Twig

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Chapter 13

Spot could eat anything that fit into its mouth. I could heal from almost anything that hurt me, but I imagined I needed some portion of myself to remain intact to grow back whatever I lost. That meant being swallowed whole was a worst-case scenario. Still, as long as I avoided its mouth, I should have been ok.

I was not ok.

The first thing Spot did was eat my arms, both of them. I ran around the arena looking for a way out, but I couldn’t leave the match until someone opened the gate I came through. The battlefield was enclosed by a perimeter of walls too high even for me to clear. I wasn’t a monster, but people bet on the fight between myself and the man-eater. I could hear them cheering and boing overhead. The battlefield was littered with concrete walls, unfinished structures, and plant life that gave cover while I hid. Not to mention corpses, remains, blood and bones were everywhere too. I was in distress. It felt like the shortest split second separated the moment when I jumped into the ring, from the moment I was running for my life.

The Trio was right, I was naive, I lacked any kind of training, and I was a liability. All I could do was sit there waiting to die. The sound of Spot eating its way closer and closer to my hiding spot was like a count down.

Then it stopped.

I felt it was on the other side of the vine-covered wall I used to hide, but it stopped. There was no crunch, no munch, no slurp, or bite. Was it trying to bait me into a false sense of safety? Was it toying with me?

I was hesitant to step out and see what Spot was doing, but when I looked up into the stands, everyone was frozen speechless. I peaked out from behind the wall, and Spot was there, waiting. It looked into my eyes while we stood opposed to one another for the longest time. It abruptly floated near me, and I backed away until I stumbled and tripped over my own feet. Still, it came closer. Its jaws opened, and drool fell over me.

I was done. I had to be. How was I going to walk away from something eating my head off my shoulders? But then it did the oddest thing.

It licked me.

Like a dog, it licked my face. Terrified, I tried to beat it away with my nubby limbs. It ate another of my recovering arms like a treat, but that was as far as it went. It was ...friendly. Friendly enough to let me stand up. Friendly enough to hover at my side without trying to take a bite out of me. It must have known I could grow back my limbs somehow. Otherwise, it just really liked eating arms. Either way, it wasn’t trying to kill me. The sudden realization was enough to make me smile with relief. I didn’t exactly conquer the beast, but the fight was over.

Looking up into the stands, I searched for Splice, expecting to see him upset or displeased. He was gone, vanished. I waited for someone to open the gate to let me out, but it was a long wait.

Unfortunately, they weren’t about to let me go. They wanted a show. They wanted a fight, and if Spot wasn’t going to kill me, someone else was. The exit gate opened, but a group of men ran onto the battlefield. They surrounded us with their weapons drawn. The first to charge at us had tasers. They beat us around until Spot started eating people. It was disturbing. Watching that black hole of a beast devour people like I thought it would do to me was surreal. I didn’t understand why Spot liked me until guns started shooting. Bullets bounced off my body as usual, but it was a surprise to find the same thing happened when they hit the beast.

It was like me.

How hadn’t I noticed already? Was it from my home world or a place like it? I didn’t know. Still, I couldn’t focus on the discovery while we were trying to escape. It didn’t matter how invulnerable we both were, as long as they had us outnumbered, surrounded, and the exit guarded.

There was no way we’d get out.

I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t want to kill anyone, but Spot was already eating people left and right. Regardless, I saw it getting tired every time someone got close enough to use a taser. I had to do something.

King’s gun was in my pocket, but my arms were still growing back. I never controlled my healing ability; it was something that worked on it’s own time. At that moment, while Spot and I slipped away to take cover, I tried to force my ability to work faster.

We hid in the ribcage of what must have been a massive carnivore when it was still alive.

How was I supposed to make myself heal faster?

It didn’t make sense. It felt impossible, but I had to try. I knew there was only so much punishment I could take before being knocked out, and Spot was likely the same. Internally I yelled at my body to work harder. I survived climbing an electrified fence. That should have been impossible. Every moment I clung to that metal deathtrap should have killed me, but my body healed so quickly I was able to live through it. My body could heal fast enough to survive; I needed to recover fast enough, I needed to grow enough to win.

While I tried to focus, the bad guys found us and made us run from hiding. It was a struggle to concentrate while bullets pelted the back of my head or tasers shocked me from all sides, but I was motivated.

My arms started to take shape while I held my eyes shut with a controlled breath. I could feel the muscles forming, layering, and extending from my shoulders to my elbows down to my fingertips. When I opened my eyes, I did more than heal. My eyes went wide. Never before that moment had I known my arms to be so... thick. I had muscle mass. Actual muscle mass. I was far from being a bodybuilder, but my arms were more than the limp sticks they usually were.

There were no more excuses. It was time to fight. I took the gun from my pocket, and the next person that followed us around a corner found themselves at the wrong end of the barrel. The taser wielding thug didn’t move, but my hands trembled. They saw I couldn’t pull the trigger.

I couldn’t pull the trigger.

Lucky for me, that short moment of pause was all the time Spot needed to swoop in and eat the guy my gun was pointed at. It would have been more merciful to shoot the guy. I had arms, but I couldn’t use King’s gun, so I returned it to my pocket. Brute force never worked before, but I never had the necessary strength. It was a gamble, but I went with my fists.

Spot and I were on the offensive.

With waves of goons continually flowing into the arena, we had to keep a constant fight to reach the exit gate. We made a good team. Spot and I were both bulletproof. I could heal from anything, and it could eat anything. I punched people out of the way, and Spot bit chunks out of them making sure they couldn’t get back up.

When we reached the gate, at least ten gunmen were guarding it. Bulletproof or not, they had heavy artillery. I was beat, out of breath, and tired. Spot was hovering closer to the ground than usual, so it was probably on its last legs as well.

I couldn’t see a way for us to get through, but it didn’t matter. While Spot and I stood ready for the firing squad, a familiar face approached the gunman from behind. Splice ran up, and with the swiftest movement, he slit the throats of everyone standing in our way. Their bodies fell like dominoes before he stepped over them.

“Well done,” Splice said.

I took a stutter step backwards. There was so much carnage in that place.

“Why did you help me,” I asked.

“Because, Twig, you’re going to help me,” he said while resting a bloodied claw on my shoulder keeping me from backing away.

Spot helped me so much, but when it saw it’s real owner, I couldn’t do anything to keep it from floating over from my side to his

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