Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 09 - "The Building is Hungry!"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

Max meets "them"

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Horror - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2009-10-05 - Updated: 2009-10-06 - 1859 words - Complete

Max had started to relax in spite of himself up on the roof, even stopping for a long while and splitting a meal with Bandit.

He knew he shouldn’t feel as at ease as he did, but it was hard to keep his guard up when there was nothing to be on guard against. His parents’ accounts of this place were filled with dread and haunting images, yet, beyond the strangeness of the place itself, he had seen nothing of the sort. Was starting to wonder if he should perhaps go back inside, if he might find something more useful than this endless maze of rooftops.

Following the stairs and other ways that were available to them in this direction, Max and Bandit soon found themselves walking through a narrow stretch between the walls of higher sections. In the shadows of these walls, everything was drab and gritty. Trash littered the corners, as well as stacks of boxes and crates, and some areas were barred by sections of chain-link dividers bearing WARNING! and NO TRESPASSING! signs.

Earlier, he may have had trouble keeping his guard up, but in this area, he found himself unable to remain at ease as he had up above. That creepy poem kept sneaking back into his head, especially the part about the Sweet Lady of Twylight, the whole passage seemingly describing a certain ghost ship he once told Shades about, one of the eeriest tales of the sea. And worse, the path of nightmares and dreams sounded so much like a description of the place his parents barely escaped from all those years ago. Halls of locked doors, hidden danger… This was what awaited not only him, but his companions, as well.

Even Bandit was getting edgy again, more so than at any point since they first entered the building. He guessed his companion was starting to see the side of this place his mother had spoken of in what felt like another life. His grimy, dingy surroundings certainly looked more like it than anything else he had seen so far, and he wondered why it hadn’t seemed so foreboding when viewed from above.

Now he kept his laser sword handy as he walked; much as he wanted it himself, he was now glad he had talked Shades into taking his power pistol, that at least neither he nor Justin went unarmed in this place of unknown peril.

Max was just about to turn around, having decided to try a different path, when Bandit froze in his tracks, sniffing the air more closely. Clearly having caught wind of something he seriously didn’t like. After a moment, the big cat turned back toward the way they had just come and started growling, low and soft but menacing.

Even as Max turned to see what could have so upset his friend, they both heard a loud squalling sound, a metal-on-metal grinding that made him almost drop his blade to cover his ears, so alarmed was he.

A moment later, they saw what happened as a gate in one of those fenced-off sections swung open on rusty hinges, becoming visible from his position around the corner. Before Max could give any thought to what might have caused this, a figure stumbled into the alleyway. In spite of Bandit’s freaked-out reaction, for a second he still held out some hope it would be one of his missing party members.

Unfortunately, the figure that lurched around the corner wasn’t any of them, not even bearing any resemblance to Kato’s descriptions of her friends, either. Dirty and disheveled, but dressed in street clothes similar to that of those worn by most people at the Mall. This might have been somewhat reassuring if not for the man’s blank, staring gaze from deeply sunken, dark-ringed eyes. The pallor and overall stung-out appearance he instinctively disliked. He smelled wrong, even to Max’s nose.

More than anything, though, it was the blood-stained clothes that did it, the certainty that most of that blood was not his own.

This newcomer ground to a halt at the sight of Bandit, gawking at the panther in slack-jawed puzzlement, possibly even fear. Which was good as far as Max was concerned; he still couldn’t tell if his feline friend was about to attack or run away.

He finally got his answer when several more of those very unhealthy-looking folks came shuffling around the same corner. Something about these guys bothered him deeply, and it apparently bothered his friend even more, for Bandit simply bolted at the mere sight of them.

“Hey! Bandit! Wait up!” Max almost called his companion a coward, but after thinking it over for all of about a second or two, he decided he was with Bandit on this one. “Wait!”

But Bandit was clearly unhinged by these new arrivals, and now was running for real. Even as Max took off after him, he looked over his shoulder to see that the first of these assailants had regained the initiative now that he had his creepy companions to back him up. The others staggered into motion again, and Max was thankful that he could move a lot faster than them.

And he had to run as fast as he could just to keep Bandit in sight in the increasingly narrow and twisting alleyways.

Then, just when Max thought the situation couldn’t possibly spiral any further out of his control, he came around another corner and found himself at a fork in the path. He skidded to a halt, unable to tell which way Bandit went. When he heard the mumbling and shuffling feet of his unsettling assailants, he was forced to pick a way and hope it was the same path his friend took.

After a couple more twists and turns, things got worse still.

At the end of the alley was an open area with scattered junk lying about. A cursory look around failed to reveal any other exit; a dead end. It also failed to turn up any sign of Bandit in that dead end, either.

“Bandit!” he cried out as he turned to go back and take the other way, already regretting shouting and giving away which way he went.

Max stood there for a long moment, trying to decide if he could make it back to the fork before his pursuers. Kicking himself for not going the other way. He was about to risk it when he realized he would have been too late.

For whatever hunted him, they were not quite as slow as he originally thought. Max retreated deeper into the little courtyard as he watched several of those sinister strangers come shambling around the nearest corner. It was hard to reconcile their tottering steps with how quickly they could really move.

Deciding to take one chance at being reasonable before resorting to violence, he asked them, “Who are you? My name is Max…”

And they continued to lurch forward.

“Look, if I intruded on your territory, I’m sorry…”

This only caused them to pause for just a moment, but in that time Max got a good look in their eyes, seeing, much to his horror, that there was nothing left to reason with. Even as they resumed their advance, Max fired up his laser blade, and resisting the nearly overpowering impulse to back into a corner, he prepared to break through their ragged ranks and try to catch up with Bandit.

As he moved within a couple paces of them, the first two fell upon him with a jarring burst of speed. But Max was quicker; having given himself over to combat mode, he struck both of them down in two bright green arcs. Striking a third, he made a bee-line for the entrance to the alley.

Seeing one of the next two in the alleyway clutching a tire iron, Max instinctively sidestepped this one— as the alley was too narrow to get all the way around, he kicked off the wall, catching his opponent from an angle, kicking off of him to launch his attack at the other.

Just as he had done to the trees for years back in Paradise.

Before he even reached the next turn, though, a whole glut of new enemies crowded into it. Spying a ledge a couple levels above him, Max sought to avoid being forced back into the dead end by jumping back and forth between the two walls. Unfortunately, the walls were just a little too far apart, the ledge just a little too high up, and he ran out of upward momentum before he could reach it. So he was forced to rebound back down in order to avoid injury.

When he reached the bottom, he was dismayed to see that the enemies he had struck with his stun blade were already swaying to their feet. Combined with those pushing and shoving their way around the corner, he would soon be trapped with them in this confined space, so he forced his way past the other two and back into his dead end. Thinking as quickly as he could under such harrowing circumstances, he made for one of those automobile things he had seen outside the building, this one parked in the middle of the space.

It was blue and corroded, its windows shattered, tires (some other components, as well) long-gone. The rusty hulk, all fins and lines that would make a classic car nut weep, creaked and groaned as Max leapt up onto the hood. A sound that complimented his dire foes more than he cared for, he reflected, as he stepped up on top. Years ago, Robert taught him that one of the best strategies for dealing with multiple opponents was to back into a wall or a corner, to keep them all in front of you, and none behind, but Max didn’t like the idea of these fellows backing him into a corner. Here, he would hold the high ground, another classic strategy, and with it, a fuller view all around him.

Meanwhile, his attackers made their way into the courtyard, began to surround the car. And thus Max. Who observed that those he had stunned, while not comatose, did move more slowly than the others. Cold comfort, in light of the growing numbers he was facing. Though he was certain now that they meant to kill him, still they wore human faces, so still he refused to use the cutting blade.

There was no cue to start this battle; they came at him at random, and he was forced to meet them in kind. With downward strokes and sweeping kicks, Max forced them back, forming a circle around himself, an imaginary line he refused to let any of them cross without paying the price. All told, Max marked at least twenty of them, and he knew this tactic relied on him outlasting every single one of them.

These creatures were clearly not going to retreat, so Max knew, much to his dismay, that he would have to beat them all down.
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