This Rough Beast

Waterhouse-Trevor

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

Trevor dreamed he was on top of a precipice overlooking a large city. It was Rome. In the distance he could just make out the outline of the coliseum. The next instant he was inside its arena; the place was filled to capacity. He was on an elevated platform looking down on the crowd. He stood still, mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the throng.

There were shouts, cries, laughter, and whistles intermingled with the smell of smoke, food, perfume, and sweat. The crowd lay below him like a restless beast that occasionally raised its great head and bellowed for the sheer pleasure of it. Suddenly its roar intensified as a lone figure stepped onto a stage in the center of the area. It was a young man. He raised one hand and the place fell silent. He hoisted a harp in his arms, plucked a string or two, and began to sing.

Trevor watched in amazement as the singer played the crowd as deftly as he played his instrument. Everyone around him listened in rapturous silence. Their faces were masks of worship, and their bodies vibrated with devotion. The beast lay belly up before the hand of its god.

The singer raised his arms and yelled, and the throng of people went wild. Women began screaming and weeping, waving their arms and dancing ecstatically. Men joined them, leaping and twisting in frenzy. Trevor stared in awe and envy at the singer. His blood pounded in his head, his throat, and his chest. He cried aloud in response to the surging power around him.

Suddenly the singer leaped into the air and was caught by a group of women. They jostled him over their heads, and they tore his clothes. His naked body lay spread-eagle above the crowd. Trevor watched in horror as the women began tearing the hair from the singer’s head. They scratched out his eyes, they raked long claws down his bare chest, and finally, in an orgiastic frenzy, they tore his limbs and head from his body. With a look of triumph, one of the women tossed the singer’s bloodied head at Trevor’s feet. Its few remaining wisps of hair were long and golden…

Trevor awoke gasping for air. He rose and staggered over to the window, breathing deeply, trying to calm his racing heart. A mild breeze cooled his forehead.

I am responsible for the monster I create, he thought.

Slowly, carefully, Trevor the musician backed away from the edge of his life.

Daily Prompt:Precipice

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