He ran. He could feel himself breaking. His face was parallel to the ground and his body careened forward as his legs propelled him over cracked, disintegrating asphalt. There was nothing in his world but pain and his own train rapid-fire heartbeat, churning out blood and burning through oxygen faster than his mouth and nostrils could pull it in. He looked to his left and found them there at his side, keeping pace with him. Smiling at him. To his right, even more. Leering. Hopping and skipping steps, sprinting and seeming not to care about the speed at which they were moving, the environment fast crumbling around them or their ultimate destination. It was hopeless. There wasn't anything left for him. There was not behind him but more of their number and beyond that only evaporating world. His own body, inside out, was burning out. He knew it. His legs burned with more than muscle fatigue. His blood was on fire. His very bone marrow would begin to melt soon. He had nowhere to go but forward toward ruination and defeat. Pure instinct commanded him onward to delay the annihilation which assaulted him on all sides. Fight or flight. The human condition demanded that he not succumb to the obvious finality of the situation before him and continue on until he could do no more. His mind however, realizing the futility of the scenario, realizing that there was no way out, began to eat at his long quick strides and slow him down. A half step. They gained. He slowed more. Suddenly spirit-beaten. Telephone poles crashed. Power lines flew crazily down and severed blackened electrified limbs from grotesque inhuman bodies. Their leering, tongue wagging sneers replaced with screaming, yipping howls of pain as loped around wounded. He slowed another half-step. His face was nothing but defeat and failure as the squealing grey-black half-men hollered and fingered at his body. Now easily upon him as he moved through the ending world, they pawed at his clothes and pulled his shoulder length black hair. One of them threw a gorilla-like "hand" under his left foot as it came back down and flipped him sideways and forward through the air. They hollered a mocking victory and gathered around his body as it skipped across shattered pavement. There he lay in the middle of some broken road, in the morning of the last day on Earth. Encircled by foul man-things never seen on the planet before barking hoots and screams and closing on him. Huge dog-monkey heads swayed back and forth around him and closed further. His body, for all the evolution of man, was burning itself out. The universe it seemed, was growing new physics and the construction of evolution over the millennia had been deemed unfit for the future of reality. His was nothing that was wanted or would survive in the new cosmos. History had apparently chosen an alternative path of "life" and it was this terrible rabble of horror that now shambled about him and shuffled through the gravel toward him. He bled. The pain was going. They closed on him. The sun, once life giving, once ours, now swirled with a black ring around it and an angry raging orange center. It was darker. He laid, with his back on the ground, feeling the slow grinding of the earth behind him, watching the sun turn inside out then being blotted out by red eyed, leering drooling shark toothed faces. The huge dog-monkey heads with their bulging, crazy blood eyes were all he saw. Why had he run in the first place he thought? It was obviously pointless. With the world falling around him. His forehead bled, he took a blow somewhere and his world was spun out around him even further. He was running from them…wasn't he? They had crashed through some window and…he ran from them…tried to find a hiding place…didn't he? What was he looking for?! His body burned inside. He ached. His heart beat still raced, even though he was no longer sprinting. Where had he been going to get away from them? He was blacking out as the question teetered around the edge of his conscious mind and the giant dog-monkeys fell in on him…he would never know.
Then he heard it. It cut through the world like bright, laser cut steel glinting in the sun on a perfect, cloudless morning. A scream. A human scream. The dying air of the world carried his name on it. It vaulted through the chasm of fading reality at him.
It was her.
He wasn't running from something, he was running to something. To someone.
He remembered…he'd felt the world starting to grind away and run to look at the sky…then a crash behind him, where he'd left her…the things had her and she had not even time to scream. He saw them bounding away from him, tearing at her as they ran. Another crash behind him and they were on him. They were outside, pouring around the building, pouring into the building from nowhere. The people were drowned by huge awful dog-monkey-things from nowhere space. They had taken her atop massive grey shoulders and pulled at her limbs while they ran. She screamed his name, then her voice was cut short in the middle of it…
His fear and surprise fell away from him. His eyes, wide and straining in their sockets, turned on nothing beasts invading his home and he was suddenly filled with an all encompassing rage. The beast nearest to him saw him and, scratched to a halt on legs with backward knees. It was had been screaming and yipping through the building when it came upon him. It caught sight of him and paused, seemed to consider him instead of scream through this new world with careless abandon.
He stared at it and slowly, purposefully turned his body to face it fully. His shoulders and chest began to heave with deep breaths. The things red eyes danced around his body, seeking understanding of him. It's head tilted and cocked to the side, quizzically. Then it happened. Instead of moving away from the creature, this fragile, soft human was moving toward it. In fact, it was rushing toward it. As the creature realized the human meant to attack it, it raised it's massive head high and bellowed a roar at the smaller human. The man seemed not to notice. It flung itself through the air, through outstretched gorilla arms and caught itself on the torso of the monster. As it screamed at this affront, the man let loose his own raging yell and bashed his head into the screaming face of the monster he had latched onto. It pummeled his back and shredded the jacket from his body. The man worked his hands up higher and found the back of the creatures head. He laced his fingers behind it and, again, brought his head forward and up into the howling face of the monster before him. Something cracked. He wasn't sure if it was him or the creature, but he thought it was him. He didn't care. He reared further back and put his entire body into the movement this time. He smashed his head into the dog-monkeys face a third time and drove it to it's knees. He was now standing on the ground and the monster was on it's knees, dazed by the ferocious barrage of headsmashing to it's face. He stood, braced his feet apart and screamed into the face of the beast. The monster flung it's arms around him around him weakly. Dimly, the beast perceived the human standing over him, now actually holding it up by the head. It uttered a final pathetic whimper before the human. The man, filled with an uncontrollable rage, brought his head down into the ruined face of the monster a final time and was rewarded with a wet *crack*. This one was from the dog-monkey. He held it still and his eyes studied it wildly as he held it's head in his hands. Orange goo oozed from it's wounded head. He crazily hoped it was the creatures brain seeping out of the damaged skull. He grinned at the thought in a dazed half-madness and dropped the creature to the floor. It fell in a heap with a sick wet thud.
He moved for his weapons…
He scrambled up the rockface, the dog-monkeys at his heels. The earth crumbled and fell away from his boots with the force of each push off. He spun the pistol in his left hand and fired off a round into the face of a beast swinging into him while reaching further up with his right. Moisture was obliterated by the atmosphere and he felt as though he were breathing fire. He scaled upward still. She was up there. The things were up there with her. He moved to the right. The top was his.
They were all on one side, quietly huddled around something on the ground. Sluggishly huddled around her. He hadn't even cleared the lip of the plateau before roared at them and let his guns blaze again in the dying light of the world. They wheeled about and came at him in a wave of horror filled with fangs and other worldly gorilla fur. The dog head maws wound open impossibly wide and surged forward at him, cocked to one side and growling long while shivering as they came. He met their fury with gunpowder and lead and an uncaring animal rage that was all consuming. Each head that presented itself was rewarded with a bullet. Teeth shattered and skulls blew apart. Bodies with momentum suddenly reversed by the force of huge bullets flipped and whirled through the air as the life was broken from their flesh. He gained the surface fully and was on one knee spinning out the spent shells with one hand while firing freshly loaded shells with the other. He inhaled fire and exhaled death with the fire of his guns. For his life, he would know no other time when he was so in tune with himself and the world. This was his finest moment when he was in total harmony with the universe. They continued to rush at him. They were beginning to pile up in front of him. The bodies were sliding off the sides of the plateau as the killing sun grew above them and reached out to the earth. The ground upon he killed and they died cracked and lurched beneath them. From all side they would come now. One from behind sprung over the edge at his back. He sensed it rather than heard it and without turning, spun a pistol over his shoulder and pushed backward out back over the edge with a round that spat the monsters oozing brains out the back of it's skull. His nostrils flared and he grunted defiance, spinning the pistol back around and blasting the guts out of another to his left.
The low grinding sound became louder. The creatures slowed their advance on him, he continued to punish them however and even when they hooted and yipped back away from him the bullets still poured out from him into them, exploding their bodies wherever they struck. As they retreated from the disintegrating tower, he could see her body laying there opposite him. His guns halted their deadly song and his head cocked to one side slightly…as if not understanding. His guns fell back into leather holsters and he crossed to her with desperate strides. She was bloody. He could see her legs were badly damaged…it was obvious from looking at her what they had been doing. They had been squeezing her to death. They had dragged her up here, gathered around, picked a body part…and then slowly crushed it. The denim on her left leg wasn't shredded, but torn around where the fabric would not accommodate the pressure of their grasp as they destroyed her body. After they had sufficiently mutilated the left, they had begun on the right leg at the calf…even through the jeans, the leg looked wrong. When he found them, when he made the ledge and they were huddled on the other side, that's what they were doing. They were all watching while one of them slowly killed her. His rage flew to new heights. She wasn't moving now. His gaze went from her ruined legs to her face. Eyes closed, her brow furrowed as though still in pain. The foul sick air sucked away from them and her hair flew around them. They had hurt her. He slowly rose and turned his head. The bodies of the dog-monkeys were pouring waterfalls of their weird blood off the ledge as the grinding end of the world hurtled toward them. They were just gone. He craned his head up again and found the red ringed sun burning sickly in the sky. The ring changed and began to move. Like a massive tentacle, it slowly made it's way impossibly to the ground below. It obliterated the dirt and asphalt that remained not yet consumed. The tentacle of the sun was the final destroyer of the world. As he stood at the edge of the swaying rock tower, he placed his hands at the grips of his guns. He planted his feet apart, pushed his head out in front of him as far as it would go, and stared down the sun as it came to destroy him. The world died all around him and his showdown with the sun was on.
Then she spoke his name behind him.
His eyebrows raised slowly, and almost childlike, he turned. Beyond the blasted bodies of the dog-monkeys she reached out for him. The air was sucking away from them again and her hair flew. She was smiling at him and he was running to her. He eyes darted around her…searching for some sign of trickery. She was alive. He hugged her fiercely and she spoke his name again. He closed his eyes tightly and she said, while the universe failed around them and the sun raged behind them, "You saved me."
His face was almost childlike still in the way he regarded her, smoke poured from the barrels of his guns through the holsters like the twin exhaust pipes of diesel truck. His eyes looked over her beautiful face again and again and he couldn't help but smile a silly love-drunk smile at her. She made him happy. Even now. She was all he ever needed.
His body burned. The air burned. The sun, impossibly, seemed to know he had turned his attention away from it to the woman and hurled its red tentacle at them. His bones were burning still. He thought…he thought me might actually be starting to glow. The air was blistering his lungs with every breath. He labored to breathe suddenly and coughed. The toll for his actions would not be paid lightly.
He fell, finally, to the ground. His lips were cracked. His throat was void of moisture and felt like sand paper with every breath. She held his head in her lap and brushed the bloody hair from his forehead. She still had her purse. She reached into it and produced a bottle of water. She removed the cap and gently, carefully put it to his lips. She administered the water slowly to him and he sputtered it out. She gave him more. He drank. It wasn't much. Not even half a bottle. Her own lungs burned with every breath and her throat felt as though it were filled with thorns.
She gave it all to him.
It was enough.
As he finished it, she put the bottle down and caressed his forehead again while she held him in her lap. She looked down at him, and he up at her. She loved him forever until the end of time and he would protect her forever until the end of time. This was their unspoken promise that they both knew without doubt would never ever be compromised.
The sun crashed toward them and she slowly left his gaze to look up toward it. She knew fear and he saw it in her eyes. Still on the ground, he turned his head too see it plowing toward them. He stood up.
He planted himself between the sun and his woman. The bodies of the dog-monkeys slid off of one another and down from the quaking summit. As the sun reached the ledge, he stepped to face it. The heat pouring off of the tentacle was causing his clothes to begin to smolder. His guns spun out of their holsters and he did the only thing he was ever really good at. Not quit.
The red ringed sun tentacle carved through the rock obliterating it as it went. The only sounds the world had left to hear was the grinding away of the continents and the blazing fury of twin pistols booming away at the devil sun.
He emptied one into it and as the bullets crashed home they faded away. Burned away to nothing. The burning tentacle continued forward. He spun the pistol free of empty shells and reloaded at the same time, all with one hand and motion, while firing the other. The bullets again, faded as they met the surface of the beast. The ring of the sun pulsed in the sky and the force of it knocked him to the ground. He coughed, and looked at the ground. He caught sight of her again and her face was a mask of pain. He did not let go of his guns when he hit the ground. His rage fueled him again and he rose to meet the mad sun.
The thing was in arms reach now. Again he emptied the bullets of the left gun into the tentacle with no effect. This time however, a smaller tentacle struck out at his gun and his arm was obliterated. No blood, no bone…just disintegrated into black dots which swirled in the air about him and then vanished. The pain however, was very real. The shock of it shown on his face as his mouth dropped wide open and he blinked in astonishment. His left arm was gone and so was the gun that it held. His right gun was empty.
The tentacle seemed to pause at this. Seemed, almost, to savor the moment…she was behind him then. On the ground she grasped at him and squeezed his leg.
"You saved me." She said.
He blinked away the pain and his face became a sneer of defiance, rage and hate. He spun the empty shells out of the right gun (the only one left) and reloaded in the same motion. The outstretched portion of the tentacle was in his face, mocking him, swaying back and forth. In defiance of the universe, he cocked the gun, slowly and deliberately touched the barrel to the side of the dancing red ringed line of the devil sun. He pulled the trigger and blew it apart. The tiny portion of the sun that had taken his arm burst into nothing and left a gash in the side of the perfect driving tentacle. He grinned and filled that spot full of lead. The sun screamed out in agony and the recoiled before his blazing gun. He spun out the shells again and reloaded. The gun crashed away and the bullets met the inside of forever and blew it to hell. The tentacle shuddered and wavered. The gun spins again and is reloaded. More bullets fill the beast and it begins to retreat back up into the sky and the sun continues to wail above the grinding of the world.
He spins out the bullets again but this time there is no reloading. The bullets are gone. The thing pushes back down into the ground and the wound closes up, as though it never was. It begins toward them again. He looks down and she reaches into her bag and pulls out two bullets. He takes them from her and loads the gun. He kneels with her and they are close together as the solar demon bares down on them. He holds her close to him and cocks the gun. The beast surges forward behind them and the ground finally starts to give way underneath them. The sides fall off in great heaps, down into nothing. He puts the smoking barrel to her temple as she watches the thing approach again and come within arms reach behind him. He slowly starts pulling the trigger on the gun pointed at her temple. The demon sun again snakes a smaller portion of itself at them.
He spins and catches the thing underneath and blows it apart. The sun wails again and he puts the last bullet in the universe into the wound. It continues to come forward. He throws the gun into it. The wound does not close and it the tentacle keeps coming. The wailing of the sun is constant now and the grinding of the world has faded. There is nothing left save the bit that crumbles beneath them. As the bodies of the slain dog-monkeys begin to smolder and burst into flame, he throws his fist into the burning wound of the sun. It wavers again and his arm is consumed in a mist of black dots. She is still there, she begins to smoke and her eyes are glowing…she is beautiful even now. He turns again and shouts defiance again to the universe. The wound is before him and he roars as he hurls himself into it. His body is consumed and the sun wails again. The tentacle falters and begins to fade. It disappears. The sun screams and pulses again in the sky, the heat is burning the air around her and the she looks at her hands as the lines start to fill up with heat. She looks up at the devil sun and the ruined universe around her. It screeches at her and just before she is consumed in a cosmic conflagration, she smiles and speaks one last time. She says:
"He saved me. I loved him and he saved me."
Then she is gone.