by William Henderson, 17, St. Anthony’s Secondary School
THE NIGHT was preternaturally quiet. Not a breath of wind sighed among the trees. Not a creature stirred, and the silence was consuming. It seemed as if all sound had been stolen from the world. There I sat at my bedroom window in the pitch dark – lest the beast find me in the light – watching and waiting for a sign.
It was when the clock struck midnight – the witching hour – that all sound came flooding back to the world, like a river bursting though a dam. Thunder rolled, trees swayed in the gales that came from nowhere, bats screeched, dogs howled eerily, and everything came back to life. The silence was the deep breath before the plunge; the return of sound was the point of no return, when the beast was coming and the only thing to do now was defend yourself. And it always happened at midnight.
This unnamed abomination of nature had been hunting me here on the island of Barbados ever since I was little, and only my grandmother and I were capable of seeing it; which made it even more dangerous.
Family legend claims that centuries ago, an ancestor of my father stole treasure from a pirate who docked in Barbados to wait out a storm. The beast was born from a pirate’s desire for revenge, to ensure that no one ever enjoyed the stolen riches. This beast has reckoned with my family ever since and has been attributed as the cause of the tragic ends met by the members of my lineage.
It had almost killed me multiple times, and my life had only been spared by some grace of God. In those days I had been nothing more than a little child, and I was scared to death of the creature; I was impotent and weak.
The last time I had seen the beast was eight years ago, when I was only ten years old. That was also the last time it had failed to kill me, and the time I had actually managed to harm it. It had kept its distance since then, afraid of the fighter that was growing inside me. But little did it know that while it bode its time, I only grew stronger and more fearless. I did not forgive it, and I most certainly did not forget it. Now, eight years later, it returned for one final showdown. But there were two differences this time around; I wasn’t a little kid anymore, and the beast was no longer the only one out for blood.
I peered outside. It was stormy, but there wasn’t any sign of the beast yet. But I knew it was coming. I looked down at the long dagger I held in my hand; the hilt was comfortable and wrapped in leather, the blade was everlastingly sharp and still stained from when I had sliced the hide of the beast eight years ago.
My grandmother had given it to me as she lay on her deathbed. She told me that it had hunted her too. But she had escaped and kept it at bay by showing no fear.
As a young boy facing an ancient horror, that was no easy task. But when I at last wounded the beast after I managed to find the courage to seek it out on one cold, stormy night in the woods behind my house, a warrior awoke inside me, and the beast could feel it; and it was frightened by it. It was so frightened, in fact, that it had stayed away for eight years, either hoping that I would grow weak and forget about it, or hoping that it would grow strong enough to kill me without resistance.
As I looked out the window into the dark night, I had a sudden feeling that the beast wouldn’t come to me. It wanted me to go to it. Perhaps it figured that if it were going to die, it would do it on its own terms.
I soon found myself walking through the thick, high woods behind my house, the dagger in my hand reflecting the moonlight. I could almost sense the beast’s discomfort; the hunter had become the hunted. But I did not let my guard down no matter what. I hadn’t come this far and fought so hard to be brought down by some cunning trick.
I stopped at last in a large glade where the light of the moon and the stars poured down in silver beams. The dark forest surrounded me like an impenetrable wall of night. I didn’t need to go any further. The beast was near.
“Show yourself!” I commanded. “It’s time to end this.”
From the perpetual blackness before me, the beast emerged in all its grotesque, feline glory; eyes as black as bottomless pits, rows of jagged teeth stained with the blood of the innocent, a tiger-like body rippling with lean muscle, long, untamed claws and silky black fur, and a hide which still bore the scar of when my dagger made its mark eight years ago.
The beast looked at me – perhaps it was wondering why I had come to kill it in my pajamas – but then its eyes wandered down to the dagger in my hand, and I could almost smell its fear. With a surge of confidence, I brandished my bloodstained weapon menacingly and charged forward with a fearsome battle roar.
The battle ended swiftly. Once I was no longer afraid, there was only so much that it could do to me. I didn’t leave the battle unscathed; I would forever bear the scars of that battle. But I gained the upper hand, and after a great struggle, I pierced the beast’s heart. The fire in its eyes died, and at last, the beast, which had hunted my forbearers and me for so long, was no more.
ABOUT the story: “I visited Barbados (last summer), and this story is inspired by that visit…Just being in this wonderful island made me feel inspired and creative and led me to write this story.” This work of fiction is second placed in the 13-17 age category of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize 2020 Challenge.
ABOUT the author:
ABOUT prizes won:
Prizes – Patrons:
EC$200 – Lawrence Jardine (founder and technical director of the Antigua and Barbuda Youth Enlightenment Academy); signed copy of Musical Youth (hard cover edition) by Joanne C. Hillhouse
Each winner is also set to receive a certificate, a selection of books from The Best of Books Bookstore and cultural items from the Cultural Development Division – Antigua and Barbuda.
For the full breakdown of ‘who won what’, if not linked (yet), use the site’s search feature.
ABOUT Wadadli Pen: The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize launched in 2004 with a writing Challenge that continues 16 years later. It is Wadadli Pen’s pilot project, in keeping with its mandate to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda, encouraging writers (and visual artists) in Antigua and Barbuda (35 years and younger) to create a piece on any topic, within a Caribbean aesthetic. In 2020, there was also an Imagine a Future climate change challenge. To support the work of Wadadli Pen, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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