The pain in Mallory’s hand was spreading. She clenched and unclenched her fist, trying to keep the blood flowing, trying to maintain control. It crept up her arm like ink drawing into a quill. The anxiety was welling in her stomach and twisting into hard, uncomfortable knots. She knew what was coming; it had happened many times before. She breathed, “be calm, just relax.” She laid her sketchpad out before her on the bed.
The pain persisted until a familiar numbness started to kick in; a sign that soon she would lose all control of her right hand. She continued to flex, opening and closing until the last bit of feeling drained away.
Her other hand lined up an army of drawing pencils. Not too sharp, for sometimes they broke midway through. The vision would be seen. It would etch itself into the paper with her blood if necessary, so she needed backups handy. She wedged a pencil into the clenched, lifeless fist that was now her drawing hand. Once ready, she guided it to the paper.
She looked on as her hand began tracing lines of its own accord. Slowly at first; gradually getting faster. She continued to breathe; soothing herself as best she could. What sight would the paper reveal this time? Serpentine shadows slithering over bloated limbs? The pleading faces of dismembered bodies? Or would it be the beast itself: the thing whose very countenance haunted her days and nights?
All of a sudden, the pencil began dashing madly about the page, pulling her this way and that. She leaned into the action; her mane of leonine hair spilling all around.
The pencil slashed into the blank whiteness; skirting in sweeping circles along the edges and dragging itself through the middle. It stabbed. It swooped. It flicked with strokes so light they could hardly be seen. It drilled oppressive angles that threatened to tear right through. She gasped from the exertion. Drops of sweat formed on her brow and began to rain down, splattering the image below.
This bizarre ritual carried on- for how long, she couldn’t say. There was no means to look away, no means to do anything but complete the drawing; or rather allow the drawing to complete itself.
Soon enough, it became clear what was appearing on the page. “Oh God, not again, please not again,” she pleaded through halted breaths. But there was no mistaking its grinning, canine jaws. Those eyes, bulging in its reptilian skull, secreted a milky, liquid rage. The beast drew closer with every vision and this time the contours of its head eclipsed all else in the picture.
After what seemed like an eternity, the drawing was at last finished. The agony released her. Her fingers loosened and the pencil rolled free. Mallory fell back against the wall, exhausted. She cradled her drawing hand; a faint sensation of life creeping back in.
But now the paper was starting to bleed. The pencil lines deepened and ran in inky black trails down the surface. The details filled in until the image before her was as vivid as a photograph. The beast was breathing; was alive. She might have been looking at it from the other side of an open window.
But this time its jaws held no victim. They hung open; cords of hungry saliva dangling down. Its eyes were locked on Mallory herself.
The beast heaved a long, hot breath that parted her bangs. It bowed its head as if it meant to spring. Then a low, menacing growl.
Mallory was frozen as she watched the page curve and arch on her sketch pad. Its fabric binding and thickening with the animal’s essence. The thing was coming through the drawing; was becoming the drawing. It gained depth and dimension and in no time it would be as real as she was.
In the terror and madness of that moment, Mallory lunged forward. Both hands again at her command, she grabbed the pulsating page; the surface now prickling with course fur. She dug in her nails and twisted at the edge with all her might. The beast’s eyes bulged wider than ever. It inhaled and let fly a screech so shrill it nearly ruptured her ear drums. Strands of her blonde hair crisped black in the heat of its breath.
She tumbled about, wrestling the burgeoning half-paper, half-monster. She kicked up the bedding; drawing pencils snapping under her knees. Never once loosening her grip, she rolled backwards off the bed and hit the carpeted floor hard; the monster screeching all the while.
When hot teeth pressed against her skin, she too began to scream. A scream of terror and madness and hatred for this thing that had killed so many and meant to kill her. Her bellow soon matched that of the beast’s and the two were nearly indiscernible.
All at once, she was struck by a lightning surge of strength unlike any she had ever known. The page began to tear. There was a horrible, wet snap of bone and meat as she ripped the thing clean in half. The drawing’s black liquid sprayed forth; covering her and everything else in its vicinity.
She scrambled about, dripping with blackness; grabbing and ripping at every last piece she could get her hands on. They came apart more easily each time as their life force drained away.
She awoke on the floor hours later. Moonlight streamed through the window. The black still caked her skin.
On the other side of the door, she heard kitchen sounds. Her aunt had come home.
She briefly considered how she would ever explain this. But then again, what did it matter? The beast was gone. It had come for her and she had destroyed it with her bare hands.
There would be other visions; no doubt there would be. But at last she was free of the thing that had tormented her for so long.
Justin DeFerbrache was born in Elkhart, Indiana and studied English Literature at Manchester University. He currently teaches English at a university in Northern China and writes poetry and short fiction in his spare time.