Week 2 - The Monster Part I
Jack leaned against the wall and groaned. This was it. The attacks had become unbearable. All his attempts at appeasement had failed. They were reduced to only one last desperate choice: to fight back.
They had to kill the monster.
It was such a lopsided affair of overwhelmingly bleak odds that it would have been ludicrously laughable if it didn’t happen to be Jack’s presently lived reality. Jack knew his fate was sealed. Win or lose, he was going to die.
The facts were plain: there was no chance on earth he could take on the monster alone. He would have to recruit every other persecuted party in the territory at a bare minimum. He raised his paws and started the long familiar process of ticking off each plausible ally with his fingers.
There was Charles, who led the family of cockroaches, though they had taken the brunt of the recent decimation and were now barely scraping by. It was unclear exactly why the monster had such a fixation with Charles and his family, Jack thought. So far as he could tell, the cockroaches were all but harmless, and even less useful in a fight than Jack would be. The monster was just a psychopathic freak that was hellbent on exterminating all other lifeforms for no apparently good reason, Jack decided.
Then there was Samantha, the rather reclusive spider. Jack had seen her around less and less these days - presumably because food supplies were getting scarcer with the monster single-mindedly fixated on eradicating everything in sight. Jack had no idea how potent Samantha was, but there was a good chance she was one of their only true hopes, so he made a note to do whatever he could to bring her over to the cause.
Finally, there was Rainbow, the fly that had found herself trapped in the territory and mercilessly hunted for the past few days. This, too, Jack thought, was a prime example of the monster’s entirely inexplicable obsession with indiscriminate murder on any scale. One would think that a single, tiny innocuous fly would be less than insignificant to the behemoth monster. Frankly, Jack was surprised the monster could even notice the fly. And yet, from all appearances and actions, it seemed as if the monster’s primary purpose in life was to expend every ounce of energy and effort to rid the world of Rainbow.
Jack shook his head. They lived in a cruel, unfair world. There was no point getting existential now, however. He had seven children to feed and protect and a wife pregnant with her second litter. He had to make this world safe for them.
That required him to make a sacrifice he had been holding off considering until every other possible course of action was exhausted. He lowered his paws. With the possible sole exception of Samantha, his potential allies were even more helpless than he was in a fight against the monster. If Samantha didn’t come through, they would have no other choice but to recruit outside help.
Jack knew exactly what outside help meant: his death. He had spotted their savior and his damnation from a window sill a few days back. His name was Gorgon, and he claimed to be more than delighted to help, with only a small price to pay for his services. Nothing really consequential in the grand scheme of things. Just Jack’s life and that of his two largest children.
The snake, Jack knew, had a real chance of being able to take down the monster, unlike the rest of them. By brute force and raw strength, none of them came remotely close to being able to match the monster. But the snake had promised his venom, and that could be their great equalizing force.
All it would cost was Jack’s certain death and the death of his innocent children.
Jack decided to put off the conversation with Hessa for as long as possible. Instead, he rolled back onto his paws and trotted towards Charles’ enclave. He figured he’d take stock of all his non-mercenary allies first, and then make a final decision on his own demise.
It took a while to find Charles, and when he did, it was clear that the cockroaches were in even worse shape than Jack had thought. Charles had developed a limp, and his speech was slowed and stilted.
“Hey Jack…it’s good to…see you here again. How’s…Hessa and the kids?” Charles managed in greeting.
“They’re good, Charles. It’s good to see you too. How’s the family holding up?” Jack replied.
“Not so…great. I…think…this is probably the end for us. The…bastard…I think he got me last night. This is…the last time you’ll see me around here…I think.” Charles mumbled, managing some semblance of a grin.
Jack felt his heart tighten. He was surprised at his own reaction. He wasn’t even close to Charles - not by a long shot - but there was something so inhumanely wrong and deeply unjust about what he was seeing he couldn’t help but feel a wave of deep sadness pass over him. Anyone with a semblance of humanity in them would have felt the same, he thought. Anyone but the monster.
Here, right here before his eyes, was a dying man, crawling around on his deathbed, a victim of a senseless genocide perpetrated by an inhuman monster. Soon, Charles’ entire family would likely follow in his fate.
There was no point to it, no reason. What had Charles’ ever done to the monster? What /could/ he even do? He was less than ten /thousand/ times smaller than the monster, on a scale so inconsequential it hurt Jack’s brain to try to rack for a reason, any reason, that the monster could possibly care enough to want to so thoroughly eviscerate Charles and his family.
“God, I’m sorry. But that’s what I want to talk to you about, Charles. We can’t let this monster keep terrorizing and murdering us like this. We have to fight back.” Jack finally replied.
“Fight back?” Charles chortled a laugh. “Us? You and…me? Fight…the monster? Come on…Jack. You know I want to…get that bastard back more than anything…but how are we…/possibly/…going to fight him? I’m…a fucking dying cockroach…and you’re a mouse. We’ll…tickle him before he smashes…the life out of us.”
“There’s more than just us, Charles. There’s Samantha and Rainbow…and I met someone else the other day, too.” Jack admitted.
“Someone…else?” Charles’ antennae perked up in interest.
“Yeah. Gorgon. A snake. I met him outside. He’s poisonous enough to kill the monster, he’s sure. Apparently he’s done it before once. And he’s open to helping us kill our monster, too.”
“Why…in the world would…he care to help us kill our monster?” Charles questioned skeptically.
“Because of me.” Jack sighed. “He wants to eat me and two of my kids.”
Charles was silent for a moment. Finally, he replied.
“And you would…let him do that?”
Jack faltered. He’d been having this conversation first to deliberately avoid answering this question, and here he was anyway, answering it.
“If it comes to it and we have to, yes. Yes, I would, because we have absolutely no fucking other choice. I /have/ to protect the rest of my family, and you have to do the same. If I have to die to make that happen, I will.” Jack replied firmly.
Charles was silent again. His antennae swayed inquisitively from one side to the other. Jack hoped this was a good sign.
“Okay…Jack…you win. I…thought I was the crazy one…poisoned and dying and all. But…if you’re willing to…feed yourself to a snake…to do this…well…I’m dying anyway…I might as well join you. I’m in.” Charles conceded.
Jack reached out a paw, and Charles touched it with his antennae.
“Thank you, Charles. We’ll make this happen, and we /will/ save the rest of your family. I’ll be in touch soon.” Jack waved farewell, and trotted towards his next destination.
Jack breathed a deep sigh. Charles had been mostly practice, and he was forced to admit that he still didn’t quite know what exactly Charles would be able to bring to the table. This next encounter, however, could possibly decide everything, including Jack’s life and those of his kids. He felt tense. He decided to get it over with as soon as possible.