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Beast

Through the vomit and bile, he still tasted blood.

Beside the street, the blue-eyed husky crouched nose-down on hands and knees, shaking. He wore a green steel helmet that curved about the ear, green fatigues, pants tucked inside black combat boots; canteen, pistol, empty grenade straps at his waist. Name? Rank? His comrades call him 'Ice'. It'll do.

His rifle lay beside him, rainwater cascading around it. Normally, that would concern him.

There was blood on his muzzle. On his lips. In his throat.

Blood on his paws.

Fatigue pounded behind his eyes; exhaustion(would it's learning have no end?)pulled him. His body ached for rest, for sleep-

One more ghost to haunt the darkness now.

Oh God.

His stomach lurched again. Nothing came up.

Chill rain still fell, light and relentless. In time he rose, to look up numbly at what was once a city, now a shattered, ruined land of concrete, thunder, and blood. The crack of rifle fire and rattle of machine gun was near-constant, reverberating echoes washing everything together into one undulating, omnipotent roar. 'Should get out of the open.' he thought, reaching for the rifle. The thought was an act of will. Turning as he gained his feet, his gaze rested on the building he just left

The lone survivor. His squad - his mates - were dead.

He didn't know exactly how he made it out himself;Moments blurred together and washed out, a clash of images and sound cut in knife-sharp relief through adrennaline-fuelled terror. He'd been by the doorwoay, taken the first man with a pistol-shot before he steadied from the kick. He'd been struggling face-up on the floor, naked neck above and without a thought he'd-

He had....

Survived. Used the weapons he had to stay alive.

'Snap'. Like a hand from a hot stove -

Without a fucking thought....

He bent over, elbows-to-knees, as nausea washed over him again;not as bad now, at least.

He still shook.

He fealt the stickiness on his muzzle;crouched rifle on knees at a large puddle to splash himself. Wiped with his hands. Again. And again. Over and over and over, harder now, digging in, breaths coming fast and heavy as his pulse races, clawing desperately, frantically, dimly aware of the stinging, of a strangled howl, of hands on his wrists, an impact that knocks the breath from him. A weight on his chest, pinning him to the ground with arms held fast. "Iceman!" He snapped out; a jerk on his arms shook him. "Goddamnit Ice, snap out of it!"

"Ghost?" Gradually, he came back down; his breathing less frantic, pulse merely fast instead of pounding. He was looking up into the golden eyes and half-bared fangs of a panther.

Warily, the jet-black felid - dressed same as him - relaxed and moved off to let him sit up. Ice stared dumbly up at the cat in shock, slinging the rifle - his arm was hooked through the strap - over his shoulder to grip the offered paw, pull in as he rose to embrace him tightly with the other arm, laughing in disbelief.

"Ha-haaaaaa! How many lives you got, cat?" He asked, stepping back. "I thought-"

"Blast knocked me out the window. Lucky me wasn't much left of it - or maybe it blew out behind me; can't remember." He rubbed the base of his neck. "Think I hit a wall on the way down, too;Twelve feet and not a goddamn scratch!" He shook his head, then gave Ice a sideways look. "And you...you alright?"

All right now?

Trick question.

"What about the others? Did-"

"They're dead."

"Maybe-"

"I'm CERTAIN, Ice." They locked eyes.

Neither said anything.

A crack split the air, ground shaking under their feet. Almost leaping, they crouched against the nearest wall, all that remained of a two-story house.

"That one was close."

The panther nodded absently.

"Ours or theirs?"

"Howdafuk I know?"

Leaning his now-unslung rifle against the wall to reach into his pocket, he drew a pack of cigarettes, knocked one out for himself, another halfway to offer Ice.

"Something to cover the smell." He said, grinning as he reached for his lighter.

Of damp fur. 'And taste of other things.' Ice thought, taking it. "Thanks."

The cat lit his own, eyes flaring briefly in the flame-light, and leaned forward to touch ends with his.

They waited, the sounds of war still echoing around them, but nothing followed the initial blast.

"Almost to the bastard." said the cat.

"Almost smell him." he concurred. The blond-haired, blue-eyed simmie sonofabitch human that set the world on fire; The reason he was out here in the middle of this shit. Almost over....

The panther retrieved his rifle and stood;ice followed. They started walking. Pretty simple what to do now; link up, and don't get killed. "Ain't it nice" he said "to think about, to imagine being one of the ones that take him. Or maybe alone in a room with 'im. I mean, fuck the firing squad, right;hows about using these 'brute' claws to peel off his skin one piece at a time? Or sink these fangs into that damn-"

He broke off suddenly;met Ice's eyes. Again, there was nothing to say.

The husky looked away. "Yeah. It is."

"Just remember...every man-and-child he makes us mow through to get there is one step closer to him."

One body closer. Christ -.

But it was something -anything - to hang on. And reaching, grasping inside, he found a grip....

A short time later, they passed a window with a poster of the man inside it. The window was criss-crossed with cracks, giving back a doubled, fragmented picture of him. A shot could shatter it, he thought.

He stopped. "Hold up a second." He looked to the window, reaching to his hip. . Slinging the rifle on his left shoulder he drew the pistol.

He still tasted traces of blood, still smelled it in his nose. If there was a next time.... He focussed in, carefully savored the sweet-salty taste.

He lowered the pistol and took aim;steady hand, steady gaze. Let it come again he thought, with a bloody grin.

'Next time's for fun, asshole.'

And fired.

"War changes us...changes us into beasts."

****************

Well, there ya go;my first completed story. Whoo-hoo! :-)

So, glad to be here and look forward to hearing how I can make this mess posted above - err, slightly less bad, at least. :P (Already suspect it could perhaps do with a bit more fleshing out.)

Couple questions:

First, anybody out there advise me on html and formatting? The how-to post mentions tags at the bottom and a link with further instructions, but I see neither.(?)

Second, any other writers here ever find yourselves writing material that you yourself wouldn't normally enjoy reading? I.E. I usually don't enjoy material that's too, too heavily dark and/or ambivalent, such as the story above, but certain images and ideas just begged to be put down on paper(err, in pixels? :P ). Strange. D'you suppose it could negatively the quality of the writing?

Anyways, glad to be here, again. Hope to hear some feedback. Like I said, first completed story, so be kind. :-/ But in any case, lemme know whatcha think! :-)

Welcome!

We're glad you're here too. =)

The link we mentioned is actually under the heading "Input Format" which is the first link beneath the body where you type your story. If you click on that once, there's a drop down with another link to "More Information about Formatting Options." To make it easier, I'll also put the link here.

Focus on the 'filtered html' part for now. That should get you started with the basics. If you have other questions, just let me know, either here or with an email to the feedback address.

As for your other question, we've already had lots of different kinds of stories here at Oort Cloud, and for me, at least, some have fit my taste more than others. I do try to read as many as I can, though, and there've been a couple that have won me over.

In the case of 'Beast,' I don't think the darkness hurts the story at all. It's hard to imagine how you could have done it without a quality of grimness. And the setting is a perfect background for the struggle between man and beast that you have going on within the main character. (A good choice, by the way--it helps ground the story and give it weight.)

You're right that it could do with some fleshing out, but I think that's just a matter of adding more, not making any fundamental changes to what you have there already.

Hope you keep writing!

Thanks

...for the reply - and the help with formatting. :-)

No, I'm not wondering if the 'dark, grim' setting hurt the story in and of itself, but if it hurts the quality of writing if the material is something the writer may enjoy writing but couldn't really fully appreciate as a READER, compared, say, to writing 'the kind of story I would like to read, but no one else is writing.' Because maybe it makes it harder if you can't identify as well with the reader. Anyway, just doing a bit of free speculation, mulling stuff over. :-/

One more question:what's the 'proper' way of posting updates/revisions to allready posted material?

Hmmm

You've got a hold of an interesting idea there. Can you do justice to an idea that's yours but which you don't particularly like?

On the question of revision/updates, there aren't any established conventions yet. Paul and I always assumed people would do them around here, but they haven't been as common as first-time postings. So you're free to handle them as you want.

I *would* recommend making your revision a fresh, new post. Editing and, therefore, erasing your original post would mean that your revisions wouldn't appear on the front page, so people wouldn't have a chance to see them.

Plus, posting the revision as a new post would allow people to compare it to the original version in your earlier post and see what has changed.

Does that make sense?

Sure

And dangitt, now I'm gonna have to think about how I wanna do it myself. :-P

Not sure if I'd describe the theme in quite those terms. Look at the protagonist - could've chosen to make him a wolf, say...or a poodle! :D Instead I chose a species that(I hope)embodies a fairly good balance - as well as perspective and context - to both sides of that coin. On the other hand now that you mention it the theme of the 'animal vs. 'civilized'' parts of our nature does seem to ring true to the story - I'm just not sure in what particular way/s! :-/

Reading over it, something the story does seem to be exploring is if sometimes turning 'bad' in soem circumstances is a way of coping to keep from turning worse. I.E. forced into certain acts and situations in any case, is it better to find reason and focus for violence, aggression and anger than to abandon reason/s entirely? I wasn't thinking about this when I wrote the story, so this is a pleasant surprise for your writer! :-)

Any thoughts?

P.S. Looking at the read count, nice to see people are actually reading it. :-) (Whether they like it is, of course, another matter!:D)

Is there any way to

Is there any way to delete, admin?

*We now return you to your regularly scheduled comments, already in progress.* :-P

There you go

Don't normally do that, though. Never can tell what might happen, but that seems to have taken care of the previous comment's doppelganger. =)