Red Blooded

Page 8


Okay, we need to rethink. I believe the best thing we can do is try and outrun them. Judging by the light, we’re in some kind of building. The demons must keep them locked up in here, but if we can get out of the building we may have a chance to lose them.
My wolf did not seem convinced.
Do you have a better idea? The trays started to shift around us as the beasts started to paw at the pile. We’re out of time. We run for whatever door we can find. Go! We dove out of the mess, aiming for the least smelly area we could find. Less putrid hopefully meant fewer beasts. The trays scattered around us like dried leaves as we leaped. I hoped it was enough of a distraction to give us a head start.
We emerged and quickly rolled. I tried to find my footing, but hit a few trays and inadvertently slid over the slick floor using them like skateboards. I jumped off and spun in the air, landing in my fighting stance.
Right in front of thirty snarling chupacabras.
Jesus, they look like something straight out of a horror flick. Meaning they were some of the ugliest things I’d ever seen. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. We were in Hell, after all. The only positive thing was that they weren’t much bigger than a full grown Pit Bull. Look at their creepy eyes. They’re tiny and matte black. But the most freakish part wasn’t their beady eyes. It was that their front legs ended in hands. Hands! Little creepy black monkey paws with opposable thumbs.
I had to quiet my inner shriek quickly, but it wasn’t easy. Their delightful appearance didn’t end there. Bony spires stuck out of their heads and ran all the way down their backs. As they moved toward me, hissing and growling, I saw that only a portion of their skin was covered in spotty fur the color of death; the rest was translucent. Their organs beat right under their hide. One of them opened its maw wide and flashed a few rows of mismatched teeth—some long, some short—all sharp.
I growled back, flashing my own teeth, and edged slowly to my right.
They don’t seem to have any urgency to attack us. A few of them were openly scenting me, their horrid snouts in the air. Maybe I smell too much like a demon? Or at least enough like one to fool them? I flexed my inner magic, pushing the muted gold, my signature mixed with the demon essence, outward.
If the chupacabras thought I was a demon, it was my lucky day. But before I had time to decide what to do, a roaring noise erupted overhead and the ceiling began to move. Slowly, a portion slid open to reveal some kind of weird-looking chute.
As one, all the beasts glanced up.
We have to move. We can’t be spotted if this is some kind of surveillance apparatus.
I stumbled backward as plastic trays and food began to rain down from the chute above. Hearing the noise, the chupacabras took off after their next meal, slobbering as they went. They attacked the new pile of garbage, twenty feet from where I stood, like the rabid beasts they were, clawing and snarling their way to the top to get the choice pieces. A few of them began to fight one another for what looked like hunks of decayed meat.
Whatever it was, it was limp and gray and highly disgusting.
No wonder it smells like death in here. They’re consuming rancid meat and they all smell like it. Good gods. This place wasn’t going to get any easier, either. The Underworld was already proving to be tons o’ fun. Once they’re done with that, they’ll be back on us. We need to move now.
I started to race in the opposite direction of the feeding frenzy. There had to be a door somewhere. The hazy blue light above made it hard to see. There were piles and piles of trays in every direction, some reaching the ceiling, which was made up of a shiny material that didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. Not metal, not wood, something completely artificial.
Honestly, as long as we weren’t in some kind of alien embryo, I could deal with it.
My wolf barked and I darted to the left, following a thin pathway between a few heaps. We had run no farther than fifty yards when I heard shuffling and angry growls behind me. The beasts had finished their meal and were coming after us. I picked up the pace, dodging the errant trays as best I could. It’s like a slippery hamster Habitrail in here, I groused as I darted around another pile. Is that a door up ahead?
As we gained on it, I saw it was indeed a door. It was located in what seemed to be some kind of an elevator shaft, or something like it, because it was located right in the middle of the room. I raced toward it with preternatural speed. The chupacabras were quite a few yards behind me. They were slower than I was, which was a benefit. Their long, creepy hand-paws must get in the way of securing a good grip on the slippery floor. Ick.
I slid to a stop in front of the door. It was like something out of an old army barracks. It was iron—or seemed like iron—and covered in rusted bolts. I placed a tentative finger on the handle to see if it was spelled. Nothing tingled back at me, so I grasped ahold and yanked the door open. It swung toward me freely with no resistance.
To expose a gaping void.
It was total darkness inside. No walls, no floor. Nothing.
Where are the walls? We clearly weren’t in our world any longer. This was the best wake-up call I could possibly have had so early in the journey. Thinking the Underworld was like our plane was going to get me into trouble. I had to get my head in the game and take it as the warning it was.
Something nipped at my leg.
I’d taken too long and inadvertently let a chupacabra get too close. I kicked it away, and without thinking jumped onto the back of the open door and swung it closed with my body, my sharp claws digging in to keep us attached. I hope the door doesn’t disappear once it’s closed. Falling into another vortex to gods knew where wasn’t my first choice.
Nothing happened. I clung to the inside wondering what to do next as the beasts growled and scratched on the other side of the door. They knew I hadn’t gone anywhere. If we can get the beasts to jump in here they would disappear into the vortex. How do we do that? We needed bait. Too bad we don’t have any rancid meat handy. The chupacabras aren’t very tall. Maybe we can climb up to the top of the door and swing it open, and then jump over them and look for some meat? Once we find it we can run back here and throw it in and hope they go in after it? Before I could implement my master plan to rid ourselves of the chupacabras, a human-ish voice shouted on the other side of the door, surprising me.
“What are you doing, you filthy beasts?” it shouted. “Move away from that portal door at once.” The voice was guttural and unrefined. The only demons who would choose to speak English in the Underworld, as far as I knew, were imps. Imps were born on our plane, usually the offspring of human mothers, but many of them came here once they were old enough.