now him the prey; The Unmaking of Arimaonga

by Francesca Hurtado

Dawn rises, and with it, the tide of our fury.


Sun rears her blood-orange head and greets us, tells us
she kissed Moon before she left for work today, tells us
she worries it is the last time she will ever kiss Moon.
We tell her no.
We tell her today is, instead, the last time she will be afraid to set,
the last time she will worry that Dusk will come for her
leaving nothing but the fire of a solitude
born of unspeakable loss.
Because today, we face Arimaonga, the Tiger of Heaven.
Today, we wage a war for the skies.
Today, we save Moon.


It was not always this way.
Once, Arimaonga shone, his soul afire with joy and mischief,
and his laughter birthed the stars.
But loneliness crept in and settled,
deep in the folds of his heart,
and it drove him mad.
No longer was he shining,
soul less joy than embittered mania,
laughter less star than jagged rock,
cruelty bubbling up through the fault lines in his sanity.


And suddenly, he is here.
Arimaonga.
Banisher of Light. Desolator of the Skies. Tyrant-Upon-the-Clouds.
Our foe.
All tooth and viscera, claw and ash,
him, the smoke rising from the pyre of a dusk-dream,
him, the fang embedded in this wound of a world,
him, the anger blinding our million million eyes.


Arimaonga, who makes a game
of devouring worlds, who has sworn
to swallow the Moon.
Arimaonga, wild and starving.


He paces, mordant,
a reliquary of attrition,
the most natural disaster;
claws slicing through the breastplate of heaven,
tongue slick with malevolence and
the debris of a far-off constellation,
tail a foregone conclusion of violence,
swishing stardust and
hungry.

He is restless,
mouth waiting, mouth
fire.
He knows why we are here.
He knows the fight has come to him.


We swarm, sentinel to this earth,
a savage cluster, a legion of dread, our anger reflected
in the fire upon the sea.
And in the last lonely shadow of the Sun, we rise to meet him.


And we collide.


Rain quakes like whiplash on the horizon,
and we are torn asunder.
Him the predator,
and us the prey.
He roars, a paean of malediction,
tearing the breath from us as he rips through our defenses.
Blood pools around us before falling to the earth.
The soil will grow rich with our loss.
Night stares back at us, like the gaping gore of a cherry pit.
There are shadows within shadows, nesting
amongst each other, darkness willing us to succumb.
And in the unravelling, the silence punctuated
by the sundered gasps of our falling, our fallen, our felled,
we count the dead.


It is bleak.


We watch Moon fold inwards,
a tessellation of goodbyes,
resigned and waiting to become
just another skidmark on the cosmic wasteland,
her absence the landmark
of his victory.


And here we are, drowning in brokenness,
our cries lost to the stratosphere,
withered and bewildered
and decimated.
We sink beneath the clouds
and agony blooms across us.


It is devastatingly bleak.


And right before it comes upon us, we realise
there is a moment.

One heavy with hope.
And there it is, hanging in between us, the last chance left
to do something. Anything.
We could grasp it, right now, while Arimaonga still holds victory between his teeth.
Or we could wait
until we are strong enough again to survive
the recklessness of such an attempt, of such a wild thing
as hope.


We know it only lasts a moment, this hope.
Afterwards
is a luxury saved for survivors.
To wait for reason to catch up with destiny
is to let destiny slip on by.
Now will turn to never.
Now will be out of reach.
But if we wait,
then tomorrow is already written.
And we will be left to paper the cracks of the sky
with apology, bloody and bruised,
eyes watering
as we stare at Sun and claim
there was nothing else to be done.


But there is still now.
And in this moment hope is alive, and so are we.
Now is not yet never.
Now is not yet out of reach.


There is nothing else to be done.
And so we swarm the moon,
racing against an anxious sky,
a wall of waking thorns,
thundering upwards,
our bodies cresting,
a siege upon light.
Arimaonga approaches. Greedy. Rasping.
His shadow a scar upon the heavens.
His laughter fracturing our will.


We jump into the tiger’s mouth.


We are all that remains; the last imperfect soldiers primed
and willing to storm this great hulking beast.
We are a shadow hissing in the gloom,
glinting hard in the light before losing
ourselves into full-on predation,
now him the prey,

both of us the monster underneath
the flowerbed of the world.


We erode him from the inside out.
Our hands are iron forged in fury,
the steady, indomitable swelling of our tides inescapable.
We swarm, cocooned in his roiling flesh,
blistering our way underneath his skin,
etching retribution down the inside of his body,


Arimaonga cannot howl in pain,
for we coat the inside of his throat,
a wicked surge of vengeance, relentless
in our demand for his final silence.


We feast on his heart.
Nobody hears him scream.


And at last when it is done,
we know it for its hush.
Body warped and body wilted, there is nothing left
of what once was the Tiger of Heaven.
We crawl out through the gash,
us, pinpricks of darkness pouring through the jagged crack of starlight,
us, many-limbed and many-eyed and weary, worn,
us, old teeth and a storm of justice.


We cascade, spilling out of the seam,
out of the crucible of blue light, gleaming,
drenched in ichor, the gold dripping off us all
staining a pathway from heaven to earth,
the only other proof of the retribution we have won today;
our love-letter to safety.
Tonight, we have saved Moon.


Dawn rises, and with it, the tide of our relief.

Francesca has a degree in Architecture, with a specialty in Tropical Architecture. Her writing background leans towards poetry and essay-writing, but lately she's been working on writing her own epic fantasy novel. She also paints watercolours and does calligraphy. P.S. She loves dragons. She can be found on twitter @neonscribbles, instagram @neon.scribbles, and facebook @neonscribblesPH.

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