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A dozen others went inside. I closed the door before anymore could get in. There are still four other cabins. Losing more than this wouldn’t bode well. Fire can melt skin, burn off fingernails. It’s dangerous. Prey try to escape from it. Staying in it for too long, the others will die. Fire consumes everything, skin, flesh, brains. But it worked. It opened the cabin. Then, I should open the other cabins, force the prey out. While the others are distracted, not following. They won’t be eaten by the flames. It’s too hard to guide the others away. The prey inside are screaming, driving the others into a frenzy. Banging my metal won’t do anything. Their noses are still plugged with rotten brains. They won’t follow me. But that’s fine.

As long as I’m careful, I can escape back into the herd. The cabin closest to this one, I’ll burn it first. The other three cabins are across the central fire. If the prey come out, it’ll take a while for them to reach me, enough time for me to run. But I don’t want to approach the cabin. Crouching avoids the spikes coming out of slits. But the prey can come out, stab me. Without the others’ protection, it’s dangerous. But I already know how to bring fire to the cabin. It’s simple. Throw.

I gathered a few pieces of wood from the pile near the central fire. Then I retreated back to the burning cabin, to the others. The prey weren’t screaming anymore. Only tearing, ripping, squelching sounds came out over the crackling. The fire grew larger, spreading to the cabin’s roof. I pressed a piece of wood against the burning wall, waited. It didn’t take long. The fire caught on the end of the block. Throwing things is easy: pull back, extend forward, release. The block soared through the air and landed on the cabin’s roof. But one piece isn’t enough. There needs to be more.

While I set another block on fire, there was a creaking sound. The door to the nearby cabin opened. Two prey ran out. They were large, round, bulky. They didn’t run very fast. But the others were distracted, clawing at the flaming cabin. I grabbed one other and turned its head. It groaned, stumbling towards the running prey. Others followed. But the prey had too large of a head start. They’ll make it over the fence before the others catch them. I should stop them. If they push down the fence and leave, I’ll lose too many others. There’s still prey in three cabins. Come, come.

The banging isn’t working. The others aren’t listening. They caught one of the prey. It tried to climb the fence, falling back down when it reached the top. This prey was large; I thought it’d be strong. But it wasn’t. No wonder why it hid inside the cabin. If it was in the tent, it wouldn’t survive. Not like it survived by hiding either. All that’s left is the three cabins. There are still forty others surrounding the burning cabin, not doing anything. Some of them are on fire. They’re not dead? It takes a while. Fire consumes wood slowly. It makes sense it’d consume others slowly as well. What if these burning others surrounded a cabin? Would the cabin catch fire?

I walked up to the large prey. Six others were crouching by it, eating. I swung my metal stick, killing an other instantly. The stick is much better than the rod. It’s lighter overall. But the larger end is bulky, heavy. After, making space, I dug my hand into the prey. It groaned. But it smelled fresh; there’s no way it was already turning into an other. Maybe it was still alive. But that didn’t matter. I grabbed the tube below the stomach and pulled and pulled and pulled until there was resistance. A piece of bone was enough to break the tube, separating it from the prey. This should be enough.

The others noticed almost instantly when I brought the tube back to the burning cabin. I don’t know how. Their noses should’ve been plugged. And there weren’t any sounds either. Maybe it was the sight. Can others identify food on sight too? A reddish tube covered in slime; I wouldn’t think of it as food right away. But the others did. They peeled away from the burning cabin, following me past the central fire, towards the three far cabins.

Thwack.

What was that? Something blurred past. An other collapsed. What? I turned around. An other was lying on the ground on its side, a stick with a feather embedded in its head. What is this? I crouched down.

Thwack.

And the other behind me stumbled back, a stick with a feather embedded in its shoulder. What are these? These sticks came from the cabin in our path. The prey, they’re throwing these through the slits? Such a thin stick, why didn’t it break? How did it penetrate? There’s a point, sharpened, covered in rotting brains now. But still thin. How strong must the prey be to throw something this flimsy to kill an other? Dangerous.

Thwack.

Another feathered end appeared, this time by my feet. They’re aiming for me. Like I aimed for the prey that stood out on top of the metal hunk, these prey are aiming for me, the leader. An other grabbed onto the tube I was holding, chewing. Stop that. I stabbed the flimsy stick at its head. The stick pushed the other’s head back without penetrating. Should I give up? These prey are extremely dangerous. Yes, I’ll stick with the original plan. Harvest a skull and flee.

With a tug, the tube came free from the other. It was awkward to throw, not like something small. But it was light; it flew far, landing next to the cabin with the stick throwers inside. The others raced around me, towards the tube. Another stick flew through the air, hitting an other right next to me. But it didn’t hit its head, only its arm, not doing anything to it at all. Standing is dangerous. I crouched, letting the others get ahead. I made sure to keep them between me and the cabin, making my way to the fallen prey by the fire.

There were shouts coming from the cabin. But I didn’t check. Taking off a head, it’s harder than I thought. The metal stick was useful, breaking the exposed bone connecting it to the body. I had to kill an other to make space to swing. I emptied my bag, putting the mostly boney head into it. Now, time to flee. There were more shouts. How are the others doing? The cabin is on fire. There’s a few dead others near the slits. But the doors to the un-surrounded cabins are open. Did the prey inside flee? Where are they? What if they’re coming to hunt me? Away from the fire, out of the light, that’s where I need to be. I ran away, towards the cabin the two large prey had came from. But it was giving off light, the roof on fire from the earlier block of wood. The whole place was brightly lit, the first cabin giving off even more light than the central fire.

There was a scream. Coming from the opposite side of the territory. A prey’s scream. Is that the direction they fled? Then I’m safe. I peeked around the cabin, checking the cabin of stick throwers. The door was wide open. But others were piled at the entrance, dead. Much like the prey in the metal hunk, they used the door as a trap, killing others one by one as they trickled in. How dangerous. It’s a good thing I fled. That could be me on the ground with a feathered stick coming out of my head. But it didn’t look like the prey would last long. There were still a dozen others. But the fire was spreading, the cabin’s walls burning. Maybe I don’t have to run yet. I’ll wait a little more. Watch a little more. Then decide.

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Virlyce

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