War Machine

It appears that we’ve sprung a leak. The water sloshing around my feet is cold, seeping through the worn and splitting soles of my commission boots.  I wriggle my toes, trying to stimulate a little sensation back into them as I whip the hefty flashlight in my hand across the hole that now gapes in the belly of our beast.

The water floods in. In the half light it almost looks like the jagged mouth of a great demon, pouring destruction and black, foul smelling fluid across the floor. It’s mesmerising and unsettling; my stomach churns a little at the rushing, roaring noise as it swells throughout the bowels of the ship.

“Sir!” One of the privates is floundering his way towards me, staggering against the list that I had barely noticed take hold. He grabs hold of one of the nearby crates and heaves a little with the excretion of moving against the swirling current. I forget his name.

“The Captain’s requesting a report Sir.” He’s shouting over the roaring rush of the water. I know there isn’t a way back from the brink we’re now teetering on. I glance around me at the explosives and ammunition in the many boxes surrounding me. Just one spark from the buckling hull and we’d be nothing more than food for the creatures that haunt the bottom of the ocean.

“Sir?!” My brain stutters back into life and I reach out and grab the young man’s arm pulling myself away from the gaping wound.

“Tell them we must evacuate, immediately. She’s lost, I want everyone off as soon as it can be done.”

He plunges back through the water, his pace quickened; fear biting at the back of his heels. I drag myself back through the yawning expanse of hull after him. It takes nearly all of my upper body strength to heave myself and my saturated clothing up the stairs and out of the swirling, misty waters below.

Thumping up the stairs, two steps at a time I emerge onto the deck. The cold night air is chilling my already frozen face to the point of pain; above my head the stars twinkle and laugh at our misfortune.

I can see the ship that hit us, out to the North East, circling back around, guns at the ready preparing for a second attack. Bodies are flying past me at an extraordinary rate, eager hands grabbing at life jackets and spare bullets, a few manning the guns readying us for the last battle. It’s the easy way out really, we’re all going to die in these waters.

The ship is listing dangerously to the right, the water we’re taking on weighing her down with a super human hand, pushing us under. The boys are starting to panic, the water is chomping at the right hand side; over three quarters of the ship already under water. We all know what’s going to happen.

I make a bolt for my cabin, pulling myself along the ship with all the strength I have, my feet sliding away from underneath me, trying to pull me overboard. I reach the open door and fling it wide, heaving myself over the threshold and into the room. Stumbling over to the great desk at the far side I throw myself into the chair, fixed into the floor thank God.

I reach for the second shelf down and give it a tug and a little pull upwards. used to the way it gets stuck in the thick, expanding wood. Throwing a few papers onto the floor I put my little finger into the tiny hole on the right hand side of the bottom of the draw and pull up the secret compartment. Lifting out the Webley  No.I Mk.I issue pistol I pause for a moment to feel the weight of it in my hand. It’s loaded, I always keep it loaded, you can’t be too careful on these ships, months cooped up with nothing to do and no new faces can turn a man real quick.

I pull back the pin. I can still hear someone screaming orders, the rumble of engines in the background; I don’t know if they’re ours or theirs. Everything outside this little room is dizzy and sick with chaos and fear. This sanctuary, this blessed place. It could be my last.

Lifting the gun with heavy shaking hands I place the barrel to my temples. The feel of cold metal against my skin is more shocking than I imagined  and I suddenly feel the weight of what I am about to do. The fear grapples at my throat like a giant clawing hand until my breath is coming in short, sharp gasps. I suddenly realise that I’m sobbing now.

Throwing the gun down I grasp at the edges of the table. Tears still wet on my face; using one roughly sleeved arm I wipe them away. Got to be a man, got to stand up, got to make this right. On unsteady legs I stand and move my way across the listing, groaning ship; its death wail reaching fever pitch, mingling with the yells of my crew mates. Grasping the door handles with sweaty, uncertain hands I wrench them open and step forward into the hellish hysteria of war.

An Unusual Lady

Lilth’s feet pounded the soggy ground as sparkling green grass slipping around underneath her, making her tumble with every other step. Her breathing came fast and labored; her right leg was starting to scream with the cramping muscles. It seemed as though she’d been running forever.

Somewhere behind her a tree crashed to the ground, groaning its death rattle on the way down. Twigs and rocks alike snapped in the way of the great thundering footsteps that traipsed after her through the dense forest.

Her skinny framed dived over one huge tree trunk, her heeled boots making little grooves in the bark; she cursed her choice of inappropriate footwear. Scuttling under another low hanging branch her waist length, blood red hair caught itself around one of its many fingers. She tugged, pulling on it until her head hurt. The footsteps got closer; she watched as the birds flew in a crazed panic, squawking as the trees around them swayed and bent into unnatural shapes.

With one last wrench she pulled herself free and stumbled into a clearing. Everything shone with life, bright pink and purple blossoms carpeted the floor and huge, expanding trees enveloped the sky above her in brilliant blue leaves. The sun just peaked through the odd gap in the branches, punctuating the half light with streams of glowing strips.

She whirled on her heel, the thundering footsteps made her whole body leap into the air as each giant foot smashed into the poor, forgiving ground. She had no where else to run, it had inevitably caught up with her.

“Fuck.” She muttered under her breath. Throwing off the heavy satchel, she hitched up her under bust corset and popped the buttons on the sleeves of her long white shirt. As she crouched to the floor she screwed her left knee into the ground, feeling the water from the earth creeping up the fabric of her maroon colored, tatty jeans.

She fumbled with her gun, ripping it from the holster and stabbing at the safety switch on the left hand side as the creature came thundering into the clearing. The Bluntersnitch snarled, its dog like face set in a look of pure anger and rage. A couple of sharp twigs stuck out of its bleeding hind quarters; a tree held in its mouth like a stick. Seven feet tall and full to the brim with unrelenting, animalistic hatred.

Lilth aimed for the middle of its three eyes, trying to ignore the spittle dribbling down its dirty white fur. She felt the pistol power up in her hands, the vibrating, whirring sensation familiar and comforting in her palm. She let a shot fly, bolting forwards just as the Bluntersnitch charged forward throwing her aim off balance and catching him just at the tip if his left ear.

The monster screamed and picked up the pace. Reaching her in under three seconds it made a fell swoop at her with its mouth, all yellow teeth and bad breath. She jumped, forcing one small foot into the jaw of its mouth and the other found itself on the animals nose. Before she knew it she was swinging through the air, clinging to a clump of fur to land on the Bluntersnitch’s back.

It roared and bucked, tossing her left and right. The gun flew from her gloved hands as she grappled with the creature. With one smooth motion she brought a devastating punch down onto the back of its head, stunning it just long enough for her to leap up and grab one of the low hanging branches that swayed above her. Using all her upper body strength she pulled herself out of reach, just as the creature turned and snapped its jaws at her dangling legs.

She was fumbling with the knife that she kept down the back of her left boot when a piercing whistle rang out across the forest. Both Lilth and the Bluntersnitch turned to stare in bewilderment at the man who stood in the center of the clearing, looking cocky and self important. Lilth rolled her eyes.

“Nice Bluntersnitch you’ve got there!” He shouted across the yawning expanse of space.

“Yep, it’s under control. One hundred percent. I don’t need any help, thank you very much, have a nice day.” She called back staggering with uncertainty across the outstretched branch.

“Oh yeah, looks like it.” The man mumbled to himself. He kicked Lilth’s gun about in the grass and caught it under his toe, flipping it up into the air with the panache of a man who’d long been practicing the move in front of the bedroom mirror. The Bluntersnitch’s eyes flickered from one human to the next, unsure of where it should strike first.

He took a pot shot, aiming it squarely at the giant dog’s behind and hitting his target. He guffawed as blood and a little flesh spurted out from the new wound enticing a pained howl from its owner. It twirled on its feet, churning up mud and grass as it went and lolloped towards him, a bit slower now then it was before.

Lilth let out an a exasperated sigh and watched as the man dodged his quarry, thick brown hair floating dreamily about in the breeze. He had all the trappings of a man with station, nice fancy clothes, a shiny looking blade at his waist and a cape. Who even had a cape these days?

“Aren’t, you going to ask my name?” The man panted as he artfully jumped over a swiping paw and dived underneath the animal’s belly.

“Nope!” She called out, summersaulting backwards off the branch to land in the grass next to him. “Not interested.” Racing forwards, she landed a swift kick to the Achilles heel and skidded to the side as the monster came crashing down next to her.

“It’s Ezrel.” He paused a moment to let her digest this new information. “You are?”

“I’m busy!” Lilth screamed as she ran up the side of the Bluntersnitch’s squishy exposed stomach and wobbled a little as it huffed and panted in pain underneath her feet. She lost her footing and fell, sliding down the belly of the beast until she landed on its throat. Before the animal even had time to think she whipped out her huge hunting knife and buried it into the creature, feeling it breath its last under her feet.

She hopped down from the still warm body, ignoring Ezrel’s outstretched hand and strode over to her satchel.

“You’re quite an unusual lady aren’t you?” Her unwanted companion asked, craning over her shoulder to see what she was rooting around for in her bag. “How did you get tangled up with our furry friend over there?”

“I stole something from him, not that it’s any of your business. Now if you will excuse me I have things to steal, places to get drunk in and bad life decisions to make.”

“Can’t I at least get you something to drink. You must be thirsty after all that … killing.” Lilth hoisted her bag onto her shoulder and gave him one withering look, eyebrow raised.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Right?” Ezrel grinned at her expectantly.

“Out of my way short stack! I really don’t want to have to break your face.”

“Has anyone ever told you, you have a real anger problem. I could help you work on that you know. I’m a …” He never got to finish his sentence.

Lilth’s fist connected hard and fast with his chin, sending him flying backwards into a bramble bush. She shook off her fist and tugged her hair out from underneath the leather bag strap it had caught under.

These men, where do they even come from. Did she look like a damsel in distress? She looked herself over, the smears of blood and mud didn’t scream save me to her. Shrugging she retrieved her gun from where Ezrel had flung it onto the ground with the force of her punch and slapped his upturned, unconscious ass on the way past.

“See you around, scumbag.”