Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nethologica - Prologue Part 2

Here's the continuation of the prologue. Note that the story will be mainly fantasy, but there are some instances of sci-fi mixed in. I'm very interested in hearing what people think of this story, so please comment and let me know your opinion.


Willow was not cheap with her bullets. She stepped quickly, but lightly, towards the double glass doors that were the entrance to the restaurant. She used the flashlight attachment of her rifle sparingly, relying more on the intermittent night guides left on by the night janitor and the natural lighting from the sky that filtered in through the windows, skylights, and the main entrance.

As she approached the front of the restaurant, her ears noted a rhythmic tapping and scratching sound ahead of her. Squinting her eyes a bit, she noticed a shadow—no, a silhouette, blocking some of the glow that penetrated the glass doors from the street.

She raised her rifle almost entirely on reflex. Resting the butt on her shoulder, she checked her aim briefly before squeezing the trigger. Her finger held the trigger down as her weapon fired two short bursts of bullets that she traced from the body of the rat to its head. The sound of gunfire and rodent screams would have surely awoken any neighbours, but pest control rarely got any complaints.

Willow had already pressed the call button on her vest to report to the captain before she noticed that something was wrong. Bullets were meant to embed themselves in the object that they were fired upon, coupling with the target and causing more damage that way. However, Willow’s shots had gone clean through the rat and the glass doors, giving her an eerie view of the street through the silhouette and body of the rat.

Rodents of unusual size and girth existed as a result of a slight mutation, a slow process of evolution that humankind had, in their error, ignored for the last few centuries. In the extermination industry, there had been stories about some recent mutants encountered. Though usually dismissed as tall tales, people in the industry still made it their business to know everything, even things that seemed too fantastic to be true. Still, as the captain says, truth can be stranger than fiction.

Willow was still holding down the call button when she swore under her breath. The captain, who was still in the kitchen calculating the service tax, tried to respond but Willow’s hand was still gripping the call button, effectively blocking others from communicating. However, Willow recovered quickly from her shock and continued to hold down the button just long enough to fill in the rest of the team, who were now nervously straining their ears to listen.

“Guys, we got a shifter.”

As she spoke, the holes in the silhouette that gave Willow a view of the street, the holes that were gouged by her bullets, began to shrink. The rat turned its long face to look at Willow, uttering a low squeak that started off more as a growl. Carefully, Willow moved her hand from the call button on her vest to the grip of her rifle. Perhaps sensing that more pain was on its way, the rat immediately bolted.

Willow quickly brought her rifle up and pivoted to keep the rat in her sights. She squeezed the trigger repeatedly, pausing only long enough to recover her aim from the recoil. The radio was alive with buzzes, clicks, and chatter, but Willow could not focus enough to understand her teammates with her gun firing rounds in a deafening manner.

She lowered her gun as the rat disappeared from sight. Removing her earpiece, Willow allowed all her senses to absorb her surroundings. She calmed the pace of her heartbeat with a few slow breaths and followed the path laid out by the rat. She could make out the clamour of her teammates in the distant hallways, but ignored their shouts, pushing it away from her attention as she focused her hearing to seek out the tapping and scratching of claws on the tiled floor.

A soft scuffle drew her towards the door leading to one of the restaurant’s private dining rooms. She paused in front of the door, her head turned and tuned to pick up any sign of the rat. A second, more distinct, scurry convinced Willow to move through the door, gun aimed at rat level.

Willow’s trigger finger faltered as she traced the barrel of her rifle upwards, searching for the head of the figure that the shape-shifting rat had assumed.

The rat had filled the room with its body in an almost impossible manner, breaking all laws regarding the conservation of mass. Willow felt as if she had shrunk as the head of the creature was almost directly above her while its body was at the opposite corner of the room. Willow afforded herself a glance at the door, which had closed behind her. She doubted her ability to open the door and get through it before the rat attacked her exposed back.

Looking back at the creature, for it was no longer shaped like a rat, Willow judged, based on the size of the door, that she had not shrunk, but instead the room had scaled to accommodate the expanded rat.

“Is it illusion then?” Willow whispered to herself. The form that the rat had assumed was not one that was familiar to Willow. It still had a long face, but instead of fur, the skin was bare and looked rough. The head was no longer triangular in shape, but narrow like a horse’s. The long neck that allowed the creature to loom over Willow connected the head to a body that looked almost humanoid. Willow was a student of anthropology and found that the body reminded her of a grotesque and demonic fat Buddha.

Gripping her weapon tightly and moving swiftly, Willow aim at the head above her and fired. The figure reeled, pulling back the head. But, as it was stooping before to fit in the room, the head now ripped through the ceiling and Willow could see the night sky through the falling rubble.

The creature turned suddenly, its tail lashing out and catching Willow on the side of her arm. Willow’s body spun in place and she fell against a wall. She dropped down to stay low and rubbed her arm, feeling the swelling of a forming bruise. Her gun was now half way across the room from her, removed from her possession when she was lashed and carried away by the momentum generated by the creature’s swift rotation. She considered making her escape while the creature had its back turned, but instead she watched in awe from her corner as the creature ripped open the rest of the ceiling and climbed out.

Without knowing it consciously, Willow followed the creature out, somehow scaling up the wall. From a distance, she could identify the creature roughly as a giant lizard. She pitied the flora it trampled before realizing that she was no longer in the city. The creature looked back at her and stretched out its neck as it screeched, making effort to shake the leaves of the trees around it with the sound it made. Then, it spread its wings, for it had wings, and created such a backdraft that Willow nearly lost her footing. She could still see the silhouette of the creature against the bright moon for several minutes before losing sight of it in the surrounding clouds.

Finding herself breathless, Willow sat down against the building she was defending and tried to recap the events that had just unfolded. Unable to do so, she closed her eyes and huddled against the oncoming cold.

In the distance, a tribe seeking the source of the dragon’s cry spies a figure lying prone against the weathered stone wall that encircled a willow tree.

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