Monster Feet

An easy breeze glided across my skin, and I was grateful for it. Grateful not just for the cooler air, but for being upwind from the death and decay that had claimed the city. A full moon cast long shadows amid the wood and stucco ruins I picked through, but the only movement I saw was the calf-high weeds as they swayed. With any luck, the lonely sound of roiling weeds and debris would be my sole companion for the night.

Now, I wasn’t an idiot. I knew moving at night was dangerous, what with the ugly beasties hunting for fresh meat. Still, those of us who still breathed had learned early on: moving at night might kill you, but it’s a heck of lot better than the nasties that killed you during the day.  

Vschzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! A cicada’s song called out, drawing out the others that lurked about.

“Ught.” I struggled to lift a toppled wall, and? Nothing. I pushed and shoved some more before, “unghhh!” it finally gave way. But my curiosity, my haste, had made me a fool. It crashed into an upturned beam I hadn’t noticed and Crash, crack, clack, a segment of hanging clay roof tiles clattered to the pavement.

“Shit!” With no time to move, all I could do was tuck my back into the thing that most closely resembled a standing wall and unsheathe my blade.  

Vschzzzzzz-gsh! The cicadas’ endless chant came to a halt, and the terrified girl in the back of my mind readied to pray.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Little stabby feet moved toward me at a lightning pace. Vdt-dung, vdt-dung! The black shadow bobbed on its eight spindly legs as it crested a nearby wall. Holding my breath, I gripped the hilt of my weapon tighter even as Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, another rounded the wall to my left and Vdt-dung, Vdt-dung yet another launched atop the very wall whose fall had announced my presence.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeekkkkkkk. The closest little demon screeched only for its friends to undulate and screech at me too.

“Not today.” I slashed at the air when the first leapt for my throat.

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeek! It screamed as three of its feet were sliced away. Two non-amputated feet tore through both my jeans and flesh as I scrabbled away.

Riieeekk! Riieeek! I managed to roll under another, but the round armored body of his friend slammed into my side so that I crashed into a pile of glass and jagged cement.

I might have screamed in pain if the collision hadn’t knocked all the wind out of me. Instead, I coughed and sputtered as I crawled on frantic hands and knees. Fighting for air, I tried for the blade that had been knocked away.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. A terrifying shadow jumped between me and the blade. With me on all fours, we came face to face. Tufts of hair lined a black scaled face with six sickly yellow eyes. “No.” We might have been the same size now, but that horrid creature had four times the legs and about nine-hundred times the speed. I’d never make it in time. So, I pulled the another blade instead.

The injured beast finally stopped screaming, but all three were coming right at me. Riieeek!

I rolled off a ledge of concrete, and splayed on my back,  ran my blade along the leaping monster’s underside. Heeeeeeeeeeeek!

A fetid black sludge coated me from head to toe. It oozed into my hair, up my nose and seeped through my clothes. And the smell? Oh, God. The smell!

If I weren’t in a fight for my life, I would have hurled. But there was no time. No time to puke. No time to panic. No time to do anything but move.  

I rolled once, twice, and then hopped to my feet, but rdddddddllllll, the uninjured beastie tucked in its legs and rolled. I tried jumping over the giant ground-laden cannon, but to no avail. He hit me so hard, I could hear my leg crack. “Shit!” Down, I went.

Snap!

I heard it, I felt it.

Felt my jaw snap, “Fuuuuuuu-” I howled as one side of my face sagged, before, pop, pop. “Letty!” I tried, but all I did was cry.

Pop, pop. Pop, pop. The crack of our father’s gun challenged the creatures’ screams.

“Come on!” Letty was two years older than me, and she was bigger. Stronger. I leaned on her shoulder and tried to think of anything but the pain. “We have to hurry.”

But we were too late.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Monster feet called out by the dozens.

“Sorry.” I managed.

“It’s ok.”

But it wasn’t. Wasn’t ok.

“I’m a fool.”

“A damn fool.” She agreed, as our mother would say. “I told you, I don’t need anything for my birthday.”

‘Sweet Sixteen.’ I tried, but the only thing that came out was an oath of pain.

Letty was good enough not to respond, not to blame me for costing our lives, for something as silly as a birthday surprise. As we hurried toward the compound, she screamed, “Jorge!”

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

“You two aren’t gonna make it!”

We crossed under the first string of generator lights.

“Jorge now!”

“You’re not-”

“NOW!”

The ground shuddered as an explosion rocked the world to our back. Dirt and concrete clawed at my skin even as my ears rang. Suddenly heavy, gravity pulled at me, but somehow, Letty continued to drag me. Grey dust and blood coated her face. I saw her mouth moving but  couldn’t hear one freaking thing.  

Another explosion caused her knees too to give way. I couldn’t breathe through all the dirt that charged the air. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t think.

There was just ringing and haze. And everything hurt. But slowly, slower than I could crawl, the world began to shrink.

I could see it. Darkness claiming the corners and drawing me in as the world shuddered one last time, and….

Never again.  

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