sound in the forest.

I lifted my head and sniffed. Her aroma was intoxicating. The smell of fresh hay, pastoral and warm, clutched to her, so separate and clean, too much for the world of stench she inhabited. Fresh bread invaded my nostrils, still hot inside the basket she carried..

My ears flattened back against the fur of my neck. My tongue flicked out, ran across the ivory mountain range of my teeth, blood-heralds.

Somewhere in the forest, an owl cried out, a long, plaintive sound. The sun was down now, pink-death in the far east, beyond the village the girl came from, beyond the valley and the mountains and the sea, born down across the world by unknowable time. The girl took her path westwards and knew not what night she walked into. The bulbous, blind moon rose up ahead of her and took its place in the sky.

Pale moths skittered around in the deepening dusk, never settling for long, their bright eyes seeing only danger and fear. There were other smells in the forest now, beyond the usual detritus and rot of these ancient, sun-starved woodlands. Foxes  through the brush, badgers crawled and hedgehogs snuffled. All fled at my silent approach, rightly afraid of me, an animal unlike any other.

Without sound, I padded out onto the path. The trees above us were dense and let little light through. Gradual as approaching winter, I closed the gap between us, not needing the chase, enjoying my private approach to the defenceless girl in the red coat who didn’t listen to her parents’ warnings. My tongue lolled free outside of my mouth now, diamond-dew sliding out and onto the packed earth of the dangerous path.

At last, as if sensing her destination, the girl stepped out into a clearing through which the moonlight poured. Her world was monochrome now, even the brilliant crimson of her coat dulled into the deepest, inky black. She lowered her hood, let the dark locks of her hair spill out. Placing the basket of now-cold bread on the floor, she removed the coat, standing now in just her underclothes, exposed and naked before all the eyes of the night. The girl turned and saw the one splash of colour the world had to offer. My eyes, fire-bright, yellow and ethereal, shone into the darkness ahead of me as I closed the distance. It was cold now, and I could see the beads of her nipples beneath the muslin.

She let out no cry as I approached, stepping out into the moonlight forest-bed with her, revealing the muscular slope of my back, my upright ears, my questing, starving snout. Nor as I drew up with her, took in a great waft of that smell, fresh-hay and fear, and something deeper, something musky and intense. The girl reached out her hand.

She let out nothing but a whimper as my teeth crunched through her bones. Her hot blood spilling out of my mouth and falling onto the grass, breaking the wildflowers beneath her trembling feet. She gave no tear as I swallowed her flesh, moved up the arm, sunk my teeth deep, penetrating into her muscle, tearing the tendons from her. When, gorged with her pain, I clenched my mouth around her neck and squeezed until blood jetted out and her body went slack, she went with a look of ecstasy on her face.

I ate until my stomach was full of girl and my breath rancid with the metallic odour of fresh meat. What I left behind was barely a girl, her ribs exposed and broken, heart eaten out, abdomen a cavity for my desires. I bathed in the river, and her blood ran from my skin and darkened the waters.

I woke up in my house in the village the next day to the sound of wailing. There was an old lady outside, decrepit and near death, screaming and holding a red hood.

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