's 2016 Horror Write-off:

All Of This Is Happening Right Now Part 3: A Lovely Lion

Submitted by Brendan Cleary

Manor positions himself in front of the dead beast, arms up, legs spread, eyes staring right at the camera.

Cottage takes the shot, "Yeah... that's a nice one, real nice. We're going to try one with you wrapping your arms around her, okay?"

"I'm a god, Cottage." 

"You sure are buddy! Now, could you please... yeah, just like that."

Manor clasps both of his hands around the creatures neck. His grip is ambiguous, the grip of a proud hunter, about to snap his prey's neck, or the compassionate embrace of the prey's young, still not fully understanding the state of it's mother, it all depended on how you looked at it.

It works, cottage thinks, as he take a half dozen snaps of Manor and the...dead thing. The tour guide had said it was a Lion. 

Manor's brand is ambiguity, he is the only musician Cottage has ever worked for where a publicity photo that blurred the lines of remorseless predator and innocent child was the look they were going for. 

"This would be a great cover for Dalmatian, Manor!"

Dalmatian is the lead single for Manor's second album, Ascension. The song, produced by two German twins who described their style as "Lo-Fi Bubblegum Bass", consists of Manor singing about transforming into a dog, presumably a Dalmatian. The chorus was just sampled dog barks.

Manor nods, and starts to release his arms from their icy grip. 

"I want one where I'm in its mouth" Manor took out his blue pill bottle, which he had named "Funny Mana", and gulps down five bite sized pills that look like tick tacks. They could have been ticktacks honestly; Cottage knew Manor didn't need any drugs to put his mind in an altered state.

Cottage puts the camera down and walks toward Manor, who is already sizing up the mouth of the creature.

"That's a great idea Manor". Be supportive; never contradict him, the first and last rule for working with Manor. 

"But I think we shouldn't, you wouldn't want to catch any diseases."

Manor shrugs, his usual response when someone convinces him not to do something. 

"I think it's time to leave... we're doing an episode of your podcast today, you're going to talk to some fans, don't worry they've been prescreened. They're still crazy, but not the crazy you can get sued over." Cottage chuckles and walks over to the car, a rented jeep.

Cottage starts the hummer; it's roar makes the birds around the clearing scatter into the sky.

Manor is kneeling besides the beast now, seemingly unaware of the noise.

"We're going Manor, what the hell are you doing?"

Manor looks up, confused. "I'm saying a prayer for my prey. It deserves a prayer, it gave us so much after all." He rubs the things head slowly.

"That's great Manor but, you know Patricia killed it right?"

"Yes she did. But I was the one who killed her" He puts his head on the beast's nose.

Cottage gets out, frustrated, and walks over to Manor.

For the first time Cottage stares at the beast, really stares at it, not just glance at it for a second or two, like he was doing before, really look at it. Its eyes seem to have two sets of pupils; its fur is uneven and brittle, feeling like barbed wire in places, and moss in others. Its paws were red in color, and the rest of its body had a slight bluish hue. He doesn't know what it is, but he knows it isn't a lion.

"... Listen, Manor. You didn't kill her, okay. Patricia did, you know, our guide? End of story. Now, if we could please get in the car-" 

"She killed it because I told her to, if it wasn't for me, she would still be alive."

He put his fingers into the shape of a gun and mimes shooting the beast.

"Bang" Cottage says, giving sound to the action. He suddenly feels ill.

Manor slowly gets up, like a cat reluctantly leaving a sunbeam, and begins trudging back to the car.

"I killed her Cottage." 

Cottage walks over to the beast, and takes one of the paws of the thing in his hand. It has six fingers.

He looks the thing in the face, it was about to be seen by millions of people, would they be able to see it's pain, would they be able to see what he was seeing.

He tries to close the creature's eyelids, but finds that this is more difficult than he expected. After a few minutes of fumbling, he found that they were horizontal and not vertical.

He backs away slowly from this...thing that is most certainty not a lion. His mind frantically searches for an explanation. Manor picked this one out yesterday. Patricia sweared all of this would be legal, all of this was vetted and allowed. Patricia wouldn't have... Patricia would have noticed the moment she saw this thing. Where did they find this thing, what lab did they have to drag this out of? What sewer did they lure this out of, what branch of the evolutionary tree did they cut this off of? 

God, he was starting to picture it alive, running freely in the Africa savanna. It was as beautiful alive as it was horrible in death.

"Manor" He yells, running back to the car. years of annoyance unleashing itself in one angry outburst, he picks Manor up by the collar. "What the hell is this thing!" 

Manor gives him a confused, half smile.

"It's a lion, Cottage. Just a big ol' lovely lion"