-By Zain Merchant
They stood silently on the chipped brown table next to the fridge in the kitchen. They stood there patient and loyal for years. A brown garishly serpentine patterned leather belt and a bottle filled with brown smelly stuff. They were the monster’s elixir and his loyal pet serpent. These were the stories my mother told me as we cried each other to sleep every time the monster transformed and used his serpent on us vehemently, and mercilessly. His eyes red and filled with hatred, his breath a fiery stench that loomed inches from my face as he screamed and roared and reared his hands holding the brown serpent, suddenly transformed, animate and moving. Sometimes I heard it hissing gleefully as it landed on mother or me and made a loud crack.
We were weak and helpless to the power the elixir gave him. To the anger and rage it filled in him. We prayed for the good days. The days when he didn’t come home angry. When he would be fine. A kind and gentle beast. One who played with me, and looked lovingly at mother. But the beast needed out. Needed to breathe in the fervor of our misery. He would come home and sit by the table. Silent. Silent for long minutes. Mother knew. She always knew when the beast was coming. It took me a couple of years to understand what was happening. She would make me hide in a closet or under the bed but there weren’t many places to hide and all she could do was delay the beatings and hope that the monster be close to slumber.
After the silent waiting he would get up and remove his pet from its resting place around his waist. He would roll it slowly and methodically and place it with care on the table. Then he would reach into the freezer and bring out the transformation portion. I tasted it once to see if I would change. It hurt me in my throat and in my stomach. I felt myself changing but I guess since I had only a little, it didn’t. The monster drinks it all in big gulps. He doesn’t stop but for breath. His lips smacked and his eyes pierced with evil indignation. Mother would beg, cry and try to flee as she saw the monster rise with his dragon in hand. Then it would start. It wouldn’t stop until she stopped squirming.
Then I would hear his roar. Words I will never forget. “Where is that CHUTIYA!?” he stomped slowly around the house. Heavy breathing followed by coughing. It was always my whimper that gave me away. I couldn’t stop myself from crying. Sometimes I peed myself and those days were the worst. I would lie unable to move, pinned down by searing pain and uncomfortably wet. Later I would cry into my mother’s arms. She consoled me though mostly she could barely speak herself and we wept ourselves to sleep with a promise of a better tomorrow now that the beast was fed and happy again……
……He hasn’t been happy for days now. The monster comes out everyday…… ……Tonight mother won’t move. Won’t cry. Why won’t she wake up? Mother? Mother?
Months turn to years and I am alone with the monster. Now he is silent all the time. Sometimes the silence brings out the monster and the dragon but sometimes he remains silent. I can’t tell anymore. Cannot prepare. Last time he broke my hand and now I even walk with a limp having to drag my right foot. The monster will get me too, just like he got my mother. I am prisoner in his dungeon. But in my solitude I have found an ally. I have found a weapon I can use to slay the beast and be rid of this torment once and for all. It is a majestic sword that mother used for vegetables and to cut meat. It is sharp. I bled when I ran a finger along its edge. I keep it on me at all times, nursing the smooth red handle whenever the beast comes home.
Tonight is the night. I realize as I see the belt come off and the bottle brought out. Tonight we battle. Dragon and Knight. I shake as I reach for the sword. I approach the monster as his head is turned upwards gulping down his transformation potion. A whimper escapes my lips as the sword goes around the Monster’s neck and………
……Red around me. Red Red Red. I sit in it, silent, with my head down. The monster lies beside me, his serpent beside him not moving anymore. The bottle lays broken. He shook for minutes and I was afraid that he had transformed and I had lost. But he hadn’t. I was victorious in battle. There are people around me. Free to enter the lair now that the Dragon is slain. They know what name my sword goes by They keep saying it to one another, “Only 7 years old……. Father…… drunk……. No mother………. Knife……….” I caress the red handle on knife and look down silently at all the red around me. I wonder. What does a knight do once the dragon is defeated. Mother’s stories never mentioned that…..