Mythik Wars II
“Stay down until I signal you, and when I do, run like hell. Do not look back. Do not stop, because if they catch you, they will fucking kill you.”
A young woman accompanied by a girl about seven years old gives me a dirty look, probably for my cursing. The rest of the group; a man in his thirties with dark hair and a ragged beard, two younger males, maybe brothers, one about fifteen or sixteen, the other about twenty or so, and a middle-aged lady with red hair and a fierce gaze, stare at me as we huddle behind the bombed-out ruins of an old Arby’s.
“What do you want me to say?” I ask, looking at the young lady. “That everything’s going to be okay, because it’s not. It’s way too late for that. You want to live, then you fuckin’ run!”
I shake my head and sigh before turning my attention to the little girl. She stares at me with dark blue eyes that peek out from under a mop of blonde hair.
“You understand?” I ask her, ignoring her mother, sister, or whoever the hell she is.
She nods in response.
“They’ll fucking kill me if they catch me. So run like hell,” she says, a look of grim determination on her face.
“Good girl. Now make her understand,” I say, gesturing to her older companion.
I move to the corner of the building, stepping carefully over a pile of tumbled bricks. I peer around the wall at three huge beasts covered with heavy coats of black hair as they rummage through the scattered piles of debris barely twenty yards away. One of them turns slightly and the sun glitters off the enormous tusks protruding from each side of its mouth, but it’s not the huge canines that draw your attention, it’s their eyes—bright orange orbs that look like they’re on fire. Looking to the north, I can see the border wall that separates California and Arizona. Unfortunately, we’re on the Arizona side.
“What the hell are those things?” the older man asks as he crouches behind me.
“Listen,” I say, looking back at him. “Don’t crowd me.”
“Sorry,” he replies as he scoots back.
“They’re called bugganes. They’re from Ireland or something.”
“Stupid question,” I answer as I move back to the rest of the group.
I can see the look of fear in all their eyes. I know at least one of them, maybe more, isn’t going to survive this, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m not risking my life any more than I have to. It’s survival of the fittest out here, and it has been for at least five years. I’m surprised that some of these people made it this far.
“Okay. Here’s what’s going to happen. The wall is about a quarter mile away. I’d like to wait until these bugganes move on, but we can’t risk staying here any longer. At some point, something else is going to come along and then we’ll really be up shit’s creek.”
“So, what are we doing?” the older of the possible brothers asks.
He’s good looking, but too young for me, although he has all the attributes I like, including short, dark hair and bright green eyes. The muscles that are poorly concealed under his shirt don’t hurt either. If I was only a seventy-five years younger . . .
“I’m going to distract them and you’re going to head to the wall. There’s an old semi-tractor trailer parked alongside it that you should be able to use to get over.”
“How are you going to distract them?” the little girl asks.
“Don’t worry about it. Just do what you need to do.”
Her older companion reaches out and touches my arm.
“Thank you for this,” she says.
“Yeah. Whatever. Just get her over the wall.”
I start to stand when the older man steps up next to me.
“I can’t let you do this by yourself.”
“Sure you can.”
“No,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m coming with you.”
“Not a good idea,” I reply, frowning at him.
“You’re probably gonna die,” I say, looking him straight in the eyes.
“I’ve had my life,” he says. “They deserve a chance at theirs.”
“It’s your funeral,” I reply, pulling my Taurus Veridian handgun out of its holster and checking the magazine. I slap it back into place and stand, looking down at the party of frightened but hopeful faces. “As soon as you hear the first shot, start running. Get to the wall and get over.”
I look at the incredibly brave, or unbelievably stupid man standing next to me. I pull the pistol out of my other holster, a Remington RP9, and hand it to him. He holds it like he knows how to use it, so I don’t ask.
“I’m ready if you are,” I say.
“Let’s do it.”
“Target their eyes, okay? Anywhere else will be pointless.”
We leave the rest of the group behind and jog down to the far end of the building. Peeking around the corner, I spot the three monsters at the end of the old brick structure. I flip the little switch that controls the strobe light on my pistol, and we begin advancing on the creatures. I raise the gun and squeeze the trigger as we walk. The slug rips through the beast’s shoulder, pushing him back slightly, but it’s not even enough to knock him down. He roars and his companions follow suit, racing toward us.
“You asked for this,” I say to the man.
“What’s your name?” I ask as I target the lead buggane.
“Phil. What’s yours?”
He fires twice, the first shot missing by mere inches, but the second slug flies through the monster’s left eye and it goes down hard. The other two leap over their fallen comrade, their eyes blazing like fire.
“Come on!” I yell and we turn and run back around the side of the building.
I hope the others are already running. They should be halfway to the wall by now.
We turn again, our weapons raised, ready to fire as soon as the beasts appear, but after a few seconds, there’s no sign of them.
“Where the hell are they?” I ask out loud just before the wall to our right explodes outward.
We’re showered with broken bricks and other debris as the two bugganes throw themselves at us. I start to turn, swinging around to the right, but it’s too late. The monster slams into me, knocking me down, the pistol slipping from my grasp. The creature roars at me, bits of foul-smelling saliva dripping onto my face and into my mouth. I kick out, but I can’t get any leverage. I spot my companion wrestling with the other attacker. After blocking one punch, I strike back, landing four blows in quick succession directly to the creature’s face.
It seems stunned momentarily and I spot a sharp fragment of brick just inches away. I grab the shard and drive it deep into the monster’s neck, pounding it in with my fist. The beast rises up as it scratches and claws at the improvised dagger until it finally gets a grip on it. It yanks the brick out, and a second later a torrent of thick, black liquid gushes out of the hole and the creature wavers for a moment before growing still and then collapsing off to the side. I scramble to my feet and dart for my pistol.
I spin around, lowering the weapon and targeting the remaining buggane as it struggles with Phil. Before I can fire, a scream pierces the air and I look off in the direction of the wall.
“Go!” Phil yells at he as he pumps two shots into his attacker’s mid-section, the sound muted by the creature’s thick fur. The monster slashes at him with his powerful claws and they both fall to the ground.
I take off running, using the hole in the building created by our attackers. As soon as I clear the rubble, I spot the rest of the group running toward the border with another buggane in pursuit.
“Where the hell did you come from?” I ask no one.
I start after them at full speed, leaping over scattered pieces of debris and dodging the abandoned shells of cars. I raise my pistol when I’m just within range, but it’s too risky to shoot. The two girls are almost to the barrier, but the boys are lagging behind, and then they do the worst thing they could possibly do; they turn to fight. I don’t see the redhead anywhere.
The buggane leaps onto the closest one, knocking him to the ground, its claws tearing into the poor kid’s chest. His younger companion stands there, stunned, unable to react or even scream. The girls are scrambling up onto the old semi parked by the wall, yelling for him to start running again.
When I’m within five yards, I fire once, just grazing the creature in the shoulder. It turns away from its prey and glares at me. I push the button for the strobe and the light begins flashing rapidly, visible even in the early afternoon. The buggane rears back, covering its eyes and roaring in pain and confusion. I race past it, grabbing the young man’s arm and pulling him along with me.
“Come on! Run!” I yell.
“He’s fuckin’ dead. Now run!”
It takes a second or two, but he starts running alongside me. Within a minute, we’re at the base of the old truck. The girls are already on top of the trailer. They extend their arms and I push the boy up. When he’s settled, I clamber up, easily leaping and grabbing the edge of the trailer. The little girl looks at me, her mouth wide.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you?” she asks.
I nod and smile.
“I’m one of the good ones,” I reply with a wink. “Where’s the redhead?”
They all shake their heads. I look back toward the ruined building and sigh.
“Fuck it! Everyone over the wall.”
As the others boost the girl up to the top of the metal barrier, I look back toward the remaining buggane. It spots me at that exact moment and begins charging.
“Hurry up!” I yell.
The two girls are already up, sitting on the top of the wall, the air shimmering around them with an odd blue hue. They extend their arms down and help the boy boost himself up. I stare at the dilapidated building where I left Phil battling the other buggane, but there’s no sign of him.
“Come on!” the girl screams. “It’s coming!”
I turn and jump up, just missing the top of the wall, but three hands grab my arm and pull me up just as the monster leaps onto the top of the trailer, its claws missing me by mere inches. The blue light seems to wrap itself around me as I stand on the top of the barrier.
“Tuck and roll,” I say before pushing everyone off the ledge, eliciting a scream from the older girl.
Fortunately, the ground on the other side is much higher, so the drop is only about five feet. As soon as my boots touch the ground, I pull the others next to me as we huddle against the warm, hard steel of the fence. Reaching into my back pocket, I pull out a little notebook with a tiny pencil tucked into the binding. I open it and look at the boy.
“What was your friend’s name?” I ask.
“What? Why?” he asks, still in a state of shock.
“What was his name?”
“Joseph,” he replies.
I write Joseph and Phil, one after the other, adding to the collection of names filling the first half of the book.
“What about the other lady?”
“I don’t know. Do you want my name?” he asks.
“No,” I say, writing Unknown Lady before closing the book.
“You’re still alive. People will still say your name.”
I slip the book back into my pocket and look at my three remaining companions.
“What do we do now?” the older girl asks.
“For them,” I say, nodding behind them as a dozen heavily armed military vehicles crest the ridge, each one loaded with soldiers wearing brown and tan camouflage.
I raise my hands slowly and lower my head. The others follow my lead. I look at the little girl and give her a reassuring grin and wink. The Humvees and jeeps come to a stop a few feet away and dozens of soldiers pour out. Some of them surround us, while others proceed to the top of the barrier. A second later, the sound of gunfire fills the air.
“All clear,” one of them says. “It was one of the buggane things.”
“Roger that, Sergeant,” a woman replies before she steps up to us. “So, what do we have here?”
I look up at her, my head tilted to the side.
“Jesus Christ,” she says. “Lydia Maxwell.”
“Here,” I say, raising my hand when Miss Weaver calls my name.
My best friend, Sarah, looks at me and smiles. We always giggle during attendance because our names come one after the other.
“Here,” she replies.
We sit through the rest of the list, doodling or just being quiet so we don’t draw Miss Weaver’s attention; nobody wants that. Even being in the fifth row doesn’t always shield us from her seemingly inhuman hearing.
“Everyone stand for the pledge of allegiance,” she says as soon as she’s done with the roll call.
We all stand and face the flag. I glance at the picture of President Johnson just before we begin reciting. When we’re done, we all sit, the sound of chair legs scraping on the tile floor filling the room.
Miss Weaver picks her notebook off the desk and turns to the board. She starts writing, the chalk clicking and squeaking on the hard, black surface.
“We’re going to talk about the presidents today, children,” she says, without turning around.
I tilt my head to the side as I read off the loose-leaf pages in her book, quickly memorizing the names and date, all of them in her neat, compact handwriting.
“Can anyone tell me who was President during the Spanish-American War?”
I raise my hand.
“Very good,” she says, giving me a friendly nod of the head.
Sarah looks at me as she’s flipping through her book.
“How did you know that?”
“It’s in her notebook,” I reply.
She frowns at me.
“When did you look at her notebook?”
“When she was holding it up there.”
“Really? You can read it from here?”
“Sure. Can’t you?”
“No, of course not.”