My beloved Enta is a resilient child. So resilient, we once fought off an onslaught of lagramas as they slashed with the nettled strips surrounding their heads, and afterward she drew pictures in the dirt and asked if we could search for danalites, those sparkling clumps of sand.
One time I fought off some grommers, maybe thirty of them, a nasty round of human thugs from the south. They liked to kill for the fun of it, but liked leaving people alive without their limbs even better. In the emptiness of time, they were like most other kipers, and they had us pinned down in the remaining corner of a crumbling stone hut, the grommers trying to flank the little bit of an angle I had to protect us.
I stayed low, shielding Enta with my body, making every precious round of ammo count. I had enough for all of them, but that would be a dear price to pay.
We got lucky when a pack of skazurats showed up and scattered the grommers, letting out their rasping roars. I smelled them before I heard them attack, their fur emitting intense odors of creosote and hersh onions. Thin bodies longer than a man, green and gold scales around their middles, some blue, uncanny quick legs, their razor teeth lined their long, pointed jaws. Their quickness made shooting them very difficult. I calculated the risk of catching one for its heart, the only edible part of the beasts, but not with Enta this close.
“You ready to go?”
Enta nodded, tight lips of determination.
The grommers on the left came into my vision, trying to escape up the hill. I peeked around the edge on the right side where the smarter grommers fled along the base, drawing the skazurats away.
“Follow me up this way.” I pointed right. “Like a cat.”
“Mallo, can we play lolly-loo before bed tonight.”
This is why I love her. “If it’s safe. On my heels.”
I led her up the hill, vigilant of the predators on one side and below, slowing as we reached the crest, a natural habit when you live in hell, unsure of what lurks ahead.
I saw nothing on the plateau, though there were plenty of rock formations to hide things.
“It’s no good, Enta.”
“You said that about Boddyworst, but we still went.” She meant the Bod Eeverset Forest, a quagmire of nasty creatures.
“We had to.” In spite of everything Enta’s seen, there are some creatures too frightening to tell her about.
I scanned the hillside and the plains below. The skazurats dragged their kills back toward the base of the hill near the fallen hut, where they would feast together as is their behavior.
“We’ll go along the the top, and when the ones coming back below are past us, we’ll start down and get onto the plains.”
Enta stuck her bottom lip out, twisting and wriggling. Not a sign of worry, but of little girl contemplation.
“We’re much better off on the plains.” My rifle was the equalizer on the plains. I would see skazurats or most other dangers from far away and pick them off before they reached us.
From the edge of my eye something big moved on the plateau. A quick look showed me a red and black striped porgrent, a massive glob of muscle on four legs and hand-like feet, its head an extension of the huge glob with an enormous mouth stretching back to its shoulders. I’d never seen one in the hills before, and this one was smaller than most, not quite taller than me.
I scooped Enta up under one arm and leaped down the hill, taking long, perilous strides, slipping on stones, not daring to slow down.
As close as the porgrent appeared, there was no doubt it smelled us, and I have no defense against these creatures. My guns are useless. A thousand rounds wouldn’t slow one down.
I adjusted my path a little to intercept the smaller group of shazurats, still dragging grommers toward the rest. Daring a look back, the progrent was over the ridge, descending the hill with a rocking motion between back and front legs.
I slowed a little, timing the collision of creatures, and the shazurats noticed us, one of them turning to chase us. I veered to draw him further toward the hut and give the porgrent a better angle. I couldn’t tumble or I’d risk hurting Enta, so I turned and charged the shazurat at the last second, then jagged away from him.
The porgrent took the shazurat in its jaws mid stride. I kept my momentum down the rest of the hill and burst into a sprint. When I’d spent as much strength as I thought wise, I slowed to a trot, set Enta down, and rested.
From the plain I watched the porgrent turn to avoid the snapping jaws of the shazurats, but they hardly damaged it. It used its front legs to stuff the head and tail of the shazurat in his mouth, then moments later, with the quickness of a bratter snake, it snapped up another one, the shazurat’s legs and tail hanging out the porgrent’s mouth and thrashing about. The porgrent pushed it further in its mouth, and the rest of the group abandoned their grommers to meet up with the other shazurats near the hut.
The porgrent wasn’t finished. It followed them, and though the shazurats slashed him all over with their teeth, the porgrent was unfazed, scoring one more with a quick grab, the pointed mouth sticking out of the porgrent, opening and closing helplessly.
The shazurats fled, and I quickly realized they were coming our direction.
“Enta. Be ready.”
I pulled my rifle from my back. “I may need you to play turret. Can you do that?” I took aim at the leading shazurat and fired.
I took down about seven of them before they got too close, but about a dozen kept coming.
“Here we go.” I grabbed Enta’s arm and lifted her onto my shoulders. I grabbed my smallest gun and handed it to her. “Like I taught you, right?”
“Yes, Mallo.” She held the gun so the barrel was just ahead of my brow.
“Wait for it.” I shot two more before they were in handgun range, then I pulled out my forty-five. “Now, Enta. Shoot the blue ones.”
She fired before I got my first shot off, and a blue one fell. We dropped about ten, but two made it close enough that I had to dodge them, Enta grabbing my head like a vice, the handgrip and hammer digging into my scalp. I shot the first one in the head as the other lunged for my throat. I spun away, and as the gun shot above my head, the creature went down.
I took the gun from Enta and foxtrotted a distance and direction I thought would keep the porgrent from smelling us, ducking behind some baldery bushes. We played lolly-loo in the dirt with rocks and twigs, waiting for the porgrent to finish. It stuffed dead grommer after dead grommer into its mouth, pushing them with its hand-like feet to force it inside.
When the pile made by the shazurats was gone, it scrambled up the hillside with its odd front to back rocking, not slowed by its engorgement, and it crawled over the crest back onto the plateau.
We walked back to the hillside to retrieve the lead from the scattered grommers I’d killed. Enta held the stringed pouch as I dug the bullets out of their bodies.
“Mallo, can I carry the pouch when we’re done?”
She’s very resilient. I dread what she is going through, now captive of the Desiderasha’s children, but I know she’s resilient. By all that is good, by all that is holy, by all that can have any meaning in this emptiness of time, I hope she is resilient.