Jimmy Cavanaugh hooked a thumb at the oncoming car and walked backwards along the highway. "Come on, come on, come on," he said. "You know you want to stop, I won't murder or rape you or steal your car, come on... Please stop." The car whizzed past him and he hung his head, dropped his arm and turned around. The brake lights were about a hundred yards ahead of him and the car was stopping, pulling over to the shoulder. "All right!" He jogged slowly to the car.
Stepping out into the highway to approach the car from the driver's side, he put both hands out wide and stopped about twenty feet from the car. He saw the window was down. "Hello," he said in a loud voice, then looked behind him. "My name's Jimmy and I'm just looking for a ride into town."
A woman with auburn hair and a bright, wide smile leaned out the window. "Well you better get out of the road and into the car then, hadn't you?"
"Heya, Jimmy. Get in."
Jimmy Cavanaugh ran to the passenger side of the car and dropped into the seat next to the good-looking woman. She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "You got a place to go?"
"I'm not even sure where I am," Jimmy said. "I, eh, I just --- uh..."
She shook her head and checked the mirrors. "Same old Jimmy," she said, then pulled the car out onto the road. "You can stay with me until you get on your feet. How long away this time?"
"Dunno," he said. "What year is it?"
"Funny guy," she said.
"What do you mean you know where the monsters come from?" Eyre was close up on Ben Rose now, searching his face, trying to look behind his eyes. "What's going on, Ben?"
Ben Rose turned from her and walked away, through the array of chairs where he'd sat with his fellow hunters two days before. He walked to the largish window that gave an incredible view of the city. Eyre followed him but left a friendly distance between them. "Come on, Ben. If you know how to get rid of them, tell me."
"I have to see Gary," Ben said to the window. "That's more important right now."
Eyre shook her head. "No," she said. "It's not, Ben. There are probably a dozen or more monsters terrorizing the city, there are hundreds more across the country, and thousands around the world if the reports we're receiving are correct. There's a major monster offensive on. We need to stop them."
Ben turned to look at her. "I understand all that," he said, "but I have to see Gary. That's just the way it is. Will you take me?"
Frustrated, Eyre threw her hands out and opened her mouth to tell him how crazy that was.
"Please," he said. The imploring look on his face was heartbreaking. "Please, Eyre. I need a friend right now."
She set her jaw, dropped her hands and shifted weight from left to right. She shook her head in disbelief. "All right," she said. "It's going to be a helluva ride out to the Hollow, though. We'll have to fight our way there."
"I expected that much."
"Come on, then," she said and turned to leave the room. "We're going now while it's still more than a little light. That'll give us a slight edge."
Nash met them at the burned-out church. "Took your time," he said. "Can't believe you're actually out here when you don't have to be."
"We need to get to the Hollow," Ben Rose said. "I need to see my brother."
"What for?" An inhuman roar swam down the hill to their position. Eyre looked at Nash.
"Yeah," he said. "It's a Leng, one of the middle ones, I think." A crashing sound cascaded around them now and another roar followed. The crash seemed to be a house being broken in half with a giant tree. "It's huge," Nash said. "It's going to take all three of us to take it out if you want to get to the Hollow through here."
"Can't we go around?"
"Sorry, Ben. There's a Bellkon to the south ---"
"Jesus," Ben said.
"Yeah and then to the north there's a couple of Krugh," Nash said. "Ask me, the Leng is the best way."
"Ben knows something about how to defeat them," Eyre said. "Says he knows where they're all coming from." She looked at him again and implored him with her eyes to say something, to give them a bit of information that would help them.
Instead he looked up the hill and listened to the Leng tearing up the house. "Civilians?"
"We evacuated the city as best we could yesterday and last night," Nash said. "There may be some around, but if they're smart they're hiding as deep as they can." Ben looked at Nash. "I haven't seen any, though."
"Good," Ben said. "That makes this a little easier." He stepped out from the corner of the church and ran up the hill before Eyre or Nash could stop him.
"He's crazy," Nash said.
"Yeah," Eyre said. She hopped twice and rolled her neck, shook her wrists. "Come on. We've gotta back him up."
They reached the crest of the hill in time to see the Leng fall onto its face with a thundering crunch and Ben standing behind the creature, his hands black with ichor, his hair matted to his head.
"That was quick," Eyre said walking around the giant monster's prone form. Its skull was caved in and its left claw was broken, bent backwards. She looked up and down it's twenty-foot long body in amazement. "How'd you do that?"
"Trade secret, I'm afraid," Ben said.
"I've never seen anyone take out a Leng single-handedly," Nash said whistling. "You've gotta share this, Ben. No kidding."
"You'll find out," Ben said. "First we have to get to the Hollow. We have to get to my brother."
The shriek of the Krugh was startling and its massive hoof narrowly missed Ben. The resulting divot of earth threw him thirty feet away from his friends and he landed badly on his shoulder, dislocating it. He snarled in pain and growled a curse.
Nash was making sigils and signs in the air, trailing a crimson light behind the movements of his hands and fingers, muttering indecipherable words under his breath.
Eyre touched the amulet at her throat and ran forward. The lizard-thing with goat's hooves and lion's fangs turned to face her as she closed in, glowing with a sickly green aura. She leaped at its chest and reached under one of the yellow scales, trying to plunge her hand into the soft flesh underneath. Its jaws snapped at her, and when it couldn't reach her it tried to swat her away with its front legs, then its back, twisting and scarpering like a dog chasing its tail.
A flash of blue light hit the Krugh's eye from Nash's direction and it toppled to its right, giving Eyre the chance to rip one, two, three scales off the creature's chest and sink both her hands into its heart. She laughed with a primal, savage glee and tore a pulsing organ the size of a whiskey barrel from the monster's insides and a sallow fluid that must have been its blood pumped buckets out as the thing died with a scream of rage and surprise.
Eyre fell to the ground and tossed the heart aside, rubbing the creature's blood on her face and through her hair. "Ah," she said and worked the liquid into her scalp.
"Where's Ben?" Nash sounded concerned and that brought Eyre back to reality. She looked around and saw the southerner coming towards her, but no sign of Ben Rose.
"I don't know," she said. "He was there when I leapt at the Krugh."
"He left us to fight the Krugh alone, Eyre," Nash said. "He left us behind."
It looked up at the window, where it could see his prey with the woman. Whatever was left of its humanity was difficult to see under the fur, the scars, the changes that had enabled it to hunt through the ages and across the universe. Its eyes, glowing with green hatred, betrayed its weariness.
"Esme," it said.
This world was familiar --- it had hunted the man here before. The stink of oil and metal couldn't dull the scent of prey. She was talking to the man behind the window; fragile glass had never protected any prey before.
It crossed the road, a hard thing that stank, and leapt easily to the brick wall underneath the window where its prey was.
It began to climb.
Thanks for reading A Monster In Repose.
©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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