Running Shoo – Episode 100!

I’m a girl made for running but I’ll admit it’s hard with a full pack and weapons.

I’m still not used to weapons. They’re tools for standing and fighting, slowly advancing, marching maybe, not sprinting down a slope towards a community of really rather nice doomsday cultists, but I manage it. I’m motivated and, anyway, running feels right to me. Even laden, I think I could do it forever.

I have the spear down by my side, stabbing the air with each swing of my arm. A prelude of what’s to come.

Because someone’s getting a stabbing, you better believe it.

I’m going to start with Sister Quashelle, obviously. That lying bitch is getting scribbled out with my ridiculously sharp spear. I’m going to start at her toes and zigzag up. She’s getting turned into an accordion.

Then, I’m going to keep stabbing people until I can walk away with Nom.

I knew these people were dodgy. They were too nice. Too kind and helpful. Too eager to feed us up and create for us an environment no-one would want to leave. I ruddy knew it. I bet you knew it too, didn’t you? It was obvious. There signs were all there.

You could have warned me.

Today, my anger is strange. It seems to have reached a plateau of fact. I’m enraged, yes, but because I know I somehow have permission to do terrible things, it’s not one of those leg shaky, brain fog, verge-of-tears rages. Instead, it’s levelled off and holds me there like magnets under a monorail. I’m going to glide up to the cultists and then through them until I find Nom. I hope my monorail has windscreen wipers.

I take the turn between the large boulders and pound my way down the path.

Not far now.

Over the last week in the community, there’s been this little blue bald bloke who has given me three apples every day. A simple act of kindness. One for me, two for Nom. We’d exchange nonsense pleasantries about how we’re feeling today and be on our way. It was nice.

He’s about middle aged, I’d guess, has a pot belly, lots of laughter lines and a goatee beard. His name is Greff. It was all inane but enriching. Like, pointless yet kind of soul-restoring, you know? I can’t remember my dad, but Greff reminds me of him. Does that make sense?

Anyway, Greff is on the path in front of me.

He’s clutching a large dagger but holds up his empty hand. He has pudgy fingers.

“Shoo, please stop,” he says with concern. “We must talk.”

I run through him.

I’ve mentioned before how much bigger I am than these people. Well, imagine you are heavily laden and are sprinting as fast as you can, really really fast, like at full speed, and a toddler blocks your path. A tall toddler, yes, but a toddler, nonetheless. Now imagine you put a shoulder down and don’t stop. It goes a lot like that.

The impact carries him along for a bit and a few of my pounding knees land with crunches to his middle bits, then he’s gone, toppled away to the side somewhere.

Greff has two other people with him that I remember from the community with fondness. There’s a dumpy housewife who I never properly interacted with, but always exchanged a pleasant smile with in passing. I jump and kick her in the face. I think her name is Brenda. And then there’s a taller, surlier youth. Surly for these people means giving only half a smile in greeting. I can’t remember his name but as I land from booting Brenda, who might be his mum, I use my weight and momentum to club him in the ear with the thick shaft of my spear. I club him all the way to the ground from standing.

And then the path is clear, and I am running, relentlessly.

I tell you, it’s amazing what anger gives you permission to do. Righteous anger too, because I’m protecting someone. The gloves are off. Then the gloves are filled with ball bearings, plated with steel, have spikes attached and put right back on again. It’s kind of liberating. At the back of my mind, I am aware that I may feel bad about this later.

Ahead, I see the high walls of the community.

I’m coming, Nom!

But the gates are closed.

That must have taken some ruddy effort. They’d been open so long a small tree was growing under one. They must have been waiting for me to leave, ready to leap into action. Bunch of bastards.

I use the weight of my run to boot the gates with everything I’ve got.

And I hurt my foot. They don’t budge.

Some heads appear along the top of the walls. One of them belongs to Quashelle.

“Shoo, you must not interfere,” she says with her standard kindly voice infused with genuineness. “Indeed, you cannot.”

“Oh yeah? Watch this,” I say and swing Queenie my wonderful black crossbow around from over my shoulder. I pull her string back, notch an arrow and point her at Quashelle. “Let me in.”

“Child, you will not shoot me,” she says, gently chiding.

I shoot her.

Well, I try to. The arrow punches through the stone of the wall to her left and one of the heads next to her disappears backwards with a cry. Oops. That’s bad. Those arrows, tipped with spaceship metal from Ash End, are just as sharp as my spear. They’ll go through anything and keep going. They might accidentally hit Nom. I curse, sling Queenie back over my shoulder and grab my spear.

“Let me in,” I say.

No-one answers, so I start slashing at the door.

My spear cuts through the wood and metal with very little resistance, like cutting into putty. I love my spear. I should name it. These doors are thick though, at least a foot and a half, so I start angling my cuts. A diagonal upwards, a diagonal downwards, another upwards in the same spot.

A wedge of door slides out and thuds to the floor.

Yes! At this rate I’ll be through in a minute.

Maybe I should go for the hinges.

An arrow lands in my thigh with a noise like this:

Thonk!

It really hurts. Like really hurts. It’s not pain, it’s as if there’s a whole other unhappy world of me in a small spot two thirds of the way up my thigh. I’ve never felt anything like it.

I return to slicing at the hinge-area of the doors. Well, I slice at where I think they are at any rate, as I can’t see them. What were the hinges like? Just two? Or was it one long hinge? Annoyingly, I can’t remember. I keep slicing.

The other me in my leg becomes a different kind of unhappy. From the initial deep, sharp pain, it becomes a thick, frying kind of a sensation. Sort of like when you’ve touched something really hot, and you get this unbelievable pain, and you jerk your hand away. Though I can’t jerk my leg away. I look down. Around where the arrow is sticking out, there’s a green vapour rising.

I shrug, it’s happening to the other Shoo in my leg, she can deal with it.

I turn to the gate and heave the spear back like it was an axe.

“What you’re experiencing, Shoo,” Sister Quashelle’s voice comes from above. “Are the effects of the sap from the Melthorn bramble. A common plant in these parts with a common remedy which you will find in town. I don’t know how long you have before it liquifies your leg all the way through. I would say not long.”

Coldly, I regard the hissing, smoking wound and imagining it widening, deepening and eating all the way through. Crap. I don’t think I could survive with one leg. Or if I did, I wouldn’t be much use to Nom.

Ruddy woman has got me.

Double crap.

Have to do something about this.

I look up at Quashelle and call her all the worst things I can think of. I seem to spit a lot as I say it. It’s a lot of swearwords in one place. Someone next to Quashelle gasps.

Then, with one last glower and a rude gesture upwards, I limp away.

*

By the time I get back to town, the little Shoo in my leg has gotten bigger.

Halfway back, the arrow fell out. Its tip deformed and dripping. In an effort to slow the effects of the sap, I crammed a handful of dirt into the wound. Luckily, little Shoo couldn’t feel the pain over the sound of me screaming.

It stopped the smoking for a bit though and I kept going. At one point I think I saw that rectangular ship hum overhead, but it wasn’t important. Moving forward was.

The pain that little Shoo was feeling was remarkable. It flashed up and down her leg. She could even feel it in her shoulder. I was very glad she was dealing with that and not me. I kept going, though I was snotting and crying.

Now, as I approach the town, I’m dragging my leg behind me and using my spear as a crutch. The guard who Nom and I met on our first day here, can’t remember his name, rushes over and helps me towards the woven domed building that contains the market.

Little blue people come running. They collect me and between them carry me over to a stall. The owner swipes all of their goods off and onto the floor without any hesitation. I hear some smash. Bless these people.

A blue lady turns up with two jars.

“I’m going to have to clean the wound out,” she says. “You were right to use soil to delay the melt, but if I don’t clear it out, you’ll get blood poisoning.”

I nod, “hurry up,” I say. “I’ve got somewhere to be.”

She takes a wad of cloth, dips it in a jar, hesitates for a second and then crams it into the wound, now the size of a baby’s fist, and twists it around.

Little Shoo in my leg merges with big Shoo, that’s me.

I do something so loud with my voice that my voice actually hurts.

*

I must have blacked out briefly.

When I come to, I’m still on the table.

My leg is massively bandaged.

“We got it in time,” the woman says, relieved and wiping her brow with her forearm. Her hands are bloody. “We’ve saved your leg.”

“Thank you so much,” I say and swing myself around from the table. I don’t know how to describe the pain. It’s not little Shoo experiencing it anymore either. It’s like a whole pain planet shrunk down and inserted into my thigh.

“What are you doing?” the woman says in alarm. “You can’t move!”

I look around for my spear, it’s nearby. I grab it and use it like a staff. I’m not fast, but I’m mobile. I’m not dignified either. I’m crying again. Quashelle, I’m coming for you.

Though she’ll just shoot me again.

Hmmm.

“Does anyone here,” I croak at the assembled blue people.  “Sell shields?”

*

In the street, with a shield clattering around on my back over Queenie, I’m moving at an extremely fast pace, blinding speed really, if I was a snail.

A crowd of blue folk are following me, chattering about something. That rectangular ship cruises overhead, really low now, stops and hovers. It’s still not important. I sob and chuckle and mutter and swear, I have a trail of spittle swinging under my chin. It’s okay, I’ve got the hang of it, I have a method.

My system is this:

  1. Brace with spear.
  2. Step with good foot.
  3. Put spear where the foot on the bad leg would go.
  4. Brace.
  5. Swing bad leg forwards
  6. Scream, swear, cry, dribble, try not to black out.
  7. Repeat as required.

Hold on, Nom! I’m coming!

You too, Quashelle. I’ve got a pointy present for you, oh yes, I have.

Behind me, there’s a huge thump. It sounds exactly like what you might expect to hear if someone very large jumped out of some annoyingly familiar rectangular craft. The impact of them landing is so deep and heavy that I can feel it in my feet and up into my leg so that my wound hurts.

“Oi, back there!” I shout over my shoulder. “No jiggling!”

And I giggle.

Back there, people are screaming.

“What is that thing?” Someone cries in a fading voice as if they were getting further away. “Run!”

I take another step forward.

Hold on, Nom. I won’t be long.

Well, maybe a bit long.

Maybe I should get, like, some kind of cart or something.

“Hello, my little lickable,” says a deep, rich and horribly familiar voice from behind me. “You were hard to find.”

Under my clothes, in the pouch strapped to my middle, the thing that I forgot I had, the strange, unidentifiable thing that begun this whole process, the thing that started me running, twitches like it’s alarmed.

That voice.

Oh, my days, that voice!

It actually stops me.

I hobble around in a circle and confirm what I already know.

He’s still in his massive, burly form, I think it must be his natural one. He’s vast, muscled, covered in short black fur with a grinning doggish muzzle and has laughing eyes. He’s wearing boots, formal maroon trousers, a stained green shirt and a black waistcoat. Frizzles of white hair stick out at all angles from his head.

I’m a giant to the locals. He’s a giant to me. I don’t know what that makes him to them.

“Monster!” someone screams in the distance.

Oh. Yeah, that’d be it.

The locals of Gold Under Shadow have fled into their odd woven buildings. The buildings that all have taut cables which run up to the dark tower of the spaceship jutting out from the hill. I can hear crashes and clanks of activity.

Then, one by one, with huge twangs, each building is released from the floor and hauled up into the air. Very soon they’re all dangling safely out of the way a hundred feet up.

“Oh,” I say woozily. “That’s what the cables are for.”

The world wobbles, turns inside out. My eyes roll up in my head.

And I fall into the arms of August Florend.

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