Two

Every year, my friends and I look forward to attending and taking part in the celebration, but as our eighteenth birthdays approach, the party this year brings more worry than delight. We were all born within a few months of each other, but I had the misfortune of being the first to reach the age of eighteen. The second terrifying aspect of it this year is that my eighteenth birthday comes on the day of the celebration, and the beast leaders’ five-year raid is approaching. Thankfully, the celebration takes place during the day every five years, and the village is sealed down as soon as dusk falls. Not that it matters to me; if these beasts want into our homes, they will get in regardless.

The elders erected a safety bunker on the other side of the town with enough accommodation for the entire village after the leader of these beasts declared he would invade the village every five years. Some of the snobbish elders now had basements or underground rooms built inside their huts, giving themselves and their families a better chance of surviving the invasion. My grandmother’s mother was one of those slightly snobbish Elders, and she had a secret cellar constructed and erected beneath the family hut. I have never utilized it since I was too young and because I was always with my group of friends, so we went to their hideaways or the village bunker together.

In the nights preceding up to the celebration and my birthday, I've been having a reoccurring dream or nightmare. It always started with me sprinting into the woods, followed by someone or something. I could never outrun whoever or whatever was after me. Every night, I'd see a rough-looking figure approaching me, and he'd get closer and closer each night. He slams me up against the tree behind me when he finally reaches me. I can't seem to move or breathe; I'm not sure if I'm paralyzed by terror or if he's pinning me to the tree. "You're mine!" he'd growl as he bit down on my shoulder near my neck, jolting me up from my slumber.

After all the training I have been doing over the last couple of years, with the five-year beast raid due this year, as well as it being my 18th year, and now my dreams scaring the crap out of me, I was curious as to the real reason behind the raids and why we never fought to protect the village from them, so after our sessions today, I approach Elder Miles. 

"Um..." 

"Yes, Yasmine, what's on your mind?" 

"I was wondering that with all the training we all do, why don't we stand up to the beasts when they come into the village? It is our village. Why don't we protect it from them?" 

"Come sit, I am not meant to tell anyone that is not amongst the Elders, but your grandmother was and so was her mother your mother would have been too if she hadn't become one of the vanished... Now I was only young when the original agreement with the beasts was broken. From what I gather, the beasts and the Elders used to share the village and the beasts would come and go as they pleased, even teaching the men how to fight and protect themselves and their families until," 

**FLASHBACK**

"Miles? Miles? Where are you?" 

"Coming mother..." 

I crawl out from under the piles of wood that we had been collecting ready for the winter. I run back to the house to find my mother standing on the porch with her hands on her hips.

"Miles, you are filthy, go and wash up. Dinner will be ready soon." 

"But mother..."

"No Buts just go..." 

I sigh and then head over to the water trough. I know my mother will be annoyed, but instead of just washing my face and hands, I jump in, getting all of me wet. It is then that I see one of her boyfriend's Raphael, approaching the hut and know why she wanted me to wash before dinner tonight. He was one of the different ones that stay in the village, but I didn't mind him, as he was always good to me.

I climb out of the water trough, shake off the excess water, and make my way inside to have my mother yell at me again 

"MILES I SAID HAVE A WASH NOT A BATH!!! Go and get dry and dressed, ready for dinner." 

I laugh as I run past mother and into my room. I strip out of my wet clothes, dry myself, and then get dressed. I then come out of my room and join my mother and Raphael at the table. We are all laughing and joking around while eating until we hear a loud crash from outside. 

We all quickly get to our feet and head outside to investigate what is going on. I go to run in front of Raphael, but he catches me and holds me back, keeping me by his side as we approach the cause of the commotion. 

Raphael pushes his way to the front of the crowd and yells, 

"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?" 

Everyone stops and turns towards him, including the 2 men fighting. One was a beast, the other just a villager. The beast steps forward and bows to Raphael, saying, 

"He is trying to steal my mate..." 

"No, she is mine. I asked her to marry me and she said yes..." 

"She did not... You're just saying she did!!" 

"Where is this female?" 

Raphael keeps me held to his side as a shy young girl makes her way into the centre of the circle. She keeps her distance from both men as she says softly, 

"I am Sir!" 

"Is what he said true? Have you made your choice?" 

 "Sir! I... I... I only turned 18 today..." 

"Did he ask you to marry him?" 

She turns slightly and looks at the 2 men. She hesitates, Raphael growls low, 

"Don't you dare lie to me!..." 

"No, he hasn't..." 

I jump as the villager yells "BITCH!!" 

The villager then moves, attacking the young girl, grabbing her from behind. She lets out a loud scream, but he cut her scream short as he cuts her throat. The beast lets out a loud howl, the villager turns and then swipes the knife across his throat too, he however doesn't stop there as the beast falls to the ground he then moves around him to behind his back and then grabs his head and pulls, using his foot on his back to remove the beasts head from the rest of him. 

Raphael turns me away from the scene of violence happening in front of us. I still hear the villager make a yell of victory, but that is cut off by all the growls coming from around us. I then feel like I am flying as I am lifted into the air and someone starts running. I look around as much as I can and see glimpses of fighting everywhere. I am then passed to someone else. Looking up, I see my mother, who then runs with me back to our hut, shutting the door once we are inside. 

I huddle on the bed with my mother as the sound of fighting continues through the night and into the next day. By the next night, the village is full of screams. They broke our door down as the beasts enter our hut. One grabs me and pulls me away as another grabs my mother and forces us out of the hut. They throw me into the group with the other kids and they threw my mother into a group with the other women. 

I get to my feet and have a look around and see that there are more groups around us. I also see many, many beasts standing around each group. Wanting my mother, I look around and once I spot her; I run. I don't get far before I am grabbed by one of the beast's leans forward and wraps his arm around my waist growling, 

"Where do you think you are going, young one?" 

"I want my mother, I want my mother..."

"Sorry kid, back you go!"

I struggle against him as I yell, "RAPHAEL!!" 

"What's going on here?" 

"Raphael, I want my mother!!" 

I can't stop the tears and sobs. I continue to struggle against the beast's arm as I look at Raphael. He looks at the beast holding me and nods. Raphael then looks away from me as the beast forces me back to the group of young kids they threw me into. I sob more as I plea. 

"Raphael? Raphael? Raphael?" 

He doesn't answer but continues over to the group my mother was thrown into. He walks up to her, grabs her arm, and pulls her out of the group. I watch in horror as he gives her a kiss and then breaks her neck in front of everyone. I scream but am knocked to the ground as someone smacks my face, yelling at me to "SHUT UP!" 

We stayed in these groups for hours until a very large beast enters the village. He growls low, 

"Raphael, what happened here?" 

Raphael seems to bow to this newcomer. "Alpha, one of ours, found his mate in a female within this village, but she was already seeing a young man. When challenged, they fought. When I asked what was going on, the villager said he had already claimed her. She denied this. He then went crazy, killing her and then her mate. Then the rest of the village attacked." 

The newcomer then turns in a circle before saying in a calm, firm voice, 

"We give you the freedom to live as you please. As your Elders agreed when I allowed them to move onto my land, we are always welcome and if one of us finds our mate among you, no one was to interfere. We shared our knowledge of fighting, farming, and everything else needed to live here, protected and safe. Your Elders know that the penalty of breaching that agreement is the removal of our protection and that anyone that turns 18 or is nearly 18 will then become ours." 

I watch as one of the Elders then steps forward, standing tall, states,

"Well, maybe it is time to review and remove that agreement... Especially if our villagers can't even pick their own partners... We don't need your protection anymore, we can protect ourselves..." 

The big beast turns, faces the Elder, and laughs. "Really?? Is that why everyone in this village is currently sitting on their knees in front of me?" 

He then walks over to stand in front of him. I don't hear what he says as he then grabs his head and snaps his neck, throwing him to the ground. He then growls out, 

"Is there anyone else here that thinks that this little village can look after itself? That you can protect yourselves without our help?" 

No one says anything. He looks at Raphael and smiles before saying, 

"Okay, we shall see how you all go without our help or protection, but know this: every year I will come, I will come and claim what is owed to me for the payment of the original agreement." 

One of the other Elders then steps forward, she lowers her head as she speaks softly, 

"What if we hold a celebration on this day and night every year, so you and your kind can come and mix with us, giving you a chance to find your mates if they are among us? Or we can make an offering to you, 2 of our villagers that have either just reached their 18th year or are close to it for you to take if that is what you desire?"

He seems to think this over for a moment before answering.

"Very well, this village is off-limits to everyone unless it is during the celebration every year on this day... But once every five years, I will still come and claim what is owed to me as payment of the original agreement. At that time, I will take every male and female that has just reached or is about to reach their 18th year. And if there is any interference whatsoever during that time, I will then take everyone I deem suitable for my purpose and destroy this village and any that are left in it!" 

He then howls loud and long before saying, "Everyone return to the pack now!" 

I watch as they all then walk calmly away from the groups following the big beast out of our village and into the surrounding woods. 

The Elders then move around the groups, seeing to all the villagers that have been hurt, I crawl over to where my mother lay on the ground. I curl up next to her, hugging her tight and sobbing until I fall asleep. 

**END FLASHBACK**

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Ronna Pomuceno Abina
good it is interesting on what will happen next
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