This month, we're spotlighting...
Saruuh Kelsey is the author of several novels for young adults, including the free Lux Guardians series (YA Sci-Fi) and The Legend Mirror series. Her latest releases include THE BEAST OF CALLAIRE, the first novel of a new YA fantasy series, and a collection of diverse fairy tales in LOVE IN THE GILDED AGE. Find her online at saruuhkelsey.co.uk.
The wood is beautiful through these eyes, but I wish I could choose what they looked at. The edges of the leaves are crisp, the flat green my human eyes would see is brought into bright relief. But I only see what the beast wants to see, so I can’t focus on each brilliant new thing because I’m wary and paranoid of what the beast will be drawn to next. A squirrel—a rabbit—a stray human wandering along the trail.
I could kill someone and I wouldn’t be able to stop it. My jaws would rip flesh from bone and I’d be paralysed in my mind, watching the horror as it happens. I know because it’s happened. Six times. Thankfully, four of those people got away with only claw welts or bite marks. But two of them are dead because of me.
One was a girl no older than nine. I killed her when I was fourteen, before I’d become used to the Change, before the beast had settled into its control of my body. Now it only kills for sport, not by accident, and mostly it hunts small animals. Easy prey. Even in Manticore form, I’m a coward. I’m glad of it.
The second person I killed was a middle aged man last year. He had a gun pointed at my friend Willa as she lounged in the pool of Almery Wood. I’m not sure whether he meant to kill her for spoils or just for the hell of it, but I don’t regret killing him as much as the young girl. It still haunts my nightmares sometimes, though, his glazed green eyes and slack, wrinkled face.
I still don’t know why the beast killed to save my friend. Maybe there’s the smallest connection between the two of us, between girl and monster. But as the leaves are ripped beneath large, golden paws I’m not so sure. The Manticore is a creature made of bloodlust and vicious intentions. I doubt there’s any part of it that cares about anyone other than itself.
The beast steps into a clearing lit by moonlight and shakes out its fur, the feathers of its wings tickling my ears—its ears. I shake my head instinctively to get rid of the irritation but the beast’s head stays still. It doesn’t care about what aggravates me. I doubt it even knows what aggravates me. I might have thoughts but this creature is mindless.
The beast turns suddenly, my head spinning with the motion, and it regards the trees, all tall and close together, their braches reaching out and speckled with leaves. My hearing strains for a noise—I’m not sure what startled the beast.
A low, guttural growl comes from the depths of the beast’s stomach and I finally see what the Manticore heard. A middle aged man comes from behind a wide trunked service tree, the vibrant leaves contrasting against the intentionally dark brown of his jacket. He meant to blend in, whoever this man is. I futilely try to urge the beast away, to turn and run, but the Manticore will never back down.
I can tell by the rumble coming from its mouth—my mouth—and the way its claws are ripping up the earth that it’s going to attack. I’m going to kill another person. The terror and dread wants to churn my stomach but my body is no longer mine. It poisons my mind instead, fills me with visions of bloody limbs and skin torn open.
By the time the man has produced a gun from behind his back it’s too late for me to realise he’s a hunter and too late for the beast to react to the threat. The hunter fires his shotgun and absolute, blinding agony shocks through me, uniting Yasmin and the Manticore for one second in merciless pain.
But then the beat is lumbering to its feet, paws gripping for purchase, and I’m reminded that I don’t decide what happens with my body. It’s a detached, lonely feeling, and at the same time the worst terror imaginable. For something to decide where you go, what you do, what you see …
The beast races out of the clearing and around tree trunks, its usual speed affected by the gunshot wound in its shoulder. The pain seems to pulse louder in my head, becoming something dark and large and demanding. I’m not sure how much longer I can stand this.
I’m sure, suddenly, that I’m going to die. And in this moment, dying as the beast is the worst thing I can think of.
The beast’s ears prick to the sound of footsteps but by now it can’t move at all. All it can do is raise its large head, pull downy wings around itself as a flimsy, useless shield, and watch as the owner of the footsteps nears us.
Wide, green eyes are right in front of my eyes, bushy brown eyebrows drawn low and accompanied by a frown. A girl. A girl in the woods. Thank you, I think at this stranger but I have no Majick in this form so she doesn’t hear my gratitude. This is an angel come to deliver me a swift death, to save me from this excruciating feeling.
I relinquish my grip on consciousness and let the waiting blackness swallow me.
About The Beast of Callaire
Yasmin is a descendant of the Manticore. A creature of Persian mythology. A Legendary.
But she doesn’t want to be. Unlike the Legendaries in The Red, Yasmin wants nothing more than an ordinary life. She tries to fool herself into believing that she doesn’t change into a beast every full moon and savagely kill innocent people.
But when Yasmin starts hearing a voice in her head and is drawn into dreams that aren’t her own, she is led to Fray—a girl who once saved Yasmin from hunters, who has shadowy memories that hint at her having Legendary magic—and Yasmin is catapulted into a life of Majick and malevolence.
Despite the danger around her and Fray, Yasmin might finally have a chance at being a normal girl with a normal girlfriend. But with Legendaries being killed, a war between the Gods brewing, and the beast inside Yasmin becoming stronger each moon, her mundane life is little more than a dream.
More of Saruuh's Books
Saruuh is sponsoring a giveaway for a signed paperback of The Beast of Callaire! Check out the rules and then enter below!
- Ends at 12 AM on March 15th