Wrote this in two hours, no breaks! Now I'm tired. Also, ending is subject to change. I don't like it right now.
A small squad had been sent to get you. Stay still.
That was the message I had received days ago, and though I made sure to never go far from the small house I had fashioned for myself out of an old car, no one came anywhere near. As my stock of food and clean water ran lower each day, it was on the eighth day of waiting that I left with my remaining food and my gun to go hunting.
It was only a few years ago when hunting meant waiting for hours for an animal to cross your path. These days, all you had to do to find prey was go out into the open. Though the animals you would find weren't deer or turkey anymore. And you certainly didn't find them.
When I stepped out of the dense forest land where I lived, I was immediately spotted by a common sort of animal. I had named it a joker, simply because it's wrinkled, gray body with short legs looked comical- if it wasn't attacking you, that is. The beast itself seemed to have been spawned from a mix of big cat DNA and rhino, as if you looked carefully at the bald head of a joker, it resembled a wrinkled cat head. It seemed to also pull traits from something like a rhino, as it's leather skin and tendency to charge lead me to believe.
One of them had me in it's sights, but I was used to their tricks and quickly dashed up a tree. The joker seemed confused by my disappearance, and trudged off in search of something else to eat. I used my time in the tree's branches to my advantage, trying to get a good look-out of the plains below and whatever creatures roamed on it.
I was searching for a herd of blights, a sort of strange two-headed antelope. I right away could see a huge herd of them not far off. Blights were one of the few animals left that were more afraid of humans then humans were of them. They were large with lots of good meat on them, making them ideal prey. However, they moved extremely fast. Besides their usual, faster-then-you-could-run speed, blights also could move so fast, you barely saw them move. They'd suddenly be far away in a blink of an eye. These sudden bursts of speed made them extremely tired and hungry, resulting in a dramatic loss of plants whenever a predator lost a hunt. This quick consummation of plant life resulted in an unbalanced environment, making them more of a problem then any other animal. Not to mention that they bred like rabbits.
I figured it's be best to try to pick off one of the smaller blights from a distance. Even a child could feed me for a few days. The herd was currently grazing, one head watching while the other eat as much as possible. I crawled as close as I could, about ten feet from the target I had in mind. I aimed my shotgun, doing my best to make sure my one shot would be a hit. I knew I had to conserve bullets, as they were hard to come by these days. I was lucky to have a good amount stored away, but every time I missed I wasted a bullet that could have got me dinner another day.
I fired, and was satisfied to see the blight go down. The rest of the herd scattered in every direction, disappearing before my eyes like ghosts. I took the heavy corpse of the blight over my shoulder, and started to drag it back into the forest where my home was.
What was a rather routine trip for me was interrupted quite suddenly, as when I was just entering the cover of the forest, the ground shook. And it shook again. I recognized the source of the quakes, quite unfortunately. It was an animal I didn't see very often, and always hoped to not see again. It staggered on six legs, each one thick as ten trees. It's body was covered in thick scales on it's legs, but above that I could not see. I knew it had a tail though, one that forked off into two points.
The beast was one I called Epic. I had not known anymore of it's kind, it seemed to be one of a kind. I had never seen it eat or drink anything, not like any animal would be enough to fill it's appetite. But whenever Epic came, it brought havoc. Animals of all kinds fled from it, the land itself was shaped by it. Once Epic fell asleep for days, killing an entire forest it had been sleeping on.
I made a run for the shelter of my home, and watched the beast from a distance. I did not dare leave my home until Epic had gone to sleep, for I was afraid I might be stepped on. When night came, I gutted the blight and prepared dinner for myself under the moonlight.
I woke up to the sound of Epic stamping it's feet. Each time it's foot hit the ground, everything shook. I woke myself up, and crawled out to see what had gotten Epic to make so much noise. The answer was what I had been waiting for since I had first arrived in these hostile plains. A helicopter was maneuvering around Epic's head. Inside was no doubt the squad that had been sent to pick me up.
I gathered everything I owned of worth into my only bag and set out, determined to get their attention. They currently were preoccupied with Epic, but I knew they were fighting a losing battle. There was no way a small helicopter could take down a beast such as Epic.
I took out an old lighter and managed to light a branch on fire. I waved it around in the air. It wasn't much for a signal, but I hoped it would be enough for the helicopter to notice me.
I seemed to be in luck. Shortly after lighting the branch, I found myself sitting in the copter, relinquishing in the artificial-ness of it all. I barely remember how long I had been living in the wild.
"You okay? You look like a mess." The pilot said, still hovering near Epic. It was odd to hear someone speak after so long, and I had almost forgotten how to speak myself.
"Yes. I'm... okay. I'm good. I'm fine, really." I said.
"Good to hear. We'll be leaving as soon as Leo and Charles are done taking care of that beast."
"Take care? Epic is too great of a beast for that."
"What? That thing? We have to get rid of monsters like them all the time. They're quite common. I expect they'll be done very soon."
I brought my attention to two figures on top of Epic's snakelike head. It actually saddened me to learn Epic was not one-of-a-kind. It had always seemed like such a noble monster in a way. Like a force of nature. To find it was just another mutant not made be nature depressed me. The two figures, Leo and Charles, seemed to be doing something. Epic reared it's head around, snapping at the air, but the two of them stayed on.
Epic's movements were becoming slower and slower. Eventually it fell to the earth, eyes crossed. The pilot dived down to pick up the two people who had killed it. My first impression was slightly disappointed. Charles had red hair and wore glasses. He looked like an accountant rather then someone capable of bringing down Epic. Leo couldn't have been older then twelve, but he looked even younger with his blond hair and large blue eyes. They both helped themselves to some water before Leo finally spoke up.
"How come you always get to finish them? I want to be the one to kill something for once."
Charles took another sip of water, "I suppose it's my lucky day. You should be glad you don't have to kill things anyways. You don't have a guilty conscience."
"I don't care about that! I don't have a conscience to get guilty. And it's always your lucky day. When will it be my day?"
It was my turn to speak up. There were a few things I didn't understand. "What about killing monsters like that gives you a guilty conscience? They're just pests. Epic caused tons of problems."
"Ah, no, it's not killing part that makes me feel bad. It's how we kill them. They all have such thick skin that we can't shoot them or stab them. We have to poison them through the mouth. It kills them, but the poison seems to grow in it's body as it decays. In a year, this place will have become a barren graveyard." Explained Charles.
"But wait- if these things are common, how much of the Earth have you guys poisoned? We can't just lose jungle like this! There will be nowhere to live but the few cities left." I said, outraged at the loss of so much. I knew this land well, and knew that plenty of resources were going to be lost.
"It serves the monsters right! There won't be anymore land for them to live!" Said Leo, piping up suddenly.
"You have a point, but I'm afraid there's nothing we can do. This is the only way we can keep the cities safe." Charles said.
"There has to be something!" I said.
"Afraid not. We only have what the government gives us, and that's this poison."
Though I was still upset, I had to agree they didn't have much of a choice. I spent the night in a small, cramped bed in the helicopter, but after having slept on the ground for so long, it seemed incredibly comfortable. We arrived in one of the cities the next day, flying over the hundred feet high walls around daybreak. It took all morning to get checked in and registered, but by the end I had been given my own small apartment complete with a bed, bathroom and TV. Though the city was at first overwhelming at first, I was delighted by being safe within it's walls. It was good to feel safe and not have to hunt for breakfast each morning.
Leo and Charles were also in the city for awhile before they got another rescue mission. During their free time however, I spent time with them. I found Charles to actually be an intelligent, and the two of us often debated our opinions. I also spent time with Leo, and found that he really the self-centered child I had mistaken him for. He was older then I had taken him for and also, though not a genius, full of thoughts and ideas. He was a bit pessimistic, a bit of a coward and a bit anti-government. I wasn't used to people like him, so it was always interesting to hear what he had to say.
It had been a few months after I had arrived in the city when Leo and Charles got another job. They actually came and told me at my apartment when they heard the news.
"There's been sightings of some human life around the area where we picked you up. This is an emergency, as they could be very sick from that monster's poison. So we'll be going right away." Said Charles.
"Okay then. When will you be back? Be sure to get in touch when you return." I said. I wasn't very concerned, as this job couldn't be very dangerous. All life there was dead or near dead by now.
"Oh, in a few weeks," Said Leo casually, "But I was wondering if you wanted to tag along. You know the area. If we have to do ground work, you could be useful."
"Ground-work? Isn't everything dead now? You can just see through the dead trees from the air, right?" I asked.
"Well, no. It'll be a bit before everything is fully dead. The animals are probably all dead by now, so we won't have to worry much. But the plants and some of the bigger animals might be alive. We'll also have to wear protective suits because of the poison in the air." Explained Charles, with a bit of a nervous smile on his face. Every thing he added made it seem worse and worse.
I accepted nevertheless, as I would miss Leo if I didn't go. The helicopter once again provided an uncomfortable flight, one that ended above a place that I couldn't believe had once been the plains I used to hunt at. Epic's corpse was still lying on the ground, but it wasn't rotting. Out of it's mouth I could see a yellow haze emerging. It suddenly twitched, and thrashed in place before falling still again.
"Epic's alive!" I exclaimed out loud.
"Yeah, it won't be dead for awhile. At least it won't be moving much." Leo said.
"But what's that haze?" I asked.
"It's the poison. Don't want to breathe it in, it'll mutate you if it doesn't kill you first." Said Charles.
"That doesn't sound like poison to me..." I said. That didn't make sense. Poison should have killed Epic, not make it release a strange haze.
"It... really isn't poison. It's more or less a gene bomb. Like the kind used during Operation Evolution."
Great. So they were killing Epic by bombing it from the inside. Not only that, but the bomb was releasing radiation that was made to infect any living thing with random genes. Gene bombs were basically a time saving way to wage war. You could bomb a city and make life uninhabitable around the city at the same time. Even if they try to rebuild, the wild has become a haven for mutant animals, most of them set on killing anything that crosses their path. Operation Evolution was the name of the program to build gene bombs. The government was delighted with the results of their work, but it wasn't long before everyone had gene bombs. One things led to another and soon all natural animals had been replaced by the mutant animals, too many varieties to count.
I grew angry once again with the killing of the land. But once again, I couldn't argue with Charles. They didn't have anything else left. Still, it saddened me to see Epic wake up every so often, crying out in pain.
After one day of searching from the air, Charles decided we had to search from the ground. We all had to wear somewhat bulky suits with helmets to make sure we didn't breath the infected air. I was put in charge of the ground work, being familiar with the land.
Yet I couldn't be sure if I really did know the land anymore. The plants that were still alive were a sickly shade of yellow and the ones that were dead were standing like white skeletons, arms outstretched. The lakes had all dried up and some of the land had turned into desert.
As the days added up, it became clear that we were getting nowhere. No progress had been made. In fact, there were no signs that anything had ever lived there. When we first arrived, I saw a few animals in the forest. Now the forest was a ghost forest, all the animals dead. The only living thing in sight was Epic, still slowly dying.
It was raining white dust when Charles declared today would be the last day we stayed here. We split up again, each person going a their own way. I went through the dead forest, looking for anything that showed signs of life, when I stumbled upon my old house below a car. The car showed even more signs of decay then when I had left. Feeling slightly nostalgic, I slipped down below into the hole where I had made my home.
Unfortunately, I bumped right into something. It was a decaying body, and at once I was grateful that I was wearing a suit that blocked out smell. It appeared to be a woman, her face was melted partially and her body seemed to have been devoured by some hungry creature. I noticed out of her back were several legs like that of a spider, and I realized she must have been alive when Epic had been killed by the gene bomb. If I had been rescued a bit later, I might have had a chance to meet her. She might have been saved with me, actually.
I figured that she must have been the one we were supposed to rescue, as I told everyone when we grouped up again.
"It's sad we couldn't have found her earlier. Mind you, we probably would have had to put her down. She was infected probably as soon as the haze started spreading." Said Charles.
"Put her down? Why not just treat her?" I said, outraged at the idea of such an inhumane act.
"Even after removing any mutations, it's still in her blood. It could carry into any children she has or if she donates blood... We could end up with a pandemic."
"You could easily prevent problems! You can't just kill someone!" I said angrily.
"Think of it as this, we're just killing another monster animal. It just happens to have a large amount of human DNA. Now let's get going." Said Charles calmly.
"That's monstrous! She was human!" I yelled, "And we're not going anywhere!"
"Quiet! You just won't give up will you? Besides, you agree with me, right Leo?" Said Charles.
I then noticed that Leo was missing. We both did. We put our argument to rest for a moment, both driven to search for Leo. He had left the helicopter, that much we were sure. Charles and I split up soon after stepping back outside. He checked the forest, I looked in the fields. However, as the world suddenly shook beneath my feet, I realized I wouldn't be looking for much longer.
Epic was back on it's feet. I do not know how, but once again it stood high above my head. It let out a strange growling noise as it looked around it's land. Then Epic suddenly drew interest. It lowered itself to the ground and drew close. I was close enough to see it's strange scaled skin was also covered in small rainbow feathers. It looked at me with it's three sets of eyes and once again I was filled with the idea that Epic wasn't a common beast but rather a noble titan, come to examine Earth once more.
"Hey! Guess who's day it is today!" Said an unexpected voice. It was Leo, sitting on top of Epic's large head.
I couldn't help but smile. "I'm going to guess today is Leo's day."
He helped me up on Epic's large head. "Right you are! Today is my day, and tomorrow also has my name on it. All of future belongs to me."
I grinned as I sat on Epic's head. I could see everything from here. I could see fertile land to the north, while the dead land stretched to the south. I could even see the city on the horizon, with it's high walls and cubic skyline. And as I looked out on the ocean, the world seemed a whole lot better.