Azad

Up in the Mountain, there lived Azad. Azad was a Monster. He was sure of that, because her mother had told him so.

“Azad, you’re a Monster. I’ll teach you how to behave like a proper Monster should,” she had said. But his mother had left one day, and she had never come back. Azad waited and waited for his mother to return. At first Azad was worried, but she had already taught him which fruits and plants he could eat, so he didn’t starve.

In the end, Azad grew accustomed to being alone, up in his mountain. It was called the Mountain, by the way, but Azad didn’t know it. To him, it was home.

And he wasn’t really alone. He had birds to keep him company. He liked talking to the birds. They talked about many things: about the clouds and the Sun and the sky. About the moon and the stars in the night. About what the birds felt when they flied.

The birds told him about other animals, animals that couldn’t fly that lived down below.

Azad told them about how he wanted to become a Monster.

“Why?” the Eagle asked Azad one day.

“Mother told me so,” Azad said. “Do you know how to be a Monster?”

“Well, not really, no. I’ve heard a Monster should be mean to others. Evil. I know nothing about that.”

“I have seen you kill other birds. Isn’t that evil?” Azad asked.

“It’s my nature,” the Eagle said. “And I never hunt for sport. I do it to feed myself and my children. Everybody does it. Some of us eat plants, some of us feed on others.”

Azad said nothing.

“You have talons, like I do,” the Eagle said. “And wings like I do. Perhaps you should try hunting for food. Maybe that’s what you should do to be a Monster.”

“But you just said doing that doesn’t make you a Monster.”

“It doesn’t make me a Monster,” the Eagle said. “Perhaps it does make you a Monster.”

Azad thought about it.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said finally. “There must be something more.” And he turned to leave.”

“Azad!”, the Eagle told him. “Maybe the Lion knows. He’s the greatest hunter down there.”

“Thanks,” Azad said.

Azad looked at himself on the surface of a puddle. He did have large wings, like the Eagle, but he had never flown before. He tried flapping his wings, faster and faster, and started running. A powerful wind came and took him away.

At first Azad was afraid, but he realized he just needed to keep flapping his wings to stay aloft. Looking down, he saw his mountain, and he saw many more things. He saw valleys and fields and rivers, hills and forests. And more mountains far away in the distance.

Perhaps I’ll find lions down there and they’ll know how to become a Monster, he thought.

He didn’t realize he was no longer flapping. He was now gliding high above the clouds. He could see other birds, even the Eagle, down there. They seemed small.

Azad reached a decision: he would go down and see if he could find a lion and ask him how to become a proper Monster. Therefore, he started a large circle in the air, descending slowly as he made it. A Monster he may become, but he would enjoy it as much as he could.

On the plain Azad saw a Lion. It must be a Lion: the birds had described him. Large, tan-coloured, with a wild mane around his head. Small ears, a terrible-looking mouth. Azad heard something that almost froze him. Ah yes, and an awe-inspiring roar.

Azad swooped down and landed near the Lion. The Lion didn’t like it and roared, but Azad spoke:

“Sorry, I didn’t intend to frighten you,” Azad said. “Are you a Lion?”

The Lion eyed him suspiciously.

“Aye, a Lion I am. Who are you?”

“I’m Azad. I’m a Monster. Well, I’d like to be. I don’t really know how to be a Monster. The Eagle told me I had to be mean to others. Evil. Or perhaps I should hunt and eat other animals.”

“Well, I don’t know about it,” the Lion said. “But you certainly seem well equipped for hunting. You have a body like mine, and paws like mine.”

“I do?” Azad said. “But I’ve never hunted anyone! And I’m not sure I want to start doing it now.”

“Well, I cannot help you more. But perhaps the Scorpion can. They say he’s quite mean.”

“Scorpion?” Azad said. “How does he look like?”

“I’ll show you,” the Lion said.

Azad walked beside the Lion, because he didn’t think it was polite to fly when the other animal couldn’t. They went up and down some hills, and finally the Lion stopped.

“There he is,” he said.

At first Azad didn’t see anything, but then he realized that the Scorpion was really quite small. He was a nice shade of orange, and had a tail that ended in a sting.

“Hello, my name is Azad,” Azad said. He noticed the Lion had quietly left.

“Hello. I’m Scorpion. How do you do?”

“How do you do?”

“Can I help you?” Scorpion offered.

“Yes, please. I’d like to know if you can teach me to be mean. I am a Monster, you see. I need to learn that.”

“How could I, pray tell?” Scorpion asked.

“I was told you’re mean… Perhaps it was an error?”

“It was. People fear my sting; that’s why they may say I’m mean. But I only use it to defend myself. How do you use yours?”

“Oh. I have a sting?”

“Yes. Your tail is like mine.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Well, now you do. I’ll give you a piece of advice: if you want to learn how to be mean, seek the humans. They know that.”

“Thank you, Scorpion.”

Azad took off, and flew around, looking down searching for humans. He had a vague idea of how they looked.

So it was that he saw several shapes down below he couldn’t quite identify. As Azad swooped down to investigate, he observed a large human (for he was sure now that they were humans) towering over several smaller ones. The large human wielded some kind of weapon, and moved his arm repeatedly up and down, hitting the small ones. All of them spoke in their own language, but Azad discovered he didn’t understand Human.

Azad had never felt rage before in his life, so he couldn’t know what it was. He felt it, boiling up inside, making his blood go hot. Wings extended, he glided down, and without even knowing how, he opened his mouth and a gush of flame burst from it. The blaze charred the large human’s clothes, and he ran away screaming.

The other humans cowered, trying to escape as well. Azad landed amidst a cloud of flame and smoke. He was surprised: he didn’t know he could breathe fire. In fact, he knew of no creature who could. Surely that was the mark of a Monster, he thought.

He looked at the small humans who were trying to scurry away. He saw they were bloodied, and felt the rage growing again inside himself. Azad started making cooing sounds, trying to calm himself down. One of the humans stared at him. Azad remained still, and lowered his head, inviting the human to get closer. He thought it was a young female.

She approached, one little step after another, until she stood beside Azad. Slowly, she extended a hand, and caressed Azad’s head. Azad didn’t move: he didn’t want to scare her away.

He then heard a roar and felt a sharp pain in his side. Azad reared. He saw the young female human tumble, and the adult one, who was back and attacking him with some shiny weapon. Azad felt the pain once again, and felt blood pour from the two wounds he had sustained.

Azad howled and twisted his body, hitting the adult. He lashed out with his paws, but it was his tail that landed a blow, the sting in its end biting the human’s flesh.

Azad stared in horror as the human stopped attacking and fell to the ground. He went blue, then violet, then stopped moving.

He was dead.

Azad felt bad. He had taken a life for the first time. He didn’t like it. Perhaps this was what being mean meant. Perhaps Scorpion was right: Azad had needed to meet the humans to learn it.

Azad searched for the young female. She lied on the floor, unmoving. Blood poured from her head. Azad howled again.

Now he understood.

~~~~

This is my entry for this week’s Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Create Your Own Monster. The challenge was to write 1500 words creating a monster, giving it a name, a story.

I almost couldn’t make it. It’s taken me ages to come up with a monster and a story, and I’m not completely happy with it. But here it is.