The Death in the Swamp
Summary: Two supernatural killers, a chainsaw slasher and a werewolf hitman, battle in a surreal swamp.
A rented sedan, black and generic enough in make and model to fit on any North American highway, parked at the muddy terminus of a dirt road. A lean man in an overcoat stepped out, removing his outer garments to reveal the navy-blue jumpsuit of a non-existent maintenance company. His light olive skin almost seemed to blend into the dying leaves of early autumn. His only sign of body hair were two black brows perched above his eyes like bushy caterpillars. He slid on a pair of black sunglasses, revealing brown eyes beneath. Singing in an accent vaguely reminiscent of the Caribbean, he attached the suppressor to the Beretta Gladius 9mm pistol.
John Smith was not the name of his birth, but his grim work necessitated shedding all signs of his past beyond his skills. He had entered the underworld, only to emerge from a metaphorical cocoon as an assassin of the rare and supernatural. As he had learned directly, even immortals could die. If they could not, he would certainly be out of a job.
Despite the mercenary, macabre nature of his work, Smith prided himself on his professionalism. He did not silence bystanders or underlings, eliminating only targets that posed a direct threat to the innocent, common people. More than once, he had breached or broken contracts due to shifts in his own judgement. With memories of his lycanthropic ancestors dating back to before Rome, he understood the many, many ways to kill and to die. While blessed with longevity, strength, and finesse compared to a baseline human, he nevertheless was not invincible, for silver and enough physical damage could certainly terminate him.
John Smith intended to keep living as long as he could, which was why he preferred fighting without honor or fairness. Few of the entities he faced on a regular basis could die from direct confrontation, but he nevertheless felt the simplest means of elimination was the best to try. Fortunately for him, this contract took him far from the crowded cities and the need for subtlety. Loading up a Kalashnikov assault rifle with a magazine of 7.62mm rounds, he chambered a round as he began his search for his enemy.
Tullius, New Jersey was a pitiful excuse for a town passed a dozen kilometers back, but its limits extended out in all directions. What had once been a small town was now an expanse of strip malls and roadways with no particular center, another polity without community. Local legends and toxic waste dumping from a factory long closed were sufficient to keep most people from the Rockbridge Swamp, but inevitably, a few succumbed each year to the baleful being within.
Eager to terminate the existence of another abomination, John Smith prepared for the annihilation of Chainsaw Face. The killer used his namesake weapon to annihilate anyone that intruded on the swamp, with the few survivors possessed of resourcefulness and fortune. The rest were buried ignobly in the mire, their own remains being the mutilated cadaver bits occasionally washed downstream by floods or heavy rains.
With his assault rifle and superhuman senses ready, John Smith entered the Rockbridge Swamp. His steel toed boots sank centimeters into the mire, as if drawn downwards by some subterrene coprophage. Through thick trees and tall marsh grasses, he could hear the croaking and calls of other marsh denizens. The cattails undulated like hypnotic metronomes in a wind that blew from no discernible direction. The wilted leaves whispered like hushed spirits as he walked along a stream beside a bed of skunk cabbage.
As he headed deeper into the swamp, John Smith saw the sunlight strangled by dead branches like bony claws. The water turned from brown to the sanguine of deep arterial blood. A funereal silence came upon him as he descended further into the morass, as the buzzing of insects, calling of birds, and croaking of frogs vanished as the path darkened. Barbed vines with thorns as thick as railroad spikes wrapped around the mildewing trunks of long dead trees.
Within the darkest part of the fen rested the collapsed husk of an old brick building. John Smith could easily see the ruins had once been part of a vaster structure. He recalled half the rumors he heard said that Chainsaw Face had resulted from some industrial mishap, while he was responsible for the mishap in the other half. All that remained was a corner of red baked bricks, where two walls had once converged. Something moved behind it.
John Smith opened fire instinctively, using short bursts that shattered the decrepit bricks into a ruby dust that covered the ground like Martian sand. He knew the effects of the cartridge on walls and flesh well from his profession, and a stream of fire from it could chop through more than human bodies. The weapon went dry faster than he anticipated it would, just as he turned to see something shift in his peripheral vision.
An ochre light came down from above, as though some terrible eclipse transpired in an instant. The throaty roar of ancient, rusted gears resounded behind him. A series of high-pitched whistles reverberated through the trees like mocking laughter. Something behind him shifted the air pressure in a way imperceptible to a baseline human, causing him to throw himself to the ground. In one fluid movement, John Smith had dropped the rifle, knelt with his drawn pistol, and fired three shots at the man he swore was behind him.
The bullets impacted nothing but a tree behind him, causing John Smith to spring to his feet in search of his adversary. His lycanthropic spatial awareness and coordination, which had taken him over a decade to hone, turned against him as he surveyed his with an inhuman celerity. He saw the sky reddened as though with the vapor of blood. He saw the ground turn to a morass of decomposing charnel. He saw the waters turn the opaque black of crude petroleum, reaching for sunlight after a subterranean thousand eons. He saw the tree limbs turn to the unnaturally attached limbs of a thousand mutilated cadavers. Directly before him, he saw his enemy.
John Smith observed Chainsaw Face as he futilely emptied the remainder of his magazine into him. A cracked white mask covered his face like broken porcelain from an antique amphora. His clothing was ragged coveralls like a workman might wear, stained black with the dried blood of his innumerable victims. The killer swung his namesake weapon, a corroded machine looking as though it should have been long-ago clogged with entrails and mud, with the ease of a dueling saber.
Despite everything Smith had known about chainsaw operation, the weapon cleaved through his pistol barrel as though it were lace. Eager to not find the weapon's proficiency at cutting flesh, he transformed himself as he rolled backwards. Antehuman fury welled up within him, as primordial senses kept him away from the anticipated arcs of his enemy's weapon or the grasping limbs at the forest's edge.
No matter how many times he had undergone the transformation, John Smith felt his body rebel against it. Mass from a transmundane source gave his eyes a golden hue. His fingers and toes transmigrated into claws of otherworldly sharpness and hardness. His body was covered with a thick, hirsute coat that left only his face and palms uncovered. With a reaction time an order of magnitude faster than a human, he catapulted himself at the mad slasher.
Chainsaw Face's arms wept a strange black ichor as John Smith's claws ripped into them. The slasher turned his weapon towards the outstretched limbs with a faster alacrity than Smith thought was possible. The tip of the talon that had once been his ring finger was sliced off, the agony of the cut somehow amplified by whatever fell energies powered the weapon. Smith roared and charged in, only to be repelled by another attempt to eviscerate him.
The encounter lapsed into a battle of attrition, as the implacable slasher pressed endlessly against John Smith's position. Like an advancing shield wall, Smith was pressed back towards the trees of riven limbs. His agility and instinct was sufficient to continually evade the maniac's telegraphed strikes, but the merciless adversary was not hindered in the slightest by the necrotic tissue his talons tore off.
Behind him, the lankiest limbs in the trees grasped greedily at Smith, while feminine hands gently caressed his perspiration-soaked backside. The array of dismembered limbs seemed ready to welcome him to their ranks. From underneath Chainsaw Face's hockey mask, the lycanthrope beheld something as terrifying as eldritch blasphemies from transgalactic space. He closed his eyes for a second, expending the chainsaw to dismember him when he opened them once more. The slasher raised his hungry weapon, ready to oblige.
John Smith sidestepped the fatal blow at the last second, ending with Chainsaw Face exposed and himself in a wrestler's shoot. With a pulse of excretion from across his body, he lifted the maniac over his shoulder. Strangely, the infamous murderer weighed far more than his human frame would suggest. Struggling with the effort, the transformed Smith hurled his foe into the trees.
A dozen limbs, some without any visible point of attachment to the darkness beyond them, enwrapped Chainsaw Face. He thrashed against them like a fish upon land. Now without his weapon, the slasher extended his empty hand towards John Smith, as if seeking salvation. Smith's transformed foot instead met the top of his mask and kicked him to his fate. The hands pulled bits of the killer's body in a manifold number of directions, leaving only his mask half-submerged in the gory water. The ichor that wept from his dismembered body parts turned the water the total black of the empty night sky.
John Smith hurriedly ran back towards his car, only to find the surreal swamp he had visited was gone. The trees were now wooden pillars rising from the muck. The water was now its pungent, filthy state. The sky was a cerulean expanse, unmarred by cloud or aircraft. The ruined factory was still there, bearing the signs of his earlier barrage. In a moment of lucidity as he transformed back towards his human self, he drove away from Rockbridge Swamp, never to return.