About three miles away from leaving the desert behind, the moon sets. I no longer have to traverse dune after dune. On the last dune I climb, the distant tree line is visible. Sand has turned into more crusty ground providing better footing and extra wear on my bare feet. Trees are more significant in size and growing in variations as I get closer. The desert scenery puts on an eerie cloak without the moon or sun.
What once was a quiet, peaceful night is becoming louder with wild activity. Curious about the cause of the commotion, I turn my head toward all the noise.
South of me, a thick cloud of sand is traveling fast in my direction. Sprinting ahead of the sandstorm is an assortment of desert dwellers I haven seen before. They try to outpace the storm, only to be swallowed shortly after.
There is no chance of escaping the storm. It is moving too fast. Without many options, I hunker down, doing my best to cover my face and other exposed skin.
Abrasive grains pelt me from every direction. Constant rubbing on my skin is causing my flesh to give way. Pain can be felt over my entire body, including the places I have covered. Restraining from yelling for fear of choking on sand, I grit my teeth and bear it. There is no telling how long I am in the sand hell. My raw skin is now becoming bloody. As sudden as the storm appears, it passes, leaving me prone beneath the empty sky.
Im only curled up for a moment when the howling sands are replaced by wild shrieks of pain and anger. Shooting to my feet, I look back towards the south.
Following the storm are opportunistic beasts looking for easy meals. Giant scorpions hunting in packs. Monster vultures circling the dead. Wild hounds as big as the giant scorpions are present.
Serpent-like lizard humans are the most numerous. They have a snakes body, a torso of a human, and the face of a spiked lizard.
Also included in the mix are bat-like reptilian creatures. Bat wings span ten feet and are attached to a primarily bat-looking body. The face and tail, however, are all lizard-like.
It is utter chaos.
Not wanting to join the party, I sprint as hard as my overexposed body can muster towards the distant tree line, hoping I don get noticed. Of course, Im seen right away. Im the only bipedal, slow, and fleshy-bodied fool running from the party, and I am alone. Every beast in the sky and land targets me for the easy feast I am.
At the moment, Im apologetic for every mean thought and complaint I had towards the desert before. Maybe a change of views can will this impending disaster away. While at the same time, ”What in the actual hell desert? Why do you have to prove to be the absolute worst. ”
Quickly I ditch my sled and all its wonderful resources except for a few machetes and shields that I strap to my back. Before I adjust the gear appropriately, I start booking it towards the west.
There is no illusion that I will escape the wild storm. However, I am at a loss for what to do. Honestly, my split-second decision-making kind of let me down here.
Im running for my life, getting nowhere fast. The storm and wild beast are nearly upon me. With few options left, I arm myself with a shield and machete and continue running away.
Flapping wings get louder, practically drowning out the rest of the chaotic uproar. I don turn around until the wings sounds are flying in my head. I raise my shield and swing high with my machete in one fluid motion. Momentum from my shield increases the force at which I slash my blade cleanly through a lizard bat.
Immediate threat disposed of, I turn back to the forest and keep running.
Fortunately, the first batzard, a name I created on the fly, is a solo flier outpacing its pact and the rest of the dinner attendees significantly. Unfortunately for me, the rest of the swarm is sticking together, and I only get a hundred yards further before I have to turn back around.
Twenty batzards dive bomb me at once, forcing me to take cover beneath the shield and armor. The shield deflects one-third of the bat hits as I struggle to maintain my footing. The other two-thirds are clawing and scratching at my exposed raw skin, threatening to tear me apart. More blood falls to the ground enraging the swarming batzards further.
Finding little protection beneath my shield, I drop the cover and struggle to draw my second machete. Completely exposed, I fall to my knees just as I have both blades in hand, the weight of the attack proving to be overbearing.
The swarm is too thick, and I can not find the space to even swing my blades. Adding to the dire situation, I hear the footsteps and growls of the rest of the predators closing in.
Desperate rage-induced defiance rushes through me as I muster the ounce of strength I have left and explode to my feet. Sudden movement shifts the swarming batzards enough that I can wildly swing my blades.
Both blades slash out violently, cutting through the densely packed bats. Several bats fall to the ground due to injury; the rest pull back, giving my blades respectful distance.
”Im not even good meat, ” I shout to no one in particular as I swing my blades, keeping the bats at bay and stepping back.
By my estimates, I still have two miles to cover before Im in the woods. Not that the woods will do me any good. Ill still have ravenous ravagers nipping at my heels.
”It is lean at best if there is any meat on me. Most likely, it is dry and stringy. Theres no fat, so good luck with the flavoring in this seasoning-desolate landscape. ” I have no reason to be talking. The words just spew out while I continue to swing at bats whose numbers are now in the single digits due to injury or flat-out retreat.
Now that I can see through the swarm, I get a better picture of the dire circumstance. Vultures are flying high, watching and waiting for their moment.
To my relief, some of the hounds and snake-people beast-things are fighting over the injured batzards. However, there are still many creatures seeking variety in their diet. I sense that they can sense that I don have much of a chance against their numbers. Though their swarm is significantly reduced, the remaining healthy batzards continually attack.
The giant scorpions are particularly eager to eat me, at least more apparent than the rest. Not a single scorp stopped to capitalize on the wounded. Rather they advanced as a unit seeking my demise as if I owed them my life. To be fair to the scorps, I am covered in the burned shell of their fallen species.
Though in my defense, how was I supposed to know scorpions burrow and are territorial. Or that they care about each other and wearing pieces of their dead is a heinous crime punishable by death. They should at least carry some of the blame.
All I am saying is a simple sign warning others they are sleeping underground would have avoided much of the unnecessary violence.
”You would think in a land so barren, ” I am brought back to focus as I backstep out of reach from the stinger launching at me, ”salt would be an abundance. ”
With my right hand, I slice my machete through the stinger, and my left swings upward cutting through the bat, thinking it could attack unnoticed.
”Like the desert, you will also be choking on my tasteless dead corpse. ” There is no illusion I make it out of here alive. Im just trying to prolong my life to make it miserable for the rest of the group.
Step, dodge, swing, swing, and step. Combinations of attack and dodge become my new norm.
Eager to shine its light, the sun joins us as we struggle through the desert. Luckily, I am already squinting, having taken a claw to the eye from the batzard that was able to pass my guard. It only cost it its life to do so.
My other eye, the good one, is constantly blinking from the blood and sweat that drips into it.
Resting by my side are my machetes, the strength in my arms giving out not too long ago. I have to awkwardly swing my body to get the blades to respond.
Before me, I can partially see the wake of death paving the way from where I have been. Bats, scorpions, and snake folk have fallen to my blades, either dead on the spot or soon-to-be-dead from the hounds and vultures satisfied with a more leisurely meal.
Step. Swing. Step.
Now that the sun has risen and is in full force, the remaining three bats and the snake folk decide to abandon their pursuit seeking shelter from the sun. By now, the vultures and hounds have made it abundantly clear that they aren much interested in a fight.
Had they joined in, I would not be standing. Instead, the vultures safely feast on the hard work of others.
”Come and get me. ” I raspily taunt angered scorpions still fully invested in my demise, words barely leaving my lips.
At this point, I have given up on dodging, relying on my armor to protect me from most of the blows. Hit after hit, it has proven to be durable. My flesh, on the other hand, is less durable. Wounds from stingers and claws are exposing bones and different disgusting insides I would have been better off not seeing. Poison from the stingers is coursing through my veins, causing me to stumble as I continually retreat to a false safe haven.
Step. Stumble. Swing.
I try to get back to my feet only to find the strength gone. Abandoning one of my machetes, use my free arm to somewhat help me crawl backward. My other arm awkwardly swings, my only defense from the scorpions snapping at my legs.
Light dims as scorpions take advantage of my slower pace, and the ten completely surround me. I can no longer crawl away, and the machete is too heavy and awkward to wield. Ditching the heavier blade, I grab my two hunting knives.
All I can do now is rest and wait.
On cue, the scorpions attack. My only saving grace is that not all ten can attack at once. Stingers slam into my back plating as I straighten my bowed resting position. Momentum from the blow allows me to plunge my knife into the mouth of the scorpion striking at my throat.
My knife rips through its mouth as I roll over and place myself below another scorpion. Stabbing upwards, I impale the above scorpions body with the blade and continue to roll. Loud screeches follow my attack while crushing weight can be felt on my legs.
Sitting up, I ram both knives down on the scorpion that has me in its grips. Stabbing twice more, my left arm is interrupted by another claw. Impulsively my right arm slices through the claw and follows with a stab to the scorpions head.
My side is pierced by a stinger that I quickly cut free from the scorpion. Pain causes me to gasp. Once. Twice. Pressing their advantage, the scorpions redouble their efforts.
Rolling, once more, I narrowly escape the onslaught of three stingers aimed at my head. I throw my blade at the scorpion screeching over its lost tail. The knife miraculously lodges into its mouth.
No longer able to screech, the scorpion panics as it tries to enlist the help of its companions. Panic turns to a frenzy as it loses the ability to cope with the lodged blade, and it more aggressively seeks the aid of its companions.
Two scorpions distractedly fight the panicked scorpion sparing no attacks to end its life. Slightly less overwhelmed, I throw my fatigued arm into the next scorpion cutting into its back. The newly cut scorpion rolls on the ground, trying to extinguish the pain.
One scorpion attacks recklessly, and I slam my knife into its head before it can hit me. Another claw grips my leg, which I wildly cut through.
Im soaked in all sorts of gore. Most of it is my own. Of the ten scorpions, only three are left in the fight, one of which is missing a claw, and the other, the one that killed its panicked mate, has grown in size. Defiant and desperate il the end, I let out a savage roar bluffing the fight I no longer have in me.
My knife swings a couple times for show. The three scorpions look at me and then at each other. They must have understood that they would not come out of this unscathed because they decide that this fight is no longer worth it.
First, the larger scorpion turns and leaves, then the other two follow.
Laying on my back, I can barely see the sun forcing its light through the trees.
Coughing and hacking, I am now fighting for my last breaths of air.
Soon I will rest for good and no longer have to put up with the damnable desert again. The thought comforts me, and a dry bloody smile forms on my evaporated lips.
Irritatingly, I realize the scorpions haven left me to die in peace. Nor are they trying to attack me. They are waiting for me to die before they consume me. Most likely not wanting to risk death when their reward is so close.
As a last act of defiance, I use every bit of strength I have left and pull myself to my knees. With a death grip, I hold onto my hunting knife with both hands. My smile returns when I think about my ruse causing the scorpions to wait longer than necessary.
Kneeling, hands clenched around my lifeline, head bowed, and grinning like the fool I am, I breathe my last breaths. The decision to run through the storm was the absolute worst.
Ill say one thing about death; it definitely brings greater perspective.
Currently, my belief is I most certainly ended up abandoned in the desert because of a woman. Its hard to be sure about these types of things. Still, I have an uncanny feeling about this. I am absolutely sure that there was a woman behind my unfortunate circumstance.
And I am positive I was the innocent party.
Bold, brave, beautiful, and destined for greatness. She was leagues above me.
Like an anchor, my love was keeping her ship from sailing.
Tasked with the choice to stagnate on dry lands or sail the greater waters, she broken-heartedly chose the seas.
”Love is love. ” I incoherently mutter to my empathetic audience. Or at least I think that is what I am trying to say. It very well could be a tsk, tsk.
It all makes sense now. The desert, the sand, the scorpions… they
e all playing their part in a long terrible goodbye.
Alas, ”So long cruel world. I was too good for you anyway. Scorpions, deserts, and sand be warned. I will haunt you even in death. ” I utter with my last breath.
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