Into the trees, I scurry as fast as my little legs will take me. I’m eager, but I’m good prey. Mostly, I’m hoping I’ll be found. Being a pig doesn’t have very many bright sides, I’ve realized. But I knew these forests and these forests knew me. They have seen all my secrets, and they would tell all if they could. My story, or any story told really, doesn’t simply begin and end—it just starts and stops.
And this isn’t where mine has ended.
Cressa-la hasn’t seen the last of me, and neither has my old friend, Tamir. They have destroyed everything I worked so hard to build. I killed my father for this. I killed a Revli Tribe Leader for this. Those lives lost will not be in vain.
And my revenge on the world will come to a close. I will prevail.
I scurry along the forest floor, trying to sniff out my old home, the one that had taught me so much. Grotesque grunts erupt from my snout every so often as I hurry along on my stubby, scraggily legs. It’s incredible I can even go the speed I’m going; Cressa-la must have overlooked the positive qualities about wild pigs—or perhaps she just didn’t know. Either way, her ignorance is what will do her in at the end of this journey. Just like Tamir. He was supposed to meet his Maker long ago.
I remember looking over the cliff as he fell, the water swallowing him like the darkness snuffs the light at night. There was a spasm of worry for him, but I suppressed it. He stole my world, and no longer was his a survivor, at my hands. He was gone forever, or so I’d hoped. I’d contemplated what I’d say to Amawa-na: perhaps that he fell, or the cliff crumbled from underneath him. She would never know the truth of what I had done, not for her sake, but for mine. She’d abandon me if she knew and I’d forever be alone.
The village came into view, then, once the deed was done, and I quickened my pace. Acting wasn’t a forte of mine, but it was necessary. I had to pull the pity card and let everything fall into place.
Amawa-na jumped as I burst through the door, the wood slamming against a wooden chest. I’d started breathing quickly before I entered, giving the image of panic as I spoke, just like I would later, when the Revli Tribe would become my target.
“Tamir-in—it’s—he fell into the water.”
“What?” she demanded as her eyes filled with worry. She nearly fell off Tamir’s bed.
“We were talking and he tripped. He plummeted down to the water.”
“What?” she asked again, more horrified than before. I could tell she’d been crying. “Show me!”
“Let’s not,” I urged, gripping her forearm as she attempted to squeeze past me. “I don’t want to relive the pain.”
Something in her eyes told me she didn’t believe my lie.
“Show me,” she demanded darkly, anger seeping into her voice. It was as if she was accusing me of his death. Rightfully so, but dangerously treasonous when facing someone like me. I forced down the anger collapsing the walls of acting I’d placed up just before entering, and swallowed my pride. Let her accuse me, I convinced myself. There’s nothing it can change now.
I exhaled and we jogged to the cliff, my heart pounding in my chest with anticipation as we neared. This moment could potentially ruin everything.
“Here we are,” I said to her as I moved aside a vine. She ducked under my arm and staggered out into the small clearing. Her eyes darted around, looking for signs of life, only she’d find none. He was dead and gone.
Amawa-na’s hand lifted to her mouth as a sob broke loose. She dropped to her knees, staring out at the dark horizon as the winds swept her black hair into tangles.
“No,” she uttered, unable to control the wavering in her voice. “He can’t be gone...”
I made my way over and sat beside her, ready to tend to her every need and be the one she wanted, the one she needed. Forever and always, no matter what.
She leaned into me, resting her head against my chest as the tears streamed down her cheeks in rivers. This would be it, the moment I chose her over even my destiny—I went out of my way to make her mine, to keep her by my side no matter what. If this didn’t reflect true love, I didn’t know what would. I’d killed for her.
I tried my best to keep the bitterness from my voice as I let her take ahold of my heart. She could soothe this beast inside, the one that was ripping my soul apart to get out, to finish my quest. And she would be the one to heal every scar… did she not understand that when Tamir left us in the woods? “He’s in a better place.”
Those words only seemed to make it worse as the sounds blubbering from her lips grew. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this... We were supposed to wed and we were supposed to be happy... he can’t be gone... I never got to tell him I loved him too.”
Her whisper was like a knife to my heart, the beast inside me smirking at my feeble self. She was meant to be with me, and yet she still longed for him to be by her side. He betrayed me, and she still wanted to be his. Would she never really be mine?
“Ow, Damian-sai, you’re hurting me,” she whimpered. I realized I’d been gripping her too tightly and I released her, temporary marks left from me on her pale skin.
“I can make you happy,” I suddenly said, trying to brighten the mood as my chest heaved itself further into darkness, the beast dragging the human part inside me away with Amawa-na’s every breath that was filled with rejection. “You can marry me.”
“I already said no, Damian-sai,” she sniffled.
“No, hadn’t answer me.”
She heavily breathed in.
“I will never leave you,” I promised. “You know I’m a man of my word.”
“Damian-sai, stop it,” she warned, her physicality growing colder.
“Don’t fight this,” I grumbled, trying to keep the ice from my voice as I felt the animal’s claws scrape across my heart and pull it to shreds.
“Damian-sai—our best friend just died!” She exclaimed, breaking away from my embrace. “Where is your heart?”
She stood up to go, turning to the trees. I quickly found my feet, fearful she’d get away and that I’d be lost to the beast inside. We were meant to be. We matched—the woman in the woods had said so, even if I was losing consciousness. That meant she belongs with no one but me—and I’d make sure it’d stay that way, no matter the cost. I loved her deeper than anyone could, and I felt it with each ache inside my body as she walked away.
“With you.” I reached out to her, my finger brushing her shoulder. “And it’s breaking for you. For Tamir. For us. You know how hard it is for me to show emotions. But I’m getting better at it.”
“By yelling at your best friend—” her voice was choked out my more tears, “and trying to take his fiancé—me,” she wiped a tear from her eye, “away from him by barging in the day before we were supposed to marry, and—”
Amawa-na fell into a fit of tears as I took a step closer. She backed away, putting several feet between us. The teeth of the animal sunk into my throat, cutting off the air to my lungs.
“I want to be alone right now,” she whispered, “and maybe you should be too.”
With that, she turned into the darkness and fled back to the village, pulling further from me than ever, and I felt the effects of her absence as the beast dragged me away.
I was suffocating without her.