Before I dive into today’s story, I want to share a recent revelation. I’m not sure how exactly to describe it, but I’ll do my best. When I was younger, I couldn’t write anything without feeling frustrated. I couldn’t capture the stories in my head. I couldn’t seem to write anything with which I felt satisfied, no matter how often I wrote in my notebooks or how hard I worked. But that was the problem: I was trying too hard. I didn’t realize this until the other day. Here’s where the revelation comes in. I no longer have that problem. These days, I just write. I start with a prompt or something, and let the story thread out on its own. I can capture the stories in my head. I can express myself through story-writing. What a freeing thing to be able to do.
Everything dripped that day, the little trees crowded into their boxes along the curb, the black metal poles of the stoplights, the people that stood scowling under their umbrellas. Rain had deluged the city all night and all morning. Shallow lakes in the asphalt caught drivers and pedestrians by surprise. Scents of cigarette smoke and honeysuckle collided in the air.
I was late as usual. No matter how hard I tried, lateness always got the upper hand. Juggling my umbrella and travel mug, I passed a man sitting on a bench, muttering obscenities and angry words to himself. It seemed that everyone had some sort of monster inside them these days. Or were these people dying instead? Anyway, I was people-watching as I walked. I wasn’t paying attention to the alleys, or to the townhouses on the other side of the street. I was just walking.
The man stopped talking to himself. He sat motionless on his bench. The cars zooming past slowed to a stand-still. The life around me paused, expectant and—something else. Fearful. Even the smells disappeared, as if I had been caught in a bubble.
Looking around, utterly bewildered, I saw, in the middle of a radiating wave of empty stillness, the Monster. It hulked in an alley between two of the rowhouses, like a nightmare turned to flesh. I froze, terrified. Though the world around me had become blurred and indistinct, I saw the Monster clearly. It resembled both a wolf and a demon. Its hackles bristled with coarse hair and a row of spines. Dried blood encrusted its maw. Its red eyes seemed to take me in, as if the creature didn’t know what to do with me. The feeling was mutual. My brain had gone empty. I couldn’t even speak.
And then a word popped into my head. Barghests. I had read about them only days before. Supposedly they were omens of death that appeared at night. I knew the name of this monstrosity before me. But here, in the city? In daylight? Before I had even finished my tea?
The barghest rose from its haunches. I begged silently for it to stay where it was. But it threaded its way between the parked cars, between the immobile vehicles still lined up in the street, past the man in the bench, and straight to me.
I shut my eyes tightly.
“Don’t worry. I’ve already eaten. Besides, I don’t find you appetizing anyway.”
Had it just—had it talked? Could barghests talk?
“Don’t be alarmed. You’re not crazy. You’re like me. That’s how you can understand me.”
We stood together in the rain for a moment. I couldn’t say anything. The barghest looked at me with its red eyes.
“L-like you?” I managed to stammer. “How? You’re—”
“An omen of death? Yes. So are you, small human. So are you.”
A roar of noise barraged my ears, and I realized the world had started up again. The water dripping from trees, stoplights, umbrellas, people. The traffic. The smell of smoke and flowers.
The monster had disappeared, but its words echoed in my head. Me, an omen of death? That was utterly insane. I couldn’t even begin to believe it might be true.
This story didn’t unfold the way I expected. It sort of went off on its own. If you want to read more about the barghest, please see this page.