Short Story by Selina Yasin
Ever since I got here I’ve been called devilishly handsome. I assumed the humans were astute, and my guise of being one of them was simply failing. However, I soon came to realize that they were the complete opposite. The stares I saw all around me weren’t out of fear, malice, or hatred - they were out of adoration, admiration, and more often than not, jealousy. Jealousy I could understand. A hellish beast with powers that were beyond their world or their comprehension, I too would be jealous if I were a lesser being. However, their jealousy upon glancing at my appearance was something I still had yet to grow accustomed to. The body I presided in was plain to say the least. Although rare, humans do produce beautiful creatures. Throughout my time observing them I have seen my fair share of beauty - those with wonderfully burnt scars, spotted and pus filled skin, and my absolute favorite of rarities - the conjoining of two beings on one body, Simply breathtaking.
However, this human was nothing of the sort. He was plain to say the least. Taller than average, but by no means a mighty giant. His face and body were empty of any scars, burns, or markings of any sort. He had the average number of limbs, and had no conjoining body parts with another human - an absolute lessening of power in my humble opinion. The only slightly monstrous thing about him was his eyes. I’ve been told the blue is “piercing,” but all I see are the plain, dead, eyes of your average hellion. I much prefer the brown eyes humans tend to have - how I could lose myself in those dark and mysterious depths.
Although it was to my advantage, how other humans could look at this being and automatically be swayed was beyond my understanding. The most beautiful looking humans are simply discarded. They are looked past, or looked at with disgust. They are seen as freaks, castaways, and plagues on society only for being born in their own beauty. At first I thought humans looked past them out of duty, honor, or mysticism. These humans would be admired in my society. They would not need or want for much, with their natural beauty they could easily rise to the highest ranks based on looks alone. But this was not the case. It simply stunned me, not only the distorted vision of these everyday humans but simply the lack of respect. Even the lowliest creatures where I come from are treated with basic decency, the same unfortunately could not be said for the human world.
You see, the world I come from is not much different than the human world when it all boils down to it. Yes, we have a vast array of beautiful creatures - from those that have skeletal wings protruding from their scaly bodies, to those that have multitudes of poisonous horns and more legs than one can count. Monsters, humans would say. But we are all treated with equality - the one major difference I have noticed from my world to the human world. But other than that, the daily movements are mainly the same. We value our close relationships - family, friends, and if you’re lucky enough, a significant other. We all must have jobs, and we must work well and hard in those jobs in order to survive. And at the end of the day, we all crave a little more. The most astounding thing about the human world to me is that the need for a little more isn’t passive. In my world, it is acknowledged. We all crave a bit of action, a bit of adventure, something to make our days and lives pass with more vivacity and less complacency. But nothing more is done other than strengthening the threads of mediocrity that bind all us monsters together.
You see, we used to be ambitious. Far before any living human could remember, monsters used to be feared. We did not confine ourselves to the underworld. Instead, we swam, flew, and crawled freely about both of our dimensions. Some humans worshiped us, some called us gods. And although we never aimed for destruction, sometimes it could not be helped. A simple belch from an indigestive dragon could accidentally burn an entire village to the ground. In truth, we lived side by side as well as we could. For monsters never had a problem with humans, it was humans who decided to brand us as the wretched name that we are known for today.
We monsters are not all the same. We lingered across the earth and the underworld far longer than any human has ever existed. We clashed, we warred, and we fought viciously for power. Each king, and each class, wanted to be on top. We could not settle for each of our species having a designated space to occupy - for who would want to be confined. We wanted it all, to travel the depth of the underworld, the rolling green hills of the earth, and the vast and empty skies above us all. Our differing clans fought each other for power for centuries. It was bloody, it was fearsome, it was revelry. Our lives were not ruled by the monotony they are now, they were ruled by strategy, cunning, and most importantly - stories. They were riddled with excitement, no one knowing what the next century would bring. At the end of the day, for the common folk we did not care which species or which king came up on top. Our daily lives did not change one way or the other. But the stories we heard, the stories were legendary.
But it didn’t take long for all our lives to change once humans entered upon the earth. At first, we coincided. We viewed them as nothing more than another creature. We had so many types, what was one more. They were plain, unassuming, and welcomed. Little did we know, their inadequacy in themselves is what would lead to our eventual demise.
The humans were quick to notice their differences. They were not fond of magic, and as it wasnt innate they chose not to practice it. They were slower in every aspect, from running, to swimming. They were weak, they could not fly, and they did not have any redeeming qualities that helped their survival such as claws, horns, scales, and the like. It was impossible not to hurt them, and so they retreated.
They condemned themselves to a single part of the earth, the underworld being much too hot for their survival. But their resentment grew. They could not step out of their homes without being targeted. At no fault of ours. We were running our own wars, and living our own lives. We could not be bothered with the safety of others who were so prone to destruction. Eventually, we forgot about the humans. We had a majority of the earth and most of the underworld, the humans could never be a threat. We could not fathom how wrong we could be.
What the humans lacked in strength and dexterity they made up for in innovation and wisdom. They quickly advanced by using the resources around them. They built shelter from the trees, armor from our fallen scales, and their greatest invention - fire. We looked at them with amusement. They were playing our games of kingdoms, we applauded them for keeping themselves occupied. They did not share our mirth.
The humans eventually grew tired of their limitations. When they retreated to themselves, none of us would have guessed that they were building an army. They created potions that burnt our skin, traps that killed our young, and weapons that could pierce through the hearts of the thickest of scales. They had populated quickly, and they were on the attack.
They labeled us monsters, anyone stronger than their kind or who didn’t look like them. They disregarded our separate species, and grouped us together although none of us were the same. They gave us the attributes of menacing, horrifying, and gruesome, even though they threw the first intentional blow. We were so wrapped up in our own affairs that we never saw the threats coming, and soon it was too late. The humans were smart, smarter than we had prepared our own kinds for, and over the centuries the legion of monsters was dwindling away. We were attacked with fury, hunted, tortured, and experimented on for the humans own betterment. Our body parts became relics hung in the homes of the victors. Our scales and teeth became mystified with magical authorities - none of which we actually had. Our young were kept in cages to be humored at, until they became pre teens and were slaughtered by those they thought they trusted.
We weren't given a choice when we got called monsters. We were branded as dangerous, even though we were the ones dying.
Eventually we called a truce. Our kind was weak, we still had loved ones. We still had families. We wanted the next generation to have peace, we wanted to be free of the constant onslaught. We wanted to live. The kings of each of our species got together to make a truce. The humans would take the earth, and all of our species would venture underground, never to see the rolling green hills, the deep turquoise oceans, or the vast night sky of stars ever again. A land we were on first, a land that we were raised on for centuries, a land that gave birth to our greatest and worst memories, would never be seen by the eyes of monsters again.
Until I came along.
Of course, I am far too young to know the details. I was born much after our world became what it is today. But I poured myself over the history, the novels, and longed for a time where monsters could be free again. Our existence is threaded into the fabric of their stories, just as theirs are threaded into ours. The humans sickened me, but they fascinated me. I longed to know more about them, and to study their wisdom and their technology. I wanted more than the life I was given. Yes, we were safe. We were happy. But I knew there was another world out there, a world that was once ours. I wanted to take back the world that my ancestors had. I wanted humans to feel the pain of what was done to our kind. I wanted the word monsters to live up to its meaning.
I won't bore you with the details, I do have limited parchment to tell my story, but basically I conjured one of the magical deities that existed long before our time and asked for a favor of opening a portal to the human world. In exchange, once I return to the underworld I would need to serve penance as their personal housekeeper, butler, maid, cook, whatever their heart desires for the next one thousand years - a small amount of time and a fair exchange of amenities for the services provided. The one unbreakable rule was, I could not cause trouble. I could do nothing that would weave my name into history books. I must go about the human world as unassumingly as possible. This was fine to me, for now. In order to conquer the enemy, I had to study their habits first. Once I had enough information to destroy the humans, I would return to do my penance, and formulate a plan, and an army, to take back what was ours. It was a lofty plan, but with my abundance of youth one that I was sure I could accomplish in due time.
I was given the body of a man who was considered a “bad human.” All I know is he worked in a field called finance, and had accumulated enough sins to warrant some time in the prisons of the underworld.
I would like to say that this story has a happy ending, that I accomplished my dreams, I found the crucial information I needed to destroy the humans, I went back and gathered an army, and I took back what was rightfully ours. But unfortunately, that is not the way this story goes. Unfortunately, I fell in love.
Many months into my research I saw her sitting in what humans call a coffee shop. She was stunning. In a sea of plain and ugly human faces, her beauty shone magnificently. Her hair was a frizzled wave soaring above her head, and her skin was a deep brown with patches of white all over. The contrast was like those of our finest merpeople. Her hunched shoulders and ample body weight gave the resemblance of what were once our finest warrior women. Although she had no conjoined twin, she radiated the wisdom of two humans combined. Her finest feature by far was her eyes. Large, mysterious, and a deep brown that was impossible not to get lost in.
I sat down at her table and startled her. She seemed frightened, and immediately got up to leave. “Wait!” I said hurriedly. She looked confused. I realized that my human form could be no match for her beauty, and cursed myself for having to be in such an unstately shape.
“Do I know you?” she asked hesitantly. “No, but I would love to get to know you.” I said, in what I thought was a charming manner. However, this only made her more skittish. “Is this some sort of practical joke? Are you hiding a camera somewhere? I’m not bothering you, please don’t bother me.” And then she added in almost a whisper “I’m tired of being mocked for my skin and the way I look.” She made her way to leave in an angry hurry. I was perplexed. How anyone could mock her for the way she looked was beyond me. It immediately made me feel angry, sad, and helpless.
“What are you reading?” I asked, as she began to gather her things. She had a large stack of books with her, with names of some of our most famous monsters. “I like to read about monsters, because people often say I am one.” she said quietly. My human heart pained, and felt like it was being gripped by a steel hand. Even with us gone, humans still needed someone to bear hatred to, someone to tether their insecurities to in order to feel better about themselves, someone to mislabel as a monster.
We spoke for hours. Her about monsters, me about humans. We delved into everything we had loved to read, the books we read over and over again, the stories and tropes that most fascinated us. How these books formed our mindsets, our personalities, and even what we wanted in our lives.
My entire existence had been formed around my fascination with humans. I had poured my soul into all the literature we had about them. I had hated them, but I had also admired them for their courage, passion, and their ability to dream for a life bigger than their own.
As the sun set and the waiter angrily escorted us out, no doubt upset at us occupying a space for hours with only a single shared cup of cold coffee between us, I realized the mission I was on was a farce. As we departed, she waved me away with a list of recommendations, ones I would quickly steal from the nearest library or bookstore.. Although she was from an entirely different world, I felt her soul connect to mine in a way no monster below ever had.
I knew at that moment my mission, and my time on human soil, was over. As I began my slow descent back to the underworld, to start my one thousand year penance and spend the next few centuries contemplating my life, I knew that my plan to destroy the human world and to seek vengeance would never come to pass. Not when there were souls like hers there.