The red dwarf sun was setting on the eastern horizon; its wan light approaching purple. The stars glimmered coldly above the desperate battleground and our souls lay in the balance, forfeit to the Eater of Worlds. I gazed upon their beauty and the torturous cries of the wounded and dying assailed my ears unceasingly.
The surreal atmosphere was heightened only by the stark hopelessness of my situation. My chest ached with a searing pain that banished all thought of surcease. But that was not important. The battle had proceeded from mid-morning and would end with the final setting of the crimson sun.
In the center of the graveyard, scattered body parts lay – half-covered by mud – the odd limb grotesquely poking from the dark, combat-churned soil. These pitiful remnants would be gathered later by the losers and provide them with the only sustenance they would receive outside of each other until the supply ship returned.
I was told that the months on Purgatory 7 were short, three quarters Earth-time. The planet’s retrograde orbit around the red dwarf skewed all natural perception of time and the years might seem to last forever to one damned, as had this single day of blood and death.
The few of us left standing watched the final battles silently, waiting for the now inevitable outcome. There had been thirteen deaths thus far, nine of them Talkers. Our side was losing.
“Where is Kahaki, Bugman?” asked Ranae, her breath harsh in my ears.
She was sweating profusely, her eyes wild and darting. Dried and caked mud was her only clothing. She had lost her thin garments, as well as her dignity, in her earlier battle with Sloogon. Her hair was torn and she sported numerous bruises and cuts on her arms and legs. Blood ran down the interior of her thighs, evidence of her earlier ambiguous victory.
Kahaki was nowhere to be seen.
Sloogon had manhandled her aggressively, using his massive strength to subdue her. A sudden blow to the head had knocked Ranae from her feet. He had thrown off his loincloth, his bulging stomach protruding grossly over his trunk-like thighs. His penis was barely visible, its considerable length and breadth superseded by the girth of his belly.
Sloogon had advanced upon her, goaded on by the raucous cries of his minions. He knelt before her torn and bleeding form and his immense bulk sank into the mud. Her body disappeared beneath him, only the rabbit-like thrusting of his cellulite-encased ass giving evidence of her violation.
Suddenly, Sloogon had bellowed with pain and rolled to the side, releasing her, blood running from a gaping wound in his throat.
Ranae had bitten him savagely, releasing a copious amount of blood that fountained from his neck like rain, running down her body in a crimson flood. Sloogon rolled away from her and staggered to his feet, stumbling back to the edge of the graveyard, blood spurting through his clasped fingers. Ranae crawled slowly back to the wall and dragged herself over it, collapsing next to me, her captive lover. Gore and grime combined, her too-bright eyes shining sullenly behind the hellish mask.
The shocked silence had been broken only by a high keening, coming from Kahaki, who had watched the entire battle from his perch on the stone wall. Ranae ignored him, for some reason preferring to nurse her wounds by my side. She was incoherent and I held her protectively, taking short, whooping breaths while cherishing the stolen moment of tenderness.
Kahaki hooted again, staring at us both. I couldnt tell if it was pain or anger that the little demon was expressing at the time, although now, I rather suspect it was a little of both. Whichever it was, that was the last I had seen of him.
“Did you hear what I said?”
Ranae slapped me on the side of my head, awakening me from my musings.
”I dont know where he is, Ranae. The last time I saw him he was sitting on the wall, watching you, uh, cavorting with Sloogon.”
She shot a look of disgust at me. “Watch your mouth, Bugman. You still belong to me, or have you forgotten that little fact? We havent lost this war yet.”
I refrained from comment, deciding that my last foray into insubordination had used up what little good will Ranae had left, considering the way the day had been going. Win or lose, my lot in life could only get worse. Not that it mattered now.
The pain had spread from my chest to encompass my whole body and I coughed, my body beset by spasms. I closed my eyes and began praying. The oncoming night was accompanied by a chill wind and I shivered uncontrollably.
Whatever outcome the gods had ordained would be upon us soon, for the onset of night signaled the end of the war. Whichever side could field the most survivors would win the day and from the rising tide of noise coming from across the muddy graveyard, the Beasties, at least, were under the impression that for all intents and purposes, we belonged to them.
BB Series Interludes