My feet are pruned from walking so far in this knee-deep water. I can just feel it. Heavy from a prolonged soaking in the stanky- bog, it takes an effort to yank my leg free from the soft mud. (It’s even harder to do so while keeping my boot still on.)
I’m sure this is all by design.
In addition to my slowed speed, each step makes a loud, “Shah-luck!”
I would normally chuckle at the goofy sound, but it gives my position away (so not so funny now).
Again, I’m sure he thought of that.
Another aspect of this lovely swamp is that it stinks… badly. You might think it’s not a big deal, but I happen to find it terribly distracting. That, and I can’t pick up his scent with all the interference-stink that’s assaulting my poor nose at the moment.
I have no doubt my quarry has also carefully considered this.
I’m the kind of opponent you should have a plan for.
As for me, I can already tell this isn’t gonna be an easy one. You see, I’m simply human, which is a major disadvantage (in my profession). Us squishies are actually pretty fragile (if you compare our physiology to that of my usual game). Our senses aren’t nearly as developed as most animals as it is, but when you start dealing with supernatural beasts, that’s when things get really lopsided. I, for example, have terrible night-vision (which seems to be on the decline as I get older). Did I mention it’s the middle of the night and the stars are obscured by cloud-cover?
The reality of my situation hits me like an arrow. I’m beginning to realize how little control I have over my fate at the moment. Each step feels like I’m slowly walking into the mouth of a giant snake. A dim indifference settles over me and I trudge forward with a tinge of excitement. My only-human senses sharpen a bit more as I get a little mad. A little mad and a little excited. That tingle I’ve been addicted to for the last twenty-some years. Each scar is an ex-lover. Each nick in my sword generates a guaranteed smile. Some of these man-eaters (or worse) have slaughtered hundreds. Some, thousands. They can rack up huge numbers if left unchecked for a couple centuries or so. My new friend (somewhere in this swamp) for example, is responsible for the demise of whole towns at a time (which happens more often than you’d probably believe).
I could lie to you and tell you that I don’t enjoy my job, but I won’t insult you, fine folks. I really, really love this shit. There is no more satisfying feeling on this planet than when you bring down one of these natural disasters. These single-being plagues that effortlessly cut swaths through the land at will. There is more to it than a simple desire to kill though. These abominations seem to like what they do too.
I can relate.
Fear is really their favorite spice. The more horrified and repulsed the victim, the better we seem to taste. So how can I shlock through this demon’s toilet with such fervor? Well, a man on the side of justice is twice-armed, so it’s easy to summon courage when you really don’t give a fuck what happens to you.
That and like I said, I really do love my job.
I step wrong. My foot gets stuck under a gnarled root, which steals my boot. Bastard root. My hairy-friend is no doubt watching this in amusement. If he simply wanted to kill me, I’m pretty sure that would have been the right time to make it happen.
Apparently, I’m being toyed with.
Big risk… on his part.
I hear nothing (a gap in the wind) to my left, so that’s how I know to start turning. My instincts are big procrastinators (but they get the job done) as a shearing set of claws rake themselves over the side of my face. Warm blood streams uncomfortably and collects itself in that space between your neck and shoulder (that blood likes to pool up in). I can’t stand that feeling, but the pain... pain is a different story.
You see, for a guy like me, ouchies bring all my senses up a level or two. To harm a hunter without killing him is a silly, silly move. This is fairly common-knowledge in my world, so I’m betting our friend meant to kill me quickly (and just made his first mistake of the night).
My swamp-filling laugh bounces of the depressed trees and degrades them further. They are my witnesses…
I’m fairly mad now, (which makes things a lot easier) and I hear that nothing again, so I flick a dagger off to my right. I don’t see it (because I don’t bother to look) but I distinctly hear it pop through thick skin.
Where did I just hit him? Doesn’t matter. I didn’t throw my short blade with the intention of killing. I threw it for vanity-related reasons. It’s important to me that he realizes that I’m not like the rest of his food supply.
I don’t mind taking on a new dance partner, but it’s important to set the tone before the song starts.
Big risk on my part, (I know) but I’m not the only one gambling here. (And like I said, I’m pretty mad at this point.)
I can’t pick up that “nothing” sound at the moment but I can smell the fucker now. Their blood is… pungent.
He’s close. So close I can smell him.
I slowly turn to my right and who do I see looking right at me?
“Mister, Hairy Fuck-Face!” I yell out (but super cool monster-man over here just stars me down all drooly and scary-like).
Apparently, he’s pretty mad too.
“Finished toying with me, bud? You tired of life? I can help with that, ya’ know?”
His beady eyes are the only reflective thing about him. Shaggy stink-fur and those long-ass, “kill-everything” arms just flexing and shaking with rage...
He reminds me of someone, but I can’t put my thumb on it.
“You remind me of someone…” I screw with him. “Have I killed one of your uncles… or girlfriends? It’s really hard to tell you ugly-fucks apart. You know that?”
The nappy-head tilts to one side. He must be over seven feet. A top lip curls into the kind of snarl I wish I could wear and his scratched-out ethereal voice unfolds rudely like a slowly-falling tree. “sSon.”
Being a single man, I've always avoided the complications of family and now here I am, answering for a family tragedy I can’t even recall.
“Sorry about that. I’m sure he died... well. Let’s put it behind us, shall we?”
It starts its heavy-breathing routine.
I give him my back and make to leave.
Yeah, yeah. Big risk, big risk. I know. I already told you though… I’m not the only one gambling here.
“So, I’ll be leaving now. Have a good one.” I take a shlucky-step. “Have you seen a boot around here?”
Now, I’ve heard a lot of howls in my day, but the blast our friend just let loose was something else altogether. It didn’t sound like a wolf. It sounded more like a pack of dead wolves- already half-eaten by worms and howling in unison with their combined pain.
If anger takes my skills up a level, bump that up a few more when fear kicks in (and yes, I am sufficiently scared at the moment. Well, mad/scared or maybe scared/mad. Either way, both).
My ears tell me that two over-sized feet made their own shlucky-noises when muscly-legs fired them out of the mud and launched a seven-foot, stinky death-machine in my direction.
I can hear that nothing-sound about twice my height up and closing at a harsh, forty-five-degree angle.
My sword disagrees and throws its edge down to meet something at a rough sixty degree…
As always, I’m wrong and its right. Lucky bastard. My blade is the only one I know who never gambles. It takes a quick arm and an easy leg without stopping to sniff the stinky-roses along the way.
A loud splash tells me that our friend isn’t as graceful as he once was and my sword can't help but to show its affection a couple more times. Spunky lil’ lady!
I find my knife buried in a foul-smelling thigh and I yank her free. It takes quite a bit of sawing (and poking around) but eventually, I get the head I came for. I also take pleasure in the simple things and get myself a brand-new claw as a personal gift. I deserve it. (I’ve been working hard this month).
On my way back through the swamp, I even find my boot! This must be my lucky night. Gods, I love my job!
I know it seems that I should be easier to kill, (especially for goons like that). Eventually, I have no doubt that one of them will succeed, but like I said before, I’m the kind of guy you need a plan for.