“ARGH--WHAT THE HELL?!” He exclaims, hysterically clawing at my hand that’s still a few inches deep in his neck. I pull him down from his stool onto the floor as he wriggles in my grasp. I wrap my left arm over his throat to press down on his windpipe with my forearm. He desperately tries to pull me away, but I’m too strong for him, and he’s running out of air already. My skin prickles with disgust as I sink my body weight into his thick moist skin, his muscles decay underneath the infectious spots that climb through his suit.
“HEY!” shouts the other traveler. He jumps up to stop me and trips over the legs of his stool as he does so; he recovers and frantically undoes the pistol strapped to his right leg. Before he can even pull it out he stops and gasps, a strangled gargle caught between his lips as a large silver blade jams through his chest. It rips up to his collar bones, then his neck, then finally it splits apart the once symmetrical features of his face. Thief grabs his shoulder and slams him to his knees, then uses her foot to rip him off the blade and wipe his blood on her pants.
My captive tries to tell either of us something through the relentless grip I have on his airway, but I give him no opportunity to do so. I pull him back towards the door, yelling as I go.
“THIS ONE’S MINE, YOU HEAR?!” I scream to the others in the bar as they begin to close in on me. “NOBODY MO-” my eyes explode into sparks and my head splits open; I gasp and release my grip on my victim. He slips out from my arms, turns around, grabs me by my throat, raises me up in the air and rams me into the ground. I cough that old egg right up into his face and I watch the toxic spray shoot into his eyes; blinded he loosens his grip and tries to wipe it on his shoulder.
Behind me are the four warriors who were playing cards in the corner, one of them with a broken chair in his blood stained hands. Thief grabs the neck of our victim and pulls him off of me as the warrior brings the chair back down on my body in an attempt to hit the victim instead. I catch it this time though, I throw it to the side and clock him in the nose with my fist. The blow sends him reeling back as he catches the frame of the door with his hands to steady himself. The other members dash past him to surround Thief and our target who instantly disappears underneath their hulking forms.
I kip up to my feet again (my absolute favorite move) and kick the warrior right in the chest. Its so hard I can feel the crack of his ribs against the bottom of my boot in the split second I make contact. He lands on the hard gravel outside with a splat, choking and gasping for the air I knocked out of his lungs. I try to turn around to help Thief but as I move my world instantly churns into an overbearingly colorful pulp.
My vision swirls and I find myself on my knees again unable to see. My head is pounding, like someone stabbed a knife right through the top of my skull--I anxiously reach up to rub the spot that hurts most, only to feel a wooden chair leg jammed inches deep in my scalp.
I reach up and tug on it but it won’t budge. I writhe and tumble on the ground before I come to a stop right underneath the bar table. Through a blurry left eye I see Thief break free from the crowd, her lovely face sporting a nice yellow bruise. She leaves a pile of unconscious victims behind her, eyes bright with exhilaration, machete dripping slush on the already tarnished floor. The pile of lifeless bodies heaves and she jumps over it in alarm. “KING?!” she exclaims. “WHERE ARE YOU? IT’S MUTATING...”
I try to speak but I can’t say anything, I’m hidden behind the back of the bar where she can’t quite see me. At her exclamation the rest of the visitors snap to attention, hushed mumbles spread like a rash as an entire crowd of mercenaries and hunters ready their weapons to claim their prize. Great, I think. So much for a subtle kill.
Beneath the pile of our once-competitors our target breaks free, a massive hulk of oozing green and yellow that fuses to form a humanoid monster. His teeth widen more and more, they sharpen into long ivory claws that dangle from black dripping gums. He sends a god awful shriek through the bar, the glasses shake and rumble...they beg to be released from the grip of the monstrous sound waves that echo from the bowels of this repugnant atrocity. With one look around through beady black eyes he comes to stand on all fours, now more beast than man, and barrels through the remnants of the door.
The bar empties as the hunters unsheathe their weapons and race after the monster, Thief included. Bastard, I growl internally. What happened to ‘no woman left behind?’ But a part of me knows that I would’ve done the same thing. When it comes to hunting these nightmares, it’s everyone for themselves.
I slip my knife out from where it sits on the side of my leg, roll over painfully and ram it in between the floorboards. I wrap one hand around the hilt and the other around the chair leg that’s still wedged in my brains, use the tension to pull my body to the ground and grudgingly yank the intruder from my skull. It comes out with a SCHLOCK and I throw the bloody, greasy red soaked rod across the room. I grab my head and curl my knees to my chest to stick my fingers across the slippery hole left behind, the muck drips down my temple. I shudder as my own body threatens to take the same shape as the beast himself, the power overwhelms my senses and tempts me to surrender control. Shit I think. Did I reach my limit? Did I finally go too far...
I focus on my breathing and count the seconds it takes to draw in the air, making my exhales longer than my inhales. I push my hand farther into the gooey abscess, clench the bones and brains together, and merge it with the flesh of my hand. Yellow spots climb my wrists to my shoulder and threaten to wring my arm into an unrecognizable shape. I move the sinewy gunk from my palm into the wound and with an exhale, pull the pieces back together. I tear my hand away before it becomes too late for me to separate it from my skull...
There’s a sweet spot in the weeks after a new procedure where one can heal fairly quickly; it’s nice to have that power again after going without for so long. Would’ve been nice to have it at Colossus though, if I did I could’ve taught that son of a bitch Commander a lesson he’d never forget.
I swallow the organs that pulse up through my body and command them to return to their positions. Close call, I think, but I’m still able to return to my normal state just as easily as I could ten procedures ago.
I rip the knife out from the floorboards and push myself over to my side, trying to see through the dizzy blindness of a frontal lobe still patching itself together. A pale grimy grub-shaped forearm presents itself and I take it without my usual hesitancy--with unknown strength it pulls me to my feet like a father picks up his eight-pound kid. I meet the eyes of my old friend the Bartender, who picks up a piece of plasma-infused goo off my shoulder and...eats it.
“Gross,” I say as I sheath my knife. “Don’t ever touch me again.” He smiles a big smeary grin then moves to the side and sends me on my way.
I stomp out the deserted storage unit to where my bike used to be, key words, used to. In the distance I hear whoops and hollers masked by screaming engines and guttural howls. Goddammit, I think. If those assholes smash my bike someone’s gonna pay.
I break into a sprint down the big empty dirt hill and follow the dust clouds from the chase. At the bottom is a small country town called Jawbone Hill, one of my own villages that I worked so hard to put together. It even has a school and post office and irrigation, but of course, that’s right where the monster is headed.
He’s three times the size he was in the bar, taking bits and pieces of the landscape into himself as he slides down the asphalt. I can spy the bodies of two warriors already, the rest lost in the array of brick and tin buildings trying to attack as well as escape. To the right I spy Thief evacuating the town on her bike, herding small colorful dots of residents away from the hunt into the woods for safety. My district is a very mountainous and vibrant terrain, full of places to hide if ever a situation like this occurs, which is more often than not.
I run past the stone arches that welcome me to the village, the ground ripped and cracked from the weight of the monster himself. He crashes his body down on the rooftops like a tsunami, enveloping all that is in his path so that he triples in size once again. Shit, I think. I have to get him away from the buildings.
I dash over to a small shed where two barrels lean against it. I use them to propel my body upwards to continue the chase from the slippery rooftops. I run and jump from one to the other, sliding down shingles that cascade to the ground and smash on the sidewalks.
The hulking mass makes its way down the streets to swallow old cars and street lamps and doors into itself as it goes, a pulsing disgusting combination of human biology and infrastructure in one. It rises above the tallest house and casts a great black shadow over the edges of the village, ready to descend once more to devour what was left.
I take my opportunity to attack. I grab the edge of one remaining lamp post, push off the side of the roof I’m standing on and ricochet my body right in the midst of the beast. Before I have time to get myself together I’m surrounded by its tendrils; it grabs my body and renders me helpless, the daylight fades from my eyes as I allow myself to be absorbed into the monster himself.