Fort Eden – Chapter 1
by Chris Kluwe and Edwin McRae
Saliva-glistening fangs hissed past Patricia’s ducking head, and she rolled backwards with a curse, her hand dropping to her side. She spun up onto one knee, pistol barking gold-sheathed bullets, and the grotesquely bulging body of what was once a hunting hound crashed to the floor, grey film spreading across its lifeless eyes. Thick black blood spread from its distended muscles across the unfinished interior tiles of the Seacliff Asylum, and Patricia crawled up next to a wall, her hands already busy reloading.
One down, she thought. Of course, there’s at least five more Thralls roaming around in here. And after seeing what they did to the village…
Unbidden, her thoughts returned to the gruesome scene that lay outside. The entire Seacliff village, eighteen families, many with children, rendered down into so many bloody lumps of meat. The most wretched scene, and one she knew would haunt her sleep for months to come, had been the village hall. Five strong men, builders working on the almost finished asylum, lying scattered in front of the hall’s shattered wooden doors. Inside, a charnel house, limbs and indiscernible parts of human bodies so intermingled that she couldn’t tell how many lay dead, and all about, the constant buzzing of flies driving her nearly to insanity.
Farlan’s not due for another hour at least. Bloody hell.
Patricia peered around the corner, searching for signs of the other Cullers in the murky late-afternoon light drifting through the empty window frames and half-raised walls. Brief movement caught her eye and she raised her pistol to her ear. Before she could take aim, a tangled and gooey web shot past her face, hitting the wall with a wet splat. She pulled back and snarled, heart pounding in her chest.
That was a fucking spider. Three feet or more tall. Wish you’d show up early for once in your life, old man. I’m completely outgunned here.
Seconds passed like hours, the air heavy and still. Patricia risked another glance. She saw the Culler darting out a doorway, segmented legs churning like pistons, and sprang up after it, vaulting one of the unfinished walls in her haste. The doorway grew in front of her like a gaping mouth. At the last instant, she turned her run into a slide, woolen trousers gliding almost frictionless across the smooth tiles. The doorway passed overhead and a jagged chitin leg scythed across where her midsection would have been had she remained upright. Patricia coolly emptied six bullets into the red and white abdomen of the Culler, reducing it to arachnid pulp. More black blood spattered down onto the once pristine tiles.
Eerie howls and yips filled the room, a grim cacophony of chaos. Another gruesomely warped hound padded into the asylum, followed by the elongated shape of a mastiff, grown to near three times its normal length, looking almost like a fur covered komodo dragon. Saliva dripped from two sets of jaws as her enemies split apart to flank her, their movements coordinated with unsettling intelligence.
Two against one, eh? Farlan said Davie Worthington took on two Hunters once. Took them a week to find all his bits for burial.
Patricia shouted, burying her emotions in the primal sound, and charged to her right, aiming for the mastiff. It flowed sinuously towards her, jaw distending impossibly wide. Behind her, Patricia heard the clattering scrabble of the hound’s claws on tile. She dove left before the mastiff could snap its teeth shut on her, sliding once more across the floor. Her shoulder slammed into a wooden support beam, but her revolver was already spitting out bullets, the killing gold slamming home into the mastiff’s exposed side.
It whined just once, a mewling, pitiable cry, then toppled over. Patricia had no time to savor her triumph. The shadow of the hound was in the air above her, descending fast.
Next Week…Chapter 2: “Load of Bull”