White flakes slowly fluttered down from the sky, as if challenging butterfly wings for grace upon their descent. One might think they were the telltale signs of a first tranquil snowfall, were it not for the intense heat in the air and the acrid black smoke choking the light out of the sky, putting out the eye of the rising sun. The pieces of debris slowly rained down upon a figure doubled-over on the ground, her chocolate skin coated in a thin layer of grey and white ash that stuck to the blood and sweat, marring her clothes and flesh.
Her eyes were shut tightly, and forcibly so, yet the well of water behind them seemed to force its way through, squeezing out in shear defiance of the eyelids trying desperately to hold them back. The slow stream of tears ran down her nose, to the outer curve of her nostril, before plunging with a soft sound onto the ground. For a few minutes it was the only sound she heard, and it was welcomed compared to the sounds of metal screaming, people wailing, and a certain creature bellowing as it belched an inferno that shot the lives out of all it touched. She breathed in deep, then held back a cough in response to the sudden rushing-in of cinders.
She held the back of her hand to her mouth as she fought her body to move, one heavy, pained limb at a time. Like a creature coming out of a long hibernation she rose up, opening her glistening wet eyes once again to the devastation and silence around her. She slung the maimed, empty machine pistol over her shoulder, seeing what was left of the street that was now covered in extinguished fragments of Factor…an overturned ATV with a claw-shredded tire, pot-holes that marked the footfalls of the beast, the half-broken Tyrant’s Head Tavern sign…she started to walk…mortar and slag and brick as far as her eyes could see. One of the liveliest, dankest back alleys of Factor, bustling with all manner of dregs, scoundrels and gamblers, now more soundless than the slow drip of blood casually falling from her fingertips. All of the shattered glass of the building remnants was greyed-out from soot, and from the haze of smoke she could see the rigamortic limbs of the civilians crying out for - she looked away.
“Daisy,” she choked, the words tumbling back into her throat along with the raw taste of the buildings. She kept walking, feeling for the necklace that used to hang around her neck. The spot was bare now, her chest badly scourged. She blinked hard, a flash of memory sparking behind her eyes…
The monster lashed out from it’s horrible fire-frothy maw, the jagged tips of it’s tongue flaying against her chest but for a moment, ripping the fang necklace away along with a portion of skin. Her machine pistol fired it’s last two rounds and clicked spent, as the beast growled, like a mountain vibrating a cruel laugh, ready for a final balled-up charge. But before it could engage, the trapjaw snapped and leapt-
“Ruva!” her desperate voice reached out as if the sound itself was a hand that could prevent what she foresaw would happen next…but she knew as the call rang out that it was hopeless…it would go unanswered.
…The sweat of her skin stung her eyes more-so than the caustic fog. Someplace nearby a small fire was still burning, as she could hear the crackling spit of it in the air. She felt for her outer pants pocket, and could feel the single fang still tucked away within it from the necklace she once wore. She was close now.
Maggie tried to ignore the massacred world around her, and yet she was a part of it…swallowed up by it. Factor had become another kind of monster now, perhaps more brutal in its harrowing death than in its rough life. For the wasteland of human chaff that it was, it was still her home. It tainted her, it wounded her, yet it was still…family, in a wretched, saddening kind of way.
She walked until her ankles became tender from odd-stepping over scorched chunks of uneven ground, until she reached the place she was heading for before exhaustion took her during the night. Through what used to be a small nook of a lop-sided doorway but now was a missing, gutted wall, she paused. A hot wind caressed her back, as if lulling her forward to go inside. She begrudgingly obeyed, and stepped ever so carefully around the seedy little place she used to know as…she closed her eyes and was glad for the ash soaking up her tears.
There was nothing left but charred overturned chairs, some burnt and torn effects, old tarnished pots and pans, the last vestiges of a life that used to be. It was now as lifeless as the corpses strewn about outside. She turned to go. Her foot lightly struck against something stuffed under a threadbare carpet. She bent to pluck it up and slid her hand across the grimy wood of the box, streaking slightly her own blood over it as she revealed a photograph beneath the ash. She couldn’t help but allow her vision once again to become waves of fluid blurring out the faces of the photo…
“Seems a bit silly though, don’t you think?” Maggie smirked to the red-haired girl sitting next to her, her hands working at threading a bead and making a knot in the string in her lap.
“No way,” the girl replied, with a rather animated flick of her hair. “Mags, only you could come up with something this cool. We’re gonna be bad-ass! I don’t even know how you managed to get Blitz fangs.”
“Just luck, I guess.” Maggie responded, with a knowing glance.
Another girl sitting with them fastened on her own handiwork, doing the clasps behind her neck with overly extreme lightness so as not to rake the fangs across her perfectly pale skin. “Ain’t nobody gonna mess with us Trapjaw girls now.”
The red-haired girl struck Maggie on the shoulder and laughed, then raised her hands to her own neck, showcasing the fang necklace she had just finished. She narrowed her eyes seductively, “Am I bad-ass sexy now, or what?”
“Or what,” Maggie said sarcastically, and the others both laughed along with her.
…She touched the lid of the box and lifted it with her thumb. Inside rested the two other Blitz fang necklaces, seemingly untouched by the ruin around them. Her eyes half-closed as she let herself lose balance, her back slamming against a wall, then allowing gravity to slink her down to the floor. She grimaced from the pain and squeezed her eyes shut. Her mouth opened as if in a slow scream, but no sound issued forth from her quaking lungs. The white of her teeth stood out against the murky haze and she gasped for breath, but holding back into herself that sound that she so wanted to tear into the excruciating, persistent silence clawing at her from all sides.
She sat cross-legged with the box in her lap, pushing aside the remains of the butchered building and pulling out of her pocket the single remaining fang from the necklace rent away from her the night before. There she sat, knuckles working against aching joints covered in blood, making the two necklaces one with the single fang she had of her own.
Once she finished it, she slid it up behind her neck stoically, affixing it and staring blankly out in front of her. Her physical injuries she could feel as throbbing pulses beneath her skin, the slightest breeze revealing to her the patches freshly bleeding…but they had no bite compared to the wounds within. The ravaged surroundings appeared as if an old black and white film playing around her on a monumental, planet-wide scale, and she sat there for minutes or hours, putting away her hunger and her soreness…until there appeared a hobbled form out in the smoke.
She blinked, her breath halting mid-inhale, instantly re-aware of her surroundings but moving not. Inside her chest her heart jumped into readiness. She could feel the twinge of her tendons tightening as her pulse quickened…but she let the dust settle in her hair and lightly continue to coat her body, watching the shadow approach. It was too small to be the beast, but too big to be a human. It was moving with a purpose. The rubble cascaded beneath its feet when it staggered along. It hobbled and limped, stopping here and there to…sniff at the ground.
“Ruva?” Maggie whispered, so quietly she didn’t even hear the word herself.
It seemed as if for a brief second of time existence itself froze. Then all in a burst of feeble speed the form in the mist became visible…first the spikes atop its back, and then the toothy grin, beefy chest, and salivating tongue. Maggie moved forward up on her knees to capture Daisy as the massive animal gallumped right into her, the bruised body convulsing in wiggle-spasms despite the obvious afflictions it had suffered. Maggie could do nothing more but hold her arms tightly around the trapjaw’s jowls as Daisy sought out her face to thoroughly lick off every last bit of dirt and sorrow.
But the monster’s blustering roar broke their embrace. It reverberated from afar off and shook the embers in the air. It was yet still able to shake them to their core even from miles away…they could feel it echo into their bones.
“You and me, Daisy. We’re gonna hunt that thing.” She stood up, and the trapjaw went immediately to her side, sat as best she could with a badly twisted leg, and looked up to her, sucking its lolling tongue back into its mouth. When she spoke again it was deeper, her words harder than the trapjaw had ever heard them spoken before.
“It might have killed everyone else, but it didn’t count on us being here. It should have killed us when it had the chance…it won’t get a second one.”