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One weekend in my second year of college (1991), I had an unexpected whirlwind of creativity that blew 4 or 5 short stories out of my head fully formed. This is one of them. Yes, it's goofy and silly. No, I'm not really sure what it means, if anything. I think it's just fun.
Before the Evil Hordes Descended Upon the Unsuspecting Pilgrims
Monsters R People 2
by C.A. Scott
The dealer was a chubby pallid fellow, with three stubby arms and three short legs. The skin hung rather loosely from his pug-nosed, dog-eared face. More than anything, he looked like he was made of butter, perpetually melting. Of them all, he was the best at shuffling and dealing the cards. He had the most fingers.
Across from him sat another nightmare image. Long limbs like the gnarled branches of an old apple tree. Skin as blue-black as the night sky above them, and pulled taut overall, more so at the joints. More of them than seemed necessary. He sat with his knees up on either side of his head and glowered with red eyes at the five cards in his hand.
The demonic face wrinkled showing its owner's concentration. After some deliberation, he unfolded a many-jointed free arm, hand sans opposable thumb, and stuck out his ragged black tongue. Sticky drool coating the tips of his fingers made up for the lack of evolutionary assistance, and he pulled two cards out of the five, extending ten-inch fingers across the makeshift cardtable.
"Gimme' two," he said.
The dealer carefully extricated the discarded pair and tucked them under the bottom of the deck, then handed across a fresh pair of cards. The black-skinned one scowled at these, and tucked them into place. His red eyes slid to rest upon the next player.
This was another black-skinned fellow, shinier than the first. He was, in fact, slick with a sort of slime all over. A smell eminated from him, like the compact mud of a salt marsh, which was not made better by the trace of liquor on his breath. He shifted with a sound like a stack of raw meat, and threw down one card.
Or rather, attempted to. The card, a nine of diamonds, clung wetly to the end of his stubby finger. Then his thumb. Then his finger. He belched. Swamp gas. The drier fellow on his left, holding a fairly good hand and anxious for his own turn, assisted him. The nine of diamonds went also to the bottom of the deck.
That dry one looked pleased, his bat-like ears extending sideways to make a horizontal line with his flat-topped skull. He also discarded one card. Then it was the dealer's turn, and then the betting began.
The guy immediately to the dealer's left was actually two guys, connected at the hip and sharing three legs in the manner of Siamese twins. They played as one, arguing for a moment and then betting a couple of silver pieces.
The many-jointed fellow leaned both knees against his head and considered, then dropped his hand.
"I fold," he grunted.
Slimey looked at his bat-eared friend. "I'll see the two silvers, and raise two silvers," he said. Flat-head obliged, moving his money for him, and then raised the pot himself another silver piece.
The dealer met the bets. This went on for a while, the pot growing larger, until only Slimey and Flat-head remained. Slimey eventually gave in and called.
Flat-head won with three kings. Slimey conceded, and it was Two-Guys' turn to deal. He/they never got his/their chance, because just then the hulking form of their sergeant appeared out of the darkness.
"Sorry guys," he growled amicably. "Captain says we gotta' move out. We're attacking a caravan of religious pilgrims in the year 578."
"Aw, man," complained the tree-like fellow. "Every summer it's the same thing. Religious pilgrims. About as much challenge as disembowelling some farmer's cattle in 1975."
"Captain says there's a paladin leading this train, Slim," the sergeant said. He shrugged his massive shoulders. "You guys better pack up. We're moving out in fifteen minutes." He lumbered away to the next group, leaving them to get ready to leave.
Of course, there was conversation in the meantime.
"A paladin!" said Flat-head as he brushed all his money into a bag at his side. "That ought to make things interesting!"
"Not for us," growled one of the Two-Guys. "You know Sergeant Grin's men will probably get to him first, like they always do."
"If not Grin himself," noted Pale Shorty. He grunted, and his big hands swept over the table, gathering up the last of the cards.
"I didn't think they had trains in 578," mumbled Slimey. Then he looked up at the others. "I don't know about you guys," he said, "but I'm really getting tired of this same old routine. Ambush a bunch of stupid humans, eat them for lunch, drag their pathetic souls to Hell, and get paid half the going price for 'em by some demon with an attitude..."
Slim stood up to his full height of nine feet and smirked down at his smelly pal. "At least we get a real meal for a change..."
"True," Slimey conceded. He shrugged, a wet sound like biscuit dough with too much liquid in it.
"I know what you mean though," Flat-head told him. "I'm sick of going to Hell."
"It's too hot there," said the second of the Two-Guys. "I mean, even the offices. It's like they're just trying to impress you or something."
"Yeah, like, 'Hey, guys, you're in Hell, and don't you forget it!'" Pale Shorty said. "As if they had any competition or anything."
"Wouldn't that be cool?" Slim suggested. "Starting up your own office for stolen souls? That way we could have our cake and eat it too!"
"What a disgusting metaphor," Flat-head commented.
"It's a human thing," Slim apologized. "You eat enough of 'em, you start talking like one, I guess." He shrugged, looking like a pile of dark bones upheaving and then settling to rest again.
"Speaking of talking," growled the voice of the Sergeant, as he lumbered past. "Shut yer' traps and get ready to move. You have five minutes!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Slim grumbled under his breath as he bent down to disassemble their card table. The flat part was Two-Guys' shields, laid across Flat-head's and Slim's nasty-bladed spears.
"Hey," Slimey muttered to his tall friend as the components of the table were being handed out to their rightful owners. "You better be careful what you say about being Hell's competition, man. They have spies, you know."
"Yeah, well, everyone knows I ain't serious," said Slim, waving one twiggy hand.
"Yeah, mellow out Slimey," said Pale Shorty. He swung his hand to cuff the other friendly-like, but was glad his own arm was too short to reach.
Slimey belched. Swamp gas.
The group of friends moved off then, to join their regiment in lining up for the time-march. Two-Guys stopped to tie his/their shoe-laces. White Nike hightops.
"Hey, man," said Slim, "where'd you get the new shoes?"
"Same place you got your cowboy boots," Two-Guys both said. "Off of some corpse."
"Are those the pump-it-up kind?"
"Nah, that's some other brand, I think."
"Oh. Well. They must be comfortable."
"It's better than marching barefoot. Except in my case, I still got one bare foot. I figure I'll try and rotate."
But by the time the evil horde descended upon the unsuspecting pilgrims, Two-Guys was dead, and the tall skinny apple-tree-looking monster was right out front, charging against the paladin full speed and getting great traction with his new basketball shoes.
|Runner||The End? (a poem)|
|A Private War||Horsemen|