‘LAPUTA’

I’m building a staircase in the sky
so that we can see eye to eye.
Never mind the planes that fly by.
I will make us a special place
so that we can be face to face.
With just the stars, moon, and planets
and rolling clouds for a blanket
so we can speak and be candid.

‘LAPUTA’
Written by Jungle.
(C) 2021, all rights reserved.

‘A BLACK CAT AND A BAD DREAM, PART 2’

The sensation of sinking is always unsettling. Gone are the little round windows of the quaint cottage. The two children and their sick mother have vanished from my sight, but not from my thoughts. I know what I need to do here, in the dream world.

That is what this place is: a world of dreams inside of the mother’s imagination. Almost everyone has dreams. Every dreamer stands on the doorstep of the infinite. That said, not all dreams are equal. Some are more in touch with their dreams than others. Some have big dreams while others have little dreams. All these things are reflected in the world that manifests itself inside the mind. Most have no control over their dreams and wander aimlessly.

I am an exception. Dreams are my domain. Nothing here is outside of my influence.

I am not the only exception though. There is another being here with power. The ignorant refer to something like this as a nightmare, but Morosia is more than that: it is a curse. Those afflicted are doomed to be consumed by a cunning parasite that preys upon their inner turmoil. When left unchecked, the victim will suffer and sleep until thirst or starvation claim their due. Any attempts to intervene through material means are hopeless. The only way to cure Morosia is to remove the parasite. That is what I am here for. My prize.

The sinking sensation stops, and I open my eyes to a cold world devoid of any sort of color. Surrounded by dismal houses and buildings, obscured by thick mist – could this be Hithe? It is hard for me to tell; after all, while in the waking world, my eyes can only see magic. The earth rumbles beneath me, signaling that the game is about to begin.

“Athos!” I call out and snap my fingers. A handful of falling feathers announce the arrival of my familiar: The Three-Eyed Raven, Athos. The vibrant violet sheen of his rich plumage provides a stark contrast against the dream world’s ubiquitous grayscale. I can feel three sets of talons dig into my skin, but I do not wince or cry out because I am familiar with pain and its purpose.

“At your service, my Queen.” Athos responds with his trademark orotund, gentlemanly tone as he settles onto my shoulder. Colors mix with the scarlet ink drawn from his talons before sweeping down to dye my clothes back to their original sky blue and cloud gray hues. The cobblestone street beneath my feet remains ashen and flat. Again, the earth grumbles impatiently and I infer that the mother has little time left alive.

“Keep your eyes peeled. I can feel it nearby.” I punctuate my statement by drawing my katana. The weapon introduces itself to the world with its telltale chime. The steel blade glistens and begins to pulsate iridescence as I tuck the scabbard into my sash. Holding my sword with both hands, I begin to walk down the street one careful step at a time, ready for the resident of this realm to reveal itself and attack. All is silent save for the soft plodding of my sandals against the road as building after non-descript building pass us by.

A cat meows. I stop walking and sweep the empty streets with an attentive gaze. I see nothing. Athos ruffles his feathers and remains silent. We stand and wait. Another meow, faint and yet still distinct, beckons us towards a tall building in front of us. The building is in the center of a square and looms head and shoulders above the others. Judging by its size, I guess it to be the town hall, or perhaps a court of law, if they were not one in the same. The cat call sounds again, more urgent this time. I glance at Athos out of the corner of my eye.


“What do you think?” I ask him. He ruffles his feathers and makes a clicking sound with his beak.

“I believe it is inside, my Queen.” He responds, then adds. “Be careful.” I nod in response and we slowly approach the massive wooden double doors of the town hall. I swipe my sword to the side and the doors swing inward as a sudden squall nearly rips them off their hinges. There is no hesitation on my part as I stride past the threshold with quiet confidence. We are greeted by a large, empty room filled with vacant benches facing a central altar. Perched atop the podium is a black cat leisurely flicking its tail, with its back turned towards us.  

“It is as you think, my Queen.” Athos identifies the unassuming feline as the source of the corruption. I point my sword at the parasite.

“There are two ways we can go about this, but they both end up with you as my pet.” As I speak, my voice begins to swell in volume until it reverberates throughout the entire hall. The feline seems unperturbed and does not respond. I march forward, staring the parasite down behind the length of my weapon. The earth begins to shake again and this time it does not stop.

“Submit to my power!” My shout rips through the hall and the windowpanes crack. The cat cocks its head back to stare at me with eyes that smolder like burning coal. Its lips peel back nonsensically wide and reveal not one, but four rows of stained black teeth.

“What power?” The cat’s fiendish smile remains fixed in place as a rasping, guttural voice booms throughout the hall. It hisses at us now, and as it does, it undergoes a monstrous growth spurt. The grinding of bone against bone fills my ears as the cat’s limbs elongate and contort one after another, then its chest swells like a balloon. The wooden altar soon collapses under the weight of the now enormous feline fiend. The demon turns to face me and its eyes ignite into a pair of bright orange flames. Stripes of fire send smoke signals up from its black pelt and its teeth click together as it chomps the empty air with its maw. My eyes narrow as I tilt my head back to meet the fiend’s gaze with a glare of my own, unperturbed.

“Goblin Cat.” I murmur to myself in a matter-of-fact tone. I recalled the name from a story Trent had read to me once about a wandering medicine vendor. Athos clicks his beak twice to signal his agreement: it is a Goblin Cat.

“My master told me you would come… too bad you and that squawking retch are barely a meal!” The parasite growls and the faintly perceptible tremors of the earth grow into a steady quaking. The roof of the town hall vanishes, revealing an inky, starless sky overhead. Next, the walls melt away, replaced by sheets of flame. I now find myself standing inside a towering ring of fire: a fitting arena. The tip of my katana points towards the floor as I assume a low guard.

“You’re about to have a new master, furball.” I challenge back with a smirk. That sets it off; it begins to hiss, enraged, and I can see a light glowing from inside of its open maw. I recognize it as fire just before a massive tongue of flame erupts from behind its rows of razor-sharp fangs. My sword carves a semi-circle in the air before me and a shimmering sheet of ice springs up from the ground below, shielding us from the burst of fire without issue. The tip of my blade dances high over my head before it falls in a graceful stroke, shattering the wall of ice into little knives and propelling them towards the Goblin Cat.


“Pathetic!” The Goblin Cat leers back and swipes one massive paw through the air, leaving a lingering trail of fire in its wake. The ice fragments melt before they reach their target. Now the fiend plants both of its front paws against the ground and the circle of fire surrounding us flares up. A bead of sweat drips down my brow as the temperature climbs and I recognize that the walls of the arena are constricting. This is turning out to be a fun game.

“My Queen, the ground!” Athos cries out in warning. Lava. The ground beneath the Goblin Cat’s paws melts into molten lava and begins to creeps towards my feet. Time is running out.  I raise my sword overhead now, assuming a high guard, ready to bring it down with all of my strength. The Goblin Cat does not try to close the gap but instead maintains the distance between us, eyeing the iridescent blade wearily. Interesting. It must know the secret of my sword. Fortunately, I have many more.

“Ascend, Athos!” My command is issued. With a burst of purple feathers, Athos and his wings expand outwards, suddenly reaching several arm’s lengths away on each side. Warmth envelopes me as his talons fuse into my shoulder. I crouch down, and as the molten cobblestone is about to entrap us, we take off into the air with several powerful gusts from Athos’ wings. We’re not out of the clear yet – as we soar higher and higher with each flap, the wall of flames surrounding us seems to grow taller. I continue to ascend straight up into the sky, piercing the ink’s dim veil. Higher and higher still, until finally…

“The Moon.” There it is. A full moon, glowing boldly above the parasite’s miasma. I outstretch my hand and it begins to grow larger, not because we are continuing to fly higher, but because I am pulling the moon towards us. The Goblin Cat’s howls grow faint, blotted out by a new sound: the rush of flowing water. I look down from our lofty perch in the sky, glaring at the dot of fire burning in the darkness below. Dreams are my domain, you worm.

“Drown.” My lips part to utter a single word that shakes the entire world. The moonlight illuminates an amorphous mass surging far beneath us: a tidal wave sweeping the land below, large enough to be seen from thousands of feet above. The waters dwarf the pitiful ring of fire and the Goblin Cat’s frightened yowls are dashed asunder as the tsunami breaks and crashes. The water spreads and soon there is no earth beneath us; only calm waters reflecting the light of the moon back into the sky. I remove my scabbard from my belt and hold it with one hand as I hold my katana in the other.

“Release.” I issue my order to Athos. My wings disappear and I so I plummet. I let gravity pull me down, headfirst towards the water’s surface. The wind whips about me and as I fall, I shed my clothes like a snake shedding old skin. I press my legs together as they fuse into a tail complete with two iridescent fins and matching scales. My lungs grow gills. Not a moment after my transformation is complete, I pierce the water’s surface with the tip of my katana and slide into the icy depths, now a mermaid with sword and scabbard in hand.

“Find it.” I issue my command to Athos by speaking directly to his mind. Moments later, a pillar of illumination penetrates the deeps. Propelled by my powerful new tail and fins, I dart through the water towards the light like a shark approaching prey. Then I see it come into view – the Goblin Cat, floundering helplessly in the depths of this all-encompassing ocean. Gone are its stripes of fire and its eyes, once burning with malice, are now wide and fearful.


“It’ll be over soon.” I taunt the terrified parasite. Its head snaps towards me as it frantically claws at the water, trying desperately to mount a defense. A futile gesture; as I hurdle past the parasite, I cleave its outstretched paw clean from its forearm. Crimson blossoms from the wound, dissipating into the water, and a mass of bubbles erupt from the Goblin Cat’s maw as it cries out in pain. No longer able to hold its breath, it begins to inhale the icy water and drown. The blade of my katana, once iridescent, now begins to turn blood red. I turn, facing the Goblin Cat once more and pointing the opening of my empty scabbard towards it, concentrating. The blade of my katana is now a bright, burning crimson color. It enjoys the taste of magic.

“You’re mine now.” With those words, the Goblin Cat begins to shrink as it is pulled towards me by the undeniable force that is my will. It continues to paw the water helplessly until its silhouette deteriorates into a dark, shapeless cloud of malevolent intent. The spirit is drawn into the sheath of my sword much like a helpless ship caught in an epic whirlpool. Once the Goblin Cat is inside, I slam my sword back into its sheath.

A blinding light causes me to squint and glare: the setting sun. I’m back in the cottage now, staring down at the golden mirror resting on my lap. I blink twice before I look up to meet the gaze of the little boy and the little girl who had implored me for help. I take a deep breath and taste the crisp, autumn air. A pang of regret as I realize I no longer have gills, scales, or a tail. This is quickly washed away by the sight of the mother, now sitting upright in bed, gasping for air. The two children immediately rush the bedside and throw themselves on top of her, smothering her with affection. I allow myself a small smile as I look upon the reunited family with a melancholic gaze.

“So that is what a happy family looks like…” I murmur to myself.

“Yes, my Queen. Your magnificence is unlimited.” I can hear the voice of Athos addressing me using our mental link now and I chuckle inwardly. While a bit corny at times, Athos is certainly a marvelous retainer fit for a queen. I look down at the mirror in my lap and nod. For a brief moment, I see the shape of a bird as the light catches upon its surface. Then, I see the shape of a small cat beside it. That’s right. I have a new pet. A new pet needs a name, too. After all, Goblin Cat is not very catchy.

“You as well, Athos. Please introduce yourself to our new companion, Aramis.” I think, then stifle a yawn. I look up at the reunited family with tired eyes.

“Do you mind if I take a nap?” I ask, my eyes growing heavier by the second. Without realizing it, I find myself drifting off into a deep slumber of my own. Perhaps I will have a better dream this time.

A BLACK CAT AND A BAD DREAM, PT. II
Written by Jungle.
© 2021, all rights reserved.


Click to continue dreaming of SELES…

‘A VISITOR’

I know this place. Four white walls, a white ceiling, and a matching floor, all smooth and spotless. A bare cot in the corner of the room illuminated by one lonely lightbulb. How long has it been since I left this shithole? “Wake up, Celestria.” A monotone voice addresses the room with its grating drone….

‘DAYBREAK’

If you would let me hold your hand,
I promise not to let you fall. 
I'll do my best to understand,
I'll be the pillow where you land.

If you let me into your heart,
I will always answer your call.
If I see it begin to part,
I'll glue it back before it starts.

If you reveal to me your mind,
I will wander its many halls.
I can get lost in your designs.
I can learn your ways over time.

‘DAYBREAK’
Written by Jungle.
(C) 2021, all rights reserved.

‘THE DREAMER OF THE DEEPS’


[Chorus]
It's all in the games that we choose to play
and the words and phrases that we say. 
It's the way you chase the night into day
with all of your magic spells and swordplay. 

[Verse]
The tempo is gentle with cymbals that tremble.
Harmony that resembles distant solar halos.
Words that float like summer clouds over rainbows
And a melody from a forgotten memory. 
Do you remember me? 

[Bridge]
You're the Dreamer, lone gatekeeper
Holding the key to the lost sea.
Golden mirror, will you show me
what lies beneath the frozen deeps?
Three-eyed raven flapping its wings,
a stony gaze that unmakes kings.
Hissing black cat sharpens its claws,
a fire burns inside its paws.
Ancient old toad, guardian of the road
Counting every debt you owe. 

[Verse]
Day by day and step by step,
Sleep until there's nothing left.
Your eyes seek and receive
these secrets that you keep. 

[Chorus]
It's all in the games that we choose to play
and the words and phrases that we say. 
It's the way you chase the night into day
with all of your magic spells and swordplay. 

‘THE DREAMER OF THE DEEPS’
Written by Jungle.
(C) 2021, all rights reserved.

‘THE HUNTRESS OF IVY CITY’

[Chorus]
You are the Huntress, they are the hunted. 
Shunned and mistrusted, you stand triumphant.
They are the hunted, you are the Huntress.
They are corrupted; bring them to justice. 

[Verse]
Ivy City, home of the beasts.
Dawn draws near now, Moon takes its rest.
Raiders appear, Wild Ones give chase.
Unfed have fled back to their nest. 

[Bridge]
You are the Huntress, they are the hunted.
Flee through the forest, this place is haunted. 

[Verse]
The laws of nature dictate your fate now.
Try to escape but you cannot shake us.
This is our city, we have no pity.
There's no mistake and your life is taken.  

[Bridge]
You are the Huntress, they are the hunted.
Flee through the fields; dead eyes are watching.

[Chorus]
You are the Huntress, they are the hunted.
Shunned and mistrusted, you stand triumphant.
They are the hunted, you are the Huntress.
They are corrupted; bring them to justice.

‘THE HUNTRESS OF IVY CITY’
Written by Jungle.
(C) 2021 all rights reserved.

‘A BLACK CAT AND A BAD DREAM, PART 1’

I can’t fight it anymore. It’s too much.

“Oh… !” I let out a quiet gasp and pull my arm across my chest, hugging myself tightly. My toes curl as the muscles in my thighs and stomach tighten involuntarily. I bite down on my lip hard enough to draw blood. No! I won’t lose! I never lose! But… it feels so good. Why can’t this go on forever?  

“Fuck you and your-“ My partner cuts me off with his tongue’s expertise: he knows I’m close and he’s playing to win. Another gasp escapes my lips and I can feel his long, soft hair brushing against the inside of my thighs as they clamp down on him. Wave after wave of golden euphoria ripples up from where my lover quietly prays to me, his goddess. I try to squirm away, but his hands weigh like iron on my hips, holding me steady, pressing me down against our shared bed: a bale of hay in a dusty old barn. He continues unabated, even as my soft sighs quickly climb to a climax. Everything in sight explodes into a rainbow of psychedelic ecstasy before everything goes quiet save for the sound of my exasperated breathing.

“I win.” His tone is smug and why shouldn’t it be? I can’t see his face, but I can imagine his cocky smirk, his flashing slate eyes, and his long, flowing locks of gold. His merciless assault continues before I can catch my breath: I can feel his lips, soft and full, planting wet little kisses on my shoulder and slowly traveling up the side of my neck, towards my earlobe. Now I can feel his hand cup the bottom of my thigh and scoop me up onto my side, holding my leg aloft. I grind my chest against his, reveling in his warmth as one of my hands finds a firm hold in his hair. I pull down hard enough to lift his chin towards me.

“You are like… a fucking rabbit… you know that?” I manage to chide him as I continue to catch my breath. My heart is still racing. It’s not enough. I want more! He chuckles knowingly: my lover is teasing me now.

“Bastard…” I whisper. Now he stops and tenses up.

“Did you hear that?” He seems serious now.

“Stop teasing me, Trent!” I growl at him. My entire body is still throbbing with excitement and anticipation. That’s when I hear it, too. It sounds like a faint whisper at first, but the voice is somehow… familiar.

“Seles…” I sit upright now. That wasn’t Trent’s voice. Is someone else here?

“Celestria… Celestria…” I feel the blood drain from my face when I recognize that name. Suddenly, I can’t feel him next to me anymore. I’m alone now. Where did he go? The voice grows louder and more discernable as it continues to chant.

“Celestria!” The barn doors burst open and then she barges in, announced by her shrill shriek. This presence, this voice… I know them, alright.

They belong to my mother.

I wake with a start and sit bolt upright in my borrowed bed. My heart is still pounding away and my cold sweat feels like an icy frost in the cool morning air.

Knock, knock, knock. Before I can decide whether I’m too terrified to be horny, somebody quietly knocks at the door. Could it be the old pervert I borrowed this shack from? No, not likely – it will take at least another day for him to break my spell and return here. That is, if he even returns. Who knows what sort of horrors he will find out on the road? Fuck it, he deserves it.

My eyes are still ‘waking up’, so to speak, and so everything around me remains shadowed and blurry even though I can feel the sunlight’s warmth tattooing my face. I sit up and grope around blindly for a few moments before my fingers close around something smooth: I instantly recognize it as the handle of my sword. I scoot out of my bed and plant the end of the scabbard firmly against the ground; it is a sword, yes, and it is also my walking stick.

Knock, knock, knock. The rapping at my door is persistent, but somehow polite. No, this wasn’t the old perv. Who could it be then?

“Who’s there?” I call out to the stranger without a hint of fear.

“Are you the Witch?” A frail and timid voice responds. I take a deep breath and push aside the lingering thoughts evoked by my dream. Focus. A familiar sensation envelopes me, like facing a winter wind with eyes open wide. Colors creep into the void. The outlines of all living things slowly become visible; the tufts of grass peeking up through the broken floorboards, the spider weaving its web in the rafters, and even the two children standing on the other side of the door. Two children?

“Open the door and come inside. Close the door behind you.” As I speak, I impart a little bit of my power into my words. Only a little magic is needed here. The two children do as I say and they shut the door behind them without a sound. Once they enter the shack, I can see their essences clearly: one boy and one girl. Both of their silhouettes are drenched in a deep Lapis blue – the color of grief, tinged with a bit of fern green, the color of apprehension, bordering on fear. The puzzle pieces have been set upon the table now.

“Give me your hand, little girl.” I speak out loud and extend one hand out towards her. She hesitates at first. I shake my head.

“Give me your hand, little girl.” This time I speak to her mind directly. She gasps. I inject a little bit of magic into my command and so she steps forward and places her hand in mine. No hesitation this time. I place my other hand on top, sandwiching her tiny little hand between mine.

“Now relax.” I can feel the girl’s trepidation begin to melt away, leaving only the color of grief behind. As she does so, a flood of images and sounds begins to pour into my head, impossibly fast at first: I am watching the girl’s short life unfold before my eyes. As we approach the present time, things begin to slow down until I am left watching a short scene with the two children standing at the bedside of a middle-aged woman: their mother.

“Your mother is sick?” I turn to the boy, knowing the girl will not be able to answer while entranced. The little boy’s essence pulses green with fear before returning to lapis blue and then he nods his head a few times. I release the little girl’s hands. When I do, I can’t help but marvel as her essence radiates a sky-blue hue, the color of amazement, followed by an emerald green: the color of admiration. I smile at the two now.

“Take me to her.” I speak my command aloud to the children. They look at each other and for a moment, their shades begin to lighten in color: no longer grief, but sadness tinged with a hint of hope.  

It takes us just over an hour to reach Hithe, one of the larger settlements I’d come across. As we approach the town, I am quick to draw my hood. We don’t need any unwanted attention today. The little boy leads me by the hand through the town and I find myself gritting my teeth. So noisy… an angry maelstrom of thoughts warbles about inside my head like a buzzing beehive. As much as I loathe the boredom that accompanies solitude, I would not be able to live in a place like this without losing my mind. Thankfully, the children’s home is tucked away on the edge of the town, far enough from the idle thoughts and wants of its citizens for me to regain my bearings.

We come to a stop in front of a dark mass – a house, maybe? I borrow the boy’s sight for a moment and see a quaint little cottage with symmetrical round glass windows on each side of a simple wooden door. I wouldn’t mind staying in a place like this. The little girl opens the door and the boy guides me inside before his sister shuts the door behind us.

“Morosia.” My quiet murmur fills the room as I cast my gaze upon their bedridden mother. Sure, I was already certain of the diagnosis when I’d read the little girl’s mind, but seeing it in person, through my eyes revealed that this was not a typical case. Her essence is dim, but I can make out its color: a mixture of violet tinged with sapphire blue and ruby red. Remorse, contempt, and hatred. I had my work cut out for me this time, but with risk comes a reward. The boy releases my hand and I approach the bedside.

That’s when I notice it.

“Do you have any pets? Like… a cat?” I turn my gaze towards the children. They both shake their head in unison. I look back at their mother, lying in her bed, barely breathing. I can see the imprint of a cat’s paw on her cheek. The fact that I can see it this clearly means it is bleeding. A fresh wound. I doubt that a cat could have gotten in while they were gone.

“Have you noticed any cats hanging around the house?” My question remains unanswered for a moment as the children think about it. Both of them shake their heads again and this time the little girl speaks up.

“Mommy hates cats.” She says timidly. The boy nods his head. Another puzzle piece falling into place. Turning away from the bedside, I take a deep breath and prepare to address the children.

“Your mother is being haunted by a ghost from her past. If she cannot come to peace with it, she will sleep here, in this bed, until she dies.” Even though I am trying to soften the news, I can see the children’s silhouettes fading back to the deep blue associated with grief and sadness. Fuck. I was never any good at this. As I speak, I reach into the satchel hanging at my side.

“I can save your mother, but only if you follow my instructions.” My fingertip slides across the smooth surface of polished glass – the face of my golden mirror. I pull the little mirror from my satchel. Although its golden frame remains dark and shadowed to my eyes, the reflecting surface of the mirror appears as a brilliant sheet of iridescent pearl. The children don’t respond but I know they would do anything for their mother, even seek out a scary witch miles away from their home.

“Lock the door. Don’t open it. Close the windows and draw the blinds. Keep them closed. Last – no matter what happens, you must not touch your mother and you must not touch me.” I rattle off my instructions to the children and they are already moving to follow them before I finish. Good. These children love their mother. That means she’s been a good mother then. That may end up being enough to save her.

“Now bring me a chair.” As soon as the words leave my lips, I can hear the boy sliding an old chair across the wooden floorboards. I sit down in the chair and rest the golden mirror, face up, on my lap. Before I begin, I look up at the children one more time.

“Do not forget what I said. If you do, not only will your mother die, but it’s likely that the three of us will die as well.” I can hear the little boy gulp audibly and the two children shake their head in unison once again.

“Well then. Let’s begin.” My final words before beginning the dive.

A BLACK CAT AND A BAD DREAM, PT. I
Written by Jungle.
© 2021, all rights reserved.


Click to continue dreaming of SELES.

‘A BLACK CAT AND A BAD DREAM, PART 2’

The sensation of sinking is always unsettling. Gone are the little round windows of the quaint cottage. The two children and their sick mother have vanished from my sight, but not from my thoughts. I know what I need to do here, in the dream world. That is what this place is: a world of dreams inside of the mother’s imagination. Almost everyone has dreams. Every dreamer stands on the doorstep of the infinite….

‘STILL DREAMING’

And when   the     sunrise       sneaks into my room
What am I to do? 
When I wake my first thought is    you. 
Go and grab my pen,
Time for me to write something    new. 

And when     I        see you      float across the screen
I know that this is still a   dream. 
So now   I   sit here   try to blow off steam,
I'm still drifting on the jet stream.
I'm still dreaming.  

So now    the    moonlight     is fending off the night
I know that you'll be   alright. 
The neon lights  are your   birthright.
Pick a couple strings,
Time for me to play a   tune. 

And when     I        see you      float across the screen
I know that this is still a   dream. 
So now   I   sit here   try to blow off steam,
I'm still drifting on the jet stream.
I'm still dreaming.  

STILL DREAMING
Written by Jungle.
(C) 2021 all rights reserved

‘THE STRANGER’



Stay away!

“Well met, traveler.” Meaningless words accompanied by a shallow smile from some blonde meat puppet. I look him over: mid-twenties, strong, scrap armor, metal blade, and a revolver on his hip. Another dumb adventurer. He’s also alone. Guns make people so confident…  

“Hello.” I wait a moment before I offer a hollow reply, then bow my head for a moment.

“Are you here for the bounty too?” The man flashes me a toothy grin. Bounty? That’s news. He looks me up and down, sizing me up for a moment, then looks away dismissively. Yeah, I probably would too.

“Bounty?” My ears hear my own voice and I barely recognize it under the feigned naivety. The bounty hunter nods in response. I’m already watching his hands.

“They village to the south is convinced that there is a – fuck, what did they call it – a dargon? Yeah, something called a dargon keeps burning their livestock.” The man’s gaze drifts away from me and towards the distant horizon. There are no clouds in the sky today, just a sneering sun leering down at us from its perch.

“Not familiar with that word. Maybe you mean… a dragon?” My eyes inadvertently drift towards the revolver on his hip and away from his hands. Craftsmanship seems alright; it might be reliable. Best not to take chances then.

“Dragon? Yeah, that might have been it. A dragon. Do you know anything about it?” Now the man’s leaning in towards me, making frequent eye contact. He wants something from me. Everyone wants something from me. Sometimes they are polite, but more often they are not. What do they offer in return, though? Nothing. Nothing at all.

“My throat is parched… do you have any water?” A fake cough here as I act like I’m clearing my throat. I already know he has water. Nobody travels without water. Whether he wants to give me any is a different story. Let’s see if he passes my test.

“None to spare, I’m afraid.” His response is quick and now he turns away, like he’s hiding something. Failure.

“Might be hard for me to talk then…” Continuing to feign naivety here but he’s not buying it. I’m watching his hand drift towards his revolver now. Definitely a bounty hunter. Not a hero.


“Listen… the people in that village will starve if this thing is allowed to run free. Why don’t you just tell me what you know?” Now he’s starting to show his real colors. I know he doesn’t care about those people. Why should he? He just wants to get paid, after all. Just another selfish prick. I remain silent and fake another weak cough, then steal a quick glance at the man. Furrowed brows, pursed lips, flaring nostrils. He’s not buying it. He’s impatient, too. Now I’m the one scowling.

“Tell me what you know.” Just like that, he’s drawn the revolver. As I hear the click of the hammer being cocked back, something inside of me stirs. Disgusting… fucking disgusting! I’ve seen enough. Now my eyes lock onto the gray gun metal of the revolver like the jaws of a mad dog and I picture it in my head for a moment. In my mind I can see how the pistol grip is beginning to glow a scorching red, the sizzle and smell of burning flesh… all of the things I crave. The man’s eyes grow wide and he suddenly drops the revolver in the sand. He doesn’t seem to understand why his hand has a giant red skid mark across it now: he’s shocked.   

“What’s wrong… ?” I can’t hide my grin or confidence anymore so I snicker. Sweat beads down my forehead. I feel little needle pricks all over my scalp. I’m thinking about that scrap armor now. My eyes widen as I picture it melting onto his skin, mingling with it, and dripping down the front of his torso, taking all of the flesh with it, revealing what lies beneath the skin. My chest feels warm. The man starts to scream as my thoughts manifest themselves into reality. He tries to take off the armor, but how could he take it off when the buckles are too hot to touch?

A roaring flame, now. That’s what I’m imagining. A towering inferno swaying uneasily, billowing black clouds. Right on cue, the man’s screams intensify as he bursts into flame and begins to flail around before falling to the ground, screaming his guts out the entire time. I’m sure it would be enough to make anyone else’s blood curdle, but not mine. I’m not like other people, after all. I’m the Stranger… and you are just another log for my fire.


THE STRANGER’
Written by Jungle.

(C) 2021 All Rights Reserved.

‘THE HUNTRESS’

‘ANDANTE’