Infinity Chronicles – Outlander Saga – Pt14 – Keeper Of The Pass

**The story below is a draft **

The monstrous amalgam of parts of men and poorly constructed machine was before him, its rotting stench assaulting his senses whilst its very existence tried to assail what remained of his sanity.

He’d barely escaped the haunted ruins of the dead city with his life intact, so many stalkers prowled it’s ever turn that it had taken many days to cross its metropolitan expanse. This at last though was the last path. The golden seer had told him that high in this canyon it would take him to the White Sanctuary, a place, she’d said, that did not fall like the rest of civilisation but in fact had gone on to prosper. He could never have known if she spoke rambling lies or had true knowledge of some hidden paradise way beyond the established frontiers, but he’d resolved himself to find out.

It lumbered forward in unsure steps on things for legs that oozed liquids and from which scrap metal fell, as swiftly as it did though tendrils whipped out to pull it back and strange tubes sucked up and recovered the liquid. The creature seemed in a constant state or self-repair, an inconsistent mixture of man and machine fighting itself to stay alive.

In pained and garbled electronic tones it spoke to him.

“Iiii hhaavvee trrackked youuu ffooorr dddddayss, tthrroughhh myy brotheeers and sisssteersss IIII hhavvee feellttt yyyoouu moooveeee tthrrrouugghhh thhhhisssss llaannnd.”

Having descended from its place of waiting in the rock face above as it spoke it moved slowly to block his path via the secret entrance cut into the ravine.

“YYYoouuu hhavvveee ppuurppooseee wwhheen aaalll iinn thiiiss wwwwoorrllldd hhaavvvee nnnoonnee aannnd thhhrrroouughhh yyouu III haaavveeee aattt llaasstttt ffoouuunddd thhhee llaassttt jjjeewwweelllll offff yyoouuurrr ppppeeeooopppllleeee”

It had settled now as a golemic guardian poised at the entrance to the mountain pass with it’s massive frame continuing to writhe and rebuild itself. It had a head, of sorts, comprising a large collection of wires and from where somewhere deep within the centre of the black amalgam, a single red light glowered out, an eye that perceived the world in angered shades of red and crimson.

Of all the vile creatures that had come from the depths of this recent hell never had he come across anything this grotesque and that had showed this level of intelligence, they had all been mechanised animals for all intents purposes, rabid and hungry, driven to bite and gnaw and spread. This creature, however, could communicate and the words it spoke were filled with a spite and malice that matched the ferocity of its smaller bretheren.

“Aaaahhhaaaaa… ahhahhaaaaaa… ttthheeyyyyy Sartre cccommminngg, mmmyyy ffaaammmiillyyyy ooofff ddeeaatthhhh asnnddd thheeyyy arreeee hhhumnnggrrryyyyyyyyyyyyy ehh hheehh hhehhhh.”

It remained settled, for now, at the entrance to the passageway and he continued to scan the area for any way past it or if there was some small advantage he could gather here in the craggy ravine.

It continued to taunt him.

“Ttthheeyyyy wiiilllll beeee tthhoiuussaannnddsss uuuppoonn ttthhoouussannnddssssss and faaaallll uuuppooonnn ttthheeee ppllaccceee bbeeyyyoonnnddd llliiikkkeee llooccuusstttssss uuuppoonn aaa rrriipppeeee crrroopppppppppppp yyeesssssssssssss”

Did it speak the truth? Could it call somehow an army of the mechanised undead? If the city did lay beyond, as he increasingly believed, how could they withstand suchan assault? If it was there, and standing, then they must have some form of defended, but could they repel a sea of jagged teeth, rottig claws and an unrepentant hunger for flesh? He could only hope. He had come far and the last time he’d seen any resemblance to an outpost of humanity it had been months ago, he could only continue to chase a strange golden destiny that had been laid out for him in smokey words and obscured promises. He had to reach the city and trust to a strange wind he’d never felt, that of fate.

“ iiiii kknnoosww yyoiuurrr ttthhoouufghhttsss fffllleesshhhh ccccrreeaatttuurreeee. Yyyyyoouuu ccaannn nnoottt mmaakkkeee iiittttttt tttoooo yyoouuurrrrr prroommiissseedddd lllaannnddddd. Iiiii wiiilllll rrriipppp yyooouuurrr sskkkiinnn ffrroommm yyoouuurrrrr stilll llivvviinnngggggg bbooddyyy aanndddd ttaaakkeee it ffoorrr mmyyy ooowwwwnnnnn…”

He cocked his rifle and let loose a round at a speed developed over years of struggling to survive in this predatory carnival now called life, the bullet destined for the creature’s twisted face of steel and decaying flesh. It struck home.

The creature let out a howl of rage as the rifle round shattered its main optic sensor. He’d meant to distract it but hoped now he may have no less scored a debilitating blow, he ran for a nearby rock mass and skidded to a stop behind it. He braced himself for the unstoppable onslaught that was about to come.

“Rraarrgghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Youuuu ddaarreeee atttaaacckkkk mmeeee???? Iiii wwiilllll smmaattteeerrr yoouurrr boonneess ttooo pulllpppppp annndd reeenndd yooooourrrr innnnddsiiiideeeees to liqqqquiidddd. Evveeennn nnnooowww mmyyyy booddyyy rreeppaaaiiirrsss thheee  ddaaaammmmaaaagggeeee yyoouuuu ccaauuusseeedddddd”

Unbeknownest to him, as quick as he’d shattered the creatures optics, strange spider like creatures ran across the now damaged digital retina with seeming defined purpose, stopping where they found damage to the integral part and then fusing their silicone bodies to the area. In little time, it was rebuilt anew.

He didn’t doubt the creature’s words and as he felt vibrations richocet across the floor beneath him, he knew once more its deadly focus had returned to him.

“Tiiiimmmmeeeeee aaassskkkkkssssss ttthhhhhahaattttt yyyoouuuu dddiiieeee nnnnooooowwwwwww cccrreeaatttuurreeeeeeeeeeee. Ooooobbblliiivvviiiioooonnn wwwilllll ccccooommeeee tttttooooo yyyoouuuuu tthhrroouugghhh pppaaiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.”

It was almost upon where he was hiding. Its left arm had transmuted and changed from the previous decayed flesh and metal mixture to something most definitely comprised now more of steel, iron and other base metals. It swung the transformed appendage into the gaggle of Rocks he’d thrown himself behind seconds earlier and they shattered in an eruption of dust and particles.

“Rraarrrwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrr WWWHHHEEREEEE  AARREEEEEEEE YYOOOOOUUUUUUUUU”

In the time the creature had been distracted from its damaged optic to its fast repair he’d moved higher up the rocky outcrop and now pushed himself flat to the large boulder that temporarily hid him. He looked at the now open gully. From here to there it would be no more than a twenty second sprint, but even given the mad creatures size its speed was too great, coupled with its long reach a fast sprint just wouldn’t cut it. As he looked in growing desperation for some way out, looking for any available tactic to prolong his life a few seconds more, he thought he spied something strange in the ridgeline above the waiting pass. A flash of yellow.
For just a moment, he was certain he’d seen something there. He strained his sight to see it again, but nothing now. As he continued to look though he couldn’t help but think there was something strange about the rocks where he’d sworn he’d seen the golden glimmer. Several large overhanging boulders were precariously perched upon a series of smaller ones. Whilst natural formations created all kinds of strange landscapes and terrains in nature, the way these massive boulders delicately balanced on the smaller ones belief seemed to him to be, somehow, unnatural…

His attention snapped back suddenly to closer concerns. Aanother set of rocks, this time to his left, disappeared to dust as the giant metallic cudgel slammed down into them, the creatures left arm now a bulldozing dervish clearing the monsters path to him.

“Fllleesshhhh Bbbbaaaggggg. Waaassttee oofff wwaatterrrrrr. Iiii wwwiillll ffffiinnddd yooouuuu, IIII WWILLLL FFINNDDD YOOOUUUUUUUU.”

He shot the ridgeline another look. As possibilities sped through his mind, he swore he saw it again. A flash of yellow. Was it the sun glinting off some polished pebble? A random figment of vision perhaps? He cursed himself for thinking it could be something else, something more, because deep down, he was now hoping it was a sign. He kept thinking how lucky it was to have noticed those rocks and how it might take to bring them all down, maybe on top of something, might just be a well placed bullet. He cocked his rifle again.

The sound of the bullet loading into the chamber echoed around the canyon.

“Ffooundd yoouu”

He lept forwards, into a roll, as the igneous mass that had obscured him flew apart in every direction when the creature wrecked the last and only hiding place that had been left to him.

It was now or never.

The momentum of his roll took him back to his feet and to a slow start to what was soon a fast sprint.

Behind him the creatures arm, heavy and prone upon the floor, detached itself from its wielder as strange rope like parts unfastened themselves from the great mass. These parts whipped about the creatures body furiously as it turned and began its lumber towards its now dashing prey.

As he ran, took aim with the rifle and let out a shot. It flew wide of the mark. The creature behind him let out a blood curdling cry and the stamps of its massive feet parts stamped out a quickening thumping tune upon the dry dusty valley floor like hammers upon a war drum.

He chanced a quick look back over his shoulder. The creature was so close, it’s speed phenomenal considering its monstrous size, and where once the demolishing club like arm once was he saw now strange tendrils that writhed and reached for him in a desperate bid to close the ground between them.
He cocked the rifle again.

It was no good, the running was destroying his aim but he feared that a moment’s pause between here and the pass would ensure his capture and undoubted dismemberment. He strained his vision and tried his hardest to steady his arms and hands. It was no good.

He skidded to his knees, his lungs racing, as he tried for just a moments reprieve to aim with some at least some kind of precision. He stopped for just a second, squeezed the trigger and let the bullet fly.

He hadn’t time to see if he’d hit the mark, he recovered quickly as old joints creaked and cracked at the force he used to quickly regain his sprint and he headed once more towards the opening to what he still could only hope was his final destination.

The bassy thumps of rage driven malice were much louder now, he daren’t look over his shoulder to see how much distance his hail mary shot had taken from him and the creature, but from the intensity of the vibrations, it was more than he liked.

The pathway was so close now, the deep cleft in the mountainside was much wider than he realised now he’d closed the distance to it. Before it looked as though only he could have walked through it and perhaps the creature would be left behind him frustrated. Now he wasn’t so sure. Regardless, it was his only chance.

Far above him, something rumbled. As the sound of the first impact from something striking the rock face above reached his ears he chanced a look up to see if by some strange miracle he had let loose anything. He most certainly had.

Five gargantuan boulders were bouncing their way slowly down the side of the rockface, they seemed to hang in the air as they fell between each strike, but already they had covered significant distance and sooned destined, it seemed, to land square in front of the passageway.

Whatever strength his ragged body had left he now poured into gaining just a few extra moments of speed, his heart had been beating fast ever since he entered this protected dead end and after the long road he’d taken to get here it felt like it might give out at any moment. He was almost there.

“YOOUUU WWILLL NNOTTT EESSCAAAPPPEEE MMMEEEE HUUMMAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN” screamed his chaser

A crack so loud he thought it might be thunder bellowed out from directly above him, he saw it at the edge of his vision, the first giant boulder, it’s shadow was quickly growing all about him. He was going to be crushed.

He lept.

As he did, something cold and wet coiled around his leg. He landed in the cool sandy soil of the hidden entrance, one of the monsters tendrils was wrapped about his ankle and was beginning to pull him back towards his chaser.

“YYESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS”

The boulder hewed its way through the creature, tearing its whole left side of its body away from its core, hitting the floor just after with a might thud. The monster stood deathly still as its jaw hung open in disbelief, an expression forever frozen on to it as a second boulder ripped through its main body and detached the head from the body. It hung in the air just a moment before dropping to the ground and rolling to a stop next to him.

The once groping tendril now lay still and lifeless, its grip on him lessened, and he slipped it off his leg. He sat still as he tried to regain his breath, dust floated all around him as the force of the impact drove the dry dirt ground into the air. It was so silent now that it was hard to believe he’d only just been in a life or death struggle against an unstoppable foe. Unstoppable save for a few two or three ton boulders that is. He looked down at the now lifeless head. What manner of monstrosity was this thing? From far away it had been terrifying, up close it was no less so, it was an unholy fusion of undead man and machine that was seemingly kept alive only by some dark burning will of hate. It suddenly came to life as dark black ooze coughed its way past its pale lips.

“Yooouuu… hhaaavvveee noottt……. wooonnn…… tthhheeyyy ccoommeeeeee…… tthheeyyyy coommeee…..”

He looked down at the spluttering face and the dark pus seeping from somewhere within it. He cocked his rifle and placed the end of it inside that hissing box of malice.

“You know. You talk too much”

He pulled the trigger.

The head exploded into chunks of blood, bone, circuits and steel before subsequently proceeding to decorate the walls of the cavern.

The creatures optic sensor flew out and hit the nearby cavern wall and then dropped to come to rest on the floor.

A small tiny bead of light at the centre of it flickered for a few moments, then dimmed before finally, and forever, it went out.