20 June, 2013

Reunion

The boot bounced off of my chest and back into the sitting room. I readied myself to fight, if need be, by taking off the whip. Instantly, it felt like nothing more than an extension of my arm. It was so comfortable in my grasp. I was ready to take on anything.

However, the creature that threw the boot hadn't done so out of malice, as it hadn't even known I was there. I took a knee behind the door frame and peered around the corner in awe of what I was seeing. It was like someone gave life to one of those hideous garden gnomes that lived in most front lawns, and it was going through my steamer trunk of books!

I wanted to boot stomp the fucker, but if it was a legitimate life form, and not just a construct, then I couldn't do that. I needed to at least give it a chance to defect to my side. Oh, man! That would be both hysterical and adorable! As I got up to approach it, I had a sudden flashback of the sleeping gas attack that made me stumble for a step. Apparently that was enough. The gnome peered over the lip of the trunk and looked straight at me. All I could see was a big nose, its eyes, and that stupid pointed hat.

It shrieked at me and began chanting some kind of gibberish. I was so badly startled that I jumped back, bumping into the wall. It leapt out of the chest with little to no effort and toddled up to me. By the stars, this thing was hard to stifle a laugh from. When it approached, it lifted its arms and made an "ak! ak!" sound.

"You want me to lift you up?" I asked, legitimately trying to not poke fun at the foot-tall garden gnome. When it nodded enthusiastically, I obliged and knelt down to grab it. It seemed delighted that I was picking it up. Holding it at arm's length, I looked at it, narrowing my eyes. It felt like a real, living thing.

It mimicked my face, so I began making different faces, just to see what it would do. I wasn't entirely surprised to find that it copied them all perfectly. It pointed behind me, back out into the hall, so I began walking where it lead me. When it took me to the basement door, I hesitated.

"Dak! Dak!" it screeched at me.

"What's down there, little buddy? Are you going to rip my throat out if I take you down there?"

"Nak! Nak!" It shook its head, and pointed at the door. It had begun vibrating in a fit of what I assumed was excitement. I took a deep breath and opened the door, allowing a pungent odor of wildflowers, moss, and other general flowery scents. Then it dawned on me.

"We're going to see Tandamum, aren't we?"

"Ak! Ak!" It rotated its head a full 180 degrees and smiled an impossibly large smile that revealed rows of viscious-looking, needle-like teeth. I shuddered.

"Can't I save at least save one person first? I don't want to go alone."

"Mek!" it grunted. It seemed to consider this notion unhappily before sighing and then we were suddenly in another room, with no more sound than a "paf!" We were in the study, where my whole social circle, minus Sal (damn it), was tied to individual poles, the same poles as last night. As soon as the gnome and I appeared, all heads turned toward us.

"Jim!" they all gasped at once, making me feel like I rose from the dead. The gnome looked from me, to my friends, and back to me again, in one 360-degree rotation of its toothy head, seeming to be considering who it should set free. I carried it over to Tilly.

"Oh, Jim! They caught me! I was sneaking around back, and when I stopped to gather my fortitude, so I started playing with that pen you gave me. Almost immediately after, I heard your voice run screaming into the fray where my ex sucker-punched you! Then I stood and begged for you to stop, as I couldn't bear to watch you be hurt!" She had begun crying out of frustration as she struggled against her wrist and ankle restraints.

"Jim! They're gonna fucking sacrifice us, Jim!" Now it was Diego's turn to get my attention. "I think they killed Sal, Jim! They killed that guy we all thought was you, but when you showed up stupidly last night, he stopped looming like you and they killed him!"

"Allendriel...." I whispered. "Has anyone seen Allendriel?"

No one responded.

"Damn it!" I sighed, then turned to my gnome. "Okay, buddy. Who'd you pick?" It pointed at Diego, and suddenly the three of us were standing outside the cellar door once again, with no more than a "paf!" I looked at Diego.

"We're being led to Tandamum." I said, grimly. He reached over to the wall by the front door, and picked up two axes we kept for chopping down trees, and reated them on his shoulders.

"Then let's bring it." I clapped him on the back, and opened the basement door.

17 June, 2013

Infiltration

I had apparently spent quite an extended period under the haze that hung above the marsh, clinging to the sky and making all outlines unclear, even obscuring the sun. Once I left the swamp, I found that it clung to the horizon, bathing the sky in oranges and purples. All I was going on was the hope that my friends actually were alive, but I supposed that that was enough as I crawled up the hill on my stomach. That idea quickly led me to reconsider my wearing the twenty-foot vine whip like a sash; the thorns were becoming a literal pain in my sides. Not having any other way to carry it, however, forced me to just soldier on.

"Goddess damned stupid mother flipping cultists taking over my neighborhood," I grumbled as I went. It was rather slow going, but I couldn't see into the community, or even the houses themselves, making a stealth approach a necessity.

Once I reached the base of the wall, I looked back down the hill at the marsh, but could only see a hazy fog, and remembered that I always saw the hazy fog at the bottom of this hill on the rare occasion that I looked down here. Had the plant creature been there all this time, waiting for me?

I shuddered at that thought and took off the vine whip. It had a comfortable weight in my hands, feeling familiar in an impossible way. The closest I had ever come to even holding a whip before was when I carried a length of chain to use in assisting the uprooting of a tree stump almost a year ago. I put some faith into knowing how to use it when the time came.

Right now, however, I just used it as a grappling hook. I whipped a gargoyle at the top of the fifteen-foot wall to be an anchor, and began rope-climbing my way up. I felt like Indiana Jones, and felt my fortitude redouble. I guess there's something about acting like an action hero to make you start believing you are one.

I got to the top and looked over the edge, suddenly remembering how I wound up in the marsh to begin with. The sight of ambulatory shrubs and other such plants shocked me again. I could barely believe my eyes, but after what I had just experienced, it was slightly easier to believe.

Diego's favorite rose bush had literally sprouted legs and I was watching it patrol the grounds. It looked like it was trying to mimic Cliff in the slow, methodical gait in which it moved, which was hysterical. Unless, I thought immediately after, that was Cliff. I unwrapped my whip from around the gargoyle's torso to hop down and landed in a roll, popping back up on my feet.

"Yeah! That's some fuckin' parkour shit right there!" Beaming, I made a bee-line for the small tree line we had separating our house from the neighbors on the right, the Danielsons. They were okay people, not giving us too much grief for our life choices, and I legitimately felt bad that they had become crazy cultists.

I ran to the back door of my house, hoping to make it in and through unnoticed. As I peeked through the double glass doors into the kitchen, I saw the Baxters, from the very front edge of the neighborhood, preparing finger sandwiches. The demon worshippers who attend bake sales and PTA meetings. Fucking bizarre.

I knelt down by the door and waited, hoping that the seemingly lowly soldiers would gripe about the master plan and, in turn, unknowingly reveal it to me, but it never came. They prepared my deli meats and cheeses with dead eyes and total silence. Well, shit.

After another couple of minutes, the Baxters finished their preparations, and brought their silver platter, stacked high with sandwiches of different varieties, out of the kitchen. Their angle suggested they were going to thr front room, causing me to shudder at the idea of geriatric demon summoners holding a meet-up in my living room.

As soon as they were far enough away, I slid open the door. Peering around, the house still looked the same, save for the intricate pattern of vines throughout. It bore an uncanny resemblance to that house in Jumanji either just before or just after the flood scene. I was impressed, but then again, I suppose real-life special effects guys don't necessarily need a budget.

Then I had a thought, which led to probably the most important question since this whole thing began: Would that make me Robin Williams in this scenario? My friends are trapped in some sort of PTA-from-hell game, and even the love of my life is endangered. I guess that makes me the protagonist of this story. My house, my friends, my love.

I sighed. Can't I just flip to the end of this story? I really would like to experience Tilly's warm embrace, to put it delicately. The past, what, week or so, has just been one long nightmare. That's it! Maybe I'm still in a coma in the hospital! No, this is real.

I stopped suddenly, in the middle of the hall from the kitchen to the main room. This is real. Demons, magick, cultists, ultimate evil, plant monsters, all of it. This is all real! My head swam with this realization. I had been on the go and constantly forced to just accept it, but now, with a small reprieve in the action, a moment of clarity. How does this sort of thing just go unnoticed?

By rights, it shouldn't. Then again, it does. If it hadn't been for the fire, I still wouldn't know about it all. I know it has to be connected because of the weird shit that happens when I feel the burning sensation in my forearms. There has to be something to that. That fire...

"Shit," I hissed. I could feel the burning sensation coming on again. "No, no, no, no, no! Not now! Come on, Pacifi, give me some of that orgasmic bliss again!" I squeezed my eyes shut as I continued pleading in hushed tones.

"Come on, I have a mission: to rescue my friends and my love! This can't be happening now!" That seemed to be the magick phrase, as the burning withered down to nothing once again. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued throughout the house. I turned into the main sitting room, and before my brain could register the interior of the room, a boot connected with my chest.

13 June, 2013

Understanding the Monster

Just as I let the final gulp of air out of my lungs, the vines pulled me back above the surface, raising me into the air. My head was still swimming, however, with thoughts of Tilly, my friends, and Allendriel. I let them down. They were dead, and it was all my fault. Tandamum was going to rise, and it was all my fault. No need to thank me, population of Earth, I'm only the man who murdered everyone.

I had never been a genocidal maniac before. I always imagined it would be more...fulfilling. Oh, well. I hope dying doesn't hurt. Being chewed and dissolved at the same time probably would, though. I should probably do something to avoid that. But what?

For some reason, I began thinking of Tilly's late husband, and how he randomly went up in flames when he was about to kill me. Well, not kill, but that's what the story will be. I don't need Sal and Diego giving me shit about what actually almost happened.

Anyway, if this plant monster wanted to burst into flames, too, that would be fantastic. I don't really want to die. Why am I just letting it eat me? What happened to the natural instinct for survival? Did that get kicked to the wayside?

"Okay, hideous plant monster, I should probably go home for the night. I'm not exactly feeling like myself. As for you, you should talk to a therapist; forcing people to not want to leave you, a term known as Stockholm Syndrome, isn't psychologically healthy." At this point I noticed that it had stopped trying to eat me, holding me above its gaping and gnashing maw. It almost seemed to be considering what I was saying.

I hung suspended for several tense minutes, as this plant creature began displaying some sort of just-above-sentience. Thankfully, this newfound thinking ability ended in my favor, as it wound up setting me down beside it, and pat me on the head a couple times.

It stopped me as I turned to leave, and I thought that what had happened had all just been some sort of clever ruse, but it didn't try to pick me back up, and a pungently sweet smell simply exploded into the air.

A smaller vine looped around my wrist, showcasing its actual speed, and I suddenly realized that if it had wanted to kill me, I'd be dead already. It started pulling me toward its bulb-head, by the arm, and when my outstretched hand made contact, another vine was pressed into my hand. The one around my wrist did some lightning-fast adjusting, and moved around my hand, closing it around the new vine.

"What's this? You want me to have something?" Another burst of a sweet scent that I somehow knew to be an affirmative answer. I pulled on the vine as the looped one unraveled and disappeared back below the surface of the marsh water. When I heard a snapping and tearing sound, I knew I had a whip made of a vine in my hand.

"A whip? I don't know how to effectively use one. Sorry, man."

In response, there was a "thwip" sound and my neck was punctured by a dart. I started in surprise, and pulled it out. I could feel my brain rewiring itself as instructions on how to use the vine whip bubbled to the surface of my brain.

"Oh...my...word. This is incredible!" The bulb-head bristled with excitement. Apparently, information in the dart also included how to understand its language. I actually had to sit down because I was so amazed, and when I did, I expected to sit in marsh water, but another vine came up and bent itself into a coiled seat.

"Thank you for this gift," I said, looking up at it. "This is absolutely incredible." In response, it shuddered out more pollen and told me about my friends, who were alive, with Tilly and Allendriel not captured, and the state of the neighborhood, fucked unless someone did something.

"Well," I said standing up. "I guess that someone is me. Time to get to work!"

08 June, 2013

Mid-Afternoon Snack

I wound up needing to go back, though, as I would never have made it back to the my neighborhood with one arm cuffed to the other leg. I eventually stumbled upon the burned corpses of my assailants, and rifled through their pockets, vomiting occasionally because of the smell. It takes a special kind of constitution to be able to handle that sort of thing, and I unfortunately did not possess such a talent.

I eventually found the handcuff keys I was looking for, and wasted no time freeing myself. It was roughly a fifteen-minute walk home, but if Cliff, Diego, Sal, and Tilly were already dead...no, I didn't want to think about that. Either way, I need to do something about those goddamn cultists. They hurt my friends, and I can't sit idly by, so I began marching toward home.

Fifteen minutes later, I came up to the section of the wall that wrapped around our neighborhood that was behind my back yard. There was so very much overgrowth that I initially thought I had the wrong house. I mean, it was in the same rough location, towards the back, and when I got to the wall, I did have to walk away from the main road. Also, just how long could I have possibly been unconscious, anyway? It had definitely felt like less than a day.

All these thoughts silenced themselves as I reached the top and peered over, into the community. I was so shocked, I jumped backwards and fell the fifteen feet down to the sloped ground. I couldn't find purchase on this hill, either, so I just tumbled down, all the way to the little marsh at the bottom, landing awkwardly, laying on my left side, half submerged.

I climbed out and began my ascent back to my backyard when I had my feet yanked out from underneath me. I hit the ground, hard, and found that I had some sort of vine wrapped around my ankles.

"Shit shit shit!" I leaned down to begin pulling them away from around my legs when the vine gave a violent spasm that launched me from my resting place on the ground. Easily, I must have risen about a good twenty feet at the apex of my arc deeper into the marsh. I twisted around to see my projected landing site, which turned out to be what appeared as a giant, leafy Venus Fly Trap head, only with more "storage" room in the bulb at the base of the plant.

Luckily for me, the plant's "mouth" wasn't open, so I just smacked into the side of it, and slid down into the swamp to my waist. Stunned, I try to get back to standing to leave when I get lashed across the face by a vine that seemed to come from nowhere. I staggered and put my hand to the impact site to find a puncture wound. I must have been pricked by a thorn, and a massive one, at that.

"What was that?" I asked no one in particular as I staggered back to my feet, only to receive another lashing, this time across the chest. It made me take a few steps back in shock. I had my back against the giant bulb-head. It was at least twice my height, so I decided to try another route by climbing up it.

The plant at least let me get three-quarters of the way onto its head before wrapping a vine around my waist and holding me in place. Apparently it was done playing around, as it thrust me down into the marsh water and kept me there for about a minute-and-a-half, which made sense, as much as I hated admitting it. Live prey may taste better or be more interesting, but dead prey won't try to leave or defend itself. So, this is it....

03 June, 2013

The Gardener vs the MMA Fighter

I did the first thing that came to mind: I stood, charged the nearest figure, and screamed bloody murder. Embarrassingly, I later was told that I literally screamed that as I tackled one of the cultists to the ground. I didn't care, I just couldn't let them kill Sal and Diego.

Before I knew what was going on, however, the person I tackled was back up on his, according to the musculature, feet, and above me. He picked me up off the ground and threw me over his shoulder, landing me at Diego's feet. I could hear my friend urging me to get up quickly, but I was stunned.

This guy was fast, very fast, and I suddenly had a very bad feeling about what was going to happen next, so I ripped one of the fumigation bombs from my belt and threw it at him. Like I suspected, though, it was knocked aside with a lightning fast arm thrust.

"Not even a hit?" I asked, watching the canister go sailing into the crowd. Wrong move, Jim, as I suddenly became very aware of the pain my ear hadn't been in until I turned my head. The dickhead MMA fighter (I still remembered the way he punched) had punched me in the ear. I grabbed it in agony and turned to face him, only to see a fist moments before it impacted my face with the strength of an asteroid collision.

"My hero..." was the last thing I heard, as everything slipped away into darkness.

An indeterminate amount of time later, I woke up with a throbbing headache. Right, no more booze. I rolled over to get out of bed only to find that just because it was morning didn't mean I was waking up under my covers. I was on the ground. Outside, in the sun. I bolted into a sitting position.

"The sun? Goddamn it!" I groaned as panickedly as I could. I leapt to my feet to look around. Or, I would have, if my right hand wasn't handcuffed to my left ankle. Instead, I just pushed metal into my wrist, breaking the skin easily, and did an awkward roll. There was laughter around me. Not the playful laughter of Sal and Diego; this was a malicious sort of laughter.

"Easy, princess. Easy." The MMA fighter. Fuck. I twisted my head to look at him as he continued on. "I've been given the task of disposing of you, wastrel. You're not wanted." He then spit on me as I laid in the dirt.

"I'm not wanted?" Before I could get the rest of the taunt out, his toes found my stomach.

"No! No talking! You will not ruin this for me! This is going to be a special, tender moment between us, and your mouth will not ruin it!" It was strange to hear those words being coated in a voice so full of hate, but I couldn't say I blamed him, to be honest. His wife was leaving him for me, after we had been sleeping together for two and a half years. Today was not going to be my day.

"Not...not wanted?" I panted. Stars filled my vision as his freight train of a fist met my face. I spit out blood. "You're the one whose wife is leaving him! For me!" I guess I cackled, because he barked at me to stop laughing.

"Listen, princess. I'm going to do to you what you did to me, then I will slit your throat, and leave you at the bottom of this pond." He produced a knife when he mentioned slitting my throat, then licked the blade before continuing.

"Maybe you've been hit in the head one too many times, but I don't have a wife! Or if this-" The air left my lungs as I got another boot to my stomach. "Heh, if this is a crack at Diego being my wife-" Another. "Then you're in for more of a struggle. He's scrappy." I smiled through what I imagined were bloody teeth, and gave him my most innocent look.

"No," he replied, voice chilling me to the bone. "You...you emasculated me."

"What? Where is this going, dude?" He undid his belt buckle, slid it from the loops, and whipped me with the buckle. I tried a little harder to roll away than I previously had, but he stood in my way. Really? Humiliated like this before I die? Is this my comeuppance?

I looked up, only to discover that his pants were undone. This really was where it was going. His foot came down and eclipsed the sun to break my nose. Red tinged my field of vision. I rolled back the opposite way, and found myself touching water.

"Just relax, Princess James, it will all be over real quick. Just shh."

"It's Jim," I sniped back, hoping that my voice didn't betray my nervousness. I felt my temperature rising. Just what I need, to be incapacitated by the burning sensation while this was going on. He reached down and punched me in the face. By the time I was done immediately reacting to that, I felt a loosening around my legs. My pants were undone.

I did the only thing I could think of and launched myself at him. I caught a lucky break by hitting him in the stomach and bowling him over, then I started to roll way. I made it maybe twenty feet before I rolled into another pair of shins. This wasn't going to end well, considering the circumference of said shins. One of them wound back, and soccer kicked me back in the direction of the MMA rapist.

"You remember Steve, don't you, James? You two met at my Christmas party last year." Yeah, I remembered him. He saw Tilly and I mouthing sweet nothings across the room to each other, and I guess he had been introduced as the MMA fighter's best friend, or something like that. Either way, if I got out of this with my dignity, it would be a goddamn miracle.

"Feisty! I like that in a woman!" This guy's gone delusional! He reached down and started grabbing at my pants, but I started thrashing as hard as I could. I wasn't going down (pun intended) without the fight of a lifetime.

I wound up wrenching my arm out of its socket and I cried out in pain. It was practically simultaneous. As soon as I did, no more than a second after I cried out, my voice was joined by the sound of two screaming voices. I kept thrashing.

It took me a couple beats to realize that there was no more grabbing at me, and I opened an eye and peered around. They really had left me alone, and had started shuffling and stumbling towards the water, both men covered by the same blue-green flame as my yard. Due to the slight hill, I couldn't tell whether or not they fell into the pond when they collapsed, but I didn't care to stay long enough to find out. I began roll-limping away from there as fast as I could.