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The others swarmed towards the tent. The one the scream came from. A prey came out of the flap. It screamed again. It screamed even louder when the first other grabbed for it. The spikes on its arms worked well, stabbing into the prey’s shoulders. It couldn’t raise its arms to defend as the other sank its teeth into its neck.

The spikes are good. But there’s a small issue. The others are impaling one another, fighting over the food. Not all of them. When the prey died, the other prey were alerted by its screams. They poured out of the tents, carrying spikes. Some shouted; the others noticed. Only the three others eating the fallen prey didn’t react. The rest of them surged forward.

“What the hell!?”

“Everybody up!”

The prey had spikes in their hands. Some came out of the tents with the tapered wooden sticks, the same ones used by the prey in the metal hunk. But the sticks were different. They were made of metal, glinting in the dark. I want them. The sticks were strong but brittle. But these metal sticks shouldn’t be brittle. They’re metal. With a swishing sound, the metal stick flashed through the air, striking an other. The other’s head snapped to one side. It collapsed, falling to the ground, dead. But two others replaced it, reaching for the prey. Their spiked arms stabbed into it. A scream came out of the prey, not words, just an expression of pure pain.

“Kevin!”

The prey behind the impaled one ran forward, swinging their sticks, stabbing their spikes. The others died, their heads cracked open, their brains impaled. The prey grabbed the injured one, pulling him back.

“Why do they have weapons!?”

It’s hard to see. A lot of the others are taller than me. The number of prey isn’t a lot compared to the others. But they don’t need a large number to defend. If they’re like the prey in the metal hunk, they can survive this amount. But it’s different. The prey in the metal hunk had a better position, a trapped entryway allowing only one other to pass at a time. Here, the prey are out in the open. Multiple others can swarm them.

“Retreat back to the cabins! Get in the cabins!”

The prey fell back; the others jerked forwards. Pounding sounds rang out.

“Open the door, you bastards! Open the fucking door!”

The prey had retreated to the cabins, to the trapped entries. But the door wasn’t opening. They couldn’t get inside to utilize it. One other stabbed a prey. In return, its head was split open. The prey retreated even further back, behind the cabins, out of sight. What’s at the center of their territory? It’s time to find out. I followed the others, past the trampled tents, past the closed cabins. There were only three of them, their doors shut. But there were tiny rectangular gaps in the walls, too dark to see into. Dark without a light. I took the light from my bag and shined it at one of the slits. A pair of eyes stared back at me. Prey’s eyes.

A scream drew my attention away. Behind the cabins, the source of orange light was there. Fire. The hot substance that burned off my fingernails. They still haven’t grown back. I didn’t know fire could be used for light. And the plumes are coming off of it, extending up, disappearing into the darkness. Fire was their source. But why? Why keep the fire going during the day? The sun is enough to see. At night it’s useful. But the day? The prey were still retreating, back behind the fire. But one was caught by the others, the injured one from before. Next to it, there was a stack of wood. Presumably for the fire. There’s lots of wooden pieces in the fire.

And behind the fire, there were even more cabins. The prey were pounding on their doors, screaming at them. But the doors didn’t budge. There were slits in those cabins too. Were prey watching from there too? Like me, the prey didn’t partake in the fight, choosing to observe instead. They’re the dangerous ones. Hushed whispers came from behind me. Then a creaking sound. I turned around. A prey with a metal stick was running at me, the door behind it hanging open. The prey swung. I ducked, the metal swishing over my head. Dangerous.

“What!?”

I hit my metal rods together. Would the others come after hearing? I’m not sure, the prey behind the fire are really loud. The others are too dumb, unreliable. This prey, I have to defeat it by…. It ran. But not before throwing the metal stick at me, striking my chest, pushing me back. With a slam, the door to the cabin shut, the prey disappearing inside.

“What are you doing!?”

“Shut up! It dodged my swing! It fucking dodged! That thing must’ve been an MMA fighter or some shit; I didn’t sign up for that. Besides, I baited it, didn’t I? When it comes over, just stab it through the head.”

The metal stick was light, lighter than my metal rod. A lot like the wooden stick. Is it stronger too? It should be. I’ll replace one of the rods with the stick. And I’ll get away from these cabins. Prey can come out at any time. If I hadn’t seen prey swing these sticks so many times, I wouldn’t be alive right now. A horizontal swing at the head, the prey’s standard attack. Knowing that, I survived. I have to learn more. I have to survive longer. And the safest place is with the others, not too far ahead, not too far behind. In the middle, where others have to die before prey can reach me.

“Baited? What bait? It’s leaving!”

Another three others were busy eating the fallen prey. The rest of the others were following the prey, past the cabins again. If they used the cabins’ doors to trap the others, they’d fight back better. But they don’t. They bicker, fight with each other. They live together. But don’t cooperate. It’s because they’re all smart, all thinking of their own survival. Like me. I use the others for defense. I use them to test. But they don’t mind; they’re dumb. I wouldn’t let an other use me as a test, as a shield. The prey are the same. Selfish, caring only about themselves. Smart individually. Dumb as a group.

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Virlyce

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