's 2018 Horror Write-off:

New circle

Submitted by Mefista

Her body felt colder and colder with each passing minute, as if the heat was concentrating somewhere in her chest. Each breath and gulp tasted sour and dry, and lungs felt like they were on fire, but she knew nobody would allow her to stop. Her clouded eyes won't let her see others, but she could still perceive the warm glow of the gold - gold that she no longer deserved. Everything was taken from her, and, while still alive, she died for her brethren days ago - they were chasing her away like she was a wild dog or lowly lynx, not one of their own.

Suddenly, the warm glow that surrounded her faded, and she realised she was now outside of the village - all alone, broken, and deadly ill. Her ears picked up the sound of water and, gathering what force she still had, she started to move closer to it.

Her limbs were all completely numb, so even such a short, familiar road felt like eternity, and she couldn't be precise with whatever little vision she had left, so, in the end, she had dragged herself right into the river, dipping her whole front part and choking on the cold, salty waves. She couldn't move, only hope that the death would come fast.

That's when she heard cracking.

First, she thought it was just the sound of water hitting her ears, but it was more persistent, less rhythmic, and reminded her of something. Bones. She remembered similar sounds - breaking the bodies, tearing the meat, - and opened her mouth instinctively.

Her beak slipped off. Before she could panic, she felt her nostrils flaring, and some sort of softer, weirder new mouth where it used to be. She gasped in the water, and could swear she was breathing air.

Suddenly, she began to understand. Moving her neck with the last bit of force she had, she forced her whole body into the river - it was dark and so cold, even her numb body felt it, but she knew it was necessary. Either she was right, or she would die peacefully, without foxes and dogs defiling her once-proud body.

Heat and pressure in her chest became absolutely unbearable, but even through it, numbness and pain, she could feel her body parts cracking and sliding off. She knew that the new flesh underneath them was like pebbles in the seaweed, no more fur or feather, and, when her no-longer-broken wings opened, they were webs of silver and crimson. Old eyes liquefied, and water itself curled in the empty holes to give her back her eyesight.

With her soul at peace, she breathed her first fire.