From the Ambient Quantum Wave Index, designation North America, circa 2126, index B6.2:
“Same way as always,” Jam said, spitting, sauntering between the grand stone precipices that loomed above. "You're the one gets us lost all the time asshole," he said with finality. Shadows were cast in strange angles as the sun slipped into the West, projecting long dark streams from the rocks above. “Two more hours, that’s all we got. Better get movin’,” said Morris, already quickening his pace to a jog. Their gear jangled messily, ringing out against the stone, all sweet chaotic bells in strange loops.
Jam spoke hastily between breaths; “they ain’t payin’ us to be late. We don’t kill these fellas an’ were out on our asses, eatin’ dirt,” and Morris responded curtly that they would take what they need if they had to. It wouldn't be the first time. They weren't beholden to any code whatsoever, other than hunger and horniness.
The day was bleeding quickly into night. They had never been in these parts of Mexica, and exploring unfamiliar terrain in the dark was considered a bad idea no matter where you were. Morris took the liberty of leading a slightly faster pace as he surely thought the same. “I don’t know, M – this shit stinks. Did we take the right fork? I’m not too interested in fucking around in the wild. That’s how people get themselves killed,” said Jam, whose breathing now sounded like wind racing through tiny holes. “Let’s not stick around and find out.”
The two mercenaries progressed along the path through the rock passageway and exited, where the rock split away, revealing an expanse of lush green forest. They stopped, bent over, and sucked at the air desperately. "I guess it's more exercise to be killed than to be the killer. Maybe we aughtta start usin' them knives," joked Morris.
“Let's move. And we might have to think about bunkin' down,” said Jam as he pointed into the Western horizon, where curtains of yellow and orange caressed the treetops. “We’re gonna’ have to climb,” Morris finally said, “and take a look around - see what the fuck to do.” They moved toward the Eastern rock formation, which rose like an enormous broken nose out of an earthen face, bearded with brush and pockmarked with errant boulders. Jam began the climb, choosing hand and foot holds carefully as he circled slowly upward. “Yeah buddy you go ahead and I’ll just wait here, make sure your clumsy ass doesn’t fall and get us both in shit.” Morris said, chuckling.
After five minutes of climbing, Jam had reached the peak. He looked out on the world with a sense of awe usually reserved for those who could afford it. He was in the business of survival, namely, the lack thereof on the part of his marks. It isn't the type of work that instills a sense of beauty in nature. All the same, the golden panorama of Mexica’s unnaturally green forest stretched before him, a private show, as the trees swayed in unison. He scoped the path they’d taken with his power rifle, and he estimated the direction they were to move in. They’d have to head further East, move along the ridge of the rock formations until they reached the river. It would head straight for the city. As he made good on his word of not falling on his ass during his descent, he noticed that the sun was dipping dangerously low. It was below the tree line now and darkness began to flood in quickly. There was an overcast approaching from the North, and there would be no twilight that night.
“HEY, M! Ho! down there! M!” He yelled, and listened to his own echoing response. Morris was not answering, probably off pissing or shitting in some bush. Some spotter. Jam made his final steps off the rock formation, and tiny pebbles cascaded downward, announcing the conclusion of his triumphant climb. “M! Git the fuck out here, buddy, no time to screw around,” he shouted with less confidence. He walked toward the spot where Morris had been standing when he left him last. He was nowhere to be found. He searched the area for tracks, finding a clear progression toward the forest. As he followed the trail, the sounds of the forest flooded his senses. Howls rang out and the chirps of crickets began in force. He arrived at the division between the forest and the path, hesitating. There was Morris’ pack, all shredded up and covered in blood. Presumably his blood. Jam began to feel panic. He grabbed the pack, containing a few clips of antique pistol ammo, a stubby knife, some cooking supplies and a dirty magazine Morris had found. He began to run back toward the rocks. He figured, maybe the high ground would keep him safe.
The sounds of his frantic footfalls crashed into gravel and dirt, blending with the periodic screams of dying animals somewhere deep in the forest. The subsequent silence drew his mind into a cold frenzy. He had heard stories about this forest, and hoped they weren't true. He reached the rocks, out of breath, and turned, searching frantically for signs of Morris or his attacker. Then he heard it.
Sun will set and moon will rise, but soon I’ll come and eat your eyes.
The voice floated in from the tree line like a chorus of snakes moving across brittle leaves. It cackled madly into the night, a shrill, monstrous call, silencing the crickets and the howls with an unnatural clicking quality. Jam yelled, as he drew his power rifle and aimed at the treeline, firing a shot, which exploded through a tree, felling it completely.
The cackling resumed.
Silly hunter cannot see, and here the night belongs to me.
Jam fired again, several rounds, randomly, as he screamed into the forest, “fuck you, freak! Come here and meet Jenny! I’ll eat YOUR fucking eyes, monster!” He mocked, dropping the pack and taking aim, swiveling left, then right, switching the scope to infared, X-ray, and thermal, but finding nothing. He knew it was moving, but he couldn't hear it or see it. He needed to move, get his back up against the rocks. But as he was deciding how he would accomplish this - a black shape swooped across his vision. He fired frantically, steadying his aim after a burst of rifle fire. Smoke billowed and was illuminated by flaming rings where the rifle had carved trees or rent the ground. He moved a few steps forward, carefully attempting to see if he had found his mark. Then, a searing pain sprung in his leg, as the creature sped by, imperceptibly fast, swiping a huge claw across his hamstring. Blood sprayed in the air and onto the ground. Jam fell to his other knee. He realized that the creature had also disarmed him of his power rifle. Rolling onto his back, he drew his secondary pistol and began firing at where he thought the creature had run. He was panting and wincing, with sweat in his eyes - which he futilely tried to clear, finding it became worse as his hand was covered in blood and dirt.
The creature howled in laughter once more.
I do delight in your sweet fright,
A tasty treat that I’ll soon eat!
It sped across his vision again, stalking the periphery, all the while chuckling and spewing its toothy insanity. Jam understood that it had intentionally wounded his leg to prevent him from climbing the outcrop or running. He didn’t have much time in the way of considering the irony of the situation, the hunter being hunted and all that, as he was panicking now, firing into the darkness randomly and clutching his leg, which was leaking hot blood onto the earth. Of course, that was what the monster had intended. He could hear it moving. Playing a game it knew very well, maybe the only thing it knew at all.
For hours it teased him. It would sneak in, snatch his boot or his pack, then toss them away. Sometimes it would give him a good kick, sending him flying several meters and taking his breath away. It would race in and claw his shoulder, claw his chest; careful not to deliver killing blows, before swiftly receding to the shadows. It fed on his terror sure as it intended to feed on his flesh.
Hunter hunter, slick and sundered,
wail and cry for hunter’s mother!
The time was drawing near. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, coming to terms with what he must do. This time, it was he who laughed. “You can eat my corpse all you like asshole, but you ain’t gonna fuck with me!” He had been saving his knife for just such an occasion. He drew it and prepared to cut his own throat. The monster easily snatched it from his hand, and the sound of far off metal hitting rock indicated it had thrown it a great distance. Jam brought his hands to his face, weeping, shaking. “Just do it!” He screamed into the darkness, staring mad, the light of adrenaline swimming in his eyes.
How sweet for me, my tasty treat
And thank you thank you hunter -
It was you and yours and all,
Which made me with this hunger.
The creature swept into the clearing with the fluidity of a flag in the breeze, lit by a solitary moonbeam. It stood enormous, eight feet tall and slick, deep black. It pried its mouth open, revealing several rows of serrated teeth and an undulating black tongue. The creature was wiry, muscles pulled tight over a large skeleton. At the elbows, sharp bones protruded. Each of its claws were as long as Jam's leg. It laughed again, and Jam understand how such a terrible sound could be created. All those teeth. It arched its back, revealing intricately interconnected muscles and complex vascular systems which popped, throbbed and changed positions and orientations like a stew of angry worms. Jam looked on in horror, as his vision narrowed. He was bleeding to death. How fortunate for me, he thought. The creature disappeared into the shadows and reappeared almost instantly beside him, looming, building its anticipation. Fist-sized gobs of drool fell to pool beside him. It got close enough that he could smell Morris' entrails on its breath.
It’s sad and true that you will die,
I say adieu but will not cry.
It raised its claw, bringing it down with extreme force, vaporizing Jam’s skull and leaving a swath of brain matter and bone scattered across the ground like pink and white confetti. The creature turned his body and dug through the remains for something in particular...