Kristen Houghton

The March Editor's Pick Writer is Kristen Houghton

Please feel free to email Kristen at: kristen.houghton@outlook.com


by Kristen Houghton

The beast wasn’t dead. He had been dragged away in the blood and the dirt by three strong men who had left him in a dirty straw-strewn area behind large old-fashioned wooden gates to await his fate. They thought he was dead, but I knew better.

The night time performance in the bull ring had been a scene of pseudo-triumph and cheers for the matador the murderer, and carnage and despair for the bull. I loathed the stupidity and cruelty of the spectators. They were taking delight in the torture, mentally and physically, of a beautiful animal. The smell of blood filled me with an intense but controllable longing—I had made sure to feed before I had entered the seating area. My anger was high and I could have easily decimated the cheering idiots seated with me.

The bull fight, with its stylized posturing and swirling red cape was a spectacle of a garish kind but my fellow watchers were mesmerized by the pageantry of it all. I hated it but I had come for a reason—the bull. Weak from loss of blood he was, the Beast was unconscious, but not dead. No, not dead. He needed me.

I went down to the yard where they were to slaughter him, this magnificent, noble Beast who had been bred for the cruel amusement of stupid humans. I was accosted by a man who was holding the door wide for the men who were dragging the bull inside.

“No, no señorita. You don’t want to enter here. This is the slaughter yard. In a half hour we are going to butcher him. You don’t need to see this. We wait only for El Carcinero. The butcher,” he adds in English assuming, wrongly, that I don’t speak Spanish.

I correct him. “Hablo español.” I speak Spanish.

The man is apologetic. “Discúlpeme, señorita, pero no sabía que hablabas nuestro idioma.” Excuse me miss, I didn’t know you spoke our language. Ah, I think. If you only knew the languages I speak fluently. That knowledge has kept me safe during my many years of travel on this earth. My years of protecting the Beasts.

I smile grimly at his apology but, whether I understand his language or not, that takes nothing away from the fact that, in his eyes I was a weak woman who needed protection from the horror of the slaughter yard.

I smile again, this time beguilingly, at him and, confused by my smile, he says stupidly, “Did you see the bullfight? Was not Torero Sosa wonderful tonight? So light in his steps, so sure with the knives to weaken the beast, yes? He is a hero, is he not? Tomorrow night he will dine on testículos de toro.” Bull’s testicles. I shudder slightly and answer him.

“Hero? No, a hero saves lives, the matador kills and does so cruelly because he bleeds the life blood from the bull slowly and painfully.” I say this calmly but with conviction, staring into his eyes, willing him to leave me alone with the beast. “If there were any justice, El Torero would have his cojones cut off and fed to the bull.” For spite and shock, I say cojones, the vulgar word for testicles.

The man moves away from me, shocked at my language and frightened, not knowing what else to say and feeling a new urgent need to get away from me. Perhaps some primal part of his brain senses what I am. Before he turns to depart from the slaughter yard he says, “But you must leave now. I—I am going to see if the butcher has arrived. Truly, he is never late. You must leave señorita. This is no place for a lady.”

I watch him go up the narrow walkway to a small building. He can wait for the butcher all day but El Carcinero will not come; I have made sure of that. His hot, chili and spice-laden blood fills my veins. I was not easy with him, El Carcinero. I, too, know how to butcher.

I look around the yard. There are three gates. I lock the one that leads to the bullring as well as the one that leads to the walkway. The third one, the one called the bull run where the bulls enter through a narrow corridor to the ring, is already locked. Good. I need to be alone with the Beast.

I smell his blood and it is strong even though he has been weakened by its loss. As gently and as quickly as I can, I pull out the bandilleros, the sharpened knives attached to flowing streamers that have been impaled in strategic spots in the back of the beast. He moves ever so slightly and a soft moan escapes him.

“Beautiful Beast,” I murmur as I lean over his wounds, “Don’t be afraid for I will have you live again, stronger than before.”

I sink my teeth into my wrist until the blood surfaces, then drop by drop I drip the blood into each cut and slash made by the cruel matador. They seem to heal almost immediately. I feel his body stir and I quickly drip my blood on to his tongue which is protruding from his half-opened mouth. I must do this as fast as I can before he awakens fully.

I feel myself weaken, light-headed and dizzy. I stop the flow of blood from my wrist and rest against the broad side of the magnificent beast. He snorts softly and moves his head slowly round to look at me. His eyes stare strangely and uncomprehendingly at me but I think I see gratefulness in his eyes.

“My magnificent one, my beauty, I will make you a legend and a myth,” I say caressing his side. “You will be known as a god. The butcher will not come for you, not ever, that I promise.”

The blood has stopped flowing and my own self-inflicted wound has healed; such is my strength. Kneeling I place my face against his and wrap my arms around his head unafraid of his deadly horns. I help him struggle to his feet and he stands proudly, if a bit uncertainly. My Beast.

There are voices. I hear the Beast snort and see him turn his head towards the walkway gate. He paws the ground. “No, my beauty, my wild darling one. Not here, not now. Revenge is for later. Hush now, we must leave.” 

The Beast seems to understand that he should not give vent to his rage here and now. Obediently he follows me to the third gate. The heavy gate is no match for me. I force it open with my inhuman strength and the two of us walk through the corridor towards the evening light. We are alone. At the top of the run is a corral fence and the beast easily breaks it down at my command. We leave together, going across a barren dirt-covered path not taken by many.

I have much to do before the morning comes. First and foremost, I must take him to the hidden place I had chosen earlier where the beast and I can sleep safely and undisturbed. He is still weak and dazed from his horrible ordeal in the ring. Oh how I will make the torero pay for his cruelty!

I lead him down a dark road toward an old barn. This barn was chosen because it has a hidden entrance with a ramp that leads down to a large room underneath the barn itself. Here the beast and I will rest. I have filled the dirt floor with mounds of sweet-smelling hay and soft sacks. There is a trough of well-water and one of fresh grain. My Beast will not go hungry or thirsty. My beautiful Beast.

We reach my hiding place just before dawn. It is warm and the air is moist with the promise of much-needed rain. I watch as the beast drinks his fill of water—he has already drunk the powerful elixir that is beginning to make him immortal. Tomorrow night, my friend, you will drink from those who sought to destroy you and your journey to a new life will begin. Now we must sleep and I settle down on the thick carpet of straw next to him, my head resting against his side. My darling Beast. Rest now, rest.

We found el torero, Hector Sosa in his bedroom entertaining a lady. From the open window we heard him tell the woman that nobody knew what had happened last night. “The bull simply got away, no one knows how. I don’t understand it at all. I bled that creature until he couldn’t stand—Death was waiting for him. How did he escape the cold hands of death?”

A soft snort from my Beast fades on the rain-laden breeze. Death in the form of a powerful and newly risen bull awaits you my friend. Death is right outside your window. Look!

We brutally savaged el torero and his lady. She was only collateral damage—a pleasure I took for myself while my Beast literally tore the torero apart. His screams were like music. He will never torture and kill another bull. I watched with pleasure as my Beast lapped up the blood of his torturer.

Many died that night—the old man who waited in vain for El Carcinero, the novice matadors who with fancy footwork and long sharp knives, bled and tired the Beast so Sosa could easily torture him, the townspeople who had cheered on the carnage. All sucked as dry as corn husks.

That night, both of us refreshed by the blood, we traveled on to my home, a place to where my Beast and I will always return after our nightly hunts. He will like it there and he will not be alone. My menagerie of animals who were abused by humans will welcome him and he will be safe and loved. As we enter the forest of my home, we are greeted by many animal sounds of joy. My Beasts.

For I am the Lady of Beasts, a blood-drinker of vile, cruel humans. My animals are held sacred to me as manifestations of myself. Those who would harm any one of them will suffer a horrible death if not by my own hand, then by my command.

My beautiful Beasts will be avenged.

Kristen Houghton is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. The first four books in her best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, are now available in a boxset. The series has been voted one of the top five mystery/thriller series by International Mystery Writers. She is also the author of the Horror Book Club award-winning Quick-Read, Welcome to Hell.

Her latest book, Lilith Angel, was released in April, 2019. “Her parents are vampires, her boyfriend’s a werewolf, she has untried witchy powers of her own—but teenager Lilith is just trying to live a ‘normal’ life and pass advanced calculus! Life can be difficult for the otherworldly.”

Kristen Houghton has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine (a division of Macmillan Publishing), Hartford Woman, Today, senior fiction editor at Bella Magazine, interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel.