Fiction Friday: Beast Player’s Guide

Beast: The Primordial

Have a peek at “Eve’s Hoodie,” the introductory fiction from the recently-released Beast Player’s Guide for Beast: The Primordial.

Mr. Coffey stepped out of the house. The door was off the hinges and the walls were tagged, but no one came in here. This part of town had homeless just like the rest of it, they stood by the highway entrance with their cardboard signs reading “ANYTHING HELPS” and “HOMELESS VET” and “GOD BLESS” and so on. This place was nice and cool, shaded by some overgrown trees, so why no squatters?

Something terrible happened here, thought Mr. Coffey. He smiled at the thought. He knew that a serial killer had once lived here, but that in itself wasn’t interesting; serial killers were a dated fear, a screenwriter’s joke. No, the incident here — and there had been an incident, Mr. Coffey could taste it in the air — had been more recent and stranger. He looked around the yard, lush and green in the wet May weather. The incident was powerful, but at the same time, Mr. Coffey tasted innocence, wonder, the kind of fear that quickened the step and widened the eyes. Children. There was a school nearby, wasn’t there?

Mr. Coffey strolled back to his car, and waved cheerfully at the kids riding by on their bikes. He’d probably see them soon. Social worker, he thought. I’ll be a social worker this time.

***

“You should file an AR.” Angel didn’t look angry, just concerned.

Dave shook his head and adjusted the ice pack on his eye. “It wasn’t his fault. I mean, he threw the book, but he didn’t mean to hit me. He was mad and he lashed out.”

“Dave, this is not the first time.”

“I know, but you expect that. That’s why he’s in my room. It’s fine. I’ve had worse.”

Angel shook his head. He thought Dave was being too indulgent, but what did he know, he just taught regular ed. “This is Richard Fries, right?”

Dave looked at the back of the room. The teacher’s lounge was weirdly shaped, and the other side of the room had an alcove that was invisible from the big table. “Who’s that?”

Vince stepped out of the blind spot. “Sorry. Hi, it’s me.”

“Oh, hey! I ain’t seen you in a while, Mr. Milliner.”

Vince smiled. Some of the teachers forgot his first name, and some of them just habitually called the other staff by title. He didn’t much mind, it just sounded funny. “Yeah, I’m sorry. Progress reports, you know how it is. I’m gonna come get your kids tomorrow.”

Dave nodded. “OK. Yeah, Richard Fries. You know him? He doesn’t get speech, right?”

“No, he doesn’t. I assessed him when he was in preschool.”

“Oh.” Dave walked into the room, and Vince stepped back a bit. Dave checked himself; Vince got freaky about personal space.

“Yeah, he’s still got problems with anger and he lashes out sometimes. Hasn’t, like, thrown anything in a while, but you know these kids, something happens at home, they bring it here.”

Vince nodded. “Yep, I hear you.” He didn’t look like he was really listening, though.

***

Eve loosened the hoodie. She had pulled it tight around her face, trying to screen out the world, for all the good it had done. The cafeteria was too loud, and the sounds too diverse. Boys thumping on tables, high-pitched laughter from girls, the hum of the microphone that the lunch lady used, in vain, to get them to shut up. Eve stared down into her juice, and thought of water, the silent, cool, Boundless Deeps. She felt the cold on her skin, and she was home, if only in her mind.

Something slammed into her back and pitched her forward. One of the boys — Antonio — was playing catch using a wadded up piece of paper and had slipped. Eve stood up, wiping juice and the remnants of her lunch from her hoodie. She turned to face him.

“My bad,” said Antonio. Eve said nothing. Antonio didn’t wait for acknowledgement, he just turned and went back to his game.

Eve reached out and grabbed him by the hair. She pulled, using only a fraction of her true strength, and yanked him backwards into her arms. If we were in the ocean, she thought, I could crush him. I could eat his skin and liquefy his flesh in my mouth, and drink him slowly. The thought appealed, and started to call her home.

Seawater trickled into the room from the corners. No one noticed. The students chanted “Fight! Fight!” Someone ran to get the principal.

Eve let him go. Antonio turned, and curled his hands into a fist. And then he glanced at his forearm, and stopped.

A row of angry, circular wounds had appeared across his arms. Eve hadn’t touched him there. He looked at her in horror, and she pulled the hoodie strings tight again. “Don’t touch me,” she said.

Antonio could only nod.

***

“You think she’s still coming?”

The principal kept glancing at the door as though she expected Richard’s mother to show up. Dave knew better; Richard’s mother — Alyssa — hadn’t shown up for a single parent-teacher conference, and the only way he’d managed to get his IEP signed was to catch her in the parking lot. Ruby, Dave’s aide, smirked at the question and they exchanged a look.

“I don’t think she was ever coming,” said Ruby. “She don’t ever come into the building.”

The principal squared her shoulders. Dave recognized the gesture; Ms. Prost was about to take charge. “OK, so, what do we do, here? Do we go ahead and have the meeting without her? Can we do that, legally?”

Dave nodded. “It’s not best practice, but yeah, we can. But really, I don’t think it’s a big problem. He got mad and he responded inappropriately. He’s on an IEP for emotional disturbance, he’s in my room for a reason. He’s been good for months. I think he just had a bad day.”

Ms. Prost nodded. “You’re OK with him staying in your room?”

“Of course.”

“All right, then. That was easy.” Ruby and Dave started to get up, and Ms. Prost cleared her throat. “One other thing. I wanted to ask your opinion on a student. She’s a transfer from JFK. I know you know a lot of these kids pretty well, Dave.”

Dave sat back down. “Sure. This about the fight in the cafeteria?”

“Yeah. What do you know about Eve Forgus?”

“Um. Not a lot. Like you say, she’s new. She’s what, seventh grade?”

“Yeah,” said Ruby. “She’s in Ms. Cruz’ homeroom.”

“OK. She’s always wearing that hoodie, right? With the hood pulled?”

“She’s already gotten in-school suspension once for that, yeah.”

Dave rolled his eyes before he could stop himself. “Maybe let that go?”

“The rules apply—”

“Of course they do.” All three of them turned to look at Mr. Coffey. All three had forgotten he was there. “You have a dress code for a reason. You let her get too comfortable with thinking the rules don’t apply to her, that’s ultimately not good for her.”

Ms. Prost stayed poker-faced. Dave, who had a lousy poker face on the best of days, cocked an eyebrow. “Don’t know if giving her an ultimatum is the best idea. Anyway, weren’t you here for Richard? Social worker, right?”

“Right.” Mr. Coffey smiled even wider. “But mom didn’t show.”

***

Richard kicked a rock into the parking lot. He was hungry. It wasn’t food-hungry, either. It was mean-hungry. The Dead Dog was growling and pacing and wasn’t leaving him alone. Throwing the book and hitting Mr. Luther had helped, but not much, and he felt super bad about it because Mr. Luther was always cool to him.

He looked across the street. The line at the ice cream place was already long. He checked his pocket, but only found lint. His lips curled up in a snarl, and he knew the Dead Dog was mad. He wanted ice cream. He wanted to take ice cream from someone, but there were little kids there, and he knew he’d get in trouble if he beat up a little kid for ice cream.

So what?

He dug his fingernails into his palms. He wasn’t going to walk across the street.

Go. The little black girl with the puffy hair. She’s by herself. Take her ice cream and shove her down.

Richard was walking across the parking lot before he knew what was happening. He was going to do it. This is how it always happened. He was going to do it and he’d feel terrible and he’d get in so much trouble and his mom would give him a whipping and he’d probably get that terrible, sad look from Mr. Luther but he needed

“Hey.” He felt a hand on his shoulder. A girl was standing behind him. She was older than Richard, maybe in middle school. She was wearing a gray hoodie with the strings pulled, so he couldn’t see her hair, but he could see her eyes and they were so…deep.

She wasn’t a girl. She was a monster. She didn’t have arms and legs, she had tentacles, and they were big enough to crush the whole world.

She leaned over to him. “Hey,” she said again. “Can I walk you home?”

Richard crunched up his face. He felt like crying, but he wasn’t going to do that here. “Yeah.”

What’s going to happen to Eve and Richard? What does Vince Milliner want? Who is Mr. Coffey? Find out in the Beast Player’s Guide, available now in advance PDF from DriveThruRPG.

  3 comments for “Fiction Friday: Beast Player’s Guide

  1. ThomasM
    March 23, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    I’m so very glad to see a new fiction Friday installment. Now I want this book even more!

  2. Josh Stotz
    March 26, 2018 at 8:14 am

    This book is amazing. The fiction in it is also amazing. Seriously though, this book right here has opened up our game of Beast so much more and explained things in a more detailed and understandable way that helps my players conceptualize as well as myself when explaining the primordial dream, the other beasts, etc.

    • March 26, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      I’m so glad. That was definitely the intent.

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