The chupacabra is in love. It knows this because it has lost all taste for goat, and desires only the sweet sound of its true love’s voice instead. It is the cruelest of ironies to the chupacabra that its true love is a goat herder. It is an irony still deeper that it never would have known of her existence if she was not.
The hills are a lonely place, especially where they surround the chupacabra’s cave. The chupacabra will never know whether they have been made lonely by its presence, or whether it sought this spot out precisely for its isolation. The only living things that come here are the goat herders and their goats–the chupacabra’s true love among them.
Esmerelda, the beast has heard her called. She suits her name, with a spill of black hair like darkest night and eyes greener than the grass her charges crop upon. She is a warrior, defending her goats with the ferocity of a demon. She is an angel; it is with the voice of Heaven that she sings to her herd to pass the time.
It is her song that draws the chupacabra. The tune is high and sweet and it burrows into the dark places where the creature has buried itself. The melody seeks beneath the shadows and pries open the monster’s eyes of blood and flame. Her voice finds a way to banish the scent of old bones and blood and rot as though they have never been.
The chupacabra, until this moment, has never realized that it is alone, but with her song it suddenly knows it is not lonely anymore. For the first time in an eternity the chupacabra creeps out of its cave. Though it clings to the shadows, it ventures close enough to look down the hillside at the goats dotting the green grass like melting snow. Esmerelda is singing to soothe her herd, and it calms the chupacabra as well. It can no longer taste flesh, hot between its teeth; its music is no longer the singing of crunched-sharp bones.
The chupacabra moves closer, but the goats catch its scent and begin to shy. They bleat and roll their eyes and shift their legs. Esmerelda scans the hills and catches a startled glance of shadow. The goats scatter and break; fear flickers in Esmerelda’s eyes.
If the chupacabra had a heart, it would surely break. The weight of loneliness touches the chupacabra as distress moves like clouds across its true love’s eyes. The goats are ranging in their fear. Because of it, the beast knows, Esmereld might lose her livelihood and thus her life.
And now there is something else on the hill–stark against the green. It is a hunter, and it will use Esmerelda’s goats as bait. The chupacabra catches the hunter’s scent and rolls its flame-colored eyes.
There are men who make their living hunting rare things; even the monster is sane enough to know that when a chupacabra falls in love, it is a rare thing indeed.
The chupacabra can feel Esmerelda’s fear. It knows it must act, and it must act now. The chupacabra begins to run.
It loops around the goats, penning them in. They bleat and shiver as the beast cuts close here and loops wide there, forcing them into a pattern of the chupacabra’s making. The hunter is drawing closer too, and the chupacabra glances up towards Esmerelda, who stands perfectly still.
She trembles, but the beast can see by her eyes that she recognizes its pattern. It has drawn, in the living flesh of the goats, the rough shape of the human understanding of a heart–white upon the green.
Its blood-and-flame eyes seek Esmerelda’s as the hunter cocks his bow. The chupacabra wills Esmerelda to understand.
If the chupacabra had a heart, surely it would stand still. Esmerelda is looking at the chupacabra–a shape of dripping shadows, stinking of carrion and bone. The chupacabra meets Esmerelda’s green eyes, and she does not flinch or look away. She smiles, and then the hunter lets his arrow fly.
A.C. Wise was born and raised in Montreal and currently lives outside Philadelphia. Wise’s work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as ChiZine, Fantasy Magazine and Electric Velocipede. For more information visit www.acwise.net.