Hopefully you all had a great weekend. I’m not sure if any of you have realized this yet, but I intend on putting the entire novel up here, all 95,000 words of it. You might want to get up and stretch, we’re in for a wild ride. Oh by the way, how did you like the Earth twist? Don’t worry, you’ll see how it plays out.
The five tormented shapes swimming across the river went unseen by all and would soon be loosed upon the fleshling city. Halfway across, they caught the faint scent of one of their own going the opposite way. They felt his surge of adrenaline as he fled from someone or something. Excitement spread through them until a sharp command from Death Shrike quelled their impulses. Once the feeling passed, the Berserker war party swam on.
The thrill of it the hunt spurred Death Shrike’s untamed passions and made him all the more dangerous. He turned to see if the human was still in pursuit and wasn’t disappointed. Men like that were much more fun to kill than the average ones. There would be no begging when they finally collided. One would die, leaving the other to stand triumphant over the corpse. Precisely the way it should be. More bullets singed the air around him, some coming so close as to hit the rocks beside him. Bullets he understood and it pleased him to find the indigenous population as war-like as those on Helscape.
The truck driver felt the pressure of the round piercing the sheet metal back of his vehicle right before it burst out through the windshield. He ducked and wove while trying to keep control of the truck and avoid the shower of glass and metal fragments spraying throughout the cab. Another car honked and was run off the road. Both drivers cursed. The truck driver began pumping the brakes, desperately trying to slow the thing down so he could get away from the mad man with a gun. Nathan was forced to swerve as the same car hit the guardrail and flew over the bank. Between his defensive driving and the car’s explosion upon impact, he lost sight of the monster.
Nathan crested the hill in time to watch a hapless truck crash and explode in a ball of brilliant, multi-colored flames and knew the monster was close. Long tongues of orange and red flickered up into the skyline. Nathan picked up his pace, gun in hand, before the monster could escape. The heat surrounding the ruined truck was too much for him to think about trying to see if the driver was still alive or not as he drew near. A second explosion threw him to the ground, confirming his fears.
The driver was forgotten by the time Nathan was on his feet again. He squinted into the flames and heat vapors to find the demon responsible for all of this. To hope the monster was dead was more than a mere wish, from what he’d seen so far. But the only body he managed to make out was that of the poor man trapped in the cab. Nothing for it, he began to search for signs. The sweep he made of the surrounding area produced a small trail but nothing substantial enough to give him certainty. Nathan cursed his luck. Too many thoughts were running through his mind for him to control. Frustrated, he let the burning wreckage take his mind deeper into tonight’s mystery.
Twenty minutes or more went by, and he still had nothing — no idea of what that thing was and no idea where it might have gone. They were well beyond the city limits, and it could have disappeared into the forests on one out of a hundred hills surrounding them. He was about to give up when a burgundy Ford sped by. Then, he noticed his first real clue. Revealed by the high beams, Nathan found himself staring at a small puddle of blood. It was darker and thicker than any he’d seen before, leaving him to conclude that this was his enemy. Nathan picked up the blood trail and began the last leg of the hunt.
Tangled vines and thick underbrush hampered the Berserker’s retreat. He was close enough to the portal that the human would be hard-pressed to gain the advantage. His breath came in shallow, ragged gasps, and his once-great strength was draining fast. A sliver of metal stabbed through his abdomen. The pain was more than desirable, and he felt himself dying. His surroundings started losing definition, blurring together in a pale fog. Blood poured down his side, thick and murky. With enough good fortune, he might be able to make it back to the portal.
Sudden jets of pain forced him to stop. The Berserker used a near tree for support and tried to catch his breath. A wind carried the scent of his pursuit to him. He was being hunted. He knew that, in this condition, there was the very real possibility that the human could catch and, realistically, kill him. The Berserker turned to make his final stand.
When hope of survival seemed lost, a new smell was blown to him. It was one of strong storms and lightning. The land soon became pockmarked with shadows all but concealing the light of the moon. This new development recharged him, rebuilding the core of his strength. He could make out the pale green light of the portal not too far away and found new hope. The Berserker turned to face his hunter.
Nathan topped the rise and looked down into the nightmare. The monster stood on the valley floor immersed in bolts of lightning. It was gaining strength from the electricity in the air. The very air around him seemed to pulse and surge. Nathan barely had time to react before twin bolts of blue-red death rushed towards him. The sky sizzled and shuddered. He groaned when he hit the ground, clutching his side. Trees and shrubs around him were torn apart at the same time. It took only seconds to make the world around him ash.
Not waiting to see the extent of his blasts, the Berserker took off towards the portal. Nathan somersaulted down the hill and came up firing. Bullets bit into the trees around the retreating monster, showering him with splinters. Both hunter and hunted came under the spell of the green light. Nathan stopped at the edge, hesitant to commit his life into this horror, for surely this must be the gateway to Hell, he thought. A sickening feeling overcame him. The very air around them turned putrid.
The Berserker stood on the gateway’s threshold but stopped before entering. He felt himself dying and knew the harshness of the Wastelands would besiege him almost at once. Breath came to him as a luxury, harsh and labored. He turned to face his hunter with deadened eyes. Nathan raised his pistol, carefully aiming at the monster’s throat. Too much was happening for him to comprehend. He knew that, if he let this thing get away, it could bring back more of its companions and leave an even bigger trail of death. On the other hand, he could see the pain crossing its face, giving him a baleful look. Did it want to die?
“Fleshling!” the monster spat. The Berserker fell backwards into the light and was gone, leaving Nathan alone in a strange place.
Anger invaded his reasoning. Not only had this creature killed his partner, it had run amok through his city, causing more damage than a hundred murderers, and it had escaped him. That was what grieved him the most. The monster had gotten away. He tried to catch his breath and regain some semblance of composure, but his inner recklessness was alive. Nathan abandoned his instincts and jumped into the light. Had he known what awaited him on the other side, he would have stayed home, for the nightmare journey ahead was going to push him to the limits of his very soul.
Darkness and pain consumed him.