Image taken from http://psd.fanextra.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/medusa8.jpg, courtesy of The Internet. To tell you more about what it depicts would be to give away a plot twist in the story.This was my midyear exam for my Creative Writing class this year.
It's been revised and expanded a bit, since that it was originally written in an hour and a half in a classroom on the Friday of exam week and that's hardly enough to do the concept justice. The prompt was an interesting one: we were to record our conversations over lunch the past few days and then use a bit of dialogue from that as the first sentence of our story. Or, in my case, the first line of dialogue.
I had all kinds of interesting sentences to choose from, including but not limited to "Now I'm a little bit mad"; "Because of course the maids would stay home and make juice while the men are off at war"; and "Hmm... maybe there was coercing involved?" But what did I end up going with?
Well, you're going to have to read the story to find out.
“The sun is burning my eyes,” the man whispered, gasping for air in between the words. He struggled to lift his withered hand, hoping that this would somehow stop his attacker and prevent his own impending doom. His efforts were in vain.
“You know, that is the most poetic thing a dying man has ever said to me.” The voice came from his left. The man tried to turn and get another look at his attacker, but his body had stopped responding to his commands a while ago. So the man only imagined closing his eyes, imagined gasping out his dying wish, imagined falling blissfully into a painless death. The man thought of his wife and his son and imagined that they were safe, that because of his death the universe would balance things out so that nothing bad would ever happen to them again. He only just managed to convince himself that this was true.
Cassandra Tarrianni glanced at her watch. Twenty seconds had passed. Ten more and the man would be dead. Best finish this up quickly, she thought with a sigh. She knelt down next to the body and grasped its hand.
Ice spread through the man's veins as energy spread through Cassandra's. She supposed it must be painful, to have one's life force drained, but it had to be done. This was how her kind survived.
After all the energy had transferred, Cassandra stood and walked out of the alleyway, newly invigorated. Unlike many of her kind, she did not care to linger around the corpses that she had created. She had no desire to mutilate empty shells of bodies for sport. She did not even wish to stay in the city where she had fed and laugh at the local authorities' pathetic attempts to track her down.
But then again, Cassandra Tarrianni was not like most of her kind. She found their methods of putting on grotesque, monster-like faces to scare the living daylights out of their prey disgusting, quite frankly. It was much more convenient to keep one's human face and blend in with the crowds. All she needed was a pair of gloves and a pair of sunglasses.
Cassandra Tarrianni liked disappearing, so disappear she did. She was not there to hear the weeping of the dead man's wife and the son's vow of revenge. She did not even know of the son's existence.
What she didn't know would end up killing her.
Cassandra Tarrianni, like the rest of her kind, was able to live for an extraordinarily long time. Seven years was less than a blink of an eye to her.
Seven years, however, was all it took for Xander Thomas Mallark, ten years old, son of a victim of the medusai, to turn into Xander Thomas Mallark, seventeen years old, monster expert and medusa-hunter. Seven years was all it took for a grief-stricken child's rash promise to become a distinct and frighteningly real possibility. In seven years, Xander had trained under all the masters and learned to identify and slay practically every type of monster in existence. But the medusai were the only ones he payed attention to, because Xander was determined that nothing was going to get in the way of him killing Cassandra Tarrianni.
In seven short years, he had even learned her name. Very few mortals throughout history had gained that knowledge and lived to tell the tale. But Xander Thomas Mallark was a clever, clever boy with only one purpose in his life: vengeance.
The medusa-hive's messenger was young—a century at most, though more likely around seventy years old—but what he lacked in age and experience he made up for in rank. His arrogant expression and the badge proudly pinned to his jacket marked him as a member of the elite guard that protected the hive queen. And he was here on hive business. Cassandra furrowed her brow. What did the local hive want with her?
“They're coming for you, Tarrianni,” said the messenger. No preface, no introductions, nothing. Well, this man certainly thought highly of himself.
“Who is?” asked Cassandra.
“A mortal monster-hunter and his companions.”
“So?” This was not an abnormal occurrence in the hive—young “heroes” often tried to prove themselves by wiping out a colony of monsters. Usually, they failed miserably.
“No, this is different. It's not us they're coming for, it's you. Just you. Her-” The messenger clasped his hands together and rocked back on his heels as a mortal passed by the door of the hotel room, and it was clear that his thoughts had just shifted to his next victim. Cassandra cleared her throat and the medusus snapped back to attention.
“Right. Sorry.” He muttered something under his breath and then began again. “Her Majesty wishes to know if you would like formal protection from the hive. We've done some background research and this hunter appears to have wiped out an entire colony of minotaurus near Manchester a year ago. He's very... determined to prove himself, it seems.”
Cassandra stared out the window at the busy street below, hands on her sunglasses. If she gained protection from the hive, then the queen would surely be expecting something in return. Cassandra wasn't sure if it would be something she would be able to give. And besides, she'd killed hunters before. It might be a bit of a struggle, but she'd always managed to come out on top. She had centuries of fighting practice. This hunter was only seventeen years old.
“No, thank you.” She let out a laugh. “Let them come. I'd like to see them try.”
The cave at the edge of the known universe was cold beyond belief, yet Xander did not shiver as he approached the lair. “Draconus!” he called out in what he hoped was a calm, clear voice. “Come out!”
A few seconds passed and then, without warning, the giant lizard was roaring in his face. Alaya grabbed Xander's arm and prepared to run for both of their lives, but Xander dug in his heels. “No,” he murmured. “I have to get through with this.”
Alaya always considered replying, “No, you don't. You and I can just go home and forget about these monsters and this Cassandra Tarrianni,” but she never said the words out loud. She knew that Xander would never forgive her if she did. This was his entire reason for living. If she took it away from him, Alaya wasn't sure if there would be anything left.
Xander stepped forward, hand on his sword. The draconus hissed, “Food?”
“No, not food,” said Xander. “No food, and not a challenge, either. I've come because I want to solidify a supernatural pact, and I'm told dragons—sorry, sorry, draco—are the only ones that can do that.”
The draconus moved closer, tilting its head. It began to laugh, a cold, unnatural sound that sent shivers up even Xander's spine. “You, a mortal? Wish to become a nemesis?” Another laugh. “Do you have a death wish?”
Xander shook his head, drawing his sword. “I've killed supernaturals before. I can do it again.”
“Was that a threat?” No response from Xander. “Very well, then, show me your arm. And who do you wish to enter into this pact with?”
“Cassandra Tarrianni, a medusa.”
“Ah. She won't like that.” The draconus smiled. “Mortal female, you might want to look away. The light will probably be too bright for your eyes.”
Alaya hated his condescending tone, but covered her eyes and prayed, once again, that Xander would back out of this. The fact that the dragon had immediately asked if Xander was suicidal did not bode well for anyone involved.
There was a flash of light, a scream of pain, and then Xander had a brand new magical scar on his arm.
The girl was small, blond, weak, and all too easily eliminated. She didn't even have much life energy left to drain. Cassandra couldn't comprehend why the hunter cared about her so much.
The hunter lunged anyway, roaring at the top of his lungs. It was clear that he was trying to say something, but the message was too distorted by sobs to be clearly understood. The only words Cassandra could make out were, “You... monster...”
“Yes, and?” said Cassandra, a wry smile twisting its way onto her face as she dodged the attack and countered with one of her own. “I'm a monster. You're a mortal. Those are established facts. I kill you, you try to kill me and fail. Life goes on.”
There was a pause, and then it was the hunter's turn to smile. “Think again.” He rolled up the left sleeve of his shirt to reveal a long scar, too perfectly carved to be a battle scar. No, this was the work of the draco.
Cassandra's black eyes widened, and she reached to grab his face to turn it toward her so that he would be forced to look into her eyes, because she knew all too well what that sign meant. This hunter, this Xander Thomas Mallark, was playing a risky game. He'd gone to the draco and made a blood oath. He had become her nemesis. Which meant that only one of them could come out of this battle alive.
And it was going to be her—
Xander struggled to resist the medusa's grip, refusing to look into her eyes and be lost to the world forever. He tightened his grip on his sword, closed his eyes, and cried out, “And now in the heart!”
Cassandra stumbled back, hands flying to her chest, but Xander swung his blade around at an angle that sliced through Cassandra's unprotected neck. He could hear her head falling to the floor, but he continued to stab at the monster anyway, screaming in fury. “This is for Dad!” Stab. “And Mom!” Stab. “And Alaya!” Stab. “And Uncle Hector!” Stab.
Cassandra Tarrianni had always assumed that, if she died, her own death would be as agonizing as those of her victims. She had been wrong. As all the borrowed life energy flowed out of her veins and into Xander Thomas Mallark, she didn't feel a thing.