Fifth Winter

Blood gushes from my prey, leaving a trail of crimson in the snow. The post-kill feelings are exhilarating, and I find myself running faster and faster. I feel euphoric, and I almost forget that there are men in pursuit who are trying to kill me.

Five minutes ago the meat currently clenched in my jaws was alive. He had thoughts, emotions, and hell, he probably had a family.

Adrenaline courses through my veins. It’s been a while since I felt this good. Most days I feel as if I were designed to do nothing but kill and run. Some days I like that about myself. A cliff with a steep drop off is ahead, but I don’t slow down. I speed up. I’m feeling invincible, so I spread my wings wide and leap from the cliff.

I’m so high off the rush that I’m not paying attention and I end up crashing into a tree. I’ve got enough speed and mass that I win that matchup. The crash echoes loudly throughout the forest, but the hunters behind me can’t cross the gap fast enough to catch me. It’s good for everyone involved, really. They can get an earlier start on planning the funeral and I can enjoy my meal in peace.

Graceful is not among the list of words I would use to describe myself. I’m a mass of muscle, claws, fangs, and matted fur. I’m mostly a Wolf, but I’ve also got wings, and talons, and — see, I never had a chance to ask my parents about our family history.

My wings are large, awkward, and heavy — much like the rest of me — so I don’t really fly. I’d like to say that I glide, but I’m aware that’s being generous. In any case, it’s enough of a lift to take shortcuts that separate me from my pursuers. With the immediate threat gone, I sink my teeth into my meal and savor each juicy bite.

I told myself I wouldn’t kill a person again, but this is hardly the first time I’ve fallen back on that promise. And since he’s already dead, there’s no point in feeling guilty. It’s not like feeling remorse will make him not dead. It’s not like I can go back there and apologize to his children. I don’t think they want to hear an apology from The Beast who killed their father.

That’s what they call me: “The Beast.” The townspeople I mean — and I say people because almost all of them are people there. Some would say “Pures,” but that word doesn’t sit well with me. Most of them are too poor to own Synthetics and I ate all the animals.

The thing about this name is I can’t seem to get rid of it. Nobody has ever called me anything but “The Beast,” and any names I tried to give myself didn’t stick. Beast just suits me I guess. It suits what I do at least. Beasts are evil, and beasts don’t feel remorse. A beast is a monster, and monsters devour and destroy until someone stops them.

Some days I wish someone could stop me.