This week for 3 Word Wednesday we have been given the words Amusing, Deeply and Elastic to use in a piece of fiction...so here goes...oh, and I'm naming this impromptu series 'Red Handed,' at least for now...
Bernitte clambered over the iron grate to reach the roof. Pigeons twittered and cooed and rose in a flapping cloud of feathers and filth. The edges of the roof-top were coated with whitish guano that came up over her ankles, but she didn't mind that so much. It wasn't the lurid purple glow of the red forest surrounding the skylight that stopped her in her tracks so much as it was the cluster of make-shift huts huddled together at the base of a large fern-tree. That and the stacks of various skulls. And the points of over a dozen spears pointed at her by a tribe of voormis...
Previously in Part One
Not all the skulls stacked around the edges of the little voormi encampment were rats, penguins or monkeys. There were a few with horns, some had deformities or tumorous growths that made it impossible to guess at what they might have been. One looked like it might be the remains of a bear or kalidah. It reminded Bernitte of some of the things that her uncle kept nailed to his trailer.
She desperately wanted to scrape her boots clean of the grit and guano covering the roof. The stuff was like half-set plaster, once you got past the stiff outer-skin, it oozed and squished and she did not like standing still on such slippery, treacherous footing.
The voormis before her held forth a bristling array of bone spears, each one blackened in a camp-fire and their tip coated with an oily, red sludge. The scent was a nauseating blend of rancid cinnamon and blighted peppers and it overpowered the reek of the congealing guano underfoot. The fierce little voormis made sure their uninvited visitor had a chance to catch the scent. They were like dogs that way; very aware and conversant with all manner of smells and odors. It didn't make up for their weak eye-sight, nor did their extremely acute hearing, but it did help them to survive.
Unlike the voormis Bernitte had encountered elsewhere, these warriors were well-groomed and their armored kilts were in good condition. They were also well-fed. That disturbed her more than the toxins gunked all over the sharp objects arrayed against her. most voormis were skinny, emaciated things prone to disease and preyed on by rats and worse. But not these voormis.
The warriors stood their ground, snarling just at the threshold of hearing with their tails swishing back and forth in unison. They were clearly used to working together as a pack. Eight spears would be more than enough to end her, if they decided to attack...but so far they stood their ground and watched her. They were not immediately hostile. She wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing.
Bernitte counted at least a dozen more warriors and dependents that she could see moving around the roof-top settlement. She considered her options. A back-flip would carry her over the edge and she could most likely catch-hold of a railing before hitting the ground. She kept her knees bent and shifted her weight so she could prepare to make an escape. Going back to the fire escape was less than ideal, but she didn't have a lot of other options. The roof of the next building over was still above her, so it wasn't an option. She might be able to jump through one of the windows, if she could gt a running start, if she didn't slip on the mushy guano, if the window wasn't boarded-up from within or trapped or blocked. It would be an amusing situation, if she wasn't the one caught in it.
Bone flutes skirled and whined to the rough accompaniment of someone banging on a cooking pot with a wooden spoon. Bernitte slid one foot back a few inches to get into position. If she was going to have to make a break for it, she wanted to get over the edge and down to the wrought-iron railings and ladders before the spears could be brought to bear or thrown.
Three figures wrapped in green gauze made their way through the ranks of the warriors, each one bowing and stepping back silently to take up a position on either side. Two of the figures were shorter than the center one, both were obviously pregnant and their snouts veiled and draped with strings of little bones and pigeon feathers.
The center figure stared at Bernitte. She was tall for a voormi, coming up to Bernitte's belly. the one on the left held the cooking pot and wooden spoon. The one on the right had three blind pups in tow, each one holding onto their bone flute.
"I did not mean to--"
"You seek to escape from something below. What chases you towards us?"
"I was told this was a warehouse. But it isn't, is it?"
"No. Go on." The voormi eldress sniffed the air as if she could detect honesty or lies simply by their scent. Maybe she could.
"I was exploring one of the floors below here. A doll of some kind dragged itself out from under some debris..."
"And now there is a swarm of the things following you?"
"I don't know. I was attempting to escape from them when I found you."
"Rudith, Jalez. We must patrol the perimeter and make sure that the door to the stairwell is secure. Now." The two attendants bowed to Eldress and scampered off to begin directing the warriors and other members of the group to tend to their defense.
"I'm sorry. I never meant to--"
"Hush. Your intentions are not of any interest to me. You are here and the dolls will follow. We must prepare to deal with them."
"What can I do to help?"
The Eldress cocked her head to one side and scrutinized Bernitte with an unsettling green glare that peered into her bones and blood and deeper still. It was grievously unsettling, just like when great-grandmother Kellis did a cold reading.
"You could throw yourself over the edge of the roof and let the dolls take you. They'd be satisfied with you for a few minutes before they decided to go looking for more fresh meat..."
"Are you serious?" Bernitte scowled angrily. She had been ready to attempt to escape, but she was not going to just throw her life away in some pointless gesture.
"Only insofar as you might be gullible or stupid enough to do such a thing. If the dolls are active again, and on the hunt as you say, then you can't go back down there any more than we can, not for quite a while; not until they go dormant again."
"You're testing me?" Bernitte's voice cracked in anger.
"Of course. We do not know you. We also do not know why you stirred-up the dolls. All we know is that you are here and they are on the move again."
They both stared at one another. Bernitte wasn't about to go back down t face a swarm of flesh-eating dolls. The Eldress wasn't sure she wanted to let Bernitte stay...but also wasn't pleased that some interloper had stirred-up the dolls again. They had lost several of their tribe the last time they had fought the dolls.
"Look. I'm deeply sorry to have woken up these dolls. Truly I am. But it wasn't my fault. They were lying in wait for whomever happened to wander past. If it hadn't been me, it might have been a rat or a pigeon or maybe one of your own people if you hunt down there or do any sort of scavenging."
"That's what they do, when there is no prey within reach; lie there like a broken child's toy. Evil little things."
"I know. I've encountered such things before."
"And how did you deal with them then?"
"I ran away."
"We cannot run. We will not run. Not again. We're through running. We have children here. We have a good life here. We've been preparing for winter..."
A voormi warrior screamed as they whirled back and around revealing a doll clutching and gnashing and pulling a bloody elastic loop of intestine out through the wound. Another warrior skewered the nasty doll with their spear and lobbed it over the edge of the roof with a quick thrust of their spear.
"None of us can run away now. Will you help us fight these things?"
Bernitte turned to look behind her. Down the side of the building. Dozens of filthy, toothsome, evil little dolls were clambering and climbing their way up the fire escape...
Previously ...To Be Continued