Swamp Fic.

Hmm. I have the audio book of Neverwhere sitting in my “to be looked at” folder. Suppose I should give it another go. He wrote The Graveyard Book too, right? I got halfway through that before getting distracted.

I got a book this morning from Amazon, “Letters from Egypt.” It’s a Victorian book, letters home from a woman who went to Egypt for health reasons and lived as the Egyptians did. It sounded interesting on the website anyway, I go through phases.

Mums DS flash cart also arrived, suppose I’ll lend her my SD card until hers arrives, since I have to send my DS off for repairs anyway. The right hinge cracked last week and now the screen is all wobbly. I’m sure they’re going to charge me an extortionate amount to get it fixed, but it’ll still be cheaper than buying a whole new console.

Anyway, here’s the story I promised, I’ve run through it with a spellchecker, but no more than that. I know my grammar is atrocious, but there you go.

Bold text in lieu of a title.

The blood rises up from the ground, leaving behind it a sticky residue. I take a step backwards, but the ground, barely a moment ago solid beneath my feet, now crumbles away like sand. I take the step anyway, unwilling to see what it is that is now supporting my weight, but also unwilling to let the blood stain my already ruined shoes. I knew I shouldn’t have come here, but I gave into the temptation nevertheless. I’m not the first, around me I can see bones, stripped clean of flesh, some half submerged in the quickly reddening swamp, some on clear, solid ground, all cleaned bare by time.

Another step backwards, and I already know that my shoes are a lost cause, I must run, quickly through the swamp, the splashes my running feet make in the many puddles, soaking into my clothes, when I make it out of here, I think even my own village would reject me as a swamp monster. Not that they wouldn’t reject me anyway.

I can’t go back there, I can’t lead it to them, and they’ve probably moved on by now anyway. Nothing can stay still for long in this wilderness we call home.

Is wilderness the right word there? In my mind it implies wild and untameable, but this world is far from the barren, desert picture it paints to most people. Instead is it lush and green, few have seen the world above the trees, and few would want to. There have been a few attempts at villages, even at cities, but in the end, the only real way of living is to keep moving. The jungle breaks through too fast to ever clear land for crops. Those standing still simply make themselves easy targets for the roving bands of monsters, and even if the first wave is defeated, never mind how many walls you build, you can’t keep them out forever.

I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve seen it happen. I once saw a group of nearly two hundred people, wiped out in but a few short days, I’ve seen what happens to those who venture out alone, and the monsters have seen my retreating back on many separate occasions.

They have names for people like me, and few of them are usable in polite conversation. But opportunist is one of the nicest.

Sometimes you can see what’s gonna happen, and sometimes you can’t do a dammed thing to stop it. So why try? Do you agree?

Most people wouldn’t, but then, most people wouldn’t still be alive at this point.

The light ahead is where my camp was, but I can’t smell the small fires they used, and the atmosphere is one of emptiness, so I know they are long gone. Still, it would be a good idea to avoid the place, many of these monsters can track a scent weeks old, and although I’ve successfully covered mine in swamp mud, taking that out into the jungle would give away everything I’ve worked so hard for.

Another of those names is “Survivor”, but that’s also one of the ones you’ll hear the least. People like me, who always turn their backs on those around them, aren’t looked upon highly. I hope they realise what efforts I’ve gone to not to get them killed.

Risking a look back, there is nothing to see but the endless expanses of grey-green marshland. All that can be heard is the hum of insects, and my own ragged panting. But it’s never good to just assume you’re safe.

Many hours later, and I’m clean, and back on solid ground. The gem I stole from the blood monsters cave is safely hidden away, and I know that it’ll have given up by now, off searching for easier prey, and content to let me have my current victory. After all, something’ll eat me eventually, and when it does, the gem will find it’s way back, it’s inevitable.

The monsters aren’t as stupid as people seem to think, if they were, this whole thing would have been over a long time ago. Mankind is forever thinking of new ways to kill,but so are the, lets call them demons from now on.

They appeared not long after the end. The last of the rainforest was gone, the oil reserves had long run out, and the human race was on an edge, really. Sure, we could have pulled ourselves back, but that’s what the alcoholics always said. “I can stop any time I like”

Did I say that out loud? A pause to check nothing heard me.

Good.

Just when we were contemplating, as several separate nations, just what it was the other people were gonna do to fix everything. /They appeared/.

Nobody really noticed at first, you can’t say they weren’t discrete. It was only one or two to begin with. They looked like everyone else, but oh, they weren’t.

It took a few years, nothing to a demon, for them to work themselves firmly into out society, taking critical positions high up, giving themselves as much power as they possibly could, and then promoting up others of their kind, until to get rid of them, we would have had to overpower our whole political system. So we went along with it, unsure of what they had planned for us, but unaware of any ways in which we could stop it.

When they started invading in their true forms, guess who we looked to for guidance, guess who we looked to for shelter and weapons in our time of panic?

Yep. We were nothing but sheep to them.

Still, some of us survived, the human race isn’t that easy to wipe out. Sure, we may not have the superior numbers anymore, but nor are we laying ourselves out on their plates, ready to go and say hello to their digestive systems.

Most of us aren’t anyway. A well trained group of five to ten well trained people, can take down a group of three to five monsters. That may not sound like an achievement, but those who prefer to fight alone are mainly dead by now.

Mainly. Sure, I’ve tried travelling with others, but it always goes wrong after a while. People aren’t trusting, when the enemy can walk right in without you even realising it. I have a knack for telling the two apart though, and although this isn’t always the best accepted talent, it’s a useful one to have.

The gem I’m carrying in my bag is a ruby, red like blood. The monster had almost fifty, but I don’t think I could have gotten away with more than one.

It may not be much to look at, but human souls are risky things to be carrying around. Maybe I’ll find a use for it though, and if I get attacked, well, another demon will have another pretty jewel to add to his collection.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “If he has that many, why doesn’t someone just go in there and take them” but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Remember when I mentioned this thing would make it’s way back when I, or whoever it’s next owner is, dies? Yeah, that.

These guys have contacts and every gem has a serial number. They’re not dumb, if a group did try and do what was suggested above, every single organism in this swamp would be yelling about it within five minutes. As soon as he realises the group is on it’s way, that there’s a group of two legged guys with sticks making their way towards his location, he’s gonna start preparing for battle, and he’s gonna start phoning his friends. Each area has a leader, and each leader has minions, and each minion has a stash of souls in the fridge. Lives have a meaning now, and it’s not just 42. Nobody dies of old age in this world, and collect enough soul gems, and the rumours are, you can bring back somebody close to you, or you can create fantastic, mythical items.

The maximum is three. After that, you’re listed, and everything in the country is suddenly gonna be after your blood. Not that anyone’s ever managed to amass that many, I’ve had quite a few pass through my hands, but not even I would be stupid enough to follow a few rumours in return for loosing my life.

Oh.

Anyway, when these things get close to each other and they’re in the possession of a lowly human, they /scream/. The more there are, the louder the cry is. The louder the cry is, the more likely a group of killers is likely to notice it.

I’m rambling, not thinking about where I’m going, I’m on one of the few roads left, it’s perfectly straight, and well over a hundred miles long. It was one of their little jokes. while everything else was destroyed, this road was untouched, when the jungle ripped the foundations out from underneath buildings, this road was pristine. It’s not a good idea to stay on it too long, but I know of a small camp up ahead, where the guy who wants to buy this jewel /should/ be waiting. If he’s not, then I’m sure I’ll be able to get a fair price for it anyway, but it’ll be a hassle.

The old man raises his eyebrows as I walk towards him, glancing around the half packed up camp to see if anyone else has noticed the strange new visitor. “So, you made it alive then, I see”
“You weren’t expecting to see me again, I suppose?” It’s not an unexpected reaction. As long as he pays me quickly, that’s all I want.
“It’s not an unwelcome sight. How many did you get?”
“Just the one. There was… A lot, but it’ll be on alert now”
“One is enough, one is more than I thought I’d be seeing today”

The man takes a small package out of his pocket, and presses nods at me, a moment later and the gem is freed from it’s constraints within my pack. I’ve wrapped it in what remains of the trousers I’d been wearing on that day, cleaned as best I could in swamp water, but it doesn’t do to draw attention to yourself, certainly not around items of this nature. We trade packages, neither willing to let the other hand over first. And then the real business begins.

I come out of that ordeal no richer, but I do have now, new clothes, several sets. A shiny new bag to keep them in, and enough high quality, freeze-died rations, to keep me alive for several months. I also have new information, new leads and several more meeting spots marked on the rough map that now harbours it’s own pocket in my backpack.
The next job I get is a few days later. Some bloke’s kid has gone missing, and for some reason,he’s convinced she’s still alive. It’s always possible. It might have happened once, maybe even twice over the hundreds of disappearances that I’ve seen over the past few years.

Shame I can’t remember it doing so.

But he’s willing to give me a decent reward,even if she doesn’t come back alive. So I’ll waltz in there, steal the first skull I can find, and exchange it for some nice cash before he realises what’s happened. I might even get to see another gem in the process, but it’s probably not a good idea to have my trace over more than one in such a short span of time.

According to my information, the creature that’s taken her should have a den in part of what used to be a small village. There are still a few rearmaments here and there of what the world used to be like, but they’re so well integrated it’s hard to tell unless you knew the area well before it fell to the trees

Here and there I can see slabs of concrete, eaten away by the plants and even chewed in places, as if something got hungry. It wasn’t me, honest.

For once, I have a partner on this job. Somebody I met at the camp, and I’ve worked with several times. The way we’re doing it is: 1. I go ahead. 2. She stays back at the camp with my bag and makes sure nobody pinches my new shirts.

I’ve done the same for her in the past, and it’s always worked out pretty well.

I bought the valuable stuff with me anyway, the map, and the closest ting to money you find in this godforsaken land.

There’s light up ahead, signalling an end to the endless trees. Either it’s another swamp, or this village is a lot better looked after than I was anticipating.

Ah well, every day is something new…

The evening light shines a dull orange over the five-or-so huts. They’re stick, mud and straw affairs, placed in a rough circle, but they’re tough enough. Either demon-built, or there’s a human settlement here trying to keep themselves unknown.

Somebody, two legs, two arms, one head and no visible tail. Wearing a shirt and rough leggings, walks out of one hut, and into another. Normally I can tell just by that what species it is, but from this distance… appearance means nothing.

Edge forward two steps. There’s a woman standing in one of the doorways now, sharing much the same appearance as the man.

Forward another two steps, and her head moves upwards suddenly, eyes darting toward where I’m hidden.

Shit. Halt, do not move this turn.

She turns to somebody inside the hut, saying something to him that’s too quiet for my poor, mortal ears to make out. I’m sure she’s human though. The way she holds herself, her general glow, it shows nothing demonic. Except for that single movement of the head. I’d say maybe she’s a halfling, but even those tend to set off alarm bells…

Two steps back while she’s distracted. Oh look, it’s her male friend again. And he’s coming towards me. What to do, what to do…

I can’t kill him, he’s human too. Should I just run and hope he can’t keep up? But if I’m being noisy enough for some child to spot me from this distance, am I in a fit state to run?

Quick physical check before he finds me. Have I been fed something that disagrees with me, do I have any weird aches, cravings, rashes…

Nothing, and here he is. May as well say hi.

“This is our camp, you have no right to be here.”

He’s just a boy, poor kid thinks that’d work if I was a real killer? He’d have no throat left by now.
He’s not even looking in the right direction.

“I can see you, I can sense exactly where you are, so please leave before I have to deal with you personally”

Poor kid. I wonder if he’ll start thanking me for leaving, if I just sit still long enough. Oh look, he’s turned his back completely now. His girlfriend doesn’t look impressed though. Here she comes. She swishes her arse as she walks, and that is not a compliment.

Or maybe it is.

She walks like she’s used to having a nice, handy, tell-tale, swinging appendage sprouting out of her lower back, anyway. I’m so confused right now.

“come on, Michael, he’s no threat to us. Lets go back inside”

“He’s gone then? Good,” the kid sighs gratefully, “I didn’ want to have to fight something yet. We’ve only been here a day. Do you think your dad’s worried about you?”

“I bet he hasn’t even noticed I’m missing, now come on. Quickly, before something else decides it wants us for lunch”

I don’t wanna touch this with a barge-pole. Maybe I should just come back in a week and salvage some of her remains instead, but he probably won’t be there in a week.

Ah well, I’ve been in worse situations. Better stand up quick before they walk off.

“Ah, hi. I don’t suppose you’re Alison by any chance? I’m hoping you’ll say no…”

The boy jumps about 3ft into the air, and clutches at his partners dress in a way I’d call perverted in any other situation. Right now, he looks scared stiff and probably doesn’t realise what a nice view he’d be giving himself if only he angled his head right.

The girl just stares at me, ignoring the clammy hands and breeze in places clammy hands and breezes are not supposed to be. “I could say no, Hunter, but I suspect you know the answer already.

Spoken like a true demon. I know what she is now, I think. “Your father, or at least, the man who thinks he’s your father, sent me to recover you.”

A frown covers her pretty little face, she obviously hadn’t been expecting that.

“Doesn’t seem like you need rescuing, though. I’d be careful around here. Are you sure you wouldn’t like to come back with me?”
“It’s a trap!” Ohh, boy is trying to pretend he actually has balls somewhere underneath those baggy pants. Shame you can hear his knees knocking against each other for miles around. “He heard us talking before, now all her wants to do is distract us so he can eat us!”

The girl turns to look at him, but this is my chance to /shine/.

“Kid, if I was gonna eat you, I’ve had a thousand opportunities. And I don;t think the one most likely to be doing /that/ around here is me.

Ouch, girly’s glaring at me something rotten. But if what I think is true, she can’t do anything with that brat pinning her down.

“I suggest you leave, Hunter. We will be fine here, thank-you very much.”

“Your dad’s gonna be ask-”

“The longer you stay, the more danger you are putting your life in. Whatever he offered you, I would suggest that you forget it and move onto a safer target.”

That’s that then. A nod of consent from me, and I’m suddenly back at the starting post with a headache.

Demons are something you shouldn’t mess with, but demons who are trying to play human…

I’ll collect my stuff, warn anyone I trust that it’s a bad job, and then move on.

At least she left me with some nice compensation.

1 Response to “Swamp Fic.”


  • Audiobooks? Hmm…

    Storey is damn good, though. I think you are right about the ending, though. Starts out pretty good, though. Very atmospheric. Definitely the sort of thing I’d like to read more of.

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