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In the Landscape

In the Landscape

Russ Bickerstaff

WE HAD BEEN TRAVELLING through the landscape for a long time. It might well have been millennia. I was willing to accept the fact that time was behaving a little weird. The rest of the guys were trying to be objective about it and check their watches and things like that, but the damned things had gone haywire a long time ago and any precise attention to what may or may not have been going on was more than a little suspect. That’s all I’m saying. Try to tell time by any inner clock in this landscape and things start to get a little shaky.

Minik looks at me with dead eyes. There’s a scratch in there somewhere. A scratch in his gaze. I can’t remember how it got there. He’s staring out into the corridor with that thing. He’s staring out into it like it’s all that we’ve ever known. And in a way, that’s exactly what the situation has been. That’s a big part of the problem. The landscape in this place has a way of wiping away your memories as you created new ones. Some kinda weird effect on the hippocampus or something. Memory bleeds out around the edges of the moments and there really isn’t much left but the journey into this landscape. Can’t even seem to remember how we got to be here. I don’t suppose that it matters too much, really. It’d just be nice is all. It’d just be nice to have some kind of idea where we are from where we were, y’know?

I don’t personally remember all that much. I remember when we were here with rocks and sticks and things. I remember losing a few back then as the landscape swallowed us up. Remember that much real well. It’s a bit hazy how we got to be there. We’re a military squad of some sort. Can’t seem to remember much more about it than that, though. We were racing through the jungle running away from shadows in the rain. Lightning. Thunder. Death. I’m sure we had better protection than a few sticks and stones when we got here, but I can’t seem to remember much more than that. I can’t even remember the names or faces of anyone we lost. I don’t know. Maybe we didn’t. I remember the blood though. I remember the pain. There must have been some who died then, right? No idea.

Somehow in the midst of the chase we began to realize that shadows weren’t all we were running from. It wasn’t just our own accidents that were killing us. There were beasts that were attacking around the edges of our group. No idea how long it took to realize that the beasts were wearing collars. I think one of us actually managed to bring one of them down (Katma I think.) We saw that there was something kind of weird about the creatures. They didn’t seem to have internal organs exactly. Just a whole lot of muscle. Just a whole lot of meat. Nothing else, though.

We kept going. Somewhere in the midst of a hast dissection of the beast, we had come to realize that rocks and sticks had become blades and slings. We had become all the more capable of defending ourselves. Things would have been great had it not been for the fact that we were seeing darts and arrows shoot by us. Still outclassed even as we had come to somehow be in possession of something halfway decent with which to defend ourselves. So naturally we had to keep running.

Not sure exactly when it was that the farms started showing up. Tiny, little farms in and around the edges of the jungle path that we were rushing through. Somehow events had settled down into something more reasonably resembling woods. For a time we were able to jump from cabin to cabin to get some rest but sleep itself never seemed to come what with how often it was that we found we had to keep moving. Farms began to give way to small villages which became suburbs and gradually denser and denser metropolitan areas. By this time we had moved from slings to swords to small guns.

The density of the area grew in intensity. That which was attacking us seemed somewhere between man and beast. Some of what was attacking might as well have been us. Some of what was attacking might have been us. At this stage everything was blurring together in a bleary smudge.

Something broke down though. We slipped and lost a lot of everything. Things, people and blood spilled out all over the place. The best we could seem to manage was a rush through an alley beyond something that snarled and slashed and lashed out at us as we slid into the narrow far corner of its lair. Couldn’t quite get to us, so we were safe. Only way out was through it, so we were trapped by it too.

We settled-in. Bates tried to attack it while it was sleeping. He’ll be fine once the bleeding stops. No way out. Felt awful. Then there were a few that had come by looking for us. They looked exactly like those who had been after us this whole time. I’d be damned if the beast didn’t make short work of them. So there was that.

It shook itself and looked over to see us. A strange look cast across what I’m going to call its face. It recognized what we are and took another hour finding out that it couldn’t get past us where we were. Then it stopped and rested. Bates knew better than to try anything other than escape. He promised to go and find help. It tossed him like a rag doll right back with the rest of us. Then it noticed what it had done and started to attack again. Took another hour before it could remember that it couldn’t do anything. We settled into it and tried to forget.

Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author. Last year his short fictions have appeared in over 30 different publications including Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Beyond Imagination. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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