Garth ducked and rolled, hand-length fangs coming down where his neck had been an instant before. Garth was fast. Faster than he’d ever been in his life, with the possible exception of when he was a high school senior trying to impress girls.
It didn’t make a difference. Having missed its bite, the tiger-kipling swiped at him with its paw, raking its claws along his side. For a surreal moment, Garth felt his flesh betray him as the creature tugged him forward with its claws, pulling him toward its mouth. With a wrenching twist, Garth ripped himself off its claws and threw himself to the side, careening headfirst through a strip mall doorway.
I thought the glass was tougher, Garth thought to himself as he plucked an emergency Combat Pea out of the waist of his kilt with his left hand. His right arm was hanging down with three deep gashes on his shoulder, dripping blood onto the glass covered floor.
The tiger was standing beside his spear and most of his peas, spilled onto the ground when he ducked aside. He could pin it there, but how would he kill it if he couldn’t reach his spear? Maybe he could lure it through the window, entangle it, then grab his spear and finish it off.
“Come on tigger, let’s see if you’ve got the balls! I’m betting your species is nutless.” If the tiger understood Garth’s taunts, it didn’t do anything about it, pacing back and forth outside the shop, waiting for him to come back out.
Fuck it, Garth thought, waiting for the tiger to pace a ways away from his spear before tossing the pea. Once it was entangled, he’d get his gear back, kill the dumb animal and show himself as the savior of the group of humans.
Maybe I could demand 30% of the stones, Garth thought, tossing the pea.
That’d be what, like 368 Heartstones? I’d be totally- OH SHIT!
While Garth was counting his chickens, the tiger leaped out of the way of the pea, and the burst of plant growth caught nothing but air, settling into an unmoving mass of plants. Shit, missed.
The tiger looked at the peas then back at Garth with deliberate focus. This was no animal. Got any more? It seemed to ask, taking a step toward him.
It was waiting for me to disarm myself! It was watching what I did with the others and it fucking made a plan! Who would have thought the first smart Kipling he came across would be a tiger shaped one.
It was then that Garth’s mind began to fire on all cylinders, like something inside him had been paying half-attention to everything that was going on, sipping a coffee and reading the morning news. Once the tiger dodged the pea, this unknown entity spit its coffee on the keyboard before taking full control.
Calm down me, if the enemy thinks, you just have to employ a different set of tactics.
“Come get some!” Garth cried, a wicked smile on his face as he reached into his waistband and pulled out his clenched fist. Thinking things can be bluffed.
The tiger hesitated, and the two of them stared each other down for a moment before it slowly, deliberately, took another step forward.
“Fuck.” Garth cursed, turned and ran. He was in a little novelty shop with incense and carved wooden mermaids. The room was stuffed with shelf upon shelf of healing crystals, chintzy jade figurines, fake gold. Garth assumed it made its money off the rare tourist and middle aged women looking for a reason why their life sucked. The answer was usually a lack of introspection, but Garth digressed.
Garth jumped over one of the shelves, right arm flopping beside him. He heard the crunch of glass as the tiger pursued, moving much faster than him.
Indeed, claws sheared through the wooden shelf an instant after he jumped over it.
Garth’s feet hit the ground and he put on a burst of speed, heading for the narrow set of stairs that lead up to where the owner lived. Garth didn’t know her personally, but he’d seen the dumpy lady about town every now and then, always wearing a lace shawl over fancier-than-necessary tops and skirts.
He didn’t have anything against the woman, but she seemed like a prude.
The tiger stumbled over the shelf, giving him time to make it to the top of the stairs. Garth threw open the door and stormed into the room. Garth didn’t take any time to look over the room before he immediately seized furniture and began barricading the door.
Seconds after the first cabinet was in place, claws sank into the wooden door and began prying away at it. In an act of superhuman strength, Garth shoved a dresser over to the door and toppled it over with one arm before slumping against it.
The scratching faded as the tiger realized it would take too much effort to get to the juicy prize inside. Garth heard it head down the stairs, and went to the window to see if it… wait. Couldn’t tigers jump really, REALLY high?
The dreaded moment where the tiger burst through the second story window and butchered him didn’t come, and Garth cautiously peeked around the corner towards the street.
Just in time to see the beast bite his spear in half, before lapping up his spilled Combat Peas, crunching them between its teeth.
“Asshole!” Garth shouted down at it from the second story.
The cat grinned. If cats could grin, Garth was sure they would look like that. Then it raised a single paw, bottom up, and unsheathed its middle claw, flipping him off.
And that was the first time Garth met Demon lord Sibylline, Destroyer of Hope.
The bastard tiger had a mean streak a mile wide, lifting its leg to piss on the remains of his weapon when its ears perked up mid leg-raise. Without warning, it turned and disappeared down an alley.
Garth slumped against the wall, sliding down, his head dizzy from blood loss. He wanted to sit down and go to sleep, but first he needed to bind his wounds and meet up with the other humans.
Sitting against the wall, Garth really looked around the dumpy old woman’s bedroom for the first time.
The floor was covered in shag carpet, with a sex swing dominating the center of the room. There was a pillory in the corner with easy height adjustment for that special someone, a ‘milking’ table, a leather hood, and a suspicious hole in the wall lined with soft felt.
Beside Garth’s head was a nightstand with a dildo the size of his forearm, still slightly wiggling from the recent commotion.
The nightstand had three hundred dollar bills with a man’s business card on top of them.
“Huh,” Garth said, casting his gaze over the room. “Never would’a thought.”
He stood and began ransacking the woman’s room. Even if she wasn’t dead, he didn’t think she’d begrudge him some sheets to bind his cuts. She seemed nice.
Whatever the tiger ran from was worse than it, and so Garth wanted to be at his best. First thing was first. Stopping the bleeding.
Antiperspirants have aluminum. Garth tossed the woman’s dresser and grabbed her deodorant, wincing as he put thick lines over the ragged cuts on his shoulder.
This probably isn’t sanitary. Garth tried not to think of the old woman’s armpits and god knew where else as he spread the white bar over his cuts. The aluminum in antiperspirant was the same stuff they used in the coagulant pens you could find in the shaving section. Theoretically the aluminum would cause his blood to harden up and stop flowing much faster. Plus he would smell nice.
After that was done, he put some under his armpits – he hadn’t had a shower in two days – and tossed the bar aside, tearing up some clean sheets and wrapping his wound.
Once he was done wrapping, Garth went back to the window, carefully searching the street for whatever had made the vindictive tiger bolt.
It wasn’t long until he noticed it. The noise from down the street had become a shouting match. Garth stuck his head out the window and made out some kind of armed force surrounding the pet store.
See what’s going on or fade away? Garth weighed his options. Chances were Mr. Tiger was waiting just out of sight of the armed force and would ambush Garth as soon as he was clear of them.
While there was shouting, it didn’t look violent. Yet. Garth decided to err on the side of people he could talk to. Harold was an exception though. If he ever saw that prick again, he’d shoot first.
By the time Garth moved the barricade out of the way and made it to the pet store, tensions had risen, and it came to Garth’s attention that the armed strangers weren’t exactly from ‘round here.
No less than fifty men with dusky skin, flat faces, and strange animalistic brows, stood encircling the pet store. Their leader seemed to be exchanging words with Leanne. They wore uniform, heavy-looking steel armor, but they didn’t seem slow. Three of them repositioned themselves between their commander and Garth as he approached.
“I’m friendly,” Garth said, holding his hands up.
“Prove you’re not a Kipling.” One of them said, drawing a blocky sword that looked like it had been poured in one solid piece. The commotion drew the attention of Leanne and their commander.
“Um…how am I supposed to do that?”
“He’s one of ours.” Leanne said. “He’s human.”
“What, I don’t look human?” Garth asked before glancing down at his purple skin and blue bathrobe kilt. Ah. Still need some clothes. The rest of the survivors were still on the rooftop or leaning against the wall of the building, watching the exchange. Some of them cast him curious glances. What did Leanne do to become their spokesman?
The three heavy infantrymen stood down, their eyes sliding past Garth and returning to observing the streets. At least he didn’t have to worry about the tiger.
“What’s going on?” Garth asked as he approached.
“Join your kind, human. This discussion is between the Oliga and your leader.” The flat-faced alien said, its rumbling gibberish somehow registering as English in his mind.
Garth processed that. Then he processed that some more. His leader? Garth glanced at the humans at the pet store, trying to imagine what kind of situation had unfolded here that these soldiers would think she was their leader.
Did the humans agree to that? Why her specifically? Was it because she helped them, or because of some other circumstances?
Garth grunted and headed toward the mass of dead Kipling. The aliens tensed as he got close to the Kipling.
“Get away from there!” one of them roared, pointing a sword at Garth. “Wait until we give you permission to harvest the Heartstones.”
They seemed awfully possessive for a standing military. From what he knew about government directed military, they were afforded with everything they needed. Despite their uniform and their well-funded equipment, these guys seemed…hungrier than they should, somehow.
“Just grabbing something,” Garth said, continuing to walk toward the pile. He reached the nearest pea pod when one of the brutes tromped forward and put a sword to his neck.
“Stand away,” he growled, a low rumbling noise that half made Garth think the guy wanted to eat him.