The Tower Journal

  Jacques Carrié


   The Beast from the East

While tossing his fishing jig into the water behind his boat, a Baltic Sea fisherman resident of Finland witnessed the appearance of an enormous beast shaped like a buffalo emerging from the water depths only yards away. Frightened, he immediately reported the incident to one of the social media outlets. “He was coming from the east,” the fisherman reported. 

Several people in Poland, Austria, and Italy in the following days contacted their local radio stations to inform the news director about a galloping beast three to four times the size of an American buffalo coming from the east and heading south. 

“The beast is coming from the east…the far-away, cold and nasty land occupied by Russia…” preached a very old wise man to a wide-eyed but trembling five-year-old kid sitting beside him on the remaining rubbles from the last military explosions they both had experienced minutes ago on Terre-de-Haut, in the Caribbean Sea, barely visible from Guadaloupe.

Yesterday they had abandoned in a hurry Terre-de-Bas, the other tiny French island forming part of the îles de la Petite-Terre, on this little corner of the world, often referred to as “paradise” by adventurous visitors.

Until yesterday neither island, reachable only by authorized touring motor boats dispatched from nearby La Désirade, was inhabited. But continuous bombings from foreign planes programmed to wiped out the entire population of the Caribbean Sea, underway for months now, had forced the remaining inhabitants in the vast archipelago to move from island to island to the last piece of land, escaping the blows, leaving in the end only these two lonely, unrelated souls, André and Julien.

“The beast is coming,” said again André, red-eyed and tired, affected more by sorrow and anxiety than age.

“Why is this beast coming?” asked Julien, his sadly expressive young face betraying the sweet innocence of his beautiful big eyes.

“I don’t know,” said the pale-complexioned old man with short, decaying, silver-white hair.

Obviously, someone in the once-thriving town of La Désirade had passed on a beast-related social media post from Europe before being blown to pieces by an exploding bomb, and such dreadful message had somehow reached the old man. Not exactly true, for he was a very different kind of person--all-knowing, mysterious, and vigilant of inexplicable things occurring on earth--and one could ask, how does news travel when all buildings, bridges, and structures in town are annihilated by guided missile strikes, sending every living soul to a sure death or possible better life?

Destruction was shocking, massive, and global.

To be fair, Europe was falling too. It had gotten more nuclear strikes than the rest of the world, plus mangled or deformed people from previous attacks wandered around aimlessly like zombies.

Meantime this ferocious beast kept galloping southbound across large territories. His wet, spongy, dark-gray nose cutting through cold, icy, and hot air, indifferent to any and all objects appearing before him across long valleys, dense forests, opulent lakes, fast-flowing rivers, and rocky mountains with the same ease and temperament normal people would stroll along sunny parks rich with hummingbirds, flowers, and butterflies.

Not only could this beast run, jump, swim, and do all kinds of acrobatics in the air, broadcast throughout the media in frequent reports, but he was mentally built to outsmart anyone. Looking like a gigantic buffalo, as already described by many, it moved relentlessly forward at enormous speed, propelled by his own ferocious determination.

“Where’s the beast now?” asked the scared little boy, goosebumps flaring across his black skin.

“Somewhere in Africa…”

“Africa? Where’s that?”

“Africa is a very large piece of land…across this ocean,” André said, pointing to the splashing waves near them. “It contains many smaller pieces of land where people live.”

“Can we see it from here?” asked Julian.

“No. it’s too far away.”

Julian remained silent for a moment, thinking. 

“Can you see the beast?” he then asked.

“No,” replied the old man. “No eyes can see that far.”

“Can you hear the beast?”

“No,” replied the old man. “No ears can hear that far.”

For a moment he cringed, unable to hide the pain that his crippling arthritis gave to his fingers, already damaged by swollen joints, dry, and cracked skin.

“Can you stop the beast?”

“No, no man alive can do that…especially myself.” A faint smile escaped his lips. “I’m one hundred three.”

“That’s old!” exclaimed Julien.

“Not too many people live that long and are as strong and active as I am,” said André proudly.

Meanwhile the huge, shaggy beast had crossed the Mediterranean Sea, swimming faster and better than a whale, now moving through Algeria with supreme agility and confidence, heading for Senegal, his wide-apart eyes, covering a vision totally inclusive—both sideways and front and rear—to spot extremely distant movements as well as remarkably near disturbances. Soon he would plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, and one would wonder why?

 Sporting a short-tufted, flexible tail (necessary for smacking pesky flies and little birds), muscular bushy legs (capable of instantly changing direction, spinning, or outrunning his adversaries, if not causing the earth to tremble with the rough movement of his several tons of weight), massive chest (housing his life-beating clock), breathtaking prominent hump (especially if seen in profile), and titanic skull (mostly thick and strong in the forehead area, where, amid heavy pads of fur, stuck out two viciously combative horns), he’d been seen several times stopping by a lake or river to drink and get silly, wallowing on dusty ground, rolling his heavy body over and over until satisfied. At least twice he’d been spotted grazing on the run abundant prairie grasslands of the richest kind to energize his powerful body before continuing his seemingly unending gallop across the world.

This beast, some farmers had sworn, is unlike any other kind ever seen before, impatient, brutal, and at times thoroughly violent. He can threaten anyone with just his imposing presence or by emitting a series of escalating low grumbles (with outstretched chalky tongue), if barely annoyed, or producing the most frightening, thunderous howls and roars, if absolutely pissed off.

 “The beast is coming in our direction,” warned the old man now with a weak voice.

“In…our…direction?” Overtaken with great fear, the little boy could hardly repeat those dreaded words.

“Yes, the beast is coming our way…” whispered André.

“How far is the beast now? Where?” shuddered little Julien.

“The beast is getting closer…now galloping through Senegal, having left Mali behind.”

“Where’s Senegal…and Mali?” asked the 5-year-old kid, scratching his left shoulder.

“Africa. That’s a continent,” said the old man.

“But you said before…it’s a very large piece of land…”

“Yes, also true…”

“What’s a continent?” asked Julien, confused.

“A very large piece of land.”

“Hum…okay…”

##

The beast had his dark-gray wet nose now pointing toward Brazil as his huge body sliced the ocean water majestically, parallel to but a lot faster than a foreign war submarine that happened to glide by. For reasons only known to the beast, his immense presence did not register on the submarine’s radar system. The beast continued swimming freely toward the coast at great speed and agility.

“The beast is coming…closer and closer…” said André prophetically.

“But why?” asked Julian.

“I don’t know. Nobody knows.”

“What’s his name?” asked Julian.

“If I knew I would tell you,” said the old man, staring at the distant horizon.

“I’m thirsty…” said the little boy now.

“I am too,” said André, feeling rotten and helpless.

They both had plenty of reasons to worry for they had run out of water and food long time ago. Ahead stood only a formation of rocks ending with a cliff, and below it a pool of salty ocean water of biblical proportions.

They both remained there, quietly staring at the large expanse of ocean water that stretched seemingly forever in all directions.

“What kind of birds are those flying above us?” asked the little boy at one point, puzzled by their incessant orbiting and annoying shadows.

 “Just tropical birds…more curious than others…” said André vaguely. Starring at the barren land behind them instead--a devastated land consumed by fire, smoke, and destruction--his way of avoiding looking up at three hungry vultures he’d already noticed in quiet despair, he commented, “Apparently no one else is giving us company right now. But that’s okay…in spite of everything we’re still here…together…hanging on…hoping for a change of weather.”

“It’s hard to hang on like this,” said Julien, bleakly, also feeling the impact of rising heat on his skin. “My arms and legs are hurting…my face too…”

“Like sunburn?”

“Yeah…”

“Don’t you worry, boy,” comforted the old man. “I know things will change for the better.”

By now the beast had swum out of the Atlantic Ocean and penetrated Brazil in a steady gallop, quickly reaching Recife, a thriving coastal city he particularly liked. In the vicinity of an old church, he stopped for grazing and resting. Running at full speed moments later, he headed toward Venezuela and the islands of the Caribbean Sea (whatever was left of them), avoiding problematic areas.

“Where are your parents?” asked André casually.

“I don’t know…we were all together in the mall shopping…when…when…” said Julien with teary eyes.

“Hell broke…” said the old man, helping.

The boy started to cry and choke. A single, red line of blood trickled out of his right nostril. He tried to wipe it off with the back of one of his hands.

“If I were you, I would pinch my nostrils together with one thumb and the next finger, the index finger, and breathe through my mouth…for just a little while…” said André, pinching his own nostrils demonstratively.

Julien complied, scared.

Trying to amuse him, so it would lessen his anxiety, André stood up with a funny smile and brought both his arms up above his head. “When I was a kid like you, and my nose bled, I was told to do that and keep my arms up steady for a while. It worked, too.” He smiled sweetly. “Don’t try to talk back to me until you’re not bleeding anymore. Hey—I’ll tell you a story while you wait.”

Julien’s eyes seemed to want to laugh a little, André understood. “Don’t laugh now!” he exclaimed. “Keep it for later.”

Julien remained obediently quiet.

“Once upon a time…let’s see which story I remember…a rabbit and a turtle agreed to have a little race…so they took off at the same time, the rabbit immediately leaving the turtle far behind because of --”

“His fast running legs,” interrupted the young boy, surprising the old man. “I already know this story.”

“Yeah, you certainly do. I should’ve guessed it,” said André. “Hey, you’re not bleeding anymore!”

“You’re right,” said the boy happily.

Above them the vultures kept circling, their shadows painting the arid land. A few miles away behind them, the advancing line of massive fires and smoke across La Désirable, Terre-de-Bas, Terre-de-Haut, and other islands in the perimeter of Guadaloupe, created by the ravaging strikes of war ships, submarines, helicopters, and aircrafts, were just about done and retiring from their completed mission.

“I’m very thirsty now,” said Julien, bothered by a strong dryness deep inside his throat. “Can we look for some water?”

They both turned their heads around with a glimpse of hope, but the view filled them with dread and no desire to watch it for even one more second. It was frightening, sickening, and apocalyptic. There were plumes of smoke billowing high into the air across the islands, the villages, and the line of ships anchored in the harbors. Chaos reigned everywhere in the distance.

“The flames will eat us alive if we move back from here. We better get a bit closer to the cliff, Julien.” Standing up, he took his trembling hand and guided him to the very edge of the cliff, where occasional flying embers reached them. Below, they could see and hear the roaring ocean waves splashing hard against the rocky wall that separated the two natural entities, forming rich pools of foam.

“I want to drink now…and eat something now…please, please…” cried out Julien.

“Let’s pray…” said André, holding his hand paternally. “Oh God help us now…” he began, his voice cracking with emotion, his eyes misty.

##

A clouded dismal dark-brown sunset had tinted the sky, when the gigantic beast emerged from the ocean depths in front of them, amid the pools of foamy waters they both watched in desolation. To Julien’s and André’s incredulous eyes, the shaggy beast approached them peacefully, his wet nose touching the cliff’s edge and the bottom of their legs, urging with his mobile, bulbous eyes their immediate relocation onto his enormous, heavy-furred hump.

No time to waste, the pair jumped onto the comfortable shaggy mess.

They rode the imposing hump as the beast swam away from the burning islands, heading back to Venezuela, then Brazil at full gallop.

The beast slowed to a stop at the church where hours ago he’d been observed unafraid by the church pastor. Lowering his body fully, he allowed the pair to dismount. Done with them, he pounded the church door with his enormous head and left without waiting, bidding André and Julien farewell with a charming roar.

Only the beast knew that the church pastor had been watching them all along from behind an old pillar. Now, with great wisdom and compassion, he would certainly take care of his two unlike guests.

 

  Copyright © 2017 Jacques Carrié


 Jacques Carrié grew up in the south of France, then lived several years in Venezuela before moving to Los Angeles. His works have appeared in The Texas A&M Engineer, Prop Magazine, Chicago Literati, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Literati Quarterly, The Literary Nest, The Houston Chronicle, El Mundo, and El Nacional. Octiblast (2012) and Papelitos (2014)—his most recent novels—were strong competitors for the Pulitzer Prize. Currently his focus is on finishing Hard Contacts, a collection of short stories, and continuing his exhaustive novel The French Volunteer—his version of the Spanish Civil War, based on his father’s own experience in the International Brigades fighting this war in defense of democratic Spain.
 

The Tower Journal
Fall/Winter 2017