The ends of the world came all at once.
It turns out everyone was right.
But for me, for me, there was the wolf. The wolf with eyes like fire, fur greasy and sharp as spear-ends, gaping maw flinging spittle that burned like acid as it devoured those who could see it.
The serpent had eaten through the root.
I saw it, fearsome beast, coming towards me, loping across continents with ease, its great claws carving deep furrows into stone. Its red, red mouth was open wide, ready to devour me, shred me in the tectonic plates of its teeth.
I could not run.
It was upon me, so I jumped.
The trick was avoiding his teeth.
I landed in the stomach of the wolf, red and churning with blood and chewed-up bodies. Here an arm, a leg, some nameless, festering mess. I nearly drowned, my mouth filled with red. I swam to the lip of the lake that is the monster’s stomach, my lungs burning with the strain. My still-attached limbs and my un-crushed torso let me drag myself to the bank.
I came out the other side.
I am in the wolf’s body cavity. It is pregnant with a stillborn world, held between its bones. Every vertebra is a star. Its ribs are twin mountain ranges, its blood vessels swirling auroras. At first I cannot see for the light of it. But my eyes adjust to this alien light. It is not so bad.
My clothes cling to me, sticky with blood. I remove my shoes, unlacing first the left, then the right. I remove my jeans, now stained rust, my underwear, my shirt, and fold them all, leaving them in a perfect pile by the red, red lake. My skin is peeling and I pull a layer off, shredding it away from my body and leaving me new underneath. I fold my old skin neatly next to my clothes.
I set out towards the jagged mountain range of the wolf’s ribs.
As I walk towards the shining bones, I consider leaving a trail to find my way back to the brackish lake, to swim back up and out, past the beast’s lashing tongue, but in only my new skin I have nothing left to leave behind. I could use my teeth and fingernails, but I am too scared to yank at my cuticles, and my canines stay rooted in their gums.
This is where I was always meant to wind up, in any case.
It was the Valkyries that first drew me to prayer. Fierce women riding wolves into battle, walking after battles to collect the dead. I began to fear, when none came for me. I was never brave enough.
The world is coruscating, everything is gleaming. Her shield nearly blinds me. Her smile is as wide as my ribs. Her old words make sense of this new world. Blood has congealed at the place where her arm once joined her shoulder; the limb was trapped in the beast’s teeth as she leapt in to save a mortal’s body. She is far braver than I believe myself to be, but she searched for me anyway. We’ve walked across the length of this beast’s body twelve times since, talking about my old life and her eternal one. I can’t quite explain the whine of tech to her, and her tales of battles waged against giants are outside the scope of my imaginings.
Her hips are wide enough for me to make a home here.
There are monstrous, bulbous shapes on the horizon, just out of the corner of my vision, lingering behind the wolf’s eye sockets. I don’t need to sleep here, but I miss it all the same. She lets me rest my head in the concave of her shield, and I sleep underneath vertebrae stars. She can only heft her spear, her shield-arm lost to the beast. I struggle to lift it for her instead; someday I will be able to. The half-formed wights can’t come near my dreams, for fear of her steel.
I can anchor myself to her smile.
Sometimes I quake, this world too bright, too constrained. Her heart doesn’t beat the same way mine does when she pulls me close; I don’t think she even needs to breathe. Her voice is familiar, though, something that I’ve been hearing half-whispered my whole life, nipping at the base of my neck. I can feel her vowels at the back of my eyes. Her measured words and stories steady my racing heart. This is where I was always meant to wind up.
Gabrielle Friesen devotes her free time to thinking wistfully about monsters and gyndroids. Her first piece of published fiction ‘Canticle of Tongues’ appeared in the August 2013 issue of Hello Horror Magazine. She is attempting to graduate from college in 2014, upon which point she plans to wander aimlessly in a haze of existential panic, and maybe try to grow snakes for hair