The Skin of the Earth — Child’s Play

Chapter 7

Daniel hooked around the threshold of the door to peer into the lobby.

“Far end,” Sundown said, crouching, watching.

He followed her line of sight. Near the opposite end of the wide hall, where the boys had been playing their game, stood one of the youth in blue bandana and trenchcoat, arms outstretched, encircled in a white light that was emanating from the ground. The boy’s lips were moving but Daniel couldn’t make out what he was saying over the screeching and shaking of the building.

“Is he … summoning?” Daniel asked, incredulous.

“Nope,” Sundown said, taking a step out into the lobby. “He’s summoned. It’s done.”

Daniel joined her, mouth agape, as the pile of rubble the boys had been playing with began to rise. Dirt and concrete came together around the pile, forming a hand and then an arm while the main mass began to rearrange itself, cinder blocks and rocks moving, filling gaps as though invisible hands were assembling a … a what? 

A torso, Daniel realized.

Next, the head grew up from the form. With its concrete and dirt arms, the rock creature pulled itself up, off the ground — legs forming from cinder blocks and concrete. The boy jumped and clapped as the glowing lines around the summoned body seemed to be sucked into it. Runes radiated all over the collection of dirt and rock and then dissipated, seeping back into the being.

“Get the kid,” Sundown commanded, running toward the rock form.

Daniel was a beat behind her, finding his balance as adrenaline pumped his legs.

The boy was yelling at the summoned creature as it stood to its full height. The monster bent and screamed at the youth, the same piercing screech as before. Its great stone arms, pillars of concrete, raised up, ready to smash at the boy.

Sundown opened fire on the creature as Daniel ducked in and grabbed the kid. The bullets chipped away at the stone monster’s shoulder, but only appeared to anger it more. It let out another shriek and attempted to bat away Sundown’s attack. She had stopped just out of its reach, concentrating her fire on one spot.

Unable to stop the onslaught of bullets, the creature turned and ran, crashing through the exterior wall. Daniel turned to shield himself and the boy he held from the shower of debris. Sundown ran through the hole the monster had created.

Gottimhimmel,” he swore, setting the kid down.

The boy was near tears. “It’s supposed to listen to me!” he cried.

Daniel stared at him, momentarily paralyzed by the shock of what had just happened. The sound of Sundown’s gunfire brought him back to the present and he turned to see the creature, now twice its size, half made up of red brick, through the opening in the wall.

“Stay here,” he said to the boy, backing up and then spinning on his heel. He raced out into the daylight to join his partner.

Sundown was firing madly at the monster. A golem, Daniel knew, though he also knew that was impossible. The creature had absorbed the bricks it had charged through, making it easily a storey tall with crude fists like boulders. It lumbered around the dirt lot, forming projectiles from the ground and hurling them at Sundown, occasionally stopping to scream at her as she ran, dodged and continued to fire at its form.

One of the golem’s projectiles shattered on impact against the Junction’s wall just above Daniel’s head. He dove for cover behind an ancient machine that had rusted into a heap of limp metal.

“Watch yourself, Spoons,” Sundown called, evidently still able to find the time to badger him in between dodging and attacking the golem.

He heard a large projectile explode into pieces and caught a glimpse of his partner skidding behind another iron behemoth through the dust that rained down. 

“We gotta keep it away from the Junction,” Sundown yelled. “It’ll absorb the entire building if we let it.”

“We need backup!” Daniel reasoned. “We need Arc Division.”

“AD’s too far out. We gotta deal with this ourselves, newb,” Sundown replied.

Daniel peered through a gap in the tangle of metal he was hiding behind. The golem seemed to be looking for them. “What do you propose?”

A pistol clip came sailing over his hiding place, dropping into the dirt by Daniel’s shoes. He recognized it as the clip with the witch bullets Sundown had used earlier in the morning.

“I hope your proficiencies are accurate,” she said. “Get its attention with those and lead it over there.” Daniel peered through the gap again to see Sundown pointing to a machine heap across the lot where a piece of rail rested against the pile. “Got it?” 

“Copy,” Daniel called back, exchanging the clip in his gun. He braced himself against the old machine and then pushed off, stepping out into the open and taking aim at the golem.

Sundown raced by as he found his target. The stone creature was upending the nearest mass of rusty metal, searching for its prey. Daniel lined his sight up and squeezed the trigger. The witch bullet blasted into the golem’s left elbow just as it raised up the hunk of old machine. The runes that had fused with it upon its summoning re-awakened, glowing red where the bullet hit. The golem dropped the iron mass as the magic of the dissolve spell arced out of the bullet, colliding with the red energy of the runes. Light crackled and exploded around the monster’s arm, then it sizzled out.

The golem did not seem harmed by any of this but Daniel definitely had its attention now.

“Great,” he muttered as the stone being turned towards him, plunging its rock hands into the dirt.

The ground rippled around the spots, eventually breaking away like a wave against a rock as the monster raised its arms, holding a newly created boulder the size of the slider. The golem tensed back and Daniel fired again, this time at the projectile. With no magic to protect it, the massive rock deteriorated in the golem’s hands, falling as a deluge of sand onto its head.

The golem looked up, confused, and then screamed at Daniel.

“Run!” He heard Sundown yell from behind him.

The creature of cinder block, cement and brick began sprinting towards Daniel. The earth around its feet grew almost as liquid as though it were skating across the lot. 

“Run, Spoons!”

This time he listened, turning and dashing just as the golem’s quick-sand reached him. He vaulted away, avoiding the edge of the deadly mud. He could feel the pressure of the monster at his back. His legs burned as he willed himself to run faster.

“Spoons!” Sundown urged from somewhere. He couldn’t see her, had no time to look.

“I’m trying!”

Daniel leapt over a pile of rocks, risking a glance back. The golem’s arm shot out at him, first grabbing at his coat then wrapping around him, enveloping him in a corset of rock. The monster jerked him in the air, tightening its grip. He tried to activate the bubble —

“Abi–” but the breath was squeezed out of him.

The golem screamed again, hot air whipping Daniel in the face. He could feel the pressure on his ribs, something popped in his shoulder–

From above, haloed by the sun like a valkyrie, Sundown appeared, landing on the top of the golem hard and then swiftly falling to hang from its neck. With its other hand, the creature moved to grab Sundown too but she thrust her fist into its mouth and pulled something out. Instantly, the golem’s runes glowed white then dissipated into the air. The golem itself dissolved into sand. Daniel and Sundown fell to the ground, both landing on their backs in the middle of the pile the golem’s body had created.

After a moment, Sundown exhaled and a puff of dust blew into the air. “See,” she said. “I told you we didn’t need Arc Division.”

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