I read a lot of short stories in second person and felt inspired, so here’s another story. About . . . well, taming creatures and stuff. You’ll see.
There is no beast you cannot tame.
You tame ordinary beasts often; the most frequent of those are lions, wolves. Also, though, you tame the fantastical. You’ve domesticated dragons, griffins, unicorns–
But perhaps I’ve lied. Because, perhaps, there is just one beast you can’t tame. When you head inside your little home at the end of your shows, and you look into the shadowy metal cage in the corner, and you feel a strange tug in your chest–perhaps there is a creature in that cage who has remained wild, even after meeting you.
And perhaps that creature is neither ordinary nor fantastical; just as you, once upon a time, thought yourself to be. You know not where she came from, nor when she appeared, only that she must be kept from all prying eyes.
This beast is, in some ways, just like you. (the fierceness of her gaze the rigid posture the soft voice turned to a low, practiced growl)
But it is the similarities to you that make her the hardest to tame. You do not know why. She’s certainly not the most ferocious beast, nor is she particularly lethal, but she is–perhaps–the most human. At the very least, she’s stubborn.
Just like you.
That thought makes you scowl towards the cage. You’re not stubborn. You’re just . . . determined.
In any case, you have a job to do and a show to prepare for and the strange creature will have to wait.
She doesn’t eat anything. You’ve offered her all sorts of meat, all sorts of dairy, all sorts of fruits and vegetables, and your beast refuses everything. You don’t understand how she hasn’t become weak and starved, but there’s no way to find out, so you shrug it away and try to get some sleep even though there are too many questions in your mind.
You’re still trying to sleep when you hear something pounding. Not like poundpoundPOUNDPOUNDPOUNDpound, not irregular and unpredictable. It goes pound. Pound. Pound. It’s rhythmic and simple, and you feel a strange tug again. It makes you stand even though you’re half-asleep, brings you over to the cage, makes you reach your fingers through the freezing-cold bars.
The beast reaches toward you, and you want to jerk away, but don’t. Her cold fingers meet yours and there is something pulsing inside, like pound. Pound. Pound. The strange tug becomes a beat, one that travels to your fingers slowly, matches up with the beat in the beast’s, and there is something so strange about this pounding but also something so right.
You know you shouldn’t, but you name your beast. Her new moniker is Heirette, because that’s the name she answers, to, that’s the word that makes the beast speak. She responds with “Tasri” when you call her, and it catches you by surprise because you didn’t know she can speak, least of all that she knows your name. You try to ask the beast how she learned it, but the strange creature refuses to say any more.
Every night, your beast begins pounding again. Only . . . you think, now, that it’s not exactly a pounding or beating. It’s more of a pulsing something. In you, there’s an empty gap within your chest that pulses, quiet, weak, barely reaching your fingertips. But Heirette pulses strongly, with the entirety of her being.
Sometimes the pulsing carries on into the morning. But most of the time, it dies away as soon as the sun is up. You wonder why. Maybe even Heirette’s not strong enough to keep pulsing throughout the day. Or maybe it’s easier to go by unnoticed during the night.
You’ve gotten used to the steady pulse, but one night it speeds up. You’re asleep when Heirette starts pulsing louder, faster, and the gap in your chest rushes to match. It takes you a drowsy moment to realize someone is outside, another moment to realize that Heirette is afraid. The pulse vibrates the floor slightly, vibrates your home, vibrates through you.
You go outside weaponless, careful to close the door quickly before anyone can see your beast. But it’s no one to be afraid of, just a desperate friend. He says he needs help getting a dragon off a tightrope in order to practice for the next day, and you gladly agree to help.
So you head with him to the tent, get the dragon down, and receive a thousand thanks from your friend. You smile at him and tell him no problem, it’s fine, if he ever needs your help again he should just give you a holler.
But something’s off when you get home. You forget what problem you just fixed, forget where you’re coming back from, forget everything in the world except for Heirette, because the moment you open the door and look towards the cage, what you see is . . .
Your beast is gone.
You suspect your friend immediately, then hate yourself for thinking it. You trust him.
But the timing of his request and Heirette disappearing is awfully suspicious. Although it probably wasn’t him who kidnapped your beast (since you were with him the entire time), he must have been in on it. But this isn’t as huge a shock to you as you would have expected; some part of you, you’re realizing, has always known that your friends are only friends because your kindness is easy to take advantage of.
Or maybe Heirette ran away. This . . . this hurts you more than it should. So you tell yourself to calm down, stop jumping to conclusions, she couldn’t have run away . . . because, there, look! You see the signs of a struggle from a rebellious beast who is just as stubborn as you. The corner of your home is a wreck, which means there are two options: one, a kidnapping, or two, a beast escaping clumsily.
You hope hope hope for it to be the first one. But then, guiltily, you think, what if Heirette’s hurt? And then, wouldn’t I feel it?
The connection between you and your beast is much more noticeable when she’s not there with you.
You head to the circus tent, and spend time with the tamed creatures, and look around to find anyone acting suspiciously. But your friends are acting the way they always do–nervous, excited, some confident, some despairing.
As the time for the show nears, everyone gets into place. You’re prepared, but distracted–there are still no clues about Heirette’s whereabouts.
The show begins.
The sleep you haven’t gotten catches up with you and you watch the whole thing drowsily, barely registering any of it. But then it’s your turn and you head up and wait for a beast to be brought up and it’s none of the ones you tamed, it’s the only one you can’t, it’s your beast, it’s Heirette, looking as starved as you thought she would be when she wouldn’t eat anything you gave her.
But she still looms scarily in her new cage. She’s beating strongly, angrily, and you feel it.
You’re at a loss for words. Heirette, you think, and a moment later, what a stupid name. Before you know what you’re doing, the cage has been opened and your beast stands before you. The show is entirely forgotten.
You reach out your hand and extend your fingers towards her hands–paws–whatever they are–and the two simultaneous pulses become one. Heirette disappears–no, you think. An unfamiliar word blossoms on your tongue, and you breath it out soundlessly. Heart. That’s your beast’s true name.
Heart disappears, but the empty space in your chest is filled. It doesn’t make you different from what you were, doesn’t change you–only amplifies you. Suddenly you can feel deep aches in your beast, your Heart, and at the same time you feel the greatest happiness you’ve ever known.
Every aspect of you is stronger, tougher, and undoubtedly human. (the fierceness of your gaze the rigid posture the soft voice turned to a low, practiced growl)
Why didn’t this happen sooner? you think. And Heart can and does reply, though soon she’ll be as much a part of you as your brain and lungs, silent but unceasingly there.
Because I needed to know whether you were strong enough.
You become conscious of your surroundings again. The whole tent is silent, the audience staring, your friends glaring. This was not how this was supposed to go, their gazes say. You were supposed to tame the beast. You were supposed to give the performance of the century.
You return the gaze, and it says, this is the performance of the century.
And then you leave.
You are the first to have a heart in your heartless world. You are a beast they’ll never tame.