The beast seemed to take no notice of the woman. It did not lift its head as she laid out knives and a hammer on the table. Its tail would occasionally swat at its side, though there were very few flies in the hall. After the woman leaned the axe against the table, she smoothed the small velvet patch out. She then turned to the audience and gave a short bow. The audience clapped, and the beast, for the first time, raised its head. None of the audience could really see where it was looking, and, before long, the beast lowered its head again.
The woman picked up the hammer and a small knife first. She turned away from the audience and walked to the beast. It was on a second table, strapped down so that it was chest height to the woman. She took a little breath, then stabbed the beast in one of its hind legs. It made a deep and beautiful sound, the kind of soothing noise that made the audience members think of sitting in front of the water. Many of the audience members nodded, slightly. Others put their hands to their lips.
The woman removed the knife. She raised the hammer and brought it down on the beast's ankle, though not at full strength. Now, the beast let out a higher note, almost a whine, but still pleasant. The audience members turned to each other, whispering appreciatively. The woman went back to the original table, where she set down the small knife and picked up a bigger one. The beast groaned, starting low, then moving to high.
The woman went back to the beast. She slid the new knife into the joint under one of the beast's front legs. It gave out a soft hum. The woman then brought the hammer down on where the knife was inside the beast, cracking off the blade. A second note came out of the beast, this one stronger, but still gentle. Some of the audience members began to dab at their eyes. The woman dropped the knife handle on the floor and returned to the table. The beast kept up its noise while she did.
The woman's shoulders rose and fell. She picked up the largest of the knives, put the hammer down, and picked up the smallest of the knives. The beast's voice began to die down as the woman walked back to it. She used the biggest knife to stab the beast between its ribs. Blood came out, and a high, lilting note as well. The woman stood, letting the beast sing for a bit before she used the smaller knife to put out one of its eyes. Again, the beast let out a second voice while maintaining the first. The second voice would best be described as spiraling. For the first time, the audience clapped.
The woman went back to the table, now picking up the axe. The beast sang out, long and sad notes that led the audience to look down at the floor. The woman drew the axe back and took a deep breath. The first chop was well placed. It severed a foot. The beast raised its head and bellowed. The woman brought the axe back again. This time, she brought it down on the beast's midsection. The blade bit deep into its side. Blood splattered on the woman, and the beast's song filled the hall. The audience clapped again.
The woman started rocking the blade back and forth before pulling it back out. Blood trickled out of the wound and off the side of the table. Now the woman brought down several blows, covering the beast's body. The beast started slamming its head on the table. It bellowed again, a deep and full sound. The applause died down, and everyone stared at the stage.
The woman continued to chop, eventually splitting open the beast's throat, and then its skull. The notes started to taper off. In less than a minute, the beast's voice had stopped, though the audience could still feel the voice in the hall. The woman leaned the axe against the table, turned to the audience, and bowed. The audience began to clap. It stood and clapped, and the woman permitted herself a small smile.
Zeke Jarvis is a Professor of English at Eureka College. His work has appeared in Posit, Moon City Review, and KNOCK, among other places. His books include So Anyway..., In A Family Way, and Lifelong Learning.