Glimpse - Poor Life Choices

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Glimpse - Poor Life Choices

Post by InvertedMonkey on Sat Jun 24, 2017 10:32 pm

The battle had gone to hell. Maybe the others were doing better, but Ramona had been separated from the colleagues of her Court. Her shotgun was gone, clicking empty while a Loyalist charged her, she’d chucked it right at his face. Luckily that bought enough time for her to free her sidearm and put him down. Since then she’d run through two magazines as she tried to fight her way free, isolated and pursued by Changelings and Hobs and Beasts, with the Hedge twisting into a nightmare around her.

In short, Ramona is in deep shit.

Her breath comes in ragged pants, each inhale accompanied by a dull ache from the gunshot in her side. She’s pretty sure it missed her vitals, thanks to the resistance of her stone bones, but she can hardly spare it a thought now. Escape occupies all of her attention, as she sprints down the unfamiliar pathways of the Hedge. She can hear the beasts snarling behind her, and one of the Loyalists calling encouragement. Something lunges out of a thicket and she fires twice blindly, barely breaking stride. Whatever it was, it doesn’t catch her, and she bounds on in increasing desperation. This magazine is her last, and it’s half gone already.

Some cut she hasn’t noticed in weeping blood into her eyes, and she wipes it away. This is fucking dangerous, running practically blind through Hedge pathways she doesn’t know. Anything could be lurking around the next bend, or in some clearing in the brush. But the risk is far better than the certain death nipping at her heels. The trail ends abruptly, spilling out into a trod. Something about it says ‘Seattle,’ though not a familiar overlap between the real world and the Hedge. But there’s no other options, and Ramona plows through, one breath tasting of damp garden air and the next of car exhaust and wet pavement.

The streets of Seattle are deafeningly quiet after the battle’s chaos. The street lights are almost blinding. Clutching her side with one hand, the ogress grimaces, glancing at the trod behind her. She can hear the hoots and howls of beasts and gobs. They won’t stop there, they’ll follow her. She looks around for the first dark alley and ducks down it, scrambling past trash cans and dumpsters and lawn furniture. It dumps her out onto a deserted intersection, where she takes a moment to get her bearings. The street signs tell her where she’s landed, and she frowns, drawing up her mental map of Seattle.

Realization makes her blood go cold.

This is werewolf territory.

A too-loud hiss next to her ear makes her duck instinctively and she leaps to the side out of fear of further bullets. They followed her here, the hunting party that pursued her out of the battle. She flies down the sidewalk, ignoring her injuries as she musters as much speed as she can. This place is death. Nobody knows much about werewolves, but everyone knows that you don’t trespass on their territory and live. What’s more dangerous, her pursuers or the locals?

The hunters are quick, splitting up to cut off her options for escape. A trio of hobs spill out of the shadows in front of her, and she brings her pistol up in front of her, working the trigger as fast as she can. Two drop in the abrupt fusillade of lead, the third stumbles as the emptied weapon strikes him in the chest. This desperate throw, like the last, gives her a split second to draw another backup weapon, an axe this time, and bellow a war cry. The goblin’s spear scores her arm as she bats it away from her face, and the axe’s blade lands solidly in it’s skull. Wedged there.

Another pop and hiss, something burns in the meat of her thigh. On instinct she runs, abandoning the axe. There’s no way she can win this fight, all she can do is run. There’s no telling how many are after her, and all she has left is the knife on her belt. She reaches a hand back to her thigh as she takes another corner, and it comes away wet with blood. She can’t feel it yet, but she will. Sooner, rather than later, she won’t be able to run anymore.

She leaves bloody handprints on a wall as she pushes off it to duck down another alley, throwing herself forward as fast as she can. Her lungs work like bellows, and yet it never seems like enough air. There’s a bitter taste in her mouth from the intense adrenaline, and her vision is starting to tunnel. The alley becomes a T-intersection, and she takes the corner… and skids to a stop, frozen in place.

A pair of golden eyes watch her from the other end of the alley.

Once, when she was a girl in Montana, Ramona and her Da had been out for a hike. Which is to say, they were trying to find a car they could siphon gas from so they could get back on the road before Ma and Daisy froze. As they walked down the highway, she’d looked into the woods. There, not fifty feet away, stood a wolf. A real, wild wolf, white and gray and brown, bigger than any dog she’d ever seen.

What’s stuck with her from that experience is the perfect neutrality with which the wolf watched her. Like it was indifferent to what happened next. Not because it didn’t matter, but because the wolf was equally prepared for any eventuality. Whether that was a quick sprint away to safety, or slowly pawing forward on the hunt, or snarling and launching into a fight to the death. Whatever happened next, the wolf was ready for it, ready to utterly and completely commit. Ramona and the wolf shared a frozen moment, eyes locked on each other.

Then her Da pushed Ramona behind him and shouted at the wolf, waving his arms until it calmly turned and trotted away.

The golden eyes watch her, with nature’s perfect neutrality, and Ramona knows that there’s an even chance that she’s about to die. Her eyes adapt to the shadow, and the outline of a hulking animal begins to stand out to her, larger than any wolf she’s ever seen. It’s like something out of humanity’s primal memory, the lizard-brain image of what a wolf is supposed to be and why they should be feared. This time though, she doesn’t lock eyes with the wolf. She’s since read somewhere that looking into a wolf’s eyes is a challenge, and even with her breath panting and blood weeping from her wounds, she doesn’t want to give the wolf that impression.

“Over here!” She hears a voice call. Her pursuers, right behind her. She can hear the scramble of booted feet and paw and claw. A subtle tension goes through the wolf, muscles bunching. An atavistic instinct screams at Ramona, recognizing a predator preparing to leap. Her breath catches in her throat, finally meeting the wolf’s eyes again…

A frozen moment seems to stretch out into infinity.

Ramona’s breath explodes out of her in a scream as she throws herself down onto the pavement just as the wolf’s paws leave it. The enormous animal sails through the air like a javelin hucked from an expert’s arm, huge and heavy limbs outstretched. Amazingly, it passes over her, arcing down at the other end of the alley. Landing like a cannonball amidst the Loyalists that were spilling around the corner.

Shouts begin, and then screams, as Ramona shoots back to her feet. Gunshots, feral snarls, shrieks of unendurable agony, the wet tearing sound of shearing meat, the splintering crack of bone. Blood running cold through a heart that hammers in her chest, Ramona runs. Her mind is empty of everything but the fear of what’s behind her. She runs, and runs, and runs. For miles.

It seems like an eternity later when she finally collapses to her knees, lungs burning, lightheaded from blood loss. A glance upward at a street sign gives her a flicker of relief that sends her into a coughing fit, bringing forward the agony of her wounds, especially the gunshots in her side and thigh. It’s Freehold territory. Safety. Escape from the enemy.

And from the wolf.
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InvertedMonkey

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