I will freely admit that I have been afraid on more than one occasion in my long life. I am a stubborn man, and I will push through the pain of bullet wounds and grapeshot. I have killed a man with his own knife after he buried it in my groin, and I have killed men, women, and children in my time.
This morning, I discovered a new fear, and it is one I am still not quite certain of.
We came upon the women shortly after sunrise as we continued our trek towards some sort of exit from Gods’ Hollow. Bram called to the women, but they did not answer. He and Aron advanced with their weapons at the ready, but the women still paid them no heed. Bram turned back to me, to see what he should do, and the women struck.
They lashed out with their tools and killed each man, and while each of my bullets found a mark, the women were unaffected. We watched in horror as the women dragged the corpses of our friends to them, dug a pair of graves faster than any I have seen dug before, and planted the men.
Within moments, the ground rumbled and roiled, as though the earth was boiling. Geysers of blood exploded from the ground and screams accompanied each eruption. The women’s clothes were doused as a pair of trees sprang forth.
In the pale, sickly bark, I saw first Bram’s face, then Aron’s, sockets empty of eyes, mouths empty of teeth. The shrieks which emanated from the mutations sent us staggering backward and the women launched themselves at the trees. They sank their teeth into the fleshy bark and ate and drank.
I shot each tree repeatedly, but whether the bullets or the voracious appetites of the women killed them, I do not know.
With the trees silent, the women continued to feed, and the Akatuyians and I sought a different path towards home.
The sucking sounds of the killers followed us as we fled, and it is a sound – like the screams of my friends – I shall never forget.
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