top of page

The Man, or the Animal

By Niall Walker

Many of us are fortunate enough to live with names. Names distinguish us in other's minds, and in this way names are our proof that we matter beyond ourselves, that we are here to be known. Some individuals never have names, or if they did, they have been swept up in to the chasm of lost memories.

Beyond the city, past its saturnine vibrations and howling suburbs, and the serrated steel and broken glass which announced its border, there existed such a being. It had no name; not in the language of our fathers, nor in the language of its own.

It may be referred to by nothing so metaphysical as its appearance, which was monstrous. Its head was small and stretched, set with a look of seemingly permanent alertness. It breathed quickly and violently, and its diaphragm swung in rhythm, a visible skeleton beneath a naked bandage of skin. Its legs jutted from its body like they had been stabbed in; yet they looked proud and erect, the wheels of a predator beneath the carcass of its prey.

The only feature which gave it hope was its nose. Bending through a demonic assortment of features, it ensured that the creature could detect every scent in its proximity.

And what did it smell? It smelt damp mud, layers beneath a floor of heated plastic. It smelt, somewhere close, the radiating scent of electrical wires, and a night air collapsing under the warning of a storm.

But mostly, it smelt blood.


The door closed on the sound of the city. Outside a siren crescendoed to a scream which seemed to emanate from one's brain, before fading away like our dreams once we have just awoken.

Some distance from the cell which kept the creature from its target, behind this door, a man entered his room. A single light source beat a pale luminescence, cold light which revealed plates and packets immersing the surfaces. Larry reacted with a sigh, and a self-reflective expletive.


Silence chased his words, smothering the room. Slowly, he moved from the doorway, with the resigned and sedentary gait of one permanently lost in the crowd. His untidy beard hid a withered jaw; his eyes' puffy bags cradled two twitching commas. Soon, each was arrested by another, imposing presence within the room.


The creature was now restless at the scent.. It shifted noisily in its confines, wishing only to leap out and sate its bloody thirst. With every moment, with every heartbeat, its impatience ascended. This was not a cultured organism: it displayed no willingness to discretion, but began wildly shoving in the direction of the smell. It was starving. Its mouth hadn't even the moisture to produce saliva, and its skin now sunk in to its ribs with every piercing breath.


Larry bent down in front of the towering, dark machine which stood over his bed. Its complexity and sophistication humbled every other image or object that stood captive to it. Its light dazzled with a majesty that somehow dulled the spectator, and Larry was reduced to a silhouette in orbit, a shadow, a reflection. Reaching almost his standing eyeline, a series of radiating metal limbs and dellicate wires lead to a small cloud of impossibly intricate and colourful dots and lines, which, if one dared look close enough, were jumping in and out of existence on a thin piece of glass, suspended at head height. Two sensors extended at either side, smooth and open, seeking one's hand.

Larry blinked.

Suddenly his whole field of vision was changed, as if had been plunged under water. From the sight of grey clothes scattered beneath his mattress, he was immersed in a warm purple majesty. His ears, ringing in the sound of silence, now vibrated to a low and rhythmic beat.

He motioned one of the sensors to a floating icon in front of him. He clicked the sensor, and waited for the game to begin.


The partition which held the creature in place now broke free. All that now stood between itself and the blood was a dark and mysterious expanse of space.

It flew in to the storm in a frenzied mania. It beat against the floor, every stride more furious than the last. Eyes detected obstacles which legs tried desperately to avoid, and from the translucent lungs barked a terrible wail, pained, yet furious.


Larry's pupils searched.


The rain began to pour, an almighty deluge which drowned the creature's stifling cries. The eyes, so pitiful already, now clenched under the weight of a flood. The creature ran now on scent alone: but oh, what a voluptuous aroma it seemed. It was the smell of life.


Larry discovered movement. He brought his target in to view.


As it drew nearer, the creature's body was overwhelmed by the sensation that the blood provoked. It let out a squeal, and its heart, already pounding like an engine, now rang out a terrible melody. Trembling with pain, its legs pushed off in one final pounce.


Larry pressed the sensor. The screen burst in to flames, and a red cross appeared in the top left corner of his vision.

"What the...."

He spread back on his bed, scratching his scalp, before kicking hard at the floor.

"Stupid fucking game."


From the cavernous entrails of what looked like a small bomb site, some lengthy distance from the building containing Larry's room walked a person. They had a name. At times in history they had many names, though for now they will remain unwritten. In their arms was a creature, the sight of which was enough to drive many to renounce their faith. Its holder, however, held it with care, as if they were holding their own newborn, kissing its head and stroking its belly, as it chewed ravernously on a rag, caked in blood.

Images from: and


bottom of page