Monthly Short Story Winner: Mighty Beasts
You know they’re out there. Lurking. Just out of your sight. Maybe immortal. Or so close that it doesn’t make a difference. Having survived for longer than human history exists. Because they’re tougher, smarter and meaner than anything else. Dragons, leviathans, kraken or other things from deep below – our mythologies are filled with gargantuan creatures and so is our pop culture (Godzilla, King Kong, etc.). They’re lurking. Or sleeping. Until they get disturbed.
1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Must contain a big, mythical creature.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
This month’s winning story was by Malcolm Pope (Rukaio_Alter in the forum) and is called “The Magnificent Mythical Zoo (No Refunds)”.
Congrats on your win, Malcolm!
You can find all our entries here.
And now on with the story!
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“The Magnificent Mythical Zoo (No Refunds)”
by Malcolm Pope
In hindsight, Jacob should’ve figured something was wrong with this ‘Magnificent Mythical Zoo’ from the sign.
Not that there was anything wrong with the sign itself, aside from the rust, the water damage and the fact that it was hanging precariously from one nail. No, the problem was with the spelling on the sign. Jacob was fairly certain that you didn’t spell ‘Magnificent’ that way. And ‘Mythical’ only needed one I. Come to think about it, ‘Zoo’ was spelt wrong too.
So, as Jacob walked into the ‘Mangificent Myithical Soo’, his expectations weren’t exactly high. Little did he know how lofty those expectations were compared to the reality.
He opened the door to find a small entrance hall. In front of him sat a man napping on a chair, dressed in what could only be described as a ‘hobo magician’ outfit.
Jacob gently prodded the man. “Um… Hello?”
“Gwah!” The man snapped awake. He rubbed his eyes and stared disbelievingly at Jacob. “A visitor? A real visitor?”
“Y-Yes.” Jacob felt uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, I was told the Mythical Zoo was around here? With real mythical creatures?”
“Oh yeah, that’s us.” The man sprung to his feet. “The Magnificent Mythical Zoo, home to all sorts of creatures that defy the imagination! I’m Maxwell Magnificent, the owner and main… only guide. Are you here for the tour?”
“Yeeesss…,” Jacob said, a little apprehensive. “So you’ve got real mythical creatures here? Like real real?”
“Of course we do.” Maxwell nodded. “If they weren’t real, we wouldn’t have them.”
“We’re not talking like one of those old Victorian travelling exhibits, are we?” Jacob asked. “You know, with those mummified mermaid things?
“What?” Maxwell blinked. “That’s ridiculous. Mermaids live in the sea. Mummies live in Egypt. Why would a mermaid visit Egypt? There’s nothing but sand there.” He shook his head and began escorting Jacob down a long hallway. “No, we deal with real live mythical creatures bred in captivity and kept in the most prime conditions imagina- Watch out for that tile.”
Maxwell tugged Jacob to the side as a tile struck the ground where he had been standing a second ago.
“Sorry, roof’s been a little dodgy lately. Where was I?”
“You were about to show me your exhibits.”
“Of course. And we’re just coming up to one of our most famous residents now!”
The two approached a stable-like paddock.
“Normally you’d see this creature soaring majestically in the mountains, but we were lucky enough to capture one a few months back. With the body of a lion and the face of an eagle!” Maxwell motioned dramatically. “Behold! The Mighty Griffin!”
Jacob peered expectantly into the paddock. Right before his eyes was a truly magnificent creature. With beautiful plumage and a thick, muscular frame, the griffin stood majestically on its catlike paws, staring proudly into the distance.
There was just one small problem.
“It’s a cardboard cut-out.” Jacob said.
“What?” Maxwell blinked. “No it’s not.”
“Yes it is.”
“Well that’s just how griffins are,” Maxwell said. “Have you ever seen a live griffin before, Mr Griffin Expert?”
“Then how do you know they’re not two-dimensional?”
“Because… they’re not!” Jacob exclaimed. “Besides, it’s not moving!”
“Oh, he’s just shy.”
A sudden gust of wind blew through the paddock, causing the griffin cutout to wobble precariously before flopping to the ground.
“…He’s also very ill.”
“Maybe we should move on.” Jacob suggested.
“Of course!” Maxwell said, dragging Jacob towards another paddock. “There’s plenty more to see! So maybe the griffin wasn’t exactly to your liking. But we have plenty of other mythical birds here as well. Have you ever heard of the Legendary Phoenix?”
“A Phoenix? The Immortal Firebird?”
“None other!” Maxwell grinned. “Our Phoenix, Francis, is the talk of the town with her beautiful songbird voice and fiery feathers!”
The two arrived in front of a huge birdcage, lined with mesh. Inside was a small red bird, perched on a rock.
“Behold! The Spectacular Phoe-”
“That’s a pigeon spray-painted red,” Jacob said.
“Well, maybe it might look that way to the uninitiated, but-”
“It’s not even good paint. It’s already peeling off.”
“He’s just moulting.”
“Actually…” Jacob peered closer. “I think it’s dead.”
“Don’t be silly.” Maxwell tapped on the cage a couple of times. “Come on, Francis. Show our guest some tricks.”
The ‘Phoenix’ flopped over lifelessly.
“……..he’s also very ill.”
Jacob massaged the bridge of his nose. “Do you have any actual Mythical creatures here?”
“Of course we do!” Maxwell exclaimed. “So maybe you’re not quite so impressed with our Mythical birds, but I know what you will be fond of. Unicorns. Everyone loves Unicorns. How can you not? They’re the most magical creature on God’s green earth. Men, woman, children, not a single person can resist their charm.”
“Alright.” Jacob followed Maxwell down another corridor. “But it better not be a horse with a traffic cone glued to its head.”
“On second thoughts.” Maxwell said, immediately turning around. “Unicorns are overrated. Just overgrown donkeys. Let’s go see something else.”
Jacob rolled his eyes. “Like what?”
“I have an idea.” Maxwell said with a sinister smirk. “Why don’t I take you to our most dangerous exhibit? Be warned that, while you shall be perfectly safe, this creature is not to be viewed by the faint of heart. Its very existence will shake you to your very core. We cannot be held responsible for any, eh eh, permanent mental damage you may receive upon witnessing it. Do you understand these terms?”
Jacob gave a nervous nod. He was skeptical about whether this creature really existed, but something about Maxwell’s speech unsettled him. Could he really have something so dangerous here?
The two soon reached an enormous cage with a grand sheet covering it. There was no sign of movement yet inside the cage, but Jacob was cautious to approach. Even he had to admit he was curious as to what could be inside.
“What kind of monster is it?” Jacob asked.
“The most dangerous on this planet. Once they lay their territory down, they’re almost impossible to remove and slowly suck away at the land that shelters them. They can survive nearly anywhere and are capable of acts of ungodly cruelty, even to each other.” He grabbed hold of the corner of the sheet. “They butcher, devour, slaughter and smother the world around them. Nothing can stand in their way” He yanked sharply on the sheet causing it to fall. “Prepare yourself for the most terrifying of God’s creatures!”
Before Jacob stood… stood…
“Behold, the most dangerous creature alive!” Maxwell shouted. “MAAAAAAAAAN!!!”
There was silence as Jacob stared at the mirror. He looked at his reflection and his reflection looked back at him. Then he spoke.
“I want my money back.”
“What?” Maxwell exclaimed. “Come on, you have to admit that was pretty good.”
“It was cheesy and heavy-handed,” Jacob said. “And more importantly, humans aren’t mythical creatures.”
“Well, they’re technically not, but from a certain point of view…”
“I think I’m going to go now.” Jacob turned and walked down the corridor. “You’ll hear from my lawyer in the next few days.”
“Oh come on!” Maxwell chased after him. “We’ve got some beautiful fairies to admire. Sure they’re invisible if you don’t believe in them, but-”
“I’m fine, thank you,” Jacob said. “I doubt you have a single living creature in this hellhole, let alone a Mythical-”
He was suddenly interrupted by a loud banging from the wall beside him.
“What the hell was that?” Jacob exclaimed.
“Oh the noise?” Maxwell blinked. “Don’t mind that. That’s just Krth’thrrka’loth, Devourer of the Abyss.”
“Yeah, I think it’s a stupid name as well,” Maxwell said. “Too many apostrophes. I just call him Kevin. He’s one of those watchamacall’ems… Eldritch Abominations.”
Jacob looked understandably skeptical. “Really?”
“You can see him if you want.” Maxwell motioned to a nearby door. “He’s a bit grouchy in the mornings, mind.”
“Sure he is,” Jacob said, walking to the door and pulling it open. “I bet it’s just some dog wearing a sheet or somet-ggk!”
The second he looked inside, Jacob’s mind was overrun with horrific images.
Death. Chaos. Shapes with length, height, depth and… something else. Impossible creatures the very sight of which eroded away his sense of being. His mouth opened in a silent scream as his mind was torn irreparably to pieces at the impossible sight.
Maxwell watched as Jacob toppled back, his face frozen in terror and his sanity shattered. He watched the twitching, gibbering form for a few seconds, before speaking. “What the hell, Kevin? I thought we agreed no driving visitors insane until after they’d visited the gift shop?”
A hellish voice, like a thousand tortured souls shrieking in unison, echoed through the room, “Sorry. My bad.”
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Congratulations again to Malcolm! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information.