Chronicles of Chiron: The Monsoon Jungle | Scene 10

A lot happens in the time it takes me to reach my friends. “Stay down,” Cleve barks at Marina. Crouched as she is, she lurches back from the sudden threat. Cleve backs up with her, dodging away from the demon craw grabbing for his gun. 

Marina’s still got her bioscanner out, and after a quick check of it, she tells him to fire at the belly, where the shell is weaker. “Go for the green splash,” she adds, using the shell’s mottled coloring to indicate where the vitals are underneath. Once again, Cleve’s gun sounds enormously loud in the confined space. His shot hits the demon craw right where Marina recommended. Blood and ichor and acid, they all begin oozing out of the hole in a pulsing cadence that suggests the wound will prove lethal. 

The demon craw does not back down, however. Just as I reach Cleve, it rears up and charges recklessly at him. Like its partner, it has a spear in its small claw. Before Cleve can fire off another shot, that spear is in his face. Its thrust slowed down by the barrier I’ve pulled together, it merely nicks him. The demon craw crashes into Cleve, and he gives his rifle a twist between them, sending the spear clattering to the floor.

The other demon craw is charging into the fray from Cleve’s left where my purple sparkles don’t quite reach yet. Instead of going for him, though, it targets Marina. Its spear catches the edge of my barrier, and the unexpected molasses-like effect is enough to jar the weapon out of its grip. It adapts quickly, snapping its large claw repeatedly at Marina. She dances out of the way, but it does catch her leg for a moment. When she manages to extract it, blood is already staining the fabric there. Her flashlight continues to erratically light the conflict, flashing off a red demon craw eye one moment, making my barrier flare brightly another.

“I’ve got this guy,” Cleve assures me. “He looks pretty bad off.” He lets go of his rifle with one hand to slam his fist into the demon craw on top of him. “Get the other one. Go for the gut.”

As I slip past Cleve’s brawl, I tell Bluebell, “I’m going after that one. Get these spears away from them if you can.” The last thing we need is for the demon craws to pick those vicious spikes up again. When I insert myself between Marina and the demon craw snapping its giant claw at her, I bring my cloud of purple sparkles with me. And my cane, the weapon currently at hand. Trying to get it to back down, I get in a good jab at the demon craw’s midsection. 

I hear the spears go clattering away, but my attention can’t be spared for checking on Bluebell because ¡santo cielo! there is a demon craw right here in front of me and it is angry. Like, more angry than just having had its breath knocked out of it should warrant. Rage is coming off it in waves. Given the shape it was in before attacking us—festering open sores, burning eyes—it must have already been in a lot of pain.

“Just keep that one busy,” Marina shouts encouragingly to Cleve from behind me. “It’ll go down soon; it’s bleeding out.”

Between my cane and my poncho—and the twinkling purple fog—I am hard for the demon craw to get a hold of. Either there’s no flesh where it grabs, or I just fend it away. The demon craw’s movements are slowed by the miasmic barrier, and it hasn’t managed to figure out how to adjust for that yet. I don’t feel anything in particular when a blow impacts the twinkling fog, but keeping it here and cohesive between our huddle and the demon craws is a constant drain on me. There’s the attention it requires but also the effort of enforcing my will on particles that would rather just disperse. There’s a cost to all this, but a necessary one to pay.

Bluebell skitters up beside me and whacks at the demon craw’s knee joint with her metal pipe, but she doesn’t have enough strength behind her blow for it to even notice her. The demon craw can’t get a hold of me, but when it switches to slamming into me, my boots slip on the slick floor, sending me crashing to the ichor and mud-coated ground. I’m dazed for a moment, but then a sharp, acrid smell floods my senses, the fake lemon of hospital antiseptic but mixed with black pepper. The scent jars me back to full alertness, and I see that the demon craw Cleve has been tussling with is now retreating. He calmly raises his rifle and fires another round into it.

Whatever pheromones Marina just released have disoriented the remaining demon craw, but not stunned it. It slams its large claw down at me, trying to pin me to the floor. I knock that aside with my cane, but then one of the small legs kicks my arm. That jars the cane from my hand, sending it skittering off into the darkness to join the lost pair of spears. Not helpful! The demon craw lurches, knocked off balance itself by the move, and it crashes down around me.

I fish around for the taser, and Marina yells at me to aim for the gap in the carapace where a leg joins the torso. She slams a foot down on the demon craw, and Bluebell gives it another whack, filling the role of distracter once again. The demon craw kicks at my craw friend with one leg, and yet another weapon clatters across the floor. It’s the distraction I needed, though. A crackle of blue energy flashes from the tip of the stun rod as it makes contact with the soft spot I was directed to target. 

The demon craw reels back in agony and then throws itself back down toward me, giant claw open wide. There’s nowhere for me to go and a limit to how much force my protective fog can absorb. The claw slams down on my chest, pinning me to the floor and knocking the wind out of me.

Bang! Cleve’s gun sounds again, and the demon craw jerks away, its claws coming up. I suck in a much needed breath and somehow find the presence of mind to jab the taser up at the demon craw again. It’s a glancing blow and sparks skitter across the carapace. Bluebell has had enough of this by now, for her and for me. She hooks her large claw under my right arm and tugs, urging me to move back away from the demon craw. With Cleve shooting into the mix, it’s an entirely reasonable suggestion. I slide backwards in a crab-walk, propelling myself with heels and elbows, but the demon craw isn’t done with me yet. Marina fires her pistol as it lurches after me. Her shot goes wide, and the demon craw swings angrily at my right arm, sending the painful taser flying. Bluebell and I keep retreating as fast as we can, given that I’m dragging myself along the floor, gasping for breath and keeping a field of sparkling fog in front of me. Bluebell clacks her claw at the demon craw, and for a moment I wonder why she is antagonizing it so.

Bang! Ah, she was being the distracter again, keeping the demon craw’s eyestalks this way so that it wouldn’t pay any attention to the man with the rifle behind it. It groans as it slumps to the floor, and then it lies still. I collapse, too, and finally release my hold on the motes of miasma that have kept me alive.