Excerpt from White Tunnel: Ran’s Job

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As he approached the ravine, he dismounted a short distance from it and made the rest of the journey on foot. It was unnaturally quiet today. No breeze stirred the branches and the smaller, harmless wood creatures were still. Ran’s hands began to sweat. He might be used to clearing vermin, but it still got his blood pumping, every time he snuck up on one.

He approached the ravine and peered down. Mist covered the ground, making it impossible to tell how many of the vermin infested the place. Ran sighed. He pulled out his gun and tread cautiously to the edge. He lifted a large rock from the ground and tossed it down, then waited.

Come on you little nasties.

Nothing happened. The mist had enveloped the tossed rock without giving anything back. Ran’s grip on his weapon tightened.

“What the hell?” he muttered. Then he fired off a shot blindly into the clouded ravine.

The ground trembled.

Up out of the misted floor rose a shadow, slight at first, but then hulking and misshapen, rolling and roaring as it awoke from sleep.

Ran froze for a moment, astonished at the size of the vermin. But then instinct kicked in and Ran immediately lifted his weapon and began his attack. The first few shots smacked the monster hard, and sent pieces of it flying. Ran was surprised at how easily he managed to damage the beast. He moved in closer, using the advantage he’d created, firing continuously.

The enemy fell into the mist, which had already dispersed quite a bit so that the ground was visible beneath it. Ran stopped firing and waited for the beast to make its move again. It lay still for a moment. Then several spiders scurried toward him and he watched as the beast literally fell apart into a hoard of spider-like vermin, all moving quickly toward him.

Ran’s heart nearly punched a hole through his chest as he turned and raced back toward his bike. He needed to come up with a strategy fast, before the spiders could overtake him. They moved swiftly now, enraged by Ran’s attack. Driven to crush him in a wave of black poison.

Ran sped away from the ravine at first, but then turned abruptly, making a wide turn back in the direction of the threat. It wouldn’t do to lead the creatures back toward the village. His bike squashed several vermin as he made his path around the bulk of the hoard. Then one leapt from the ground and attached itself to Ran’s leg. The creature wasted no time inserting its poison into Ran. He winced and used the butt of his weapon to smack the black invader several times where he thought its head might be. It fell off just as Ran reached the incline of the ravine. He was already dizzy from the effect of the poison, as his overworked heart pumped it throughout his body.

Ran braced himself as he sped downward toward the bottom of the ravine, then opened the throttle on his bike and ascended the other side. He remembered there being an unused field nearby. A glance behind him showed that the spiders continued their chase, closer behind than expected.

Pain spiked in Ran’s head. He grabbed an antidote vial from a side pocket in his pack and gulped its contents as the deserted field came into view. Time and precision were essential now. Ran slowed as he approached the field, using one hand to unhook a blow-torch attachment from his bike. He stopped fully and connected this piece to his usual weapon.

The spiders were close now, but Ran wasn’t going to let his opportunity pass. He was moving again, already scorching his opponent, creating a blazing wall around the field. The vermin screeched in pain as Ran surrounded them in flames.

One last time, the enemy tried to merge, and for a moment rose as a fiery tower of a beast. But then crashed down again, falling apart as they did.

Ran stopped circling and watched the field burn, spotted with black lumps, no longer moving.

Someone’s gonna be mad.