She lived in the center of the Rebuilt City, in an apartment high in a tower that had once held offices. Although the city was called Rebuilt, the place where she lived was still more ruin than reconstruction, and few people ventured that deep into the former metropolis.
She was not often seen, not by people who reported back to others, of course, but there were rumors of her from time to time. Sometimes, adventurous people did not bother her, and thus could sight her and leave without danger. Other times they simply escaped.
She could fly, some said. She could run faster than any human ought, others whispered. She could rend flesh effortlessly, with claws or teeth: they showed the proof of that, sometimes, in wounds that festered and rotted. She could poison you with a flick of her tail.
And yet they also said she was a beautiful girl, a young woman who looked small and vulnerable, who would be found sunning herself high on a balcony, overlooking the ruins.
They said she ate people – those who escaped, those who had never been there. They said she devoured them whole, unhinging her jaw like a snake. They said she was a monster. And it was true that those who vanished into her territory were never heard from again, nor were any signs ever seen – not hide nor hair nor clothes nor weapons.
They called her the manticore. And they either loved her or feared her, but none knew her true.
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