Featured Review on this writing by Sue Harris

Pussy Reaper's Rebellion (story 4)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


Catrina Consuelo, teen vigilante and leader of the Moles, must battle the forces of evil to save her true love.

Submitted: August 28, 2018

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Submitted: August 28, 2018

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Watch me kill. Kill ten beasts. Kill twenty more. Kill under a fog so thick I could slice it with a sword like I slice into this next beast.

With a sickening crunch, I puncture his skull and sling out his brains then whip left, chopping down another beast; my katana as vicious as Dylan Thomas’ poem — My hero bares his nerves!

I rip my blade from a pallid gut, spilling gray intestines on the ship’s wet deck. My mauled arm aching to the bone, I strain through my pain, exhaling stiffly. Thankful Mooj is perched safely on my shoulder. Thankful my Mole brothers and sisters are at my side. Fighting all across the freighter’s wide front, Moles stomp. Scowl. Swish their shovels at hairless albino beasts.

Beasts of night terrors. Beasts with the faces of men, the jaws of lions and the bodies of skeletal lizards. Lizards clothed in green uniforms, they lurk in our direction from bow to stern. The hull, the size of a football field, tremors when a cannon ball slams in the water inches from the ship’s stern where two beasts grope Treen and Luna. One flicks his serpentine tongue, licking Luna’s cheek.

She shrieks.

I shout, “Release them,” as I lurch between hordes of Moles. Tailing me, they behead beast after beast while I spear rib after rib. Dozens of beasts fall. Yet hundreds remain. Enough to outweigh our troops? It’s what concerns me most. Especially once dozens more beasts advance from a steel hatch at the ship’s stern. They worm around metal wires bolted high above to multiple tiered masts.

The masts waver. The ship sways. The beasts howl in time with tooooots erupting from three massive smoke stacks propped in the middle of the hull. Ghosting tarry stenches into the hazed night sky, the stacks respond to another freighter. Signaling it? I’m guessing. Why else would the second freighter respond with its own tooooot? Maybe they’re united battalions, crossing the ocean. Which ocean? My hunch is the Atlantic due to the temperature of the waters I almost drowned in earlier. Waters I scarcely see through the fog. Waters that are leading us where? I can’t for the life of me figure that out. Or why a third ship in the distance keeps launching cannon balls.

One booms in our direction, jarring my attention for a split second. Long enough I nearly miss an approaching beast. I spring rearward, avoiding claws. Black claws. Sharp claws curl my way. I hack the hand off. The beast squeals, clutching his blood-squirting stump as Mooj pounces and chomps the beast’s throat, sending him teetering overboard at the same time Mooj swoops back on my shoulder.

“Sick move, tiny Buddha.” I fist pump Mooj’s rat paws.

He chatters in my ear as if he’s speaking, “No prob, Chica.”

“Keep it up, Mooj and we’re golden.” I boot the next beast off deck. The beast collides with another flaming canon ball and explodes into a thousand gruesome bits. Far below, the bits scatter in the dark sea swelling in the gusting wind. The waves rock the ship like a drunken pirate.

I steady myself against Grant’s spine.

“Hellish frickers.” He says.

“Got that right. They make the devil look lazy.”

“Haha. Always the comedian, aren’t you?” Grant beheads a beast. Whomping his shovel down, he crushes three more then nabs a fourth beast. He tears it in two with his bare hands.

“Sheesh, Goliath. Showy much?”

“Ain’t showing off.”

“Least use some skill.”

“Dang, girl. Throw me some slack.”

I snort. Whatevs. He reminds me of a bull ramming a gate down and bashing in his trainer. Annoys me more than he should given he’s done nothing wrong. Except be him — the type of bad boy with a dragon tattoo that smacks of my ex-boyfriend Ajax. Regardless that Grant bandaged my arm, he’s gotta have an endgame. Most men do.

Point and case? Look how Ajax reeled me in with his fake charm just to lure my shelter girls into his prostitution rig. A prime example why I refuse to trust Grant. His compassion could be an act. Besides intelligence is way sexier than brute strength. One of the many reasons I fell for Edison. God, Edison. Be alive! Be on this boat!

I war my way toward that steel hatch blocked by twenty beasts. Gotta get past them. Get below deck and get my girls and my Edison. Hear that. My guy. The guy I’ve decided I can’t live without. Even if it takes me pretending to team up with barbaric Grant to reclaim Edison, then fine.

“Go ahead, G-man. Do your thang.”

“Permission? You crack me up, girl.” Grant hoists a beast.

Whirling him like a pizza crust, he heaves him off the ship as I skewer my twentieth beast. I wallop him atop another beast, shattering both their spines on the deck where puddles of sea water mix with blood; the liquid pooling toward a second line of beasts.

They advance as one unit. Skulking past the smoke stacks, some crawl on all fours. Others click their tongues, their bald skulls pulsing out angry blue veins. Like ravaged albino velociraptors, they cock their heads and roar. They charge.

We attack them in the middle. Grant and I battling back to back while around us Moles decapitate. Heads roll. Canons boom. Treen and Luna continue to shriek, fueling my unstoppable pace toward that hatch.

Please. Selah! Or whatever angel’s up there! Help me reach my Edison and my girls in time.

I slit the throats of five beasts, jabbing four more through the heart before I spot them. Six behemoth beasts scale a ladder. From the ship’s lower portholes they climb. Quicker than apes on trees, they heave themselves on deck and barrel our way. One thuds to the left of me. Circling me, he slants his greenish eyes, his skeletal throat rumbling like a garbage disposal. I slash my katana at his jugular. He ducks then grabs me by the waist. I tackle him to the deck where I stab his stomach. Where Mooj hops.

The beast pivots, clawing my shoulders.

I seethe. Mooj squeaks.

Grant dashes between rows of combating Moles and beasts while I struggle to get out from under this beast, his jaws slimed with saliva. Sticky stuff, it slops on my cheek.

Blech. He growls deeper, clacking his fangs inches from my nose. I grit my teeth, figuring this is it. He’s gonna eat my face off like five other beasts are doing to Moles wailing around me. 

Something flips him off me. Not something. Someone. Grant. He hurtles the beast into the path of another canon ball. The ball detonates high above; a red firework glowing brighter than the eyes of two approaching beasts.

They grab Grant and stretch his arms till his elbows pop. Till he grunts and thrashes. I snatch my katana. Blood dripping from my shoulders and Mooj scurrying up my injured arm, I wince as I lop the legs off one beast.

He screeches, collapsing while Grant struggles in the other beast’s clutches.

“Get your nasty claws off him or you’ll end you like your butt-ugly buddy.” I stab my stiletto through the beast’s booted foot.

The beast smirks, muttering. “Your seconds are numbered, girl. We’ll have you tied up and squealing under us in no time.”

Interesting. The beast talks.

Let’s see if I can shut him up. I carve a Y down his middle, his flesh opening like a filleted shark.

“How ‘bout it.” I fish out the beast’s intestines then squeeze them till he yowls. “Gonna listen?”

He doesn’t respond.

I rip out his gizzards while Grant slugs him to the deck where I hack him in two.

“We’re even.” I jut my chin up at Grant.

“Again. Always the comedian.”

Sarcasm, huh? That’s what I spot in his voice. Even if his sarcasm is fairly obnoxious like a backhanded compliment, he tossed the beast off me. Proves he doesn’t want me dead. Not much else. Best I keep him under my radar.

Mooj wriggles his whiskery snout as if he smells something. What?

A whistle blares. Shrill enough to shatter glass, it pierces my ears. I palm them while every beast on the freighter pauses. They stand. We gape. Treen and Luna race in my direction, sobbing at my heels.

At all angles beasts have stopped battling as if they’ve entered some catatonic trance. They raise their clawed hands. Why? Don’t care. Gotta reach that hatch. I start to turn but freeze when I hear —

Tap. Tap. Tap...

The beasts salute someone. Who?

Behind me, footsteps tap louder.

Tap. Tap. Tap...

 

A thick crackly accent I’m sure I’ve heard before whispers after. “Haste not, my loyal underlings. We shall feast soon.”

Soon? My spine prickles, my throat dry, the Moles silent as the canons that have strangely ceased. I revolve on my heels.

“Feast on this.” I point my blade at an overly tall man-beast cloaked in a pin-striped suit.

“My pet.”

Delusional beast. “I ain’t your pet.”

“Naive girl. You have no idea.”

‘Bout what? I follow his glare to my katana. The same katana my Samurai trainer, Master Shin Hiroyoshi, entrusted me with before he passed. What’s this man-beast want with it?

“My, my. My dear little brother. You must be giggling in your grave.”

Wait? What? Hiroyoshi and this beast are brothers? Impossible. They’re not even the same species. Unless the beast was human before; a theory I highly doubt. Then again, Shin kept quiet about his past. Kept secrets it appears too.

He says. “Getting the picture?”

Your dumb-ass picture?

“Watch your sass, pussy cat?”

Ickster douche; totally creeping me out. Almost seems like he’s reading my thoughts.

“Why, yes I am.” He scrapes his claws against the length of my blade.

The screeches echo with the sounds of Moles whooping. They restart their death dance. Grant included. Treen and Luna snag shovels from fallen Moles and rejoin my troops, attacking beasts who remain in that stone-faced trance.

“Commence.” Man-beast yells.

Beasts everywhere blink, marching for my Moles.

“Yield to us.” I swing my katana at man-beast’s neck. It doesn’t touch him. Odd. It’s like some invisible force is preventing me from impaling him.

“Cause that pretty pet belongs to me!” His tone grows grittier. “Drop your entitlement. Nauseating Being! Think you own the world. You don’t. I do! Or I will soon enough.”

What’s that supposed to mean? Is this sadistic lunatic, whoever he is, plotting something? Wouldn’t put it past him.

“Tell you what. Hand over my pet and you can live. Consider it an act of kindness since you failed to follow my orders. No Moles I said. And you couldn’t listen. So they shall perish. Most of them.”

Most of them? I crinkle my brow at his last sentiment. “Messed up maniac. Either you want us dead or you don’t.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Spill the complication.”

“And spoil the fun?”

“This ain’t fun. Get your head examined. No screw’s tight in there.”

“I do enjoy your sass.”

Again with that word sass. Heard it a ton growing up from my abusive guardians. From him though? Seems eerily familiar. How? Bring me his brain so I can pick through his past. I attempt another swing. My blade halting before his nose, tests my patience while around me shovels crack bone and fangs shred flesh. A horrific blood bath, sprinkling the length of ship, intensifies when more beasts appear. Out of the hatch, they gallop wrestling Moles to the ground. Dragging Grant to his knees.

“Leave my friends alone!”

“Too late for that.” Man-beast licks the blood off my blade. “You my dear. Oh I shall keep you. Fierce pussy cat like you. Warm my bed. Wager you won’t bore me like your other sluts.”

“Do it!” I say in my best Exorcist voice. “Call my friend sluts again.”

“Sluts.” He cackles.

I boot him rearward.

He lands ass-first.

“No one mistreats my girls.” I grind my heel into his palm. He eeks. “Don’t care if you are Shin’s brother. Pussy Reaper’s here to play. Gimme back my peeps or I saw off your limbs and feed your entrails to your feral lizards.”

“Love to see you try.” He kicks me off him. “Remember my name, Scissorface. It’s the last thing you’ll hear.”

“Scissorface, huh?” I spring to my feet at the same time he does. “Where’d you find your fricknasty name, villains-r-us?

“Keep that sass.” He lifts me without touching me.

A weightless sensation; he floats me toward the middle of those smoke stacks. They belch. Tooooting in the night fog, their steam drifts my way. I cough.

“Forget about living, bitch. My nice is over.” Scissorface clenches his fist.

My neck squeezes as if he’s strangling me. Yet once again he’s not touching me. He’s moving things with his mind. With some telepathy, or some Penn and Teller trick. Either way, my throat is literally closing. I gag when he tightens his hold on me. My vision blurring beasts and Moles battling below.

Grant body-slams two beasts then sprints Scissorface’s way. “Let her go!”

Two more beasts pin him down. He wrestles them, the beasts and my troops appearing to shrink. The higher I ascend the harder Scissorface strangles me. I flail. Choking on my own saliva, my blood beating furiously in my constricted jugular, I nearly slump as Scissorface draws my katana into his hands. Mooj springs from my shoulder. His tiny rat form spinning downward, the haze shrouds him until he descends on the deck transforming into —

Oh my God! Master Hiroyoshi. His features, years younger, gleam like the sun on a cloudless day; his body robed in a black ninjutsu that also hoods his raven hair.

He repeatedly chants “Kaih?, Kaih?…”, his mind prying Scissorface’s death-grip from my neck.

I topple to the deck, wheezing as Scissorface and Shin confront each other.

Shin yells. “Hideki Tojo.”

What the actual frik! Hideki Tojo? The supreme Japanese military dictator during World War Two? I read about him in my history texts. He was executed in nineteen-forty-eight for his horrific war crimes. So how the heck is he alive and somehow warped into this hideous beast?

“Someone better tell me something.”

Scissorface aka Hideki Tojo throws my katana. A plume of steam blankets it while I gape at what replaces it.

An eight headed orochi serpent slithers in my direction.

I scoot back on my elbows.

“Stay calm, Catrina.” Shin hovers to my side while the serpent, longer than a four foot python, arches over me, rattling its eight tails. “Clear your mind. He knows you. You know him.”

Him? Who?

Scissorface sneers. “Your tricks won’t work, brother. Nor will you betray me again. Yamata-no-Orochi was my birthright.”

Birthright? Wasn’t Yamata-no-Orochi the serpent Japanese warriors sacrificed their virgin daughters to? But that was a myth.

“It’s no myth.” Scissorface reads my thoughts. “He shall awaken the forces I require to claim my destiny!”

Scissorface mind-pushes the serpent closer me. Three of its eight heads hiss. Opening they’re fanged mouths, saliva drips on my legs.

Shin says, “Look Yamata-no-Orochi in the eyes, Catrina.”

Which eyes? It has sixteen eyes. And one pair are redder. I focus on that pair. Or try to considering the shrieks of Moles and Beasts, dying around me almost crack my attention to the serpent’s pupils. Inside them, I see a reflection of a Japanese woman cradling a baby? Who is she?

“Your mother.”

Mother? I gasp, my heart clenching in my chest. I never met my mother. According to my social workers, Selah and I, twin sisters were abandoned at the border of Mexico and San Diego when we were only two-months-old. A police officer found us and transferred us to the foster care system where Selah and I were separated and later in our early adolescence planned to meet in New York City. And you know how that ended. Thing is I always thought I was Hispanic.

“Your father was.” Shin says.

“Tell me why you didn’t you share all this earlier.”

“You weren’t ready.”

And I am now? When I’ve finally found a family? Found a love? Found irreplaceable happiness that may be stripped from me like my youth. My virginity! My sister!

“Use your anger, Catrina!”

I banshee scream at the top of my lungs, staring that serpent down as my rage overcomes me. Big enough to swallow me whole, my rage spreads through my torso. Through my limbs. I pull Yamata-no-orochi toward me and turn it back into my katana.

“No.” Scissorface leaps for me, reaching for my katana. It boomerangs off his hand and settles into mine. “You can’t steal my birthright.”

“Was never your birthright!” Shin grabs Scissorface by the nape of the neck then propels him into the air. Casting a volt of lightning at him. Scissorface ducks, then counterattacks with his own volts. The sky flashing with constant electrical currents, I race under dueling Shin and Scissorface and head for the hatch.

“Wait up.” Grant says.

I glance over my shoulder the moment he downs the beasts holding him.

“Hurry.” I lead him toward the other beasts guarding the hatch.

They lunge. We strike. Treen and Luna rally with us as we surround the beasts, killing them at every angle until a clear path to the hatch appears.

“Go!” Grant shouts. “We’ll finish off these hellions.”

“Thank you,” I mutter his way. Even though I should’ve apologized. I’ve totally misjudged him. Bad guys don’t sacrifice themselves for a friend. High time I throw him some slack like he asked. I climb down a ladder into the dark so pitch black I flip on my night goggles. I see a long hall. Extending on both sides of me, it contains four doors. Two at either end. Two in the middle.

Totally in ninja stealth mode, I prowl toward an end-door. It bangs open and eight beasts storm for me. I jump. Ready to bust out my bad-ass brand of booty bashing, I twirl in a sideways spin. Whamming three on their backs, I slash four more across their middles then swing right to a beast the size of three combined. He swings claws at me. Dunking under them, I aim at his crotch and slit up the length of him. The halves of him toppling, I dice down the other four beasts  then stalk over their entrails and enter the door they exited. Between two overhead compartments, I spot —

“Edison!” I dart for him. As if in slow-motion, similar to the movies when the hero bombards the stage at the beckon of his damsel, I’m the bombarding Chica-Ninja Warrioress rescuing my dude in distress. Except he’s not beckoning. He’s unconscious, hanging from that wedged femur bone, his wrists tethered to it, his knees flush on the floor, his face half-shattered, his chest bruised, splotched with gouges and half-covered by that tooth-strung necklace.

I tip his head up, pressing two fingers under his chin. A faint pulse blips beneath my pinky. Thank the stars. He’s still with me. For how long? That’s the issue. He needed medical attention like two days ago. Now might be too late.

“Hang on, bae.” I press a kiss to his cracked jaw and rip off that necklace, the teeth yellowed from whose mouth? I’m not sure. Nor do I have time to crack that mystery. Perhaps Grant can examine Edison. He volunteered for the Red Cross after all. Might be worth checking.

I cut the binds from Edison’s wrists and lug him over my shoulder, carrying him out the door despite how much my wounds hurt. A warrioress can save her dude just like a hero can save his damsel. Just gotta find my eight shelter girls and figure out how to get off this freighter. Trouble is, I’m not convinced of our whereabouts. The Atlantic seems pretty doubtful. Considering Scissorface’s alias Hideki Tojo was born and raised in Japan, it’s possible we’re sailing the warm waters of Kure, Japan.

I stagger to the middle of the hall, the weight of Edison almost too difficult to manage. Manage this, peeps. Hope. I’m gonna hope. Hope for a life with Edison. For a family in the Moles. For me to push through my injuries a smidge longer.

I inhale shakily, prodding a second door ajar to...

Snakes. They lurch at me. I shut the door, hearing them thump against it as I approach the third door. I elbow it open, gasping at the sight of them. Four corpses. Skinned and gutted, their bodies half-chewed. Their bones scattered. Hideous. Deaths that reek of blood. That well tears in my eyes. That nearly distract me from shrieks at the rear of the room. My arm hairs stand as I walk over twenty more corpses laying behind them. Four of my shelter girls. Battered and lacerated, clad only in thin underclothes, they’re tethered atop steel gurneys; the type found in morgues. Atop one girl’s stomach a snake slides. She shrieks again. I carefully set Edison down then run for the snake. Snatching it by the tail, I hack it in two then remove the girls’ cuffs. They hug me. Each of them weeping, tugging at my own inner anguish. At my suffering similar to theirs, it scars the entirety of my soul stirred up by the corpses of my four other girls; slayed on the ground because of those evil beasts.

“She’s here.” Grant’s voice echoes from the hall.

Quickly, they enter, Treen and Luna cringing once they spy the human remains. Grant wrenches his shovel. I squeeze my pommel, my soul aching at the loss of human life. Life Scissorface has completely desecrated for his own demented pleasure. I promise you my wrath shall fall upon him and all he commands.

But first. “Grant, look over Edison. Will you?”

“Yep.” Grant crouches beside him, my attention veering from the girls to the door to Edison. “Say he’s gonna revive. I beg you.” My heart can’t suffer more loss.

“That blow to his face. Surprised he’s breathing.” Grant stares at the long gash spanning from Edison’s eye to his jaw. “Infection’s gonna set in if it hasn’t already. All we can do is ditch this hell hole and bring him to a hospital.”

Not exactly what I wanted to hear. It’ll have to do.

“Here, let me.” Grant approaches a girl, Edina I think is her name. He removes his shirt and offers it to her, upping his compassion in my book.

She recoils.

“Hey, hey. Not here to harm you.” He says.

She hesitantly takes the shirt and drapes it over herself. “You don’t understand.” She shivers, clinging to the other girls. “He’s gonna murder millions.”

“How? When?” I narrow my eyes.

“Didn’t catch that part. Maybe check the control room?” Edina gestures to the door I still haven’t opened — the door etched with the orochi serpent and the nautical wheel identical to the door that disappeared from the tunnel.

“Let’s go.” Grant guides Edina and another girl while Luna helps the other two and I pick Edison back up.

I enter the hall, shuddering out a breath as his rib digs into my clawed shoulder.

“Allow me to carry him.” Grant says.

“No. It’s my fault he’s here.” And it’s my duty to usher him to safety.

We make our way to that nautical door. It vibrates with a heavy beat. Techno music, it reverberates from inside, loudening when three beasts burst out. The door closes behind them.

They advance. My shelter girls screech huddling to the floor where I also lower Edison. I turn, slitting a beast’s throat.

Grant clobbers another beast while Luna and Treen thwack the third beast and I spear it’s chest. Revolving on my heels, I return Edison over my shoulder, sheathe my katana and grasp that nautical wheel. It won’t budge more than an inch same as the last time I tried in the tunnel. Then I remember the coin. The one from the dirty cop. I nab it from inside my bra and press its orochi serpent to the image on the door. The wheel turns on its own and I elbow the door open, leading everyone inside the room.

It’s like I’m stepping back into the tunnels. That ear-splitting electronic music, booms round the blank room. Blank other than a large digital screen spanning across the wall. It displays a map of a continent-sized island jammed together against other islands. A mass of water surrounds them. The islands, unnamed and mushed together, are impossible to understand. What is this place? Hard to tell. Three red dots blink, indicating, I’m guessing, the positions of the freighter we are on as well as the two other freighters. Which one is ours? Difficult to say. The ships lay all within a mile of each other with two a tad closer together. What frightens me most is this dotted-line arcing from one boat to one island and another boat to another island as if an attack is being planned. If I only could make sense of this map. Figure out where these islands are located in relation to the rest of the world. If this is even our world. Perhaps the dotted lines indicate the freighters’ final destination. My gut says differently. Says, the lines have something to do with Scissorface’s murder plan. Whatever that is. I won’t waste time chasing wild rabbits when our Moles are dying by the handfuls and Edison’s barely alive.

Think, Cat. Find a way off this boat. Edison would have the answer. I hold my head to his skin, absorbing whatever inspiration I can from him while I inhale a long Ashtanga Yoga breath.

“Ommmmm.” I exhale then tap the screen. My fingers go through, disappearing into the mirror like they did in the maze of mirrors. Poof as if Scissorface used his Penn and Teller magic tricks to transport us here whatever time here is. Maybe the past. Maybe the present. Maybe a different dimension.

“Whoa.” Treen says as she gawks at my disappeared fingers.

A few others also insert their hands through the screen as I pull mine out.

“Betcha anything this screen leads to the tunnels.” Question is, how do I alert the Moles without alarming the Beasts? That’s it! The whistle. The one Sawface used earlier. Made the beasts go into that catatonic trance for over ten minutes. Definitely long enough for us to escape. “Pitch in everyone. Look for a whistle.”

“Yep. There’s a whistle in here.” Edina says. “I heard it.”

“Perfect.” I gently prop Edison against the wall, brushing a tender kiss to his brow. His skin suddenly appears paler than earlier as if he’s losing oxygen. Means we gotta find this whistle, pronto. “Check everything.”

Luna and Treen examine one side of the room while Grant and I examine the other. I frantically sweep each metal floor tile. Each steel wall plate, noticing far beneath the screen a red button. Dumb, even has the word whistle typed on it. Seems too easy like it’s another of Scissorface’s traps. If so, I’m taking the bait. Got no other choice.

I press the button. A shrill whistle lets loose.

“Stay here,” I motion my shelter girls beside Edison then usher Treen and Luna to the door. “Guard them. If we’re not back in five minutes take everyone through the screen.”

I hasten down the hall and up the ladder. Grant trailing at my heels, I reach the deck the second the canons restart.

Beasts, from every position on the ship, stare at the fog like unflinching robots while I yell at the Moles. “Come! Now!”

Moles, over a hundred, dash in our direction while the other hundred lay atop the deck, their bodies half-gutted and half-eaten. Wish I could bring them with us; give them a proper burial. Can’t. A memorial later will have to do.

A canon ball blasts into the hull. The ship creaks forward flinging a ton of beasts off the ship. Dozens of Moles descend the ladder while another cannon ball strikes a mast, detonating one of the smoke stacks. Ash and flaming particles shuttle toward Grant and I. We spring to the ship’s stern. Water, sloshing over the front deck, scoops up beasts and spits them in the sea as Grant follows the last Moles down the ladder. I scan the hazy sky. High above, practically hidden behind a cloud, lightning flashes bright enough I spot Scissorface zapping Shin. Shin shouts, shrinking to his rat form. He plummets.

“Shin!” I squint, the fog so thick I hardly see the top of the two other smoke stacks where another cannonball strikes, flinging more debris toward me. I jump toward the ladder.

Scissorface’s voice ehcoes through the fog. “This is only the beginning.”

Beginning of what? Maniac. “Hell’s waiting for you! Take your demon beasts with you.”

He bellows from somewhere. “Commence.”

Beasts burst to life, swarming for me along with a huge wave. It surges over the hull. Tossing more beasts off deck, it grabs at my heels. I dive down the hatch. Landing on all fours, I wade through inches of water, praying Shin will survive. Survive? He’s a spirit. Can’t kill what’s already dead. I trudge after Grant, the water brimming past my ankles. That control room door yards away, my mind brews with doubts. Mainly one doubt, that our departure will cause more harm than good. Screw it, no room for my doubts or anyone else’s. We’re outta here. I match Grant’s pace toward the open nautical door. Something squeaks behind.

Mooj! He hops on my shoulder, skittering up my neck.

“Tiny Buddha, my bad-ass Shin-hero.” I fit-pump his paw. “Can’t thank you enough.”

“My pleasure, Chica…” Mooj seems to chatter in my ear. He burrows in my dreadlocks as I half-swim into the control room. Relieved that Grant, Treen and Luna already took Edison to the other side. I leap through the screen to…

Guns. Sleek guns. Shiny guns. Super taser-guns identical to the guns Squealer’s guards used in that vanished bunker. The guns are settled in the grips of six strapping men who aim at Edison. My Edison. I gulp, my muscles tensing at the sight of him. Comatose on the abandoned platform, he’s flanked by Treen, Luna and Grant. They face the men. Above, on the broken escalator, my Moles congregate. In front of me, they flip on their night goggles. I advance behind them, eyeing the river flowing beneath the platform. It ripples when a train zooshes off overhead, the length of the tunnel rattling my nerves. Nerves that are frayed in their middles from this day’s shitty events. Events I conquered to reach Edison. And now this. The men inch closer him.

“No.” I unsheathe my katana, pushing my way past the Moles who make a path for me.

They lift their shovels, tailing me down the escalator, one stair at a time. I glare at the men thumbing their guns pointed straight at Edison.

Grant growls. Mooj squeals. I roar, racing around Edison. I press my katana at one man’s jugular. “You shoot. You die.” I shove my chest against his gun. “Go ahead. Kill me instead.” I’ll take the super-taser-bullet for Edison.

The other men look from me to the Moles to someone walking at their rear.

A man, attired in a tuxedo and tie, steps under an archway — separating the platform from the main tunnel — his features partially hidden by a belly-length beard.

“Catrina Conseulo.” Beard-man strides on the edge of the platform, his attention swiveling from the river to me. “We need to talk.”

All this to talk? Why?

Something snarls. Behind me. I glance over my shoulder. Edison. He seizures. His entire body shaking, his eyes juddering as foam spills from his open mouth.

“Holy shit. What’s going on?” I dart to his side, frantically grasping for his hands that grow paler and paler as his nails grow longer and longer. “Someone. Please. Help!”

“Outta my way.” Beard-man rushes past his men who keep their guns trained on Edison while beard-man retrieves a syringe from his chest pocket. He thrusts it into Edison’s thigh. Edison stills, his skin regaining color and his nails retracting.

“This is what we need to talk about.” Beard-man peers at my mauled arm, my clawed shoulders. He scans the maimed Moles. “Bloody hell. Worse than we thought. Lower your weapons.” He barks to his peeps. “Men. Asap! Bring reinforcements. And keep it quiet.” They press their I-watches, chatting into them in hushed tones. “Listen Catrina. We watch things. Things most people are unaware of. We know about the sex-traffickers. About your vendetta against them. About your long list of homicides. About the hours you volunteer at that young woman’s shelter. Even searched tunnel number three where we saw you enter. Found nothing. Not you. Not your Moles. Yet you disappeared there and reappeared here covered in wounds and reeking of death. Mind explaining?”

“Can’t answer that.” And that’s the truth. I don’t understand how I traveled through those mirrors. Mirrors this man somehow didn’t find. Why not? Did the mirrors vanish like we did?

“Leave that question. Start here instead.” Beard-man reaches in his chest pocket and retrieves a photo. “Give me any information you have about this man.”

He holds up a picture of…Mr. Morikawa? My Dramatic Arts teacher?

“What’s my teacher have to do with this?”

“Some teacher.” Beard-man snorts. “Calls himself Scissorface.”

“Scissorface?” Think my jaw’s dropped. Someone close it for me or repeat what he said. Scissorface. The evil pale beast we just fled? That Scissorface? Aka Hideki Tojo aka Mr. Morikawa? Sheesh, how many aliases does that monster have?  

“Seems you’re confused.”

More like unbelievably horrified.

Beard-man sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. “Guessing a girl like you won’t take no for an answer. Although I’ll say this, it’s way safer if you know nothing.”

“I’ll decide what’s safe.” I bare my teeth. “Tell me.”

“Have it your way. Here’s the grit, Catrina. Scissorface unleashed a highly contagious hybrid rabies virus. So far we’ve kept the virus controlled. Contained from the public. Secured it in our lab where our scientists have dubbed it reptilian mutation or RM. And from the looks of your bites, you and your friends have been infected.”

Infected? Let me get this straight. Those beasts on the Izumo freighter had the RM virus? Creeptastic. “So what? We’re gonna turn into pale beasts?”

“Not if you do what we say.”

Do what exactly? Trust some weird beard-man I just met? I dunno.

He rises. “Suggest you and your friends heed my orders or forty-eight hours from now you’ll be morphing into human-hunting Raptorexes. Then we’ll have no choice but to put you down.”

Grant mumbles. “Might wanna listen, Cat.”

I gawk Grant’s way. “Why you suddenly believing him? You know this cop or whoever he is?”

“Nah. It ain’t like dat.”

“Grant’s right.” Treen adds. “Dis guy helped Edison.”

Still doesn’t prove his intentions are good. “You want us to heed your orders? Clue us in to your identity. Into your intentions.”

“That’s top-secret stuff, dear.”

“Go dear yourself.” I bounce to my toes, raising my katana. Mooj crawls from my dreadlocks, hops atop Edison then sniffs the man’s boots. Yeah, you and me tiny Shin-Buddha, we both smell his skeezy vibes.

Grant touches my wrist. “Be smart about this, Cat. You heard what will happen to us.”

“Have to agree.” Treen says.

Luna nods beside her. Even my girl Edina and a few other Moles walk past me and follow Beard-man and his men. He leads them under that archway.

“Fine.” I return my katana to my obi hip sash then lug Edison over my shoulder and trail behind the other Moles as fifteen vans suddenly appear outta nowhere. They skid to a halt in the main tunnel that we approach. “We’ll get the necessary medical treatment or whatever it is you’re gonna to do to us. After that, me and my Moles, we are out.”

“Oh I guarantee, you will be out.” He points us to the van doors as they open. “You’re officially quarantined. Everything that happens at our lab, you will never remember. You will simply continue your normal life.”

Normal life, huh? Doubt anything will be normal again. Not that it was normal before. Normal was never my thang anyway. I shuffle into the van after Treen, Luna, Edina and Grant. Mooj scampers in and pounces into my dreadlocks as I position Edison in the back and buckle him in. I take the seat beside him.

“Count yourself lucky.” Beard-man says.

Good-lucky or bad-lucky?

Beard-man peers past Grant to me. “Welcome to the Reich.”

The Reich? What’s that?

The door shuts in tandem with another privacy partition blocking us from the driver. I consider breaking out my katana and bashing the doors in. And morph into a Raptorex? No thanks. Rather take my chances with whatever they’re gonna do to us.

A thick mist sprays from the vents, drowning my senses. My pulse slowing to a drip, my brain fades.

 

***

 

I wake cold. Freezing cold. My entire body, covered in cold chills, lays on a mattress. A springy mattress. A familiar mattress. A mattress that smells of my favorite cinnamony churros I often eat in my bed. In my studio apartment, the one on the eleventh floor of Marta’s Covenant House. How’d I get here? What happened to me? Don’t have a clue. Guess Beard-man was truthful when he said I wouldn’t remember a thing. I don’t. All I feel is cold, rested and super strong. Like I’ve endurance trained for six weeks straight, bench-pressed a thousand pounds and hiked eight-hundred miles over mountains, through swamps and across rivers. Seriously, I’m a power-house rearing to go.

I flip my eyelids up to the purple orchids Master Hiroyoshi gifted me before his demise. Sitting on my bedside table in a black and white planter, four more buds have sprouted on the stems since I last saw my orchids. Now ready to open any moment, the delicate petals offer some cheer to the white walls plastered with photos. Three dozen photos to be exact, each one displaying a sex-trafficker I’ve slayed. Villains whose hideous mugs remind me each day why I became a Chica-ninja warrioress — mostly to avenge Selah. Also to rescue girls. Girls Marta takes in and I empower. I teach them to fight. To defend each other. To avoid pricks like the ones in these photos. Call me cray, cray, I enjoy smirking at these traffickers. At their hilarious death-grimaces. Mooj does also. He chatters in his box beside my bed, his rat fur shining when the sun sneaks through a small window on my right. On my other-side, someone groans. I turn over to...

Edison? Edison! His warm breath strokes my cheek, his rippled chest moving up and down beneath this black spandex full-body jumpsuit. His brown face, no longer shattered, retains one thin scar down the side of it. Not sure what they did to heal him or how he came to be in my bed. But dude, I’m totally digging his presence. His gorgeous physique, a masterpiece of male perfection. The whole package. Compassionate. Genuine. Suited exactly for me. With his genius level intelligence and his tender nature, he unearths emotions I never thought possible. Never thought I’d brave the vulnerabilities he evokes in me. Vulnerabilities I sometimes wanna wish away. Cause it’s scary as hell allowing someone into your heart when you’ve suffered how I have.

Yet here he is. A guy I want. In a raw, take my clothes off and bang me now sort-a way. Or a slow-sensuous sweep me off my feet way. I have the intense desire to skim my fingers across those flame tattoos etching his temples. Rub that steel rod in his brow. Push those mussed uncut locks of his black mohawk back into place. Course I don’t. Don’t wanna wake him. He looks too peaceful. And I’m too cold.

I scoot off the bed and pad the few feet into the closet-sized bathroom. Weird though, my katana and Edison’s ax are leaned against the sink. Who put them here? Probably whoever brought him and I to my apartment. Probably Beard-man or his men. Don’t you agree? He promised we’d return to normal life. And here I am. Back to normal.

Means I should start my daily routine. Clean myself up. Do some yoga. Pop into see my shelter girls. Stop by school for a few hours, pray I haven’t missed any grade-impacting exams while I pick up my homework, try to dig up dirt on Mr. Morikawa before I head to the tunnels and check on my Moles. Seem like a lot? Well, it is. I’m no slouch. This girl never sits still. I lay my katana and Edison’s ax atop the sink then flick the shower on and remove whatever this weird stretchy spandex glove-fitting gown is — maybe some gown from Beard-man’s secret lab. Or a new type of hospital gown. Either way, it’s scratchy and I’m so glad to have it off me. I hop in the tub, closing the curtain. Water pats my back along with something else. A hand. I almost scream.

Someone chuckles. I peek around the curtain.

Edison grins.

“Goofball. Nearly made me jump outta my skin.”

“Hey, can’t a guy mess with his girl.”

“Your girl? Huh?” I scoop up a handful of water and spill it over his head.

Water rolls down his torso and plops on my green bathmat.

“That sense of humor.” He chuckles harder.  “Homeslice. You’ve been on my mind since day one. Since the moment we kissed. Only reason I stayed alive on that ship is cause of you.” He slides his palm over mine, his warmth thawing my frigid flesh. His brows furrow, his expression grimming. “Pains me how many disgusting guys have mistreated you. You never deserved any of it. Never lost your funny either. Or gave up on me. The lengths you went to save me from those beasts. Don’t know how you did it. Or how I got here. But I’m taking it as a sign. Fate’s brought us together, Cat. Gimme a chance to show you how grateful I am.”

He prods off his jumpsuit. It drops beside my gown as I open the curtain, exposing my body to him.

“Damn, the things you do to me, Homeslice.” He sweeps his gaze down the length of me, his boner twitching in mid-air. “Wildest beauty I ever saw. Say I can join you.”

I nod silently, gulping when he climbs over the tub’s edge. Gulping when he kisses a water bead off my shoulder. Gulping as if this is my first time. In a way it is. Given every other guy had horrible intentions, this tryst is already unbelievable like getting your cake and eating it too.

He closes the curtain, sealing us from the outside world. From the daily routines I know will be there long after he and I finish. He traces a heart on my spine, sending a sizzling tingle to my belly.

“Let me be the guy to care for you.”

What can I say. My birth-control is up to date thanks to Marta who often states, “Better to be safe than sorry.”

Sorry? I’m definitely not sorry being here with Edison. A girl’s gotta right to get her guy soaking wet. Under the shower, we splash each other. Soap each other up with my vanilla-Frappuccino body wash then throw soap suds. Some drops on my nose. More I smear across his chin

“Wanna play it that way, do ya?” He balls up a huge wad of soap and spreads it over my dreadlocks.

I laugh so hard I snort.

He laughs too, grabbing a palmful of water he douses me. I douse him in return, our joyous-erotic game continuing until he clasps my waist. He sways with me, dancing with me like we danced on those escalator stairs. Slow and sultry. A moment I’ll always remember. A moment I first realized this guy was special, meant for me. Meant to banish my darkness with his kind-hearted sexy ways. He melds his mouth to mine. I part my lips. Darting my tongue in, I tease his tongue then tangle with his tongue. Hastily. Hungrily. Those soapy coffee scents swirling in my nose, his hands slip down my back to my bottom. We explore each other like we’d explore a treasure map. Treasures I milk in my palm. Treasures I lead his fingers to. Treasures he caresses til he ignites a fire in me. A fire only his body can quench. He lifts me; presses me against the wall. I wrap my legs round his hips drawing his flame into my wonderland. A sexy-beautiful paradise for him and I to share.

“I love you,” he says.

A phrase I’ve wanted to hear since I was a child. After all the trauma I’ve endured, love is the last thing I ever expected to have. A true blessing I don’t take for granted.

“Really, Cat. I love you.”

I try to say it too. My throat squashes the words. I think them instead.

I love you, Edison. It’s true. Those three sweet words, spoken by the guy who’s literally stitched my spirit back together, sets our speed. We rock to the rhythm of the water that pours over our bodies. Cleanses our wounds. Carries us to each other. We bounce quicker, his passion unfolding the lotus blossom blooming between my legs.

He captures a part of my soul. A part I see in his chestnut eyes. Eyes I am amazingly unafraid of. Eyes I trust enough in our most intimate moment. I look into his eyes which is entirely unfathomable considering my many other sexual encounters involved me mutely staring at the ground or at the wall, screaming inside as I endured assault. Abuse. Agony followed by sadness and self-loathing. None of which I’m experiencing with Edison, an incredible feat. Someone pinch me. For the first time in my eighteen years, I feel alive. Feel like a true person. A person worthy of being loved and loving in return. This is my real. Just Edison and I. My gaze fixed on his, his hands interlocked with mine, his tongue swirling with mine. We increase our pace, our bodies colliding, our pulses beating as one; a love song freeing the chains from around my heart. I squeeze my heels to his backside, skyrocketing to my summit as he hammers after. My drenched dreadlocks slapping his chest, he braces his hands against the wall. He groans. His hot oil, filling my lamp, burns so brightly I melt in his embrace.

Please. Let this moment last forever.

Something crashes outside the bathroom. I tense, climbing off Edison. He whips around as hissing reverberates. Closer and closer, a scurrying sound follows, mimicking the clicking of rat nails. Mooj! I reach around Edison

Clutching my katana from off the sink, I swivel to the front of him.

“Cat. No!” He grabs my arm.

“Lay off.” I say “I’m better at this.”

He frowns, his shoulders suddenly sagging. “Way to bust my ego. Bad enough I couldn’t protect my girl on the ship. Now you want me to stand by while my girl heads into danger.”

“Come on, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Go. Just go.”

“Fine.” I’ll talk to him later. “Your ax is on the sink.” I spring from the shower and stalk out of the bathroom. A pale Raptorex looms in my bedroom. Ten others lurk behind.

Watch me kill. Kill five beasts. Kill three more. Kill with nothing on but my own sweat slicked flesh. Leaping upward, I slam my blade down the length of a beast, my katana as vicious as Dylan Thomas’ poem — My hero bares his nerves!

I rip my blade from a pallid gut then circle the next two Raptorexes. They snarl, swatting their claws at me. Edison charges at one and axes his head open while I chop down the last beast. I dash for my main apartment door. It’s locked, completely undisturbed. I bolt for my bedroom window, scanning the Covenant House’s ten brick floors beneath us and the street below where taxis stand bumper to bumper beeping in the crammed intersection. Nothing abnormal about that. Typical day in NYC other than the twelve Raptorexes who just ransacked my apartment. Weird. It’s as if they appeared outta nowhere and targeted only us. If so, how’d they know I was here? How’d they get here? I scan the room and corpses once more, the sun, shimmering through my window, brightens Edison at my side and Mooj scurrying across the floor toward a small black cube.

I pick it up, inspecting its metal sides. It suddenly spins upward, casting light over the person who beams out — a long-haired man, wearing the same black spandex jumpsuit Edison wore. He floats near the window.

“Welcome to the Human Reich.” The man hovers toward me while Edison covers my lady-bits with his hand and Mooj bats the man, his paw going right through his pixelated body. The man’s voice peters in and out. “Build your mole army and wait for our signal. The dawn of the Raptorexes approaches.”

A shriek sounds behind the man. A skeletal shadow materializes after. Slithering closer the man, it suddenly disappears along with him.

Odd. I flip the cube front to back; top to bottom.

“Interesting techno-gadget. Here. Let me check something.” Edison grasps it, inspecting it.

It disintegrates in his palm, the dust particles drifting to the floor while all around us the Raptorex corpses vanish. Way odder!

“Got a bag?” Edison asks. “Need to study these particles.”

“Sure.” I head for the kitchenette behind us as he continues talking.

“Positive I can replicate this cube if I can determine its chemical properties and its mathematical composition.”

Hah. Total geek speak. Sorta sexy too. I hand him the ziplock.

He pushes the particles into the bag then closes it. “Trouble is I might have difficulties outputting any recorded data into virtual reality. It’s decades beyond us. Almost otherworldly like those beasts. What did the man call them?”

“Raptorexes.” I sit on the edge of my bed. “Eddi, we have something to discuss.”

He joins me. “Things are about to get dicey again. Aren’t they, Cat?”

“Hold that thought.” I press my finger to his full moist lips. “Listen, if we’re gonna train your Moles and recruit new soldiers you have to understand something. I don’t need a protector. I need a lover. A partner. That’s where you come in. You have the brains that I could never replace with my brawn. Your talents are just as important as mine are if not more.”

“I respect dat. Respect you.” He slides his hand up the inside of my thigh. “I got your back in every way you need.”

He kisses down the length of my neck, my skin blazing under his lips. “We should —”

“No. Don’t walk out that door just yet, Homeslice. Not every day a girl like you falls for a guy like me. If things are gonna go to hell again, then I don’t want to waste our moments. Give us a bit more time.”

He cups my boobs. Dipping his head, he molds his mouth round a nipple then nibbles the other sucking it till my stomach spasms. I drag my nails across his bicep. His fingers, moving between my legs, find that lotus blossom and massage it to life.

I cry out, not stopping Edison. Or stopping myself from surrendering to his touches. Soft touches. Slow touches. Touches that seek to please.

“Touch me here.”

He touches me exactly where I guide his hand, knowing exactly how long his touches should last. How deep his touches should go. How fast his touches should move. His touches unlock my body, sending me soaring to my second heaven as he soothes the pieces of my broken heart. I invite him into my sheets. Into my life. Together we can ride out anything.


© Copyright 2018 Joy Shaw. All rights reserved.

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