Rebirth is more than a basic organic process. More even than a simple spiritual process. The stripping of one’s previous conventions of thought and deed are often in need of a physical expression to solidify the moment—an explicit milestone of transcendence. However, being buck naked in the middle of a supernatural sword fight seemed a bit impractical.
These creatures weren’t bumbling clowns, but precise and lethal monsters. They wore a haunt upon their faces that dated back to dust and darkness, and their movements were as smooth as volcanic glass, shiny and sharp. They were utterly unimpressed with us, that much was certain. And their bearing suggested this was going to be far from their first rodeo.
Wicked wasn’t the type for foreplay. He dove straight into them, his smile blazing like fire at midnight. His weren’t the most polished of techniques—his style drew heavily from chaos, allowing percentage and probability to miss their mark on him by miles. Yet not this time. Wicked sent that blade of his seeking necks and arteries, but all he got for his trouble was a belly full of blade. A drop of his blood fell across my lips, my tongue wiping it away. I could taste his fire, sweet and hot. I wouldn’t let my comrade fall to the ground. The thought of it felt like a bad omen. I stepped forward and Wicked tumbled into my arms. The whole time I’d known him, his gaze never touched my body. As his hands scrambled across my bare flesh for stability, I felt only Wicked’s vison of flesh as provision, a tool for the using. I wanted him to take me up in his rough hand, my body bladed and deadly, and stab me into the heart of the world.
I’d never seen Baron work, so to speak. Yet now that I have, I’ll admit—the man’s a fucking monster. He seemed ungainly at first—the trap— stomping crudely toward one of the monsters. As one of the dream creatures fell for the ruse, Baron struck. The creature’s whip-blade slithered through the air with the grace of a thought, striking at Baron’s face. My giant ally’s gait shifted to a cat’s dash. It was as if Baron’s speed slowed down time, allowing him to lunge beneath his enemy’s attack while tucking a grenade into the confines of the monster’s strange armor. Then, feeding off his momentum, Baron came out of a roll with huge arms outstretched, colliding with me and Wicked, slamming us beyond the grenade’s reach.
The creature seemed to swallow the force of Baron’s attack. It appeared something so banal as a grenade had no place within the land of living nightmares. The smothered concussion and subsequent smoke proffered the same number of adversaries as before, their smiles nearly as lithe and gleaming as the alien blades they wielded. It was time to bring in the big guns.
Rover leapt into the fray, his weight eliciting objections from the old wooden floor. Like Baron, Rover was faster than he looked. The gigantic beast buried the closest monster beneath his rotting bulk. In addition to the crushing weight of the attack, those filthy bastards the Bowers were reaching through the dog’s rotting guts, slicing and stabbing the prone nightmare. Simultaneously, the beast’s huge jaws closed around another monster, attempting to crush the thing to shrieking red paste.
The six creatures’ eyes began to bleed blue light.
The dim glow frosted the skinless sinews of Rover’s body as it lifted the great dead dog into the air. Soon, the beast began to twist and snap, as if being wrung-out by a pair of huge invisible hands. The two creatures under Rover’s attack were instantly freed, remarkably no worse for wear.
To my pet’s credit, it didn’t so much as whimper when its body contorted and began to split apart. I reiterate—Rover was already dead. He was also one of ours now, and we weren’t going to leave him at their mercy. The three of us lined up shoulder-to-shoulder and tried our luck a second time.
We lunged forward in unison, blades out. Wicked, heedless of his gaping wound, leapt sideways, planted a foot against the wall and sprung at the nearest nightmare. Baron, that sneaky bastard, veered into the shadows and vanished. Me, well I just screamed and bore down on the nearest nightmare with my knives.
A slithering alien blade quivered and elongated through the air, slicing cleanly into my shoulder and sending the strangest chill through my bones. Yet my thoughts were on fire and the pain choked on the smoke. I kept charging forward, hoping against hope I’d get one of my knives where it needed to be.
Baron emerged from the darkness like a shark breaching the waves. He came up behind one of the dream daemons and wrapped his gargantuan arm around the creature’s neck, pulling it backward into a huge Bowie knife. Yet as the knife burst from the creature’s chest, the blade seemed to liquify when it touched the eerie blue light, the shining steel dripping like candlewax onto the dirty floor. The harpooned nightmare spun around with its own blade, but Baron was already gone.
Wicked somehow managed to twist his body in midair to avoid a corkscrewing blade, smashing boots-first into a nightmare’s chest, sending it sprawling to the ground. Wicked wasted little time spinning around like a serrated cyclone, laying his knife into as many baddies as he could reach.
I think it was my lack of finesse that allowed me to sink both knives into one of them, as the monster likely assumed I had a grander plan then simply screaming and charging at it. I actually got a knife into the thing’s head, right between its fucking eyes. Yet when it grinned and winked at me I knew I was in for some serious pain. The demon took me about the throat and began to squeeze with impossible strength. Christ, I didn’t think anything could be that strong. It was like getting strangled by an Oaktree. The lights were going out fast, I could see the end coming. I mentally screamed to Rover for help, demanding he come to me.
The titan dog was still floating off the ground, getting crushed into oblivion, when his guts suddenly burst open and vomited out the Bowers family, their descent outlined in dangling organs and flaps of rotting skin. They rose from the horrid pile of stinking wet flesh and immediately set about carving up the monster that had me by the neck. They were doing well until the thing turned its blue eyes on them. As soon as the light hit the undead family of killers, they came undone, like ice cream under a blow torch. There was nothing I could do but struggle for air. I looked past the writhing Bowers, where wheeling nightmare blades danced around the struggling shape of Wicked. He was barely recognizable beneath all the blood—his blood, unfortunately. They were toying with him now, just standing around as he tried to avoid their flashing blade-whips. One of the most feared serial killers of the modern day, just a plaything for monsters. I realized the only reason my throat wasn’t already bloody paste in this one’s fist was because it willed it. We were all their playthings.
Wicked never dropped his smile for a second. Even when part of his mouth got hooked by a passing blade, his joy of violence remained palpable. Yet there was a subtle hint of strategy to his movements. He kept backing up, causing the monsters to close their circle a bit tighter. I should have known he wasn’t all impulse.
Suddenly Baron broke from the darkness, a huge length of rebar stretched sideways in front of him. Wicked leapt high into the air, avoiding Baron’s charge. With all but one of the monsters nicely collected into a small area, the giant man was able to plow them over. At the time, it seemed a pretty pointless move—but as the nightmares collapsed, their blue light faded and Rover crashed to the floor, roaring like a vengeful air raid siren. I got the gist of the play.
The one monster still standing took account of the moment and redirected his sapphire gaze from the Bowers to Rover—just as Wicked buried his knives into both of its eyes. Baron followed up with a set of spiked brass knuckles to the demon’s temple. Still the monster kept its feet, until the Bowers recoagulated and piled onto it with a vengeance. They must have been Olympic-level butchers in their past life.
At last we finally managed to kill one. I quickly stole its coat and covered myself, hoping it offered some sort of otherworldly protection as well as defense against some of the Bowers’ leering gazes. Despite the kill, we were likely to lose the rest of the fight, so I sent Rover an idea.
The monster dog reared up and sunk its jaws into the ceiling. With one violent yank, he collapsed the hallway down upon the heads of the gathering nightmares. The next part of the plan wasn’t very complex.
We ran like Hell.
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