Hello, before you read this account you have to keep an open mind. Done that? Good. Now forget everything you know about your world; it doesn’t apply here.
Things are much easier and weirdly complicated on this side of the mirror. Countries, presidents, constitutions, all that has no meaning here (I wouldn’t know what they were if I hadn’t meant Nhyira).
And that thing you call names, we don’t have them here. We have tags. My tag is BR22, and this is the account of the day the skies fell.
The day we saw what was above us.
It was a day like any other, the skies were the usual red, the winds were wild. Vendors wore protective gear to keep the sand and winds from blinding them. Some young ones could be seen playing around with crashers they had assembled themselves from scrap metal. The vendors complained, the young ones paid no attention.
Buildings piled on and beside one another, creating narrow walkways and roads for the rahcs, crashers, and other similar means of transportation in these areas. Movers hated to pass here. Some rahcs ended up being stuck here forever; at least till they were torn apart and for scrap metal.
This was the slum, the worst place you could possibly live in Jahna. It was home, however, and I loved it here. I sat by the window of an abandoned quarter, watching life go on at its usual pace. I made sure my face was properly hidden behind the red scarf.
A pair of Eye Shields did their job perfectly as sand bounced off them, making seeing easier. To be honest, it was pointless in a sense, but I liked the feeling it gave me. I had been sitting here since the rising of the second sun. I was beginning to get impatient. Then just like clockwork, they showed up.
“Hey, are you ready to move?” a voice from behind me asked.
“What took you guys so long?” I pulled down my scarf and walked towards them.
“NK11 had to stop by one of his lady friend’s quarters to fuel up.”
I’m guessing I had a disgusted expression on my face, because he quickly clarified his statement.“Not that kind of fuelling up… the more literal kind,” QR5 explained.
I nodded and stifled a laugh. He was already a matured one, yet he got uncomfortable whenever it was related to… let’s just say NK11.
“Speaking of, where are the rest of the guys?” I asked.
There seemed to be only two others with him. The newbies from the looks of it.
“They are waiting at the Sector 8 gates.” I nodded.
QR5 was a few inches taller than me. He was shorter when he joined us, but he shot up tremendously within just two years. He had grown. He had a nasty scar on his back to prove how much he had changed since he joined us two years ago. No one had expected him to last as long as he did, but he surprised everyone, myself included.
“Are you fully rested and ready to go?” I asked, more out of habit than actual concern.
He placed his hand on the wall on his left, it turned into ice almost instantly. He punched it as it crumpled to the ground. He smiled smugly.
“This quarters is already on its last leg. You could have just said yes,” I sighed and buried my hands in the pocket of my jeans. “Let us leave before this whole place falls down on us.”
We found the others waiting at the Sector 8 gates. We were fifteen in total. I wondered how many would make it back today. There seemed to be a total of five newbies. Three looked genuinely scared, the other two… not so much.NK11 was lying on his crasher. A chewing stick stuck out of his mouth.
“Aye! Boss!” he called as he saw us headed towards them.
“I’ve told you to stop calling me that,” I responded knocking him on the head. Also out of habit.
“Aye… you are the one who’s served longest here. It would be rude not to,” he explained, running a hand through his hair and putting on his Brain Holder. It looked different from the one he had two days ago.
“Is that a new Brain Holder?” QR5 asked.
“Yeah… he says it makes him look cooler,” TQ90 answered from where he was standing. TQ90 was the tallest amongst us. His skin was shiny dark and covered in scars. He seemed like the person you wouldn’t want to get in a fight with; which was a valid assumption to make. However, he was also a very sweet guy once you got to know him. He was the second in command. I had served a few months longer than he had.
“You know that thing is useless against them right?” QR5 pointed out.
“Aye! At least if I do die. I’d rather it be in style… you feel me?”
Everyone just stared blankly at him. He got that a lot.
NK11 after failing to defend his new purchase rounded everyone up.
“Alright, you guys know how we do this, same routine. In and out, quick. Kill enough of those bastards and come back in one piece… if possible. For the newbies, pay close attention. Beyond this gate, you shall experience horrors like none you’ve ever witnessed. Irrespective of what you might be capable of, those things out there will make you look and feel like shit. You are not special, or unique. You are just a Protector, and that’s it. Whatever you do out there is to protect this slum. No one should go be a hero. I will kill you myself if I consider you a danger to the rest of us,”
“He actually will,” NK11 whispered to the newbies.
“SA34, I will leave the newbies in your care. If any of them gives you a hard time out there, dump him,” she nodded in response.
For a tiny lady, she was capable of so much. She had served for close to five years. Yet she still looked young. NK11 despite his many female companions, couldn’t stay away from SA34. And she couldn’t stand him. They, however, made a great team out there. I nodded to TQ90 signalling him to take over.
“Alright, people, we’re moving out!”
We had been out for barely ten minutes, but I could already feel them gathering. They were to close to the gates. It was unusual. Both suns were directly overhead now, and the skies glowed bright red.
“Stay on your guard. They might be closer than we think,” I alerted them over the communicators.
We had split into three groups. SA34 and NK11 were with the newbies. TQ90 was with the others, and I was with QR5. Something didn’t feel right.
“Boss, something is wrong here,” NK11’s voice came over the communicator.
“I hate to admit it, but he’s right boss,” TQ90 added.
“Something doesn’t feel right here too.”
I had been hunting these things for almost a decade now. My senses tingled. Something wasn’t right with the air.
“Yes sir,” he responded.
“Make it cold.”
Gradually the temperature fell. Soon I could see every breath I took…And there were more. We were surrounded and we didn’t even know it. QR5 had noticed it too. One was breathing just about twenty steps from where we stood. And judging from the breath clouds being formed, it was a huge one. At least fifty feet tall.
“Guys, they are invisible,” I said into the communicator without much movement.
“What?!” NQ11 shouted back.
The communicator crackled loudly, then all hell broke loose. It roared loudly, shimmering into view, the rest followed. We were surrounded by at least five of them. The voices from the communicator indicated things had started on the other sides too.
By now you’re probably wondering what these creatures are that we can’t seem to have a name for. Well, we don’t have a particular name for them, but Nhyira said they look like what you’d get if a “komodo dragon and a wolf had a baby, but twenty times bigger”… her exact words. Maybe that will help paint a picture.
Now you understand what I mean by all hell broke loose.
If this was my first time out here, I probably would have shit myself. These things were evolving, they could now turn invisible too?
“Create a wall around the big one now!” I commanded QR5 and headed toward the other three.
They weren’t as big. The biggest of them was just about twenty feet tall. I could manage them. Meanwhile, QR5 tried his best to fortify his ice cage. The big one thrashed violently in its confinement. He couldn’t hold on any longer. I had to be quick.
You would have also noticed, we are different from your kind. We have what Nhyira calls abilities… she says that’s what you’d call them in your world. Here, we call them curses.
You’ve seen QR5’s curse. Mine was a little different. I could phase through things. It wasn’t easy living with this curse, but after almost a decade of doing this…let’s just say I knew how to make use of it. Though it required years of studying the anatomy of these things. And knowing the right places to phase through.
One suddenly emerged from my right. A surprise attack. They had evolved tremendously overnight. It had just been two days since our last hunt. I stood there as it ran towards me. I phased through it and emerged from its other side with all three of its hearts with me.
It crashed loudly into the trees. The downside with this curse was how messy it could be if used in a situation that requires more action than precision. The other three were almost as easy to deal with. I hated phasing through those things!
“I can’t hold this any longer!” QR5 shouted.
“It’s okay. Let’s rendezvous with the others now!”
I grabbed him by the shoulder and we took off as fast as we could. Bouncing off trees. With a loud crash and a chilly breeze, we knew the ice cage had broken. It was coming after us!
There was a loud roar, then lightning struck, the skies began to part. They were turning a strange colour. One we only saw on screens in the slums.
“Is it just me, or the skies are turning blue?” QR5 asked as we sped off.
“Boss! We need help here… NOW!” NK11 shouted over the communicator.
What the hell was going on?
to be continued…
Story by Sampson Amprofi, also known as Everyday Gladiator.